Mt Kilimanjaro Day 6

January 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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It’s the final day and in around seven hours we rediscover the joys of showers. Despite being at 3,700 metres it is sunny and warm, so we’re in shorts and just one or two layers.

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Saying farewell to Horombo.

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And also goodbye to my favourite trees.

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It is a relatively easy day, going downhill. However we still will be hiking almost 20 kms, which will take a bit over six hours.

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Nice to be back under bush for the final three hours.

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And near the end some monkeys again.

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Finally we’re back to where we started. Over six days we have climbed around 4,600 metres and descended the same.

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We get back to the Marangu Hotel around 3 pm.

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And have drinks and photos with our team – the four of us, three guides, a chef and assistant, and seven porters.

Overall the toughest physical challenge I’ve done to date, but hugely satisfying. If you’re fit and slightly masochistic, I can recommend giving it a go. But not something to do casually!

This was the end of the African trip – gorillas in Rwanda, safari in Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. All very different experiences. I’m already missing the place, and looking forward to my next trip to the continent – sadly at least a couple of years away.

 

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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 5

January 25th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

We set off around midnight and the weather seemed perfect – no wind, and a clear night. The Southern Cross and Milky Way Galaxy were prominent in the sky.

It was however very cold. Going uphill with so many layers of gear on is exhausting work, especially when you have much less oxygen to breathe compared to normal.

The main challenge is to climb around 950 metres to Gilmans Point. Then after that it is a further 60 metres or so to Stella Point at 5,739 and finally Uhuru Peak at 5,895 metres – around 1,200 metres up from Kibo Hut.

The track to Gilmans is incredibly tough. First of all you can’t see it. You just follow the person in front of you. You can vaguely see some ridgelines but don’t know how far away they are. After a couple of hours of trekking, we had no idea how much more we had to go. We had been told six hours is normal, but our guide had said it may take seven and a half hours to Gilmans.

The path is steep. It is a 4 km track which rises 1 km vertically. So for every four metres of track, you go up one metre approx. There are basically no flat sections, or even gentle zig zag slopes. It is just relentlessly upwards.

To make it harder, some parts of the route go over scree. That nasty stuff where you slide back 80% of the step you take.

We take a 10 to 20 second breather around every eight minutes or so (Basma is counting to 300 slowly in Arabic between pauses) and every 45 minutes or so we do a proper stop where we sit down and have some food.

After three hours or so we seem to still be leagues away from the top. We need to not only get to Gilmans, but then to the peak, and then descend 2,000 metres or so to Horombo Hut – all of which is a good eight to nine hours on top of the time it takes to get to Gilmans.

I’m on the verge of quitting half a dozen times. The reduced oxygen and five lawyers of clothes is exhausting. And even with so many layers, you’re still cold. But so long as the others keep going, I’m determined to. I do make a mental note though to learn to say no, the next time someone asks me to do anything which involves going over 4,000 metres above sea level – unless a plane is involved.

The mountain side looks like a series of fireflies with torch lights both above and below us.

I’m most fearing three things which would force me down. Around 3 am the sky clouded over and the rain may be a matter of when, not if. Trudging up in the rain for hours on end would be too much. Likewise if the wind picked up, it would get too cold. Luckily neither were eventuating yet.

My other fear was when the altitude sickness I had in the Himalayas would strike. I had headaches for around seven days, and that was ascending just 500 metres a day, while this was double that. It previously struck around 3,800 metres and we were now over 5,000 metres.  The altitude training I did with Altitude Inc paid off. I mumble thanks in my head to Hayden Wilson for recommending them, and to their director Bronwyn for arranging a portable unit I could use in my apartment right up until I left Wellington.

The pauses are becoming far more common now. For a while we were doing 10 seconds trekking, 10 seconds pause as we started to fade. It was still pitch dark, and we had no idea what the time was, and how much further to go. A guide said he thought we had around an hour to go to Gilmans.

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Suddenly ten minutes later we come across a sign. We think it must be a sign to tell us how far to get to Gilmans, but we are at Gilmans. It’s around 5,30 am – we even got there before the sunset.

Much hugging and high fiving follows. The biggest emotion is relief. All four of us have made it to the top ridge of Kibo. We’re not at the summit, but we are at the point where the National Park will recognise you as having climbed/trekked Kilimanjaro.

It is still dark, so we decide to go to Stella to see the sunrise. Basma has had problems with her jacket and gloves and is freezing, so she decides (wisely) to start going down a bit before we make Stella.

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The path to Stella is not too bad, after the huge climb. It is mainly through snow and takes around half an hour to get there. There is no sunrise to be seen though as it is totally clouded in. It’s cold and miserable.

We decide to head onto the summit. In theory it is a 200 metre ascent (from Gillmans to Uhuru) over a 2 km track so only a 1 in 10 rise. However this is arguably the most exhausting part. We’ve been ascending for over seven hours and our pace is slow. Even the smallest rise exhausts us. Hell, even getting your water bottle from your pack is exhausting. And the water is mainly frozen solid.

