Tag Archives: featured
03. Feb, 2010

Huayna Potosi

Huayna Potosi

Huayna Potosi, at 6088 meters, is one of the highest mountains in Boliva. I got this crazy idea to go climb the thing. Why? I dont’ know. Because I can, because it’s there. So anyways, after checking around, I made arrangements to go climbing.

Leaving La Paz in the morning, you drive up to the base of Huayna Potosi, and start your climb around noon. The drive up there is amazing. Or at least it was to me. You wind your way through a few pueblos and end up in the high country which I would describe as tundra. You are well above the timber line, so no trees grow here. You’ll see some scrub brush and llamas grazing all around. Off in the distance you can see the base of Huayna Potosi. This mountain is huge! Or at least it was to me! Covered in snow and glaciers, the summit can’t yet be seen as it is hidden far above the clouds.

After passing by a platinum mine, you wind your way up the mountain, driving past a small lake until you reach the end of the road. The rest of the way to the summit is by foot.

At over 4500 meters, the air is thin, and your lungs can feel it with every step you take. Hiking up the trail and climbing over boulders and rocks becomes a real challenge. Climbing higher and higher, you become engulfed in a cloud, and the landscape seems surreal. Off to your left, you pass by a glacier, and the water flowing out from underneath it is almost emerald green. Nothing grows up here except for the occasional small clump of short grass. Not even enough for any animal to eat. About 2 hours later, with the temperature dropping, and the air thinning, you finally reach base camp at over 5100 meters. Here is where you spend the night before attempting your ascent, early the next morning.

The base camp consists of an outhouse, a kitchen sheltered by a tarp, and the main cabin, where you eat and sleep. There’s no heat or fireplace here, so I hope you brought some warm and dry clothes. The temperatures reach -15C at night, and you never seem to be able to warm up.

I’ve never been this high before, and it was a real awakening for me. With most your clothes on, you lay curled up inside your sleeping bag trying to keep warm. You dare not move, because every move you make, your body finds another cold spot that sends cold shivers straight to your bones. The air you breath is cold and thin.

Imagine running a 1/4 mile at a pretty brisk pace. When you are done, you are not overly tired, but you have depleted yourself of oxygen and your breathing is deep as you gasp for air. Well, that’s the same feeling you get as you sleep! Lying perfectly still, you are always out of breath. Oh yes, and did I mention it was pretty damn cold too?

There’s no light here, so when the sun goes down, it’s time for bed. And you need all the sleep you can get. Around midnight you wake up, have as much breakfast as you can stomach, then start your ascent to the summit well into the night.

Myself, along with 7 other guys, woke up at midnight, and started our ascent around 1am. Less than 100 yards from the main cabin, you stop and affix your crampons to your climbing boots. From this point forward, it’s all snow and ice.

You climb start at about a 35-45 degree incline. And literally, you are taking baby steps. With each step you take, you gasp for air, and your legs feel like they have 50 pound weights attached to them. It’s all you can do to concentrate, placing one foot in front of another. Again, and again, and again. Slowly making progress, up the steep incline towards the summit.

As your hiking, sooner or later, you hit a soft and your legs sink into the snow up to your hips! Ugh! Now you much expend even more energy, that you don’t have, to pull yourself out, and start on and upwards again. This cycle repeats itself over and over again.

I remember being so fatigued that I just wanted to fall asleep. And given the opportunity, I’m sure it would have been no problem. However, if you fall asleep here, you’ll die in no time. So it’s not such a good idea to take a nap.

Chewing a wad a coca leaves on one side of my mouth, I would stuff chocolate in the other side of my mouth to get some quick energy. The funny thing was, the chocolate would never melt! Not even in my mouth. Maybe that will give you an idea of how cold it was up there.

At one point, I made my way over a crevice. You walk along an 18 inch path that on both sides drops off. In front of you, is a shear vertical wall that goes straight up. Upon reaching the end of the small path, you leap forward, digging your ice pick and crampons into the wall in front of you. Slowly, you scale up the wall making new foot holes with your crampons, and by placing your ice pick higher and higher. Eventually, your back on terrain that you can walk on once again.

I made it to 5500 meters before I could go no further and decided to turn back. Actually, I could have gone further, but there was no way I would have ever made it to the summit at over 6000 meters. I just didn’t have it in me. I couldn’t breath, I was cold, I was tired. I just couldn’t do it. No excuses, the mountain won!

