Tag Archives: Argentina

8 months in review….

13 May

8 months in review…..

Best Meal:

This is such a hard one…. I have had so much amazing food….  but here are a few of my favorites:

  1. grilled chicken from a street vendor in peru – plate with beet salad, maize and amazing chicken – though this was quickly overtaking by the roasted pig fresh out of the huge oven bought on the street a few days later.  Oh man, I could have had 3 plates worth!
  2. masala dosas in Southern Indian, eaten with my hands
  3. vietnamese soup from a street stall
  4. fresh fruit from the street vendors in bangkok
  5. not quite a meal but…. chai on the trains in india first thing in the morning

drying fish

Strangest food:

Oh man, SE Asia is the place for … different… food.  I wasn’t always terribly explorative but….

There is this sandwich that is really common in Vietnam.  It is combination of the French influence (a baguette) but truly Vietnamese – on one side is a pate-like substance, on the other there is butter.  Then you can choose between pork or a fried egg (or both). Then the condiments and extras include cucumber, tomato, chilies, fish sauce and other unknown stuff.  It is actually quite good – as long as you don’t think about the ‘pate’.

I had some meals in Thailand from the street carts that I have no idea what they were.  Some were strange, for sure.

And if I HAD tried it, baby bird still in the shell would make the top of the list!

Best Book

I have probably read close to 40 books this year.  I am a bit of a voracious reader, which was great because I read a lot, but not good because it meant that I finished books super fast.  So – I cannot remember them all – but one of my favorites was White Tiger by an Indian author.  It is super funny and reflective of life and people in India – I read it while there and I could not stop laughing.

things lost

2 pairs of underwear (but one was not my fault – the laundry service lost them!)

1 pair of socks (damn laundry service)

umbrella  – uh, no idea where I left that…..

my SA cell phone – also no clue….

Best Guesthouse

I have stayed in many many crappy places.  But I have also stayed in some really nice places – whether it was a guesthouse in Vietnam that over looked the beach, or a simple room in a family’s home in Nepal, or a clean room with my own bathroom in Huaraz – the  things that started to matter to me was quietness, cleanliness and bathrooms.  Funny how your needs start to get boiled down to simplicity….

sunrise on the ganges

Coolest Wildlife Sighting

Seeing mama and ‘baby’ rhino from the back of an elephant!  I mean, it was a rhino!  And they look just like the pictures….  (which I know sounds ridiculous but that was totally my reaction….)

going for an elephant ride (not comfortable!)

Most beautiful scenery

How could I possibly pick just one?  I have spent time in some of the most beautiful mountain ranges of the world – Himalayas, Andes, Patagonia.  I have visited Machu Picchu and temples of Bangkok.  I cannot possibly pick one place that was more beautiful than another. But the diversity of Bolivia, the mountains of Huaraz, the raw beauty of Patagonia and the grandeur of the Himalayas definitely stole my heart.

crossing the glacier

Toughest moment

There were definitely times in the fall when I had a crisis of faith what am I doing here?  What am I doing with my life?!  I remember one day in particular.  It was a rainy day in India, I was in Kochi, a city in Southern India.  At that point, I had been traveling for close to 3 weeks or so in India, by myself.  I was enjoying India, at times.  But was also finding it difficult – the constant staring, the constant feeling of being a spectacle, of being uncomfortable.  I was at a coffee shop and just spent the afternoon staring out in space, trying to figure out my purpose….  it was a rough period.

Biggest scam

When I arrived in Mumbai, I had to take a taxi from one train station to another.  It was quite early in the morning, still dark, and I wasn’t sure exactly what I needed to do.  Taxis are always tough because they are really metered, you don’t know how much they should be charging you and how much you should bargain.  I found a driver and thought we had a deal.  When we got there, I paid him with a large bill (I can’t remember what it was, but I was almost positive it was enough to cover the fare).  For the sake of the story, let’s say it was a 100.  But, he told me, no, that is 20.  You need to give me more.  Confused, I handed over another 100.  Again, he told me that it was a 20.

Now, you have to remember that it was still dark out.  There is a chance that he was telling the truth.

But, I am pretty sure that I handed over a whole lot more than I should have.  My theory is that he dropped the money on the front seat and had a 20 there to show me.  Or, maybe I really was just overtired…..  Want to give him the benefit of the doubt but….. I think that I lost out on at least a few 100 rupees that day!

demon

meeting the locals….

