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Jan 3, 2015Live #23, Semuc Champey, GuatemalaPosted in: Off-Topic
03/01/2015 It’s pretty damn early here in Honduras now and I only have twenty minutes to get this update out, so gotta keep it short again. Semuc Champey in Guatemala was one of those things that I only heard about while being on the road already. It’s a serious of pools in an awesome jungle setting between Flores and Guatemala City. Takes a while to get there, but it’s totally worth it!
The shuttle left Flores at 8AM and I got a very good price of just 50Q for the long journey, maybe because I got in touch with the Company beforehand via mail. After a stop in Coban, we arrived in Lanquin at 3:30PM, where I was supposed to be picked up from a guy of the Greengo Hostel. He told me that he wants to wait another 15 minutes for the next shuttle to arrive, which eventually turned into a two hour wait and then another hour until we finally arrived at the hostal, leaving me a little bit pissed since it already got dark by the time and I couldn’t explore the area anymore.
The next morning started early for me, hoping for the pools to be not so busy already. First, I went up to the Mirador though, a high point overlooking all the pools and according to the sign, over an hour hike which I eventually finished in less than 15 minutes, so it’s not that bad Getting down to the pools, they were luckily not so busy and it was easy to put my stuff somewhere along the side while going in for a swim. This would have been a bit more uncomfortable if it would have been more busy.
The pools in Semuc Champey are indeed great, amazing views around on the jungle and you can even find some small fish in there that like to bit your leg, which is a pretty funny feeling. I spent about three hours just in the pools, reaching a waterfall in the end which was worth the extra small hike on the way back. In one of the lower pools you can get into a small cave, having just enough space for your head to pop out of the water. The hostel was in walking distance, so I could come back there easily to get my stuff and get back to Lanquin, about a 45 minutes 4×4 drive away. I quickly ran up the hill to get some pictures from above before hitching back down on a pickup truck.
Back in Lanquin, I checked in to the El Muro Hostel, a much nicer place with a cool Atmosphere and friendly people. I got back just in time to visit the Bat Cave, about 15 minutes walking distance from Lanquin. Every day at 6PM, you will encounter all the bats flying out of the cave while you walk in to it. It has been extremely muddy inside and the bats are not coming in swarms, still a cool side trip from Lanquin.
I got up at 6AM for the sunrise and was ready to leave Lanquin again in the 10AM shuttle. However, thanks to some drunk tourists and their late checkout from another hotel, we were two hours late to depart and then got stuck into a massive three hour traffic jam due to a landslide on the highway in the brutal heat – good times! At least I got a good price for the shuttle again and only paid 75Q instead of 150Q I was the only one to leave the shuttle in Guatemala City while everyone else headed off to tourist friendly Antigua…
Dec 30, 2014Live #21, Tikal, GuatemalaPosted in: Off-Topic
30/12/2014 Yesterday I arrived to the currently famed “most dangerous place on earth” and my second stop in Honduras: San Pedro Sula. I was supposed to leave to the Cusuco National Park today, but due to my slight delay and a booked flight to Utila tomorrow, I decided to do it after my return from the Island in order to spend two nights in the remote jungle. I will use the extra day to check out the city today and of course update my blog, reporting “live” from Guatemala for the first time. Coming from Belize, it was obvious that I would have to stop in Tikal, one of the most famous Maya sites in Central America!
Joined by Philip, a German guy I met before in San Ignacio to explore the ATM Caves, we made our way to the Border in a taxi and successfully dodged the extra fee that they are trying to squeeze out of tourists while entering Guatemala (just ask for a receipt and you won’t have to pay it). We missed the last bus due to the public holiday and were forced to take a more expensive private shuttle directly to Tikal, ending up paying a bit more than 200 Quetzales each. We arrived at 3pm and were just in time to get the 150Q entrance ticket that would be valid for the next day as well, so we wasted no time to drop our staff at the Jaguar Inn Hotel and made our way into the rainy jungle that surrounds the mighty ruins of Tikal!
Having not purchased either the Sunset or the Sunrise tour for an extra 150Q each, we were making the most out of our time anyway. The rain provided a great atmosphere and a good alternative to boring blue sky ;-) It got dark very fast and the ground was very slippery, nearly dropping us a few times. We headed straight to Temple IV, which was supposed to offer the best view. They built some staircases to reach the 64m high top plateau and the view is somehow limited as you can just see other temples peaking out. Before coming to Tikal, I was hoping to see some bigger structures from there but it was great in any case.
We only met two other people during the late hour of that day and joined up together on the way back, walking through complete pitch black darkness as the sun was gone around 6pm. Joined by the rangers that clean out the park so nobody sneaks in without having paid for the Sunset ticket – which would not have been great in that weather anyway – we made it back to the Jaguar Inn to have a suprsingly good and well portioned dinner there. Sleeping in tents they provide for “just” 15$ seemed like a good deal considering the fact that we were staying in the middle of the Park and right next to the Entrance gate. I could hear all kinds of monkeys and other animals (and also the snoring tour guide Caesar in a tent next to us) while trying to fall asleep.
The next morning, we woke up at 5:30 to make it to the entrance as early as possible to get in without the special sunrise ticket, meaning 6AM. The weather did not change since last night, so we were happy that we did not spend all the extra money. The sounds of the awaking jungle were still clearly present at 6AM, even though it should probably be even better getting in at 4AM. We walked a slightly different route this time and headed to the main plaza including the famous Jaguar Temple. Certainly a pretty cool structure to look at and a shame one is not allowed to climb it up! Some people have died doing so in the past after slipping down.
