Saturday, February 13, 2016

Ecuadorian adventure: days 1 & 2

So, we got off the plane in 🇪🇨 and rented a 🚙 to drive from the ⛰ down to the 🏞. Google said it was going to be a 4:45 drive. I had calls at 11am, 11:30, and noon that I was supposed to take, and so we figured we'd stop in the last town along the way where we would be sure to have reception before we got to the national park (Cuyabeno) that we were going to. We left at 5:15, so we were expecting to get in by 10am and have some time to sit and do some other things. I had worked on the plane ride from Miami to Quito, but hadn't finished everything, and when I landed I saw that my PL had more things he wanted me to do, so I ended up working in the car while Ephraim drove (he's a real pal. I drove for ~an hour while he napped, but he insisted that he'd rather drive), and at 10:45 I realized that Google said we were still 1:45 out, so I emailed my PL to tell him that I was going to take our calls from my phone on the road, and I'm sorry if I got cut off. He emailed back and agreed to double for me if I would take good notes on what I could hear. So far so good, but then at the end of the second call I lost reception for 20 minutes, so I missed the third call entirely. When we got to the town, I sent in my work and asked for feedback, and then we plunged into the jungle. We arrived at the gate to the park at 1:30—roughly 3:30 longer than we had anticipated.

What took us so long, you ask? The roads we bonkers. It was narrow canyon roads with huge pieces of the road missing in places, a speed limit of 100 kmph but neither of us ever really felt comfortable going more than ~60-80. We did get passed a few times, but generally we'd run into these big trucks that were lumbering along at 30-40 and we'd have to wait till there was a long enough stretch that we could see to pass (and did I mention it was pouring rain most of the way?). At one point, I got a view from above of over a mile of the winding road in the other direction and watched it for a few minutes, and I had Ephraim verify, then as we went into a turn I passed a huge 🚚 going around a bend I made the most hair-raising passing attempts of my life (since once I got down the entire thing was bends and I couldn't see a thing). I knew there were no cars coming, but something about it still scared the living daylights out of me. It was an adventure. We may or may not have had a run in with the 👮, too but I charmed them 😇.

If the peppermint oil burns the 🐜 out here half as badly as it burns me, there's a reason they haven't braved a bite yet, even though at one point I passed a swarm so loud I wondered if I was really in the Village and with a road nearby.

There are, however, no roads nearby. When we left the car 30 minutes out of Tarapoa we got in a small motorboat, and we rode on the river for over two hours to get to our campsite. It's so crazy—this has to be the most remote place I've ever been. There are no towns anywhere nearby, but our guide tells me there are ~10,000 locals who still live somewhere in the rainforest and throughout the national park. He pointed out all the different plants they would use to make poisons to kill one another with, but he says they don't do that anymore.

The rainforest lives up to its name 🌧—despite being the "dry season" it rains for a couple of hours a day. We've still seen some really cool things. My niece, Kate, is obsessed with sloths. They're her favorite thing in the world. She's going to love the pictures of the 3 toed sloth I got. Apparently they move ~200 meters a week. In Spanish they're called the "lazy bear". All the rain has been building up, though, and there's a lake nearby that dries out and fills in based on the rain patterns. Apparently it was empty 7 days ago, and now there's been so much rain that it's 2 meters deep. They offered to let us go swimming on our afternoon jaunt. I was sort of tempted, but I figured it wasn't the best idea with my fear of parasites and all (I mean, the Amazon is probably only second to Africa for best place to pick them up, right?). A few minutes later I pointed out a fish jumping 🐟 where we had been and asked what kind it was. "Oh, that was a piranha! They're jumping after the sardines". Turns out the piranhas here can get to be over a foot and a half long, some of the largest in the world. They have razor sharp teeth, and "usually" don't bother the swimming tourists. 😳

At night, we went on an evening boat ride to try to find caimans. They can get up to 6 meters long, but our guide has never seen one larger than 4.5 meters. That's still a whopping 15 feet. We went for a while and I thought the trip was a bust—we kept going into little bays and inlets, and didn't see anything, until boom! 🐊 Our guide pulled a baby caiman out of the water with his bare hands. He let us all touch it before he put it back. Apparently the caimans and the anacondas (which can get up to 7 meters long) are in a death match to take over the river basin, which is scary in its own way. We haven't seen any of the anacondas yet, just some smaller boa constrictors.

This morning I woke up to 🐒s howling and 🕊s chirping. It was fairly charming. After breakfast, Ephraim and I took a canoe and set out on our own and found "stinky turkeys" 🦃, which apparently have talons in where their elbows would be, and a pre-historic digestive system that lets them eat only toxic plants, so they smell really bad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Scenes from a Leisurely Hike

So, it took no fewer than ten porters to maintain camp for Scott and I—carrying a portable toilet, dining tent, sleeping tent, and glacial water from the various babbling brooks we passed. At that rate, including the ~70 to 100 people that summit Kili each day, I estimate that the mountain employs about 7,000 people on an ongoing basis. Not bad.


