Friday, November 23, 2012

No rest for the Weary...or just a tad bit!

After the 100K we stuffed our faces with Dim Sum in Hong Kong and got 1.5 hour massages where the woman massaged me with her feet *only* for the 1st 45 minutes. She hung from metal bars in the ceiling to adjust the pressure. What a normally person would then have done is stay on the couch, elevating and icing their legs in recuperation. I, on the otherhand,had Taiwan to explore.

Side Note: My 3.5 train ride TO Taidong was a 'no seat' ticket. When they say, 'no seat,' they really mean no seat. People literally were standing in the aisles for the duration of the ride. These feet have some limits. So, i squeezed into the luggage area behind the chairs and curled up on my backback for the journey. Kind of ingenious I think.

Summary of my post 100K activities and moments of relaxation in Taiwan:

* 20K bike ride around Green Island (bike was meant for someone who was 5'4, not 5'8)

* 3hrs of soaking in one of the few salt water hot springs in the world

(Survived 5.2 Earthquake - epicenter in Taidung)

* 4-5 hrs of hiking - yes, more stairs and hills - through Taroko Gorge.

* 1hr of soaking in scorching hot natural, outdoor hot springs in the Gorge

* 1hr of stuffing myself with Taiwanese treats at the Hualien Night Market (my version of Thanksgiving feast)

.....that about covers Day 1 to 4 in Taiwan!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

100k (62 miles) across Hong Kong. Check! OR Never Say Never....

Walking 100K (62 miles) is a battle of fitness, endurance, mental strength, team unity and exhaustion.

Team J*N Sando (Jeanne, Jen, JuAnne, Karen) set off to attempt this endeavor in 29 hours or quicker on Friday, November 16. I came up with the brilliant idea so I was prepared to take the blame if it was decided part-way through that this was the worst idea ever. When it came down to it, none of us had ANY idea what we were getting into. Jen was coming off an injury. Karen had run a marathon and had been going on 'walks' to break-in her shoes, I had run a marathon and JuAnne and I had walked the perimeter of Manhattan (32+ miles). 

So when we rolled up to the start line (with having read training suggestions and packing tips only 24hrs before), we encountered a sea of hikers decked in gear from head-to-toe - all armed with hiking poles. The hiking pole 'must have' recommendation was something Karen identified during the last-minute 24hr cram session for tips, so she picked up poles and Jenn brought her set. Luckily, the Bravos loaned JuAnne and myself poles, as my plan to resort to a long umbrella if need be was fraught with trouble. I am not afraid to go as far as saying that Jess and Lander Bravo saved 2 lives that weekend ;)

Not only did we feel inept on identifying the gear we needed and what to pack for each leg, but we were in the dark on what preemptive body care was required. Should we be strapping ourselves with neon tape across our knees and thighs like the clearly prepared hikers around us? Karen pulled out baby powder and said: "I powdered my feet. I HEARD it helps." Sure, why not, i thought. It can't hurt. And while I was dumping powder on my feet as if i was a pastry chef preparing for a big bake-off, it truly dawned on me that we not only had no idea what we were getting into, we were completely clueless. So, I embraced the notion that ignorance is bliss and that there's no use trying to cram last minute for an exam. As long as we could all place one foot in front of the other, we will get ourselves to the end....somehow.

This 'somehow' took many forms. I would like to attribute 75% of that 'somehow' to the superfans. Mrs Lee (Karen's mom) and Kenny (Lee family friend) were our support crew who met us at 3 checkpoints (and knew the course checkpoint details better than us), transported our excess gear that we used to replenish at the transition checkpoints, nourished us with vegetables, home-cooked fried rice, yams, boiled eggs and more (instead of living off of GU, nuts and peanut butter as originally planned) and served as our momentum to keep us going and keep us up upright (literally) at the end when we were clumsy and swaying with exhaustion. 

By saying this, I might be adding fuel to Karen's theory, 'Jeanne, I don't know about your shady math' when i was re-calculating our expected finish time (which for the record was somewhat on-mark), but I would also like to attribute 75% of that 'somehow' to my team members and our laughter. Yes, we probably laughed our way through several parts out of delirium, but whether it was delirium or not, my team made me laugh and as odd as this may sound, I really had fun walking those 100 kilometers with them. The goal was to check-in every 2 hours and create a quote board of classic phrases and moments. This proved to be a bit dangerous in the pitch black and pouring rain, so after i almost ate it twice, i put my handy device away and concentrated on the trail. The common refrain uttered became 'that's going on the quote board.' Including these quotes out of context will likely fall on deaf ears and/or make you question our sanity, but we found humour in discussions over what would cause us to melt-down, when some of us would pop ibuprofen and some Vicodin, wedgies vs butt chafing, sweating balls vs monsoon-like conditions, leaving raincoats and warm gear in the car while its monsooning with dropped temperatures, the strategy of trying to nap while walking and many more.