We returned to Temple IV again and had slightly better weather this time, still clouds dominated the sky though but I think it makes for a great atmosphere. Overall we spent nine hours in Tikal on both days and the rest of the second day was spent walking around through all different corners. Arriving at the Lost World Pyramid aka Gran Pyramid, we were waiting until everyone around us disappeared (it was not busy in that part of Tikal luckily) in order to climb it up. Climbing it is not allowed, but it is a very easy and safe climb, so we could not resist the temptation. The view from up there was amazing, actually it was my favorite view of them all because you could see all other major temples from a much nicer perspective compared to Temple IV. Just when we arrived to the top, some guy was waiving at Philip and we could hear a starting car engine, so we got down pretty soon after again. Turns out the waiving guy was just a Japanese tourist and not one of the guards when we saw him five minutes later to say hello :-)
It was already pretty late and we wanted to head back to the Hotel in time to catch the bus to Flores. However, Tikal made it really hard to leave as we spotted even more great places on the way out, for example Temple V, the second tallest structure at 57m and just very impressive to look at. All of the sudden, the sun came out again and we took some more pictures from the Jaguar Temple again. Even after nine hours, I could have stayed some longer and have to say that visiting Tikal is an absolute must for anyone interested in the Maya culture! One more Club Sandwhich and a nice shower later, I was headed to Flores to stay with a new Couchsurfer and relax a bit after all the walking at Tikal…
>> Link to the Pictures
Dec 21, 2014Next updatePosted in: Off-Topic
Live #17, Becan Maya Ruins, Mexico Click for the Pictures!
21/12/2014 And finally… the last update about Maya ruins in Mexico! It ended with my favorite of them all, the city of Becan. Located very close to Xpujil, it is not as remote as Calakmul, but nevertheless only a few people go there. Check out this post to find out why it turned out to be my favorite in the end.
Part of our deal with the Taxi driver was to spend about 2 1/2 hours in Becan on our way back from Calakmul. It is very close to Xpujil and you could even bike there if you wanted to, but well we already had the Taxi for us The first thing that I noticed about that site was that everything just feels much more like it used to be during the times of the Maya. You can even walk around some small corridors and rooms and everything is in a very good shape without over-restaurating it like Chichen Itza for instance.
I especially enjoyed the main temples. One of them (as seen on the cover picture on this post) just looks awesome thanks to it’s shape and the fact that it is still surrounded by trees. And the other one (from where I took the cover picture) is half collapsed and allowed me to do some climbing while offering the great view. Becan just felt right, it is hard to describe but for some reason it was my favorite even though it is not as big as Calakmul or as famous as Chichen Itza. You should check it out if you make it down to Xpujil!
Dec 19, 2014Live #16, Campeche & Calakmul, MexicoPosted in: Off-Topic
Click the Link for the pictures!
19/12/2014 Turns out the west of El Salvador features some pretty amazing little villages, especially the one that I am staying in now, Juayúa. People here are so friendly and I can barely see any tourists at all on the beautiful streets. I will leave today heading to the El Imposible National Park; but before I do so, check out the update about one of my highlights in the Yucatan: The remote ruins of Calakmul, once one of the biggest cities of the Maya!
I spent hours figuring out the best and most direct way from Mérida to the area of Calakmul since I tried to avoid driving along the west side of the Yucatan. Due to a local bus strike, I was eventually forced to stop by in Campeche and make my way further down south and then east to my destination. Campeche actually turned out to be very nice so I was not sad at all to drive some extra km. The only trouble I had was getting a taxi to the ADO bus terminal to make it in time because all taxis were full and did not stop for me. In the end, I just barely made it though and even met a German couple that would go to Calakmul as well, so we decided to join forces.
Calakmul had always been the one ruin that I was looking forward to the most. The main reason being the fact that it is so remote. First you have to get to Xpujil and based from there either have a private car or hire a taxi to drive into the jungle for another two hours of driving. The other reason being the fact that it used to be one of the biggest ancient Maya sites, fighting with Tikal in Guatemala at some point in history, better check Wikipedia for that since they know the details
We stayed the night in a nice place (including a swimming pool) and organised a taxi driver for 1200 pesos, so 400 pesos or about 22€ each. This deal was pretty sweat actually since the driver would wait for us at Calakmul for about 4 hours and then another 2 hours and the Becan ruins on the way back. Usually they charge a bit more for that. The driver picked us up the next morning and after 30 minutes or so, I asked him if I could maybe drive a bit. He did not hesitate to stop the car and from then on I was in charge of getting us to the ruins, driving about 80 minutes through the jungle
As imagined, we were completely alone in the huge complex. Only one other car arrived before us but we didn’t really see the people since it’s spread out so much. The ruins were amazing, including some of the biggest Maya temples you will ever see. There is also a lot of wildlife around and you can hear and spot monkeys while you walk around the jungle from one temple to the other. Being on top of the biggest pyramid, we could even spot the El Mirador ruins in Guatemala way in the distance!
Jochen was driving us back to Xpujil, but before we could enjoy a final amazing Torta they would serve there, we had one final stop and it turned out to be my absolute favorite of all the Maya ruins: Becan. But more on that in a separate update in a few days!
Dec 13, 2014Hey! sorry didnt check back here in a while! My budget is something like 30k british pounds, lets see...Posted in: Off-Topic
I am actually putting out a lot of live updates now on my blog, here is the latest!
Next live update!
Live #14, Ek Balam Maya Ruins and X’Canche Cenote, Mexico
13/12/2014 The 2nd part of my Greenland Videos delayed my live updates a bit, sorry about that! I am currently in Antigua Guatemala and just came back from an amazing climb to Volcan Acatenango, overlooking the very active Volcan Fuego. Check out my Instagram Picture for a little preview before I get my hands on a report! In the meanwhile, I hope you will enjoy some more pictures from Yucatan’s Maya temples and Cenotes in this post
The Ek Balam Maya ruins are very close to Valladolid and combined with the great Cenote X’Canche, it was just something I could not miss since I skipped the world famous Chichen Itza ruins. I just don’t like the fact that they restored it so much (even removed all the jungle around it!) and that it is just swarmed by tourists. Instead I would use my time to get to the very remote ruins of Calakmul in the south, but more on this on another live update soon to come!
Cenote X’Canche was just awesome, for a few reasons: Looks extremely cool, not crowded at all, perfect sink hole shape and last but not least: Very safe jump from about 14m into into the cenote! Overall, it has been my favorite Cenote in the Yucatan!
