Allen! Allen! Allen!….I hate you Allen.

Order in ranking:  26

Let me start off with I’m blogging this late because I hated Allen every step of the way.  Allen was my beast, that mountain that just doesn’t play nice.  You feel….off, your pace is off, you’re sore, and you honestly think that maybe, maybe you’ll have to turn around because this just isn’t happening.

Allen was not my day.

I’d thought, and read and been told, that climbing Allen in winter made more sense.  First, you don’t have any red slime to content with.  Second, you cut time off simply because to get down, you sit, you push off, and you slide down – what takes you 2 hours up, is only 20 minutes down.  You also can walk straight across the Opalescent and Lake Jimmy, rather than wading and skirting.  It all made sense, so I packed up my winter gear and set off.

All is well crossing the Opalescent, even with open water

I’d posted on the ADK high peaks forum that I was heading out, and I met someone at the trail head.  We set off, and things went ok….until they didn’t.  At first it was just my snowshoes bothering me.  I toughed it out for a ways, then had to take them off – part of it due to the fact that the trail was really well-packed, but had formed a bit of a ridge in the middle that I had trouble navigating.  (I know, I know, wear your snowshoes, don’t posthole, etc etc).

No view, but still a winter wonderland

From the cabins to Allen brook went quickly.  The weather was good, the trail was solid, as were the water crossings.  I knew what to expect as a friend had climbed Allen only a few weeks previously, so I was prepared for the rolling terrain and the length of the hike to get to the actual mountain.

We signed in at the trail register, and soon hit Skylight brook and Allen brook, hearing the water gurgling away under the ice.  At this point we start to climb, in earnest.  And things just kept going downhill for me, including me.  When we hit the slide, I slide backwards and down about 40 feet.  I was frustrated, upset, and starting to think that I was going to have to turn around and attempt Allen another day.  But I had already come so far that I pushed on, and slowly (ever so slowly) pushed towards the summit.
When I finally broke out of the trees to the summit clearing (the last one) I finally felt some elation.  Here it was!  I gobbled down some food (some that I had brought, some that people fed me), before turning around and heading back towards the slide, where I could finally sit down and let gravity do it’s work (again, but this time in the right direction).  Only…..I lost control, careening down the slide, and (having already rammed into one person) I opted to hit a tree rather a backpack, wrenching my ankle.

Allen!  Allen!  No, wait, that’s Steve….

Heading back was nearly as torturous.  My climbing partner told me it’s best to think of the climb in stages – from the slide to interior register, from the interior register to the trail, from the trial to the road, from the road to the cabins, from the cabins to Lake Jimmy, from Lake Jimmy to the suspension bridge over the Hudson, which is a hop, skip and a jump from the parking lot.

Still plenty of snow at the end of March

It had been snowing on and off since about 11 am, but it really picked up pace as we hit the logging road.  It would have been wonderful if it wasn’t so tired and fed up with the hike.  I trudged and plodded my way along, and I swear my bag got heavier with each step.  It wasn’t until we hit the parking lot that I realized why – snow was collecting in a pocket – I had been carrying a growing snowball, about the size of a soccer ball by the time I found it, in my bag.

Total climbing time: 9 hours 22 minutes
Left parking lot at: 7:00, returned at 4:22
Summitted Allen at 12:20

And to apologize for the lack of pictures, please enjoy this BBC video:


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That Time I Didn’t Fall off A Camel

Heading back to last summer (or rather, summer of 2014), and my trip to Mongolia with my friend Jason for this post. I’ve had this sitting around for ages, but hadn’t bothered to get any photos in, and then…..other travel happened, life happened, and I just generally forgot about it. Then I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and man – I had a lot of time on my hands. So here we go – Mongolia part 2!

The good news is that while there, I didn’t fall off a camel and break my arm.  The bad news is that my travelling companion fell off a camel and broke his arm.

Let me back up a little, and give you some context to this.

IT134After our tour with Intrepid (see here) we spent a day in UB, and then flew down to Dalanzadgad, to do a four-day tour of the Gobi, with Gobi Mirage.  Our flight was uneventful, although delayed by a couple of hours.  We arrived just before lunch, and were greeted at the airport by the owner of the ger camp, his daughter, our guide, and our driver.

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Driving toward Yolyn Am

They were all wonderful (more about this later) and we drove to the camp, dropped off our gear in our ger (hehehe) before heading out to see Yolyn Am, a gorge in the mountains near Dalanzadgad, known for having ice longer than the rest of the Gobi.

