SOUTH AMERICA ON A SHOESTRING: Backpacking in Argentina & Chile

I was on the bus once again, returning to Bariloche and to the trailhead of a great adventure. An adventure not only to amazing places, but to becoming a different person.At last I finished the episode with my passport card and was delighted to walk into the hotel at about 7pm to find my card ready for me to collect. Thank you DHL. I spent the day shopping around for climbing equipment; ultimately buying a good ice axe and a pair of crampons – second hand of course. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Chopicalqui.jpgThe hotel reception gave me the address of a lady who owned a cheap hospedaje. So, as the sun began to set, I gathered my stuff and made my way up the hill…away from the touristy centre and toward the barrios of the city. Here I could camp for just $3, but I decided to go for the equally economical option of crashing on a couch outside on the balcony. Nelly – the owner of the guesthouse – welcomed me warmly and made sure that I was comfortable and happy. Throughout my travels across South America I was never short of being amazed at how friendly and accommodating people in hospitality were.I met a humble Japanese traveler, Taka, who was taking a Spanish course before I would continue a cross-continental motorbike expedition. I was pretty impressed with story. He had sold everything and decided to hit the big open spaces on a solo adventure of a lifetime. Three years in to his trip, he had covered Asia, Europe and Africa, and was half way through South America – having shipped his bike from Cape Town to Buenos Aires. We sat peacefully for a few hours, conversing excitedly over the fascination that is borne out of travel and the relationships between cultures and peoples’ psyches. I got an early start the next morning, being treated first by Nelly to a nice breakfast and some pleasant conversation. She told me that the train north into Chile, began not in Osorno, (as I had originally thought) but in Temuco. My first stop enroute to Temuco then, would be Valdivia – one of Chile’s most vibrant cities.I booked a ticket into Chile with Andes Mar and then headed back into town to pick up my long-awaited parcel from Chris. I also did a little extra shopping for climbing and camping gear. My progress was abated by a good hour after I was told that I needed authorization in order to collect my parcel. Great. My only hope was Thomas’s fax machine, but after learning that it didn’t work, I decided to ask the King’s hotel to please authorize the damn form with an ID number and a signature. Sorted.I was stoked to get a thermal undershirt and a polypropylene undershirt for cold weather. Chris also threw in a jar of marmite for the road. A bit random I thought, but hey, you can never get enough energy while on the road. I had run out of time to shop for a stove and a sleeping bag, so I rushed back to the hotel to get my backpack and, with an increasingly depleting window of time, waited for a shuttle to take me to the main bus station…some 3 kilometers away. I hopped onto the bus, meeting this chilled French guy, Joos, who was also headed for Valdivia. The trip this times across the border seemed more revealing, an array of mountainous landscapes featuring abrupt rock formations and patches of red forest…

Source: SOUTH AMERICA ON A SHOESTRING: Backpacking in Argentina & Chile

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LOST IN LITTLE TIBET: A Journey Through the Enigmatic Land of Ladakh | #1/3

‘’This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple. The philosophy is kindness.’’ – H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. Prayer flags whip in the Himalayan wind at over 12 000 feet on the outskirts of Leh.Centuries of spiritual tradition wrapped up in glass protected scrolls. The teachings within blowing in the winds that weather and shape the timeless landscape of the mystical trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh. The wanderlust had been steadily growing and no number of National Geographic magazines or documentaries could cure my itchy feet. I’d just fi

Source: LOST IN LITTLE TIBET: A Journey Through the Enigmatic Land of Ladakh | #1/3

