Thursday, 23 April 2009

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Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Back Home

Well we've been back for a week now. Takes a little adjusting to get used to regular life again. Good to be back, but I look forward to the next adventure. Done posting on this blog check out my others if you are interested.


Monday, 4 June 2007

Miami, FLA

We arrived in Miami at about 5pm today, after an uneventful but lengthy flight from La Paz (7+ hours in the air!). Did you know: airplanes flying to La Paz, Bolivia are equipped with special tires - they need to be able to withstand the additional force resulting from landing at speeds approximately TWICE what is necessary when landing at sea level. As well, the large jets do not take off from La Paz fully fuelled - they would be too heavy to become airborne in the less dense atmosphere.

For most of the trip, the weather was clear... and in between cribbage games I enjoyed spectacular views of the South American topography. From the air, the changes in the landscape are super apparent - the dry, barren altiplano around La Paz turns into vegetated mountains, which turn into flat, lush lowlands as you approach Santa Cruz, which turn into thick jungle as you go north over Brazil along the Amazon River... it is all very beautiful.

Yesterday, Brad, Esther and I checked out a La Paz futbol game. It wasn't as crowded or rowdy as I had hoped, but perhaps it was best that way...?! The fans really get into it, and it was a nice way to spend our last day in the city.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Alguien ha robado mi cartera...

...that's Spanish for... SOMEONE HAS STOLEN MY WALLET!!! Yep, we've become victims of the much-read-about pick pockets... guess we're not as invincible as we had hoped...!!! Today is the gianormous La Paz festival, El Gran Poder. Thousands and thousands of people are in the streets, and many of them have been completely intoxicated since about 7am... We were on our way through a crowd to go have dinner about an hour ago, and all of a sudden Todd noticed his wallet was missing. Luckily, his passport remained in his pocket, and he only had about 100 Bolivianos ($12??) in the billfold. So, instead of having supper, he and I made a few phone calls to cancel credit cards and decided to just come back and hang out at the hostel. Brad continued on to meet up with our friend Esther; hopefully their evening is more fun than Todd's! I'm guessing that he is not the only Gringo in this city who ended up duped today... c'est la vie, I suppose... welcome to a (somewhat) 3rd world country!!
Anyhow, in spite of the nasty event, the day was interesting. The parade consisted of group after group of colorfully-clad dancers, along with marching bands, traditionally dressed ladies, and we even heard that the Bolivian President was going to be in the lineup somewhere. Beer was being consumed by pretty much everyone, and the party is slated to continue well into the night. The streets will be quite the mess tomorrow, I'm sure.
Well, a couple more sleeps and we'll be on the plane home! I am looking forward to seeing all my family and friends.

Friday, 1 June 2007


We went to the Coca Museum the other day. It provides a very interesting perspective on coca. It has been chewed and used in tea since before Christ by the traditional Andean cultures. When used in its raw leaf form and chewed or used in tea its effects are very mild (probably less than a strong cup of coffee). As a matter of fact, it can provide large amounts of nutrients and is used medicinally for upset stomach and to relieve headaches due to altitude. I find it interesting that the US has spent 1.3 Billion to eradicate coca in Bolivia and that cocaine use by Bolivians is not really a big problem. To spend that kind of money to eradicate something of great cultural significance in a country thousands of miles from your border makes little sense. Take care of the problems inside your own borders. Of note is that the US has 5% of the world population yet consumes 50% of the world cocaine production. (Sorry for anti-US sentiment)
Here are a couple of links. - Wikipedia page on coca - Wikipedia page on coca eradication

During our trip to Oruro we went to the Restaurant Nayjama. Anyone who gets the chance to go, should. The food was great. The owner Chef Roberto sat and chatted with us on both our visits. He is an interesting fellow. He is a local man who trained at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris and has cooked all over the world for many celebrities. For example he worked in the Playboy Mansion for 3 years and was on the David Letterman show. His stories are great!


Thursday, 31 May 2007

Back in La Paz...