Aug 27, 2014Hey!Posted in: Off-Topic
I just finished my next trip report, hope you like it! For the complete version including the pictures, just click on the Image below.
A detour to the Russell Glacier is a common activity on the Arctic Circle Trail, allowing you to reach the inland ice of Greenland after a 25km hike from Kangerlussuaq. Joined by a total stranger, I am ready to go and full of excitement to set foot on the world’s biggest Island and last place to witness huge ice bergs outside of Antarctica..
The preparation for this trip already started five months ago, but it was just last week that I could finally find someone to join me for the hike along the Arctic Circle Trail, 165km of remote trekking without any form of civilization along the way. Tim saw my ad in a poker forum and quickly booked all flights within a few weeks without any sort of trekking experience at all. Now he is sitting next to me in the plane and I wonder if he will be able to manage a hike of that sort, especially doing it with me and my tendency to be a bit extreme during my treks in terms of distance and speed. He seems to be fit and a nice guy though; so I sit back, relax and enjoy the landscape of Iceland underneath our red Airbus 330-200 – luckily without any erupting volcanos :-)
Day One – Hike to the Russell Glacier
It feels strange to land at 10:40 while setting off more than four hours ago at 10:00 – this will be a long day for us thanks to the time difference! Our backpacks, ramped up with about 32kg of food plus camping equipment, will certainly take their tolls on our shoulders and hips in the following days. Kangerlussuaq was originally set up by the americans as a military base during the second world war and ever since turned into the major airport hub in west greenland with a population of just 500. We quickly check the only local store to buy a gas cartridge for my Trangia cooker and then start the hike. Tim and I have a few mutual hobbies and get along very well instantly, making the time fly by as we walk along the pretty dull and boring landscape close to the airport. It is said that the Musk Ox can be seen only in this area, but all we encounter are some curious reindeers.
We quickly arrive at a strangely positioned and retired public toilet, wondering why they would even built it here. It is certainly a good spot to lay down the unpleasant backpacks and take some first pictures. We continue eastwards while the 353m high Sugar loaf peak comes into sight. Being just next to the path and directly on the way, it is a no brainer for us to summit it and have our lunch break there. I brought some traditional German sausage called “Schwartenmagen”, serving both of us very well with some fresh buns from the shop. All of the sudden, Tim yells out “Look over there!!”, while a small jet descends behind me on his way to the airstrip. The jet is just next to us and, more importantly, below us as well, making the appearance very exciting. Unfortunately, I am not able to react fast enough to capture this moment with my camera.
The water quality of Greenland’s lakes and rivers is as good as it gets, leaving us with the comfort of not having to carry all the water that is needed for both drinking and cooking. However, judging on Tim’s face as he is drinking the water of the first bigger lake on our way, there are always exceptions and I decide to wait for the next lake to refill my bottle. No trees grow in Greenland and the landscape around us is slowly changing from the brown coloured tundra to a mini desert. Walking along the sand slows us down a bit and my feet are letting me know that they are not used to carry that much weight anymore. I little bit of an usual encounter awaits us just moments later: The wreckage of an old T-33 plane that crashed here in 1968. According to Tim’s guide book, two more plans crashed at the same day due to bad weather. Nobody seems to care about the remainings and it is interesting to wander around and explore what is left of it.
The desert turns out to be quite a stretch, it feels like walking forever as our eyes can’t make out how far the other side of it actually is and our feet constantly sack in a little bit, making it hard to move on this terrain. Looking at the map, we should be getting very close to the glacier and a viewpoint, even though I can’t really see how this would be the case as the glacier is still not in sight. We are hiking for over seven hours now and Tim would not mind calling it a day while we rest on the so called viewpoint of what might have been the inland ice in earlier days. I have the strong desire to set up my tent in front of the glacier though and keep motivating him to push through the end.
It takes us another 90 minutes of walking over a field of stones and some grass land until we finally reach the Russell Glacier. Nine hours of walking and four hours time difference are now kicking in very quickly and we waste no time setting up the camp. The lighting conditions are not so good for pictures right now, but being so close to the Glacier is an amazing experience anyway. We decide to skip cooking dinner for tonight and just eat some snacks before sliding in our sleeping bags. I am very tired but also very excited of being in a place like that, which makes falling a sleep a bit hard. I am also out of water and have not brushed my teeth yet, giving me two good reasons to walk down right next to the glacier and its freezing cold, fresh water before eventually falling asleep in my tent.
Day Two – Russell Glacier
The warmth of the sun wakes me up at 6AM and I can’t believe my eyes while I open my tent, looking straight onto the glacier in beautiful sunrise colours. I can hear that Tim is up already as well and we are both happy that we made it that far on the first day. It can only get better from now on as our bodies slowly get used to the conditions and we will have shorter distances to hike. Now it’s time for breakfast and I packed over 30 sachets of Quaker’s Golden Syrup porridge, my absolute favorite on trekking tours! We pack up our tents, leave the packs behind and start exploring the glacier. Taking one panorama shot after the other, we already spend nearly three hours here now, getting as close as we can. The river between us and the ice eventually stops us though as it is very cold and rapid and not worth to cross anyway.
Walking around so much might not have been the best idea actually, my ankle really starts to hurt and I have to use Tim’s walking poles to stabilize it a bit. We walk back to our camp spot and while I am resting my ankle, Tim boulder hops across the wide and gentle river before climbing up a small rocky hill to get on top of the glacier. I just hope that he won’t slip as a recovery missing would pose a challenge in my current state! Turns out he is very well footed though and has no problems on the glacier. He disappears for a second behind the hill and I can hear jet engines again – it is the same time as yesterday and the same jet is making it’s way to the Airstrip again! Moments later, Tim also appears on the glacier again and begins to slide down. Being united again, we make our way back, aiming to sleep near some hidden waterfalls and splitting up the distance rather than having another long day.
