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A Mountain of Possibilities

Posted by Jason del Sur in Kilimanjaro 2010
July 29th, 2010

“It is a mountain of possibilities,” Benjamin told us. “Do not take the mountain the way you want to take the mountain, take the mountain the way the mountain wants you to take it.”

It’s the evening before we start the climb and we’re at the pre-departure briefing at the hotel. We’ve just met the other people going with Zara (our tour company) the next day. The most amusing group of people is the two families taking the Marangu route. Total of eight people, mom, dad, two sons in each family. They decided to get t-shirts made of their initial reactions. “I’m going to make the most friends,” one mother’s said. She then had various random people she’d met sign the shirt in sharpie. The kids were the best: “I voted for Disney World” and “I’m never wearing their shirt again.”

We’re then broken into the groups that we’ll be climbing with. There are five of us in our group. Julienne; me; Prash, a med student from Mauritius studying in Australia (he’s there because he claims it’s easy and can get away with not studying. I don’t want him as my doctor); Candice from San Diego; and Willem, a 44 year old dude from South Africa. Willem planned it so he’ll be at the summit on his birthday. To celebrate he’s brought along a cupcake in a tupperware container he’s carrying to the summit.

Our guide Benjamin walks over. Leather jacket, flashy watch, keeps getting calls on his cell phone. Definitely a baller. Gives us a little rundown of what’s going to be happening tomorrow. Tells us, which we will hear many, many more times throughout the hike, to keep it “pole, pole,” slowly, slowly. I’m speaking to one of the other guides the next day, Festo. He has only the utmost respect for Benjamin. Benjamin’s been a guide for over 11 years, there was an American guy that summited in 9 hours. Benjamin was his guide. That’s how big of a badass Benjamin is. I’m feeling good about this.

Meanwhile, Benjamin has sent us up the mountain with his assistant Athumani (at least that’s how I remember it being spelled, but Julienne’s been using Athman, so I’m not sure. It’s pronounced AHT-man) while Benjamin sorts things out with the porters. The porters make us all feel like wussies. We have our little daypacks, the heaviest thing in them is the 3-4 liters of water we carry. They, on the other hand, are carrying 45 pound bags on their heads. With no hands. I was impressed by the women in town carrying stuff on their heads, but the porters put them to shame. And they’re cruising past us, climbing over rocks, all without dropping anything.

We stop for lunch about 2 hours in. Benjamin still hasn’t caught up to us. 4 hours in, still no Benjamin. We get to camp, no Benjamin. We eat dinner, still no Benjamin. It’s about 7pm, time for our nightly briefing on what to expect for the following day. Athumani comes in (we have our own little mess tent). “So, Benjamin is sick. He’s in the hospital. We think it’s malaria. They’ll be sending another guide up tomorrow.”


View of Kilimanjaro from Moshi
Kilimanjaro from town

Julienne and I at Machame Gate
Julienne and I at Machame Gate

Porters getting ready
Porters getting ready

Good Memories from the Cave of the Forgotten

Posted by Jason del Sur in Kilimanjaro 2010
July 23rd, 2010

Apparently I love subterranean Paris. After my chthonian exploration of the Paris Catacombs yesterday, I figured the next logical step was to go a level up and check out the sewers. It’s not something I would normally seek out, but I had it on good authority (Jenny T) that it’s cool. Plus, Lara hadn’t done the tour yet.

I can’t say the Égouts de Paris smelled pleasant, but the museum was ripe with information. It’s a well put together tour with the majority of information in English tracing the history of the sewer systems from the middle ages to modern times. And whoever wrote the information loved Eugène Belgrand, the engineer who designed the modern sewer system in the 1800s. His magnificence and brilliance definitely shined through in the writing.  There are now over thirteen hundred miles of sewers running under Paris and whenever there’s insurrection or revolution, you can be sure these waterways are being used for sneaking around. It wasn’t until Napolean around 1800 who finally commissioned a mapping of all the existing tunnels. Victor Hugo describes the sewers in Les Miserables in vivid detail as Jean Valjean escapes through them with Marius on his shoulders. As he says, “…Paris has another Paris under herself; a Paris of sewers; which has its streets, its crossings, its squares, its blind alleys, its arteries, and its circulation, which is slime, minus the human form.”

Paris Sewers

After resurfacing and coming once again into fresh air, we grabbed some food and hung out with Lara’s friend Charbel while drinking some wine and watching a World Cup game (because that’s what you do in the middle of the day in France, you drink wine). Then it was time to meet up with Ewen, his wife Victoria, and their friend Melissa at Chez Janou, a delicious little restaurant in the Marais district.

Chez Janou

Ewen and Victoria at Chez Janou Lara at Chez Janou

After a wonderful time at dinner, telluric inclinations once again brought us underground. This time to a badass music club in the St Michel area, Le Caveau des Oubliettes, which is somewhere between a cave and a dungeon. (My translation of the name in the title of this post may not be 100% accurate, but I know that oublier is to forget and I claim artistic license in choosing the part of speech in which to render it.) There was an awesome funk band playing. If the venue’s website had been updated since 2009 I could figure out the name of the band. If Funk in the Trunk ever goes to Paris, we’ll definitely be playing there. After seeing the guitar player, I now know where Boris gets it from: Parisian guitar players love to masturbate onstage during solos (figuratively).