25% of that 'somehow' was the scenery. We crossed beaches, climbed up steep, rocky mountains, walked through the woods, sauntered through grassy fields, pounded across hard pavement, scaled down rocky hillsides and then climbed up more steep hills with grades so steep that put San Francisco hills to shame. "Couldn't we have picked a flatter country to do this in?" Jen said as we ascended so many steps and down so many more. Our calves and quads were jolted awake and Jenn's knee was swollen like a pumpkin harvesting between her thighs and calves. However, without those steep ascents, we would have been bereft of those stunning 360 degree views with the highest point on the course at 957 meters. Although i rather agree with Jen's second observation, "Hong Kong clearly does not know about the concept of switchbacks." We saw Hong Kong go to sleep, we saw the city slowly sparkle as it woke up and to our dismay, since we were originally hoping to be done by 4pm or earlier, we once again said good night to the sun, watching the daylight disappear as the darkness creep in and our beds remaining a distant memory.

Which brings me to the last 25% of the 'somehow' (i decided that it takes 200% of 'somehow' to finish this damn thing). It takes a mix of mental strength reinforced by stimulants, drugs, along with team unity to persevere through the exhaustion. For me, scaling the endless steps and steep mountainsides was a good physical challenge, but doable. In fact, on leg 3 when we were hitting our first series of mountains in the dark, I sucked down a GU with caffeine and i found myself weaving in and out of people up the mountain to the beat of my music. Once again on leg 6 after 60+ kilometers, I took the same caffeine strategy up Needle Hill, which is a 300 meter elevation increase climb for 2 kilometers and I felt like I flew up the 'hill'. So, physically, i felt great. No blisters. My knees and muscles were holding up. Although my feet were having moments of revolting and sending a shooting pain up the right foot. This is where the ibuprofen came into handy. But what got me was the exhaustion. By kilometer 79.1 (49 miles), I was getting sleepy. The inevitable caffeine crash. The big middle finger from my body saying it is pretty damn pissed off that i've avoided curling up under the covers for 2 evenings in a row. And we were all feeling it. I saw the look on Juanne's face after Needle Hill (60K) and her joke about skipping out on the rest of the hike and hitting up Dim Sum probably partially rang true. The hardest part was coming to the realization of how much the hills were slowing us down and our estimated goal of 29 hours was turning more into 35 or more if we did not step it up. "Do you really want to come in at 1am?" Karen said during her pep talk at Checkpoint 7. Hell no, we all agreed and as a team we rallied. JuAnne led the way and powered us up the final 465 meter elevation gain climb. We fueled up by our Superfans at Checkpoint 8 and all agreed we could tackle the last 13 miles, aiming to run a few stretches since the last 6 miles was 'supposed' to be flat. Ambitious? yes, we were, but at least we were consistent! I started to hit a wall. If a cop were to make me walk the line to test my sobriety  I would have gotten a big fat 'F' and landed myself in the slammer because i could not keep straight. Jenn gave me gum to chew. A few times, she startled me awake as I was nodding off, asking me questions to keep me alert. The team was looking out for each other. The last checkpoint was grim. People looked like zombies. And our spirits were deflated when the flat 6 miles we had been dreaming of never materialized. Remember when I mentioned that we were a bit behind on the preparation reading material? Somehow we missed the memo that there was a course change and the last 6 miles were no longer flat. At this point, I was still zig-zagging, Juanne was dizzy, Karen was falling asleep & Jenn was trying to keep us together (perhaps this helped her avoid thoughts about her swollen knee and popping blisters). We pulled over and had a heart-to-heart to see if it was safe for us to continue. The group consensus was to pop more Chocolate covered coffee beans, more ibuprofen & to keep on trudging. The last 1.5 kilometers seemed endless with multiple signs encouraging that we were 'almost there.' We still had humor in us though as I snapped a photo of Jenn flipping off this cheery sign. And karen asked me, on the Scale of 1 to 10 how much do you hate yourself right now for coming up with this 'brilliant' idea. And i laughed and gave in and said, "ok, you're right. i am a 10 for complete self-loathing."

But as much as we joked about our 35 hour and 55 minute 100 Kilometer hike across Hong Kong being the 'worst idea' ever, and although Jen and JuAnne look like cripples as they walk, Karen's muscles are still sore 3 days later, I have lost 1 toe nail with another on the way and another is turning black, Jenn's feet look like she's nine months pregnant with twins, Juanne is swollen and we all are non-stop eating post-event, I would venture to say we had a blast. Karen says, Never again. Jenn says, Never say Never. As i crossed the finish line, I said Never again. But hey, a better motto in life is, 'Never say Never,' right? ;)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hong Kong DAY 3: Pain & Relaxation

Today was about relaxation. And this Relaxation took several forms. 1) Pain, 2) Lounging, 3) Gluttony

1) Pain
It might sound masochistic to say i experienced absolute agony to get to pure relaxation. But i only speak the truth. As my calves were killing me, I sought out a masseuse to help work out my knots before I create more on Friday.