I found the people in India to be incredibly funny and want to talk to me.  Of course, at first they stared, but if I smiled at them, chances were they would smile back.  I remember being in the train station in Varanasi and I had accidentally arrived early.  So, I joined everyone else in sitting on the floor.  There was a large group of women who were staring intensely at me.  I tried to smile, but it was hard to crack their stares.  Eventually, I got one of the little girls to smile at me – which in turn got the whole family to smile and giggle at me.  They waved me over and we spent 30 minutes of them staring at me, holding my hand, speaking to me in Hindu and me just smiling.  As they left, they all wanted to shake my hand.

Getting sick

I am not sure how I pulled this off, but I had it 8 months without getting sick – except for a few times that were pretty minor.  My body had a day or two adjustment from being a vegetarian for 4 months to jumping back on the meat-train (with no easing in).  Then in Bolivia, I got sick a few times, but mostly just for 24 hours or so. And one cold in Peru that lasted 48 hours or so.  Moral of the story? Traveling is really healthy for me.  Oh – and I lost my hand sani early on and never replaced it……  🙂

Craziest public transportation

This one is tough, as I took a lot of sketchy transportation this year.  I have been on auto-rickshaws and bike-rickshaws, motorcycles, buses, trans, cars, elephants.  And, as my brother can attest, I can be a nervous passenger.  But, for some reason, the sketchiness never really bothered me this year.  Maybe it is because people do not drive super fast, maybe it is because the lack of rules in so many places means that everyone understands that and works within those parameters (a lack of rules almost means that you are always expecting the unexpected).  And then there is the simple consolation for myself – well, I am sure the driver doesn’t want to die, so…. he’ll be careful., right?

But the craziest?  It was probably a rickety bus that had to be push started and had 4 out of 5 gears working and I could see the ground through the gear shaft.  And I was on it for 13 hours.  And the driver had to avoid dogs and monkeys and people and motorcycles.

worst food

This is hands down Argentina.  I mean, could the food get any more bland?  Yes, yes, I know – this is the land of steaks and good wine.  And I bet that if you have a lot of money to spend, you can have a really good steak. But, I never had a lot of money to blow.  So, I had some good steaks. And I had some good wine.  But on a whole, the food there is boring and bland.

worst guesthouse moment

This one is easy….  I was in Potosi, Bolivia and had gone to bed early, as I am prone to doing.  The other people in my room got back late – around 2 in the morning.  I was already annoyed with them, as it was a group of 3 and the couple of the group was staying in one bed above me (get your own room, please).  In any case, they were clearly a bit drunk, stumbling around, knocking things over. Eventually, they got into bed, when I heard the guy say to the girl above me ‘uh-oh, I think I am going to puke”.  And though I heard him clearly, his girlfriend seemed confused by what he was saying. In my head, I am screaming at her – get him out of the f’ing bed. But she is slow to respond.  Too slow, in fact.  And he pukes down the wall.  You know, down the hall onto the bed I am in.

Yeah, definitely a low point….

friendliest stranger encounter

There have been so many positive and helpful. Encounters with strangers – people have been kind of helpful to me all along the way.  But one memory, in particular was when I was in India trying to figure out how to get to this festival and I had to take a bus.  I could not find the street that I needed to take the bus on, so I got directions there.  When I approached the street, I saw that there were many buses to choose from – all written in a different language.  How would I ever know?  I asked a woman who was walking towards me – and she brought me over to the street, helped me find the bus and told the driver where I was headed.  When I thanked her, she said, “no problem.  You would do the same for me if I needed help in your country”.  Good reminder of what goes around, comes around….

3-faced buddha

Number of high passes (over 4500m) crossed (by foot)

  • 3 in Nepal (2 in the Everest region, 1 in the Annapurna region)
  • 3 in Argentina (2 in Patagonia, 1 on Aconcagua)
  • 4 in Peru (3 on the Ausungate circuit, 1 on the Lares trek)
  • and of course, 1 high summit in Bolivia!

how much rice eaten

let’s see….  I have been traveling for about 240 days.  Most of the countries I was in eat rice with their meals.  Let’s low-ball that I had about a ½ cup of rice with each meal.  And then let’s low-ball that 175 dinners were rice dishes, which means that I had approximately 87.5 cups of rice this year.  Which I would say is definitely a low-ball estimate…. which means that is a lot of rice.

