Friday, November 24, 2006

Kilimanjaro




On Thanksgiving Day, Heidi and I summated Kilimanjaro (Uhuru) around 6a.m. The picture above is us at Stella Point, about an hours walk from the Summit. The first picture is us at the Summit, sharing a pumpkin clif bar on Thanksgiving. Before the summit was also quite an adventure.

When I arrived in Tanzania, I took a shuttle bus to Arusha, found a backpacker hotel, and found an internet connection around 10pm. Coincidentally Heidi (my friend from the US who I was meeting to climb Kilimanjaro) was online and in Moshi, a town about an hour away. I ended up going out that evening and heard of a good place to go out Saturday, so I emailed Heidi that evening to come meet me in Arusha. This was logistically difficult to organize as neither of us has a phone, but ended up working out when Heidi arrived late the following afternoon. I had been talking with several agencies, and we eventually agreed to leave for Kilimanjaro, the Machame Route, the following day with a group of 3 others, including a 19 year old Australian (Bernhard), two Belgian/Brazilian sisters (Jana and Jaci). We ended up paying $850 each after extensive negotiations, and left the following morning. We also spent the entire trip with an English guy named Chris I met at the backpackers hotel, who was hiking solo with another outfitter. We all ended up becoming good friends.

I will write more details as I have time but have to get offline soon. Essentially, we joined a 5 day hike, did the first two days extremely quickly, and ended up leaving the park the day we arrived at the summit because everything was so wet and cold and we all just wanted to leave.

Will write more later



Kili trek.. in heidi’s words..christoph’s good looking travel partner..
It already seems like so long ago.. now that we are in Dar es Salaam and it is hot as f^&*..
First I will say that Christoph and I are pretty excellent travel partners. He pushes the limits.. for instance, we almost went scuba diving today with a deaf fisherman, who only speaks Swahili. Then there is me standing next to christoph, saying no way. We did have a great time at the fish market, though. Christoph bought this guy and his friend.. who could speak English.. a coke.. and kunyagi.. gin.. and we all sat around.. surrounded by fish being bought, gutted.. the foul smell.. and flies. A lot of flies.
Back to Kili… I met Christoph in Arusha.. he says.. “do you want to climb kili tomorrow?” We had both just arrived.. I said.. sure. Conveniently, there was a guy waiting for us at the hostel reception.. he guided us across the street to his friend who is a tour operator. Everyone has a friend to direct you to for a safari. After talking to this guy and getting his price.. and finding out we would be joining a group of 3 others.. which included two Belgian girls.. about our age.. and christoph trying to find out if they were good looking.. if they were close to my size.. etc… we decided to do it. The guy .. we call him Baba.. have no idea what his name is.. he wears a full suit. He gives us a green checklist of stuff we need.. and writes down what we don’t have.. although this list is completely useless we later find out. He then proceeds to drive us to 2 different atm’s b/c we need to pay in cash.. and we have none. And there is a limit on how much we can take out.. our cards work at different atm’s.. all part of the adventure. We are only able to pay part of our debt.. we pay in Tanzania shillings, Kenya shillings, us dollars and traveler’s checks.. and christoph had 50 euros. The next morning we also go to the atm to get more money. Our departure time is 9 am.. we walk into the office at 5 after.. we maybe depart an hour later? Either way.. time is relative.. I think we got to the gate.. after stopping at 3 different supermarkets, picking up porters along the way, stopping to buy meat.. which is hanging from a hook in the open air.. put into a plastic bag for us… I tried not to look.
I just read our route description.. Day 1.. an early start.. ha.. I think we actually started hiking at 2 pm.. Machame Gate, 1500 m. We had 7 porters, a cook, waiter, 2 assistant guides, our guide Gilbert.. all 11 are essentially porters, aside from Gilbert. We didn’t figure out these actual numbers until the end of the trip.. we just knew there were a lot of guys.. carrying a lot of shit.. dressed in very unsuitable clothes for trekking. We had our daypacks with water, clothes and snacks.. I can’t go anywhere without food.
We hiked through rainforest.. in pretty warm conditions.. for about 3 hours and 45 min.. with an assistant guide.. Gilbert nowhere in sight. Elevation is still fairly low, so we had a good pace.. a lot of up.. we reached Machame Camp (3100 m) just before dark. We did some yoga.. and waited for our tents to be set up. We realized we had a cool team.. Bernard, Jana, Jaci, Christoph and myself… our attitudes and positivity were similar.
I think we finally ate dinner at 9 pm and crashed. Up at 6 am with hot tea or chocolate in our tent.. and hot water for washing. Then we pack up and are going by 8:30 maybe? We realize we don’t keep a very good schedule. We hike out of the rainforest and are now above trees.. on a winding trail.. a lot of up still. We have some gorgeous views until everything clouds over. We had a view of Kili also on this first morning (see pic)..
We get to Shira Camp (3800 m) at noon.. just over three hours. We still feel good.. and estimated times for both days are 5-7 hours hiking.. we determine we are the allstar team. We nap in our tents.. the guys throw rocks outside.. that is about all there is to do. Christoph won the rock throwing competition. We didn’t have playing cards.. so we play the fish game.. brought to us by Chris.. a british guy who we met at the hostel before we left and was also trekking, though with his own guide and porters.. but essentially with us. There is also a group of American women.. and a german group at the same camps. The fish game.. think of a fish or a fish product.. everyone else has to guess what it is by asking yes or no questions. Yeah, it sounds lame.. but it was actually really fun.. until a couple hours later when we were thoroughly sick of it. We have great sunset views of Mt. Meru (see pic).. and enjoy coffee/tea in our mess tent and then dinner. The stars are amazing..
The Americans came by to say hi.. and we realized our attitudes were way better than theirs.. Christoph and Chris walked by their tents later that night to share kunyagi.. we had a bottle of it and juice and I told Christoph we weren’t carrying that for another day.. water was more important.. so he had to get rid of it that night. Americans were asleep.. so they gave it to our porters and I think 1 L of it was gone within minutes. Day 3.. 6 am wake up again. It is clear when we wake up.. but quickly, within the first hour of hiking.. clouds over completely.. and not long after that, starts raining. The environment is all rock and very little vegetation.. felt like mars, maybe. Pretty soon, we are all completely wet.. some of us have raingear.. others of us (Christoph) don’t.. some of our raingear isn’t really waterproof.. either way.. Christoph is whistling most of the way.. and spirits are high. We reach Barranco Camp (3950 m).. maybe 5 hours later. We are wet and cold and all huddle into the cook tent (the only one up so far) and eat our packed lunches. We played cards that night.. Americans had cards.. played cheat.. I think it was still raining at this point.

