Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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Walking along Beira Mara, Fortaleza… somethings never change…

Back up to the northeast of Brazil, in the city of Fortaleza. Definitely nice being back – lots of good memories from here, and difficult not to feel a bit nostalgic. We have been staying with Natalia’s cousin, Jeane. When Natalia was younger, she lived with Jeane for a year or so and I guess it has been a good 15 years or so since they saw each other. So lots of catching up there.

We got here at 3am, but decided to stay at the airport until around 8am as didn’t want to wake Jeane and her family up… slightly too early for that, but not worth getting a hotel. The hours went by extremely slowly, especially with the airport television system playing the same clips over and over and over and over again, and no comfortable places to lie down. At least we managed to break my brother-in-law’s record on the Magic Alchemist (thank goodness for the iPad!), though, so something good came out of it! At 8am, we popped over to 30knot’s Wakeboard Park  and registered for our Kite Surf lessons, and then headed over to Jeane’s…

Since meeting up with Jeane, and getting introduced, not much has happened. Have been feeling pretty tired, though last night we went for a walk along Beira Mar – one of the main tourist avenues along the city beach front. A few changes with the addition of a “Japanese Garden”, a small Japanese-style park, though much of it all remains the same as I remembered, with a huge artisanal market along the beach. Nice ice creams as well!

Today we will have our first kite surfing lesson. The guy said yesterday that we would head off at 9am, though we called him a bit ago and he said “because of the winds” we won’t be heading off until 11am. Not sure how much this is due to the winds or to the slightly laid back way of Ceará state life… but still, hopefully we will be on our way in an hour or so. It will just mean that we will be surfing under the midday sun, which is pretty hot up here just three degrees below the equator…

Photo: Rsrsrsrs!!!!

A long way to go to the 13 million score of the global first place… but on our way… who knows, with another 5 hours at an airport, we might get it a little better…!

4am

Posted: June 1, 2013 by Ben Weber in Training
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At airport at 4am…. Easier staying here than going to hotel… Not much company around though!

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For the kite surfing, though the nice tropical beaches and hot weather will be an added bonus! I lived for a year or so in the city back in 2000, though I hear much has changed in that it has got ever larger. Will be great to be back and catch up with some old friends and definitely looking forward to the coming week. The city isn’t the most beautiful in the world in terms of architecture etc, and it does have its problems – harsh inequalities, crime, and it is not safe to be out away from the tourist places at night. However, it is an enjoyable place to be, and I do miss the ocean breeze, its accessibility and walking along the Beira Mar promenade. Will certainly be the warmest training project (and arguably the most fun…. but then again, every project we have done so far has been challenging and the rewards of managing to complete them have certainly outweighed any “suffering” we have had to endure in the process!!). But yes, flight at 11:30pm on Friday night and back in São Paulo next Sunday. Here we go!

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..!

 

Sir Ranulph Fiennes, often called the world’s greatest living explorer… what an inspiration! I can’t believe that it has taken me so long to finally finish reading the book (I kept on getting distracted, but that wasn’t fault of the book, because when you are reading it, it is not easy to put down… just reading on São Paulo buses isn’t so easy!), though I will probably re-read it just to jot down more notes about everything…! Thanks to my sister Lesley for giving it to me as a present!

His autobiography, details his adventures from early ages, in the army, the Poles… seven marathons in seven continents in seven days; learning how to climb mountains (at over 60 years old and after having had a heart attack) in order to face his vertigo; his first attempt at Everest and his climb up the north face of the Eiger… cutting off his own frost-bitten fingers… In a word… wow!

The autobiography is honest: He gives fantastic insight into the life of adventuring around the world, what has driven him, and what it takes, not just to succeed but also to admit defeat when you are so close to your goal. He shows himself to be critical of himself and others in appraisals and very much self-deprecating. I might not necessarily agree with some of his opinions about some of the legendary polar explorers in history, but still the stories that he tells throughout the book are pretty gripping and told in a good no-nonsense style.

I think this book is essential reading for any potential explorer and anybody who wants to get inspired by ideas or journeys that are seemingly impossible. Indeed, as Sir Ranulph shows in the book, “impossible” is pretty much defined by our own minds and imagination.

buenosaires-natBuenos Aires is a wonderful city, and a welcome escape from São Paulo – and going to the San Telmo market on a brisk morning is certainly one of the highlights.

 

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.

 

 
The Loch of Butterstone just perfectly smooth with the foothills of the Cairngorms behind it on a still winter’s day in Scotland.

 

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.

Why..??!

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.

Galapagos cliffs

Nazcar Boobies at the Galapagos, grooming each other by the cliffs in the midst of a massive amount of neighbouring wildlife . It is difficult to even walk without having be careful to put a foot on an iguana basking in the sunlight or a boobie nest in the middle of the path.

Around the world… the hard way…