Friday, December 4, 2015

W-trek Patagonia

Chile (South America)

2015 turned out to be awesome year, one that started with just finishing climbing Kilimanjaro then climbing Costa Rica's Cerro Chirripo and actually the initial thinking was different but last one turned out to be W-trek Patagonia in Chile.

Well as mentioned initially my other half was suggesting to go to Antarctica. I was like ok!! let me dig into it a bit [seriously that was the kind of excitement I had shown :) ] Later on happened to see some weird pictures of Drake passage and enthu went one step down. Besides my basic funda was till the time other body parts are properly functional let's do some trek kind of things, other things can be pushed for later. Knew we had to go to Chile in any case for whatever we decide. Hence just started looking into things to do there and what came across was W-trek Patagonia. Looked very interesting and somewhere we both got convinced to do it .

Going to Chile felt like way long journey to finally land in Santiago. The country itself is so elongated and there is no direct flight from north to south end. One has to take a hop in between in Santiago and pray that your flight will not be cancelled and / or delayed. Met family of four stranded for two days at the airport due delays and cancellations. If we were flying that far out we wanted to cover Atacama as well do W- trek in Patagonia means both the ends.

Santiago beautifully laid out city, kudos to the street designers, the sidewalks, middle garden paths, roads, all so huge and broad and clean too. We walked around 11/ 13 miles everyday for two days we were in the city. The old city market and things are also beautiful.  Various museums, some hills around city, gardens,Valparaiso neighborhood, Vina Del mar is different at the same time beautiful area to explore. Bidding good bye to Santiago next was North side, Atacama desert.

As with any adventure its best to know some locals or have some friends who like doing these kind of adventures or have some friends who know locals or see if guides are required or available.

Atacama:- the highest elevation desert, in order to reach there on has to land in San Pedro De Atacama situated at 8000 plus feet elevation, anything one does here is high altitude.
The year we landed surprisingly the valley was filled with wildflowers due rare rainfall. This desert hosts number of Salt flats, Lagunas, Some ruins, Flamingos of different kinds, Foxes, Guanacos, Llamas and they all live at such a high elevation and survive. At Valley of moon, Valley of death one can see different formations, rock types, salt caves, ancient carvings in caves, the path or route taken by people to travel around and the list goes on. Although one has lots of sunshine the place is very cold and windy. Among all things done hiking at 15000 feet elevation, visiting Salt flats and traveling to high elevation Lagunas while crossing  at 16000 feet elevation in heavy winds (one literally has to hold hard other individual after landing at actual site), walking inside Cactus Canyon, Watching night sky (night hiking), stargazing and seeing Southern Hemisphere’s unique constellations can be highlights.

W-trek Patagonia ( Chile - South America)
Torres Del Paine National Park
Traveling to Patagonia is a long journey but once you come to the park all travel woes are gone. Weather can be different at different elevation and places, its famous for heavy wind gusts. Rainy, may be snow, very cold at a times, damp, sunny. The lakes, mountains, glaciers, burnt forests, marsh lands all is vast and awe-striking. Beauty untouched. One can see wildlife in abundance here: Guanacos in herds with newborns, Pumas, variety birds, wild donkeys, foxes etc.
The lodges for trek need booking in advance and are nice place to crash into after long day instead of staying in tents.  Setting up tent in high winds is a nightmare.

Different legs of trek offer very different things for example: sounds of avalanches in Valle De Frances are amazing and if fog is covering the glaciers, its an experience not seeing but hearing the avalanche. The edible mushrooms growing on trees look like small oranges. Hiking to Torres Del Paine's is nice windy experience when one goes through windy pass, narrow walkway with horses and people going in both directions. Greys glacier, spongy texture and so blue and accessible walk down is simply amazing. Roughly it can be 50/60 miles of  trek, not significant altitude gain (though some individuals may feel it) and nothing is flat for sure.

It is a beautiful place. Some highlights of the trek can be found here:

Well after covering almost 90 plus miles on feet we headed back home with lots memories. Met many interesting people locals / foreigners who came for travel, some became friends for lifetime. Teaching chef how to make chole / cumin rice was fun and he literally made them and everyone else also wanted to have same dish, that was so cool.

A trip to remember and year to end with sweet note. Bye bye 2015 welcome 2016!!


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cerro Chirripo climb

Cerro Chirripo Climb: (Costa Rica - Central America)
June 4 / 5 - 2015 
Elevation:- 3820 meters

When opportunity knocks, just take it. I think that's how things have happened so far. When the opportunity came to visit Costa Rica, initially was thinking of doing coastal hiking trail (had heard about it) but given the month and weather being  rainy as it was green season in Costa Rica, dropped the plan, besides didn't have those many days.

While reading something I found about "Cerro Chirripo".  It's Costa Rica's highest mountain in San Gerardo De Rivas National Park. Ranked first in most topographically isolated mountain peaks in Central America and ranked second in most topographically prominent mountain peaks of Central America. It was going to be a stretch to go all the way there and we had to think a lot about logistics. But decided to squeeze this in, given it was just two days adventure. Post Kilimanjaro this was it.

