Tag Archives: life

Mexico Into Guatamala

After leaving Orizaba behind we reached the beach 10hours from the Guatamalan Border. Beautiful, empty, no tourists, dollar beers and waves. A local business owner said we are free to camp anywhere on the beach we would like, nobody cares. This is a stark contrast to the States near businesses and homes, where many would take offence. She said her business is normally booming on the weekends, but had gone quiet after the earthquakes so she was just relaxing. Four of her dogs kept us entertained most the time and one wild but very tame dog also.

 

We planned on staying there a few days. After the second day we realised the insurance had already expired for Mexico so hastily packed up and sped off. The drive to the border was dull. We aimed once again at a green patch on the map, a national forest. It rained the whole way. We were encouraged by signs indicating beaches. When we arrived at the end of the road it was rainforest and mangroves. With a small concrete dock and small wooden boats lined up to ferry people back and forward. We enquired with a local bar owner while enjoying 10 pesos beers and he told us the only way in is boat, and there are houses to rent on the beaches. He offered to look after the car for a few pesos if we decided to go. He also warned us it was not a safe place to camp on the main land around there due to some locals. We accepted his advice and drove for a motel. A shabby place, which offered prices by the hour. But $8 USD per night couldn’t be turned down. The place was empty and quiet. A nice break from a roof tent with space to swing a cat and covered parking with a fabric door to hide the car.

The next day we drove to the border. I started calm and I grew more furious with every local getting in the way and trying to tell us how hard the process of crossing the border is, but for a few pesos can assist. Every step of the way people trying to charge us for an endless list of services, parking, moving forward while parking, fumigation for mosquitoes, security, paying the officers to look after the car, offers of a dollar from guards to get our stamp for Guatamala and skip the Que. Trying to extort 3000 Quetzales (Guatamalan money) for a vehicle permit and saying they can sort the permit if we pass them the money (about 10 times the cost of the actual permit). It sickened me off, constantly telling them to go. The officials didn’t seem to care about the scamming business, but then again, the guards were in on it too. It felt like a descent into madness. Don’t get me started on the money exchange men walking around and at desks trying to offer half the value currency in exchange. Parasites. After getting across the border into the first town things returned to normal.

We drove for a few hours before stopping the night once again in a motel. The next day driving to Lake Atitlan. In San Pedro on the shore of the lake we found ourselves being told there is no camping. But at an advantage of being there in the rainy season, with few tourists and plenty of competition. Its very touristy. Every shop front dedicated to selling tours, coffee, beers or trinkets. Not my kind of place, but we have got hold of a room in the centre for two of us costing a total of £12 for three nights. £2 per person per night. I’ll be honest, the room is not brilliant, but at less than half the cost of the hostel per person for a dorm room; its a win. The hot shower we were sold to get our business is cold, and a shard of glass hangs from the bathroom window ready to either swing in while showering and slice me, or, drop to the street below and decapitate someone.

Today (the 3rd oct) we decided to go to a coffee plantation to see how my favourite thing is made. Seriously my world would end without it. We went to the tourist adventure desks which populate half the town and after getting prices decided we could do better. The two companies we approached quoted 150 and 120 Quetzales respectively. We went around the coffee shops in the town asking and managed to get a horseback ride for about 3-4hours upto a plantation for 150. I consider that a win. I said to Karli she could pick which horse she wanted. One was big, one was small. She jumped to the big one straight away. I was then was stuck with my tiny stead I feared would die on the climb. After all the hiking I have done and hatred towards horses for the muck and foul stench they leave on trails, it was interesting to be on the other end of things. But I still don’t quite get it, it just seems to be a lazier slower way to get in and out of places than walking and leaves you with a sore backside and an extra mouth to feed. I can understand using them as pack animals to haul greater amounts of gear than can be carried, but I just don’t get it. Maybe one day.

The local volcano costs about £10 to climb. A permit for entry. I think that makes this the most expensive national park I have come across. And the entrances are closely guarded by police and national park staff. Also there are small charges per vehicle to each town/ area around the lake (negligible but still have to make sure you carry cash at all times).  Not entirely sure what to make of Guatemala yet; but I’m sure there will be free parks and camping elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

The worlds biggest Game of Find The Phone

We all know how frustrating it is loosing a phone or some keys down the back of the sofa. It can take hours to search one room before it turns up. Suspicions turn to housemates, stress builds, irritation, anxiety etc etc.

Now Enter Ikea.