Best luck (and worst luck)

I combined these too – because it was really hard to think of a time when I had bad luck.  Because even when things did not work out the way I had planned them, something always good happened to me. There was the time I had a day layover in Bengalore, but I ended up getting to sit poolside drinking gin and tonics.  And then there was that other time that I was delayed in getting to Huaraz, but my timing meant that I met my mountain guide.

poolside! always good to say yes!

how many miles/km walked

Ha.  Try and figure that one out – not only did I trek in Nepal, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru.  But I also walked pretty much everywhere.  Like the day in Bolivia where I tried to walk to a school in La Paz – and it ended up taking me 3 hours.  Or all the times I was a cheap-ass and refused to take the bus or the taxi.  I mean, it has got to be 1000s and 1000s of kms….

biggest fear

Rickety buses?  no.

Muggings?  Nope.

Being abducted by a rogue taxi driver?  Hardly.

But being attached by animals?  Yep!  Top of the list.  And not just dogs (though they are definitely scary in South America), but my biggest fears are being attacked – no, that is not the right word – being charged by farm animals – you know, the cows, horses and yaks that are frequently in the areas where I trek.  I know that a cow is not likely to charge me, but surely it has happened before, no?  And the yaks are so damn big.  And donkeys are total spazzes, hard to predict what they will do!

And, just for the record, I was trekking through a meadow last week and a horse did try to charge me (swear to god!) and the dogs that were following me (I might have fed them…) charged the horse and barked at it and scared it off.

So, I think that my fear is justified.  Ok?!

fishing on the China Sea

Best ‘just say yes’ moment….

there have been a few….

  1. Getting invited to a fancy hotel and getting treated to lunch, G&Ts and dinner while sitting poolside in Bangalore
  2. Getting to visit a Peruvian school with a local teacher and meet and talk with her students
  3. Going to review maps with a mountain guide and then spending the next two weeks together!

rule of life — just say yes!

  1. Getting to try delicious food from all over the world when I let the ‘salesperson’ talk me into it!

Iraq, Nigeria, Chad and… USA

25 Feb

I crossed over the border to Bolivia today.

I was behind a few other tourists in line, but they were part of the list of countries that is able to get into Bolivia easily.

I, on the other hand, come from a country that is listed in a secondary group — along with Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq and other similar countries.  And the good ol´US of A.  So, I had lots of fun paperwork to fill out and a hefty entrance fee (though good for 5 years) in order to get my visa.

But, here I am – in Bolivia.

I left the border town and headed for Tupiza where I am now.  It is the SW of Bolivia….  so think SW…  supposedly Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid met their demise here.

There are all sorts of tourist options around here – including day trips by horse, jeep trips, etc.  This is also a possible jumping off point for a 4 day trip to Salar de Uyuni — the one tour I definitely want to spend the money on (anyone have suggestions?).

I have some great pictures from the past few days, but wifi might be hard to come by in the next few days….  I will post when I get a chance.

I´m off to walk around, buy food at the market (always an exciting adventure when you can´t really understand what they are saying to you), and enjoy the sun.

hope you are all well.

I get scared each time

23 Feb

I get scared each time I do something new.

I get scared when I change countries or take a bus for the first time in a country or when I have to communicate with people and we don’t share the same language or sometimes even when I change towns.

church in Jujuy

But once I do that new thing, once I take that first bus ride or figure out directions on my own, it as all ok again.  Until the next new adventure, of course.

hiking in the rain

So, the other day when I left Mike and Beth and took a 21 hour bus ride north to Jujuy, I was really nervous.  This was my first solo experience in Argentina.  My first solo bus trip.  My first foray into Spanish.  I had been hiding behind Beth big time, on the Spanish front — having her do all my communicating!  But now, it was all up to me….

It is the little things – the little steps that feel like big accomplishments.  For instance, I had to make a transfer on my bus to get here (Jujuy).  I was not sure of what the bus guy said (they speak so damn fast) and so I asked my bus neighbor.  I found out I had to transfer buses at that moment.