There is a great companionship though. Those on their way down from Uhuru give you support and say not far to go, They high fist bump you and say you can do it – even though many are strangers. But the time stretches on and on, and we can’t see more than a score of metres ahead, so can’t tell how far to go.

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Finally around 7.15 am we make the summit. Trekkers and guides hug. It is freezing so we do a few quick photos. There are no beautiful sights to see, but nothing can detract from having made it. It hasn’t snowed (yet) but my scarf has frosted over, and I’m told there is ice on my eye lashes. So yes the smiles are rather forced!

Bruce and Chris have both tramped and a lot, and are very fit. They agree that the section from Stella to Uhuru was a b**ch. We have no energy left, but staying put is not an option, so we start the trek back down.

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We get back to Gilman’s and it is now light enough for a photo.

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Then something cool happens. The cloud lifts for around 60 seconds and we get a view of Mawenzi.

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We also can see some glaciers a short way from where we are.

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Now it’s time to head back down. The clouds below look like crashing waves.

The trek down to Kibo Hut is faster than the trek up, but still painful and exhausting. With three pairs of socks on, my toes are pushed up against my boot tips as we descend. I routinely let out yells of pain as my big toes get mashed. When I finally get to a hut, I discover that the blood and bruising on the toe is so much, that I may need to get the nail removed.

A fair potion of the way down is scree, and you can almost ski on this for a rapid descent. But doing so is incredibly exhausting and the descent takes around three and a half hours from Uhuru.

As we descend, and can now see, we’re amazed at how much territory we covered coming up. We decide that the reasons they send us up at night, is because if you could see the full distance you had to climb, you’d give up early on. The path down keeps stretching further and further.

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We have a couple of breaks on the way down and then around 11 am get back to Kibo Hut – 11 hours after we left. The cloud got so thick we could only see the hut once we were 20 metres from it. In some ways the descent was more unpleasant than the ascent.

I’m freezing and jump into my sleeping bag. I appear to have some mild hypothermia as I’m shivering even in several layers of clothes, a thermal liner and a sleeping bag. Even with my Down Jacket on, I’m shivering. The problem is you lose the heat from moving, once you stop.

We learnt the rangers decided to take Basma down by gurney as she was so exhausted. She’s not alone. A total of five trekkers out of around 30 in total were evacuated by staff due to exhaustion, sickness or hypothermia.

I seriously can’t face around three hours of trekking down to Horombo Hut and consider spending the night at Kibo. But I drag myself out of my sleeping bag, grab a quick lunch (beef stew, yum) and around 1 pm we start off on another 1,000 metre descent.

The flat saddle area is pretty manageable, but the final hour is spent going down the lower track to Horombo, and it is a steep track, full of boulders and rocks like on a rover bed. It makes the decent more exhausting, and damages my toes a bit more. We get a mixture of snow, hail and rain on the way down.

With relief we hit Horombo Hut around 4 pm. We’ve been trekking for around 20 of the last 32 hours. An early dinner and we hit the hut to crash.

We’re all coughing quite a bit – presumably from the cold. Hopefully not something worse. I feel a bit feverish and take my temperature and find it elevated.  And of course our muscles are aching. My last thought as we go to sleep is that I’ll be detained at the NZ border for sure as an Ebola suspect – coming back from Africa with a fever, a cough and barely able to stand up.

My other thought is that no matter how much pain was involved, a huge sense of satisfaction to have made it. I do tell Chris B though that he shouldn’t invite me to whatever stupid idea he has for his 50th birthday :-)

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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 4

January 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Day 4 is when it starts to get more challenging with both the cold and the altitude. The terrains gets a bit like Tongariro.

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There is however still some brightness.

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Day 4 is a six hour hike over 10 kms, rising from 3,705 metres to 4,730 metres.  That is 2.87 kms higher than where we started.

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The saddle stretches on for ages and ages. We got both rain and hail at various intervals. Having to put on wet weather gear heats you up and slows you down, but the moment we took it off, it would start raining again!

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Bruce would feed the crows and this particular crow was not into sharing. Rather than just take a couple of pieces of bread, he went around grabbing every piece he could until he had almost 10 chunks in his beak!

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Basma trying to be a crow.

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The saddle is a gentle uphill. The final hour is a demanding steep slog. You’re really noticing the lack of oxygen on the uphill. At this height it is 11.5% oxygen compared to 21% at sea level.

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Our chief guide Simon on the right.

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Kibo Hut ahead. No A frames here. Just one big stone building with four bunk rooms sleeping around 15 each.

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Bruce at the official sign. It was near freezing here and no one went outside except to go to the toilet. As we had all been taking Diamox to help with the altitude, and drinking four litres a a day, it is fair to say we were going a lot!