Upon arriving, the first thing we did was take a tour of the small museum, detailing the wildlife that was historically to be found in the area (things being what the are, unfortunately some of these animals are no longer to be seen in the Gobi.).  The museum was a little tired – some of the animals were a little…worn.  But it was still interesting – this is an area that I’ve always been fascinated with, but didn’t know all that much about the flora and fauna. (I knew lots about the dinosaur bones, but not much else.) After the museum, we headed into the gorge – with Jason and I deciding to ride horses.  Things started off okay, until my horse decided to be stubborn (alas, no one told the horse that you never argue with a Barrett girl.)  We had some tiffs – with me making the horse stop and wait before continuing, hoping to show that I was, indeed, in charge.  Alas, Mongolian horses are, apparently, just as stubborn as mid-aged Irish- Canadian women, and we did not come to an agreement about who, exactly, would be giving orders.  So off I popped – not one to invite more disaster – and declared I would walk the rest of the way.

Gobi1Only I popped off into a puddle.  And decided “%#?@ this &*!%” and turned around and walked back to the car. Where I proceeded to sit, relax, and stare at everything.

After Jason and our guide returned, we headed back to the camp, and dinner.  We had a free evening before heading to the sand dunes the next day.

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Myself, our driver, our guide, and my unlucky travelling companion

We headed out mid-morning, stopping once to watch how farmers water their animals in the desert.  I grew up in the country, and my mom worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, so this was actually pretty interesting to me.  We watched as one farmer used a bucket to haul water up from a well, slopping it into a trough for the animals.  Jason and I each got our turn to try – definitely harder than it looks.  Shortly, another farmer showed up – this one with a generator, who pumped the water directly into the trough – a much easier and quicker way to water the cows and goats!

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Setting up the generator

During this, I wandered away to look at the vast emptiness that you see in Mongolia.  After nearly 3 weeks, it still amazed me how empty this country was.  While I stood there, two Mongolians (a man and woman) came over to me.  The woman grabbed my right sleeve, yanking it up, and she started petting the tattoo there – a large tree with two birds (this tattoo stretches from my shoulder to my elbow.)  This wasn’t the first time that my arm had been manhandled by Mongolians, but I still wasn’t used to it.  I didn’t feel threatened, just weirded out.  “It’s still attached to me!  That’s ME you’re grabbing!”  I wanted to shout out.Gobi15

After my impromptu modeling session, and a few photos of the Gobi, we hopped back into the SUV and headed to a camel herders ger.  The camels didn’t look too happy, but then when do camels ever look happy?  We climbed aboard, and head off – first a camel guide, then myself, then Jason, then another guide (a young girl, about 8 years old), then our guide.

Everything was fine at first – we trundled over the ground, heading towards the sand dunes.  We saw another camel train off in the distance, and a few people atop the dunes.  Otherwise, it was empty, and very quiet.

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When everything was going well

Until suddenly, the lead camel spooked, and reared up.  As if in slow motion, I saw the camel guide slide off the camel sideways, to land on the ground.  My camel took off at a dead run, and I could hear Jason yelling from behind me.  I tried to turn around, while still gripping the camel, to see Jason trying to wave while saying “I think I broke my arm!”  I turned around, wondering a) “how do you stop a camel” and b) “how do you get a camel to bend down so you can get off?” and also c) “what does he think I can do, I’m on the back of a camel running across the desert?”

The lead for the camel was trailing on the ground, and I tried to reach for it but couldn’t grab it.  I was on this camel until it decided to stop.

I think the camel only spooked for about 30 seconds – we stopped not far from the rest of the group (who had all been thrown off by their camels).  But I was still stuck on top of this camel, with no way to get it to kneel down.  It was too tall for me to slide off, and honestly – I was scared that it would spook and take off again.

Just then I noticed a car coming towards us.  I waved, and it stopped, and a man got out.  He came over and started to urge the camel down.  The camel was still a little spooked, and he got a little “dancey” – making me think he was getting ready to take off again.  Fortunately, the camel decided it wouldn’t, and knelt down so I could (shakily) get off.  At this point, I ran towards the group, and saw that our driver had noticed the problem, and was driving over to us.

Back at the group, everything was a little chaotic – Jason’s arm was broken, and everyone was trying to decide what to do.  Our guide-guide had a headache, and the little girl was a little sore, but otherwise the Mongolians came out unscathed.