As with any adventure its best to know some locals or have some friends who like doing these kind of adventures or have some friends who know locals or see if guides are required or available.
After finishing formalities: getting permits, submitting documents and reserving the place at the base camp for one night stay we were kind of set.

Basic Guideline:
Day1: - 6500ft. or more elevation gain in 14.5 kilometers. Steep, strenuous, humid, given green season in Costa Rica all possible weather types and not to forget, its a rain forest. Finally To the base camp, one has to book a place to stay at base camp beforehand for a night stay. Pretty cold temps and with thunderstorms and rain much cooler. On the way there is one place where one can buy snacks and couple things and it also has restrooms.

Day2:- Summit climb 5.2 kilometers. Started at 3am to see sunrise at 5.15am . Very windy and much cooler at the top. Then to back to the base camp and all the way downhill to go back to hotel.

The place being far out and with limited transportation service available landed in the area the previous day. Usually in the green season and rain forest area by default it starts pouring after 4 pm. There will not be a cloud in sight early on but that time it will come out of nowhere. Hence the target for day one was to make it to the base camp well before that time. This was for the first time we were going to conquer almost 7000ft elevation gain in one day. Weather was pleasant to begin with but became more humid with lots bugs and sticky muddy walk later on. Happened to see different variety vegetation and animals: snake, birds etc. on the way up. To our luck we made it just in time before it actually started pouring. 

After reaching base camp it was pretty cold and windy out there, just ventured out in nearby area to see some things enjoyed experiences of other people and nice dinner in the mess ( we all had bunk beds to sleep into), so shared rooms with bunch other people. It was all together fun night. 

Next day morning got up pretty early dressed for weather and with headlamps on started our march towards the summit. It was comparatively short walk but in the darkness and with the elevation feels longer. Till the time daylight breaks or sunrises you don't even come to know what are you walking on. Given Costa Rica had collection of most deadly poisonous snakes was glad we didn't encounter single one in the pitch darkness. Made it to the top in time to witness sunrise, some rain clouds were coming in with high winds, just had little downpour and things cleared. Now we could see the ridgeline we walked on, various lakes, surrounding mountains. Since we were pressed with time decided to head down to the base camp. People were so nice and helpful, sharing all kinds of information ( the staff even shared their fruits the previous night). We had nice breakfast and started marching down the mountain. Went to hotel packed things, quick change of clothes and headed back.

Over all it was great experience. For Costa Rica otherwise can never forget word "Typical", it has some special meaning in Costa Rica more about some other side hikes in another blog.

Photo journey of this climb can be found here :  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Costa Rica - Part 2

Some other things in Costa Rica would be :

Hiking in Rincon de La Vieja National  Park: It is a active volcanic area with lots of sulfur fumes, mud pools. Well after inquiring at the entrance gate with ranger, he mentioned something (not sure what) had killed horse in last couple days outside the park. Ok!! good news. Saw some other people entering inside, so did we. Amazingly silent place even though there were people in the park. One would never know they are there unless they come in front of you. Sulfur fumes were pretty strong at some places and some sections of the park were very dry like desert with iguanas roaming around. After visiting this dry part we started exploring other trails which were lush green with lots dense vegetation. While on trail to waterfall a very loud humming sound was coming from somewhere, nothing in sight but got stronger and stronger, crossed couple streams, steps, some fig variety large root trees to reach the waterfall, also did some other hikes around area.
The parks here are lot like jungles to explore.

There are many active volcanoes here and consider yourself lucky to get clear weather to see the sulfur pools and hope that not much volcanic activity is going on. Some other volcanoes were very active hence the area was quarantined, but we could do couple hikes around Poas volcano. It was covered in dense fog and just for a second it cleared to give view inside crater. The sulfur pools in these active volcanoes are huge. The hike to lakes around is nice.

Walking in the rain forest with poison frogs and other slippery creatures and actually when we went it was raining that made it the most realistic experience.

While returning back from one place, we were almost more than half way to our destination and came a river crossing ( one has to drive car through river or else have to drive back longer distance turning around). There was no one nearby to ask where to cross the river from, as it was countryside. In these situations locals are the best people to know the depth of  the river, the base of river if its muddy or rocky, undercurrents and what all things are there in the river (there are crocodiles in Costa Rica) etc. Well took a step back and decided to wait for a while till someone crosses the river. We had passed one truck driver. After some time he did come in and with loud honk told us to give side as there was room for only one vehicle at the river entrance. We saw how deep his vehicle went and just followed the path. Well given it was getting dark its always wise to turn back and take a longer route if you are not sure or can not find anyone to ask,in our case we followed because we were sure it was ok to cross.

There are lots of  wild animals : variety snakes, lizards, iguanas, monkeys of different types, crocodile, birds, sloths etc.

Hiking around these areas can be a nice experience with right knowledge and care. If you take proper precaution any adventure can be fun.

