Monday, November 15, 2010

Into Thin Air

ROSEMARY: Well, I am back from my trip to Everest Base Camp (and went straight to Crimebake where there waas more yakkking than yaks.) More than once over the course of the last few weeks I've sworn my next trip will be to Rome where I can sit in a piazza enjoying a cafe macciato and watching the handsome, long-haired boys go by instead of clinging to a mountainside waiting for the long-haired yaks to go by.

It's all S.J. Rozan's fault. I really wanted to go to Mongolia with her last summer but I flip-flopped so many times it got too late and I whined to my husband that I was never going to have any adventures anymore. (I must be careful what I say to him.) Before I knew it I had signed on for a trip to Nepal.

The gear which had served us so well when we climbed Kilimanjaro a few years back would not be good for 0 degrees and we would be limited to thirty pounds of luggage each which meant investing in some newer lightweight sleeping bags, pads, etc. The salespeople at Paragon and EMS must have salivated when they saw us coming with out three page gear lists. ("You really should go for the down booties, too.")

Like Mark Twain said "beware of all enterprises that require new clothes." And as Dorothy Gale says at the end of The Wizard of Oz "some of it wasn't very nice, but most of it was beautiful."

If I thought I'd be thin and tan by the end of the trip, not a chance. Despite walking uphill for 4-8 hours a day the way you are plied with rice, potatoes and other carbs to keep you going negates any calorie deficit, and the food is so bland I found myself fantasizing about Snickers bars and Lay's potato chips, two foods which are available even in the back of beyond. And can someone please explain the appeal of Fanta to me? It's revolting, yet it too is available everywhere. And the goggles I wore over my glasses, combined with the buff - a neckpiece that most sherpas and trekkers wear - gave me a ridiculous windburn on my face - pink and white horizontal stripes. And as for my trip mates - let's just say a fair number of them will be victims in my next book. But most of it was good and neither Bruce and I were injured nor sufered from altitude sickness. And the pictures are killer.

So what adventures or trips have you embarked on that started with certain expectations and wound up differently?

More exotic posts later this week - Are you going to eat that?, the very exotic Tim Hallinan whose Poke Rafferty series is set in Bangkok, bizarre bazaar shopping, Teamwork: How not to kill your teammates whether you are on a mountain or in a writing group (this is where visits to all those temples and monasteries helped out..) and tomorrow a tragic true ..maybe crime that happened earlier this year in Nepal.

ROBERTA: Well Ro, I just don't have the nerve for a trip like that. But I will love to see your pictures and hear the stories. And we did very much enjoy a trip to Rome this fall--would love to go back there. This is me sampling some local a piazza.)

One interesting note though--we had a friend who'd been to Rome last spring and absolutely adored it. I had lunch with her and borrowed all her guidebooks and maps and she totally pumped me up. They're crazy about Paris and this was almost, almost, almost as good. So I think all her enthusiasm set us up for a fabulous experience.

JAN: Probably the most adventurous thing I do -- aside from actually having flown in my husband's old plane - which can best be described as a Volkswagen with wings - is sail. Sailing in the British Virgin islands, with my husband as the captain and me as first and only mate still isn't exactly dangerous. The islands are pretty close together. And that's as dangerous as I get these days. But once we sailed from Cuttyhunk to Newport right after a tornado and it was so rough I threw up seven times -- and I'm immune to seasickness. And once coming into Westport Harbor we hit a sandbar just as an huge wave came up and swamped us -- that means the entire boat tips completely on its side (think Titanic movie right before it drops). The boat righted itself and another wave came and it happened again. Still, I would have been a better sport about if my daughter -- then 15 months old - hadnt been strapped into a car seat on the cockpit (to this day she has nightmares about tidal waves). We survived and I made my husband sell the boat. I think the line I used was "I am not risking my child's life for leisure."

Which, Ro, can be adapted to "Hey Bruce, I'm not risking my life for leisure," if you want to get out of climbing the next mountain.....

RO: See...that's one of my worst nightmares. Ever see The Perfect Storm?

HALLIE: I'm with Roberta, Paris and Rome are much more my speed. But I so admire that you did it, Rosemary! You are the queen of adventure travel.