Day 4 is almost a combined day with Day 5. You only sleep for around four hours from 7 pm to 11 pm before making the final ascent to the summit. From 8 am on Day 4 to 8 am on Day 5 you are on you feet for around 18 hours.

We had a huge dish of pasta to car up at 6 pm, and then crashed. Didn’t really sleep much, and around 9 pm the wind started howling. This was not a great sign. Even with perfect weather, it will be below freezing on the ascent. High winds would be a killer.

Luckily they died down around 11 pm, when we got up.

Before dinner you have a final gear check, and set it all up next to your bunk so you can quickly get into it. I was wearing 26 different items of clothing (we joked about how long it would take to play strip poker!. To make the ascent I had:

  • Boots
  • Socks (6, 3 pairs)
  • Underwear
  • Long Johns x 2
  • Ski Trousers
  • Waterproof Overtrousers
  • Merino Tops x 3
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Mittens
  • Balaclava

Also of course walking poles, sunglasses (for way down) and headlamp.

We stumbled outside at midnightish for Day 5 and the final ascent. Sore and tried from Day 4, but adrenaline kicking in.

 

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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 3

January 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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Day 3 is a rest or more correctly an acclimatization day. We still did a five hour trek today, so it wasn’t very restful! Had a late wake up of 7 am!

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Lots of those strange trees around camp.

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We hiked up what they call the Upper Route towards Mawenzi.

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These are the Zebra Rocks.

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The natural colouring of the rocks is quite fascinating.

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We decided to carry on up towards the ridgeline.

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And got up to around 4,300 metres after three and a half hours. We’d been told the whole up and down would take three hours so were slightly grumpy.

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Not as many of these here as in Nepal, but still a fair few Buddhists have been through.

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A view down from the ridgeline. It started to cloud in going down, and then it rained. Luckily you always have the wet weather gear in the day pack, so a quick change for the final part of the descent back to Horombo.

Doing an acclimatization day was a very good idea. There seemed to be a lot more altitude sickness with groups that didn’t do it.

The weather stayed overcast, rainy and cold for the rest of the day. We had an early 6 pm dinner and then went to bed around 7 pm, as the two hardest days were to follow.

 

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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 2

January 23rd, 2015 at 5:30 pm by David Farrar

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We got up on Day 2 at 6.30 am for breakfast. This crow was keen to join us inside.

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Once again the weather was looking good.

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So off we set. In the background you can see Kibo on the left (our target) and Mawenzi.

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Today we rise 990 metres, but are still low enough down to have some great greenery.

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Day 2 is around an 11 km trek, which isn’t huge, but the vertical gain of a km means it takes a good six and a half hours going slow.

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At the lunch stop, there are always hungry grows.

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An example of the plant life.

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And another. Quite beautiful.

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A zoom shot of Kibo as we get close to it.

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These trees were very common from 3000 to 4000 metres are are quite spectacular.

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Approaching Horombo Hut around 3 pm.

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And we’re there. We’re now at 3,720 metres above sea level. For comparison the top of Mt Cook is 3,724 metres. During the day it is warm here, but once the sun goes down, gets pretty cold and you need a couple of layers to keep warm.

 

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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 1

January 23rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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A short while after I got back from the Himalayas, a mate (Chris) told me he wanted to summit Mt Kilimanjaro for his 40th birthday and asked if I wanted to give it a go also. After a few minutes thought (longer than usual for me) I said yes, and the planning started. We were joined by Bruce and Basma, colleagues and friends of Chris and I.

We decided to do the Marangu route and here we are looking cheerful at the Marangu gate which is 1,860 metres above sea level. In four days (plus an acclimatization day) we needed to ascend over 4,000 metres until we hopefully make the summit at almost 6 kms (5,895 metres) above sea level.

The summit is the highest point in four continents – there is no piece of land higher in Africa, Europe, Oceania or Antarctica. And while it is not a technical climb, but a trek, it is difficult.  The success rate is estimated to be between 30% and 75% depending on days taken. The combination of the steep rate of ascent and the height make it something you don’t attempt lightly, even though the first couple of days are relatively easy. The death rate is estimated to be 3 to 7 people a year.

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Almost all of the first day is in the bush, which looks quite similar at times to NZ bush.

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However they had monkeys!

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We had been advised to take it slowly the first two days, as that helps with acclimatization. So we did the 8 kms and 850 metre ascent in around five easy hours. It was warm and sunny.

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Once we got there we did an extra quick side walk, where we were lucky to see some white backed monkeys. The photo quality is poor as my normal 24x zoom camera had died on the trip, and I had a cheap 5x zoom replacement only.

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Mt Kilimanjaro has craters all over the place, and this one was 15 minutes walk from the Mandara Hut.

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Mandara Hut is actually a collection of A frames. They are not large as each A frame is split into two halves, each sleeping four. They do the job.

Had dinner around 6.30 pm and we crashed around 9.30 pm after a few rounds of cards. A good start to the trek. We’re all happy.