20 MILLION STEPS: The First Person to Walk Around the World

“I walked 20 million steps, figuring 31 steps per 100 feet. I wore out 21 pairs of shoes but I proved something to myself: If a human being makes up his mind, is determined, sets goals, he can walk around the world.”Dave Kunst Image Source: http://herpackinglist.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/around-the-world-travel-packing-list.jpegOn October 20th 1970, Dave and John Kunst embarked on one of the greatest adventures ever done by man. A 14,500 mile circumnavigation of the globe on foot was to be completed. It had never been done before. Well, at least as far as we know. Tragically, John Kunst was shot and killed by bandits in Afghanistan, but his brother Dave would commemorate his death by finishing the epic journey with another of his brothers, Pete. The returned to their starting point on October 5th, 1974. They left Waseca Minnesota with a mule called Willie Makeit and began the first leg of their journey, to New York. No great organization, no aid, just their legs and simple supplies. 21 pairs of shoes. 13 countries, 4 continents. 4 years, 3 months and 16 days. More than 20 million steps. Image Source: http://davekunst1.com/3-pennsylvania-large.jpgOnce they reached the Big Apple, the brothers flew to Portugal, leaving Willie behind as it was too expensive to take him along. In Portugal they encountered extremely friendly people who took them in and offered warm meals and smiles. They also acquired another mule, whom they named – perhaps not so originally – Willie Makeit II. Their good fortune continued in Spain and France, where they were frequently recognized by locals from their appearances in regional newspapers. In Monaco, they experienced on of the highlights of their trip, a prize meeting with Princess Grace. They then pushed on through Bulgaria and Turkey, and after being denied access to enter Russia, continued on through Iran and Pakistan and Afghanistan until they reached India. It was during their walk across Afghanistan that John Kunst was killed by bandits in a remote part of the country. Dave was also shot, but miraculously managed to survive by playing dead during the attack and then spending four agonizing months recovering. Image Source: http://boomersint.com/images/desert.jpgOnce fit to walk again, the remaining brothers pushed on to India. Here they were again given the red light; they couldn’t pass through Burma and were thus forced to fly south, to Australia. This was indeed an intense twist to their epic; a 3000 mile walk across the foreboding Australian outback would not be easy. To make matters more intense, Pete decided to return home, leaving Dave to continue alone, at least with the company of a third mule. Any walk across the world is inevitably going to be full of trials and tribulations. While crossing Australia, Dave’s mule died of thirst and left to cart his supplies with a wagon. After months of struggling he was on the verge of abandoning his load when he fortuitously met Jennie Samuel, a humble schoolteacher from Perth. Jenni agreed to help Dave by hauling his supplies with her truck, with Dave trailing along. In a kind of fairy tale post-ending to the story, Dave and Jenni married in 2013 and are still together. Kunst then flew to Los Angeles to complete the final leg of his around-the-world sojourn, trotting back to Waseca, Minnesota, after having set foot a

Source: 20 MILLION STEPS: The First Person to Walk Around the World

LOST IN LITTLE TIBET: A Journey Through the Enigmatic Land of Ladakh | #1/3

‘’This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple. The philosophy is kindness.’’ – H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. Prayer flags whip in the Himalayan wind at over 12 000 feet on the outskirts of Leh.Centuries of spiritual tradition wrapped up in glass protected scrolls. The teachings within blowing in the winds that weather and shape the timeless landscape of the mystical trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh. The wanderlust had been steadily growing and no number of National Geographic magazines or documentaries could cure my itchy feet. I’d just fi

Source: LOST IN LITTLE TIBET: A Journey Through the Enigmatic Land of Ladakh | #1/3

SPELLBOUND IN PERU: Alpine Climbing in the Beautiful Cordillera Blanca

A collection of some of the mountains I climbed and had the privilege of seeing during my spellbinding adventure to Peru. All images are originals taken by my first Canon camera! Hope you enjoy and are inspired to get out into the mountains!

Slow and steady up Paria (5720m), a superb climb with really crispy snow and ice conditions and awesome weather. The fabled ‘lost city’ of the Incas, Macchu Pichu. Tauliraju (5830m) up close the night before the summit push. The route we took was along the glacier on the right and then up the steep ridge.

Dawn magic. Chacraraju (6112m) in the background on the way up Pisco (5750). All stands still high up in the abode of snows. Heaven is a breath away. Tauliraju (5830m) in the distance! What a stunning climb this was! Aguja (5888m) frosted with precarious looking cornices on the west face.

Source: SPELLBOUND IN PERU: Alpine Climbing in the Beautiful Cordillera Blanca

DAVID vs. GOLIATH: Be In This World, Not Of This World.