I told the woman i like a 'strong' massage. They send in a tiny, young woman, wearing a mini white polo shirt, an orange mini-skirt and pink jelly flip-flops. She shuffled her way toward me and let out a giggle and said 'you are very strong,' and showed me her legs to compare. While i had 15 seconds of doubt on how this massage was going to go, this was quickly countered as soon as this woman layed one finger on my body. Holy shit was she strong. I realized that for the next 90 minutes i would be deep breathing my way through agony. She found tendons and crunchiness that I  might have known existed, but did not realize it was possible to activate the pain in the ways she successfully managed.  After 90 minutes, i lied on the table like a limp doll. Amazing.

2) Lounging
I took a ferry to a bus to Cheung Sha beach on Lantau Island. THis is one of Hong Kong's longest beaches and along this strip of sand, there was one other couple, a man swimming laps and a local guy skating with a skin board along the water. I listened to the waves crashing and chilled on the beach until the sunset.

3) Gluttony
The gran finale of my relaxation was splurging on a chef's sushi selection followed by hunting down a highly recommended dessert place, 'honeymoon desserts'. Hong Kong is horizontally challenged so most restaurants are in tall buildings and shopping malls. While i would not seek out a food court in the US, i made my way to the 11th floor in the mall to try one of the numerous dessert options offering some form of mango, black sticky rice, coconut juice, sweet glutinous ball concoctions. With a full belly, I ended my day of bliss.

NEXT STOP: 100K Trip Prep, Another Beach Exploration & Dim Sum with Jordan!

Hong Kong DAY 2: I HEART da' Kong

Whoever says they didn't like Hong Kong clearly did not get out of the city. This place boasts more hiking trails than you can imagine with stunning views and easy access to beaches and waterfronts. Practically everyone speaks English - or enough to get by - public transportation is intuitive, people are friendly and everywhere so far has felt safe. 

Day 2 proved to be a 'fail' on proper tapering pre-100K walk, but a success in getting out of the city and exploring. My day started with morning yoga, home-cooked breakfast and then setting off to the subway to then catch a bus to Big Wave Bay. There are several long hiking paths throughout Hong Kong. I am doing the full 100K MacLehose Trail on Friday. Today, I started from the end of the Hong Kong Trail, which runs 50K and is a series of rolling hills with coastal views. By the time i got to the start of my hike, it was 12pm, hot and the trailhead began with nearly 1000 steps leading me up the mountain. I would beg to differ with Jordan that this portion of the hike is 'easy.' :)

I decided that 20K was sufficient and escaped by 2 busses to Stanley where there are touristy markets, bad expat restaurants, but nice waterfront views. 

I then found my way on another bus to Aberdeen where I joined Jordan and his girlfriend at their Dragonboat practice. Dragon Boats are human powered boats (powered by our paddling) and I learned a few things. One you can't take a break or you will get behind and hit the person in front of you. Two you don't want an uncoordinated beginner to sit behind you or she will splash your back and head with water and smack your hand and paddle with her paddle the whole time. I thought we were going for a light paddle in the evening around the bay. Hence, why i 'failed' again on my pre-100K tapering. Regardless, it was a lot of fun and I highly recommend pretending you're a local and crashing a dragonboat practice next time you're in town.

The night was not complete without stopping by a local dive to eat some noodles (sans soy sauce is a bit flavorless, but I will take what i can get).

NEXT STOP: Find a masseuse to ease my aching body and RELAX!

Hong Kong DAY 1: City Sitings & How Spoiled Am I?

I arrived to Hong Kong and made a rookie mistake (i blame the jet lag) of losing my subway pass, which is required to exit the station. I talked / smiled my way out of the fine and continued on to my friend Jordan's house. And How spoiled am I there?

Jordan's parents place has a view of the Hong Kong city and I have my own room with a live-in maid who cleans my room, washes my clothes and makes me breakfast every day. Not to mention, Jordan has planned out itineraries of things to do each day and how to get there. Lucky me! So Day 1's post will capture some of my city observations, experiences and ruminations.

