A Bolivian Adventure- The Road to Sorata

 

Soggy sky,
Fog and mud,
Mountain pass,
Another rut.

Land Cruiser,
Bikes on roof,
Brazilian driver,
And a dirt road that wanders.

Six with driver,
All cramped inside.
Hours of driving
Relentless ride.

A lot of dozing,
Engine droning,
And a Pink Floyd song
Floats through the speakers.

A dream, he wonders?

Over the crest
And then we stop.

Unload the bikes,
Attach the wheels,
To Sorata we ride.

No need to pedal,
It’s mostly down,
But check your brakes,
Control your speed.

Intriguingly,
We’re riding a fine line,
Between old world and new.

Muted colors of the Altiplano,
Wool Ponchos, and Fedora’s.
Brilliantly contrasted
With lightweight bicycles,
Colorful jerseys and helmets.
Soon, the town appears
In the valley below.

No surprise- the map said it would happen.

So, on down we go.

Get to town,
Find the hotel,
Unload the stuff,
Take a shower.

But there’s no water.

So,

Take a nap,
Wander the hallways.
Consider the snake skins,
Along with some maps.

And then it happens,
The water comes back.
Wash off the road,
Break-out the wine.

Finally, it’s time to tell the tales.
While there was nothing gruesome,
Or crashes that day,
There is still so much that remains to say.

Ultimately, it’s off to sleep.
Quiet time to wonder, ponder, and dream.

About the things to yet unfold.

Some will seem profound, others trivial,
Many unexpected, and all amazing.

And each with a story
That begs to be told.

For what it’s worth
A word of advice…

Embrace the unknown,
Hang on for the ride,
Travel the road,
Make adventure your guide.

Audio Version:

Mountain

 

Mountain

Last light,
First light,
And the North Face
Begins to smile.

Magic moment,
Brilliantly bright,
Summit shines,
In all its might.

Suddenly, abruptly,
The crowning glory
Roars to life.

A twinkle of limelight
On the mountaintop.
Briefly highlighted
By the glowing sun.

In a fleeting instant,
The peak shows-off
Its entirety
In one broad stroke.

Ponderance erupts.

For a short time
Life is large, possible,
Loud, tough, and magnificent,
Because a chunk of dirt, rock, and snow,
Reminds you that it is.

Audio Version:

Aconcagua

Mountain Biking

Colorado Single Track

Rolling,
Flowing,
Spinning,
Floating.

Down,
Across,
Up,
Over.

Gripping,
Braking,
Screaming,
Breathing.

Squeeze,
Push,
Lean,
Feel.

Gasping,
Hacking,
Hurting,
Snorting.

Relax,
Look,
Focus,
Squeal.

Shifting,
Laughing,
Weaving,
Grinning.

Hot,
Cold,
Thirsty,
Hungry,

Guessing,
Feeling,
Hoping,
And always thinking.

Audio Version: 

 

Downhill

Alpine Summit Revisited

Summit of Huayna Potosi, Bolivia

Rocky, icy
Mountain summit,
Peaks above
The clouds.

Alpine world
Of wind and cold.
But also,
Warm and calm.

I go ascending,
Mostly upward.
Climbing, slogging
Pushing, moving.

Ice axe, rope teams,
Crampons, prusik.
Crevasses, glaciers,
Headwalls, ridges.

Glaring sun,
Burning lungs.
Frozen fingers,
And biting wind.

Pain gives way to persistence.
A deep breath of anticipation
Supercharges my lungs.

My focus sharpens.
No more blurry,
No more struggle,
No more doubt.

Within moments,
The horizon magically sinks,
As the mountaintop rises,
And welcomes me
Onto its crest.

I’ve won the battle of my efforts,
And the mountain the war for my soul.

Audio Version: 

On the Summit

Rain on My Tent

Anchoring the Tent

Raindrops pounding my tent,
They sound like thunderous applause,
Every time the wind gusts,
And throws them in bunches
Against the fly.

Lightning flashes remind me
Of other power surges.

Thin sheets of nylon
Are all that shield me
From the wet and chaos.

But all is well,
Because the dome protecting me
Is well anchored.
And I am warm and dry,
Zipped-up inside it.

I’m getting sleepy,
Even though it’s only 4:00 in the afternoon.

It’s good to be
Settled into my sleeping bag,
Just as the music begins.

I close my eyes and listen.
As the Rain Symphony gets underway.

I’m intent on absorbing its every nuance.
The subtle pauses, the crescendos,
The somber moments, the tempo changes.

Have I heard this one before, I wonder?
Some parts sound familiar.

But I know better.
Because every Rain Symphony is unique.
Each performance only happens once.
There will be other concerts
That are nearly,
But not quite,
The same.