Another accomplishment:  I took the public bus to Lagunas de Yala — these three lakes that I hiked up to.  I found the bus, took the bus, asked for directions and caught the bus back.  All by myself.

one of the three lakes

I have gotten food in the market, ordered coffee and translated a whole newspaper article (that took me a long time and had to look up a lot of the words!).

main building of the plaza in jujuy

These might not sound like a big deal, but with each success I feel more comfortable and confident.  Sometimes traveling by myself, I spend a lot of time by myself and in my own head (especially with the language barrier).  It is hard to not psyche myself out sometimes.

So — now I am feeling like I can make it on my own again (of course I knew that I could but….  like I said, sometimes I get scared….).

Tomorrow, I head north to Tilcara which is on the way to Bolivia.  It is suppose to be a beautiful area that is just an hour and a halj north of here.  I am not sure how long I will stay there, though I imagine that I will make my way into Bolivia around the first of the month.  And I am sure that I will get scared once again.  But until then, I think I am ready to tackle the challenges in front of me.

the view from lagunas de yala

Oh, and did I mention that I am here during rainy season?

Trip Report

18 Feb

We choose to go in the Vacas Valley Route as this is less populated and would allow us to get a full view of the mountain as we would essential come in from the south, travel up the west side and then down the NE side (which is the normal route).  About 75% of the people go up the normal route, so we expected it to be less crowded.  Another difference between th Vacas Valley and the Horcones Valley (normal route) is that the approach is longer on the Vacas Valley side — it takes 3 days to get to base camp (versus two).

Vacas valley

The walk in was up the valley, through the grasslands along a stream/river.  It was quite hot during the day, but much cooler at night and at times we got a sense of how fierce the winds would be and we learned early to stake down our tents well.

Each day, we would pack up our two duffles (each weighing about 30 kilos) with food and some hard gear (double plastic boots, ice axes, crampons) and leave them for the muleteer, who would then strap them to the mules and take off.  The muleteers camped where we did, so we could count on getting into our food bags each day.

Eventually, we reached base camp.  Now….  imagine the pictures you have seen of mountain base camps – yep, looks the same.  Some structures that are there all season long and then all the hopeful climbers and their tents.  Base camp seems exciting — but really it is boring as hell.  You are sitting around waiting to climb.  We got there fairly early on the 3rd day (keeping true to my desire to hike early in the morning before it gets too hot!), had a rest day the next day, then a carry day and then a rest day.  So – we got there on the 3rd day and we would not be leaving again, really, until 8th day.  Yep, that’s a long time.

our first view of the mountain

There are 4 types of days in mountaineering.  Here are my definitions:

  1.  Carry days — you take as much stuff as you can – that you don’t need – and bring it up to your next camp.  You have to be strategic though in case someone gets hurt or sick or weather comes in.  For instance, you cannot bring up your tent, as you still need it down low.  These days can be tough as you are still acclimating to the new elevation.  But they also involved staying up the new elevation for a few hours (which for me, almost always involved a nap up high in the sun).
  2. Move days — the days you take all the rest of your stuff up to the next camp.  These are usually permanent moves, such as from base camp to camp 1.  Usually pretty exciting and usually faster than the carry day.
  3. Rest days — these are the most boring days in the world.  you do….. literally…. nothing.  I napped a whole lot on this expedition — like almost every day.  But rest days, I pretty much spend the entire day in the tent, trying to nap, trying to stay out of the sun but getting way too hot in the tent.  They would have been great days for a book….  if i had brought one….
  4. Summit days — these are the days you get up at some ungodly hour, like 2 in the morning, freezing, trying to boil water and keep yourself warm and then start walking slowly uphill for something like 7 hours.  All for a summit.  And then come back downhill for a few hours before passing out.

In any case, basecamp for us was a mix of rest days and carrys.  It was good to get our systems figured out and eat, drink and acclimate.  Here was where it was clear the difference between the classes.  There were some people like us – going independently, without a guide.  we were the ones with the big duffles, with bags that always looked full and did not have the most amazing meals on the mountain (tuna in a box, anyone?).

And then there were the guided groups.  They were the ones who had people cook for them, went into the tents for dinner, had hot water delivered to their tents, and did not have to carry quite as much stuff up the mountain.