* So far, 2 people have asked to take a photo WITH me

* Shirtless men carry bags or wheel barrows of heavy goods through the city streets

* Condom ads and ads with half-naked seductive women have made more appearances than expected along the subway escalators

* There's a street where each vendor sells gold fish

* I apparently have an addiction to taking pictures of fruits, vegetables, hanging meat, flopping fish and big blocks of tofu in the street markets

* I also am compelled to take pictures of random signs with Chinese characters that look cool to me, but probably just say 'laundry' or 'garbage'

* Starbucks has monopolized this city

* Soy sauce is in everything (damn glutard)

* Expats are in abundance & often are toting a lit cigarette unnecessarily close to my face in the crowded streets

* There's a plethora of dried powders, mushrooms, fruits and vegetables that i am intrigued to know how each is consumed

* Bright, neon cartoon figures truly are loved here

* Bright, neon signs shine bright across buildings even in the day

* Even people with limited English have gone over and beyond to help me, such as the man who worked at 711 who spent 10 minutes trying to help me figure out how to set-up my phone with my SIM card

* My calves have reported back that Manhattan is a LOT Flatter of an island, which is not boding well for my 100K walk on Friday

NEXT STOP: Adventuring outside of the city

Friday, March 16, 2012

11 Days in Antarctica: An Icy Fairytale

Wow! Wow! Wow!

How does one describe and summarize the experience of an 11-day trip to and from Antarctica? Pictures will not do justice to the beauty. Words can't capture the grace, serenity and magic of the wildlife, scenery and emotions evoked from this experience. But i have no other option then to stumble through my incapable words to give my best description of the adventure.

BEFORE i do, i need to break the news that while i did touch land on my 7th continent, I did not complete full circle my tradition of puking from food poisoning in each continent. I guess I will have to return to Antarctica in the future...


Morning Routine: Each morning, classic songs, like 'Here Comes the Sun,' play over the loudspeaker followed by the expedition leaders soothing voice lulling me awake with 'Goooood morning' and an update on the morning itinerary. There's no such thing as a set schedule in Antarctica due to the unpredictable weather. I then jumped out of bed and did yoga, which takes on a whole new meaning of stability and balance when you're on a rocking boat!

Food: Let's just say we did not go hungry on the boat. They even made me gluten-free bread.

Lectures: On the days we did not do Zodiac cruises or landings, we had talks on birds, geology, history, whales, etc. I will admit that the rocking of the boat was so soothing that I nodded off during most lectures!

Free Time: Pre-trip, I put 8 books on my Kindle. During the trip, I read maybe 8 pages of 1 book. If i was not at a lecture, staring at the sea, eating or nodding off in my cabin, i was chatting with my roommate and the other fantastic people on the boat from all over the world.

Polar Plunge: With an observed temperature of 0 degrees Celsius (32 degree Fahrenheit), I somewhat fearlessly plunged into the Southern Ocean. I was so invigorated, ready for Round #2, until a Leopard Seal swam by and thwarted those plans.

Sea Sickness: Vomit bags lined the hallways for urgent spews. We hit an Antarctic storm with hurricane winds of over 100 knots that was off the charts on the force scale. Plates and glasses slid, crashing off the tables at dinner. During the infamous Drakes passage, the ship turned into a ghost town, where the majority of the people hugged their toilet or clutched their pillows yearning for the swaying to stop. I, on the otherhand, joined by a few other strong of stomachs, drank my way through the Drakes passage, sharing bottles of wine and home brewed whiskey (thanks Jared).


Seals: Weddell seals, fur seals, crab eater seals & leopard seals, lounged on rocks, floated on sea ice, played in the water & followed our boats. These fat blobs of blubber had such grace as they swam, popping their head in & out to stare at us with massive, unassuming yet mischievous eyes.

Whales: Almost every time we got in the Zephyr Boat, a humpback whale would pass in the near distance or even alongside the boat, waving their fin to say hi and their tail to say goodbye in perfect unison and rhythm in their 40 ton ballet.

Penguins: We saw 5 types of penguins. Sometimes the penguins stood around with limited activity. But as soon as they started moving, their waddling gait amused me so much i could stare at them for hours, even though i was standing or sitting on rocks and soil splattered with red and brown penguin shit (red from the krill they eat). I especially loved when they played, chased, fought or pecked at each other. Molting season made the penguins look like punk rockers with mini Mohawks or awkward teenagers with random tufts of fluffy spots of hair. At one landing site, there was a penguin pool where the penguins splashed around and 'practiced' how to swim. And my all time favorite penguin watching was what appeared as fat flying fish but turned out to be graceful penguins swimming and diving out of the sea. Spotting 'fying fish penguins' always triggered a chain reaction of instant giggles and brought a big smile to my face.

Me: This seems like a perfect place to describe what i wore: 2 wool socks, wool tights, thick running pants, windproof / waterproof pants, sports bra tanktop, thick running shirt, arm sleeves, down jacket, ski glove liners and sometimes ski gloves, headband warmer, hat, neck warmer and finally one massive, bright yellow poncho lined with fleece. I had so many layers i waddled like a penguin, fitting in quite well with the wildlife.