The most adventurous my travel has gotten is a trip to an eco-lodge in Costa Rica. My husband, who hates small planes, found a driver to take us on the 6-hour drive across the mountains from the west coast to the east and dropped us at the edge of a rickety bridge that said CARS PROHIBITED...for obvious reasons. We carried our luggage (quickly) to the other side where there was an rotting wooden dock where we waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally a white motor boat chugged by, picked us up, took us out the mouth of the river and into the ocean (VERY choppy) and around the other side of a peninsula to the beach where we climbed a steep hill in 90+ degree weather and about 90% humidity to the lodge and our tent platform -- no hot water, plenty of ants, and a wild middle-of-the-night visit from a bat. Check your shoes for scorpions in the morning.

The wildlife was spectacular.

RHYS: The most adventurous thing we ever did was to attempt to be one of the first foreigners allowed into Ladakh( I've even forgotten how to spell it). The jeep ride up the side of a 15,000 foot pass, on a narrow strip of gravel across which small torrents streamed certainly kept me awake and alert--especially as the driver thought he could save gas by switching off the engine every time we went downhil. Not wishing to plunge to my death I sat next to him and slapped his hand every time it went near the keys.

These days our adventures are tamer--although we did do the Australian Outback last fall and hiked among the crocodiles and snakes in Kakadu. But my ideal vacation these days is spending some time somewhere nice--like NICE. I loved my two weeks there this summer, going out for croissants in the morning, shopping the markets, taking local buses. Perfect. Plan to house swap in the Dordogne next summer. Any suggestions?

HANK: My riskiest trip? A blog for another day. Welcome home, Dear RO!


  1. Rosemary--I truly admire your intrepidity and the spirit that keeps you looking for adventure in your "mature" years. (By "mature" I mean over 30, which I'm gauging based on the life experiences you've related here and not your gorgeous photo.) Although I lived in the Philippines for 3 yrs, spent almost 7 months in Bangkok, a year in Korea (South, not North!), and have traveled in India, I have to admit I prefer hotels, indoor plumbing, and a total lack of poisonous insects on my travels these days.

  2. Laura, that all sounds like adventure to me! And by the way Ro, your photos are amazing...

  3. Yes, Roberta, but with the exception of the India trip, it all happened when I was single and childless. Maybe when I'm an empty-nester--still a good 7-8 yrs away--I'll become more adventurous again?

  4. I guess my most adventurous was in 1992 in Mali. This is a vast and mostly underpopulated extremely poor, hot, and dry landlocked West African country. I left my family in the capital and took an 8-hour train ride, a 2-hour ride in a truck on crazy bumpy roads, and then an hour ride on the back of a moped to attend a meeting of rural midwives. At night poisonous snakes were about and yes, you had to check your shoes for scorpions.

    The women? Fantastic hardworking caregivers trying to provide their birthing moms with a good experience. To get to the closest hospital would have pretty much involved retracing my steps. The closest clinic was trying to recreate the worst of modern French birthing methods (making laboring moms lie flat on a hard table...). They have a hard life, but shared food and stories with me. I've never met more generous people than inland West Africans.

    My knees are never going to let me hit Everest base camp, but I did climb Mt Fuji in 1978 and ran the Boston Marathon in 1998!


  5. Wow Edith,
    I'm impressed. Not just adventures but sacrifice and good works!

    And Mt. Fuji? My life is feeling duller by the moment.

    And of course, we're all jealous of Ro's life!

  6. Ro,. you must tell us more...coming up, right??

    And then there was the time I braved going to to Neiman Marcus on Final Call Sale day--whoa. Talk about intrepid!

    (My word is alogisms. I must have missed that day in math..)

  7. India? Mali? We've got some advenurous souls here. I like the Neiman Marcus expedition! I told Bruce the next trek I wanted to take was from one end of 57th Street to the other...with frequent stops at Tiffany's, Bergdorf's, etc.
    I only spent a few days in Delhi, but funnily enough I was able to arrange for two books to be hand-delivered to an Indian woman who blogs about books. How fun is that? She lived not that far from our hotel and had requested review copies just before I left. If we'd had more time I would have loved to have met her.