Posts Tagged ‘bolívia’

On the glacier - IllimaniThe two climbers from our 360 Extremes training project in Bolivia, alone on the glacier up to the summit of Illimani; two insignificant dots on the ice, making a slow journey up in the thinner oxygen levels at over 6,000 metres (19,600 feet) above sea level.

Down from the mountainClimbing down the knife-edge ridge from the summit of Huayna Potosi, just over 6,000m above sea level. With a 1,000m  drop on one side and 500m on the other, it’s slightly scary for anyone with a bit of vertigo..!


Pequeño Alpamayo - Bolívia

Dare you to walk over to that ridge...

It has been a good year and a half since we officially started working to this project; a good couple of years or more since we came up with the ideas. A lot of things have happened and a lot of things will still be done. It goes without saying that without  sponsorship, the more ambitious parts of the projects, the Poles, will simply not be possible – the whole logistics of these parts would be prohibitively expensive. But, in cutting down our daily expenses on little luxuries; spending less money going to restaurants, more time training and building the project, we have been able to do a lot more than we ever could have imagined that we would do prior to committing ourselves to this, and we still will be able to do a lot more.

Riding through the snowWorse case scenario and it doesn’t work out (yes it’s a worry!), we still will have opened up a completely new world of adventure and sports that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. If we hadn’t committed ourselves to this… goodness knows what we would be doing, but am pretty sure that we would not have gone mountaineering in Bolivia, and am pretty certain we would not have ridden from Land’s End to John O’Groats in winter. We probably wouldn’t be going to the gym and be in anywhere as near as good health as we are today, and I doubt that we would be entering into the various races we are going into now. We probably would be just working away, content but not happy with everything, in a standard city life somewhere, wondering what wasn’t quite right.

But fortunately we did come up with this whole mad-cap crazy project, and the world that has been opened to us is incredible. So much to do! Kite surfing (training for the polar training) in June… (hopefully) a two-week adventure race in Chile in February 2014, to be swiftly followed by our polar training at Baffin Island for a few weeks in February-March 2014… followed by either another mountaineering expedition or a traverse of the Greenland ice-cap (something that no Brazilian woman has ever done, as far as I have seen, so Natalia will be the first!)… exciting stuff! And then off… in August 2014.

The question is, do we wait a year longer if we can’t get sponsorship, or just go anyway on a round-the-world bike ride…? that is a good question and one that I do not yet know how to answer.

Opening upA shop lady sets up the outside of her stall in the morning along one of the colourful roads in the centre of La Paz. Plenty of neighbours competing to bring in the commerce from the tourists who stumble across the street and the number of people going along the street goes up massively as the day progresses.


Since the end of our last training project, riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the British winter, we have settled back into Brazil, something that has been much harder than it does sound (I know, that sounds silly… settling back in Brazil… how hard can it be to settle back into such a wonderful country..?!). It has been over three months since we got back, but it is still a bit difficult.

Sao Paulo Metro rush hour

The daily rush on the São Paulo metro system… and this is a good day.

Well the first thing is that we are back in the daily grind of the work place, earning our salaries to try to pay for all the training projects that we are still yet to do and all the equipment that we need; going through the São Paulo traffic can make life hell for the commuter – going to work by bus in the morning can take 40 minutes (at night, 30 minutes)… if you are lucky. This morning, like many other mornings, it took two hours. The alternative is metro, where in the rush hour, the stations and trains seem to be operating massively over capacity, and it isn’t fun.

Coming through the snow - beautiful but tricky conditions

Coming through the snow – beautiful but tricky conditions

The second thing is that, though it might sound crazy, riding that challenging route in the UK, even in the middle of winter, was simply a massive amount of fun as well as nice and challenging: every day, we had our goals – we needed to get to our next place in accordance with our schedule; trying to get there before dark; every day different challenges… The first day, absolutely miserable weather, cold, windy and raining cats and dogs… arriving at our host’s house completely soaked, like drowned rats; the next day, nicer, cooler, fresher… until we got over Dartmoor, when the weather closed in before we went down to Exeter… every day was different…  snowy days, icy days, fresh days, wet days and the gale force winds on our last day. Every family with whom we stayed was fantastic, welcoming, interesting and incredibly helpful. The HD with the photos and the videos of the journey may have been lost, but it is hard to imagine any of these memories fading.  I guess the adrenalin of doing all of that really was much higher than it is with us now back in São Paulo… back in this concrete jungle.