Ice: With icebergs that could be measured in miles, calved from the massive Antarctic ice shelf, beautiful ice sculptures floated in the sea, transplanting you into a winter fairytale. No 2 ice sculptures are the same and if you let your imagination go, you could see llamas, faces, hearts and more. This frozen continent is a photographers dream, surrounded by jagged lines, smooth edges and contrasting colors with bright white ice behind a gray or blue sky backdrop and bordered by bright, turquoise blue water. Picture perfect.

Whaling Stations / Research Centers: Antarctica is full of fascinating history on explorers who dared to traverse this continent before maps were created and with rudimentary supplies. Now there is an array of international research centers with a lot more modern conveniences, but regardless, it seems nuts to be literally trapped on the mainland continent or an island during winter with a few people (only men in the Ukrainian station) and your research until the ice melts, signaling the beginning of summer.

Views: 10 to 30 minute hikes up an icy mountain side revealed 180 to 360 degree views of glaciers, rocks, snow and glowing light. Indescribable. Whether i was doing a headstand (picture to come) or staring out into they abyss sitting directly in the snow, i found peace - both in the external surroundings and within.


Nature is full of mystery, wonder and adventure. It can be harsh and relentless and full of surprises during the battle of survival of the fittest from all of the elements. BUT it also is full of pure moments of nature and grace and one-of-a-kind beauty.

There are interesting parallels with humans and nature. Like wildlife, life too won't stop to let humans prepare or catch up. You never know what's around the corner - both good and bad. There are so many special and unique people and adventures to experience.

SO, if I had to describe Antarctica and my experience in 3 words, I would say:

Life is Beautiful.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What would you do at the 'End of the World'

What would you do at 'el fin del mundo' (at the end of the world)?
  • Get an official stamp in my passport: Ushuaia, La ciudad mas austral del mundo (the southernmost city in the world). CHECK
  • Eat local King crab in a bowl of amazing sauce with tomatoes, green onions and a touch of cream, while sipping on a 550ml bottle of malbec wine and watching the sunset CHECK
  • Walk up to a summit in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia for 2.5hrs with Noone around. Hike included a 1 kilometer ascent, so steep i walked on my toes. However, i stopped 25 meters short of the summit on the side of the steep mountain slope where the trail was covered in snow. I attempted to walk across the snow piled path and was stopped by fear halfway through and i slid my butt back to the dirt trail. i sat there for a good 25 minutes debating whether i was being too in my head or whether it really was dangerous. (video to come) CHECK
  • Enjoyed hot apple tea on the summit brewed by 2 Israeli guys who arrived where i was sitting right when i was about to head down. They convinced me that it was safe to cross the snowy sloped trail. They made 'foot holds' for me to walk in with their boots and sure enough we crossed with no problem. A picture really does not do this view justice. nor do words. it just doesn't. CHECK
  • Went streaking through the town center, down to the port, jumping into the water at the 'end of the world'. Idea processed, considered and REJECTED. (i will save mysef for the Antarctica cold water plunge in a few days.)
  • Space intentionlly left blank for ideas on what YOU would do at the 'end of the world.' I am open to your suggestions........

NEXT STOP: 11 days on a boat to Antarctica!!!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sparkling White Glacier - Pretty in Pink Plastered Skin

There was a slight mix-up with today's activity. i was supposed to do a glacier trek of Perito Moreno (picture to come). i did do a 'mini' trek, but it was child's play version of the one i expected to do.

we took a boat to the glacier. once again, it was a stunning day with cloudless, blue skies. the glacier literally sparkeled like a diamond in the morning sunlight.

Once we arrived, we literally walked 2 minutes and then we stopped for a 'break'. We then got cramp-ons and walked up a section of the glacier for 30 minutes and back down for 30. I will admit, i was a bit disappointed not to do the full trek. BUT it was such a beautiful day and i still got a lot of quality time by the glacier that it would be silly to be too bummed.

i spent an hour at the view point right next to the glacier and watched big chunks of ice break off and land in the lake. you know it will happen because this loud roar emits, almost like thunder striking or like a plane flying overhead, and then there's a loud crack and crash as the ice falls into the water. Phenomenal! (video to come where this woman keeps saying in the background, que hermoso, que hermoso!)

As a side note, i had a moment of wanting to strip off all my clothes and slide my bare, bedbug bitten body along the glacier to cool my 100 or so incessantly itching bites. The glacier is deceptively not a smooth block of ice, but rather a collection of small, diamond like ice chunks that would have literally torn holes into my skin if i attempted this 'alternative' healing remedy. Thus, i restrained from the urge and waited til i got into town to buy Calamine lotion at a pharmacy.

My pretty in pink plastered skin would have been a stunning, artistic contrast against the sparkling, white glacier.

