Dermot Quill’s World Tour continues in Bolivia

A friend of mine is currently travelling the world. Here is his third report … His previous two reports include adventures in Nepal and Argentina/Chile.

I am now in Bolivia having left Argentina forever. Firstly, we went to Tupiza which is where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid met their end (allegedly). I spent a day there doing what is known as the Triathlon, which consisted of a 15k mountain bike ride followed by three hours on a horse through the most amazing high western scenery (and yes, I can reasonably control a horse at this stage) followed by another 2-hour jeep climb to 4200 metres and finally another 40 minute gravity-assisted bike descent on hairpin bends.

Next it was an 8 hour drive to the Salt Plains of Uyuni. It is impossible to describe how incredible they are so I won’t bother. Look at pictures on the internet. We stayed the night in a hostel built entirely of salt bricks, including the bed. The “carpet” was unrefined salt. I had dinner there too but ironically it needed more salt!!!

I am now in a place called Potosi. This was once the richest city in the world thanks to the silver mines. Over 8 million Indians died here over the course of 200 years. I’m going down the mines myself this afternoon.

Anyway off to buy a few sticks of dynamite for the mine visit (and I am not joking by the way!).

All the best, Dermot

Dermot Quill’s World Tour continues

A friend of mine is currently travelling the world. Here is his second report. I posted his first report from Nepal last November.

Flew into Buenos Aires nearly a month ago. This is a great city, very vibrant with bars and restaurants everywhere, and also because of Argentina’s previous economic problems, very cheap. By the way, steak is better at home.

The undoubted highlight was the football match (River Plate v Arsenal). A great game, with an incredible atmosphere and the distinct possibility of being attacked by either the supporters or the many riot police present. I stayed there for 4 days and then headed for a 2500km bus journey to Ushuaia.

The first bus journey to Puerto Madryn took 36 hours. It was actually supposed to take 8 but the bus (a Mercedes) broke down after 3 hours and the replacement took another 24 hours to get there. So I was stranded in a town called “The Avenue of the 9th July” in the Pampas. That might give you some idea what the place was like. The most exciting thing about it was the mosquitos. Anyway got out of that dump the following day and made it to Puerto Madryn.

Puerto Madryn is famous for two things – there is a Welsh colony outside it and it also contains the Valdez Peninsula which has a large colony of penguins, seals and very rarely seen Killer Whales. Amazingly I did see the whales – there were two swimming very close to the coast checking out the seals for some blubber sushi later on.

Two days later, I arrived in a town down south called Rio Gallegos to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, drinking dark beer in a Texan bar that was showing Ricky Martin Videos.

So after 6 days we finally made it to Ushuaia or the “End of the World” as it tiresomely proclaims itself. Actually, it’s a really lively town set in stunning scenery which made a real change as most of the trip down was through flat arid, monotonous land. The next time I would fly.

After a few days there, we went to Torres del Paine in Chile to do what is called the “W” walk with 6 others. If the weather is good, at dawn the towers glow bright orange. But guess what – the bus (Yes another Mercedes!) broke down delaying us by 4 hours. So we decided to camp for a few hours and set out at 3.00am in the morning in the darkness carrying all clothes and food for 4 days. Made it for dawn but the weather was cloudy so no glow. Still, I am glad to have done it.

It wasn’t until we retraced our steps in the daylight when we say how dangerous the trail was in some places. That day consisted of 13 hours walking, the next day 9 hours and the final day 7 hours. Was heartily sick of raisins and Salami by the end of the walk. The scenery is stunning though.

Then came a days rest and back into Argentina for a 15 hour hike including a 2-hour Glacier trek and an hour of ice climbing which was brilliant. This was in the Fitzroy Mountains. We then took another bus (a Toyota this time) for a days rafting on a class 4 rapids in Fatalefu in Chile.

I am now resting in Barlioche for a few days over Easter and relishing the thought of doing nothing. I am looking forward of going back into Chile again as I think I prefer the scenery on the Chilean side. The people there seem more laid back than the Argentines as well.