Day 4.. this is the crazy day.. it is clear when we wake up at 6 am.. we have some good Kili and glacier views (see pic).. and then are off.. it started raining within 30 minutes.. all of our raingear on. We are soon wet again.. hiking is hard.. a lot of steep rocks to climb up. We reach our lunch point and we are cold and wet.. yet eat lunch.. my fingers are frozen at this point.. and start off again on a long, slow sludge up and up. We reach our camp Barufu Camp (4600 m) approx 8 hrs later. It finally stopped raining on the last bit and we dried out slightly..we reached our tents and collapsed for an hour or so before dinner at 5. After dinner, we had a talk with Gilbert.. how are we going to summit if we are wet? The summit is very cold.. etc. We convince him we can get enough dry stuff together. If it is still raining at midnight, we will wait to start until 5 am b/c then it will be warmer. I think we are all a bit nervous, but know that we can do it. We now try to sleep to start at midnight for the summit. On our way to our tents, we meet two people who have just come down.. they started at 11:30 am.. it is now 7 or 8 pm.. they are thoroughly exhausted and talking about how hard it is and puking, etc… not the best thing for our moods.. right before we lie down to get up and summit.. up until now we had been very positive, now a little bit of anxiety.

(Written by Christpoh, as this Kilimanjaro posting was a team effort)