Dramatic clouds form above and we study the map to find the waterfall, leading us to a path going south just in front of Sugar loaf. The ground is very boggy here and I come to the realisation that my four-year old hiking boots are slowly getting ready to retire, they are not waterproof anymore! Walking with wet feet is a bummer now, especially since we seem to underestimate the distance again and it takes us longer than we would have thought. Tim is not amused and I push him once more until we reach a huge cliff, overlooking a gorge created by the river. “It might be a bit windy up here…”, I say, but the scenery certainly makes up for it and we decide to set up cam. This night it is also time for dinner (fried potatoes) and, more importantly, for the first cup of the rum that I have bought at the airport for my upcoming birthday next week.
Day Three – Waterfall
Yet again, sunshine wakes us up and we have breakfast before setting off to find the waterfalls. We leave the packs behind and follow some narrow and steep animal paths through the bushes and must be very close already. The thundering sound of a waterfall is getting louder and we can already see it in the distance. “That’s it?”, Tim wonders while we get closer to the pretty small waterfall. Seems like there is not enough melting water around yet and it could have been much more spectacular. It is a nice sight anyway, I especially enjoy the way towards the fall because of the rock formations around here. The water cuts its way though everything, leaving some pretty cool sculptures in the rocks.
We return to our campsite and have a lunch snack. While we enjoy the beautiful warm spring day in Greenland, a raven comes flying in and out the gorge all the time and eventually we are able to find out why – he is feeding his fresh born cups just meters away from us! Sitting on the edge of the cliff with our cameras in hand, we are observing them for half an hour and I am able to capture their cries for food on both pictures and video. On our way back to the airstrip, we decide to hike up Sugar loaf again with our backpacks, this time from the other side away from any official hiking path. It is a bit strenuous and the sun is now at its strongest, making it very hot and sweaty to reach the top.
We summit around 12:30 and hope to witness the jet again this time, as it was always coming around 1PM so far. Waiting for it is no problem as we have to eat a proper lunch now anyway. Minutes pass and no plan is in sight, I eventually get a bit tired and lay back to be protected from the wind that comes through every now and then. More minutes pass and we are slowly doubting that the jet will come again, maybe it has no daily schedule. After two hours on the summit we eventually decide to let it go and hike down on the other side, making our way back to Kangerlussuaq. We already are familiar with the landscape and just want to get out of here now, it is really not that interesting and you should not come to Greenland because of that. Time slowly passes again but we eventually pass the golf course again, meaning that we are now very close to the village.
After three days of hiking, we obviously would like to have a shower now and asking some locals quickly grants us the advice to go to the south part of the airstrip in order to ask at the local swimming pool if we could use their shower. Just walking from one end of the settlement to the other takes forty minutes and we sit down to have a dinner at the local imbiss first. It is pretty cheap here actually for Greenlandic standards and I “only” pay 80DKK (about 11€) for a burger with fries. Before taking a shower, we actually have to find a place to sleep first and decide to set up our tents at the outskirt of Kangerlussuaq, just seconds away from the swimming pool. Arriving there, I ask the guy at the counter how much he wants to charge us for a shower. He says 50DKK and I immediately ask for less. We both hand him 20DKK each (about 3€), which seems alright for a quick shower. It was certainly worth it and we can go to bed refreshed and with the first memories of Greenland in our heads while we fall asleep next to an abandoned building…
Dec 19, 2013Posted in: Off-Topic
I recently made up my mind to quit my job and start traveling the world for about 2 years starting Monday, September 1st, 2014!
The following first Draft shows the route I'd like to take but it will change a lot while I start to actually plan it - not even sure if I will go East or West bound yet, but it will probably be west so the arrows might actually turn out wrong in the end.
I will document the planning process and of course the trip itself on myBlog!
Whoever wants to virtually follow me on that journey should do that via Facebook :-)
Oct 17, 2012chrisontour84 posted a message on Travel Report: Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro (June 2012)And the 2nd partPosted in: Off-Topic
Region: Africa, Tanzania
Travel time: 2012, June 20th to June 23th
Picture Gallery: Link
"This night will be very cold on the summit, expect -20°C", Nelson warns us and we fill up our camel backs with hot tea water, even though we know that this won't help much in six hours when we hopefully get close to the summit. We check our head torches and off we go into the night, following all the other lights in front of us. King William shouts out "Pole, Pole!" (Slow, Slow!) but in reality, we actually have a reasonable speed and pass one group after the other.
Welcome to the second half of my Kilimanjaro Report, click here to read the first one.
June 20th, 2012 - Barranco camp (3950m) to Karanga camp (3963m)
A feel of joy surrounds me this morning, realizing that I was sleeping for a complete night finally. Unfortunately, Christoph and Jessie are not able to share these feelings, as they are both suffering from nausea now. "Today will be an easy day and you will have time to recover for the summit night", Nelson encourages them and we are really glad for this extra day on the mountain. I look up to the imposing Barranco Wall and it seems like a tough climb, lot's of porters and hikers are already queuing up in this narrow and extremely steep section.
Turns out that the wall is not as tough as it looks, using my hands to stabilize from time to time, it is a fairly easy walk. The porters are not impressed either, as they are basically running up there with all their luggage. Well, we know that they are beasts by now :-) We reach the top of the wall after 45 minutes and enjoy the superb view on Kilimanjaro. "Ahh you like it ya?", King William of Kili says while looking at the sky, "you will have an even better view on him tomorrow." Speaking of the King, he is an incredible funny person, who will most definitely bring a smile on your face after a couple of seconds talking to him. He got his Nickname by guiding a blind man up to the top with his long term partner Nelson.
We arrive at Karanga camp after crossing a valley, which contains the last water supply on the way to the summit. The sun is gone and the camp covered in a thick fog. Some crows are also present here and the place has a very creepy atmosphere now. The "toilets" are actually smelling so bad, one would actually be better off looking for another place to take care of his business. It's also freezing cold, but I still decide that it is time for a complete body wash before we head into the final stage, so get undressed and clean myself with the cold water. Totally refreshed now, I start to read my book and wait for dinner.