Each is composed of
Familiar and comfortable sounds,
Blended with surprise.

Like always, the music is spectacular.
Contentedly,
I let my mind wander,
And begin to dream.

Audio Version:

Camp at the end of a bushwhack
A Mountain Campsite

The Tarryall

The Tarryalls from Sand Creek

Tarryall Mountains,
Colorado treasure.
Smack dab in the middle of the state,
And overlooking South Park.

Improbable and majestic granite towers,
Boulders of all sizes,
Alpine tundra,
Bighorn Sheep,
And Bristlecone Pines.

Rambling streams and beaver ponds.
Smoky Quartz and Topaz.
Calypso Orchids,
Old-growth forest,
And a creek that disappears.

Tales of Utes,
The last wild buffalo,
Wolves,
Gunfights,
Walt Whitman on a train,
Homesteaders,
And miners rich with gold.

Bison Peak, McCurdy Mountain,
McCurdy Tower, and McCurdy Park.
X Rock, the Sand Creek Buttress,
Twin Eagles,
And Spruce Grove.

Humongous crystals, albino trout,
Ute Creek, and Bison Pass.
The Hourglass Burn, Lost Park Wilderness,
Brookside-McCurdy Trail,
And the Old Miner’s Cabin.

A wild place with few people,
Plenty of mystery,
And a warm wind that whispers “Tarryall.”

Audio Version:

McCurdy Mountain,
Tarryalls

Sunset

Sunset

Whether you’re sitting on a ridge,
Leaning against a tree,
Propped against a rock,
Resting on a bench,
Or rocking in a chair.
It doesn’t matter.

It’s all good,
And you can watch it unfold every day.

The Sun falls
Onto the horizon.
And then,
Disappears.

It happens differently everywhere.

But in the mountains,
A final burst of light,
Comes before the night.
It’s called Alpenglow.
For a brief moment,
Distant peaks come to life.
Mutedly brilliant,
Spectacular, and subtly bright.

Then,
The shadows take over.
After a short time,
They melt together,
Into a big invisible mass,
And finally, just disappear.

At that point,
The night is in control.
Light and color take a much deserved rest.
A first star appears,
The day is done,
Gone the sun.

Audio Version:

Evening Light on the Tarryall Mountains

In Celebration of the Winds

Cirque of the Towers,
Wind River Range

Rumbling rivers, creeks, and streams.
Water left pure,
From the moment it falls
On the Continental Divide, as rain or snow,
And begins its journey
Down to the oceans.

Some of it goes into the ground.
Some fills my cup.
Some provides the Brook Trout a place to live.
Some gives the Spruces a drink.
Some makes wallows for the elk.
Some creates glaciers.
And some goes back into the sky and falls again.

Up here, the water is guarded for a while,
By the Winds,
The Wind River Mountains that is.

The range of mountains is inhospitable to some,
But beckoning to others.
The place is too rough for roads,
But covered with paths.

People go there,
To hike, fish, climb, camp,
Meander, sit, ponder, and dream.

But few remain–
There are other places
Better suited to
Building, driving, using, living,
And staying.

Besides,
Protecting the water
Is a full time job.

The mountains, forest,
Creeks, and meadows,
Are left free to do
What they do best.
And they do it well.

The water will move on
And nourish the flatlands.
It’ll irrigate corn, bathe babies,
Water lawns, and get purified
For drinking.

One way or another, the water will change
Once it flows beyond
The protection of the Winds–
For better or worse.

But up in this neck of the woods,
All is well for a time.
And the water is clear
Thanks to Pingora, Gannett, and Fremont.
Dinwoody, Lizard Head,
Desolation, and The Sphinx.
Washakie Pass, Titcomb Basin,
Dickinson Park, and The Cirque of the Towers.
Popo Agie River, Deep Creek Lakes,
Mitchell Peak, and Wolf’s Head.
Stough Creek, Three Fork’s Park, Wind River Peak,
And so many more…

The world is a better place
Because of them.

Audio Version:

Lizard Head, Wind River Range

The Pre-trip Orientation

Getting Organized

Latimer pulled his F150 into an opportune parking spot near the Green Cow’s front door and stopped. He got out, locked the door, and went inside– eager to hear about the trip and meet the others. A fit-looking young man wearing a Wildbrink Adventures t-shirt met him just inside the door, introduced himself as the Assistant Trip Leader, and directed him into a back room. A group of six were already there and standing around in a jumbled circle, with drinks in hand and making small talk. Like him, most were in their 40’s, except for one especially hardened and hearty older woman whom he recognized from her photo in the brochure as the group leader. Instantly, he saw her as just the kind of person he wanted to be with in the South American wilds.

