(106) Time to Reflect
The last 3 weeks had not just been incredible but also great fun and to have Andrew, Julian and Sara with me was just awesome. They all went through their hardships of battling with the altitude,bad roads, bad stomachs and the intense sun but all of them kept smiling and kept going. I will never forget the time we had and the laughs we had to. Although we never mentioned it much we were all there to remember Sharon and to realise what sort of journey she was on and how strong she really was.
Three days after they left was a year to the day when Sharon lost her life and for them to have come out to see the environment she rode in hopefully gave them the understanding why we both were doing this journey. Its hard to explain to someone that living in a tent every night, cooking on a tiny stove and freezing at night is fun but when we opened the tent door and saw the incredible views, breathed the clean air,saw the blue skys and the nature we felt free as a bird and the sense of what was next was so massive it pulled us into the unknown.For me to see the guys smile through the tough bits was reminiscent of what life was like and that even when its hard its fun. With Steve coming out in a week it gave me time to reflect on the last year and get some work done so when Steve joined me I wouldn’t be distracted.
Thursday 23rd April
I stirred as Sara got up to pack her things, I rolled over and decided I would get up and say goodbye once they were ready. A little while later I woke to find they had all gone without saying goodbye. I was gutted not just at the fact I had fallen back to sleep but that they hadn’t woken me. they knew I was tired but I had a few days before Steve came out to rest and didn’t know when I would see them again
I got up feeling pretty lost and not sure what to do. I had breakfast to clear my mind and knew the most time consuming job was the blog.I took myself upstairs and got to work,I could hear people come and go chatting to each other and so the day disappeared into the computer.It felt odd once it got dark not to have the guys with me and so made tea and chatted to the others once they had all come back from their days out.
Friday 24th April
The day started with the laptop once again and after 3 hours of not doing anything other then typing I got up and had breakfast. With little in the way of proper food to eat I headed out to find the food market. It was the first time I had really had the chance to look around the city and take in the incredible old buildings.
There were so many streets to buy wollen gloves and scarfs all of which I wanted to buy
Once I had seen a few places I headed for Belen which is the area in the city where one can buy food. It was incredible at what I could buy and all on different streets. There was a street for flowers, A street for Potato’s, A street for fish, one for meat and so it went on. Before I knew it I could have probably fed the hostel and half the city.
I headed back and with a little washing to do I finished my chores and cooked lunch. It was so great eating fresh food and lots of it. With lunch out the way I set to work again until the others came back where I joined them to hear about their day.
This guy goes around sharping knifes with his bicycle wheel
A couple I had been chatting to told me about the a mountain they had climbed called Huayna Potosí which stands at 6,088 metres. They told me that it was a 2 day climb and included all kit, transfers, Refugio, food and guide and would cost about £70. It seemed to good an opportunity to miss with Steve heading out in a few days it would not only be a good chance to see how we both are at altitude but at a cost that won’t break the bank and if we climbed it successfully we would then still have the time to climb one of the higher more technical climbs which were more expensive. With a plan in mind I enjoyed the rest of the evening with them all and headed to bed to do a little more work.
Saturday 25th April
Even with a clear full day ahead I knew I would be glued to the laptop, It was nice looking back over what we had done but it took so long and felt tiring. With the day only broken by coffee and the odd snack, the thing that kept me going was the thought of getting the bulk of it done before Steve arrived so we could do the things we enjoyed.
I had received a reply from Carla Mendez who had helped me a year ago and so arranged to meet up in a few days. Being such a hard time It gave me the chance to focus on doing things that would not only help me but to thank the people who had done there best to make the transition from here to home a little more bearable.
Tomorrow was going to be a year since Sharon was killed and was a day I wasn’t looking forward to. I couldn’t believe a year had gone so fast and the thought of what happened was starting to come back. I sat with the others but couldn’t say anything. The whole realisation of what had happened and that I was here in La Paz a year later was overwhelming. For a while I sat there wanting to say something about Sharon, Just a few words but every time I went to say something I choked up and nothing came out. I knew I had to just deal with it, it was just really hard and felt like I was lowering the mood. Deciding I didn’t want to impose my mood on others I headed to bed knowing a year ago was the last night we spent together and would never have that with Sharon again. We had the most incredible life together and however hard it was to know she was gone I never wanted to forget how happy we were and how happy we can be.
