This is Aconcagua base camp, named after the mules that carry gear and equipment from the national park’s gate to this point, after that you are on your own in terms of hauling stuff up the mountain.
Plaza de Mulas (at 14,108 feet or 4.3 kilometers) is during the climbing season, which runs from November to March, a real and lively international village. There is internet, a bar, an art gallery, showers, daily choppers back to the civilized world (at US$1300 one way) and yes, a 24-hour medical post where all climbers have to undergo mandatory testing before they carry on to try and summit. During the days when the sun is out it is hot, at nights incredibly cold.
Staying at the plaza is a memorable experience, whether you are there to get ready to scale Aconcagua’s summit or to hang out after a failed or successful peak attempt.
This the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas at 22,837 ft or 6.9 kilometers above sea level. Propelled by my success in summiting Kilimanjaro in 2013, I got so excited about this mountain that I got together with nine others to take it on. We did not summit, a combination of heavy winds, heavy packs, altitude sickness, diarrhea and fever did us in, but we came close. Twelve days on the mountain, an experience of a lifetime and for that reason alone our attempt was a success in more ways than one.
Here is the view from Plaza Francia at 13,124 feet or 4.0 kilometers where we trekked to as part of our acclimatization.
One of the more fascinating and somewhat undiscovered parts of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta. The Christmas season of 2015 was not spent in front of a snow covered tree but floating like Captain Willard across the muddy and palm lined rivers, ending our journey in the coconut capital of the world, Bến Tre.
One of the traditional Hong Kong things is to take the boat out to Lamma Island for a good seafood dinner. During my years in the former crown colony it was almost a weekly thing, often with a corporate yacht or junk or sometimes with a ferry or sampan service. It was always the usual beers on the boat followed by a good meal in the small fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan. It was then followed by the ride back across the Lamma channel to be dropped off in Aberdeen on Hong Kong's south side and then home where it always felt like you had been away for days while in actual fact it was only an evening or afternoon.
The most spectacular part was the ride back into Aberdeen when the sun set, or when it had already turned dark. The lights of the massive development on Ap Lei Chau and then the ride into Aberdeen harbour with even more high rises and non-stop activity of Hong Kong’s fleet of fishing boats is so stunning, at least to me, that I find it hard to put it into words. Yes, maybe I am waxing on lyrically about a place I so deeply love, but that is what it is and it is one of the key things that defines Hong Kong for me. Riding the boat into Aberdeen harbor, forever.
Nothing but fond memories of one of Hong Kong’s most authentic neighbourhoods, Sheung Wan.
When you go from Central in western direction you go through Sheung Wan first followed by Sai Ying Pun and then at sea level Kennedy Town and up the hill to Pok Fu Lam. When I lived on the far western end of the island in the 1990s I commuted through the area best known as the center for dried seafood and its omnipresent scents giving the area a unique and distinctive character. When visiting in December 2016 I noted that, despite some development has remained largely unchanged.
This photo was taken on Des Voeux Road West, a few steps away from Lin Heung Kui, one of Hong Kong’s best and original dim sum places.
View from the Picasso Museum in the town of Antibes, looking in easterly direction towards Nice and Monaco. The first time I visited the museum in the 1970s as a little kid it made an indelible impression to me and I subsequently spent months drawing Picasso-like artworks. The passion for the old master has never gone away and I have visited the museum in Paris and more recently I took the kids to a temporary exhibition in the Seattle Art Museum. This summer a return to the old castle and its collection of paintings, drawings, ceramics, etchings and tapestry. The place was unchanged and as inspiring and moving as the first time I visited, now some forty years ago.
In November 1996 when I was still living in Hong Kong I was called into an important meeting in Orange County and upon arrival was checked into a hotel in Irvine. Having arrived there early on a Sunday I got into a cab to explore the area with the intent to go to Newport Beach as my limited knowledge of the area told me that was the place to go after ruling out a longer drive to the Nixon Library. The taxi driver, a friendly Greek guy, insisted I forget about that plan and made it clear I was going to Laguna Beach and if I did not like it he would not charge the fare. Fair enough, so I strolled around Laguna for a few hours until he picked me up and drove me back to my hotel after a brief shopping interlude in Newport. For some reason I have the warmest memories of that afternoon on my own in Laguna and the place left an indelible impression on me. It added to my long love affair with Southern California.
So when we visited San Diego for a long weekend in October 2014, I resolved to go back to Laguna which I knew was a relatively short drive up in the direction of LA along highway 5. Now in the company of Irene and daughters, we did exactly what I did 18 years earlier. We strolled through the village, enjoyed a pizza on the beach nestled between a few homeless people on the one side and a Mercedes owning crowd on the other, braved the powerful waves and just let the calmer side of SoCal embrace us. There is something inherently good and soothing about the place. I just love Laguna Beach.
THE PHOTO COLLECTION
Just a random selection of some of my favourite photos.