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Kenya Day 4 morning

January 14th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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The final drive started with more lions – or a lioness in this case. Look at the power in that body.

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She has a good lookout there.

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While this lion surveys his domain.

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And then has a sleep.

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A few of the cubs.

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And a couple more enjoying the shade.

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A passing elephant.

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And then the rest of the family turns up.

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I adore the small baby elephants. So cute.

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This Topi standing guard.

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A panoramic shot in the area they shot Out of Africa.

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Me enjoying the tree shade.

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Some startled antelopes.

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On the way home we see some new lions – three youngish brothers. They will have to leave the area soon as they grow up.

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And hard to see any detail, but a multicoloured lizard on the rock. Sadly my camera died during the trip, so photos have been from the iPhone only which has limited zoom.

That was the last safari drive, and am now back in Nairobi.

 

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Kenya Day 3 afternoon

January 14th, 2015 at 12:03 am by David Farrar

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Some baboons nearby as we set off.

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Antelopes running away.

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Then we saw our friend the cheetah again. Looking hungry after being robbed in the morning.

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This is a view of our campsite, from the plains. Such a great location and views.

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A lion sleeping on its back.

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An Eland, which is the largest type of antelope.

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A few Zebras.

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A giraffe walking in front of us.

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One of the things I love here is how most of the different animals just mingle together and are often in the same area.

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Nice of them to look at the camera.

Didn’t see too much this afternoon, but you can’t always get drives chock full of action like the morning one was.

 

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Kenya Day 3 morning

January 13th, 2015 at 12:49 am by David Farrar

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This morning’s ride was possibly the best yet in terms of variety. We saw cheetahs, hyenas and lions all battling over a kill bye cheetahs.

First though we saw some zebras.

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Then a group of hyenas.

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The buffaloes are too big to be worried by the hyenas.

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And these two buffaloes were too busy PDAing to notice the hyenas. Incidentally they’re both boys!

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The hyenas found some hippo skin, left over from a hippo killed by a lion.

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A group of banded mongooses.

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This was an amazing sight. An elephant standing on hand legs only, reaching into a tree. It looks like he is trying to climb the tree!

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A couple of young bucks fighting.

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A zebra crossing.

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The normal pride of lions.

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We saw the pair of cheetahs again.

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And standing up.

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A wandering giraffe.

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A couple of crocodiles down at the river.

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The river, which is full of hippos and crocodiles.

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Having a morning coffee with the crocodiles behind me.

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A hyena lying in a pool. The mud suffocates the ticks.

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Then we saw the cheetahs hunting prey.

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And they caught a warthog.

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But then the hyenas turned up wanting to have it, even though the cheetahs caught it.

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Sadly the socialist hyenas won, and took it off the productive cheetahs

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But then a lion turned up and decided it was his, and charged the hyenas – which barely escaped.

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The lion then came towards the cheetahs and charged them. He was hungry and would have happily eaten cheetah instead. Luckily for them, they managed to just out-run the lion, who then sat down  and glared at them.

 

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Kenya Day 2 afternoon

January 12th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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After lunch we discovered a congress of baboons just outside our tent.

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Then out on safari drive again and saw lost of antelopes.

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Buffaloes with some Great White Egrits on them.

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And Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on them also.

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A buffalo enjoying his mud pool.

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Antelopes also with birds around them to clean them.

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Two Southern Ground Hornbills

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We were fortunate enough to see a lion kill two afternoons in a row. The same pride caught another warthog. Here is a lioness just afterwards joining the others.

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Two Waterbucks having a public display of affection.

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An elephant just next to a bridge we passed over.

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Another great African sunset.

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Got back to the tent to see two giraffes just a couple of score metres away, just by the boundary fence,

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And then for good measure a hippo walked past also. Amazing to not just go out looking for animals, but to have them wander past your tent.

 

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Kenya Day 2 morning

January 11th, 2015 at 11:54 pm by David Farrar

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A gory start to the day. A Martial Eagle had killed and was eating this baby impala. The eagle flew off and had a pretty huge wing span.

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A Yellow-throated Sandgrouse.

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Give way to the elephant! An adult can easily tip the jeep over. They weigh twice as much.

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A couple of buffaloes giving us the stare.

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The Grey crowned Crane.

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A giraffe strolling along.

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An African Fish-Eagle.

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Yay, a proper sighting of a rhino. This one is only four years old.

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Some elephants being followed by their attending birds.

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A solitary Topi.

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A couple of warthogs obviously lost a game of Truth or Dare and are advancing on a sleeping lion to see how close they can get!

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The sleeping lion. They get more adventurous later in the day.

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A pool of hippos.

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A close up.

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You only see how big they are out of the water.

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A lioness.

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A giraffe having a feed.

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Two common ostriches.

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Down in the river a couple of crocodiles.

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Look closely here and from right to left there is a hippo, a submerged crocodile and then two cros on the bank.

