A third of the way through our Southwest road trip, Christmas Eve found us in Artesia, NM – a small town that owes its name to a long ago depleted artesian aquifer and whose present existence is supported mainly by oil and gas refineries. A ghost town under ordinary circumstances, Artesia seemed doubly so as we navigated its deserted, halogen-lit streets. Even grocery stores were closed on account of the approaching holiday. The neon billboards of fast food restaurants, which remained stubbornly open, provided the only sign of life as night approached. We had stocked up on groceries before our arrival and hunkered down in our inn with a board game to while away the evening.
Posts tagged ‘climbing’
Dropping more than half-a-mile in five distinct free-leaping cascades, Tugela Falls (948 meters) is Africa’s tallest waterfall, and second in the world only to Venezuela’s Angel Falls. After hiking through Royal-Natal to get a glimpse of Tugela from below, D ascended to the top of the Amphitheatre on his last day in the Drakensberg to stand at the waterfall’s edge.
This week marks the 5th anniversary of D’s entry into the Foreign Service. While our first two tours flew by at breakneck speed, with hardly a break between them, the last half-year of language training has offered a measure of calm. Emerging from a long winter and even longer break in our travels, we are looking forward to the new adventures that await. Rwanda beckons this summer, and before we turn our attention to Africa there is also an overseas language immersion trip in our more immediate future.
We set two alarms, rising with the sun. Zion was calling. We had already spent two days hiking in Utah’s grandest national park, but we had saved the best for last. Not only was this our last day in Utah, but it was also D’s birthday, which he had long wanted to celebrate atop Angel’s Landing.
The directions for ascending Deseret Peak seemed pretty straightforward: hike through an aspen forest, head over several meadows towards the peak, follow switchbacks up the saddle to get to the summit. Sounds easy, right? We lost the trail almost as soon as we set foot on it, and though we had an enjoyable day hiking in the wilderness, we never reached the summit and there were a few sketchy sections during our ascent when S questioned the wisdom of our adventure.
Although we traversed more or less the same path through the northern Andes, our routes began to diverge in Bolivia. S headed to Patagonia, exploring parts of Chile and Argentina along the way, while D crossed eastward, going through Paraguay en route to Buenos Aires. As a result, while we still visited many of the same places in Bolivia, there is a lot less overlap in the photographs from our two trips.
Peru does most things on a grander scale than Ecuador — the country is bigger, its Amazon region is vaster, and the mountains are more imposing. Whereas Ecuador has several gorgeous peaks, they all stand alone, towering in their snow-capped solitude above the rest of the terrain. Peru, on the other hand, boasts multiple massifs and entire mountain chains. We both developed a love for the Andes in Ecuador; in Peru, that love blossomed.
It all started in Ecuador. For S, Quito was the launching point of her eight-month-long trek through South America. D, meanwhile, called this small Andean nation home for three and a half years. When he finally embarked on his own South American travels, the joy and excitement of the road ahead was tempered by the melancholy of leaving a country that had captured his heart forever.
In preparing to bid adieu to Georgia after many years working and living there, D’s friend had scribbled down a short bucket list of hikes, treks, and bike routes he wanted to traverse before leaving the country for good. After spending a week in the capital, D was all too happy to get out of Tbilisi and help him check a few items off the list. Birtvisi, a ruined medieval fortress nestled in the limestone cliffs of a small river gorge about an hour outside the city was the first stop on the itinerary.