Before he even finished his first beer, the leader elevated her voice and addressed the entire group, saying, “okay, everyone, take a seat and let’s talk about the trip.”

Within minutes, everyone was seated and quiet, and she began. “Welcome, and I look forward to spending two weeks with each of you in the Andes. My name is Regina Gurgola, but everyone just calls me Gurgles. That guy sitting over there is my cohort and second in command, Kevin. The two of us want to do all we can to help you get the most out of your experience and to keep everyone as safe as possible. Of course, safe is a relative term since nothing is actually guaranteed to be safe. But we do make an effort to be well prepared for dealing with whatever situations might arise. To that end, expect the unexpected, and just embrace it.”

“A few things to know about the area,” she continued. “It’s a really majestic and wild place that’s probably unlike anything you’re used to. Don’t be thinking that where we are is a bad place, because it’s not- it’s just different. Undoubtedly, you’ll experience many amazing and interesting things. A few hints or insider tips to help you get the most out of the experience: first off, the water system down there is not like what you’re used to, so don’t drink the water out of the tap—only put bottled water in your stomach. That’s especially important because your time down there is limited, and you don’t want to waste it dealing with the yilly yally ying-yang. Also, in that regard, avoid eating any fresh produce that you can’t peel. We’ll have bottled water available to us all of the time and just plan to eat cooked meat and potatoes. More often than not, at least they’re predictably overcooked and sterile. Salads are a big no-no, and don’t even think about biting into one of the apples you’ll see in the markets. And on that note, you also might want to think about what meat you’re eating and if it is actually fully cooked. FYI, Guinea Pig is considered a delicacy in the area, and reliable cold storage can be a problem. A lot of people also try to conserve what gas they have and tend to eat their meats on the rare side. So just beware.”

“For those of you non-Spanish speakers, you’ll want to know the word “bano,” which means bathroom. That’s one you’ll use more than any other, but hopefully not in an emergency situation. This brings me to toilet paper. Don’t put it in the commode! There will be a separate bin for that, and the plumbing systems aren’t built to accommodate it. Don’t forget or challenge the technique because the result can lead to a big mess that you certainly don’t want to deal with. I know it sounds gross, but it’s just the way things are.”

Then, Gurgles seamlessly turned the discussion to poison insects, but Latimer didn’t hear anything she was saying from that point on. That’s because he was deeply engrossed in trying to figure out what to do if he got stuck on a bus amid a personal intestinal emergency situation. The “what ifs” instantaneously began overwhelming his thoughts. What if I’m in the middle of a town? Do they have public bathrooms? What if I get water in my mouth during a shower or forget and rinse out my toothpaste with tap water? What if a Guinea Pig’s eyes are staring at me while I try and eat it? What if I take a bite of chicken and it’s not fully cooked? What do I do with the toilet paper if there’s no trash can? What if I wash my hands with tap water and then eat a hamburger?

And the questions continued until there was a moment of silence, and his focus returned to Gurgle’s words as she said, “well, that’s the most important stuff. Thanks for coming, and we’re both looking forward to the adventures we’re sure to share. If you have any questions, just stick around, and we can talk them through. If you need to get going, don’t feel compelled to stay- we’ll have plenty of time to talk as things develop. Latimer stayed because he had the time and a lot of questions.

Audio Version:

The Leaders

 

The Trip to Corcovado

Sleeping in the Jungle

Corcovado,
Costa Rica,
Rivers, jungles,
Pura Vida.

To the station
Called Sirena.
Must cross the inlet,
Before dark.
When rising tide
Will let the sharks
Into the river to feed.

Heavy backpacks,
Walk on beach,
Sloping sand,
Glaring sun,
And Howler Monkeys
Screeching in the forest.

That race is won,
And we arrive unscathed.

So, we…

Unpack the packs,
Set up the tents.
Cook the supper,
Then dishes rinse.

Restless night,
Hot and sweaty,
Lot’s to see,
We will be ready.

Trees and bushes,
Bugs and birds.
A world alive,
Beyond mere words.

Down the runway,
One dark night.
Perhaps a Tapir,
Will catch our light.
And it does.

The next day…

We walk to ocean,
To fish and look.
A great big shark,
Just bends the hook.

The big fish are everywhere,
And a feeding frenzy begins.

The next day it happens,
We pack the gear.
Time to go,
The end is near.

Into the forest,
A path is taken.
With heavy packs,
And legs a achin’.

Thorns and vines,
Mud and sand.
To the north,
Lay promised land.

Unseen gold miners,
A guard with gun.
Miles of walking,
But all still fun.

Then like always,
The end arrives.
One last step taken,
Our lives awakened

Audio Version:

Not a Shark