So back to São Paulo where we have had to think and prepare for our next training projects, and keep developing our fitness and skills to make sure that we are in as good a shape possible for the kite training; the polar training and a number of other projects that we want to complete before embarking on the actual expedition. For me, the mini-projects like the half marathons help to keep me sane as they give additional goals to keep going in the short-term, but the daily training at the gym and with our personal trainer, Alercinho, with the functional training, is absolutely essential.

Time is flying – it is unbelievable that we are in May already… almost half way through the year… almost a year before we should leave. There aren’t enough days in the week to be able to do everything we want and need to do, though at the same time, being here rather than on the road, just keeping to regular training schedules… is hard. I mentioned in my previous post that I missed the mountains. I miss the UK as well. I miss being out and on the road, and really can’t wait till we get out of São Paulo for the next project.

The Train Cemetary - BoliviaThe Train Cemetery in Bolivia, where trains are sent to rest and rust away at the edges of the Salar de Uyuni salt flats.


Huayna Potosi, with its summit under cloud - quite daunting!

Huayna Potosi, with its summit under cloud – quite daunting!

It has been almost a year since our first major training project, mountaineering in Bolivia, and I am very definitely missing it all and would love to go back. I don’t know what it is exactly – I must confess that I did not enjoy every minute of it; I got pretty sick for a couple of days; I must have lost a good few kilograms of weight going up those mountains; the fear of heights and looking down those steep steep drops… those 1,500metre falls just inches to one side, and those 500metre drops just inches away on my other side… nope, those knife-edge ridges were not nice! Mountaineering certainly leads to a lot of suffering if you ask me, especially when you are adapting for the first time to the high altitudes; your body just isn’t used to it and doesn’t know what to expect. Looking back at the video when I got sick and remembering back, and the change in my own physical state from good and enthusiastic, to vomiting and other nasty things, is too alarming to think about; literally in an hour or so!!

But I miss it, and I look at the photos and videos – even the one when I got sick – and the good memories of it all easily outweigh the difficult parts.


I guess all the moments which were hard were all balanced by the exhilaration of the challenge; really going for a goal that I had never done before but had wanted to do, and in facing some of my worst fears; going against the exhaustion with the altitude and the fatigue that the lack of oxygen causes in the body; managing to get to the summit and (more importantly!) back again… definitely amazing feelings. Seeing the tents of base camp, after 15 hours of climbing from midnight, just as the weather closes in… a superb sense of accomplishment. So I really do want to go back.

When will we be able to? Good question. I thought about it for this June, but we really do need to train for the kites, so we are going to Fortaleza for training with that for a week or so. Then we will have to keep working to keep income in for paying for this whole project; a month or so training up in northern Canada in February next year… meaning that may be possible next June or July – this would be the last chance before heading on the actual journey… so here’s hoping.

Eu escrevi sobre o Camino a los Yungas quando ainda estava na Bolívia e de lá mesmo consegui mandar o trecho do meu pequeno acidente… Agora conseguimos fazer um vídeos mostrando mais essa rota cheia de perigos e belezas. O segredo para terminar o caminho sem machucados é ser prudente o tempo todo e não confiar demais em si. No nosso grupo de 7 pessoas tivemos 3 quedas, nada muito grave: eu cortei minha boca e tive arranhões e roxos por todo o corpo; o Ben caiu de leve mas ficou com a barriga dolorida e um americano que nos acompanhava queimou e perdeu boa parte da pele de um dos braços ao cair e arrastar o corpo por sobre as pedras. É uma experiência super válida e um lugar cheio de surpresas…

From the start of the time in Bolivia, after a few days acclimatizing in La Paz, the first part of the mountaineering was from the Condoriri, where we looked to climb Pequeño Alpamayo (around 5,400m) – a beautiful mountain. But getting there wasn’t such a smooth process..

