2018 Retrospective
2020 Remote Places

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Remote Places.   Getting out and staying out in 2019-2020.                      

There are too many people in the world, we’re all around, everywhere we go. We have a hard
time getting away from us.  The more we try to get away from us, the more we’re aware of us.  
We eat too much. We clog the roads and restaurants. And more of us are on the way.
Elizabeth and I quietly choose to go elsewhere. We prefer remote places, away from most of us.
It’s nearly impossible to go somewhere now where no one has ever been, unless you go high and
vertical. We seek to remain on level ground, although sometimes it’s rather steep and loose,
where few are around, even though the passage of historic humanity has left our image wherever
we look.

In January Elizabeth and I took a small compatible group to the Galapagos where we cruised and
sailed around the islands in our chartered 80’ catamaran, the Nemo II. This was our second voyage
on her, following a cruise on Nemo I many years ago.  We crossed the Equator four times, out of
sight of land. We swam with turtles, sea lions, penguins, rays, a hammerhead, and about a billion
colorful little fishies. We dove deep into Darwin. We watched impressive weather scud through.
We’re going back next year, on Nemo III. We also dipped down the far side of the Andes for a
trip into the upper Amazon, where greenery predominates. We can no longer swim with the
piranhas because the caiman have grown too big, but the walking remains relatively hazard-free.
The clay-lick that draws in hundreds of parrots, macaws and parakeets of many species is still
a highlight, as is the viewing deck 130’ up in the highest branches of a kapok tree looking out
over the top of the canopy.

We then took six consecutive months at home, my longest such stretch in I don’t know how long.
Montana had a good ski season last Winter, and we took full advantage of it, as did our family.
We burned through most of 5 cords keeping warm. Summer was smokeless though, a blessing
for mountain biking. Our organic orchard of apples, cherries, pears and plums was prolific.  
But the idyll couldn’t last.

Back out into the world in August, Elizabeth & I led a group of five hardy souls across three
of the 'Stans, and China, for three weeks, mostly in three Land Cruisers with Tajik drivers,
along with my old Tajik friend Surat.  Road trip!!  Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Xinjiang. 
Epic remoteness between the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush. We hiked in both. We visited Kyrgyz
nomads camped in yurts across the wide-open valleys. Chinese border guards said we were the
first group to cross into Xinjiang via the just-opened Qolma Pass, 14,300'.  We were tailed by
a spy, who translated for us. Whereas the ‘Stans have largely maintained their unique cultures,
Xinjiang and its Uighur population is under the heavy hand of China. The famous Sunday Market
in Kashgar, the largest and craziest in central Asia (want to buy a Bactrian camel? Better ride
it first!) is long gone. I remember its vibrancy from my first visits in 1987. The Chinese have
done a decent job of preserving what remains of some of their ancient cities and cultural sites
though, especially the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas. Chinese tourist have discovered them now.

For three weeks in Oct-Nov I took three buddies up to Makalu Base Camp and beyond, to
19,000', almost to the top of Sherpani Col. We caught a rare look at the S-E side of Everest
and Lhotse, neither one recognizable from that perspective. The high trail was destroyed in
the earthquake of 2015, replaced with loose boulders varying in size from microwave ovens
to VW Bugs. Pretty rugged stuff for old folks, but we made it in and out in pretty good form.
Ultimately we helicoptered out, the only way to fly.
Just recently we returned from two weeks in Namibia, from the southern summer solstice in
the austere desert to the northern winter solstice in the snowy mountains. More epic remoteness.
Enormous rusty-red sand dunes, the tallest on earth, and deep red granite blocks, eroding into egg
shapes. And one of the loneliest and most dangerous coastlines on earth, the Skeleton Coast,
where diamonds are found among the dunes and shipwrecks disintegrate among the breakers.
2020 brings renewed adventure to our souls. Life is too short to be idle. We must go, and we’ll go
where most other people don’t.

Elizabeth and I hope you'll come along, there's still so much to see and do out there!

Get Out and Stay Out!