We jerry-rigged a brace for Jason’s arm (the headrest from the front passenger side seat), and started to race off across the Gobi. Our guide turned around and told us that we were going to a “doctor” (her words. In reality, it was more of a field medic.)

We doused Jason with Tylenol, the only thing we had. We arrived at the “doctor’s”, had to wait while the dog was put away, then we trouped in. And trouped out, got back into the car, and took off for the nearest ger camp to buy vodka, to hopefully numb Jason enough to set his arm.

Back at the “doctor’s”, a quarter bottle of vodka later, Jason was sitting on a chair, the driver was gripping his shoulders, and the doctor was steadily pulling Jason’s arm down.  Just at the point where Jason screamed in pain…..the bone popped into place. The doctor used some stiff cardboard to brace Jason’s arm, used my bandana as a sling, and sent us off to Dalanzadgad (with a pit stop at the ger camp for our gear.)

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Our ger camp in the Gobi, where we only got to stay one night

A few (or 8) hours later, we rolled up at the urgent care clinic/hospital. We were met by the owner of the ger camp, and his daughter, who helped translate. Jason was taken off for x-rays, and I sat down to wait.

It was only a couple of hours later that Jason came out with a cast up to his armpit. They wouldn’t give him anything for the pain, and couldn’t do anything for his arm. We’d have to go to UB, to the international hospital, to have it fully looked at.

At this point, it was midnight. The ger camp owner got us a hotel room, and told us that a driver would pick us up the next day to take us to UB. Jason and I went to our respective rooms and crashed. The adrenaline rush was over, and exhaustion set in.

After breakfast, we  hit the road. 10 hours later, we rolled into UB, and went straight to the hospital, where we were met by….ok not the ger camp owner, but his son and daughter-in-law (who spoke excellent English). Somewhat anti-climactically, nothing was done. Jason had more x-rays, another cast, and was sent off with a note that he was to go home immediately for treatment, with a “non-medical personnel” so I could accompany him (Because someone had to handle the bags.)

 

Meanwhile, back home, the then-BF was working to get us on the next flight out. He worked with Flight Centre to get us on the next Air France plane. Jason and I again crashed out at our hotel room, and upon waking I had an email – we were booked to fly out that afternoon.

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Taken at the beginning of the trip, we didn’t have time to sight see on the way out

We scrambled for souvenirs (we had thought at the beginning of our trip to leave them until the end, so we weren’t trucking them around the country), and hastily packed. We had the hotel call us a taxi, and off we went.

But of course, the story can’t end there. Because Mongolia is, well….Mongolia, I noticed that the taxi driver spent a huge amount of time staring at me  in the mirror. (This wasn’t the only time that I was an object of fascination in Mongolia – it happened a LOT when I was in UB). And then, as I grabbed our bags out of the truck of the car, the taxi driver tried to offer me his jumper cables. What I would do with jumper cables, I don’t know. Why he thought I should have them, I also don’t know. I just shook my head, loaded myself up like a mule (2 backpacks and 2 carry-on backpacks) and headed into the airport to go.

Epilogue: Our flight to Beijing went off without a hitch, Ross had booked us a fancier airport hotel for ‘comfort’ (food and booze), and the next day we flew Beijing-Paris-Montreal, where Ross picked us up and drove us home. As for Jason’s arm: the doctor said it had been set correctly, but if he wanted to opt for surgery to repair a bone spur, he could. (Which he did, and everything is fine now.)

On a side note: Intrepid warned us that riding horses was dangerous. Horses in Mongolia are semi-wild, and can be difficult to control. However, riding camels – that was deemed safe.  Yeah, right.

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In happier (non-injured) times

No Problem! Jamaica Resort Styling.


Our Guatemala trip was great, but didn’t include a lot of beach time, and was a little stressful, trying to find bus stations, buying tickets, waiting for buses, etc etc etc.  Plus the Ottawa winter was brutal, so we decided that we’d take a few days off around Easter and go somewhere warm and relaxing.


Which is how we ended up at a resort in Jamaica.


We did a resort after backpacking around Cuba last year, so this wasn’t our first resort stay, but it was the first trip where the resort was the entire trip.  We had 6 days – which means we really only had 4 days at the resort, as the first and last days were transit.


At the couples lounge

We booked in at Couples Tower Isle in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, with WestJet Vacations.  Upon exiting customs in Jamaica (no passport stamp alas), we immediately saw a WestJet Representative, who showed us to the Couples Lounge, where we waited for other travellers who would be sharing our shuttle.  The lounge featured real washrooms, as well as a bar where cold beer, and cold water were served, with a smile and some chit-chat with the bartender. 