On the 5th day of what was supposed to be a 6 day trip, we started fro the summit of Kilimanjaro by being woken up at midnight. This was quite pleasant really as we had popcorn and tea delivered to the tent. I actually didn’t sleep much as I had to get up to pee (this involves barely putting one leg outside the tent to avod freezing, thank god I am not a girl). I was also pre-occupied with everything but climbing (family, house, school, etc…) After the snack, I pulled on some pants over my thermal underwear and put my remaining dry clothes and some water in my backpack. I kept my camera in my sleeping bag all night, and also kept it in my jacket as the batteries were low. The climb started at approximately 12:45a.m. and was fine for the first few hours. Shortly before leaving, we ran into a group that had just come down, and told us of puking, taking several breaths between each step, how it was horrible, etc… One of the tour operators had mentioned that very situation as the reason why it was prohibited for the groups coming down the mountain to use the same trail as going up. We didn’[t take the advice to heart because so far we had been by far the fastest group every day by several hours.
Starting involved little steps (imagine walking toe to heel consistently), and we were in decent spirits. At a few instances, it was possible to see the constellation Orion and the stars, but mainly it was a bit foggy and dark, as we walked with our headlamps. Our guide mentioned that the key to success was slow and consistent, going as long as possible between breaks. We basically didn’t stop until the top, with the exception of a short bathroom break. I literally felt like falling asleep while walking, and had the guide hit me with a stick at one point and told me not to. At around 6:15a.m. we arrived at the top completely exhausted. By the top, I mean Stella point, which is a ridge after a really steep climb. The hour before reaching Stella point was horrible. Everyone had headaches, which I though was similar to a really bad hangover. Everyone pressed on, though some of us wanted to stop there, but it was only another 45 min. to an hour to the peak, and it looked much flatter. After a few photos and hugs, we all managed to continue. Reaching the peak was nice because we walked by the crater, there was snow everywhere, and we could see the glacier. The view was poor, but our spirits were high. Once we reached the point, Heidi and I shared a pumpkin Clif bar, had a few pictures taken, and there were congratulations all around. Bernhard, the 19 year old Australian of the group had boasted of getting naked at the top, and I had promised to join him did he actually do it. I was sure he wouldn’t, but he did manage to peel off his layers to his “singlet” so I had to join him to that point (pictures to follow). Shortly after began our descent. This involved a lot of sliding down in gravel, and then taking short naps. Again,. feeling extremely tired had me walking with my eyes closed occasionally, even running into Jana at one point. After a couple of hours and a quick descentw while snowing, I arrived at camp to find our tent collapsed. This was great, as all our things were in there, and it was now covered in snow. I didn’t really care at the time, as I just wanted to sleep. We were woken up around 11a.m for lunch, and told it was time to hike another 3 hours to Mweka Camp (1500 meters below at 3100 meters) the final camp. This did not sound exciting at all as we were all wet, extremely tired, and in poor spirits. In general, we were all in excellent spirits the entire trip, but at this point, after an hour of sleep maximum, collapsed tents, snow and rain, no dry clothing, and cold food, we were ready to just get out of the park and to a hot shower. We discussed the extra length, and agreed to try and hike all the way out of the park instead of one more wet night and getting up for another 2 hour hike tomorrow. This news both surprised and excited our guide and porters, ans it meant getting home a day early. Everyone had a spring in their stop on the way down, and I even found myself singing and whistling Bob Marley with Oruro, one of our asistant guides as we practically ran down to the first camp. I arrived at the camp approx 30 minutes before the rest of the group and had an interesting conversation with the porters, listened to music, and started to freeze. After finally getting to the camp a couple of hours later, we were all exhausted, and ready to get home. Swe signed out of the park, got ina van, and headed back to Arusha. We were able to stop for a quick purchase of snacks and beer to celebrate on the way back, but most of us just slept. Once we arrived, we tipped the porters a bit ore than 10% of the total trip cost, cumul;atively as a group, and took showers. We all went out for a group dinner before retiring to sleep.



It was a great trip, and we all ended up with a great new group of friends. At the moment we are all still together, with the exception of Bernhard, and heading to Zanzibar tomorrow. I will write more later and add more Kili pictures.

Friday, November 17, 2006

From Buenos Aires to Paris.


After a short stay in Paris, I am in Tanzania. After a $20 cab ride to the airport in Buenos Aires, I made it.

Paris was an excellent eye openner. I had less than 24 hours there, and spent more than $150US there. A bottle of water in a cafe, $8. A bus and train to the city, more than $10. I feel like I am ruined for big city western life. I actually didn't drink anything. Another thing I noticed, that the transport was crap. This is of course unfair to say, but it happens that I was there when the connectionto Gare du Nord was down. They only said the train was down, so after taking a bus to another station, and then finding that they also didn't move, I took a bus back to the airport, and eventually made it to Paris in the rain. Basically, the cheapest hotel I could find was over $60, and the the bus cost extra, the train cost extra, and food was crazy expensive. All I can say is I miss S. America already, and seem to be ruined for the west.