Sunday 26th April
The last few days I had spent as much time as I could trying to catch up with the blog and trying to avoid thinking of the up and coming date which had been imprinted in my mind for the last 12 months and I couldn’t avoid it any longer. I had only told Frederick and Lucy but by know I think everyone else knew. They were all great but I don’t think anyone knew what to say. I got up and had breakfast and got ready to go to church. I’m not really a church goer but am always drawn to them every time I see one. I would always say a little prayer to ask to keep us safe but after what happened to Sharon it was hard to know what to pray for.
I was told this was an elderly couple that were getting married
I headed out of the casa and made my way up through town. I noticed on a news stand that Nepal had been hit my a massive earthquake not only destroying huge areas of the country but killing over 2,400 people. I had heard many stories from Shelter Box about large disasters and how they help in such extreme circumstances but this hit a nerve.
Standing on Kalapatta at the base of mount Everest,Nepal
Everest base camp was where I had proposed to Sharon and yet here I was one year after her death reading about a place close to our hearts. Nepal is one of the most beautiful countries we have ever been to and the people were some of the nicest most friendly we have ever met. I knew what it was like losing 1 person that was close to me and couldn’t imagine multiplying that loss by over 2,400.
I continued to wonder up to the church and as I entered I saw there was a service on. I sat through the service but it was hard to reflect. After the service I made my way to Saint Francisco church where there was another service. This time I could find a place to sit and read through a few messages I had got and a few comments. I didn’t want to put anything on Facebook or the blog as when I’m feeling low I prefer to take myself away and avoid the rest of the world. It’s something I have always done which felt selfish knowing how much support I had been given but it was my way of dealing with it. I left the church and headed back through the markets and back to the house. I took myself off to my room and watched a movie to clear my mind. I looked at what people had put on Facebook but just couldn’t put into words what to say. I just felt numb and just wanted the day to end. All the guys were amazing just being themselves sharing good food and making each other smile. It was what I needed even if they didn’t know it.
Edwin(columbia)Silvian(france) Cristian (Bolivia+owner) Lucy and Frederick(France), Remi(France) Taylor (New Zealand) Stacey (south korea)
They were all such an amazing bunch
Monday 27th April
Wanting to get up early to see Etien and Alisher off was great. I wasn’t really tired as I had been resting for the last few days. It was lovely to see them off and think about what I had planned for the day. Frederick and Lucy were planning on going into to the centre so I waited for them and headed into town with them. It was lovely to have the company and and went in search of the tour company that would take Steve and I to climb Huayna Potosí.
After a little bit of searching we found the company and the owner Richard who went through the itinerary. He talked me through each mountain and showed me pictures of snow ridges and incredible views with shear drops. With Huayna Potosi we would be taken to the base around 11am then climb to the Refugio. We would then rest at the Refugio until 2 am then climb to the summit for sun rise. Spend 20 minutes on the summit and descend. It all looked great on paper so we filled a couple forms when he asked if I had any allergies. When I said I was afraid of heights he looked at me to see if I was serious and luckily I wasn’t. With the climb booked we looked around town for a bit then separated so I could go off in search of food and get back to get ready to visit the embassy.
I had been lazy the last few days and either not eaten anything other then one meal our eaten out. I soon found the food area which was mad. There was a street that sold potatoes, one that sold veg, one meat, another bread and so on, it was so strange.
I headed back to the house for 3pm and got ready to head to the British embassy. I had arranged to meet Carla Mendez who had helped me when Sharon was killed and I had brought a little something to say thank you to Carla and so made my way to meet her. On arrival I met Carla and also Chris who had also helped a lot. He had worked in the British embassy in Sudan and knew Usif and Huda along with a few others that had worked at the British embassy in Sudan. I was also met by the British ambassador for Bolivia which also gave me the chance to thank them all for there work and also explain the work of Shelter Box and how they had been involved in the flooding in the north. With Carla due any day to give birth to her second child I felt lucky I’d had the chance to thank her before she left on maturity.
I left the embassy with a sense of peace and started to head back to the house when I spotted a massive supermarket. It may sound strange but there just isn’t any in la Paz well not that I could find and to see one this big was a shock. I looked around at all the things I had dreamt of and found a bottle if HP sauce. It was amazing and just what I wanted to cook tea. I made it back to the house to check my messages and see one from Steve that said he had missed his flight. He was gutted but said that he had managed to book another for the next day. With the climb booked for a couple days time I quickly rang Richard and managed to change the climb in time so it wouldn’t be to much of a problem and I just hoped Steve would acclimatise ok. With the night drawing in I cooked a cottage pie and joined Frederick and Lucy for tea when the others arrived. I quickly rustled up a crumble for when Christian got back and we enjoyed a nice night in with great new friends and good food.