Last night we went into Ikea to find a collapsible table to cook on, for the road trip. A comfort we will spring for. Entering Ikea we were a little carried away trying every single sofa, seat, bed, kitchen and shelf/cupboard which is great fun. But half way through the store I realised I no longer had my mobile. We had been sitting at a kitchen bar with an old lady talking too us when I realised. We walked off and started the search. Karli raised the point ‘Maybe the old lady swiped it?’. ‘No’ I replied, but had she? It started ticking through my mind, the old woman hand been standing pretty close. It it possible the sweet dear lady was really a thief who was now cashing in on our polite conversation. I wanted to deny it.  I look up to the vast sea of sofas knowing I had been on every single one. The colossal size of a search like this was overwhelming. Every sofa covered in cushions. Every bed covered in throws and decorations. Every kitchen cupboard, sink and shelf full or ornaments we looked at. Just imagine searching down the sides of 100 sofas (min). The search kept up until finally a store attendant was in the area. Upon asking he replied he had just sent it downstairs, and asked if I could describe it. I wonder now just how many people have been though the process of searching in the stores history. We carried on the entertaining look around the store before going down to lost and found to claim it.  After not finding a table, but successfully finding some tupperware and collecting the phone we departed and headed over to my friend Axels’ house to relax and unwind.

Today we used the gym in Axels building complex and started a training routine that will follow us down the Pan America route and have us in great shape for some of the bigger challenges. We took it easy but tomorrow will be harder. A nice warmup, 2miles in 12min, and some sets of situps, pushups, squats and lunges. It was great having a air-conditioned cool room to train in. Followed by pancakes, bananas, syrup and an excellent nitro brew from Starbucks.

IMG_20170906_135434110

Climbing

So, my trip has taken a turn (not the first on this trip) which I will get to in a minute. A few days go I cycled the 80 miles out to the base of longs peak (14,259ft), with a bike climb from 5000ft up to 9500ft, collected route information from the ranger station, cycled down 6 miles to national forest and camped.

The next morning at 3am I started cycling in the pitch black by head torch back up the mountain. There is always a debate in my mind when I wake early to climb or hike about should I just lie there and be a normal person getting up at a reasonable time, is this a sane thing to do? Anyway. Arriving at the trailhead I stashed my bicycle behind the ranger station and made some hot cinnamon oats which tasted great. So this is quite a popular peak and there were plenty of people heading up while I ate. The ranger the previous day recommended setting off around 1am, naturally I chucked this piece of advice to the wind believing myself to be a supreme machine(often I am wrong in this assumption). At around 4.15/4.30am I started up, hiking and running the flatter areas. I reached the Keyhole, a natural gap in the ridgewall and only way up at first light, which is where the scrambling begins. I flew past a lot of people and reached the summit after around 2.5hours. I sat a while talking to a few other hikers then started descending. Two others descended with me and turned out to have a decent pace. Which was nice compared to the solitary ascent. After getting back to the car park I whipped up some spaghetti and a mystery silver foil packed sauce which was possibly some form of madras with lentils then dropped down to boulder for the night. There was no plan to go to boulder but 20dollars at the campsite in Lyons seemed expensive for what was there, so I carried on.

In boulder its surprising just how many signs saying no camping are up around the town and surrounding area. I ended up paying 100 dollars for a motel room I didn’t want, I resented it but it did beat the hostel that offered my their last suite room for 250 dollar. This rarely happens but I was tired and hungry and had saved money the previous nights wild camping. I cycled back to Denver, cleaned up my bike with a pack of 1 dollar wipes, bought a beer from a brewery and before I finished the beer sold the bike to a gent I agreed to meet there a day previous to boost my funds a little for the next part of my trip. Met a lovely couple while drinking my beer and letting the gent go test the bike. I had a minor concern he would just ride off on it never to be seen again, but i figured if he did it would be one less thing to worry about.

Chapter 2- The Next Part

So, Through chance I have met a girl called Karli who is wanting to drive from Denver to Argentina. Her plan beats my original plan in a few ways, first, cycling a long way on paved surface is boring, really boring, especially alone its like solitary confinement on a seat not designed for a mans behind. Second, it would be nice to be on a roadtrip for a while and have a few luxuries like pressed coffee, a real seat to sit in instead of dirt, and a climbing partner for some more technical ascent, which there will be plenty of. I have spent the past couple of days hanging around and getting to know Karli and her friends. Today we went tubing on a river with a couple of beers followed by volleyball under glorious sunshine. Sometimes life is hard but I guess I can endure.

Setting off in a couple of days. Mayhem bound to follow.

Benjamin

Wind River High Route

Nearly 100 miles, over 30,000 feet of ascent, glacier crossings, snow slopes, one microspike, a two season sleeping bag at 12,000 feet,  and a pointless laptop on my back i forgot to send before the trip. Lets Go!!

Flying by the seem of my pants seems to be something i can thrive on. This trip started one morning in Salida where i didn’t quite know what to do with myself.