The ride to the resort was about 2 hours – which we had been advised about earlier by our travel agent, so we weren’t surprised or upset.  Since it was just after 7, it was too dark to get an idea of what the island looked like.  (No matter, we figured we would see it on our way back to the airport in a few days) 


View from the room

We arrived at the resort, were quickly checked-in, and told that all the restaurants closed in a half-hour, so if we wanted food we’d have to be quick (only they phrased it much nicer than that.)  Luckily, the buffet was still open, so we were led there, and we filled plates with food and had a nice (if somewhat quick) dinner.  After that it was off to our room (with a king-size bed), where we unloaded our bags and washed our faces, before heading to the piano bar, to have a drink or two, read our books, and unwind after our flights.


The next morning we finally got our first view of the resort – while Tower Isle does have a small beach (if you’re someone who likes long walks on the beach, this is most definitely not the resort for you), it was well-kept, with plenty of shady spots, and enough lounges that we never had much trouble finding two that were free.  Additionally, the beach never felt crowded, although small it was adequate for the size of the resort.  The water was a lovely turquoise colour, and we nearly immediately jumped in…after our breakfast of course.  (I need me some coffee in the a.m.)


Relaxing in the water

We lounged for the most part of our trip, enjoying the sun and warmth, as well as the waves (the isle acts as a break, so the waves don’t get very big).  The resort offers a variety of activities – catamaran tours, hobie cat rides, snorkeling, scuba diving, as well as beach activities like volleyball.  There are also two rings floating out in the water for guests to relax in.  

The beach itself has plenty of shade – either from the palms, or from triangles of fabric rigged up between the trees above the lounges.  We found we had the perfect blend of shade to sun.  That isn’t to say that we didn’t end up with sunburns – after an Ottawa winter, anyone would.

At Dunn’s River Falls

Our second day, though, we headed out on the Dunn’s River Falls tour.  The resort has shuttles to take you to the park, and they also handle the entrance fee.  All you need is money for any souvenirs you want to buy, as well as to tip your guide. 


It was nicely shaded along the waterfall, so we didn’t need to worry about sunglasses.  You do need to worry about watershoes, though – you are anywhere from ankle deep to thigh deep in water, and in places you’re walking along a river bed, with sharp rocks.  Other places the rocks are smooth and could be slippery.  They urge you to hold hands as you walk up, which just made me feel like I was going to fall, so I let go and climbed as I normally would.  You walk along, pausing in places for photos (which they later try to sell you a DVD of).  In one spot, they let you slide down a small portion, in another they push you backwards into a deep pool.  At times it looked incredibly steep, and I though “Oh, I don’t think I can do this”, but honestly it was more bark than bite – it wasn’t nearly as difficult as it appeared.


Sunset over the resort

Back on the resort, we had decided to have dinner at the non-reservation restaurant – Verandah, which served Jamaican fare.  We thought the food was incredible, and the atmosphere was very nice.  The next night we had a reservation at Eight Rivers, which we had read a lot of reviews for.  However, we found the food not quite as good as it had been the night before at Verandah.  It was still good, it just didn’t live up to expectations.  Our final night we had dinner at the Asian-themed restaurant, Bayside, which is located in several pavilions overlooking the bay.  It was a little dim, and with the waves crashing underneath it was a little difficult to have conversation.  Nonetheless, the atmosphere was romantic, and the food good.


The one notable about the food at the buffet was that they had clearly labelled gluten-free desserts and bread available.  I didn’t enquire into the other food, but based on that labelling, I would assume that the staff could identify which foods were GF and which weren’t.  There were also lots of vegetarian options (including a veggie bar that was open during the day, serving veggie sandwiches, smoothies and salads.)  it really seemed like they were trying to cater to multiple diets and allergies.

Since we were there over Easter, the resort had a treat in store for us on Easter Sunday.  For lunch, along with the usual buffet, we had a Jamaican BBQ on the beach, complete with jerk chicken and coconut drinks (with rum to taste.)  Then they had a kids’ marching band play – down across the beach, up the dock and back.  These kids were amazing – besides being incredibly talented at their instruments, there was also a brief dance portion, where they encouraged the guests to come out and dance as well – without forcing anyone who felt uncomfortable to get up and boogie.  

Overall our stay at the resort was great.  The staff were very friendly, the food plentiful and filling, and the beach great for relaxing.  I’d go back in a heartbeat….if there weren’t a million places to visit first.