In any case, eventually it was time to move up to camp one.  We were all mostly feeling well (Mike had some digestive stuff going on — though the tuna in the box seemed to be the culprit — it was pretty gross), so up we went from 4200m up to 5000m.  All along, the weather was gorgeous — blue, clear skies every day.  Not a cloud in sight and barely any wind.

on the way up to camp 1

Camp 1 definitely had a different feel — no services, people in transit or resting, no more real differences between people (unless your guide brought you hot water in the tent in the morning — but we tried to ignore that!  :).  Things just felt a bit more exciting.

After arriving at camp 1 – we had a carry day and then a move day.  Camp 2 wasn’t too far — just another 450m (though of course 5450m is about 18,000 feet).  Both our carry and moves went well – and we had amazing views of the mountain along the way.  We also started our traverse from the west side of the mountain across to the north side where we would join up with the normal route.  We also had some amazing views of the Polish Glacier which is suppose to be a pretty gnarly route up the mountain.

camp 1

So – there we were at camp 2.  We meet a guy, Grey, who was the only American in a group of Swiss.  We spoke a bunch (we think he was lonely for english speakers!) and he let us borrow his sat phone (which I used to call Cody).  We also asked him for weather information – as we figured the beautiful weather was not there to stay for long.

We carried up to camp 3, our high camp at 6000m (~20,000 feet) which went well for the most part.  I was climbing really strong — made it from 5450 to 6000 in under 2.5 hours.  Beth and Michael who had never been to such high elevations were struggling a bit more – plus Beth was coming down with a cold.

And then….  decision time.  Basically, several groups decided to head up a day early (on the 12th) to try and summit on the 13th (even though the original plan was for the 14th like us).  It was rumored that the weather on the 13th was going to be the best for awhile — clear skies and low winds.  Our team discussed this and at first decided to go for it (which would mean missing a rest day at camp 2 and moving straight up to camp 3 the day after our carry day), but eventually it was decided that a rest day would be important to help Beth and Michael acclimate a bit better – so we stayed (along with just one other group).

winds starting to come in

The day everyone (else) moved up was cold, windy, and snowy.  A few groups carried up to camp 2 and one solo person moved up to our camp – so now there were 3 parties in camp 2.  That night, while we were cooking dinner — the 3rd solo party came over to ask for help with his stove which he could not get going.  We let him use our stove that night and then next morning and we got to hear his story.

Turns out that Alberto (aka ‘the machine’) had come up to camp 2 from base camp.  He is an Italian mountain guide — works in the Dolomites and Chamonix primarily.  But, we called him the machine because four days after arriving in Argentina he was in camp 2 and on the 5th day he moved up to camp 3.  Yep — that is pretty much no time for acclimating.  In any case, Alberto pretty much adopted us and was with us for the rest of his time in Argentina.

But — back to the weather and camp 2.  As I mentioned, we decided not to head up on the 12th to take advantage of the weather on the 13th.  We had heard one report that said that the 14th would be clear (though all the other reports we heard said it would be windy).  Unfortunately, the morning of the 13th, when we woke, it was clear with very low winds — which would have made for a great summit day.

Andes

In fact, when we arrived at the high camp later that day – we saw two Germans who had started the same day we had (but moved up their summit day to take advantage of the weather).  They had just returned from the summit and gave us glowing reports of low winds and amazing views.  We hoped our chance was next…..

On the evening of the 13th, we heard weather reports of clear mornings but high winds.  But — it seemed to be our only chance.  We could tell that our bodies were not doing well the longer we stayed at the high elevations (it is reported that the human body starts to deteriorate above 5000m).  For instance, the 2 hours and 20 minutes it took me to climb the 450m up to high camp?  The second time we did it for the move — it took me 3 hours and 20 minutes.  The goal was to get faster, not slower…..

But — it was go time.

Beth and I woke up at 3 (Mike had opted not to join us as he was still struggling with the elevation) and we got dressed.  Mike, amazingly, woke and helped us get hot water so we could hydrate and have something warm to drink.  The icy winds were rattling the tent every couple of minutes and I was already shivering.  We spent quite a bit of time looking for others who were awake (where the winds too high?  we weren’t sure — but eventually we saw other headlamps).

