26 Jan 2010
In true lindstrom form I was LATE leaving Arusha, Tanzania. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been handing over my role in Summits Africa to New General Manager Karsten Jannicke. The last minute details were driving me nuts. Anyhow, aside from a few teething problems, I know my team are going to be fab and after some hand shakes and banter I finally left the office, headed to meet Nangini (late) for lunch (not happy face on Nangini, poor soul). Frantic emails were popping through my PDA and so after a brief lunch punctuated with 2 phone calls (how does Nangs put up with this?) I headed to the Arusha hotel to grab my favourite taxi driver Peter. And then I went inside the hotel and sent some emails… Infuriating behaviour even for myself. So, 3.30pm, left Arusha, aiming to arrive at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta airport for an 11 something pm flight. The road is being rebuilt, had no idea how long it would take (4 hours, 6 hours or more). Peter, being the ever so helpful chap that he is, promised he would have meet at Namanga border by 4.30pm. An hour from Arusha on these roads?? ‘Ok’ I replied.
By the time we reached the open plains half way to Longido a tyre burst. Yup, middle o’ no where. Was there a spare tyre? Yes. Was the spare tyre usable? Kind of. Was there a jack? No. Frantic arm waving and 2 cars later we had a monster jack from a truck – a jack to lift 10 ton trucks a foot into the air. So that didn’t fit under the car at all, Peter, oh so ready to get the job done, drove his flat tyre onto a big rock to achieve the extra clearance required to posit the jack under the car. Ok. Wheel spanner, wheel spanner, oh where could it be? Certainly not anywhere near our car. Hmmm.
No time to guess when the next car with a suitably sized wheel spanner would pitch and so I liberated my bags from the car and waved down a passing Dar Express Coach – good timing!! 22,000 tsh later and a suitably happy conductor we were powering towards the border. Phew.
The border at Namanga posed no serious obstacles. Aside from the Kenyan visa officer who obviously needed a shot of double expresso. Or two. Or something stronger. I mean, does it really take 7 minutes to write up 4 lines!!!?? All the other passengers had left by the time I’d finally grabbed my passport back – ‘kwa heri’ chipped the female immigration officer, and then chuckled ‘oka, oka haha!’ – ‘come here’ in kikuyu a very simple play on the phonetic pronounciation of my name. Oh how we laughed. Not really. Now the conductor suhered me along at speed to catch the bus – which had motored down the road, out the border controls and for some reason had parked just far enough for me to break a massive fever like sweat from catching up. I wish I had missed the bus. 30 minutes down the road, as the night started to win over the day, the bus stopped. My mind raced ahead to missed flights, thousands spent on flights, gear, phone calls, insurance, gear. Fudge. Alighting from the coach I followed the driver and conductor listening to every word. Unbeknown to them I can actually understand even relatively complex Swahili (although my spoken Swahili is like a 4 year old speaking pidgin), and as soon as the yabbering turned to how much fuel was put in 2 days ago I knew it was time for plan c. The genius team has simply miscalculated the fuel requirements and run out of fuel. By now I’d donned my backpack and helped my self to my larger bag in the storage compartments, and distanced myself from the stranded Dar Express. Sure enough a Akamba bus (I’d used Akamba on my round lake Victoria trip, chilling moments flashed back) and there was nothing to do. A quick wave, the bush stopped. The door didn’t open. In fact it didn’t have a handle. It was broken. ‘I say, vipi?’ I yelled to the conductor and before you could say swiss cheese he had booted the door open. ‘Mia mbili’ (200 Kenyan shillings) he demanded before I could climb on board. A couple of my fellow passengers from the fuel starved Dar Express bustled past me, obviously desperate to secure a seat and I thrust 5000 tanzanian shillings into the conductors greasy hand and followed suit!
Some of these buses go rather fast.
We arrived in Jomo Kenyatta International airport in good time. Well, I was practically the last person to check in, but that was certainly a good thing. Upstairs into the departure lounge for some last minute duty free and then off into the British Airways Boeing 777. No crazy departure delays and soon off into the night sky London bound! Quick bite to eat, some movie, no idea what is was now and a good 5 hours kip. Sorted.
26 Jan 2010
The flights from Nairobi to London and from London to Miami were a bit of a blur. In London I did start chatting to a lass called Jessica from Chicago but drifted off for some retail therapy – some Oakley sunglasses and sky googles soon lightened my wallet considerably. The airport exchange rates USD$ to sterling is ridiculous, I was being charge 1.89 dollars to the pound, what a rip off and ‘rip off Great Britain’ deserves it’s name. This was duty free but the prices were 40% higher than prices in the US. Never mind, I needed the gear!
From London I caught American Airlines mid morning and we sped off into the air across the atlantic. A 10 hour flight this time and really crappy tv. Food was about as lame as it comes but I persisted anyhow not wanting to sleep. The chap next to me must have slept 8.5 hours of the 10. Good for him.
