Vomit Rock

May 12, 2018

Sunday 18th February
I woke in the middle of the night (1223 actually) to the sound of violent vomiting. Three guys had rocketed up here yesterday, bypassing Camp Canada and no doubt feeling very pleased with themselves. If they were in fact pleased with themselves I’m pretty sure that disposition has dramatically changed. They are paying for their rapid ascent with this state of sickness. They came up so quickly I thought they were porters for a few minutes – those guys have been up and down here for three months every other day so they are well acclimatised. You can’t mess with altitude and the extreme vomiting suggests they have. I heard Eduardo leap out of his tent and move between it and their tent, no doubt dispensing medicine – clue being some gagging and spluttering. Ironically I drift off, then wake at 0300 with a horrible sensation of nausea which does not culminate in any vomiting but which is debilitating to say the least. The trap with nausea is that you go straight off food and drink just when you need to be getting on to it. So I get up for breakfast and stomach a cup of hot water and some dry cake then go and lie down and instantly feel better. Kavitha is not only showing NO ill effects of altitude whatsoever but last night her O2 saturation lifted to 90%.

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Nest of the Condor (Nido de Condores)

April 14, 2018

Saturday 17thFebruary

The evening was still and mild when I went out at 0200. Well, as mild as an evening at 5000m can be. In the far, far distance on the horizon, a pale orange light. A high town perhaps in the general direction of Chile. The sky is clear but the recently set moon still lights up the sky over the horizon in the west, so the Milky Way is not as luminous as it usually is. We are now camped so high lightning from a distant, unseen storm lights up the sky. There is no sign of any cloud from horizon to horizon yet the flash reaches us from forever away.

But when I wake (after dawn) the breeze is up and low cloud fills the valleys below us. That’s new. It’s clearly below zero but it’s hard to tell by how much in this dry atmosphere when no ice forms any frost. You can’t say anything like “Oh, we’ve had ten degrees of frost” by looking at the ground. The burning sensation on your skin is a different measure. So too the fact that the Nalgene water bottles in our tent are frozen up. With no breeze the sub zero temperatures are actually very tolerable. But the slightest feather of a breeze cuts you deep and is to be avoided.  Read more

Oberon Fossicking

April 4, 2018

The galahs chitter away in their high pitched voices and in the distance the cockatoos draw their screeches out as long as they can. The distinctive crimson rosella chit chat has died away as the sun has shifted into its peach sheets. A pup yips and the other two or three dogs in Black Springs pipe up in reply.  Then go silent. The faintest chorus of frogs has started up, so faint I have to strain to make sure of what I am hearing. We are in the Black Springs camping area which is propped between the road to Oberon (24km away) and the state forest. There are a few others here as well given it is Easter. More than a few in fact, though fortunately unseen – there are quite a few hundred scouts (some say as many as 1000)  here on some sort of regional activity. We drove past their campsite – a sea of tents so the large number is plausible. They have been invisible today but we saw quite a few dishevelled, dusty, strung out kids on the forest roads yesterday. Read more

Multans Sultans – Taxi Story (Pakistan 3)

March 18, 2018

(I use my time in the taxi to practise my interview techniques.  In so doing I suddenly realised I was uncovering some remarkable stories. Some are captured on my blog under the Taxi Story collection  – click on link in right hand bar to see some of them).

I’ve been in Australia for just five years. I had a friend who I had not seen for a while. I looked him up on Facebook and he said he was ‘at the other end of the world’ studying at Griffith University. I had no idea where that was so I looked it up and discovered it was in Australia. I was surprised but I kept researching Griffith. Eventually I went to my father, borrowed some money from him and came to Brisbane.  Read more


March 18, 2018

Friday 16th February

I’m sitting in our tent at Camp Canada. The wind flaps and chops at the tent. Kavitha is eating lunch even though it is close to dinner time. The sun warms the tent but the breeze is very cool and I can feel the chill of the ground seeping through the floor into my right buttock which is hanging over the edge of the foam mattress. Even the ink in the pen is retarded and struggles to lay itself on the paper (I have a pencil back-up). Outside our front door the Portuguese speaking trekkers are in their usual animated conversation. We set up a little stone table at the front door of our tent and that has become the focal point for coffee, tea and conversation. Read more


