October 12, 2103
I have decided to recap all of September and my latter half of October together here… my final recap of life on the road. If August was about family then September/ October was adventure, with a love and (temporary) heartache sandwich in the middle. In reality it probably looks something like: adventure, stress, love, stress, adventure… a good old bell curve of heightened emotion. On September 1 I arrived in Zurich and set off on the hikers Haute Route, 14 days walking between Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland. In that time I managed to fuck up my Indian visa procurement and left the love of my life high and dry in a foreign country not exactly easy on newbies. We managed to have about 36 hours together in Agra, and despite some tenuous moments, it was enough to cement our future together. Then I was off again on September 27, leaving Andi at 5am and taking off for my final adventure, a high altitude walk through the Himalayas. I finished and on October 11th I boarded a flight in Delhi, finished circumnavigating the world, and was back home in San Francisco on the 12th, ready to begin a similar but entirely new life.
I didn’t draw very much during this final stretch. There are a number of factors that contribute to this, the biggest being it is just hard to sit, stop and draw when you are hiking and your heart rate is up… and I was doing a lot of hiking this time around. It is also hard to draw when it is cold and your fingers feel like they will freeze off… and the high mountains of Switzerland and India tend to get cold… As has been a religiously proven occurrence on this trip, I met a lot of great people this month and a half. I got to know Wolfi a lot better while he put me up trying to figure out my Indian visa issue. You tend to see familiar faces on the trail, and in Switzerland I met a hiking couple Austin and Pia and had a chance to wind down with them in Zermatt when the Haute Route was all over; my buddy Stoney from SF put me in touch with Stephen and Cherries, mountain guides who live right on the Haute Route just below Verbier… they fed me coffee and blueberries and perked me up halfway through the hike! I got to spend a few days in Innsbruck with Flo, Verena, Paul and August… the amazing people who’s wedding I celebrated at the very beginning of the trip… Off to India where I spent a critical 36 hours with Andi, the love of my life. Off to the Himalayas and a rendezvous with Sorin. I got to know his good buddy Karthik, and the rest of the gang on the trip, especially, Nirvaan, Adi, Sumit and Mamo. And then it was back home, where my best bud Johnny was there to greet me at the airport on my return!
Doing a couple of monster hikes was probably a great way to finish off a year on the road. And while I can’t point to any specific enlightenments, hauling yourself over mountains gives you plenty of time to reflect. Sometimes about life and sometimes about nothing really at all… and that is just as important. A few years back (probably really 10 now… yikes!) I had to bale on a camping trip through the Olympic Rain Forest in Washington state with my good buddy Griff. So he went on and did a five day loop hike by himself, during which he made once of the most astute observations I’ve ever heard. He thought this would be a chance to reflect on life and really figure some things out about himself. When he returned I asked him if he succeeded… his response: ‘No… all I really thought about was soccer and girls…’!
I visited lots of familiar countries this month, with lots of specific new places in those countries… and I added one new country… the final one to add to the list. I started back in Switzerland, and quickly over to France. The train ride from Bern to Chamonix one of the most beautiful ever. The hike from Chamonix (where I had been earlier in the trip with Andi) to Zermatt (where I had been way back in 1995) introduced me to a lot of new villages: Les Frassereands, Trient, Champex Lac, Le Chables, Fontanelle, Arolla, Le Sage, Zinal, Gruben, St. Niklaus and Grachen. A great slow pace and a great way to experience this beautiful part of the world. From there back to Innsbuck, Austria. And then I seemed to be dancing between Bern and Zurich trying to get the visa figured out. A nice stop in Lausanne, then the airport in Geneva, then off to Delhi with a pit stop in Doha. India, a brand spanking new country, Delhi and Agra, new cities, and then the villages north: Dehradun, Hardiwar, Gongotri and Ghuttu… then Beijing, LA and SF!
I enjoyed some great musical moments during this month and a half. While I don’t like to listen to music while hiking, a lot of times I will tend to get a song stuck in my head… or different songs will present themselves as you trundle along… A few that stuck with me waking through the Alps: Dance Dance Dance by Likye Li: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=modXbqbsAvs; and specifically, as I was coming out of the Mattertal I couldn’t help but hum along with Down in the Valley by The Head and the Heart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iSQGWpy0qY. And then in one truly magical moment, getting towards the end of the hike, leaving Grachen one morning, Asia’s, ‘Heat of the Moment’ played at a town fair over the loud speakers… and that tune was unfortunately etched in my memory for the next 10 hours: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpxsMyoXUZQ.
While at camp high in the Himalayas’…. getting reflective on my return home, I had my phone on random shuffle and a song came on that I completely forgot I had, and a song that completely hit the spot. John Prine’s cover of ‘Clay Pigeons’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju9hiiHCf6s.
And again, while packing up at Karthik’s place just before jumping on the flight home, the Kinks ‘This Time Tomorrow’. This one is kind of a cheat, as it was featured in the beautiful travel story set here in India ‘The Darjeeling Limited’, so maybe there was some subliminal influence over my psyche. But it was the perfect song in the perfect place at the perfect time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o4lAIBHLzA.
Having returned home I’ve discovered a new band that, when I listen to, gives me goosebumps and leads me to reminisce… so thank you Lord Huron, and this one, ‘She Lit a Fire’ in particular: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUxh-jw-C-w.
As for trip finances… this one always hurts. I was operating in the red at this point, but figured I had the rest of my life to pay it (and my parents!) back… how pathetic.. nearly 40 and scrounging off my parents! A lot of big ticket items to finish this thing off: the flight to Switzerland; the flight to India; the cost to rebook the flight to India after I didn’t get my visa; lots of Swiss train rides to sort out said visa issues (not cheap!); a catered and supported adventure in the Himalaya’s; and finally my flights back home. While I was ‘going cheap’ in Switzerland, staying in huts and bunk rooms, it was still Switzerland. That place has never been confused with cheap. And while I was spending 3 weeks in India, I paid Aquaterra for a lot of it… but at least I wasn’t spending money all day long… That said, here are the results. I will lump my 1 day stint in Switzerland with the return to Switzerland a few days later, so we will start in France. Spent $271.80/ day, but that included preparing for the hike, 2 nights in a hotel room, and sending a bunch of shit home. The walk through Switzerland was $198.69/ day. Switzerland aint cheap, especially when you are paying for a bed every night and finishing each day off with a nice big meal and some vino. The $200 ticket to travel to take lifts to the top of Zermatt probably wasn’t worth it… If I could do it again I would probably skip that and invest my time and money getting up for a few night’s in architects Bearth and Deplazes’ New Monte Rosa hut: http://bearth-deplazes.ch/en/projects/new-monte-rosa-hut-zermatt/. 2 nights in Austria and $220/ night, even while staying with friends! As you look closely at this one you see how costs can add up… I spent about $150 on ski pants, and then $200 on Malarone pills for Andi, and it starts to make sense… paying for the little things here and there and a daily budget can get a bit out of hand. Back to Switzerland for a couple of expensive nights trying to work through the visa issues at $291.12/ day. And finally India, with a pre paid journey to the mountains and a spending spree at an expensive clothing store: $107.91/ day… and all I can say is OUCH! I finished up a far cry from my $50/ day travels through eastern Europe… but no regrets!!!
And finally, the last Instagram pics from a kick ass last month and a half.
It was great world!