Coming into the Miami the first thing I noticed was that it was FLAT. And lots of water everywhere in canals (or canal like features). Heading into the airport I couldn’t help but notice how seriously tatty the whole airport was although I understand they are having a major face lift.. The plane landed around 2pm and my departure is at 11.45pm – oh my. Only one thing to do, complete customs and then head into Miami for some more shopping! I still needed to find a waterproof compact camera and preferably a Suunto watch for going to altitude and so I bit the bullet and forked out $30 to head into the Bayside area – good idea! Plenty of shops, and if you head back a block off the waterfront there are a plethora of watch shops, clothes shops and so on. The Guess shop in the Bayside shopping mall also managed to eke out some of my hard earned cash as I spotted some nice tatty jeans and faded black t. Loaded up with my Suunto watch and my second Canon Powershot D10 I eventually found myself back at the waterfront. Dusk had fallen and rather than settle for trashy airport grub or a Maccydees I plonked myself down at Mambo Café (not the Arusha version!) and promptly odered some Samwell Adams draught beer (lovely stuff) and a fish and prawns dish. The waitress was very keen to please, offering plenty of advice about traveling in Colombia insisting that I should head down to see a variety of sights from Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, El Nevado del Ruiz, Manizales and El Rio de 7 Colores! No idea what they really are (some mountain features and a 7 coloured river) but I dare say these are thing to see next trip).
The food was fine. By which I mean I could have been staited by the same quality of food at the airport, but it was Bayside, there were big boats in the harbour and the freeway is lit up at night as are the skyscrapers, so who cares about the meal with that sort of backdrop?
Headed into the airport through all the rigma of customs and then had 4 hours to kill. My backpack, now straining under the load of cameras, laptop, essential clothes and random books, felt vastly overweight and so I decided to meander around for 2 hours – excellent pre Aconcagua training! Way to go Ake!
Speaking of training programs, don’t come to me for a training regime, Lindstroms generally wing that sort of non productive use of time instead preferring to loiter around talking on hashes (running club drinking problem for theun- initiated) and wherever possible do ramdom excessive acts of adventure to keep fitness levels up. See my post on the 2 day Mt Meru hike last weekend as an example. Next Meru trip is in March 2010 for those that are interested in seeing the ash cone, which is very rarely visited / hiked and summiting Meru, let me know.
27 Jan 2010 Hola Santiago!
The evening flight from Miami to Santiago was ostensibly ideal – night flight, get some sleep etc etc. Except that my body clock was way on the other side of the world and so now with low serotonin levels and having just had the in flight meal, I was ready to party / run around, do anything except sleep. Fudge. Finally morning came, views of the Andes became apparent (although I had to sneak glimpses over my neighbors head) although not overly dramatic just yet.
Santiago is a very clean airport, plenty of eateries and the ubiquitous Starbucks. Armed with almost a liter of coffee I prowled around for a bit looking for a plug to charge up the laptop. There was one. It was occupied. The owner / nay usurper! of the plug that had snuck in before me and was now kipping on a nearby chair, so what to do? Plugged mine in and kept an eye for stirring of said usurper. Teehee…
Reading through the guidebook I had just bought (Lonely Planet South America on a shoestring, $60!!) I was reminded about Che Guevara’s (or che guava as I fondly call him) bike trip through Argentina and a plan begins to form in my mind for next year.. What’s the point in coming 12,000 miles to just climb a mountain!!?? Perhaps finding a 250cc motorbike this time and then setting up an Aconcagua climb + round Argentina / South America trip for next year should be the way to go. Again, if anyone’s interested in doing something quite that nutty then lemme know – would be February 2011 I reckon.
Kevin Jackson, our guide and friend, soon arrived and joined me for the next leg to Mendoza. The flight was short (an hour) and some of the views very spectacular. I managed to ask the kids next to me to take a shot, see below, but it was far from dramatic. This area is stunning.
At the airport we met up with the trip Doctor Phil Swart - South African, done some crazy trips such as rafting all the way from the source of the Amazon down very challanging rapids (for months at a time!!). From Mendoza airport into the city - hot and dry. Reminds me of Sudan, not in the rainy season though..
From the pictures you can see that the hotel, the Diplomat Hotel, has a wine tasting room... A wine tasting room - wow. Apparently Mendoza is famous for great wine and steaks. I've tried both, fair to say that it is true..
Once I've done some research I'll post Argentina info. First impressions of Mendoza:
* pretty. Very pretty
* Lots of cafes with pedestrian areas, parks
* Restuarants everywhere
* People take siestas VERY seriously!
* Yes is a common word. Getting things done, not quite as common
* Friendly and helpful people
Follow us online http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0Re2G5nhYuKEmhMznsyt4St7RoP1hecdp to find out where we have actually reached. If you check this out periodically you'll actually be able to see exactly where we have reach on Aconcagua..
Tomorrow we head up to Penitentes for one more night in a hotel and then it is onto the mountain. Can't wait to take photos and so as I sign off for a couple of weeks safe journeys one and all and wish us luck..
Argentina - Quick Facts
- 28 million km square (roughly the size of India, or so my Lonely Planet guide tells me!)
- 39 million people
- Exchange rate today 3.80 peso to $1 USD
- Capital is Buenos Aires
- Language is mostly Spanish although Quechua is spoken in the north west