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Half the rocks here are actually hippos!

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A couple of giraffes necking.

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This may look cute, but this is how they fight for dominance. Very polite. They take turns until one gives up.

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A baby elephant struggling to get out of the mud.

A long drive this morning, around four and a half hours. We saw a lot in that time though.

 

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Kenya Day 1 afternoon

January 11th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Went out for the first proper safari drive this afternoon. Passed this monkey on the way to the jeep.

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Cheetahs are my favourite big cat are quite rare to spot, but we had a stroke of luck spotting two cheetahs just five minutes into the drive.

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They are the fastest land mammal.

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Then a few minutes later we saw a lion catch a warthog.

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Before long there were a dozen lions there, including eight cubs. The poor warthog was still alive and making noises for 10 minutes or so, as the adults allowed the cubs to try and kill it.

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The cubs didn’t manage it, so one of the adults then took off with it.

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Next was a family of 40 to 50 elephants.

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At a water hole there were a couple of grey crowned cranes.

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The elephants on the move, including the babies.

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Can’t see them well but that’s three rhinos in the grass.

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And then we headed back to camp at sunset.

 

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Kenya Day 1

January 11th, 2015 at 12:38 am by David Farrar

Am spending three nights at the Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp in the Masai Mara. We flew in a small plane to the jungle strip, and as we came down to land we could see around the landing strip a giraffe, dozens of antelopes, scores of baboons, some buffaloes and zebras.

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These buffaloes were just by the landing strip. We then had a 15 minute drive to the camp.

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We weren’t expecting to see much until this evening, when we have a proper game drive, but a few hundred metres from the camp were four lions, two of which you can see here.

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That’s how I like to sleep!

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Then we saw a couple of elephants.

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One of them started to advance on the jeep, so we hit reverse fairly quickly! If you want to know why, look at this video.

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Lots of birds here as well as beasts.

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The “tent” I’m in.

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The view from the tent. Have already seen zebras, antelopes, warthogs, and a mongoose pass by!

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A  path at the camp. Best to keep to them due to the scorpions and snakes.

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A wart hog by the swimming pool. Looks like he has been using it!

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And a monkey in the dining room.

Been three years since my last trip to Africa, and had forgotten quite how amazing it is.

 

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Gorillas in Rwanda

January 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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Just had an amazing experience in the Rwanda jungle, getting up close to a group of 19 gorillas. We spent around 75 minutes with them.

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The larger ones are incredibly powerful.

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You have to trek in and up the mountain to the jungle to get to them, but we were lucky and had a group relatively close by.

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You’re meant to stay 20 feet or so from them,but they often get very close to you.

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The massive one with his back to me is Guhonda, who is the oldest and largest gorilla of all the groups in Rwanda. He is 44 years old. He may be the largest mountain gorilla in the world, weighing 225 kgs.

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Guhonda sitting down.

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This is Guhonda’s son, who will take over as alpha male from him. This photo is his strutting just after he decided to assert his dominance and charged towards our group, growling loudly. We’d been taught not to run, but just to crouch down which I did. Fair to say I was crapping myself, as this huge gorilla is charging towards me, and stopped less than a metre away. He then did his strutting, at which point we slowly backed away.

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Some smaller ones.

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These young ones were playfighting in the trees.

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And this silverback was keeping an eye on us from the bush.

One of the many video clips I shot. Again you see how close they get.

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Latin American logistics

November 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A few people have asked about who we used for our Latin American trip, and what the itinerary was. For those now planning to go there, here’s the basic details.

  1. 2 nights in Santiago, Chile
  2. 5 nights/6 days around the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  3. 3 nights in Quito, or surrounding area, Ecuador
  4. 3 nights in La Paz, Bolivia
  5. 3 nights in Amazon Rainforest, Bolivia
  6. 2 nights around Lake Titicaca
  7. 4 nights in Cusco
  8. 3 nights on Inca Trail
  9. 1 night in Cusco

The NZ company we used was Harbour City Travel, through Trish Brennan. HCT worked with Viva.

In each country there was a local company that would pick us up, do all the transfers, and give us the vouchers and details for the activities in each country.

In Chile the local company was CTS Turismo. They were good. No problems, and did a vineyard tour, a city tour and walked around some parks. Around all you want to do there.

In Ecuador it was Galacruises Expeditions. The cruise we went on was the Grand Odyssey which was superb. Highly recommended. The Quito tours were very good and we had the same guide for four days which was helpful. Recommended.

In Bolivia it was Transturin. For the first part of our stay they were very good, with the city tour and transfers. However I would not use them for the Lake Titicaca experience as they constantly ran late, and their pick up and drop offs point were not well thought out. From others we spoke to, they said it is better to do Lake Titicaca if going from Peru to Bolivia rather than vice-versa. For the Amazon we stayed in the Chalalan Eco-Lodge and that was very good – good guides, good food, and great location. Facilities very basic though.