NEXT STOP: Flight to Ushuaia - El fin del mundo (the end of the world) - and Tierra del Fuego

Sunday, February 26, 2012

5 Daily Discoveries During my 5 Day Hike in Torres Del Paine Patagonia Chile

5 days hiking in Patagonia by myself. i had the most amazing weather. it never rained and was hardly windy, which is pretty much unheard of for Patagonia. Also, although the first 2 days were crowded, the following days had way less people - perhaps because they just reopened the trail after the december fire? This meant i had countless hours of walking alone and sitting by myself overlooking stunning views. I had 5 days of good jeanne time and here are my favorite moments and discoveries:

Day 1: Las Torres Mirador

Hiking Time: 3 hours and 40 minutes

Favorite Moment: Sitting on the lake at the base of Las Torres, trying to figure out how to bottle up this feeling of pure stress-free relaxation. (Picture to come, but basically the setting was 3 huge granite rock towers, which normally are encased in clouds, towering in front of a blue sky and over a pristine, blue lake.)

Songs of the Day: wax tailer: How i feel, Que Sera

Discovery of the Day: Sitting by the lake at Las Torres mirador, I leaned against a rock for an hour or so with the warm sun shining on me and a cool breeze in the air. It was only a propos to put on Wax Tailer´s remake of Michael Buble ´Feeling Good´

´Sun in the sky - you know how i feel

Breeze drifting on by - you know how i feel

Its a new dawn. A new day.´

And how did i feel!?!? Well, after the next wax tailer song came on, Que Sera, which starts off with ´and now the moment we´ve all been waiting for is here´ I thought that captured it! i am in THIS moment! Here i am on another wonderful trip and i am so grateful to have this opportunity and so stoked to get this ´me´ time. i felt surrendered and at peace with the notion that ´the futures not ours to see.´

DAY 2: Sunrise at Las Torres

Hiking Time: about <7hrs (including a few breaks)

Favorite Moment: I woke up at 445 am to see the sun rise over Las Torres. I set out with my headlamp on up the hour and 20 minute climb with a Chilean guy and his girlfriend who worked at the refugio. I would have froze my ass off if they did not give me the insider tip to bring my sleeping bag with me to keep warm while I wait for the sun to rise. Upon arrival, I settled in next to a rock that blocked the wind a bit and wrapped myself in my sleeping bag. I sat there watching the transformation of the granite towers turn from a pinkish color to a deep orange to a bright yellow to a white. It was a stunning transition to watch and my description does not do it justice. It possibly was my favorite experience in the 5 days.

Songs of the Day: Goyte Somebody i Used to Know, Anna Rossi - Frame me Right

Discovery of the Day: Very easy day of hiking...a lot of time to think, listen to music and chill. Throughout various moments in the day, i was reminded that the 32 year old version of me is a LOT wiser than the 23 year old version of me..of course, one would hope so. :)

Day 3: Hike into Valley Frances

Hiking Time: 11 hours (includes breaks also includes me hiking out 15 minutes and realizing i forgot my hiking poles and turning around to get them. and then hiking out 25 minutes just to realize that the tips of my hiking poles popped off. I turned around and found 1 tip at start of the trail. The other lost forever. So there i was an hour and 20 minutes into the hike, but yet, right where i started :) Que Sera!)

Favorite Moment: There are 3 main view points in the French Valley. The first one was at the top of the peak where i honored the snow capped mountains in front of me with a headstand on a rock. The Brazilian who took my photo thought i was crazy. (picture to come!) The 3rd look out point had 3 other people there and then they left. I sat by myself for 30 minutes in the valley frances with a 360 degree view of of the lake, mountain face, snow-capped peaks, and the horn shaped (cuernos) mountain peaks). OM!

Song of the Day: i had a ´spiritual´ day and listened to a detox yoga speaker series by Seane Corn that i listened to when i was in indonesia. She has moments where she references God quite a bit, which is a bit too much for an agnostic - borderline atheist, BUT if you can put that aside, wow, this cd always centers me.

Discovery of the Day:

Bear with me here, because i am about to have a preachy moment. The yoga series i listened to today talks about how emotions, such as stress, fear, loss, sadness, unresolved grief, regret, anger, etc make our bodies toxic and effect our well being. We´re having an impact on ourselves with something as simple as being frustrated at someone for getting in our way on the street, causing us to miss our subway or something bigger like work stress, disappointment with friends, the end of a relationship, etc.

Instead of harboring these emotions, which will have a long-term toll on our mind and body, embrace the idea that every experience - both good and bad - becomes an opportunity. It does take a LOT of initial energy to shift your perspective - to let things go or to find the silverlining. BUT there is a sense of empowerment knowing that YOU have the responsibility and power in every situation to make it what it is. For example, that missed subway is now an opportunity to sit and relax for 10 minutes or that ´rejection´ is actually a gift necessary to get closer to knowing who you are and what makes YOU happy and what you deserve.

