Monday, May 31, 2010

Bolivia Dispatch #1: Trek, Alpine Skills Training, & High Altitude Expedition

Bolivia Trek and Climbing Program May 29 – June 19, 2010

Guides: Danny Uhlmann, Alasdair Turner, and Juan Churra

Climbers: Danny Griffith (Bellingham, WA), Alfred Kwok (Claremont, CA), Diccon Westworth (Sacramento, CA), Jim Bonadonna (Poughkeepsie, NY), Raymond Gregory (Marquette, MI), Nancy Burke (Dallas, TX), and Margen Burke-Karr (Missouri City, TX),

Danny sent the following message by email on May 31 ay 12:15am Bolivia time.

This year's Bolivia expedition has begun. If there was any doubt of this truth, the constant honking of car horns, thousands upon thousands of short colorful people, and general fear of being run over at any moment, assures me that yes indeed, I am back home in La Paz.

La Paz is essentially a large whole in the ground filled with two million people. It has a unusual balance between chaos and order. It is the only city I've visited where I can walk to the same restaurant I've been to five times before and still manage to get lost. I have the utmost respect for the cab drivers here, and for the pedestrians as well. Even the numerous and endearing street dogs manage to know the rules about crossing streets.

The children of Bolivia are some of the most beautiful in the world. And yet people here are quite shy. Members of this June's expedition have trickled in over the past three days and finally we are all together. We've enjoyed tours through the city's labyrinthine calles (streets), which wind like a grass snake up the devilishly steep walls that hug La Paz.

It Americans would like a lesson in efficiency, perhaps La Paz would be a good place to take lessons. There is no public transport, instead minibuses rove around the city with a driver and a ten year old hanging out the sliding door yelling about the destinations and the price. The ultimate tests of one's skill at Spanish comprehension is to understand these kids as they yell while at speed. I have yet to pass that test.

Tonight we went out to Mongo's, one of my favorite local haunts for good food and drinks. Everyone is enjoying each other. Alasdair, Susan, and I went on a walk today, and they saw their first Bolivian llama which was dressed up in a costume. What they didn't realize is that for the next two weeks we'll be surrounded by much dirtier and work-hardened versions. But yes, llamas are somewhat irresistible, though I think whoever created them supplies a lot more wool than brains.

Tomorrow we depart at 0800 for the trek. We are doing an alternate trek because, in standard (and classic) Bolivian fashion, the Takesi route has been made impassable by landslide. So now we will trek overland to the Condoriri Valley and then come back to La Paz for showers, a few nights sleep, and a bunch of stoke for the next section of climbing.

Nos vemos,

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