A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Scatman

Roadtrippin'

sunny 93 °F

After getting back to the US, and getting a few wedding details in order, Ashley I go hit by the travel bug again. With another round the world trip out of the question (too much$$) we settled on a road trip through some of the National Parks in the Western US. Our planned itinerary took us from Sacramento to Las Vegas to Bryce NP to Arches NP to Grand Teton NP to Yellowstone NP to Boise to Bend and finally back to Sacramento.

Ashley's got Bryce covered, so I will start with our trip to Arches from Bryce. Since its about an 5 hr trek between the two parks, Ashley took to her natural road trip posture for riding shotgun.
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I don't think the Wells Fargo stagecoaches will be calling with any job offers soon.

When we were at Bryce, a number of other travelers told us to check out Capitol Reef National Park on our way to Arches, since it was conveniently located between the two. Capitol Reef is another one of the beautiful geologic formations located in Utah. The different rock layers are of different composition, and more importantly strength, which creates the large monoliths that stretch up to the horizon.
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We ended doing a little day hike in the park through what was supposedly one of Butch Cassidy's hiding spots.
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It was a good way to break up a long car trip all the way out to Moab and burn off some energy.

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Once at Arches National Park, we got lucky! Not in that way, I think we were too stinky and tired. The real issue was we didn't have a campground reservation. The Devils Garden campground inside the park only has 52 spots, which had been booked up for months. But we were able to work with the campground host who had a cancellation for that days we wanted to stay in the park.
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Our first hike through the Devils Garden, made for a hot afternoon as temperatures hit the low 90's with no shade in sight. But it allowed us to see some of the notable arches in the park.
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Landscape Arch, the longest arch in the park, almost 300 ft long

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Double "O" Arch, you can see the scale by the person in the lower part of the pic.

Early the next morning, we set out for the parks most famous arch, Delicate Arch. It's so well known that it appears on a set of commemorative Utah licence plates. Being able to camp in the park allowed us to beat the heat and the crowds to the arch.
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We explored the other features throughout the park.

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"Balanced Rock"
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"Cove Arch" which is a combination of arch formations, once forming from the top down in a bowl erosion fashion, and the other from the side.

After one last night in the park, we headed out early in the morning to make the drive up to Jackson, Wy.

Posted by Scatman 17:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

California Dreamin'

semi-overcast 68 °F

During our adventure through Buenos Aires, Ashley and I made a small day trip across the river to Uruguay. We mostly made this trip, I think, to add another stamp to our passports. But, as if it were preordained, the city across the river was Sacramento, well Colonia del Sacramento. As two travelers, who were a little homesick, the city offered some remembrances of back home. (Full Disclosure: As of writing this, Ashley and I are back in the US). The city is mostly older buildings from the colonial era

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Colonia del Sacramento felt like home at times.

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This might have been Ashley's biggest smile in all of South America.
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This brought back nostalgia for my UCSB days (with corrected grammar)
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Ashley missing her old apartment at Bush and Mason.

Posted by Scatman 02:29 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

Cape Town, A Tale of Two Cities

sunny 78 °F

Cape Town is chic, modern city with tons of sights to see. And was recently named the New York Times #1 place to visit for 2014. Do you know what's even better than Cape Town? Cape Town with a coupon! Well not really a coupon, but pretty close. Due to market dynamics that I don't understand but to get to appreciate, the South African Rand is down about 20% to the dollar. That means an already good value city is that much more affordable.

Before we get to the fun stuff, we must remember the brutal history of apartheid.
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In Cape Town proper that means a visit to the District 6 Museum and the Bo Kaap neighborhood. District 6 was a immigrant, poor neighborhood that was eventually designated by the government to be for whites. The non whites were forced out and had to give up their businesses and homes. The area was eventually razed, and whites began settling the area.

The Bo Kaap neighborhood was designated for the Cape Malay people. It seemed to be a potpourri racial designation where you had some Asian ancestry, and a skin tone that didn't let you be black or white. They were at least allowed to live and stay there and the neighborhood has a funky, cool vibe to it. As someone from the US, it's hard to conceive that the government would both assign a legally binding race to a person, and then designate places where those races could live.
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The neighborhood was also the start point for the New Years Eve and Carnival parades, where colored bands would wear colorful dress and play until they reached the other side of the city.
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The other place to contemplate the reality of apartheid in Cape Town is Robben Island, a penal colony where both hardened criminal and political prisoners were kept. It seems to have picturesque views...
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Until you find out more about the conditions here.
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As a tourist, we still get to take the same boat used to ferry prisoners over to the island. Once there, a former prisoner details what life was like for the political prisoners on the island.
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Oh yeah, It was also "home" to Nelson Mandela for over 15 years.
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This is his cell on the island along with the limestone quarry he was forced to work in. The limestone dust created lifelong breathing problems for Mr. Mandela