Okay, it has taken us a little while to go through all the video we got from Bolivia – quite a massive amount of content gathered, and so many hours in the day to go through it all, work at the office, and train, and organize everything. I hope you can forgive us!

This is just a short clip from the top of Huayna Potosi, the first time we had ever been above 6,000 metres, and only the third time we had been on mountains summits higher than 5,000m. So it was a pretty nice achievement, and I still feel pretty chuffed about managing it, though it wasn’t anything massively technical. At that altitude, every step is painful so, technical or not, a lot of work goes into it (and the body loses about 700 calories an hour!)

While it was exhausting, it was still amazing and had beautiful views of the surrounding mountains of the Bolivian Andes. As I guess I have mentioned a couple of times, however, my head for heights is pretty awful. I don’t like them! I have got used to the heights involved in climbing rocks, and that took a bit of practice… So going down the mountain was, with the knife-edge ridge down from the summit at least, absolutely terrifying. Makes me wince just watching this film and I hope you like it!

Thanks again to Casa de Pedra for their support with this project – and again to Kirk, for giving loads of help on the way down!

The World is our oyster… or at least it can be, if we dare to fulfill our dreams…

So it is about a year ago since the day I first started really thinking about this idea as a whole. Time has just gone by incredibly quickly and it is difficult to really go through all the changes and developments that have happened in this year in a short post.

Depois do sim hora de comer o bolo

A lot has happened over the year since this..!

The first time I mentioned the ideas to Natalia, just about the time of our wedding, it was more about speculation – why do people, when they think about going around the world, always think about going from east-to-west? Surely going north-to-south would be, though much more demanding physically, just as (if not more) interesting? From a geographer’s point of view: extremely interesting as we get to see the full range of climates from the tropical heat through to the polar cold… and then how people and animals cope and adapt to these climates. From the environmental point of view: because of the changing climate and how the very areas we will be going through are being threatened by these changes. From the cultural aspect: how the cultures change as go through the different countries and locations… and much more.

From influential bears…

At the first discussions, it was all just a pipe-dream, based on these interests and also childhood dreams and hopes of being an explorer. Further inspired by more recent adventures in British Colombia, seeing the bears there, and travelling through the Galapagos Islands. After more discussions and a lot of research, it became evidently possible: People have crossed the poles before – you just need a massive amount training and dedication to get to the right levels of fitness and capability to cross them. People have cycled through the Americas and through Europe and Asia before… again, training and dedication to be able to do this. It was a big step putting this website up at the beginning of the year though – this was something that really committed us to this project… No going back from then on!

…to mountain tops!

And so to the training… over the past year in preparation for this project, the transformation in our general fitness from pretty much average people to actually in pretty good shape now (still plenty more work to do though!) has amazed even ourselves. We have gone to Bolivia, climbing mountains of over 6,000metres – massive challenges for people who had just been used to just regular hiking at best; we are cycling at least 100km at least once or twice a week now, getting to know parts of São Paulo state where we wouldn’t have known otherwise. We are climbing at the Casa de Pedra gym in São Paulo during the week and maintaining regular fitness training at the gym there to get us into better shape. And shortly, we will be cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats. In winter – to help prepare us for some of the tougher conditions we go through before we get to either of the Poles. Then next winter, we will have our polar training up in Baffin Island…

It is all exciting, but it wouldn’t have been possible without support from Casa de Pedra and our climbing, training and equipment from them, and now, with Atticmedia and the development of our new website and logo. To be able to complete it all, we will of course need further sponsors – the Poles are not so easy! Though this is a fantastic start – just plenty more work to do over the next couple of years before we leave São Paulo on this circle…!

For more about our time in each of the places, see our posts…

The Yungas “Death”) Road (English) / (Portuguese)

La Paz (English) / (Portuguese)

Salar de Uyuni (English) / (Portuguese)

For more about our time in the first few Bolivian mountains, see our posts about:


Pico Austria

Pequeño Alpamayo