After arriving in Tanzania, I caught a $10 shuttle to a $5 backpacker hostel, spent the night out with a bunch of volunteers, and ended up having a good time. I also danced, though ended up finding out my dance partner was a prostitute. So disapointing. She seemed so nice, and said I danced well. Oh well, I should know the color of my skin here attracts people thirsty for western cash. After all, a days wage here is less than $4.

Talk more later,
Christoph

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bariloche




When I arrived in Bariloche, I called my friend Matias who I met in Bolivia on Lake Titicaca. He told me he is working at a traditional folk fest. I stopped by the hostel, took a shower, washed a few clothes, and then headed to the fiesta via bus. It was great fun, with horse races and singers and with everyone carrying huge knives and whips and such. I was selling beer with Matias and also tried various traditional meals, including the empanadas, asadas, brat like sandwiches, and cake. I also drank quite a bit. Keep in mind, I had just ome form an organich life, so the meat and beer was quite tasty. Anyway, I made a few friends at the beer stand, and one of the gauchos (Argentine Cowboys) wanted to give me a ride upon his horse. I thought it rude to deny him, but in reality I wanted to. Long story short, once I as up on the horse, it lasted about 5 seconds before we were both thrown form the horse. This of course prompted his friend to want to prove that his horse would have no problems, and I almost flew off that horse as well. I learned that just as you shouldn´t get in a car with someone who is drinking, you shouldn´t get on a horse with someone who is drinking. The picture shows stand, my friend Matias with the hat, and the horses I rode. After that, there was traditional singing and dancng, and then I headed to Matias´s house for some Fernet and coke, and we headed out for a couple of drinks in town.




On Sunday, I woke up and rented a bike. This was great except that within the first 3 minutes, it started to get really rainy and windy. I was lucky though, in that after teh frist 5 km of my 60km expected ride, a bus took pity on me and let me board to the National park. Once I started though, I loved riding in the rain with my music. I had a great time, and there were very few people about. I orde more thn 60 km anyway, and went to teh ski resort area, through all sorts of backroads, and ended up back at the hostel around 7pm. I will add pictures when I can. Now I am sitting here, with a sore rear ready for bed.


ciao

I also added a pic of some old gauchos and a young one.

Mendoza and Organic Farming













On November 5th I headed to Mendoza because it was the only bus that left at the time I was at the bus terminal. I ended up arriving at the terminal and asked about hiking, but realized nothing was extremely nearby, and I didn´t feel like getting on another bus at that moment. I did end up seeing a girl that looked like a hiker due to a big bag, hiking boots, and a sleeping bag. We ended up heading into to town to find a hostel. Her name was Sara, and she was from Italy. We hung out for several days, generally walking around Mendoza and eating a lot of excellent ice-cream. On the first day, we decided to eat a steak and have some wine. On the way there, we ran into some cool kids break dancing, and organized a meeting with them the next day. The steak was delicious, as was the wine mainly because Mendoza is known for their wine. After a Flan, we ended up walking back to the hostel. The following morning was excellent, as we chilled for a long breakfast with the hostel owner, and drank Mate ( an Argentine tea) and just talked about all sorts of stuff. I really enjoyed the family that ran the hostel, and it felt good not having any sort of plan. The morning started with ice-cream, several I believe, and a cool market. We ended up walking around to a large park with a lake, and I also played pool with 3 guys in a pool hall that were really nice. It was a guy who used to be the coach of a 20 year old who now plays soccer in Sweden for Colmar, and a young kid who was going to be playing soccer in Spain on a junior team. During the day, I also ran into a protest about a mine that was going to be started in the region. It was a group of people protesting the poor water that would likely result, and it turns out they were Organic Farmers. After talking a bit, we decided to go volunteer with them for a few days, starting the following day.

That evening, I met with the break dancers and they gave me a lesson. They were quite incredible, better than gymnasts in my opinion. They could do one handed hand stands while moving their legs around and all sorts of other exercises. After a bit of lesson, which I will have to continue on my own, we went to play pool, and then went to eat all you can eat Asada and had a bit of beer. After that, we went to the casino and I taught them about Craps and BlackJack, but made it clear they were both waste of money. After that, it was near 1:30, and they proceeded to walk home (almost 2 hours) because no buses existed at that hour. It was a great time. The following day started with breakfast with the hostel owner again, and then with more ice-cream and a lesson on juggling. I just asked some street artists to teach me how to juggle with the things that look like bowling pins. It took some time, and I bruised up my hands pretty good, but I ended up sort of getting the hang of it.