March 12, 2018

Thursday 15th February

I went to sleep at 2200 last night and woke at 0700 which is an excellent sign the acclimatisation is working. Not even a pee break in the middle of the night. It’s calm at 7am which is a good thing but the wind soon picks up and whacks the tent around. But as long as you are out of the breeze you can be quite comfortable. Being an acclimatisation rest day we have breakfast at 0900. We sit in a cool mess tent that has a fridge like feel to it, until the sun finally reaches us at 0940 and instantly turns it into a hothouse. All around us are groups gathering gear and heading down the mountain to Mendoza. It’s the end of the climbing season and most have already come and gone. Tents vanish overnight as expedition companies start to pack up. And of course there are the solo travellers who pack up and vanish as well. Everyone who departs gathers in the little plaza outside our mess tent, take group photos, applaud (justly) the support staff, give each other high fives then clump off down to Confluencia 18km away, and thereafter to the front gate of the park followed by a bus ride to Mendoza. There is something other-worldly in the concept that at the beginning of the day you can be in a frozen outpost like this, while at the other end of the day you can be sitting in a warm restaurant in a cosmopolitan centre eating a freshly cooked meal and drinking a just-opened bottle of Malbec. Mule trains flood in from pre-dawn to pick up their gear, and expedition company gear as well, snorting and clopping their way past us then clattering back again after they are fully loaded up with everything from backpacks to gas bottles – the latter making them appear rocket propelled, what with a tank strapped on either side. Read more

St Valentines in Canada

March 1, 2018

Wednesday 14th February .

Its 1741 and we are all sitting around the table somewhat stupefied. Maybe it’s just a matter of regathering our strength. Or a matter of reflection, or both.  We have climbed to Camp Canada, departing at 1100 on the dot, and ascending to 5150m, a total lift in elevation of 850m. We covet every metre so when the altimeter shows we have climbed even another 50m above what was advertised we are exultant. 50m does not sound like very much but when you lift your head and see how far above you it is, then drop your chin again and start grinding out those small steps, 50m has a lot of currency. It’s very valuable indeed. (On the descent of course the value of the currency looks like the Papiermark in 1923. Wouldn’t buy you a crumb of bread!). We moved at a very slow pace – fortunately. But as Danilo reminded us, distance in these mountains is not measured by kilometres but by hours. It’s interesting to note Canada is only two kilometres away but we covered it in four hours, hitting the spur on which it sits a few minutes after 1500. It was a surprise because the whole while we were plodding this out, if you glanced up (never a good idea) you could see other climbers high on the mountain, crossing a vast sweep of ridge, at that excruciatingly slow pace. Coloured dots on a dun scree. Turns out that is the leg from Camp 1 to Camp 2 and we did not have to go up there today at all. But I didn’t know that until a few minutes before arriving at Camp 1. Read more


March 1, 2018

Tuesday 13th February
Rest day. I wake at 0500 with a serious case of nausea and an elevated headache. Despite that I was able to drop off to sleep again (after the necessary pit stop under a starry sky) and was woken by Kavitha at 0845 in time for breakfast at 0900. We’ve all had the doctor check us out and the results, especially the 02 saturation levels are encouraging. But the 3.5 litres I drank yesterday is still not enough and he urges us both to drink more. We load up our bottles with Tang in an effort to get more fluid down. The challenge with that sort of course is that we are constantly running to the nearest toilet, or rock!
We spend a little bit of time watching other groups do the slow grind out of here up to Camp Canada (Camp 1) which sits 850 m above us. It’s supposed to be a five hour round trip. We will do it tomorrow and take some of our gear with us. It will be interesting to see how the logistics work with the porters.
But right now we make the most of a hot tent and the urging by our guides to rest. It is tempting to explore and I am inclined to go over and check out the abandoned hotel. Indeed I feel somewhat guilty for lying around, but twice I am chided by guides for not resting so I take my cue from them and do as I am told. Unusual hey?!

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Plaza de Mulas

February 27, 2018

Monday 12th February.

A horrendous night with the bladder chasing me out of the tent every couple of hours. Bonus – the night sky. Double bonus – knowing I’m hydrated. It’s 7am and I’m listening to the camp murmur awake. Interestingly the temperature has plummeted since I was up before dawn. That’s a phenomena we will observe over and over again. Mild in the still predawn, freezing just as the sun gets cracking.

We have had to organise to get our sleeping bags at the pick up point for the mules by 0645 so that is now all done and I’ve packed my bag prior to heading up to the mess tent for breakfast. The light is just kissing the tops of the peaks but we are in chilly shadow for a couple of more hours. I have already learned to temper my enthusiasm for the sun, and to wait its own good pleasure. Read more

Wile E. Coyote

February 25, 2018

Sunday 11th February.

The night was still and mild – tested at 0300 when I stepped outside for a pee stop. It is always a remarkable thing in the mountains to realise the light, which is quite bright and sufficient to illuminate the inside of your tent, is cast by stars. Mountains in my experience are always light if the sky is clear. So you find yourself in a half asleep stupor supposed to be minding one thing while you end up gazing at the heavens and being mesmerised by the lights and the occasional meteorite. Take care that you don’t lose your balance! Read more

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