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PhillyB goes to Ecuador

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Posted

beautiful.

Ballpark cost of trip and what do you do for a living?

i bartend for a living, about 60 hours a week, and i'm in school full time as well. i take the change i make and the odd one dollar bills and throw them aside as a bonus that i don't count as part of my income. i never miss the couple bucks per shift i set aside, and it adds up remarkably fast. last year i paid for a trip to peru with it. this year i bought two roundtrip tickets to ecuador, which ran me $1700. more than i'd like to have paid, but time constrictions with work forced us to go over the christmas holiday, which jacked prices up significantly. should've been closer to $1400... but what are you gonna do

we stayed mostly in single bedroom hostels and guesthouses, which was a departure from my norm of staying in hostels with other random people at eight bucks a night, but with a pregnant wife things are bound to change a bit. the rooms were about $20-30 a night, and we spent probably $30 a day on food (eating out in nice restaurants literally every meal.)

it's all very doable. i tell people all the time that i don't smoke, which is an automatic extra $3000 in my pocket annually compared to people who do smoke, which is, if you use it right, enough money to get to, say, Thailand and back and live there comfortably for 3-5 months.

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Posted

also all this traveling is very useful in that it's actually going to bolster my resume and my attempts to land a job teaching in a community collge or university in a few years when i'm done with school.

i'm actually spending the last of my spare change to fly to panama in three days, in part to study some older archaeological cultures and spanish contact periods remains, and in part to relax and finish the initial draft of the book i'm writing before the start of the new semester. the adventures are far from over

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Posted

The Pan-American highway, instead of skirting small towns with turnoffs to get to them, rammed straight through the center of the towns, and often disappeared entirely. You’d end up in the city square in the middle of an afternoon market with not one sign to tell you which direction the highway actually continues, and then spend the next half hour beeping your way through donkeys and old men and women trying to haul pigs with twine leashes, and then you’d finally navigate through to the south end of town and jump back on the highway.

this sounds like an awesome dilemma

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Posted

also you kinda look like a white evander holyfield

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Posted

I've decided, I'm going to be a bar tender.

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Posted

Awesome stuff

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Posted

Reading this was an awesome way to start the new year. Thank you for sharing your vacation with us. Its probably the closest I'll get to going on a vacation until my daughter gets out of the specialty private school she's attending.

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Posted

Thanks PhillyB, as usual I'm insanely jealous.

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Posted

this sounds like an awesome dilemma

yeah every time im getting pissed as fug because of some stupid misfortune or fart of fate that's leaving me scrambling to adjust i realize that those adjustments are themselves part of what makes it an adventure in the first place

also i looked at holyfield on google images and hooooooly fug you're right

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Posted

Thanks for the pictures. I use to love to travel back when I was younger. Enjoy it as much as you can while you are young.

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Posted

Hey PhillyB, in all your travels to off the beaten path places have you ever been in a situation that you thought you might now get out of? Like winding up in some remote area or a part of town where you weren't welcome? Just curious because I find what you do on these trips fascinating.

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Hey PhillyB, in all your travels to off the beaten path places have you ever been in a situation that you thought you might now get out of? Like winding up in some remote area or a part of town where you weren't welcome? Just curious because I find what you do on these trips fascinating.

my first trip abroad was completely different than the rest. i had no plans really, just bought a one-way ticket with no clue when i'd return, with no real care for my life and my health and safety, just an unquenchable desire to drink of life and to truly live. this led to my doing things far stupider than i ordinarily would have considered. i was in the wollemi wilderness of eastern australia backpacking around and doing some work on a property for a guy that hired me for a week, and one day i did some cliff climbing without gear. here's an excerpt from the book i'm writing about that trip (it's as yet unedited, so the final version should appear far more polished)

Though I have yet to find a place in my story to discuss it, this journey, the entire process from conception to completion, was highly existential.