In Peru it was Coltur and for the Inca Trail it was Pachamama Explorers. Pachamama Explorers were first class on the Inca Trail and guiding us around Machu Picchu. William was our guide- ask for him. Coltur started well, but did not cope with some changes needed due to illness, and we didn’t get consistent information from them.

All up we were away for 31 days. If doing it again I’d do it in the reverse order (Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador) as ending with Galpagos would be great and Lake Titicaca works better that way. We had to do it in that order as the Inca Trail was all booked up earlier in our trip. Was pretty exhausted at the end of it (now need a holiday to recover from the holiday) so with hindsight would have a couple more do nothing days. We only had one of those in 31 days (which became a large shopping day!). I’d also have a policy in future to make sure all hotel stays are for at least two nights as getting to a place late at night and leaving the next morning is not so much fun.

But overall an amazing trip, and a great way to see some of the highlights of Latin America.

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Red Riding Hood

November 20th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Had a very enjoyable Saturday night at the opening of Roger Hall’s latest (annual) pantomime at Circa. It was an enjoyable Wellington centric piss take of the old story, which was first published in 1697.

Gavin Rutherford plays the lead role of Grandma Hood with applomb. He is an old hand at playing these roles and his ability to ad lib adds to the humour – especially when he discovers the person he has picked out of the audience at random is also called Gavin.

Carrie Green plays her daughter, Dahlia Hood. Think of a red headed version of Paula Bennett and you’ll get the idea. Her and Grandma Hood are both keen on the same man – Sir Roger Bounder.

Bounder is the villain of the show, played by Patrick Davies. He wants to buy their homes and them turn Zealandia into a housing sub-division so their home values will increase and he makes a profit. The kids happily boo him everytime he is one stage.

Jane Waddell and Jonathan Morgan play Boris and Morris, and provide a lot of the comedic event. They’re ex MPs not on work schemes.

Simon Leary is Lance, the hero of the play – a DOC ranger. He of course wants to stop Sir Roger and win Red Riding Hood’s heart.

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Awhimai Fraser plays Red Riding Hood and excels in capturing her innocence.

Finally Tom Truss plays the wolf, who provides more humour than fear.

It’s a good cast, and a very funny script with lots of jokes for the adults – and many Wellington references.

Definitely a great play to take the kids to, or just to go to yourself if you want a couple of hours of laughs.

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Machu Picchu

November 17th, 2014 at 12:24 pm by David Farrar

The final full day of the month in Latin America was at Machu Picchu, after doing the Inca Trail. It’s a 15th century Inca settlement that was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. It is the most intact Inca site existing today.

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The main part of Machu Picchu, as you enter.

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A view from below of the scores of terraces.

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Again, the quality of the construction is astonishing. They fit perfectly together.

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Up in the Temple of the Stars.

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Was amused that this little creature not just made its way into the Temple, but managed to get all the way up there. A few hundred years ago he or she may have ended up being worshipped as a god.

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It’s hard to get all the terraces into one photo.

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From near the guardhouse, you get this view of the main site plus see Huayna Picchu behind it. There is a narrow and steep trail which you can take up to the peak of Huayna Picchu.

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After going around the main site, we took this path to the Inca Bridge.

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Was rather glad not to actually go over the Inca Bridge. One slip, and ouch.

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You can see where the trail used to be on the far side of the bridge. It was a sort of back route into Machu Picchu, as a defence against invaders.

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Then we headed up to the Sun Gate, passing these llamas on the way.

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People enjoying the view from the Sun Gate.

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The view from the Sun Gate, which I also saw the previous day. Just after this it started to pour with rain, so we then headed back to the entry, and down into town.

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Then it was on the train back to Cusco.

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The train staff do am amusing dance routine, and also model clothing from Sol Alpaca. Makes the trip go faster.

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And on the way out we passed the entry point for the Inca Trail where I started four days earlier.

After that it was one final night in Cusco, and then four flights home to Lima, Santiago, Auckland and finally Wellington. All up 31 days in Latin America.

 

 

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Inca Trail Day 3

November 14th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Day 3 started off with a climb of course – but only 200 or so metres today.

 

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The campsite behind us as we leave.

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Another snow covered mountain top.

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A view of the valley beyond the pass.

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The trail than evens out.

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Lots of birds and butterflies on the trail.

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A zoom view of Aguas Calientes, the town near Machu Picchu, taken from the third mountain pass.

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Then we start a 1,000 metre descent. The steps are steep.

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These ruins are called Phuyupatamarca and they were only discovered in 1983.

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More downhill.

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And even more down!

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The sun has coloured these leafs purple.

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A view of the main valley which the trains come in on.

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Stairs up at Phuyupatamarca.

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Enjoying the view.

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There’s over 40 terraces here. It would have been a major agricultural site.

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Then down the stairs.

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Some llamas that have made it their home.