June 21th, 2012 - Karanga camp (3963m) to Barafu camp (4550m)
Yesterday's fog vanished away and we have a clear view on Kilimanjaro. There are lots of clouds in the distance though, blocking the sight on Mt. Meru (4565m). I was actually looking forward to this day and am disappointed now, as I can barely spot the mountain. We begin the 6km hike and the landscape looks familiar - lot's of lose rocks and a great views on Kilimanjaro, as we are heading to it's east side. My headache is gone and I'm feeling pretty good in general, Christoph and Jessie are also getting better as well, so everything is set for the big showdown!
Arriving at our base camp for the summit night after four hours, Nelson explains that it got its name from the cold weather conditions up here on 4,550 meters, as Barafu is translated to "ice". The tents are already set up between two huge stone walls and we see the peaks Kibo and Mawenzi. Suddenly, the complete camp is starting to scream and laugh, turning it into an open air theater with a great atmosphere. I look up and can't believe my eyes - a tent from another tour operator is actually flying above us like a kite, quickly disappearing behind a wall after a couple of seconds. "The wind is very strong here because of the surrounding peaks", Nelson says, "they will send out some people to pick it up again".
Our guides lead us to the path that we will use to climb the summit this night, it is important to see the terrain now while it is still bright. We climb up a couple of hundred meters and then sit down to have our final briefing. I enjoy the view on the camp and mentally prepare myself for the upcoming challenge. We will now have two hours to rest before lunch is served and then another seven hours to sleep. Excitement is rising and I crawl into my sleeping bag, trying to catch some sleep and recover my energy.
June 22th, 2012 - Barafu camp (4550m) to Uhuru Peak (5895m) to Millenium Camp (3820m)
A severe pain in my hip wakes me up. I guess it was a bad idea to sleep on the side when only a thin sleeping mat separates me from the rocks underneath - but it was just so damn cold! I patiently wait for the tea to reach drinkable temperature and already begin to put on my summit gear: two pair of thick socks, long underpants (borrowed from Simon), two pants, two icebreaker merino wool shirts (150 & 260), one fleece and my weather proof jacket should do the deal in combination with my hat and the gloves I got from Nelson.
"This night will be very cold on the summit, expect -20°C", Nelson warns us and we fill up our camel backs with hot tea water, even though we know that this won't help much in six hours when we hopefully get close to the summit. We check our head torches and off we go into the night, following all the other lights in front of us. King William shouts out "Pole, Pole!" (Slow, Slow!) but in reality, we actually have a reasonable speed and pass one group after the other.
Walking in this altitude with 50% less oxygen compared to sea level is different and I'm having a hard time to breath, but other than that I don't feel affected by it a lot. However, I have a pain in my stomach and begin to lose my sense of balance after two hours of walking. Definitely a sign of AMS. It becomes worse the higher we get and occasionally, I need to use my hands to stabilize myself. Nelson and King William are taking a close look at me and are always around to help me out if needed. I can barely see any stars in the sky, must be very cloudy up above.
I keep on walking like a drunk guy and have to sit down to drink some water to recover on a regular basis. The water in my camel back already starts to freeze and it's getting hard to drink from it. We keep on passing group after group and it is a very tough and demanding walk, but eventually we reach Stella Point (5685m) around 5AM. Our guides provide us with hot tea and it is amazing to drink it now. I imagine to be very close to the summit now, but Nelson corrects that assumption as we have one more hour in front of us - Urgh!.
The Video was supposed to be here. Unfortunately, I'm having some technical issues and will publish it another day.
Entering a trance-like stage, I try hard to keep on walking in a straight line. It's also slowly getting brighter and finally King William announces that "Uhuru Peak is at the end of this path!". Bundling all my strength and energy, I rush towards the highest point in Africa (without falling!) as the first in our group. Only a handful of people are here already, we actually passed all other groups on our way up. The sun shows it's face through the clouds partly now, but the sight is still not good and it is strongly advised to descend again as soon as possible.
Despite the -20°C on the summit, I take off my gloves to start taking pictures and film the rest on their final stretch to the top. Being in my trance, I don't even realize how freaking cold my hands are as I am handling my camera for at least five minutes, before finally putting back on my gloves. I would like stay for some time, but the guides urge us to go down again. Christoph shows symptoms of AMS as well and we're not able to get back as quickly as Moritz and Simon, who've been in a top shape during the complete trip. They form a group with Jessie and Nelson, while we are taking things a bit slower.
It takes a couple of breaks before I slowly receive me balance back. Things are moving way quicker now and I'm actually running down the rocky surface, hooked into King Williams arms so we can both stabilize each other. We have a perfect view on the Mawenzi Summit (5148m) on our left and now most of the clouds disappeared, too bad we had such a bad view on the summit. I could barely see any glaciers at all :-(
We reach Millenium Camp (3820m) six hours later after a break in the base camp, passing an altitude difference of 2,075 meters. In the evening, it's finally time to gather in the dining tent for the last time - I will not miss to sit on these small chairs, but I will definitely look back at all the great meals our cook prepared throughout our trip - he did an amazing job! Nelson and King William join us after the dinner and brief us about the appropriate way to tip the crew on the next day. It takes us 20 minutes to figure out a fair contribution before we retreat into our tents.
June 23th, 2012 - Millenium Camp (3820m) to Mweka Gate (1980m)
Everyone is in a good mood this morning and we talk about our achievement from last night. "You were having some problems over there Chris", Nelson proclaims, "but we noticed that you have a strong will and checked on your vital signs the whole time." I want to know how they did it exactly and King William explains: "We checked for any changes in the color of your eyes and tongue and let you walk in front of us to call your name. You reacted and did not throw up either, so everything was good." Interesting to hear! :-)
It's time to contribute the tips and we receive another performance of the Kilimanjaro song before we continue back to Mweka Gate (1980m), which is about five hours away. We contain a fast pace on the muddy surface and eventually decide to take things even faster by running down with our hiking poles. Moritz is filming with his Go Pro camera and it is certainly quite some fun to do speed up for a couple of minutes, eventually we are exhausted though and maintain a regular fast pace. We are now en route since nearly three hours and I ask our guides how long it would take. "About one hour from here", they reply and it sounds O.K. as we would have saved one hour. Turns out that the gate was just around the corner :-)
We register at the gate and decline any shoe-cleaning offers before getting into our 4x4 jeep to drive back to Moshi. We drop our stuff in the office of Ahsante Tours and continue straight on to the Glacier bar, which also belongs to the same company. A last dinner is supplied here and I'm having a delicious fish together with a Kilimanjaro Beer. Our guides give a last speech and hand over the certificates to proof that we made it to the top of Uhuru Peak.
