Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The South American Un-plan

6 months at home.  Africa was the beginning of the summer but it seems like years ago.  One of the standout experiences of our trip was living and working in Malawi.  Making friends and being part of a community but a community that was nothing like anything we had ever been a part of.  Then we came home.

     For John the transition back to “normal” life in the states was quicker and easier then it was for Kathleen.  John enjoyed the ease of life in the United States.  Grocery stores overflowing with not just any type of food or vegetable that we would want but multiple choices.  Instead of 3 types of breakfast cereal there would be 3 different types of one kind.  We had not driven in years and suddenly we had cars and the ability to drive around and out of town whenever we wanted.  Electricity was available 24 hours a day.  Clean drinkable water was available out of a tap.  It may have been because of the ease of all of these things that Kathleen had a harder transition back.  Realizing that most of the world does not have the abundance and luxury that America and Europe have bothered her more.  Even harder to understand was how this abundance is just taken for granted here.  Yes, there is hunger and homelessness but in Malawi most of the children we saw had stunted growth from malnutrition.  Protein is not a usual part of their diet.  The main source of nutrition is corn porridge (similar to grits) with a little bit of vegetables mixed in.  Meat is too expensive for most of the people.  Clean water means walking to a town pump to fill jugs.  The difference between “poor” Americans and “normal” sub-Saharan Africans is still a big jump.  This transition back to an American/Western lifestyle took Kathleen longer to adjust back to.

     Then we were back for 6 months.  During that time John worked as an Emergency Veterinarian as much as possible to save up for the next chapter of World Tour.  Kathleen started working as a gear representative for a hydration pack company called Ultraspire where she is also one of their sponsored athletes.  She started reconnecting with friends and trail running a lot.  After a summer and fall of incredible runs and adventures Kathleen felt like she was finally getting back into solid running shape with a group of friends that wanted to run on a regular basis.  6 months was enough time for her to just be getting back into a comfortable routine.  John on the other hand was back in his work routine and missing the days of being a nomad.  Some months he was working more than full time.  During the summer it was fun being back but once the grey, dark, and wet returned to Seattle he was ready to leave.  

     Whatever head space we are in at some level does not matter because we are about to launch into the South America leg of our World Tour.  We fly to Santiago, Chile on 9 January and will be in South America for 6 months.  As usual, we have a rough idea of what we want to do but no definitive plans. Besides the plane ticket there is no set itinerary.  The plan is to initially go and make an attempt on Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemispheres.  John summited this mountain in 2001 and Kathleen wants to make an attempt.  We then plan on going to El Chalten to do trail running, trekking, and climbing in the area around Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.  All these mountains are in Argentina where the peso just collapsed 40% in the last few days making everything on sale if you have American dollars.  We plan on being at the foot of Fitz Roy on 14 February to have a memorial service for our friend Chad Kellogg who tragically died descending that mountain two years ago.  Then it is off to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America.  We plan on swinging around into Chile (probably early March at this point) to explore Torres del Paine and do some more trekking.  Eventually we will make our way north through the Chilean Archipelago to the Atacama Desert (the driest place on Earth) and then to the salt flats of Bolivia.  Continuing on to Peru we plan to see Machu Pichu (this will be a repeat for Kathleen), hike in the Cordillera Blanca Mountains, and hopefully do some volunteer veterinary work.  Then to Ecuador to climb Chimborozo.  The summit of this mountain is the closest to the sun a person can get while attached to the planet.  The Earth bulges at the equator so this mountain sticks out into space more than any other spot including Mount Everest.  Lastly, we plan on being in Columbia to meet our friend Amanda McNabb and do some bike touring.  We will be back by July 1 as John's hospital had an opening that needed filled.  6 months to explore another corner of the world together which should be just enough time for us to just have readjusted to being on the road again.  Then we will have to readjust back to the US again. 

     We have been fortunate to have been supported on our World Tour by a few sponsors and that continues.  GU Energy Labs gave us a huge amount of gels and chomps that we continue to use on our adventures.  Ultraspire gave us new Epic Fastpacks to use as our day packs and even hired Kathleen as an employee this summer.  Seven Hills Running Shop has continued to help us out over the summer since we tend to burn through running shoes pretty quickly.  Lastly we are psyched to announce that Vasque footwear contacted us this summer and asked if we could be Adventure Travel Ambassadors for them.  Since we already used their products it was a natural fit so now we have new boots and running shoes from them.

     Stay tuned to the blog and Facebook for the continued travels of the FidEgans and Knucklehead Adventure Tours.