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A short walk to the final campsite. Most people camp here overnight, and trek to Machu Picchu on Day 4, but we only had a lunch stop here.

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Lunch as always was great – much better than normal tramping food.

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Then around a two hour trek towards our final destination.

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Steps heading up to the Sun Gate.

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Finally, we reach Intipunku, or the Sun Gate.

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The initial view of Machu Picchu and the road up to it.

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A close up of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate.

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Myself and William, my guide, at the Sun Gate.

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Then a final half hour trek down to Machu Picchu itself.

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Posing above Machu Picchu.

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Then headed down into Aguas Calientes, to meet up with the SO. It’s a cool little town with many good restaurants and shops plus these very relaxing hot pools. Was much nicer to spend the evening here, than in a tent!

Tomorrow is the final day of the holiday, being an exploration around Macchu Pichu.

 

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Inca Trail Day 2

November 14th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

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Up until the day before the Inca Trail, I just assumed that I was part of a large group doing the trail. But is turned out I was wrong, so I was a bit embarrassed that there was just me, a guide, a chef and four porters! The chef is on the right, and the porters on either side of me.

Basically you need the same number of support staff whether it is one person or half a dozen, as the weight is with the tents, the cooking gear and the food.

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This is the view from the campsite.

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Some pigs looking for food.

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And some new born chicks.

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Then it was time to get going up the hill.

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The track was not too steep at first.

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Around 80% of the trail is the original Inca Trail, built around 800 years ago.

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The morning has a vertical ascent of 1,200 metres from 3,000 to 4,200 metres. The first 800 metres is a combination of uphill and flat but the last 400 metres is just pure uphill – and almost all steps.

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One can see Dead Woman’s Pass at the top.

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Looking back down you can see the 1,200 metres ascended.

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Very happy to have made the pass. Normally take around four and a half hours to do, but I did it in around two and three quarter hours.

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The view down the other side. You then descend 600 metres to Pacamayo campsite.

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Had lunch at Pacamayo. The meals were better than in most restaurants!

Normally one stays the night here, but the porters suggested to the guide that as I was trekking so fast, that we could attempt to do the four day trek in 3 days. As that would get me back to the SO a day earlier, I was keen to try this.

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However did have a quick siesta after lunch.

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Then after lunch it was another 400 metre climb to the second pass.

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One can see the lunch campsite below.

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The steps are very uneven and can be challenging to go up, and even more so down.

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Near the top, a small lake, where deer sometimes drink,

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Then we got to the second pass, which you can see below me. Pretty tired as by this stage have done a total of 1,600 vertical metres ascent.

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Then another 400 metres descent down the other side.

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The steps going down, around 800 years old.

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This is Sayacmarca, which means ‘Inaccessible Town’.

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Then a relatively easy 150 metres climb up to where we camped for the night.

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And these alpacas were happily grazing outside my tent.

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Inca Trail Day 1

November 13th, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

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The final part of the Latin America trip was doing the Inca Trail in Peru. It is a 46 km long route that goes over three mountain passes. This is the start a little way past Ollantaytambo. The elevation here is 2,600 metres.

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The track is initially quite flat.

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The Vilcanota River which goes through the entire valley.

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Then heading into the mountains, to be surrounded by the Andes.

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A flowering cactus.

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This is Patallaqta, a former Inca settlement which was destroyed by the Incas as they fought the Spanish. Because of this the Spanish never went more deeply into the mountains, and never discovered the other sites there.

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These are the Willkaraqay ruins, which is a former hill fort and shrine.

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A very tall and lonely tree on the trail.

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We climbed around 400 metres on the first day to 3,000 metres above sea level. The neighbouring peaks have a fair amount of snow.

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This is the tent I was sleeping in. We camped at Wayllapampa, which means grassy plain. It was my first time sleeping in a tent on a tramp for many years!

Crashed early as had to be up at 5.30 am the next morning for the longest day of the trek.

 

 

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Sacred Valley of the Incas

November 13th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Did a full day bus tour to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, or Urubamba Valley. Our guide very honestly told us that no one visited it when it was just called Urubamba Valley, so they renamed it Sacred Valley of the Incas and they ow get over 100,000 visitora a year through it :-)

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On the way out of Cusco we noticed the riot police near out hotel. It seems a demonstration was planned for later that day and they sometimes get out of hand.

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A view of the valley as we get close.

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An Inca agricultural terrace. These were used to grow potatoes and corn. The valley is very well suited for corn, and it grows very large there.

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A couple of birds at our lunch stop.

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The view from part of the way up the temple at Ollantaytambo.

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Note again the great architecture with each stone fitting the ones around it. Also they use male and female grooves to make them an even tighter fit.

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Some of these blocks weigh 80 tonnes or so and required 1,600 people to drag them up a 8 degree slope to the top of the temple.

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Me at the top.

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The following day went to a free (as part of your tour tickets) performance at a theatre demonstrating Peruvian costumes and songs.