Just because I mentioned in earlier climbing post, anytime you ask "what is for breakfast?" answer is "typical" ( its the same breakfast day in and day out having beans and rice and some other things and called as 'typical' breakfast)

With less days, lots of mileage on legs, meeting some amazing people, climbing Cerro Chirripo  and getting many experiences headed back to place called home.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Climbing Kilimanjaro

Surprise surprise, suddenly we go for one presentation of a newbie starting a business, at least I have no knowledge about him and we say yes let's give this individual a chance.Given the fact that I have never ever climbed anything into thin air and all of a sudden a mountain in some other country with Ebola scare to the maximum, do I need to give a second thought??? nope, we sign up papers and I know with the first payment down that we are climbing Kilimanjaro.
Since this was first event for business, everything was new for the organizers and for us too. We were in ok shape but never did event specific special training, just some hikes here and there which we would do under normal weekend activities. All our teammates were experienced people in climbing snow mountains and having many other experiences under their belt. Did all possible vaccinations, paper works and all gear collection and ready to board flight.

We did 6 day Machame route

Basic Guideline:-
Day1:- Machame gate to Machame camp (3000m)
Day2:- Machame camp to Shira camp (3850m)
Day3:- Shira camp to Lava Tower (4600m) to Barranco Camp (3950m)
Day4:- Barranco camp to Barranco wall (4350m) karanga valley to Barafu camp (4600m)
Day5:- Barafu camp to Uhuru Peak (5896m) to Maweka camp (3100m)
Day6:- Maweka camp (3100m) to Maweka Gate (1500m)

Well had heard the fact that mountain creates its own weather and seriously experienced it first hand with torrential rains, thunderstorms, lightning, snowfall, hail storm in winds, humid warm weather, per say all of it and enjoyed it. It was an experience worth taking.
It's a compulsory guided walk as it helps support country's economy and the porters, cooks, guides do an amazing job going up and down frequently this high up. Well some of them did a job of lifting an individual taking to peak and bringing down from peak to the base camp, helping out when needed that's how amazing they are.
Besides, first hand saw people who are used to climbing mountains can also get into altitude effects and need stronger medicines to go on and recovery medicines to reduce leg pain later on. As far altitude is concerned one can be fine one time but not so fine the other time. That's how it is.
Even after walking 38 some miles on this terrain never had any kind of pain per say. It was so fine that enjoyed bumpy safari after ending this and did half marathon after returning back the very next weekend.

With snow covered peaks and valleys, standing on and looking around with hail storm hitting you, there was an unspoken silence everywhere. Although one could hear the sound of wind, there was that silence in the darkness of night, ( so far you were just imagining but now actually experiencing ) how would you feel into thin air when there is nothing around you but mountains, an experience worth taking.

Enjoy some Glimpses 

Every individual creates his/her own footprint on this much traversed path and creates his/her own experience because for you everything from people, weather, circumstances, every single thing is going to be different. Unfortunately happened to break one camera,  it just fell on rock couldn't help it, my bad. Met many individuals some were really awesome, some became friends forever, some were 'forget people' category of individuals, only one thing could be worst when based on hearsay some individuals form opinions and treat an individual based on those, so far used to think only women used to get crown for gossiping but some men are worst gossipers.

The first site of African village reminded of some part of India with red soil and thatched roofs and truck shops and special "tapari's" (just some side small food/ tea stalls). The warmth of the place and the warmth of the people felt familiar and yet different. Stroll in the market with fruit stalls, making and eating plantain soup, vegetables made very similar to that of Indian taste, the Masai's, their typical dressing style all was familiar yet different. 

Watching vast planes and freely roaming countless animals felt like one big open zoo. Sad part was to see poacher killing of elephant (seemed like it had recently happened as there was lot of freshness in the corpse) and countless vultures trying to feast on fresh kill, another one was some safari driver chasing Lion cubs in no go zone just so that tourists can get closeup (that's kind of sickening thing for tourists to demand and the driver to do it). Hyenas roaming around your tent at night was a cool thing ( they really make laughing sound) and every time it would happen the guards would give torch signal to each other, the stargazing in the middle of the night, sunset in Serengeti, sounds of animals after you sleep in the darkness of night and when you wake up, all were the moments to remember.
Well given that I love animals in their natural habitat, it was a treat, no ring masters and no zoo feeders, they are as free as they can be. Watching the elephants do some ritual for the family member
they had lost, protecting their newborns and scanning surroundings for danger, elders leading the pack and keeping a watchful eye on things, alert still enjoying showed how close they are as a group. 

Sometimes one remembers the smell and sound of the place so well that memory can re-create it for you whenever you want it. Yes after watching the shows on national geographic and discovery channels we wanted to witness this for a long time and it happened, well not exactly as how we would do otherwise but still.

So far most of our trips (as simple as visiting national parks & hiking there or visiting Greece etc) or experiences are led by us hence when you feel limited by under someone, its kind of different. Still we managed to create our own experiences here. Some of them would be visiting the vast field of flamingos by the lake side & one of the best experience was going hiking in this terrain filled with all possible animals with ranger having gun in hands (wow you can not even imagine unless you do it, how you feel about it). Yes we did it!!

Overall Africa is  a beautiful place close to home, local peoples are really nice and warm. It's a place worth visiting!

I think sometimes travel or doing adventures is about giving chance to different individuals and create your own experience.