Today is also the quarter final game between Spain and France and we head to the glacier bar to watch it and finally drink lot's of beer - it's about time! King William joins us as well and it certainly a great way to end this fantastic week of great experiences. I would like to thank my fellow trekkers, guides and the rest of the team for an amazing time. Hakuna matata!
Oct 6, 2012chrisontour84 posted a message on Travel Report: Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro (June 2012)Hey guys! I just finished the first part of my Kilimanjaro Blog and hope you like it. 2nd Part including a 26 mins video will come next friday!Posted in: Off-Topic
Region: Africa, Tanzania
Travel time: 2012, June 15th to June 19th
Picture Gallery: Link
"Right where you are," our guide says, "is where the man died in the landslide." I look at him in utter disbelieve and continue slogging through the alpine desert, 4.000 meters above the African plain. Climbing to Mt. Kilimanjaro's snowy summit is a once in a lifetime experience for some and the start of a mountaineering career for others. I'm not sure which group I belong to just yet, but I will certainly share my experiences on the world's highest free standing mountain.
June 15th, 2012 - Frankfurt to Nairobi
It's Friday evening and I am on Condor Flight DE5264 from Frankfurt to Nairobi, Kenya. Christoph is sitting next to me, struggling with the comfort and narrowness of our seats just like myself. We've known each other for two years and have become good friends with similar interests. One of them is traveling and we are currently on our way to Africa in order to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I'm looking over the main aisle to the other side of the airplane, where Christoph' friends, Moritz and Simon, are already sleeping. Certainly a good idea, as we will be on plane for the night and arrive in Nairobi at 5:10 in the morning.
Restless thoughts about our route are keeping me awake. At 5,895 meters, Uhuru Peak is the highest point on Kilimanjaro. No technical climbing is involved in scaling it, but the high elevation can not be underestimated and only 41% reach the summit according to the Kilimanjaro National Park. I could not prepare for the trip, but am confident in my solid base condition, which leaves the AMS (acute mountain sickness) as the only real threat. Eventually, my mind settles and I doze off in economy class discomfort.
June 16th, 2012 - Nairobi to Moshi
The plane begins to descend and the beeping of the please-fasten-your-seatbelt alarm wakes me up. It is nearly 5AM and we are just on time. I get up and walk towards the exit of the plane and surprisingly, only my buddies and a handful of strangers are leaving the plane in Nairobi, as the rest keeps on sleeping on their way to the final destination. My eyes don't like the fact that I left my contact lenses in during the flight and I'm still pretty tired. We grab our bags, pay the transit visa ($20) and walk to the waiting area outside.
Moritz provides some anti mosquito repellant for us and we only need to put it on today, as we will be too high for them when we start the hike tomorrow morning. The airport in Nairobi is not very nice and after three hours of waiting, the shuttle bus finally arrives. We get inside and try to rest on the most uncomfortable seats I've ever used - too bad we will be in here for the next seven hours!
I'm looking outside the window and it does not take long to realize that I'm in a Third World Country. People and especially young children have a look in their eyes which is hard to describe. They seem lost and not able to change their life for the better, almost like they've given up on themselves. We leave them behind and drive towards Arusha, which is a rather big city of about half a million people. There are a couple of mountains on our way to Moshi, but it takes a while until we can finally catch a glimpse of Kibo.
The driver drops us off at the Weru Weru River Lodge, which belongs to our Operator Ahsante Tours. We receive a warm welcome and one of the employees updates us about the current European Football Championship scores and it's looking pretty good for Germany! Our rooms are good, we have a pool and some sunshine left, so we are getting right into i.! Some overpriced beer and pizza rounds up the day and it's time to get some sleep and rest for the upcoming hike.
June 17th, 2012 - Lemosho Glades (2100m) to Big Tree Camp (2750m)
I wake up at 7AM and could not sleep very well due to Christoph's unrelenting snoring. There is nothing he can do about it, but I'll try to find another person to spend the upcoming nights with :-) We get down to the reception area to meet our guides, Nelson and King William of Kili. They are both very nice persons and I can't image having better guides for the trip. I even got a high-quality pair of gloves from Nelson - mine are apparently not good enough for the cold summit night. We also have time to catch up with Jessie from New York, he is on his own and will join us.
We leave Moshi (910m) and drive west for two hours to reach the Londorossi Park Gate (2100m). All of our luggage has been weighed to determine how many porters we need before we continue to Lemosho Glades (2100m). This is the actual starting point of the beautiful 56km Lemosho route. It will take us six days to get to the top, as we are adding one extra day for better acclimatization. Our 4x4 jeep can't continue through the mud, so we get out and walk the rest to Lemosho Glades. Everyone looks very motivated as we begin to walk into the foggy rain forest...
Our destination for today is Big Tree Camp (2750m), also known as Mti Mkubwa in Swahili, the official language in Tanzania. We are entering the second climate zone on the mountain (five in total) and it's not easy to climb the steep muddy paths due to the rainfalls in the last days. Nelson tells us that this part is actually one of the hardest in bad weather. There are not many animals around and it is rather quiet, except for the sounds of the Black-and-white colobus and blue monkeys. King William is making sure that we keep a slow pace throughout and it takes us nearly three hours to reach the Camp.
The camp is already set up from our porters, who passed us earlier while carrying about 25-30kg each. They are doing an incredible job and try to get promoted to a guide someday. Everyone here needs to start as a porter and only the ones who can speak English will have a chance for a better job. I walk around the campsite and notice the toilets - a hole in the ground surrounded by some walls. Not really looking forward to use these! We gather in our dining tent and patiently wait for the first big meal of the day; turns out that our cook is incredible, as he made us some very delicious chicken with potatoes and vegetables.
