Trekking in Nepal has long been a staple of adventure travel and one of the more popular trekking routes is the path to Everest Base Camp. Every year, thousands of hikers make the pilgrimage to the tallest mountain on the planet just to soak up the culture and landscapes of the Himalaya. It is a beautiful and challenging hike that will certainly leave a lasting impression on all who go.
This year, adventure travel company Discover Outdoors has teamed up with non-profit Kids of Kathmandu to organize a special trek to EBC that will be used as a fund raising program to help a local orphanage in Nepal. The trek, which takes place September 26 – October 13, is limited to just 12 to 15 participants. Those wishing to take part can choose to either pay $2995 of their own money or commit to raising $9000 in funds that go directly to the orphanage. Once the $9000 goal is reached, the trip is completely free for the participant.
All of the funds raised by the charity trek will go towards the installation of solar panels at an orphanage in the town of Bhaktapur. Like many places in Nepal, the village is prone to rolling blackouts and long periods without electricity. The solar panels will help alleviate this problem by providing power for the children living there. Those who elect to help raise funds for this project will also be given the opportunity to visit the orphanage and meet some of the children whose lives they are impacting.
More information on the trek can be found on the Discover Outdoors website including a full itinerary, tips for planning for the trek and details on fundraising efforts. Learn more by clicking here.
It starts at midnight with a 108-kilometer mountain bike ride into the teeth of a biting Patagonian wind. And then, in the morning, there is the brutal realization that there is another 593 more kilometers of mountain biking, trekking and sea kayaking to be completed in no more than ten days. Here’s your map and compass. Now figure out how to survive in the remote, untrammeled wilds of Patagonia.
Two years ago, I covered the Race Across America (RAAM), an insane 3,000-mile bike race that challenges sleep-deprived cyclists to sprint across the country within a 12-day time limit. The winner that year was Christoph Strasser, an Austrian bike messenger who caught a total of just 7 and a half hours sleep while crossing the country in eight days.
Earlier this week, one of Christoph’s friends sent me a message about the Patagonian Expedition Race, and after talking to Pete Clayden, a Brit who moved to Chile in 2011 to help run the race, I no longer think that the RAAM participants are the world’s craziest endurance athletes.
This year’s Patagonian Expedition Race is a 701-kilometer adventure that involves 300 kilometers of mountain biking, overland treks totaling 320 kilometers, and about 80 kilometers of sea kayaking across rugged, virgin terrain in Patagonia that includes majestic mountains, fjords, glaciers and ice fields. The race, which is considered one of the toughest endurance tests in the world, was the brainchild of Stjepan Pavicic, a Chilean geologist who has mapped out different courses in each of the 11 years the race has been held.
“Some of the areas we go into, we may be the first people to have gone there,” says Pete Clayden, who went to work for the race after his post in the financial sector disappeared during the Great Recession, in a recent Skype interview. “There’s a lot of completely virgin ground here, so we never have a hard time finding a new route. We try to showcase the best of the region while creating a unique, very difficult adventure for the racers.”
This year, eleven teams from around the world set off from Puerto Natales, in Chile, at midnight on Monday, February 11, for the first leg of the race – the hellish, aforementioned 108-kilometer mountain bike ride. Two days into the race, six teams were still active, two were thought to be active but hadn’t checked in, and three teams had already dropped out. Last year, 11 of the 19 four-person, co-ed teams actually finished the race.
Clayden said that this year’s race, which concluded over the weekend, was one of the toughest ever, with fierce winds and a difficult course that only three teams were able to complete in the allotted time. Team Adidas TERREX Prunesco, made up of Mark Humphreys, Sally Ozanne, Nick Gracie and Chris Near, won for the fifth consecutive year, crossing the finish line in Punta Arenas, Chile on February 20. The Japanese EastWind team finished third, with GearJunkie Yogaslackers in third.
Each team has to have at least one woman; one team has two this year. But while the women may be outnumbered, some female racers from previous years proved to be some of the competition’s fiercest competitors. Last year, a Japanese woman named Kaori Waki broke one of her ribs on the second day of the race.
“But she kept quiet about it and carried on,” Clayden says. “Her team still managed to come in third place.”
Each team is required to bring their own cooking gear, tents and supplies and there are six resupply opportunities spread out over the course. Clayden says that most teams sleep for just an hour or two per night and some suffer from sleep-deprived hallucinations.
“But a lot of the racers tend to enjoy their hallucinations,” he says. “They call them the sleep monsters.”
Teams are required to stay together, leave no trace in the pristine wilderness, and assist other teams if they are in distress. (Time spent helping other teams is deducted from a team’s race time.) Each team gets a GPS and a satellite phone but they can only use them if they’re in deep trouble and are no longer vying to win the race. Weather conditions are often brutal; on a few occasions Patagonian winds of more than 100 mph actually knocked riders off their bikes (see footage below!) and temperatures can dip below freezing.
“But the thing that really gets the racers is the terrain,” Clayden says. “For the first third of the race, they’re trekking across a glacier, working their way alongside a long section of mountains and lakes, with many river crossings. And there’s one iceberg-filled lake they’ll be crossing on a kayak. It’s an adventure playground.”
It costs $1,000 per team to enter the race, which attracts an eclectic mix of adventurers from around the world who work 9-5 jobs as teachers, tradesman, entrepreneurs, guides and almost any other job you can think of. And what is the prize for enduring this brutal, self-guided race?