‘Come do the wind river high route with me’ Said Cheetah, an Ultra runner.

A hour later I had salvaged some food from a hiker box, enough for about 3 days (just), and packed up and walked out the door. Hitching back to Kathleens’ house, a half way point on the hitch route she provided maps of the Winds, a bonus as I had no idea where the route went or what was involved.

The next morning we hitched to Lander with the plan of kitting out properly for the route. I had a list of equipment i would need- an extra fleece, extra food, microspikes as a minimum if not crampons as there would be a lot of time on snow and glaciers and mail off my laptop so I don’t have to carry it. We spent the night in Lander. Next morning after getting no where trying to find microspikes/crampons suitable for the route, and finding no fleeces at decent prices I hitched to the trailhead frustrated, eased slightly by Cheetah sharing some fried chicken.

The first afternoon we went a few miles down the trail from bruce bridge (7,142ft), swam in the river and drank a few beers. I was carrying 3 days food. Most people would probably want a weeks supply for this route.

Day 1

Wind river peak(13,192ft)- I think this was about a 6000 foot climb. It passed fast, but the descent was knarly, Steep steep talus that seemed very unstable (we moved single file), followed by the first steep snow slope. We devised a plan for one of us to go first, tying some para-cord between us to pass the microspikes after the first was down. This worked well until the 30ft of cord proved about 70ft short of what we would need. What followed was Cheetah chucking the spikes as hard as possible, and me leaning down the slope with an extended trekking pole to try to reach where they managed to wedge themselves. It worked to a fashion and a short while later we were scrambling down a talus field feeling pretty good. A long descent to Big Sandy Lake, lunch, the a climb up to ‘The Cirque’, a beautiful mountain area. We squeezed one more pass, the third of the day, (Texas Pass) giving us near 10,000 vertical feet this day. Camping next to a high lake we pitched tarps for the night and drank whisky. I’m not going to bore you too much with the elevation gains and drops, but its serious up and down.

day 2

The food situation was very clear, there wasn’t enough. From this morning rationing started. By substantially reducing calorie intake and increasing daily mileage we might just swing the route if we go partly hungry every day and even hungrier with no food the last day. We had to make around 30 miles today, on a normal hiking day this wouldn’t be bad, but this was back country travel, no paths, talus, big passes, lots of snow. Cheetah shared one of his micro spikes (like mini crampons) and we both went with one each. The approaches to passes were epic, the bluff climbs enjoyable and snow firm in the morning and slush by lunch.  The end of the day was a surprise we didn’t notice when planning the night previous, after doing a mammoth 3 passes as fast as we could, we climbed a rise to a shocking site. A big pass, the biggest yet. At 6pm high in The Winds, a 3000 vertical feet climb to 12,750ft (Blaurock Pass)was a tiring odious thought. Reaching the top at 7.15 felt great. The descent was a mix of glissading and rock hopping. Camping in view of Garnett Peak, the highest in Wyoming, I was freezing. Dinner was a most miserable chicken noodle soup, the kind you put in a cup as a 4pm snack, I pretended to myself there were plenty of calories in it. Deep down I knew this was a lie.

My skimpy bag wasn’t up to a cool summer night, never mind a alpine frost. I shivered quite a bit, but consider it a good sign my body was still moving. Whats the worst that can happen right?

Day 3

Breakfast- a premix bag of oats and a breakfast essential mixed together. Today would be my last bag of MnM’s which was also my last food. Not the worst thing ever, and a coffee. In reserve i had more instant coffee and herbal tea. We approached Garnett Peak ready to turn up to Garnett Glacier near the base. A group of climbers were descending and after hearing we were torn between an ascent of Garnett Peak or attempting to finish the high route due to lack of rations they gave us a big bag of almonds, some cliff energy bars and a couple of extras. The decision was made for us, with this stroke of luck, and still short on supplies we approached Garnett peak. After assessing the route, I decided it was too dangerous to take on the steep snow gully with snow bridge over crevasse with only one microspike, (also a monsterous death drop if a slide was not arrested) so passed it to Cheetah and he went for a summit attempt. I was gutted not to be making the climb but knew it was the right call (a lot of people climb this with ice axe, crampons and roped together). I did climb around half way up as far as the rocks would allow. When Cheetah arrived back at our min camp we changed direction back to the glacier route. The glacier itself was uneventful apart from the rumble of thunder keeping us moving. When your that high there isn’t really any point in trying to run downhill.  The ascent out the other side of the glacier for those interested I would suggest warrants sturdier footware and crampons, even an axe if you can be bothered to carry one, but with one microspike on and clutching my hiking poles tight looking a little like a praying mantis I staggered up the slope above the crevasses (they were small here). A quick glissade down and one more climb out the next valley. We pushed hard over more open ground, more rock hopping, plenty of extra up and down, across a safer beautiful glacier and onto the most northern mountain of the route ‘Downs Mountain'(13,350). I’ll be honest and say I despised this mountain. I felt like Alice in wonderland on mushrooms. Giant boulders continually thwarting forward movement as my dehydrated body struggled up, continually trying to decide if I could step up, or jump across gaps, I was drained. We descended a short way down to the final camp. Cheetah cooked up the last noodle pack, added some almonds and split it with me. Man it was good to eat. This night was like the previous nights but more so, more vibrant shivering all night and frozen shoes and socks in the morning. My footwear and feet for that matter didn’t get to dry out at any point during these few days.