June 18th, 2012 - Big Tree Camp (2750m) to Shira 2 (3840m)
Our waiter(!) wakes me up and hands me a nice hot cup of tea. Jessie is sharing the tent with me now, but I could still not sleep this night thanks to the Dolby-surround snore theater around us. The porters provide us with some water to clean ourselves and some purified water to fill up the 3-litre camel backs. We enjoy breakfast, pack up our stuff and then begin the walk to the next camp: Shira 2. We decided to skip Shira 1 and take this long 15km day in the beginning, in order to have an extra day for better acclimatization at Karanga camp.
The path looks very similar to yesterday's and we are constantly climbing up, being happy about the great weather, as more and more sun shines through the trees the higher we get. After about 50 minutes, we reach the top of the forest and get a good view on our surroundings. Nelson makes us aware that we are entering the moorland climate zone and it is great to have a change of scenery again. The sun is really strong now and we are constantly getting passed by porters.
We descend a bit again and reach a nice spot to take a break. Some french guys pass us without any porters, they carry everything on their own and just have a guide with them. I think I could do it as well, but since it's my first time in this altitude, I decided to take the easy way to make sure I reach the top :-) We take some pictures and continue climbing up, only to finally see what we were all waiting for: Kilimanjaro is showing up in the distance and he looks damn far away still!
The hike continues for about half an hour before we reach Shira 1 camp. We stop for another break and just enjoy sleeping in the sun for a short while. Turns out that this was a bad idea, as I can already feel the first sun burns coming up, especially on the back of my legs. I decide to cover up most of my body from now on, even if the sun is still out strong. The hike starts to get more demanding the further we go on, but eventually we reach our destination with a slight headache.
As usual, we first need to sign up in at one of the huts with our name, nationality and signature. This needs to be done each day and the data is used for official statistics including date, name, nationality and operator. I notice that it is significantly colder already at 3840m and put on some extra layers, as well as my hat. We are already above the clouds and I stay out to enjoy the great views before heading back to get dinner. We are all freezing in the tent while waiting for hopefully yet another great meal. This is gonna be a very cold night...
June 19th, 2012 - Shira 2 (3840m) to Lava Tower (4630m) to Barranco camp (3950m)
I'm blessed with hot tea again - definitely a must-have right now, as last night was one of the coldest I ever experienced. Our sleeping bags only have a comfort temperature of +4 °C and I would not exactly categorize the sleeping mats as comfortable. We get popcorn soup for breakfast again and I'm so sick of it, the cucumber soup is way better.. My body is a wreck, four sleepless nights and a lack of appetite are taken their tolls, but this won't break my will to reach the summit, as my mental health stays strong.
A long walk through the warm alpine desert is ahead of us and our crew celebrates the famous Kilimanjaro Song, singing and dancing for us before we start this difficult day:
Habari gani (How are you?)
Mzuri Sana (Very fine)
Mwakaribishwa (You are welcome)
Hakuna Matata (There are no worries)
Tembea pole pole (Walk slow, slow)
Utafika salama (Come safe)
Kunywa maji mengi (Drink plenty of water)
Great performance by the guys (and the porter girl!), the rhythm of this song will stick in our heads for sure. I make sure that my jacket is protecting me from both the wind and the sun as we head towards Lava Tower (4630m). Hour after hour walking on rocky paths without any vegetation or animal life is passing, and my stomach is giving me a very hard time. The headache is getting stronger as well, definitely a result of the high altitude. I can spot people in the distance as they are walking on the Machame route, which will unite with ours very soon. We finally arrive at the Tower after 6 long hours.
Our guide Nelson suggest some extra-fun by climbing the Tower before we get together for lunch. "It is a very easy climb", he says and it would only take him 15 minutes to get up and down again. We look at each other and decide to accept his offer. I'm the last one in our group and the climb is not exactly easy for me in my current state, nevertheless all of us make it back safely and the great views on the Western Breach and down a 60m vertical cliff were amazing!
The uttering bad feeling in my stomach is getting worse as we are leaving the Tower behind us. Heading into a valley, I can see the first Senecio kilimanjari - a unique and bizarre plant that only exists in this part of the world. I notice a weird feeling in my throat and then suddenly scream out "STOP!", seconds before throwing up in the serpentine curve next to me. "Are you OK?", Christoph asks and hands me some tissues. "Feeling much better now, thanks.", I reply and continue walking with renewed energy after dropping all the bad stuff in my body.
I can finally enjoy the ongoing walk and my release could have not come at a better time, as we are entering the final path down to the camp. The immense Western Wall of Kilimanjaro is constantly present to my left, while tons of huge Senecio kilimanjari are showing up along the way - just incredible! I can see the camp already and King William explains that this day was very important for our acclimatization, as we were climbing very high today while staying in a camp 700m lower than the Lava Tower.
This is the end of the first half of my Kilimanjaro Report. The second one will follow next friday!
Oct 1, 2012Hey guys, thanks!Posted in: Diablo III General Discussion
Yea sorry about the word Ladder, still sticks in from the old days I actually forgot to mention that I would also love to have a ladder again and they should get rid of that bullshit level cap. It should be like Diablo2 Classic where it took 1 month from 92 to 93 if you play solo.
So an additional ladder modus where everyone starts from 0 with a new RMAH would be perfect!
But lets see, maybe it will never happen but thats ok too, I dont have much time to play anyway
Oct 1, 2012chrisontour84 posted a message on Travel Blog: Couchsurfing in Spain Part I (Barcelona)Posted in: Off-Topic
Region: Europe, Spain
Travel time: 2009, October 12th to October 15th
My journey to Spain marked the beginning of a new era: Couchsurfing. I joined the community two weeks before my trip to Barcelona and Mallorca in October 2009 and got addicted to it ever since. This post will not only cover my experiences in Spain, but also give some general insights into Couchsurfing.
