Lust for Life in Lebanon

I like Lebanon, emerging from the sectarian mess is a picturesque landscape that combines the inviting Mediterranean with what can only be called Levantine Alpine, snowy peaks, limestone walls and Cedar forests. As a tourist destination, Lebanon stands alone in the region providing even the most experienced traveler a glimpse of something totally unique, where culture, history and geography blend a fascinating fabric of existence.

First Hike: Lost in the Andes

I can still remember leaving the trail. It was a worn, dusty path that we had followed from a small lake tucked back in the evergreen forest of the Southern Andes. Ahead of me, an austere landscape of volcanic upheaval, a sea of basalt stacked against a steep shoulder of Volcano Casablanca. The skies were as clear as my 26-year-old mind, and although we couldn’t see the top of the volcano, its geographic position was predictable if not downright obvious. If this is the volcano, all paths lead to the crater, or so went the logic in my head.

You’ll Get to the Top and Remember James Garrett

Holed up in a traditional dance club, Garrett was immersed in Ethiopian dancing, shaking his shoulders and jumping up and down, the energy levels of this 63 year old climber defied nature. The next day, Garrett flew solo to Namibia, roped a random German guy into helping with belays, made the long trip out to the Spitzkoppe and put up a route. How many sexagenarians are doing this with their time, resources and abilities? Nobody I know is like James Garrett.

How We Had to Dodge Rocks at Waseya Cracks in order to Climb Them

At the top of the 20m routes were the remnants of the group’s bolts, obliterated into a flat strips of metal pegged to the rock. Each one reminded me of the penny smashing machine, and I half hoped to find shapes of Ethiopia’s national monuments etched into the steel. Most likely the children of the village smashed the anchors with rocks. Owning a piece of metal in a landscape so overwhelmed with rock was seductive to a mischievous ten year old. Some hangers were completely missing, others intact hidden from the children’s view.

Defining Need in a Liberian Diesel Shortage

There would still be plenty of coconuts, pineapples and fish (though not the frozen type). There would be goat soup, plenty of hot peppers and some local chicken for flavoring. There would still be dancing and singing, lots of smiles, there’d be motorbikes and taxis, but no buses. There’d be a lot of flat tires, broken down vehicles, and closed up mechanics. There’d still be church sermons on shadowy pulpits, Sunday dress, shiny leather shoes and colorful fabric. There would still be weaves and sturdy women tapping their hairdos to relieve the itch, but there’d be no clippers for men’s haircuts. Monrovia would become a city without haircuts.

Look Homeward, Bayele

The main road was alive with farmers and horse carts. He saw mosques and churches facing each other from opposite sides of the road. And when the bus passed through a village, the radio crackled for an instant and the voice of a great Ethiopian singer crooned with recklessness. He wondered if he would ever find his way back home.

Life in the Hamster Tube: Tigray’s Off Width Towers

The Koraro towers rise and fall like pistons of a car engine and pose like a lineup of disfigured criminals. It’s hot, we see few climbable cracks, a series of bolts aiding halfway up the middle tower and He-Man chooses a chimney on the east face of the largest tower. Nobody knows where the chimney will lead, but a deep layer of bird shit tells us that if you are squeezed out of a vulture’s ass, you will probably hit the ground.

Nancy & The Clay Chickens

Some will remember Nancy most for her collection of necklaces and rings. Others will catch a ride with Abel the taxi driver in Addis Ababa, and her name will come up. Many will remember Nancy as the woman who bought too many clay chickens at the NGO Bazaar. I will remember her as a friend, a mother, a woman who constantly reminded me to get a haircut, to never turn down an invitation and to stay past the bad parts, because it always gets better.

The Rock Orphans will Take you into the Cave, but Will They Get you Out?

After another 8 feet, I reached the next chamber where Samy was wedged between the walls, smiling. I could no longer see the entrance to the cave and looking above resembled a narrow mouth of crooked teeth leading to an ever tighter esophagus, suffocating and desperate. I put my head into high gear, arm wrestling thoughts of claustrophobia. Thoughts are the catalyst for disasters in these types of situations, and steady breathing and silence are like medicine.

How Kayaking Legend Josh Lowry went down 100 Chilean Rivers in order to save the Puelo

Josh Lowry has gone down nearly every significant river in Chile and Argentina on his kayak and rafts. Now the Kayaking Legend has turned his efforts towards saving the pristine Puelo River which slices through the Patagonia, reaching the Pacific Ocean. I spent a week with the captain himself and you’ll see why I’d do it again.

Tayrona: The Freedom to Travel

Have you see the Lonely Planet guidebook for Colombia lately? For a country twice the size of Texas, the two hundred and something pages do not begin to represent the true tourist potential of this country. Still considered one of twenty most dangerous places in the world, the coverage given to Colombia by the ubiquitous […]

‘Mex’treme Climbing in Mexico

Imagine holding onto the side of a building fifteen floors up and knowing that any slip will send you plummeting to the sidewalk below.  Now replace the sidewalk with deep canyon and the building with a limestone cliff and you will imagine exactly what Mexican climber Alejandro Fuentes faced at mid-morning on July 10, 2006 […]