Later that day, I discovered only 4 of the 8 people that started actually made it to the summit. Some were just to fatigued like me. While others got altitude sickness and started vomiting uncontrollable.

Huayna Potosi kicked my butt! But it’s an experience I’ll never forget. And if your the kind of person who like challenges, then Huayna Potosi is definitely for you!

29. Nov, 2009

Playa Esmeralda

Playa Esmeralda

On the North Coast near Miches, you will find a small Pueblo called La Mina. This is the gateway to Playa Esmeralda, one of the most beautiful and unspoiled beached in the Dominican Republic. Here you will find another dirt road heading North towards the coast. The drive isn’t far, but because the road is in such poor condition, it will take you about 25 minutes to reach the coast from La Mina.

We were foolish enough to drive it at night when it was pitch black! There is a fork in the road and you must go left. First we went left, and after navigating around numerous “body bags” and almost getting stuck in some mud. We decided we must have taken a wrong turn, so we headed back to the fork, and went right this time.

After seeing several giant toads, giant crabs, and a couple of Tarantulas cross the road, it was getting a little bit eery going down this road alone at night. Tired and hungry, you had to squinting to see the road ahead of you. We had no idea what they were, but there were “body bags” everywhere! White bags big enough that you could fit a body in. You would be driving down the road, pitch black, and would have to swerve because this damn body bag was right in the middle of the road. I’d be damned if I was getting out of the car to check to see what was inside one of these bags. And every now and again, we would see a small one. Just large enough to hold maybe a head! OMG! We were scaring ourselves to death!

 

Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, some big bird comes swooping down out of the black abyss, inches from our car, and right in line with our headlights! All I hear was a scream! The car swerves… then yelling and cursing! Mother f*$k3r, Damn it, this is not the way. No way! We are turning back RIGHT NOW! I was laughing my ass off!

We turn around, go back to the fork, and head left one more time. This time we drive further and finally find the beach! It’s pitch black when we setup our tent, but we were excited we finally made it. It looked beautiful, but we would have to wait until morning to really see where we were.

Morning came and we were eaten alive by bugs! But, the beach was beautiful! Nothing like a swim in the ocean to wake yourself up in the morning. Some security guards came by and said how they would protect us during the night. The were actually very nice. Venezuelans own the land by the beach, and the security guards where there to protect the land. From what? I dont know. But they were doing a good job cause the land was still there, and the beach was as beautiful as can be.

After breakfast we headed back into the town of La Mina to get our defenses against the mosquitos and fleas for the next night. Bug repellant, Baygon, and a slow burning anti-mosquito coil. They didn’t have a chance tonight!

We drove back to Playa Esmeralda and could see the body bags in the daytime now. We actually drove through a rice field and the “body bags” where bags of raw rice that fell off the truck ! Oh well, I still like the idea of seeing body bags at night. It makes for a good story!

Back at Playa Esmeralda we hiked down the beach to the point and went skin diving. Along the way we found a new spot to put our tent. It would be our All Inclusive Resort for the weekend! And there were less bugs there too. We moved the tent, fumigated the area, and setup our new camp. It was heaven on Earth! Better than Gilligan’s Island, and even better than Swiss Family Robinson. We were living in style now!

That night, we build a bonfire, ate dinner, and drank cold margaritas around the campfire. As the stars twinkled above, and the rays of the moon lite up the ocean, Playa Esmeralda was the most beautiful spot in the Dominican Republic tonight.

[mappress]

10. Nov, 2009

Carnaval 2009

Carnaval 2009

Carnaval, Santo Domingo, Dominican RepublicIt all started in February of 2009. Down on the Malecon in Santo Domingo, Carnaval was about to take place and we had VIP tickets to event.

07. Nov, 2009

Cartagena

Cartagena

Dancing in CartagenaCartagena is a beautiful city full of color and life. As one of the most exciting cities in the world, Cartagena has a lot going for it. Boca Grande is a peninsula very similar to Miami, full of hotels right on the beach. Clubs, shopping districts, and fine dinning everywhere. I stayed across the bay in a district called Manga. Since I sailed here via boat, I was staying in Club Natico which is a nice place all by itself. It’s really fun to meet other cruisers, find out where they are from, and share stories.

But what Cartagena is really know for is Centro Historico, or the Historical Center of town. Its the largest Colonial Zone in the New World, the upkeep of the city is second to none. At over 400 years old, the streets and buildings are so well preserved they look as though they were constructed yesterday.