I was very glad to be jetting off to the south, as it was a very rainy period of the year in Frankfurt and the weather forecast for Barcelona looked much better. Prior to the trip, I got in touch with a few couchsurfers and asked them if I could crash in for a couple of nights. As my profile was brand new and I only had 2 references, it was not easy to find a proper place. But in the end I found a host: Mabel from Peru. She just moved to Barcelona to start her studies and I was her first guest - perfect timing! :-)
I believe empty profiles can sometimes deter potential hosts as they would prefer to host someone who has already received positive feedback. I personally do not follow this procedure and as long as the surfer seems to be a nice human being, I’ll give them a chance to start their couchsurfer career, even if they don’t have any references at the time. At the end of the day, everyone has to start from scratch. Sitting, Waiting, Wishing..
I arrived pretty late at the Main train station in Barcelona without any plans, waiting for Mabel to pick me up. As the minutes passed by, I asked myself if it was right to visit a foreign city and meet up with someone you don't even know? I couldn't reach her on the number she provided and after 45 minutes of waiting, I started to formulate alternative plans... should I wait longer or start looking for a cheap hostel?
I decided to get going 15 minutes later and it was then when Mabel finally reached me. I was very relieved and we decided to meet up at a Metro station close to her place. Since it was not so far away, I decided to walk there, crossing the Arc de Triomf which apparently served as the location for a Couchsurfing meeting with a lot of young people dancing in the dark.
Eventually I met Mabel and we walked back to her place which she shared with a bunch of guys. I can still remember Mario very well, a nice guy who always had a smile on this face, even though he only understood about 10% of what I said :-) But aside from all the language barriers, you somehow manage to communicate with another person through reading their emotions and reactions.
We kept on talking deep into the night until it was finally time to sleep on my first couch at a stranger's place - located in the kitchen! Even though it might not look that comfortable, I had a very good sleep that night!
Using Couchsurfing for your trips requires that you don't expect a 5-star hotel room. Over the years, I’ve experienced sleeping on a lot of different couches and beds and though they may not look very nice sometimes, I always had a good nights sleep. You don't have to pay anything for it, so you should not be very demanding and you will also have a picture or at least a good description of the couch before you actually get there.
October 13th in Barcelona
I woke up with an incredibly good feeling, as the first thing my eyes could catch was the sun shining in through a tiny gap in the window. The boys headed to their universities and since Mabel had the following days off, she kindly offered me to show me the city. As we walked though the streets of Barcelona, we came by a group of people celebrating one of the typical Catalan Festes.
The next destination was Parc de la Ciutadella, an 70 acres wide green spot in the city and a very nice location to hang out for a while. The park also hosts the Zoo which we didn't visit though. Getting closer to the nice harbor of Barcelona, we decided to drop by at the Aquarium. I payed for Mabel's Entry Fee since I didn't bring any gifts from home but it turned out that the money was not well spend - missing the Aquarium is definitely something you can do.
Getting to the top of the Columbus Monument however is a must-do as it provides a good overview of the city. It is also the starting point of the 1.2km long street La Rambla, which is known for it's pickpocketing, so you should always take care of your belongings while walking the crowdy mall. Mabel had to leave at this point and I met up with Katrin, a German Couchsurfer living in Barcelona. She was also one of the people to deny my request as she only accepted females ;-)
We spent the following hours talking at the beach with the sun setting behind us. She told me a lot about her previous Couchsurfing experiences, which is always a fun thing to do with other Couchsurfers as most of them have some very funny stories to tell. As we were talking, we didn't realize that the waves were getting stronger and eventually a big one surprised us and caught Katrin's shoes :-)
Did you know? You can specify to only host males or females. This is especially useful for young ladies starting off on the site as most of them are afraid of "bad guys" who try to end up in bed with them. Even though I never had a "Couchsurfing-Affair", I can image that some people try to use the site as an easy way to date people. So far, only one female couchsurfer told me about a story where she felt harassed by a guy - you could image that it happens a lot more!
October 14th in Barcelona
Today was the day to see all the major tourist spots created by Antoni Gaudí. Everything he created looks so unique and special and seeing those sites live is one of the highlights in Barcelona. Using the Subway, you can directly head to Casa Milà & Casa Batlló, two houses created by the great architect. They already look really cool but once you start walking around, you'll soon discover the church Sagrada Família, which is the best known attraction of the city for a reason. Parc Güell comes in pretty close though in the ranking as it is also full of Gaudi-typical buildings and structures, plus it provides some very awesome view points to see the complete city and the beach behind it. I highly recommend to check out those!
Mario joined Mabel & me to spend the afternoon at the beach. We had some beers and met a guy who just caught an apparently highly venomous fish. He was pretty proud and posed for my picture :-) We hiked up the hill Montjuïc, which offers a fantastic sight over the city from it's fortress. It was already dark when we reached the top and the reflected lights of the city made the clouds look yellow - pretty cool sight!
As we walked back, my nose began to bleed again due to a small cold. This seems to happen to me quite often during vacations... It wasn't bad though and we could go on after a couple of minutes, passing the Olympic park and the 136m Communication tower which was build in 1992 to transmit television coverage of the 1992 Summer Olympics Games in Barcelona.
October 15th in Barcelona
We used the last day to check out the mountain Tibidabo (512m). Unfortunately it was very rainy and windy that day and we couldn't really enjoy the view up there. The amusement park located at the top of the mountain was also abandoned and only a few other people were walking around. We took some pictures, checked out the church and then headed back - it must be very beautiful up there during sunshine though!
Mabel had to leave me until the evening and I met up with Katrin again, who worked down in the city in a juice bar. On my way there, I checked out the market La Boqueria which offers everything you could ever imagine. After a short stop in the Pablo Picasso museum, I headed to Katrins' to drink some delicious fruit juices and say goodbye to her.
I finally got back to Mabel's place to have my last night in Barcelona - it has been a great way to spend the first half of my vacation and to have my first Couchsurfing experience!
Check out Part 2 for the rest of the trip on the Island Mallorca.
Oct 1, 2012Hey there,Posted in: Diablo III General Discussion
do you think Blizzard will ever do a ladder reset? I did not have time to play and with the Auction house it kinda feels that all the mass gamers have the best items now so it would be nice to start from 0 with everyone to actually sell some stuff.
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