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The show lasts a bit over an hour and is very entertaining.

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Cusco Day 1

November 12th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

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First full day in Cusco, we did a half day city tour. Cusco is the former capital of the Inca Empire and this building was almost opposite out hotel.

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The architecture is amazing. They fitted the blocks together perfectly.

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A painting showing the Milky Way Galaxy as a llama.

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The grounds of Qoricancha.

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Then went out of town a short way to Sacsayhuaman.

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Some tourists using the local rocks as a slide!

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The ruins stretch over a large area.

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And go underground.

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The Cusco Catholic Cathedral. It is actually three churches in one, and as usual the interior is an amazing sight of gold and pictures.

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The fountain in the Plaza de Armas.

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Another shot of the Plaza de Armas. IS surrounded by tourist attractions and also some excellent restaurants.

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Qoricancha from the front.

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A typical side street in Cusco.

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A huge collection of melted candles at the Inka Grill.

 

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Puno to Cusco

November 11th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

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The view from the hotel at Puno. Sadaly we got there late at night and had to leave early the next morning, so didn’t spend much time there. In future would make sure we had at least two nights there.

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I had been dreading this part of the trip for several days as generally I hate bus travel, and spending an entire day on a bus can be a form of torture. But this bus was excellent, and I had a great time.

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First of all the seats were wide and comfy. You could use the foot rest and recline the seat to be more comfortable than most planes. They had a detachable tray you could work or eat on, and had free wireless on board the bus. Plus it was a double decker and we were upstairs which was great for photos and views.

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We were travelling on the 2nd of November which is the Day of the Dead in much of Latin America. Every cemetery we went past was full of family members who spend the day with their dead relatives.

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We had lunch at this very nice restaurant, with great views.

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Many houses in Peru have bulls on their roof as a symbol of good luck and fertility.

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The church of San Pedro Apostol de Andahuaylillas, built by Jesuits in the 16th century

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You could not take photos inside some of the church, but it has stunning artworks – is known as the Sistine Chapel of Latin America.

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One photo from inside.

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As in other places, they even do advertising on the hillsides.

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Remains of the Temple of Wiracocha which was a large Inca structure surrounded by a 4 km long wall.

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The Incas were good at building in straight lines.

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Lake Titicaca Day 2

November 6th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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On Day 2 we sailed South and landed near Yumani.

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A fairly steep climb up the hill. We are close to 4,000 metres above sea level (Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world) so was hard going.

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This structure pre-dates the Incas, and is thought to be 3,000 years old.

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This is some of the inside of this 3,000 year old structure. The island was only opened to the public around 35 years ago and previously it was used to hold political prisoners – some of whom lived in here.

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These two Bolivian girls were on the cruise and bus with us. The story behind this photo is they are showing off their new sunhats, which they purchased  after they got a bit burnt yesterday. They had exclaimed how they would struggle getting boyfriends due to their sunburn. An Australian commented he didn’t think they had to worry much :-)

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A great view from on top.

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One alpaca.

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And another.

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This garden is a display of all the traditional plants and vegetables and what they were used for.

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We had morning tea here with this view.

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Then went around a museum – saw a large display of crops they use.

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Traditional inca costume.

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Another costume – to represent a Morenada.

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Had a brief cruise on this traditional sailing ship. A scientist has a theory that the Pacific Islands were colonised by Latin Americans sailing on ships like this.

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Then we headed by bus up to Puno, which is also on the shores of Lake Titicaca, but in Peru. This is the no mans zone between Bolivia and Peru.

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And now we are in Peru, the last country of our trip.

 

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Lake Titicaca Day 1

November 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

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After a very brief stay back in La Paz, we headed by bus up to Lake Titicaca for a couple of days. The road out of La Paz was quite congested.

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This is the foreshore of Copacabana, which looked like an English seaside resort with all the recreational devices.

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The Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana which was another incredibly beautiful Catholic church. Most don’t allows photos inside, which is a pity as they are stunning.

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Two dogs using a prank bench as shelter.

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An entire street that sells basically nothing but popcorn.

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Instead of Coca Cole, they have Inca Kola. At first I thought it was a rip off of Coke, but it turns out to be produced by Coke. Tastes like Mellow Yellow.

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Some cool architecture.

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A view of Copacabana from the Lake.

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We went to Challapampa in the north of the Isla del Sol or Island of the Sun. This is regarded as the birthplace of the Inca Empire. We then got transferred by rowing boat to a shore.

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This is where we landed.

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We then saw this 800 year old Inca structure.

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Then a walk of a couple of kms back to the town.

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Lots of donkeys on the island.

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Challapampa.

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This pig is tied up down at the beach. I hope for his sake, this is high tide, not low tide.

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Amused by this house. You wouldn’t want to walk out the second floor doors in a hurry!

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Popped into a local house, and they had this guinea pig pen, which is of course for dinner that night.

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The catamaran we were on, which includes an overnight stay on it.

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