“There is zero prize money,” says Clayden, who had just started his own sports massage business when he got the phone call that lured him down to Patagonia to work for the race. “The race is run in the Olympic spirit, solely for the honor of winning it. But there is a trophy and those who finish get a medal. People make enormous sacrifices to compete.”
A British team called Adidas TERREX Prunesco has won what is often referred to as the “Last Wild Race” four years in a row but there’s a plucky quartet of Americans who has also been in the running for the last four years. Gear junky Yoga Slackers are a husband and wife led team comprised of yoga instructors from Bend, Oregon (see videos). In most cases, however, spouses refrain from competing on the same team.
“Generally speaking this is not something you want to do with your life partner,” Clayden says, with a laugh.
When the racers reach the finish line, their feet are sore, they haven’t had a shower in a week or more and they want beer – sometimes, several beers. But Clayden says that more often than not, they come back for more, year after year.
“For most people, it’s to have a great adventure and to have it here in Patagonia,” he says. “They love the wildness of the country, the savageness of it, the intense weather and the way they are immersed in nature. It’s the world’s greatest race, because you compete in mind-blowing scenery and with three of your best friends.”
[Photo credits:Alex Buisse, Chris Radcliffe, Ulrik Hasseman and Alex Karelli from the Patagonian Expedition Race]
Today is International Pretty Brown Girl Day, a movement launched a few years ago that seeks to “address the harmful messages about skin tone and beauty in media” and is “for little girls of all ethnicities to send the message that brown skin is indeed beautiful.”
Knowing a couple of pretty brown girls who are facing racism here in Spain, I understand the reasoning behind this, but I don’t think it goes far enough. Instead of merely aspiring to be pretty, girls are better off aspiring to kick ass, so by the power invested in me by myself, I hereby declare today to be International Kickass Brown Girl Day.
This is inspired by a little Nepali girl I met many years ago. I had just come back to Pokhara from trekking the Annapurna Circuit and Base Camp and needed to return some gear to a rental shop. As I entered I saw the proprietor was gone and had left his daughter, who could have been no more than 10, in charge.
Two burly young Israeli guys were there arguing with her. They were returning some gear and didn’t want to pay for that day, even though it was early evening. The girl insisted that they pay an extra 100 rupees (a little more than a dollar) because the shop was about to close and there was no way she’d rent that gear that day.
The Israelis didn’t see it that way.
“No, we don’t have to pay!” they shouted, towering over her and acting aggressive. They actually puffed out their chests and clenched their fists… at a little girl.
Shit, I thought. I’m going to have to jump in and protect this kid and there’s no way I can take both these guys. Hopefully the neighbors will come in time to help.
Turns out she didn’t need me. She furrowed her little brow, stuck out her slim little hand with the palm up and said in the most forceful voice imaginable, “NO! You pay me 100 rupee!”
They backed down.
It’s one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in 25 years and 36 countries of travel.
Little brown girls have it tough. Disproportionately poor and discriminated against, many still play sports, go to school in underdeveloped areas, and kick ass in various other ways. So check out the gallery for some inspiring images, and be sure to celebrate International Kickass Brown Girl Day …
… because girls who kick ass are automatically pretty.
This photo shows girls in a rural school in Ethiopia. Most don’t have electricity or running water at home and have to walk several miles to get an education. Photo courtesy Almudena Alonso-Herrero, a kickass pretty brown woman who used to be a kickass pretty brown girl.
Somewhere at the core of every human being is a pull to a fire. We are drawn to that place where we sit as a tribe around a source of warmth, sharing stories and building connections. That spirit is embodied in this photo by Flickr user arunchs, who snapped this scene of three men in Zanskar, a valley region in eastern India where nighttime temperatures can reach upwards of 20 below zero.
Maybe this is why we travel. Why we circle around a table with new friends. Why we gather around a group of street performers. No matter where we find ourselves, we are drawn to shared experiences, be it around a fire, a meal or simply a map.
A group of celebrity climbers topped out on the highest peak in Africa earlier this week in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of clean drinking water in developing nations. The group reached the 19,341-foot summit of Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro on Friday after spending seven days scaling its slopes.
The group was led by Grammy-nominated musician Kenna, who was joined by actors Justin Chatwin (Showtime’s “Shameless”) and Beau Garrett (“Tron: Legacy”), as well as Mark Foster of the band Foster the People, amongst others. The team was climbing as part of the Summit on the Summit II expedition, which was organized by Kenna and is a follow-up to a similar trek that took place back in 2010.
The SOTS organization is focused on educating the public about the clean drinking water crisis that many developing countries continue to face. Most of us are accustomed to simply turning on the tap in our homes and getting safe water whenever we need it, but that isn’t the reality for a large number of people around the globe. In fact, according to the Water Project, a non-profit dedicated to delivering clean water to those who need it, more than 800 million people on our planet do not have access to safe drinking water at all. That’s about 11% of the world’s population. This climb of Kilimanjaro was undertaken to educate people of that plight.
A Kilimanjaro trek is a mostly non-technical ascent up the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. If you’re in reasonably good health and take your time, it is possible for many people to reach the summit. Most expeditions up the mountain take roughly 6-7 days to complete, with another day required for the descent. This team went up the scenic Maragnu Route, which is amongst the more popular hikes. A Kili climb is one of the best adventure travel experiences around and there are a number of excellent guide services that can take travelers up the mountain.