Friday, December 18, 2009

"Go to where?!!"

Years ago on a trip I found myself in Hell.

Hell's Railway Station to be precise.

It's a touch colder than you might think.

So I took a photo.

hell, western norway, winter 1982

Sunday, December 13, 2009

every day

Happy 37th Birthday Shane.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

the piles of my egoistic

A work friend has recently returned from Syria and whilst browsing her photos I was reminded of my visit to Bosra, a small town south of Damascus near the border with Jordan. It has an amazingly well preserved Roman amphitheatre but what really captured my attention was the visitors sign in the centre of town.

(click photo for larger view)

any takers??

I just can't help myself...

I was online today and came across some great photos of the actual trek I hope I will be doing next July. I like that there are actual trekkers in many of the photos to provide a sense of scale.

The Baltoro Trek to K2 basecamp and across Gondogoro La Pass is considered by a great many people to be the most spectacular hike on the planet.

I could use a trekking buddy - anyone fancy coming along for the hike of a lifetime??!!

(All photos courtesy of: jagged-globe)

(click photos for larger versions)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

risk management

Mentioning a trip to Pakistan raises so many eyebrows I'm considering writing to Lancet to have it classified as a legitimate Syndrome.

Travelling is a risky business. But so is stepping outside your front door.

But risk comes in many packages: ignorant and foolhardy risk, needless and unecessary risk, high risk, low risk, informed and identifiable risk and a strategic world domination using little plastic figures to represent cavalry, artillery and infantry type of Risk.

Riding my motorbike is full of risks too and so is dating.

A little frisson of danger can add wonders to a journey (usually from the safe perspective of hindsight) and I've never been one to shy away from some troublespots. For example, I travelled through far Eastern Turkey whilst Kurdish Seperatists (PKK) were actively blowing up buses. Buses were my main source of transportation.

But then I researched the troubles and discovered that attacks were few and far between - one occuring on a Monday morning in March on a road in North Eastern Turkey, the next on a Thursday afternoon in July in South-East Turkey and yet another on a Saturday lunchtime in the far East in September. To find oneself in one of those places on that particular day at that particular time would amount to being so incredibly unlucky that you would more likely be murdered by a member of your own family in your bed!

On a trip through Greece in 1990 I met a woman from Belfast. I said to her that it must be awful to live in a city beset by all the IRA violence. She replied that if she didn't see it on the news or read about it in the papers like everyone else she would have been totally unaware that there WERE any troubles.

The media has a way of making the viewer/reader feel that incidence of violence and/or terrorism have turned an entire country into turmoil.

We experienced something here a little similar not so long ago. A small 'turf war' broke out at one of Sydney's beaches. It resulted in a small riot. When it hit the International news, friends around Sydney were being called by relatives overseas to see if they were safe!

Places I DO stay away from are those where kidnappers, terrorists and other unpleasant types, are actively seeking out tourists. This is happening in Yemen right now; and Somali, Iraq and Afghanistan are also pretty low on my list of places to see at the moment.

Where I intend to head in North Eastern pakistan is the remotely populated 'disputed' region bordering India and China, and much of the troubles in Pakistan are around Peshawar and the Swat valley which are quite a distance away. It would be like wanting to travel from Sydney to Canberra but changing ones mind because there has been violence erupting in Melbourne.

And below are a few photos from the WWW to show why I am itching to get into some crampons.

baltoro towards the cathedrals

baltoro glacier

I absolutely MUST cross this bridge!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

physician heal thyself

Well I've been back 4 weeks - and bang on time arrives that post-trip slump.

Whats the best cure?

I've been looking at airfares to Pakistan.

Monday, November 23, 2009

less than you think

I know there are those of you out there who quietly think to themselves that I must have a secret Lotto winnings- or at the very least an inheritance of some sort in order to be able to travel so often.

Sadly, this is not the case. It comes down to careful budgeting and going without.

It's all about priorities.

When I travel I don't stay in 5 star (or even 4 or 3 for that matter) accommodation, however in all hostels I DO make sure I have my own room. Sometimes with private bathroom.

I also travel reasonably comfortably whenever possible. So a $10 shuttle bus with 8 other backpackers for 45 minutes is preferable to a 4 hour local bus trip packed to the ceiling with locals, goats and sacks of rice for $1.20.

I have just finished going through the 'expenses' section of my travel journal. This is where I tally ALL of my spending (down to an ice cream here or a local bus there). It comes in useful as I am often able to claim much of my travel as a tax deduction.

The TOTAL cost of my 6 weeks in South America including the return airfare, a return flight to Easter Island from Santiago (6 hours each way), 5 internal flights plus ALL spending money and accommodation, comes to:

AU $4,817.70

So please don't ever tell me you can't afford to go on holidays!