Finally we headed to the farm, which was in Tunuyan, about an hour south. We first stopped and got a bunch of random vegetarian food at a restaurant they sold to. It was really good, and I proceeded to eat noting but vegetarian for the following 3 days because I forgot my salami and cheese at the hostel. Anyway, that evening we arrived and pretty much immediately received hoes to but a bunch of weeds. It was good working a bit, and the owner liked to talk and explain what was going on. I learned they had the farm for 10 years, but were frustrated at first because they didn´t have experience. He sort of talked me out of my Colombian farm idea, but said I only needed a bit of experience first. That night we had really good food, with some sort of egg dish mixed with green stuff. I slept like a baby, after having a bottle of wine (I bought 4 in Mendoza). The following morning we had a flour crepe with dulce de Leche. Also, on this random farm, I ran into a girl named Eloise from France-Scotland who I saw in Peru. Pretty random. Anyway, the owner was also a yoga instructor, and we did yoga that afternoon, after starting the morning with a shovel manuyally tilling a lot of soil. The afternoons were great because they also had adorable kids who loved to play, and we would go bathe in the freezing cold river, which was also quite invigorating. We then had a huge lunch, and I had the afternoon off by accident because I had to buy a bus ticket and then we bought fruit, ran errands, etc... It was a great afternoon, because the work is actually really hard. My last day there I also had good luck. I was weeding so we could plant potatoes, tomatoes, etc.. and in the afternoon, they wanted to show me the other farm which is more advanced at the moment. We were supposed to move rocks, but once again, errands got inthe way. In any case, I ended up catching a bus that night, and woke up to another sunset and beautiful scenery. round 3pm, I arrived in Bariloche

Monday, November 06, 2006

Buenos Aires




Before Buenos Aires, I was in Salta for about a day. I headed to a place called San Lorenzo for a nature area, and walked around town. It was a nice place, and for those who were curious about what I looked like without a beard, here is a pic. The sunrise pic is from the bus ride to BA.



I arrived in Buenos Aires on Thursday morning. As I have become accustomed to living cheap, I refused to pay 20 pesos ($7) for a cab to Jose Garcia´s apartment. I took a bus, and a lady told me to get off way too early. I ended up walking about 40 blocks before I got there. He was out, so I sat down, had some chicken, and then went to find a hostel. When I returned, we went for a bit of a walk, and tried to meet Argentinians, as he said he mainly hung out with students. It was an interesting experiment, which found us in a bar having a drink, and me pretending to be lost asking strangers for directions, and in one case, going on a very long walk.

After that, we ended up going to a place for some pizza and darts. Conveniently, I won´t mention who won. Then, we headed to a nice restaurant where we met more internationals and had drinks (see pic soon) Then we headed to a new place Jose had never been, which was fun because nobody knew anyone. After a while, we took a random bus for a morning city tour (unofficial and random), and ended up a at a place that was open extrememly late, and in which it was difficult to tell what gender the dancers were. Quite fun, and with going to bed at 8ish, was a good start.

The following day started in the late afternoon, and involved another informal walking tour. I had steak with Gruyere for breakfast around 4p.m., ended up at a Casino, and Jose and I once again had an excellent steak and a bottle of wine. Later that night we went to a birthday party that night. That was also quite fun, and didn´t end until after 9a.m. and breakfast.

The following day, Saturday, we went to the Mariscal to look at a cemetary, and I ended up having my fortune told. Guess what,I have money in my future, a spontaneous wife, and a son. That night we had drinks with a brazilian for a German part of Brazil, we went out for Steak again, but the meal ended near 2a.m. after a long wait, 3 bottles of wine, and a lot of meat.

On Sunday, I woke up early 1pm, and we went to a soccer game. River vs. San Lorenzo. Jose and I, being men, did not buy panchos and had a great time. It was 5-0, and there were excellent goals. After that, I ate several empanadas and caught a bus randomly to mendoza.

Anyway, I have to go now, but am currently in Mendoza, and all is well. will write more later. i will be on an organic farm for the next few days.