Thankfully, we were allowed to leave Robben Island without too much trouble and enjoy next the beauty of the area. In Cape Town, that starts with Table Mountain.
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Pretty obvious where the name comes from.
Luckily, we were renting a studio from a cool family just at the base of the mountain. We could start hiking after we rolled out of bed.
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It wasn't the easiest hiking in the world, but after finishing Kili, it made for just a sweaty morning.
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The views from here were unlike any others I've had from a natural point. It was like the mountain was built to show off the city down below.
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It even gets a rolling cloud layer in the afternoon called its Table Cloth.
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We did cheat and take the revolving (!) gondola down.
Cape Town has another natural attraction you amateur navigators might know about, the Cape of Good Hope.
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Before the Suez Canal was built, anyone trading between Asia and Europe had to pass around it. It's a stunning place where you can see both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
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Lastly, we did enjoy the epicurean delights this city has to offer. Both a trip to wine country
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which at the end of, Ashley was feeling pretty good. (As was my wallet, at 11 rand to the dollar some of those bottles are less than 5 bucks at the winery)
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And we hit up the Saturday Market at the Old Biscuit Mill, which has a Farmers Market and local restaurants selling some excellent food as you stroll through.
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This Saturday grocery run, let us pack an excellent picnic of local wine, olives, breads, and cheese to the Botanical Garden for a Sunday summer concert of (ironically) a USA band, Civil Twilight.
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We loved Cape Town and dreamed of living there. But it wasn't all rosy; Luckily, I never found out what this is.
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Posted by Scatman 19:59 Archived in South Africa Comments (3)

Putting in an Honest Weeks Work

Or seeing the Snows of Kilimanjaro

all seasons in one day

Ashley and I finally put in a 40 hr week on this trip. Instead of our normal lazing about seeing different old buildings or sandy beaches, we had to hike for 40 hrs over 7 days to get to the the top of Kilimanjaro. To say the least, it left us battered, bloodied, and a quite a bit dirty. ( Ashley won't let me go into more details).

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We ended up doing the Machame route up the mountain, in seven days to make sure acclimating wouldn't be a problem. We weren't alone on this hike, we had our hiking companions, Chauncey and Biao, and a team of porters and our guides Theday and August. (15 staff personnel for the four of us).

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Day 1: 4 hrs of hiking thru the tropical rain forest from 1800 m to 3000 m of altitude. Overnight at Machame camp. When you think of Kilimanjaro you think of its snowy peak and forget it's only a few degrees from the equator. The base of the mountain is rain forest as the moist tropical air from the Indian Ocean unleashes a hellacious amount of rain when the clouds reach the mountain.
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Once we reached the first camp, we got to see our home for the next week, that green little tent, and our dining room consisting of four camping chairs, a folding table and a candle. At least we didn't have to carry the gear.
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Day 2: 8 hrs of hiking thru the moors and heather lands from 3000 m to 3840 m of altitude. Overnight at Shira Camp. A tough full day of hiking, particularly due to not being able to escape the rain during the second half of the hike it made slippery on some of the rocks. Also Ashley had her first hit of altitude sickness on this leg. Ashley putting on a brave face.
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Scenic Shira camp with the summit looming overhead.
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Day 3: 8 hrs of hiking thru the moors and heather lands with a bit of Alpine Desert from 3480 m to 3950 m with an ascent to 4600 m at the Lava Tower. Overnight at Barranco Camp. Yes, you read that right, on this tough day of hiking we got up to 4600 m, that's higher than any peak in the continental US. Not only was the altitude challenging, we kept getting that pesky precipitation. I use the technical term, because at different times it rained, hailed, and snowed on us as we were ascending to Lava Tower. Trying to figure out how to stop long enough to eat, but not get hypothermic from the cold and wet was not fun.
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Beautiful Barranco Camp. So named because of the Barranco Wall in the background. We slept well that night knowing while we had to scale over the wall, we were in for a short hiking day.
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Day 4: Only 4 hrs of hiking but it started with a scramble but the Barranco Wall. Altitude change from 3950 m to 4000 m. Overnight at Karanga Camp. It's not a good start to the morning when the guides take your hiking poles and tell you "They'll only get in the way" on the first part of the hike. They were right of course, as we had to scramble, often climbing with both hands and feet up the rock wall. In this picture you can see the people climbing up the wall,they're the multicolored line heading up the rock.
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But once over, it was an easy short hike to Karanga. Since we hadn't worked up our appetites yet, the guides had us doing small hikes from camp to work on acclimatising. All of us get hit with some altitude sickness ( headaches, loss of appetite).
You can see the peak looming in the background, we are working our way from west to east around the peak to reach the summit route.
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Day 5: Again only 4 hrs of hiking, but they know they can't wear us out. We start summitting at midnight on the end of the 5th day. Altitude change from 4000 m to 4600 m. Set up camp at Barafu. The whole landscape is this alpine desert. Few plants can grow because of the lack of rainfall and low air pressure, we mostly see some lichens and some cacti.
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Once at camp, they feed us early, and make us take a nap, kinda like I'm back in kindergarten.
At this altitude you can see the other peak of Kilimanjaro with the clouds enveloping the lower peak.
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Then dinner at 5 pm and back to bed. We need to be geared up and ready to start the final ascent by midnight.

