Micah: Unmitigated

|

Not just another weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Cordillera Blanca’

Places In My Past

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

I want to try and milk this trip for as much content as I can, so the following is a list of the “Top Ten Places I Visited in South America”. They will be in order from #10 to #1 for dramatic effect, and some words may be repeated from previous posts. I hope you enjoy:

10. Volcán Puracé, Colombia

directions

directions

The scenery was stunning, but it is on here more for the climb. My most strenuous day, it took over 4 hrs to get to the top and the weather was unfriendly. Accomplishing something like that feels amazing and the Colombian hiking group that celebrated with me at the rim, made it even more memorable. The skies cleared for the descent and I strolled through an active sulfur mine. All things considered, one of my favorite days.

9. Puerto López – Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

The Isla was just OK and the town is not worth writing home about, but the stretch of ocean between the two seasonally contains some exciting mammals. The tour was expensive, but watching the whales jump in the air and splash around was one of the coolest things I have seen in my life.

8. Colca Canyon, Peru

canyon

canyon

The 2nd deepest canyon in the world. Basically just a great, strenuous hike with cool things to look at. On clear days, you can see the tops of the snowy peaks down 3,140 meters to the canyon floor. The Inca agricultural terracing and friendly locals make Colca my choice for #8.

7. Baños, Ecuador

A tourist ready town at the base of the active Volcán Tungurahua. The area has lots of hiking opportunities and even more extreme sport options, that I decided not to pay for. I just walked in search of eruption views. Occasionally, smoke would billow from the top and rumbles could be heard all over town. I found out later that the eruptions were rare, as not many other travelers reported seeing the impressive sight. As with a few other places I visited, I was there at the right time.

6. Isla del Sol, Bolivia

A high altitude island on Lake Titicaca. I could hike around all day and then rest my head for less than $3 per night. The ticket takers, with their greedy little hands, were annoying, but the weather was perfect and the wandering was boundary free.

5. Kuelap, Peru

good views

good views

An Inca fortress set on a hilltop, with great views of the surrounding valleys. I loved the site, but the fact that you can reach the place via a 3 hr hike from the town of Tingo, pushes it up my list.

4. Huaraz – Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Towering snow capped peaks, colorful mountain lakes, numerous hiking trails, this place is amazing. Just staring at the extreme heights of the place, containing 33 hunks of rock over 6,000 meters high, was cool. With more money and time, I could have explored the space better, but I was happy with my budget touring.

3. Laguna Quilotoa, Ecuador

I wasn’t expecting much when I walked to the edge of the crater, but that first view made me say “Wow!”. Staying in a hostal, steps from the rim and at an elevation of over 4,000 meters, I enjoyed it all. A spectacular hike circles around the crater lake and the bus rides between nearby towns are guaranteed to be memorable. The freezing cold temps at night can easily be fought off with an open fire.

2. Salar de Uyuni – Far SW Bolivia

My love for this place has been well documented, with it’s unreal scenery and unique wildlife. Why is it not at the top of my list? Because – I had to use a tour and memories of being painfully cold are still fresh in my head.

1. Cabo de la Vela, Colombia

Sunset

Sunset

Why it’s #1: If I had to choose one place to go back to and spend a week, this would be it. Multiple quiet beaches, warm weather, hammocks, climbing hills, a salt flat, unbelievable sunsets, and very few tourists. I was able to wake up everyday and decide between just laying on the beach, hiking a rugged coastline, or doing both. Put this place on your list, but only if you can handle the 2 hr ride out in the back of a truck and live without a shower for a few days.

Information

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I apologize for the vagueness of my last post, while hiking around the hills my mind thinks of weird things to write. So, here is a clearer recap of some things I have done over the past week.

Five nights near the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. Many peaks over 6,000 meters, capped with glaciers and flanked by turquoise lakes. Most of my time there was spent debating how to do the area justice. The popular 4 day trek known as Santa Cruz was the main option, but many small factors led me to decline. Cost, time, and energy were the main reasons, plus a fear that with so many tour groups on the trail, the tranquility would be diminished. I do hope to do some sort of trekking requiring a tent and sleeping bag before my trip is done, but that may have to wait till Bolivia.

I opted for day trips to the lakes and hiking around the hills for better views of the massive chunks of rock. Basing myself in the smaller towns of Caraz and Yungay, I found cheap accommodations and food. Though, walking farmland presents challenges in the form of barking dogs and unmapped routes. Sticks and rocks can only do so much in keeping them at a distance, I required the help of local women and children to hold back their pets. No bites, but a growing paranoia about walking past any home outside of the city. I am considering carrying dog food, but think that by the end of my hikes I would have about 30 new friends following me.

The weather was absolutely perfect until the day I left. On Friday, satisfied with the sights I saw and how I saw them, I headed south. A night bus ride from Huaraz to Lima, immediately followed by a 5 hr journey further down the coast to Ica. From there, a quick taxi ride to Huacachina.

A lagoon surrounded my towering sand dunes and expensive services. I attempted to sandboard but failed, though I blame the equipment and not my ability to ride sanded down pieces of wood. The views from the tops of the dunes were so amazing they broke my camera. Or it could be from all of the sand that is now in the lens retraction mechanism. Either way, I was unable to capture the stunning sunset view into a digital image. Some things I will just have to remember without the aid of technology.