So, here we are, back in La Paz for the last four days of our trip. Oruro was... well, there aren't alot of words necessary to describe it. It was an 'experience', for lack of a better term. We returned to La Paz a day ahead of schedule... the 'best sport climbing crag in Bolivia' left a little bit to be desired... the hotel wasn't exactly charming... and Todd and Cheryle were indifferent about checking out the hot springs, so poor Brad got jipped and had to leave without seeing them. He's a real trooper - never complains about anything - and it can be a serious challenge at times, travelling with Todd and Cheryle. He was a little bit shocked however, to see a bus with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks logo pasted to the back window - in ORURO of all places!! It got him deep, especially since the Ducks are ahead of Ottawa in the playoff series!

Anyway, maybe a museum or two will be on the agenda for Friday, and some last-minute shopping, then we'll partake in the El Gran Poder festivities on Saturday, and possibly we'll catch a soccer game on Sunday. Then... north we will go! Monday at 7am we leave La Paz, hopefully in time for summer back home!

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Morning Coffee

Just sitting have morning coffee at the Hostal Naira (Brad is crying in his coffee due to Ottawa's loss last night.) If anyone reading this ever makes it to La Paz, this is a great place to stay. The rooms are clean, lots of hot water, great cafe downstairs (breakfast is covered with the room), and the staff is great. It is more of a hotel than a hostal. Check it out:
We are off to Oruro, a city of about 200,000, which is a 3 hour bus ride from La Paz. Here is a link We will be sport climbing at a granite cliff called Rumi CampaƱa and exploring the area for the next 4 days.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Done with Snow and Cold

Well, we have decided to be done with slogging in the snow. Instead, we are off to Oruro, a city about three hours south of La Paz, where we will spend the rest of the week. Supposedly there is some excellent sport climbing on granite around the area. Next Saturday, there is a big festival here in La Paz called El Gran Poder - we hopefully will score some front row seats, as the parade and festivities take place very close to our hostel. Here is a link:
After that, we have one more day and then we will be on our way home :( . Hope everyone in the northern hemisphere is well and we look forward to seeing you all soon! Thanks also for following our blog and posting comments (even the smartasses).

Sunday, 27 May 2007

No Summit for Us

Brad and I had a great trip, however us two old men did not make it to the top of Illimani. We left Thursday for the very rough, albeit beautiful, three-and-a-half hour drive to Pinaya, which is the starting point for Illimani. Following the drive (and a quick game of futbol with the local school kids!), we made the easy hike to our first camp at Punto Roto, with horses carrying our gear. Friday morning our high-altitude porters arrived, and we completed the 5 hour hike to our high camp located at around 5300 meters. The porters are amazing men - at all of 130 lbs. - they hiked our 60 lb. packs to high camp in their SANDALS!! The next morning we left our tent at 3 AM and made it to around 6200 meters before deciding that our tired bodies were not moving fast enough to make the summit safely. A little disappointing, but as the old cliche goes - it is not the destination, but the journey that counts. Thanks to Mario Chura for organizing our transport, porters, and for letting us stay at his home in Pinaya on our way out.


Friday, 25 May 2007

Around La Paz

Posted by Cheryle: Yesterday I spent the day with my friend Esther, who is from Switzerland. I met her while we were all in the Condoriri area - she is an Economist-slash-mountaineer and is halfway through her 4-month trip around South America. We checked out several interesting museums, shopped a little, toured up and down some colorful streets, and people-watched at a busy square which contained more pigeons than I have ever seen in my life! It was a great day - especially since Esther is fluent in about 5 languages, including Espanol!! Her translating services were hugely appreciated and I even learned a few new words and phrases!

Today I took a guided tour to the ruins at Tiwanaku, which is about 75km from La Paz. After the usual mass confusion was straightened out this morning (i.e. overcoming the language barrier, navigating thru traffic jammed streets), I found myself squashed in a van with 12 other people, hurtling down the highway towards a major archaelogical site. Overall, the trip was well worth the effort. Only a small portion of the area has been excavated, but the history is interesting and the exposed monoliths and walls are cool.