There are so many awesome pics and so much I could say but I’m burned. I’ll rewrite this later. Theres also going to be an awesome vid of this trip soon enough in 4k highlighting my terror and joy onroute. Here I lie battered and bruised but content in dubois. Where should I head next?

 

Fearing I would be trapped in the hostel till the cogs in my mind fuse into a solid state I decided to take a friend up on an offer and go for a hike for a day or two and make a decision on where to go next. In the car as we drew closer to the pass and starting point speckles of rain began to accumulate on the windscreen.  At the top of the pass we picked our packs out the trunk and set out up the hill. 6pm. The clouds were low and a cool breeze swept around the hill. Walking this part of the colorado/continental trail is refreshing, staying high on easy trail in and out of trees. I knew from 2 years previous of a 3 sided wooden shelter with metal roof 8 miles away. This was the target, we drew towards the shelter at around half 8 as darkness was setting in and rain becoming heavy. To my surprise there were tents pitched around but nobody in the shelter itself. Saving a tent from becoming heavy and wet and having space to move and think it was the only logical place to unroll a sleeping bag and heat some noodles. It rained the whole night. I tried catching rain dripping off the roof but every time i placed my pot the drips seemed to change landing patterns.

In the morning the tenters joined us for breakfast. The day continued much the same as the evening before, in a semi-concious zombie state soaked to the bone and hands numbed enough to move slowly when trying to use them. I was calm and composed, trying to be at one with the rain and embrace the cold, not entirely believing myself it was worth coming out.  I fashioned what I would call a pumpkin prom jacket out of an orange coated survival bivi bag, this added a small amount of warmth at the expense of my dignity and of Sabrinas’ who hiked with me. Towards the middle of the day we arrived at the summit of Sgt. Mesa. A beautiful high hill with meadows and trees and fluffy black storm clouds a mile or two off to the side.

Sabrina said “As least the storm cloud is over there”.

Moments later lightning forked across the sky close above out heads with a tremendous crack like a wagon plowing into a concrete bunker. Where most people would stop and sit or panic the thru hiker mentality of ‘stay calm and carry on’ shone through boldly and we kept hiking along the ridge line like a couple of idiots. The addiction to hiking building, adrenaline growing, and tree cover getting thinner. The ridge line narrowed slightly and the rumbles became bombs detonating very close. Another hiker called Steven was heading the opposite direction towards the Mesa summit. I wouldn’t want to be him.

We pitched tent about half way along the 6 mile ridge close to where a tree had been previously struck by lightning. They say lighting doesn’t strike the same place twice, a myth I was willing to believe for the evening with impending rain seconds away. Pitching early did not save us from rain splashing up between the fly sheet and inner tent. This did not put me in the mood to attempt to cook noodles alfresco so we went to sleep hungry questioning why it was so. I dreamt about bears savaging the tent and other wonderful things. My sleeping pad still deflates every couple of hours waking me to the real horror of trail life, the sound of everything becoming wet. This morning was glorious, not sunny, but not raining. It was nice being high up early and having a vile concoction of triple herbal tea with extra sugar from my unofficial trip sponsor ‘the hiker box’. Three miles down the path in fairer condition was where my and Sabrinas’ path would split. I turned north and down hill back towards the road and pass. Deep house tunes blasting out (a one hour kygo mix) I ran the next 6 miles. I felt alive, this is what outdoors was meant to be.

At the roadside I stuck my thumb out and the first truck pulled over.

“Jump in!!! theres a car behind I dont want to get past me” shouted the driver.

I hopped up, “Beer?”

“Yes” I replied. The next half hour back to Salida was nice. I was Acutely aware of how bad my trainers were smelling after fording a stream the colour of cow muck. The driver seemed to understand.

Salida! I’ve wound up back in Salida! Of all the towns in all the states in America, why am I going back to Salida again? With no decision on what I will do next the Vortex has me. The sirens beckon.

‘Wakey, Wakey Rise and Shine! and don’t forget your booties, its cold out there today’