Le Caveau des Oubliettes Le Caveau des Oubliettes

Finally it was time to say goodnight. Lara and decided we wanted to bike home. Paris has this brilliant program called Vélib’ (from Vélo Libre, Free Bike–free as in speech, not free as in beer). Throughout the city there are racks of bikes. You pay at a kiosk and it unlocks a bike. Then you just return the bike to another rack. It’s a brilliant plan assuming the technology actually functions. It wasn’t until the 3rd station where we finally found available bikes that the kiosk would let us check out. But we finally made it home around around 2am. Just in time to catch 3 hours of sleep before having to head to the airport for the next leg of the journey: Tanzania.

Florida/London/Paris Photos

Posted by Jason del Sur in Kilimanjaro 2010, Photo Albums
July 21st, 2010

Sorry for the delay in posts, I’ve been absurdly busy since getting back to Chicago. Here are photos from Florida, London, and Paris to tide you over. I promise some new posts this weekend.


FireworksFireworksFireworksPlaying around with long exposureMore playing around with long exposuresP1000955P1000956Sneaky lizard being all camoflagedBridge to nowhereP1000978P1000980P1000981Yeah, about this guy...That guy is having a great time.Meta-artP1000996P1000999Yes it is.Smallest bar. About 4 people can comfortably fit in there.P1010003Random chicken at the gas stationFull moon party paradeSad flamingo. Maybe the oil got to him.


The cover of the British version of Super Freakonomics is so much more badass than the American versionIMG_0173IMG_0174IMG_0175IMG_0177IMG_0178ThamesIMG_0180IMG_0181Big BenIMG_0183IMG_0184IMG_0190IMG_0196IMG_0197I remember this house from New Years 2000, only then there were drunk people hanging out the window.IMG_0199Kind of creepy.IMG_0201IMG_0202Hmm, not sure how I feel about this sloganVuvuzelas, thousands of them


InvalidesInvalidesInvalidesInvalidesP1010020P1010023Eiffel TowerEiffel TowerEiffel TowerArc de TriompheChamps-ÉlyséesArc de Triomphe from Champs-ÉlyséesP1010066Capoeira in front of the Eiffel TowerIMG_0232LouvreLouvreArc de TriompheLouvreLouvreHenry IV avec LightsabreNotre DameNotre DameNotre DameP1010118Catacombes de ParisCatacombes de ParisCatacombes de ParisCatacombes de ParisCatacombes de ParisCatacombes de ParisCatacombes de ParisCatacombes de ParisCatacombes de ParisMusée des arts et métiersMusée des arts et métiersMusée des arts et métiersMusée des arts et métiersMusée des arts et métiersNinja Turtles rocking the Sewers of ParisParis SewersEwen and Victoria at Chez JanouLara at Chez JanouMe at Chez JanouMe at Chez JanouChez JanouLe Caveau des OubliettesLe Caveau des OubliettesLe Caveau des OubliettesLe Caveau des OubliettesP1010132P1010156Stop! This here is the empire of the dead.P1010148P1010151P1010145

Kili Success!

Posted by Jason del Sur in Kilimanjaro 2010
July 12th, 2010

I successfully survived the climb to Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa, rising 5,893 meters (19,334 feet) above sea level. As the internet is kind of dodgy here in Africa, photos and stories must wait until I return to the states, but know that I have returned from the adventure!

Now after my first shower and first time on the internet in 8 days, it’s time for a celebratory beer. The tagline of Kilimanjaro Beer is “If you can’t climb it, drink it,” but I think they need a slogan for those that do climb it drink it.

Uhuru Peak

Underground Adventures

Posted by Jason del Sur in Kilimanjaro 2010
July 4th, 2010

Note: I originally wrote this on July 4, shortly before flying to Tanzania. I’m back in the country now, but I’ll be posting more stories and photos over the next few days.

As some of you may know, I’m a [ed: giant dork] huge fan of Joseph Campbell and his thoughts on the Hero’s Journey. And, as most of you know, I’m a huge stickler for the proper use of the word “literally.”

In a few short days I will literally climb a mountain to the metaphorical Realm of the Gods, but before that I must make my Decent into the Underworld.

I started off my first full day in Paris with a trip to the a literal World of the Dead, the Catacombes de Paris. Located below even the sewers and the Metro, this ossuary is like a decent into Hades. The bones of thousands of dead Parisians line the walls. The creepiest parts is just how many femurs and skulls are stacked upon each other. The catacombes go on for far longer than you expect or are comfortable with, but that only reinforces just how many people have lived in paris through the ages. And these bones were just moved there in the 1800s when the cemeteries were causing health problems.

After resurfacing, it was time for something a little less macabre. I moved on to the Musée Art et Métiers. The museum plays a major role in the book I’m currently reading, Foucault’s Pendulum, so I figured I should see it. It houses all kinds of old scientific instruments and traces the history of mechanics, transportation, communications, and energy. Pretty much anything from the history of technology and science. The most important artifact is Foucault’s pendulum hanging X meters from the vaulted ceiling of the church. It was used in the first public proof that the earth is in fact rotating around an axis, the same heretical idea that caused many great minds to be burned at the stake. They also had a great exhibit on the history of video games, and had playable consoles of everything from Pong to Atari to NES to Xbox. I wish they had had a Virtual Boy, just to remember how bad it was.

My plan was to hit another museum, but when I had come out of the museum it was raining. It was World Cup time, so I just found a nearby pub to watch the game. I found a great place called FrogPubs, with their own brewery in the basement. My favorite beer is the Maison Blanche (White House). The logo is a drawing of Obama as a frog toasting a beer. My photo is a little blurry, but you should be able to get the idea.

By the time the game ended the rain had stopped. To close out my day, Lara got back in town from her consulting gig in Geneva, and I finally got my picnic.

More underground adventures tomorrow…

Catacombes de Paris Catacombes de Paris Catacombes de Paris Musée des arts et métiers
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