SO, in summary, each person and experience we encounter becomes instrumental in who we are today and whether they are for the better or the worse is OUR individual choice and responsibility. It´s up to us to shift that perspective and find the value in what´s happening.

Day 4: Hike to Glacier Grey

Hiking Time: about 6 hours (includes a walk / run back to a lookout point about an hour away that i saw in the morning to see it in the evening light. The Torres del Paine felt like one huge running trail to me!)

Favorite Moment: I dropped my pack at the refugio and hiked up to the next camp site where there was a mirador. I walked a bit along the side of the mountain and i found a flat section to sit on, perched above the glacier. I sat there for 3 hours and I also got to a witness a chunk of ice, about the size of a car, break apart and land in the it cracked, the noise, the falling motion, the impact, everything was amazing!!

Songs of the Day: Elbow Songs: Lippy Kids (Specifically, "Do they know those days are golden") and Weather to Fly (Specifically, "Are we having the time of our lives") and One Day Like This (Specifically, It´s looking Like a Beautiful Day. One day like this a year would see me right!")

Discovery of the Day: I love how it feels to be connected with nature. I miss this in NYC. And the next thing might sound a bit weird, but I really enjoy my company. haha. From running back and forth between look out points to just chilling by the glacier to doing about 20 self-timed jumping shots until i got the perfect picture of me jumping in the air above the glacier, I had a lot of fun with me today! :)

Day 5: Hike back to Paine Grande Refugio to the Catamaran

Favorite Moment: Sleeping in a room with 3 other beds but noone in them. This meant NO snoring and NO early morning rustling. It took a lot of motivation to get out of my sleeping bag this morning :)

Songs of the Day: wax tailer: How i feel, Que Sera - Only feels right to be full circle and leave Torres del Paine listening to these songs

Discovery of the Day: I think it is a Smashing Pumpkins song that says, all Good things surely have to end. Well, that´s kind of a bummer way to look at it. Yes, I am sad that my 5 days of scampering up and down the mountains in Torres del Paine has come to an end. However, when I think about all that i processed during this trip, the enlightenment i reached and the peace and tranquility i found, i can´t help but think of my favorite yoga phrase, ¨"how do i take this feeling of calm off the yoga mat and out with me into the world"...I have 22 days to work on this challenge :)

NEXT STOP: 5 hour bus ride back to El Calafate and then a Glacier hike on Perito Moreno Glacier

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First trip snafu

Every trip has its snafu. i hope i had mine and got it out of the way, but i am not holding my breath. i arrived to el calafate by plane with no hostel arrangements since i was hoping to catch a bus straight to puerto natales from the airport. i arrived, but my bag did not.

a few thoughts came in my head during my 24 hrs in el calafate:

1) ALWAYS build in a buffer time to your trip schedule

Luckily, i did this so i was not stressed about missing my bus and was resigned to spending the next 1.5 hours at the airport trying to figure out who can help me with my missing bag.

2) Bring a version of the Lonely Planet with you

I unfortunately did not bring this with me because i hate adding on the weight. next time, i really should just photo copy the pages of the places i am going to.

Luckily, there was a Spanish couple left in the airport who told me where they were staying so i had an address to give the airport lost and found office. This same couple rented a car and drove me in to town. nice.

3) ALWAYS have low expectations while travelling

Unfortunately, the hostel that the spanish couple were staying in was full. so was the hostel next door. so was the place next door. apparently, there was a festival in town to celebrate the baptism of the lake. since it was a 3 day weekend, every nearby Argentinean was in town on holiday.

as i walked to the tourist information center, i set my expectations reallly low. if worse came to worse, i have a sleeping bag and could probably convince one of the hostels to let me sleep in their lobby. The tourist center said there was one more place left in town with beds. it was shared accommodation. fine with me. she could not make reservations and it was first come first serve. so i beelined ´across´ town and i managed to secure the last bad in this not so fine establishment. but hey, it was a bed. AND my bags arrived at not too bad of a travel snafu after all.

4) ALWAYS travel with earplugs

earplugs will come in to handy when the drunk 20yr old Argentineans roll into bed around 330am and snore as if a steam train is perpetually stuck on the tracks under your bed. Earplugs don´t do so much in this circumstance, but at least they provide a partial protective barrier to the noise. THese same earplugs will also come into handy on a 5 hour bus ride to puerto natales where i unfortunately experienced a Guinness book of world records from the most obnoxious and egotistical american guy who talked for 5 hours straight - constant vowels and constants flowing from his lips. I did not think it was humanly possible to go on for that length of time, but trust me it is...however, i am getting ahead of myself here.