Todd and Brad will be leaving their chilly tent in the snow at about midnight tonight, in their attempt to summit Illimani. It will take them about 12 hours round trip. I hope all is going well for them - I'm sure it is, as they are both totally competent. I look forward to seeing them on Sunday and hearing all about it!

Tomorrow, I think I'll sleep in... then perhaps I'll lollygag up and down the streets near our hostel, looking at what the vendors are selling and I'll maybe buy some souvenirs. So get your requests in soon! Or be prepared to pretend you absolutely LOVE the llama wool toque I got for you!! Heh heh heh...

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Illimani here we come...

Todd and Brad are getting ready to head out to Illimani this morning. They will be back sometime on Sunday, and while they are away camping and playing in the cold and snow, Cheryle will be sleeping late, in a nice comfy warm bed, and sightseeing around the La Paz area.

It is unbelievably inexpensive to travel in this country! For example, nine of us went out to dinner last week at a fantastic Cuban restaurant - we ate great meals, drank ALOT of rum (we're talking at least two 26's), and even had dessert... the damages were less than US$80, including a large tip! Last night, five of us ate at a fairly fancy joint, had wine and dessert, and paid $30 in total. Taxi rides around the city are never more than $3 or $4 return trip. And we went to get photocopies of some guidebook pages yesterday... at the whopping cost of ONE CENT per page. Tomorrow, Cheryle is going to be a big spender - a guided, full-day tour of the Tihuanaco Ruins will be about $15. Whew. Anyhow, we are so appreciative of the friendly people and awesome experiences we are having! It will be hard to leave. More pix will be posted in a day or two. We hope everyone back home is well!

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Huayna Potosi

Whew! It’s been a tiring couple of days… On Sunday, we went out to Huayna Potosi base camp, where (in keeping with the Lazy Canadian theme) we met with our porters. Check out the pic… yes, those are PRINGLES folks… we went all out this time!! Anyhow, after about 2 hours of slogging pretty much straight uphill, we arrived at Refugio Alto. Of course our porters did it in about half that time, even loaded up with all our gear! They are amazingly strong, fit human beings. We went to bed at around 7pm, got up at 2am, and headed up the mountain in blackness. Cheryle has not been adjusting to the altitude very well, and at 5850m she got sick and had to come down. Brad was able to summit, and Todd came within 50 meters – he was slowed somewhat by waiting for Cheryle, and the final slope was fully in the sun when he got to it. It was no longer safe to ascend the final steep ridge. So it was a slight bit of a disappointment for Todd and Cheryle, however the surroundings were beautiful and no matter what, a bad day out playing in the mountains is ALWAYS better than a good day at work!!! We stayed one more night at the 5130m Alto Refugio, met tons of cool people, then came down and returned to La Paz this afternoon. The next adventure is slated to begin on Thursday – Todd and Brad are heading to Illimani, and Cheryle will be sightseeing around the La Paz area.
As you can all probably by the gramarr and sppelling that mos of the possts R bye Cheryle, but I wanted to ad to this post. First kudos to Cheryle she did great, it was cold that morning and she was not the only one to turn back. Second congrats to to Brad for topping out. Last thanks to the local guide "Super" Mario. When I was helping Cher back down he offered to and then helped her back down to the hut so I could try to catch up to Brad. I rushed to catch Brad, but rushing at 6000 meters does not work. By the time I got to the final 45 to 50 dgree slope I was exhausted and it was fully in the sun and I made the decision to wait for Brad and go down. Oh, well it will be there next time.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Back to the Mountains

Well, we are packed and ready to head to Huayna Potosi tommorow. Pretty mellow day today; we went and saw Spiderman 3 (with Spanish subtitles), organized our packs (for the porters to carry!!!! Yeah LAZY CANADIANS!!), and we did our grocery shopping. Thought that I would throw in some interesting facts about Bolivia that I found on the web and in our travel guide:
  • It is one of the poorest South American countries.
  • Average income - $2500 US per year!!!
  • Since 1825 there have been more than 200 government coups and counter-coups.
  • The States has spent more than 1.3 Billion $$$ on coca eradication in Bolivia.
  • There are 8 Bolivianos to one US dollar.