If anyone is interested in South American Politics check out “El Supremo” on the Internet – the first ruler of Paraguay. Among his many accomplishments was having all the dogs in the country shot. Everyone had to raise their hat to him when he passed by. If you didn’t wear a hat you had to carry a hat brim and raise that. In his later years no one was allowed to look at him in the face and all subjects had to keep at least 6 feet away. El Supremo died peacefully. His body was then fed to Aligators.

Anyway thats all for now.

EL Supremo!

Greetings from Nepal

A friend of mine is currently sampling life in Nepal. Here is his first report …

Well I am back after 29 days sleeping in a tent and not washing. It was an amazing experience commencing with a near plane crash and peaking (if you pardon the pun) with fabulous views of Kangchenjunga and the Himalayan range around it.

Flew from Kahmandhu to Taplejung which is an airstrip on a ridge (or to be more exact a cow pasture that doubles as an airstrip). The day was cloudy and it turned out that this was the first flight into the airstrip for 4 months owing to cloud. The pilots here don’t bother using electronic equipment to guide them instead relying on sight – all very good except they couldn’t find the airstrip. After circling 6 or 7 times the mists cleared right in front of us and there was the airstrip, or more accurately, there was the cliffs underneath the airstrip. There was a roar from one of the pilots and a sharp dive upwards and to the right and we cleared by a few feet. Undeterred they did another circle and brought the plane down perfectly. Then they turned to their passengers laughing and waving. I found out afterwards that a helicopter was not so lucky the previous week 3 miles away from the strip. It crashed into a mountain side killing all 23 people on board.

As mentioned the weather started cloudy, warm but cloudy. The days walking initially were about 7 hours decreasing to 5 hours when we hit the 3000 metre mark, and it got steeper. The poor weather initially did not matter as we were walking through thick forest and jungle. One nasty side effect was the presence of many leeches. These are harmless though disgusting and nearly impossible to get off once they have sunk their fangs into you (burning them with a cigarette or using veet is the best way). They drop off once they have their fill of blood. I got done on the foot at night-time. It was my own fault for walking around in sandals. One woman was not as fortunate and got bitten on the arse.

The forests eventually cleared and we ended up in pastureland and villages. The area is very remote here so at every village, children would come down to practice their English and get their home work done. Less interested in practising English and more interested in collecting taxes were the Maoists. There was negotiations with our head Sherpa, money was given over and we were on our way. In fairness, the Maoists have done a really good job in replacing dangerous trails higher up.

We made our way eventually up to South Base camp at 4700m.The views hear are stunning or at least they would be except that they were clouded by a heavy mist. The Sherpa told us to wait 20 minutes as he was convinced that the mists would clear. And indeed they did and the views were stunning. We stayed approx 2 hours there taking photos and getting cold in case there were no further views. In fact apart form a heavy snow shower the weather remained sunny from then on to the rest of the trip.

We climbed a steep pass to another valley and stayed the night in a really pretty Tibetan village called Ghunsa. Got to try a Tibetan drink called Tsomba which was fermented Millet and Barley served in a wooden pot. You just add hot water and drink through a wooden straw. When finished, just add more water and repeat the process. A publicans nightmare!
We eventually made our way to the North Base camp at 5200 passing through the village of Kambachen en route. In 1930 the British Mountaineer Frank Smythe must have drunk too much Tsomba night before as he described the residents of Kambachen as “interbred cretins and imbeciles of stunted dwarf like appearance and possessing but limited intelligence”. Kambachen is now twinned with Ardee!

Base camp was stunning, surrounded by 7000 and 8000 metre peaks all around. It is also consisted of many memorials to various people who died on Kangchenjunga over the years, The most recent being 2004.The temperature at night ranged from a balmy -8C to a distinctly chilly -12C.

Stayed there for 2 days and then it was time to descend. Its not good to stay in altitude too long. I had no problems but a Sherpa and a Porter got sick and had to descend rapidly.
We went down the trail the same way as we ascended. It took about 4 days to go back. We flew back to Kathmandhu on the weekend.

I am currently in a resort town called Pokhara resting. I have lost about 6 kilos in weight so will head off again in a few days.

All the best, Dermot