25 July 2010

I Surf

. . . but not boards. The Web. And Couches.

I have been a member of CouchSurfing.org for two years now. This is a well-designed, safe site to meet other travelers who either have a place to stay or are in need of one. The emphasis is on people, however, and not on saving a few dollars. 

When I lived in Davis, nobody wanted to stay on my couch (via couchsurfing.org, at least). This is understandable as Davis is not exactly a backpacker's destination. On the flip side, I never needed to use the site to find a place to stay as I always knew someone wherever I was going. 

Fast forward to this 2 year journey of ours, and we still haven't used CS yet. I had a friend to stay with in nearly every country in South America. They became our into their culture, but it was a limited view as the rest of our time was spent in hostels or camping. We got burnt out on the hostel scene early on, realizing that if we stayed to the tourist route, we would be seeing the same westerners all the time. From the few times that I checked CS, I remember most of the couchsurfers being young males who smoked. 

Now that we are headed to Finland and Russia, I am giving CS another look. I am trying to arrange stays in Helsinki, St. Petersburg, and Moscow. I have high hopes but realistic expectations. I will report back on the results of this experiment. 

That being said, if you are already on CS, please befriend us! We can use all of the positive references that we can get. Look for "Danny and Kat" in Hastings. 

On other news, we leave in a few hours for our big flights: San Francisco - Chicago - Paris - Helsinki. We arrive Monday and will spend a few days in the city before heading to Mother Russia. 

18 July 2010

Panorama Mania

Happy Monday everyone! That probably means more to you than me. However, it does signify the last Monday that we will be in the States. Next Sunday we fly to Helsinki to start Part II of our world journey.

Until then, I will continue to catch up on our stories and photos from South America. For today's viewing pleasure we have a smattering of mountain panoramas, stitched together from 3-6 photos. Click on each photo if to enjoy the full resolution.

Looking south onto the most southern point in South America - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

The mountains near Bariloche offer some of the best trekking in the Andes. Argentina.

The approach to El Chalten on Route 40, giving us a rare clear view of the famous Fitz Roy towers of Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina.

Sunset from our campsite after our first night in Los Glaciares. We stayed in the park 10 days and after nine months in South America is still a clear highlight.

Torres del Paine N.P Chile. Another park in which we spent 10 days. Despite the mass tourism and exorbitant costs, it was still worth it.

Unknown minor range immediately southeast of Huayhuash, Northern Peru.

Huayhuash Trek, Northern Peru.

Sunset from the 4200 meter summit on Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.

15 July 2010

What's in Our Backpack

Well, now you can find out! I added a new page, which you can find on the left side of this blog. I have posted the list of gear that we started out with as well as a more current gear list that was used on our week-long treks through the Andes of Peru and Bolivia.

I have been meaning to post our gear list for quite a while, but only got around to it for publishing our article. Our first list was a rough estimate using super market produce scales. Our second list is more accurate as I weighed items on a digital kitchen scale accurate to one tenth of an ounce. I know, it may sound crazy, but it is what we have to do to keep our packs manageable.

Please feel free to comment or email me if you have any questions.

As much as I like looking at our gear, I like it even better when you can't see our backpacks because they are so small! Going ultralight made it fun and easier to climb over the many 15,000' passes in Peru/Bolivia and scramble off the trail.

New Photos

Of the many projects currently under way, I am trying to catch up on my photo albums. As I go back through my photos, I realize that my camera is capable of taking some pretty incredible pictures. For your visual enchantment, please follow the links:

At the border of Southern Peru and North Western Bolivia, this lake is at the heart of the Incan world. We hiked and camped on the Isla del Sol, Puno, and Copacabana in early June. Big thanks to Todd for stitching together this super rad sunset panorama:
(This picture is giant! Click on it for bigger viewing options)

14,179 feet tall and one of the most prominent mountains in America, this volcano is always a spectacular climb. This year's conditions were particularly good. I summited with both of my climbing groups - the first trip was a private group from the Bay Area and the second trip was part of a summer youth camp (Adventure Trek).

Gotta love those 2am alpine starts - headlamps on!

It was a particularly scenic week on Shasta.

Quite frankly, this is the worst packing job I have ever seen. There is more outside the backpack than inside, yet somehow he didn't lose a single item on the descent.

Upcoming photo albums include: The Cordillera Huayhuash in Northern Peru, La Paz and the Cordillera Real, Salar de Uyuni in Southern Bolivia, and recent photos from our California break.

And if you haven't yet checked out our article, please visit BackpackingLight.com

13 July 2010

I Need a Vacation!

The last two weeks in California have been quite the blur. We visited my family in SF, went to a wedding in Napa, and spent one weekend with Kristin's parents and one weekend with her sister. I guided two trips for Shasta Mountain Guides and Kristin went on a three-day trek in Snow Mountain Wilderness (Mendocino County). We have been eating really well (and too much!), enjoying fine California wine, and visiting as many friends as we can.

As if that wasn't enough, our first travel article was published today. We wrote about having one small backpack with which we could see the world, what's in that backpack, and how we decided what to carry.  We wrote this article in March and April for BackpackingLight.com. Kristin is submitted a second article today: a trip report on our fantastic and challenging trek around the Huayhuash Mountains in Northern Peru. We have a third article due soon, which will analyze our backpacking setup - basically, how good were our initial gear choices and how did everything perform.

To top it all off, we bought tickets to Helsinki, where we'll jump ship to St. Petersburg and start our 10 week Russian Journey. After that, our best guess travel plan is Mongolia, China, Nepal, and India until February, when we head to Italy. We will spend the subsequent six months touring Eastern and Western Europe, Scandanavia, and maybe Northern Africa.

Our friends, now happily married. 

Summit of Shasta, 14,179 feet.

Descending with my four climbers after having summited Shasta. 

The sunset before summit day - the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen on Shasta. 

Two more happy climbers. Happy to have summited, and happy to now descend. Last trip of the season and what a good ending!