The one thing I have noticed is that the people of this beautiful country are friendly and helpful despite poverty and poor living conditions. It has really shown us that all North Americans should be thankful for what they have.

Friday, 18 May 2007

More Sport Climbing

Well, we are doing a bit more sport climbing on this trip than expected. Today we went back to the crag we were at previously and had a great day in the sun. Tomorrow we will be packing our gear and organizing transport to Huanya Potosi. We will stay at its base on Sunday, then go to high camp at 5200 meters and sleep there Monday night. At 3 AM on Tuesday we will get up and make our way to the summit, and then head all the way back down and return to La Paz that same day. The weather looks good and we are all excited to be going back to the mountains, away from the noise, hustle and bustle, and crazy traffic of La Paz.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Change of Plans

We had planned to travel into the Cordillera Quimsa Cruz for some alpine rock climbing, but after alot of research today (ie two separate taxi rides around La Paz and much 'googling' on the net) we determined that it would not be worth the effort. Poor conditions right now in the Quimsa Cruz, combined with mega $$$ for 8 hours of travel on rough roads (have you been into the Ghost?!?!) resulted in the change of plans. Instead, we are going to do a bit of sport climbing for a couple of days, and then on Sunday we hope to make our way into Huanya Potosi, a popular 6088 meter peak in the Cordillera Real. We have been looking at it on the horizon (check out the pic in this post) for the past week and are excited to stand on its summit!

The Lazy Canucks!

Well, we’re back in La Paz after enjoying four beautiful days in the Condoriri region. At the trailhead in Tuni, we decided to rent some extra mules… yes, we are LAZY!! and as a result, the three of us enjoyed a most excellent packless hike into base camp. Unfortunately, we headed into the area without everyone being fully acclimatized… thus no major technical climbing took place. However, we did slog to the top of a mountain called Austria, which got us to 5350 metres. The day was stellar and the views were amazing – we spent 2 hours at the summit, gazing out over most of the peaks in the west end of the Cordillera Real, plus we could even see Lake Titicaca. The best part about this mini-adventure was the truly great people we met. Safe travels and happy times are wished upon: The Quebec-ers - Mathieu, Reggie and Leo; the newlywed architects Sara and James; and the brave Esther from Switzerland. Hopefully we’ll see them all again sometime!

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Rock Climbing in La Paz

Went out for a short day of sport climbing at a local crag here in La Paz, called Amor de Dios. Activities at this altitude certainly add to the challange. The rock is conglomerate and made for enjoyable climbing. We just finished packing all our gear; now we are going for one last non-freeze dried supper before heading to the Cordillera Real tomorrow morning. Watch for our update in 4 to 5 days.

WEB LINK to our photos from Bolivia...

Here is a link to Cheryle's photoblog. This link will connect you directly to the Bolivia set of photos, which are in no particular order. The pix are fairly low resolution - sorry - but the internet connection is ultra slow and uploading large files is not an option. Hopefully you'll still enjoy them!

Now That We Have Our Gear!!!

Recieving our gear yesterday was a great relief for all of us. We were planning on heading into the mountains today, but since we just got our gear last night, we decided to head out tomorrow instead. Marco from Bolivian Journeys is organizing transport to the trailhead, porters, and mules. He has been a lot of help. We will be heading into the Condoriri region and will attempt one of the peaks there. Brad and Todd checked out some of the local drinking establishments last night. That was an adventure in itself! You can not just order a mixed drink; if you order a drink, you get the whole bottle and some mix, then you head to your table and make your own drink. Needless to say, the headaches this morning are NOT from the altitude. Off to the mountains tomorrow, so there will be no posts for the next 4 days or so. Here is another photo from our mountain biking day.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Downhill Mountain Biking

Today was AWESOME!! We spent the day With B-Side Adventures, a mountain bike tour company here in La Paz. They took us up to Chacaltaya for a day of downhill mountain biking. A road goes pretty much to the top of Chacaltaya, the only ski hill in Bolivia. We started at 5300 meters… the first 6km was kick-ass STEEP, scary choss – Todd and Cheryle both experienced mild wipeouts and Brad left them in his dust. The next 45km were on narrow, winding roads with severe drop offs down the sides (we’ve come to the conclusion that most roads in Bolivia could be called ‘Death Roads’), and we descended 3500 meters (11,500 feet) to the edge of the Amazon jungle. At the end of it all, the B-Side boys even had beers for us!! It was stellar.

