2017: Patagonia through Zanzibar

Oh my poor neglected blog! How has it been so long? Well, life has been busy, and it still is. After so many months of silence it seems a small summary, at the least, is due.

I’ll start one year ago in March of 2017. We felt the crisp air of Patagonia for the first time. Our legs took us 110km / 70mi around Torres del Paine in Chile. We then hitchhiked to El Chalten, Argentina and had uncharacteristically perfect weather and brilliant fall colors.

Leaving southern Patagonia we met Mira, Ivo, Cliff, and Emily on a bus ride. We ended up spending a few days with them in Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Chile where we also met Nick and Jimmy. I convinced our newfound group that packing lots of beer would immensely enhance our boat tour of Marble Caves (Cuevas Marmoles). I was right, of course.

Valerie and I then continued north and returned to San Pedro de Atacama. We planned our visit during the new moon phase. At over 15,000ft in the driest place on earth the stars are unbelievable but the -6° C temperatures were brutal. Accommodation options were limited so we spent three nights sleeping in the front seats of our tiny rental hatchback. Luckily, we only lost a few digits and the tips of our noses, but the night skies and incredible landscape doled out handsome rewards for our efforts.

We carried on into Bolivia and toured the famous salt flats of Salar de Uyuni. Then we crawled through historic mine shafts of Potosi (drinking everclear, as you do). Val climbed her first mountain Huayna Potosi 6,088m / 19,976ft. It was a long and steep climb capped off with a vertigo inducing knife-edge ridge to the summit. We then romped throughBolivia’s jungle in search of red sugarloaf hills. We met Renee and Anna In the laid back hippie town of Samaipata and became friends. By chance, we later ran into them in Peru. In the white city of Sucre we reunited with Mira and Ivo, friends from the Cuevas Marmoles, and snuck into their hotel for amazing views over the city.

Wishing Bolivia a fond goodbye we went back for a second helping of Peru. We teamed up once more with Nick and Jimmy, more friends from the Cuevas Marmoles, for an epic night in Cusco. At one point we had a “private live band”. They finally kicked us off the dance floor at 4am. We danced through the streets. We ran into Nick two more times; once at indigenous festival and again in the amazon jungle.

We made a 43-mile trek around mount Ausungate, a sacred peak in eastern Peru. Along the way we met Lenny. Valerie’s friend Jan flew in from Alaska and we took the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. We then set our sites higher on a moutain called Pisco 5,752m / 18,871ft. It turned out Lenny was in the same town so he and his friend top joined forces with us and we enjoyed an incredible summit together. My friend Ryan then flew in from Leavenworth, WA. Ryan, Lenny, and I climbed Yanapacha 5,460m / 17,913ft and Tocllaraju 6,034m / 19,797. My Andean climbing season was successful with 4 summits shared with five friends. Ryan met his wife Kathia on the trip.

We then entered Colombia through the Amazon. Nick was volunteering at an animal rescue and we enjoyed seeing many animals making their recoveries. Then we headed for Bogata. Tim flew in from the East Coast and we romped through central Colombia taking in the world’s tallest palm trees, parties in Medellin, countless arepas, and great times. When Tim flew out we headed south to the city of Cali. The place is all about salsa dancing and we did out best to keep up. We headed for the coast and saw whales in el Choco. I nearly broke my ankle chasing waterfalls in San Cipriano.  We recuperated in the bright coastal city of Cartagena. Then, ankle be damned, we went rock climbing in Mesa de Los Santos. I bungee jumped off a rusted crane in San Gil. Perhaps most memorable were the dozens of easy-going nights spent with locals drinking beer and laughing at the world.

Colombia marked the end of our time in South America. On the way back to the United States we stopped in Tijuana for Val to get a new tooth. Being so close to San Diego we visited friends. The events of that period have been classified by the US Government. Suffice it to say, we had a hell of a good time.

We then flew to back to where our trip began Bend, OR. Over two weeks we had a lovely visit with my family, I planned our entire trip to Africa, we re-organized all of our equipment, and I sold my car. I was so exhausted I slept from Oregon to Dubai.

Ethiopia was a new world for us. Africa was the 6th continent we had set foot on. We hiked to the hottest place on earth, the Danakil Depression, with Frenchmen Nicolas and Remi. Then we trekked through the simien mountains with two Britts, Lewis and Beccy. To make things more vertical we climbed to cliff edge churches with Mengie. All the while we gorged ourselves on delicious Ethiopian cuisine. In Central Ethiopia we toured Addis Ababa and the ancient churches of Lalibella. In Southern Ethiopia we visited the Omo Valley where many tribes still survive in the same way their ancestors have for millenia. We met a Danish guy Jan who became “Jungle Boy” and we spend the night we slaughtered a goat and danced around the fire with a Banna family and an amazing guide named Suraj.

In Uganda we visited wild mountain gorillas, drove through endless green hills, had our first and second safaris, and made friends with the incredibly hospitable locals. Mira and Ivo generously sent us money to buy 150kg of rice and 50kg of sugar (a rare Christmas treat) for the Single Mothers Foundation who help 40 singles mothers and their 150 children. We met John and Kristen who generously gave us a ride to Rwanda and we spent a few days enjoying the amazing city of Kigali.

In Kenya we went on safari in the Masai Mara and met Amr from Egypt. This famous park showed us just how powerful lions really are. We celebrated New Years in an unmarked in a back alley tavern in Nairobi with a fun group of locals. Next we explored Mombasa and followed the Swahili coast into Tanzania. We got lost in Stone Town, Zanzibar and gorged ourselves on barbecued squid. We will miss those postcard perfect beaches.

Over the last two months we drove 10,000km / 6,200 mi through South Africa. Jan once again flew in from Alaska spent a few weeks with us encountering classic African wildlife I have been longing to see since I was a child. We made friends with Karoo famers Andre and Nicolene who gave us glimpse into what Afrikaan culture and farm life is about. My parents teamed up with us for our final month in ZA. This was also their 6th continent and they have now traveled around the world!

Right now we are getting to know Mozambique. We are trying to speak portuguese and sussing out the best local beer and SIM card. Best of all we are back in the water scuba diving with Nadia, a friend from Komodo, Indonesia.

And that, in a bursting nutshell, is how we have spent our past year. We love and miss you all.

Written by:

Scott Dusek is a writer and photography originally from Seattle, Washingon.

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