I'm on the plane home now, somewhere over the ocean between Athens and Rome, and the short breath and stunning glaciers are turning into a bit if a hazy memory, but this picture says otherwise.

The first Westerner to hike it was a German professor from the university of Leipzig in 1889. It took him no fewer than 6 weeks to make the ascent. It's a marvel of modernity that I can hike it all in 6 days (though it's more like 5, since we left at noon and got back at 11am).

In any event, it's a magical place—the locals used to climb it to commune with God, and there they found a cold, mysterious, magical white powder that turned into water when they tried to remove it from the mountain. Crazy times. Crazy place.

19,340ft above sea level I stood on monday morning at 7am. 10am on Friday morning I'll be in JD orientation at Harvard Law School—what a contrast. Hopefully jet lag isn't too bad coming home!

Monday, August 15, 2011

African Guesthouses

So, I'm staying at an African Guesthouse in Zanzibar's Stone Town (the old town, built all in limestone). It's a crazy sort of place—old mattresses, old refrigerators, old chairs and tables.

It does make me wonder; everything here looks well used; was it ever new? I've never been in a more modest looking place like this where everything is new (except perhaps, the Hotel Ibis, in France—but 1. that's continental Europe and 2. they had much different style items). So here's the question; did they buy these used, were they new once and have just worn out, or did they come out of the factory old?

Either way, the Guesthouses all seem to be non-descript and about the same price level; $15-$20 per night, including a fairly large breakfast. I'm amazed that a place like this exists in the world. I also got a tour down to see dolphins (an hour drive plus a three hour boat tour / snorkeling with the dolphins and a large lunch) for $25. Eating out can cost as little as $6, including tip & tax, at a fancy restaurant. I went crazy at an italian restaurant last night with some British girls I met on the dolphin tour and we dropped $10 each on pasta, pizza, fondue and ice cream.

I suppose that makes the $100 entry fee for US Passport Holders make a bit more sense; it's about as much as I will spend (all in) for the other 3 days I'm here; the government wants it's piece of the action, too.

It's 7:22am. The street below me is bustling; it sounds like a vendor rolling his cart into position, a boda-boda (small motorcycle) cruising out to visit a friend) and friends greeting in the street. It's bustling till about midnight, but I sleep with earplugs in and I sleep like a walrus for the first few hours, so it doesn't bother me. I do, however, wake up when the mosque across the street blares the call to prayer at 5:30 every morning. Come to Pray! Come to Pray! it calls to me. I pray it will stop and I can pray at my leisure.

Today (though I probably won't get to send this post till much later—today is Tuesday August 16, in case anyone is curious) I'm headed off on a Spice Tour to see some spice plantations and the old slave caves (popular because of the powerful alliteration? We'll see. I'll report in tonight). Then this afternoon I am headed to the East Coast (no, not Boston) to see some beaches (I'll probably read my MLK autobiography), before I catch an 8:20am flight tomorrow (read: this time tomorrow I'll be in an airport waiting for a flight to Kilimanjaro—the tallest mountain in Africa!).

Why will I hike it? To quote Sir Edmund Hilary: "Because it's there."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Prop Planes Still Unnerve Me

I have to admit, despite having flown a few by now, I'm still a bit unnerved by the thought of a piece of metal spinning fast enough to hold me 20,000+ feet in the air, yet here I am, cruising over the Indian Ocean to the mysterious Zanzibar (which I first heard of through Muppet Treasure Island, and thought it was a fake place).

Still, the thrill of traveling to new places keeps me going. Onward and upward!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

30 Rock

One benefit of working in a place that's so touristy is we get all the free food samples—last week HSBC was giving away strawberries and cream!

Ah, summer in NYC!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The view from my office

I started work at Odyssey Capital today; I get my own office on the 22nd floor of 30 Rockefeller Center, with a window that opens to the south (the building covered in fog to the left of center might be familiar to some—I could see it from my cube at Citi, as well). I'm waiting for Brent to finish a few things, so I'm getting the office tour and welcome. Odyssey sublets office space from Squire Sanders, a law firm here in the city.

I'm all moved in to my room in Chris Wheeler's apartment—I'm living on an aerobed with an upside-down box as a nightstand. I figured it wasn't worth bringing too much, since I'm moving halfway through the summer and I'll only be here 10-11 weeks anyway.

Also, looks like my plans to go to Pakistan fell through in the wake of the Osama shooting / Pakistani bombings. It would have been cool, but Maliha says she doesn't think it's safe, so now I'm looking for another adventure in august.

Hope you're all doing well!