One tired/pricey day/night there, eating and drinking with some new friends,  was all I needed.  Tonight, another night bus ride taking me 12 hours closer to Chile. I should arrive in Arequipa around 6am, and hopefully rest a few days. My last real stop before a new country, the area has more towering peaks but with the added bonus of the world’s deepest canyons. Should be very cool, I just hope I can fix my camera in time. No sé cuánto más puedo almacenar en esa cosa bajo mi cabello grueso.

E = 110

Untogether

Friday, August 27th, 2010

(I recently finished reading the book “Midnight’s Children”. Thus, the following is sort of an homage to Salman Rushdie, aka Sal Bass. References to tragic historical events are used solely for the purpose of story telling and are not meant to diminish their reality. References to the adventures of Micah are meant to inform you of his travels. Thanks)

I was born in the city of Lawrence… once upon a time. No that wont do, no getting away from the date. Ok, I was born on March 18th in the year 1978. And the time? Well, that is important too. I was born at night. No, must be more specific, might as well come right out. I was born at 11:30 pm CST, the exact time Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. As one life was ending on the other side of the globe and a country’s decline was accelerating, the life of a young boy on the rise was just beginning. Country and boy forever linked, their destinies inversely intertwined.

In 1988, as Micah celebrated an NCAA Basketball Championship for his Kansas Jayhawks, a country mourned the loss of it’s General Mohammed Zia ul-Haq in a mid-air explosion. Later that year, as they elected their first female Prime Minister to unite them, it was females in my 5th grade class that seemed to confuse and divide me.

When a nominal democracy was declared in June 2001 by the ruling military leader, Pervez Musharraf; my life was becoming a dictatorship, with me as the sole person responsible for my post-college future. And now, if the previous events aren’t enough, Pakistan endures tragic flooding, I walk 10,000 feet above sea level under clear blue skies. A dark time for Pakistan while my life has rarely been brighter.

I walk

I walk

But I am not alone in my special birth; while parents celebrated a new boy in Eastern Kansas (despite hoping it would be a girl), another Mother and Father in California smile at a new son. Yes, Brian and I (and a thousand other kids), linked by our historical birthdate, lives and appearances polar opposites while also exactly the same. Brian with his hair and me with my nose. Hair and nose, nose and hair. Both sources of our respective powers, both growing stronger with time, both red.

Powers? you may say. Yes powers. Brian’s more obvious, with bright red hair seen on national television, and mine only starting to reach potential as color is strengthened by the South American sun. Brian protects his hair with white headband, I use white sunscreen. Peruvian sun shines on red nose with white sunscreen amid red and white flags. My nose sniffs out fishing towns on bus trips and street food on city walks. My nose sniffs out vistas and trails, allowing map free wandering. And overcharging, yes indeed, when the shopkeep told me that the large water was 3 soles, I questioned his price and got the 2.5 I desired. When the internet stopped working and yet I was charged for the full hour, my nose started twitching. I will admit it does not always function wisely, unable to identify all foods that go into my mouth, but the vigor with which my nose operates is unmatched.

Lives seemingly bound for a collision, yet never meet. Brian attends a small high school in Washington state, I in Portland, OR. Brian chooses the red uniforms of the USC Trojans, I Oregon State University. Pac-10 rivals, life rivals. Graduating on the same day, beginning real and professional lives on the same day. Knowing but not knowing about each others existence.

So, as my nose and I stroll hills in the Cordillera Blanca in awe of things reaching great heights, in an environment where we do not fit in; Brian strolls hardwood floors, looking up at those who reach great heights in a league where he seemingly doesn’t belong. I use nimble feet to allude barking dogs; Brian to allude defenders. Water in my life takes the form of day trips to mountain lakes, Parón and Llanganuco; Brian practices for the upcoming season and drinks Dasani, supposedly from the mountains. I receive a free meal at Hostal Gledel in Yungay due to the amazing kindness of the owner; Brian gets free steak at Smith & Wollensky in Boston due to a Championship ring he acquired 2 years ago. When he scratches his head, I sneeze.

Lake Parón

Lake Parón

But back to our link with history: Have attacks been waged and are wars being fought with the sole purpose of the elimination of the Children of March 18th? At the same time as the story was told of a special birth in India back in 1947, were radical Pakistani leaders paying attention to the possibility of their fates being linked with the lives of infants as well? Isn’t it plausible that they drew the conclusion: as long as those kids born on the 18th day of the 3rd month in the 78th year of the 1900’s thrive, our homeland will languish? I only provide you with the facts, you must answer the questions yourself.

The future: All is I know is that my rival, Brian Scalabrine, continues to prosper even more so than I. Tomorrow, I leave massive hunks of rock behind in exchange for massive sand dunes. When my season of travels comes to a close in November, Brian’s season with the Boston Celtics will just be beginning. His 6ft 9in frame dwarfs my 5ft 11, and his $3.5 million dollar per year salary is slightly more than my $0 per year. The power of his red hair outduels my reddening nose. Yet we are the same person, and if he ever lifts the restraining order, we may meet someday. Él ya no regresó mis llamadas

(More photos can be seen here: http: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=75141&id=1408574607&l=20e6a83706 )