In every human being an inner core of resilience, determination and faithful optimism vibrates and styles the shape of our experiences and realities.According thus to person-centered approaches in psychology theory, the human experience is moulded not by predetermined cognitive, biological or environmental influences alone, but is configured through the potentiality of the self to engage with and transcend the cripplings of circumstance in it’s pursuit of personal autonomy and actualization of creative power.Struggle is par for the course as far as life as a human on earth goes. 7.6 billion people experience everyday all range of difficulties and debilitations. Being born mentally ill or physically deformed and relegated as ‘disabled’. Scavenging for food and emptying latrines as untouchables in city slums. Losing loved ones in greedy, senseless wars. Bullied and banished from your homeland as a refugee. Going bankrupt and getting divorced on the same day. Losing touch with your siblings and feeling gaping holes in your history. Flopping a project and feeling like a failure. These, all different examples of the human struggle and the challenges we face.Yet we cannot know nor experience what another’s life is like; our realities are our personal experiences as we exist from our individual perceptive lenses. The journey of self development and actualization is seen and tracked through in as many forms as clouds in the sky.I’d like to believe that we are all Daniel in the struggle against Goliath…and in many ways I do. It comes down to our daily practice, where what we can do is radiate positivity and kindness, having an attitude of gratitude for the extremely rare opportunity to be alive at this moment in time and space. Image source: http://standbydaniel.com/13-daniel-smith-update-terrible-news-05-14-2016

Source: DAVID vs. GOLIATH: Be In This World, Not Of This World.

LOST IN LITTLE TIBET: A Journey Through the Enigmatic Land of Ladakh | Part 1/3

‘’This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.’’ – H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama.

Centuries of spiritual tradition wrapped up in glass protected scrolls. The teachings within blowing in the winds that weather and shape the timeless landscape of the mystical trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh.

The wanderlust had been steadily growing and no number of National Geographic magazines or documentaries could cure my itchy feet. I’d just finished my cultural anthropology master’s at the University of Cape Town and couldn’t wait to get onto a plane and go on another adventure.

My second trip to India, a place that had captivated me five years ago when after having done a stint of English teaching in Nepal, I headed for the mountains to go climbing. Shoestring, solo adventures have been a definitive thread of my life since I left high school and while part of my mind implored me to slink into a steady job and get my career going, the explorer in me was like, ‘’What the hell are you waiting for?’’

Tibetan Buddhist Diasporas in India

Traveling with my ear to ground and for a keenness to learn something about the people and history of the place I was in I couldn’t but be absorbed by the eerie story of Tibetan forced displacement, genocide and ethnocide.

China invaded Tibet in 1950 during Mao’s Great Leap Forward, declaring the People’s Republic sovereignty but granting Tibet ‘autonomy’. An estimated 1 million Tibetans were killed.

Following the Tibetan Rebellion of 1959, an exiled government was established in Dharamsala under the leadership of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyastso. Mao clamped down even harder as he implemented state collectivization of Tibetan land and vicious pogroms on Tibet’s local peoples.

During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, roughly 6000 Buddhist monasteries in Tibet were razed to ashes. While millions of native Tibetans were massacred and literally starved to death by Mao’s invincible Red Army, hundreds of thousands have fled across the precarious Himalayan frontier lands into India over the last 40 years.

Currently known now as the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the Chinese have – despite liberalization of its economic and political structures – assumed near total control of what was historically a vast conglomeration of theocratic kingdoms guided by Buddhist Lamas in the land of snows.

The ancient capital, Lhasa, is barely recognizable, laid over by voracious capitalism and mainstream Chinese politico-cultural structures. While the pain of Tibet is impossible to bear, the redemptive spirit of its peoples is truly something to behold.

In Dharamsala I met Onlay, an 84 year-old survivor of the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Forced to flee with her four younger siblings without her parents after their village had been set alight and ransacked, Onlay embarked on a death-defying journey enduring freezing temperatures and little food for months until they reached in the safe-haven of the official Tibetan government in exile.

Tragically, one sister and two sisters of hers succumbed along the way. Onlay has since lived an unassuming life making beautiful traditional jewellery, blankets and pottery and caring for her grandchildren, whom she cherishes as the diamonds of her life. In the wake of waves of sadness, present-day Tibetan diasporas are finding ways to live with joy and continue the rich tapestry of spirituality and art built up over millennia before them.

Source: LOST IN LITTLE TIBET: A Journey Through the Enigmatic Land of Ladakh | Part 1/3