Day 6: The final ascent, total of 16 hrs of hiking on the day. From 4600 m to 5895 m then eventually down to Mweka camp at 3100 m. . Yes, that ascent is just shy of 20,000 ft. And technically we started on Day 5, as we woke up at 11 pm got dressed and took in the final briefing. It was weird that they didn't feed us too much, prior to going up, but we soon found out why. We start the ascent just after midnight with the couple of hundred other trekkers, forming a human conga line illuminated by all of our head lamps. The first thing I notice is that my toes start to get tingly. I keep making fists with my toes to generate a little heat and keep frostbite at bay. As we keep climbing, we see the occasional person coming down, looking dejected. The altitude got em. Then we see the vomit, and realize that's why they didn't feed us after we woke up. The altitude just keeps making you nauseous. But our legs keep plodding along, "Pole-Pole" slowly-slowly in Swahili. The only thing keeping our spirits up is the portable, Bluetooth speaker we've got in the backpack, cranking out the tunes. It takes our minds off this slow death march. But even it has a point where it runs out of energy. Then as we are cold and as miserable as we have ever been, we realize the sun is rising. Hope and warmth are on their way.
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And then the summit. We made it!
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Relief and adrenaline start coursing through my veins. I finally start to take in the beauty of the summit. It seems like you can see to the end of the earth from here.
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Sadly, these are the glaciers that are losing their battle against climate change. I am honored that I got the chance to see them.

Then we still have to descend. If you climb up 1300 m of elevation change, you gotta go down it as well. We get back to camp exhausted and hungry and can't figure out whether to sleep or eat. Sleep wins out. Then you find out, it's another 4 hrs to tonight's camp. I eat just enough to have the energy to go down

Day 7: 3 hr descent from 3100 m to 1800 m through some forest. Easy last day other than the sore muscles. Then crammed back into the van and civilization.

We've done it. Back to civilization. We get our certificates
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And first showers in a week ( picture not available).

We are happy with what we accomplished and what we learned about ourselves in the process. That being said, we don't plan (or want) to head up, that mountain again.
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Posted by Scatman 20:09 Archived in Tanzania Tagged kilimanjaro Comments (3)

Comedy is all about timing

sunny 92 °F

Sorry about the last post, it was only supposed to be up for a couple of days as a small tease before showing you the beauty of the Maldives. But we ended up starting our Kilimanjaro trek once we got to Moshi and then the Safari right after. It kinda took us out of Wifi range for two weeks.

Anyway, onto the Maldives.....

I got religion in the Maldives. I've decided to become a Buddhist after my visit which is kinda weird since the Maldives are a Muslim country. I've decided I need to be reincarnated as a Trans Maldivian Airways pilot. They ferry people from the main airport to all the small islands that make up the country.
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They fly those sea planes you see in the background behind Ashley.
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This is the terminal building where we waited for the flight. Now here comes the fun part.
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The shorts and short sleeve shirts are the standard issue uniforms, and these guys literally fly barefoot as evidenced in the picture. Those are his work flip flops by the rudder pedals. And what do these guys get to look at all day?

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Not a bad gig, eh. Now I've gotta go pray to Buddha to be reincarnated as what I want.

Oh yeah, here is what paradise looks like in my mind as displayed on this tiny atoll in the Indian Ocean.

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This is the view from the sea plane as it touched down.
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Google maps is pretty good! The blue dot is exactly on our water bungalow.
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Here is what our bungalow over the water looked like.
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The view as we walked in from the seaplane.
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Us being a bunch of poseurs.
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Paradise apparently involves some underwater fun with stingrays and eels.
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The inside of the bungalow has a glass floor to look at the fish go by. We were the most action it got during out stay.

Hopefully this brings a bit of joy for those of you in the northern hemisphere enjoying winter. My tan has yet to leave. :)

Posted by Scatman 12:03 Archived in Maldives Republic Comments (3)

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