The only possible thing that could make this day better was the arrival of our beloved bags!!! When we got back to town, Cheryle and Brad made a mad dash to the American Airlines office where we finally retrieved our lost luggage. Yippee!! Life is extra good!

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Still got no stuff...

No bags yet today... but apparently they did leave Miami - United Airlines sent them SOMEWHERE!?!? Hopefully here.

Anyway, today we went to Lake Titicaca - it was great! We got onto a bus at 7:30 this morning (we were expecting an 8am pick-up and instead got chased out of the restaurant in the middle of our breakfast by some wirey little Bolivian guy who was rounding up folks for the tour), then we drove around a large portion of LaPaz to pick up more unsuspecting tourists... by 9am, we were on the road... or at least I think that's what they call them here... and went to the small part of the lake, where we got on a boat and went out and toured two islands (Pariti and Kala Uta). It was awesome! Then we had a great lunch of fried trout (caught in the lake) and hopped the bus back to the city.

Tomorrow, we're going mountain biking from the top of Chacalayta (sp?), down into the Amazon basin - so, it now is almost time to hit the sack and get some rest. We are all still adjusting to the altitude and are kind of dragging our butts. Although, the cervesas (beer) and mojitos (yummy rum drink) may be adding to the problem??!! Ciao!!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

How´s our Spanish????

Ha ha!! This is interesting... you guys can´t see it, but we´re working on the Spanish version of blogger!! The only thing we can read is our own typing, so if this post ends up on some porn site, it really isn´t our fault... heh heh... Who really knows, except you folks reading this, if we got it in the right place!?!

The missing bags are due to show up tomorrow, we hope. Today we are just checking out the city. It´s old and interesting; and THANK CRIPES we took a taxi from the aeropurto!! The traffic is completely insane, we´re talking not even managably scary - it is full-on potential death on wheels. Kind of cloudy today, but the temps are good and the forecast is for clearing skies la manana (that means ´tomorrow´). Got just a glimpse of the Cordillera Real this morning and are looking forward to seeing those huge bastards in their full glory as soon as possible!

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

We've lost some weight...

... AAAACCKK!!!! Well, as of Miami, our group is exactly 100 lbs lighter... United Airlines decided to leave two of our bags in Denver. After filing a lost baggage claim and making several phone calls from Miami Int'l, it sounds as though Brad's bag of gear and the duffle bag with all of Todd's clothes will be meeting us in La Paz. Which would be a good thing, or we will be doing a ton of sightseeing and NO climbing!!

Calgary Airport Early in the AM

Well... here we are... the first leg of the 24 hour adventure to La Paz. Leave it to good ol' Bradley to have forgotten something ALREADY!! We had to wake up poor Toni at 3am, so Brad could retrieve his approach shoes from his car (which Toni is kindly allowing him to leave behind her house - keys are stashed outside somewhere, for those of you who may want to play a practical joke on our buddy.... wink wink).

Anyway, the plane will be boarding shortly and we will officially be out of the country. Stay tuned for an update from Miami!

Friday, 4 May 2007

All Our Gear

Well, here it is... everything we need, for three climbing bums, to spend a month in Bolivia (we hope). One of the most fun parts of the adventure will be getting there... and figuring out what the heck we forgot!!

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Our Expedition to Bolivia

This blog will chronicle our expedition to the Cordillera Real and Cordillera Quimsa Cruz, in Bolivia. The members of the expedition are: myself, my girlfriend Cheryle, and our buddy Brad. We are attempting to climb Illimani by the normal route, and following that we intend to go into the Cordillera Quimsa Cruz and do some alpine rock climbing if weather permits. I am going to to post photos and journal entries from our trip.