(* Sorry, I tried to de-smug the post, I guess I get a little tired of people telling me I'm "so lucky" to be able to travel, when luck has absolutely nothing to do with it!!)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

paine panorama

A three-photo 'stitch' of the highlight of my Torres del Paine hike.
(click to get full size version)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

adiós américa del sur

Buenos Aires did her best to make me dislike her.

Arriving from Sydney late in the evening 6 weeks ago I had to get a taxi from the airport and it was pissing down with rain. Really heavily.

The next morning I woke and it was still raining. And it was cold.

So was the next day.

The following morning I left for the domestic airport to fly to Iguacu Falls. It was a clear sunny day.

About a week later I returned to BA from Uruguay and guess what?

Yup...raining again.

And so - another 4 weeks passed while I communed with Big Heads, cramponned most of the way up an active volcano, and hiked amongst glaciers and mountains, until it was time to return to Buenos Aires before leaving for home.

You may recall from an earlier post that I was delayed in El Calafate for 10 hours which meant I missed all afternoon and evening in BA. I finally arriving back there at 2am.

Would you be surprised to hear that it had poured with torrential rain for over 6 hours that day in BA? I wasn't.

I awoke the next morning for my final full day and to my absolute surprise it was hot and sunny with nary a cloud in the sky.

So I set off early and walked around the streets of Buenos Aires for the entire day, getting a bit of colour and catching up with Recoleta and Palermo (the zushy parts of town)

I spent a little while in the Recoleta cemetery - an extraordinary place with over the top crypts and mausoleums. I was surprised to see just how plain and understated Eva "Evita" Peron's crypt was. Simple and unadorned except for a couple of small brass plaques.

Very tasteful.

And so, in the dying rays of my last days sojourn in South America, I warmed a little to that heaving metropolis and looked a little more kindly upon her and the charms she deigned to show me all but briefly.

And so I headed home.

paint your wagon

evita was here

recoleta cemetery

recoleta cemetery

recoleta cemetery

ba graffiti

picket fence

fence abstract

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

big heads birthday

continuing a (new) tradition - my easter island birthday cake and candle video!

an ice place

one of my final visits was to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. It's huge, having a 5km front which rises in places to over 75 metres and is more than 30kms long. It's how I like my glaciers - BIG.

It is also one of only a few in the region that is not retreating.

I took a public bus from El Calafate and had to spend 5 hours there - which even for me is a tad too long to be staring at an enormous lump of ice.

What was fascinating was hearing the thing creak and groan, often followed by huge cracking sounds and occasional splashes as bits of it broke off and fell into the lake.

perito moreno glacier (click for a big view)

perito moreno

a big bugger

looks like the back of my heels after all the trekking ('ewww...')

before and after shot - constantly changing

The following lunchtime i was supposed to fly out of El Calafate back to Buenos Aires but my flight was delayed by 10 hours! And to cheer me up El Cal decided to drop it's temperatures by about 90 degrees so I spent several hours wandering the town desperately trying to find things to entertain myself with in what felt like sub-zero temps.

someone left the sprinkler on

The supermarket had lost its entertainment value by this stage, as had the TIT ice cream parlour. So i found a bookshop cum cafe and sat in there over an amazing hot chocolate (I think they simply melted a 250gm block of chocolate and put it in a mug) which was served WITH a foil wrapped chocolate on the side.

So naturally - I dropped it into the hot chocolate.

One's hot chocolate can never really be too chocolatey.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Well more hiking after Torres del Paine - this time I took a bus over the border back into Argentina to Los Glaciaros National Park. Here I only managed two hikes as the third day was predicted torrential rain so I left and returned to El Calafate.

The first walk was to a glacier and lake and was relatively easy. Six hours return to Laguna Torres and apart from a steep climb out of El Chalten, the town that was my base, the rest of the walk was following the glacial river.

laguna torres

mini icebergs on laguna torres

some more and the glacier in the background

The second walk was murder! Eight hours return, which started out with a beautiful sunny day, but by the time I reached the halfway point Mt FitzRoy, snow had begun to fall and the wind had picked up and was getting stronger by the minute. Oddly, with the snow falling, much of the time I was still in sunshine.

After 4 hours I reached the base of the climb up to the Laguna de Los Tres - the furthest point of the walk. This climb was extremely steep on rock and moraine strewn slopes. As I climbed higher the wind got stronger and whipped the snow into my face like needles.

About a third of the way to the top the track became completely covered in snow and ice making it quite dangerous considering the wind. I have never hiked in wind that strong before. Several times I was almost blown off the path into the snow.

I reached the top and went through the snow as far as the last human footprints went. Thought it advisable to stop there and descend again!

Coming down was even more difficult. I was well and truly knackered when I got back to the hostel.

But the scenery made it worthwhile.

after the first climb out of El Chalten

fitzroy showing part of herself

terry and fitzroy

tit ice cream shop - i´m definitely having the sorbet