30 November 2010

Olympic Corruption

Where do you think the most expensive road in the world is located? And how much did it cost to build, per kilometer?

Would you believe that Russia has spent $145 million per kilometer to build a road from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana? That is $145,000 per meter. So, you could buy a house in California or a few meters of asphalt. How is that even possible?

29 November 2010

The Fish Spa

On a hike in Rio de Janeiro last February, we happened upon a pond with these tiny fish that nibbled at our feet. It tickled and was an odd sight. Later that day, we researched the fish online and discovered that they were feasting on our dead skin. Yummy.

27 November 2010

Two Movies of Elbrus

To watch these in HD, or to see other videos from our journey, please visit my YouTube site.

To see all of our photos from the Caucasus Mountains, check out my Picasa Photos.

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6 Months Ago: Machu Pichu, Peru

25 November 2010

Where Were We . . .

One year ago, Kristin and I were in Los Glaciares National Park. The park is world renown for the impending spires of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.

We camped in the park for nine glorious days. We resupplied our food and fuel in the town of El Chalten, only an hour's hike from our basecamp.

I distinctly remember hiking out on Thanksgiving Day last year so that we could email our family. We played Rummikub while warming up inside a friendly restaurant. Kristin and I shared a large pizza and a glass of Malbec. The weather during the prior week had been sunny but extremely windy and cold. We were very grateful for the cozy respite.

I'm thankful for our current comfortable and warm living situation in Bulgaria. (Thanks Mark and Marie for making this possible!)

However, it's not as scenic here as where we were last year. So I've included a few photos from Los Glaciares. These were taken just prior to when we hiked back to town for Thanksgiving.

I do look back at the photos with awe. I can't believe we were there!

Wishing I could fly.

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6 Months Ago: Cusco, Peru

Thanksgiving Again

As Kristin and I enjoy our Thanksgiving together in Bulgaria, we are thinking of you - our friends and family throughout the world.

If there is one thing I am most thankful for, it is all that I have learned from Kristin this year. An important lesson she taught me was that all relationships take time and energy, regardless of how strong the bond. Relationships don't maintain themselves.

So, tonight I will raise my wine glass to my wonderful wife and to my renewed relationship with an old best friend.

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6 Months Ago: Cusco, Peru

23 November 2010

Our Russian Holiday in Sochi

(This is a recap of our travels in Russia from early September)

After our two "exciting" backpacking trips in the Caucasus Mountains (see posts 1 and 2), we knew that it was time to hit the road again. Or tracks, as is often the case in Russia. Train tracks.

Our overnight train from Mineral Waters to Sochi was not the most pleasant - we took the platz kart wagon, which was the cheapest and most crowded. Our bunk beds were next to the door that led to the bathroom and the smoking room. Perfect.

17 November 2010

Small Pleasures in Big Mountains

Enjoy this selection of miniature natural wonders from our treks in the Caucasus Mountains, Southern Russia.

10 November 2010

Elbrus - Tallest Mountain in Europe

High Adventure: The True Story of the First Ascent of EverestThe most famous story in Everest history should be the first ascent, by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

You may be more familiar, though, with the events of May 1996. That was when a storm came down on several climbing teams, stranding them in a whiteout that left 8 dead. It was easily the worst day on Everest. You have likely heard about this fatal day because of Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
In this book, Krakeuar describes the lead guide of another company as reckless for not using bottled oxygen, among other things. That lead guide, however, was the only person to go back into the storm, rescuing two climbers, and led the only commercial group that didn't lose any clients. 

The ClimbThat lead guide was Anatoli Boukreev. He wrote The Climb in response to Krakauer's version of the Everest tragedy. Prior to that Everest season, Boukreev had already established himself as the most accomplished Russian mountaineer. He won Soviet climbing competitions on Mt. Elbrus by running up the solid snow in sprinting cleats. You know, those thin little shoes that have small spikes on the sole and are designed for track sprinting events? Most climbers would be in waterproof, double-insulated boots with a steel shank in the sole. Boukreev redefined hard-core.
I have been dreaming about Elbrus ever since I read that book in college.

And now I can finally say "Here I am."

08 November 2010

Backpacking and Bribes

(This is a recap of our travel in Russia in late August)

Our first trip in to the Caucasus Mountains was a mild hike over Epchik pass. We could have done this in two days, but the transportation alone took 4 hours each way. We turned it into a three-day trek and enjoyed the down time.

Now, it seems like I am getting into the habit of starting a blog by writing a horror story from our travels in Russia. I wish I could tell you that this blog will be different, but it's not. This trip had three exciting stories.

04 November 2010

(Don't Drink the) Mineral Waters

(This is a recap of our travels in Russia, dated August 19)

Our arrival in Mineral Waters remains to be the beginning of one of the worst travel experiences I have suffered anywhere in the world. And this was just a forewarning of a few more unpleasant situations in our near future.

Unfortunately, I don't know if I can do this story justice . . .

After spending the night in the Moscow Airport during our layover between Murmansk and Mineral Waters, we finally arrived at our terminus on a beautiful sunny morning. We took three steps into the airport and a police officer pulled us over and demanded to see our passports.

02 November 2010


(Recap from Russia #3 - August 17)
After recovering from our debacle in the Khibini Mountains, we walked several blocks to Lenin Square to meet our bus. We arrived at 10:20 and our bus was supposed to swing by at 10:30. Of course this didn't happen, so Kristin waited there while I ran to the ticket agent a few blocks away.

In the usual soviet attitude, the ticket agent told me that the bus left at 9:30. Russia has the worst customer service I have ever experienced. It runs deep and 20 years of capitalism have not changed much. Anyways, the lady said I would have to pay more to get the 5:30pm bus. I asked about a train, and she said it left at 11:05 but she couldn't sell us tickets and we couldn't get to the station in time anyways.