Finally, just before 5, Beth and I started up the mountain.  Alberto joined us for a bit – but not surprising, the elevation  was affecting him and he had to head down.  We were climbing strong and quickly caught up with a group in front of us.  Within two hours we had climbed about 300m (your goal is to be traveling at least 80-100m per hour — so we were doing really well).  But the winds….  the winds were fierce and biting and sometimes almost knocked us off our feet.  Our faces were at risk of freezing.  My toes and fingers were cold (and I was wearing 6 layers on top – but had my big puffy in my bag as a backup).  At times, we could see the wind heading our way (as it picked up snow) and we would lower our heads, prepared for the onslaught, but still almost got knocked over.  It was rough.

Beth and I just below 6400m when we turned around (notice frost on jackets)

Though we were the first to turn around, many others came down later that morning. though the sun was coming up, we knew that the winds were suppose to get even worse later in the day.  It took us about an hour or so in our bags to warm up.  The rest of the day was spent in tents, staying warm and eating food.  Alberto decided to try for the next day (he was ultimately successful) but at that point we had been above 5000 for about 5 or 6 days — our bodies were tired.

And so, on day 14 of being on the mountain (on Feb. 15th) we headed down the mountain.  It was a long scree field — but with plastic boots on I could make it down in about 3 hours.  We went from 6000m down to base camp at 4300m.  It was strange to head down to so many people (on the normal route — which I would never recommend) but our trip was over.  The following day, we hiked the 7 hours (16 miles) out to the road and then caught a bus back to Mendoza.

our team with the machine

Mule? Check. Permit? Check. Food? Check.

1 Feb

The last two days have been full of running around the city, gathering supplies, buying a shitload of food and spending an even bigger shitload of money.

lots and lots of food

Permit?  $550/person

Food?  ~$500 (maybe?  haven’t totalled yet)/group

Mule?  $360/for one

Bus ?  $53/person

And of course there is fuel and backpack repairs and water bottles and whatever else we have gathered the last few days.  Yesterday we traveled to a huge grocery store and got the bulk of our supplies.  Today was spent getting odds and ends and packing up all said food.  At this point, we are just about done…. which I have to say, I am SO thankful for.  If you have ever done food packout for more than a few days, you know how annoying it can be!

prepping

So…. we off tomorrow….  we will catch a bus to a camp that is run by the company we purchased our mule support from.  There we will get bags ready for the mule and spend one last night organizing.  And then on the 2nd, we will depart for base camp — eat and sleep and acclimate.

snacks piles for us each

Here is our itin for you nerds out there who are interested in this stuff (starting on Feb. 1)

  1. Bus ride at 3:30; Camp at Los Puquios
  2. Start up Vacas Valley, camp at Pampade Lenas (2800m)
  3. Camp at Casa de Piedra (3200m)
  4. Plaza Argentina (4200m)
  5. Rest day
  6. Carry up to Camp 1 (5000m); stay at Plaza Argentina
  7. Rest at Plaza Argentina
  8. Travel up to Camp 1 to stay (5000m)
  9. Rest day
  10. Carry to Camp 2 (5850m); stay at Camp 1
  11. Go to Camp 2 (5850m) to stay
  12. Carry to White Rocks (Traverse — 6000m); stay at Camp 2
  13. Go to White Rocks to stay (6000m)
  14. Summit (with love and to celebrate Valentino)!; sleep at White Rocks
  15. Descend to Plaza de Mulas (4300m)
  16. Descend to Los Puquios
  17. Bus back to Mendoza, celebrate with much wine and steak

We also can build in two days into this schedule (for alternative summit days, for bad weather, for altitude acclimitization, etc.), but we must be back in Mendoza on the 19th.  So, there you go….

So… why do it?  Why climb uphill for 14 days in a row?  Why put our bodies through the damage of high altitude climbing?

Mountaineering is just really walking uphill day after day — trying to stay warm and eat enough calories.  But, if you have ever stood on the summit of a mountain, no matter how high, but if you have worked hard to get there….  you know the amazing feeling of the wind and sun on your face and the feeling of accomplishment.

That is what we are hoping for.

So — keep us in your minds and hearts.  send us as much go-juice-energy as you can muster!

We will be thinking of you all and doing our best staying safe out there on the mountain!  We will be in touch as soon as can.

Much love — aurora

summit day treats

We have a mule!