Tuesday 28th April
After receiving a message from Steve to say he had missed flight and would be out the next day all I could do was wait. Having managed to move the climb date to hyuni potosi left me with a day of getting more of my work done. It had been great having the time to work although at times I wished I didn’t give myself so much. It was however a productive day and one I could tie up a few lose ends. I managed to speak to Amanda who was flying out to Peru in about 3 weeks and go through anything she may be missing. It felt so amazing that I had so many people wanting to join me and was hard to comprehend what I had done already with Andy, Jules and Sara. I know had Steve for 9 days to go climbing and after that Amanda for 2 weeks where we would ride to Cuzco and visit Machu Picchu. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was and that they to would know what it’s like on the road and see the world the way we saw it. For now it was Steve’s turn and I couldn’t wait to see him. I just hoped he didn’t miss this flight.
Wednesday 29th April
The alarm went off and I was soon up and dressed and out the door. I found a collectivio that took me up to El Alto which is the city up on the Altiplano before the city of La Paz drops in to the bowl. I would then be dropped off at the top where I was about a mile from the airport. Where I was dropped off I thought I would have to walk when I was pointed to another collective which was an airport van that would soon get me to the airport. I Arrived within a few minutes and looked around trying to find where all the passengers would come out and waited. I waited for about five minutes when Steve appeared looking very relieved I was there. It was so great to see him and talk about the adventure that was planned for the next 9 days. We got on a collectivo and heading out of the airport and down in to the city. With the bowl covered in mist it was hard to see the extent of the city and so remained hidden from him for now.
The driver dropped us off a couple hundred metres from the house and as we left the driver called out to remind Steve his bag was on the roof. We both laughed at the thought of watching the van driving off with all of Steve’s things on the roof. We made our way to the house and I introduced Steve to the other cyclists. I don’t think he could really believe where he was and what we were about to do.
Steve soon made himself at home
Steve taking in the sights
Then I couldn’t find him anywhere
There he is checking out the wiring
We made our way up though town and I showed him a few land marks before going for lunch. By this point Steve was shattered and so we headed back to take a break. While he was sleeping I managed to get some work done and rest myself before we headed back into town to complete the booking for our climb. We reached the shop and paid the remainder of what we owed and were then introduced to our guide Remiro as the owner Richard wanted us to feel confident with our guide. We were then taken to room full of gear to try on and make sure it fitted. With boots, guitars, crampons, harness, waterproof trousers, jacket, fleece, gloves, helmet and ice axe all fitted we were set. With our kit now ready we headed back to the shop to fill in a couple forms. With the climb booked and a previsional booking for Volcan Sajama if we summited Potosi we were ready. All we needed now was to rest, eat and sleep. With the death road also booked for tomorrow it was going to be a busy 8 days ahead.
With Steve finally here I could now focus on having some fun and challenging ourselves. It had been good to have some time to myself and to think about the last 12 months. Having to think about what happened to Sharon was horrible and to realise what had happened in Napel had come at a time that hurt. Knowing we were raising money for Sheltor Box helped so much, knowing they were out there working as hard as they could to help people recover from such a disaster. With the help of the Gurkha Rifles and Nepalese and British army more than 2,600 shelter kits and almost 500 UN specification tents have been distributed to families in a variety of areas including the capital of Kathmandu, and the districts of Dhading and Sindhupalchok. Each tent will provide vital shelter for a family whose home has been destroyed, while shelter kits contain the vital items to enable families to create temporary shelters and start repairing their damaged homes.
ShelterBox response team member Liz Odell shows villagers in Pipaldanda how to put up the tents that were distributed.
These images were taken from google image to give you an idea of the devastation
After looking at the the Sheltor Box website at what was going on in Nepal I noticed that they were also on their way to Chile due to two disasters that had happened pretty much at the same time. One was the Volcan Calbuco near Porte Monte that we cycled past. This event resulted in the evacuation of 6,600 homes.
Volcan Calbuco erupting
second was the flooding in the Atacama desert region that we drove through and almost being turned back with the road being washed away in front of us. The report from sheltorbox said that 8,000 family homes were either damaged or totally destroyed.
It felt wrong going off to challenge ourselves in the mountains when others are suffering and fighting for their lives but I think the import thing is never to forget about the people who are suffering and need help. If you would like to see what shelter box are up to visit www.shelterbox.org or if you would like to donate to them you can click on the link on our home page.
Thanks for reading xx