NEXT STOP: 5 hour bus ride to Puerto Natales and starting my 5 day hike in patagonia - w trek hike in torres del paine.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Less than 24 hours in Buenos Aires, Argentina

i don´t believe in fate, but i do believe things happen for a reason. I´m not sure if that is contradictory. Sometimes i wonder if there is a such thing as ´signs´ or do we just attach meaning to these ´signs´because it´s meaning we´re looking for subconsciously. Perhaps identifying something in the conscious world is the way to pull something out of our subconscious and into reality? I know the moments where i´m looking for meaning, like when i think my iPod knows how i am feeling at that moment and it is shuffling the songs accordingly OR when a bus drives by with a word on it, a word that describes the specific moment you´re in ( Bex, you will recall this circa 2002 in Australia). But, in reality, those are coincidences that happened to align perfectly with the moment.

But my question today is about the people you cross paths with in life. Is it circumstantial? Coincidental? Fate? or pure damn luck? I would call my encounter in my 1st 19 hours in Buenos Aires as serendipitous.

This post won´t be the usual Jeanne travel post. You won´t hear about dislocated shoulders, exorcist-like food poisoning, travel snafoos, bed bugs or any sort of off-roading adventures. In fact, this post might be utterly boring or maybe even too opaque or perhaps esoteric. But this post is for me because when you encounter serendipity you need to mark it and not forget it.

After a 10hr flight from DC to BA where the airline stewardist asked if i was writing a book since i was about halfway through my journal of non-stop, free-associated transcription of my half-baked, processing thoughts, I still did not feel any lighter. I continued my mad writing as i slowly shuffled through the custom lines for an hour. And upon exit of the BUenos Aires airport, i put away my ´book´and practiced my spanish during the ride with Marcel, my driver to Carlos´s place. I clearly need more practice.

Carlos posted his place on airbnb, like i did for my place in NYC for the month. Airbnb is my favorite company right now. I really should buy stock because i am their #1 fan. It represents many of my travel values - people deep down are good people and a travel experience is enhanced if you give them the local experience.

I brought Charlie back a shopping list of vitamins and health supplements he ordered from the US, who knew there were such exorbitant fees and taxes to ship vitamins to south america! I thought it was the least i could do for him since he was inviting me into his home. He thought that was beyond generous and called me an ´angel´. But if there is a such thing as an angel, i think charles might have been my angel.

The first sign came when i arrived to his place and we grabbed a coffee and limonada at the corner store. (as a side note, i loved the neighborhood feel. The waiters knew Charlie. Charlie knew the pharmacist across the street. Everyone was laughing and did not seem in a hurry. The fact that this stood out to me means i have been in NYC for too long! And the shop owner at the corner fruit market gave me a boquet of bright yellow flowers, just because. I like this city already. ) Anywho, Charlie is a london guy who has lived in BA for 15 years. He has traveled more than anyone i know, including me. His outlook on life is open and positive. When he referenced beliefs on one topic that was ciruclating in my head, i thought it was a coincidence. when he shared another statment that hit the nail on the head on another topic i was processing, i thought that was strange. When i experienced this for a 3rd time, I relized us crossing paths was not an accident. Call me out there. Call me loca. Call me mystical. But this just can´t be a coincidence. It´s amazing how things kick-in more when an absolute stranger says the same thing that your friends / sis might have said, but somehow it gives a different a-ha moment when someone says this after spending less than 10 hours with you.

So day 1 consisted of a neighborhood restaurant in palermo, a 30 mile bike ride through the city to el tigre, a pit stop on a swing set, an enlightening convo dining at el museo de eva perone, a traditional tango dance club and a sore bicycle riding ass (my own self-imposed ´sign´to not forget this day). Now at the Tango club, i did not attempt to dance. i was purely an observer. the women sit on one side of the room, while the men sit on the other, eying the women they want to lure out on the dance floor. I have to admit, something seemed oddly awkward about this dance, yet highly passionate. The women are angled with their face and chest pressed up against the man, while their stomach and ass are pushed at such a far and odd distance from the man it looks a bit uncomfortable. BUT, from the face of both partners with their eyes closed and their lips pressed tight, it looks like they are in a moment that can never be experienced again. There´s so much passion exuding from their facial expression that i don´t doubt that i am missing something really BIG here. And a moment of applause for Charlie for dancing til 5am, returning to send me off in my taxi. I turned into a pumpkin early, but I am pretty sure that in less than 24 hours in BA, I encountered an angel - or call it pure damn luck. Regardless, it gave me a perspective on thoughts that have been recently swimming in my head that made my mind feel pounds lighter. It´s a good start to the trip. i can only imagine how much at peace my mind will be on day 31. But don´t worry, i am not rushing to the end. Bring on Day #2!

NEXT STOP: El calafate - departure point for the 5 hour bus ride to Chile and the 5-day W-Trek.