24 Jan

Today was a flurry of activity as Mike, Beth and I shopped for a mule.  Yes, a mule.  You see when we head up Aconcagua in a week, we will be carrying over two weeks worth of food.  Plus all our gear (two tents, two stoves, two pots, -20 degree bag, puffy jackets, long underwear, etc.).  So, those packs will be heavy.  So, we got ourselves a mule.

The mules bring in your gear (up to 60kg per mule) to the base camp.  We are hoping to do what is called the 360 route — which takes us up one side and down the other – and that means our walk in is two days longer than the normal route.  So, our mule price is much higher.  We are hoping to keep our weight under 60kg and then we can hire just one mule (who comes with a muleteer – who obviously speaks mule).   The mule (and muleteer) will walk in with us for the then first three days and then we will be on our own.  And how much does one mule cost, you wonder?  Well, it is certainly not cheap — it is about $290 for the one way.  Then we will arrange for our other mule on our way out (giving us the freedom if we don’t make it up and over the mountain or if we come back earlier/later).

Since this is an expensive trip, we decided to wait until the high season ends for a cheaper permit, which means we decided to wait until Feb. 1 to start our climb. So, what to do in the mean time? Well, we read about another climb –Cerro Plata— that will help prepare us for Aconcagua.  It will help because:

1.  It is almost 6000m – which helps us acclimate to high altitudes

2.  it could be cold – which will help us test our gear

3.  we get to test our systems and our team

4.  it is short, but not technical – allowing us to get in shape and again, acclimate

So — our plan is this:

head out tomorrow to Cerro Plata, climb and hike for 5 days.  Then we will be back here on the evening of the 28th to eat a big meal (we are all about the protein right now!).  Then  we will have the 29th, 30th and 31st to pull together 16+ days of food, our permit, any gear we need, etc.   And then, on to Aconcagua – which is 6962m tall — so it will be a good challenge!

Take care friends — hope to share with you a great summit shot when we get back!

Planes, trains and automobiles…

24 Jan

… and motorcycles, buses, rickshaws.

Over the past 4.5 months, i have taken a wide variety of public transportation options.  From auto-ricksaws to cycle-rickshaws to motorcycles.  Trains are hands-down my favorite.  There is nothing like watching the India countryside speed by while sipping a hot cup of chai.  But, the buses have been the most varied.

From the first buses that Katherine and I took in Nepal — the microbuses that were hot and crowded.  Then we found the public buses that were also hot and crowded, but these had a whole of people on the roofs.  My first bus in India tooked like it was on its last wheel and people had to get out each time the bus stalled to push it to pop the clutch.  And I could see the ground through the 4-speed gear shaft.  And did I mention how comfortable the seats were?  Ha.  And that was the ‘express’ bus that I got scammed for.

But buses in argentina are a whole new world.  I unfortunately do not have any pictures, but let me describe them to you.  First off, they are double deckers.  Secondly, there are a gazillion companies and various options for travel.  Since Beth and I were traveling  overnight, we took the ‘cama’ – which is not the most delux, but not the worst, either.

In cama, there are just 3 seats across (two, then aisle, then one).  So, the seats are bigger, wider, plush.  comfortable.  they play movies (mostly american films with spanish subtitles).  there is free coffee that you can drink all day.  there is a bathroom.  they serve you food.  I got wine the other night.  yeah, this ain’t no greyhound.

Though the buses are expensive, everyone takes them – there is a good mix of Argentines and tourists on the buses.  The buses travel all over the country, though it takes awhile.  For instance, we traveled from Southern Patagonia up to Mendoza and over the course of 3 days (left at 4 in the afternoon and got to Mendoza around 7:30 two days later) we were on a bus or in a bus station for close to 50 hours!  Fairly insane.

Argentina is big, there are a lot of sheep and lots and lots of prickly plants.

A quick note about food….

I cane from the land of amazing food (that land would be india and thailand and vietnam) — so the food here had high expectations to live up to.  I am so so so sorry to say that it failed miserably.  Argentines eat an amazing amount of bread and meat.  With not a whole lot of flavor.  The other day, on the bus, we had a total of 5 different bread products.  with meat.  it definitely leaves a bit to be desired….

next post….  our so very exciting plans for the nest few days!  🙂