When I made the decision to leave home and take up the nomad’s life, it was born of the realization that a great many of my questions in life had yet to be answered, even when I pursued them, and that this journey was very much about seeking the answers to the deepest questions of the nature of the mysteries of life and love and why.

As I have mentioned, the process that led to my departure was begun at first by a bottomless desire to know the purpose of my own existence; a disillusionment with the hollow conversation and empty words that society seemed to hoist high in the air as the ultimate experience, the reasons for existence.

In short, I wanted to know if my life was ever meant for anything more than working until I could retire and die; and if not, then I would resign myself to the weary shuffle of men damned to the hell of their desks and the nine-to-five existence, but if it was true that I had a purpose, that the newly sparked fires in my heart were an insight into some sort of greater plan other than that which I now knew, that I wanted in full.

The solitude of my current location, and the whole of my newfound bohemian existence, free from the cares of the world I left behind, was an excellent combination to allow me to search the depth and breadth of these questions.

I do not know what had appealed to me so much about Blaise Pascal other than that his discontentment with the grandeur of human distraction mirrored mine so precisely.

I envy those who I see living in faith with such carelessness, and who make such a bad use of a gift which it seems to me I would make such a different use, wrote Pascal, and I, in my spidery enclosure, nodded vigorously. For this was the other end of my existential dilemma; I could simply not understand how people I knew, usually Christians, could be so willfully simple-minded about what they believed, basing their belief, if they ever thought about it at all, on itself, which was at odds with all logic and rational thought.

This was my state: I was fairly sure a god existed, but quite at odds with the majority of theists; I was certain that there was no true meaning in the hedonistic pastimes of money hoarding and sex, and at the same time both were entirely attractive to me. I was a man, as Pascal would say, who was caught entirely in the middle of a foggy sphere with no visible edges, drifting, to and fro, with no conception of where I came from and where I was going.

I relate these reflections because they were on my mind the morning I climbed Mystery Mountain, which, to this day, I look back on as by far the most dangerous of my many foolish undertakings.

On my last day in Newnes I set off for it, having finished mowing the paddock in front of the hotel, the last of Thomas’s requests. “Cross the Wolgan and follow the trail until you come to a small trail on your right,” he explained, telling me how to get to the path that led up the mountainside.

Distracted by an enormous lizard, its body the length of my entire arm, I failed to notice the first trail, and after plying the length of the path, realized I had missed it, and decided to blaze my own way up, since, after all, I was good at land nav.

Several minutes into the climb what little trail there had been disappeared, and I fought obstinately upwards, conquering the initial slope and entering into a wooded path, which leveled out, and then inclined again. I picked my way up at an increasing angle, grabbing onto trees and rocks, until finally I reached a vast rock wall. It shot up vertically for at least two hundred feet, and there appeared to be no way around.

I moved horizontally along the face until I discovered a gap, and then a number of protrusions from the cliff that created a sort of rough ladder, and I jumping up on the first one to see if it would hold me.

It did, and I began climbing, pausing only after I was well off the ground to reflect on the pure idiocy of my venture. I paused on the foot-wide surface of a ledge and made the mistake of looking back. My stomach lurched into my throat. The view was spectacular, but the drop unquestionably lethal should I slip. I estimated a hundred feet straight down from where I had first started climbing, and then a few feet beyond that, several hundred feet of rocky outcroppings plunging down not quite vertically, but close enough for the sake of impression.

Something deep within me, some powerful longing, kept me moving upward, something existential at its base; I think now it was a way of testing God, or the forces of the universe, whatever they may be, to see if in the face of the most extreme peril I would find safe passage.

Here, inching along, pausing on a sheer wall for several minutes to catch my breath, plan my next succession of moves, and then thrusting up, half leaping, latching into a handhold and hauling myself away from the creeping clutches of death, is where I entered into a place where life was as distinct from death as I had ever known it.

In the comfortable, insulated world of the daily existence, routine separates life from death so that both are philosophical ambiguities, hazy and indistinct; here, perched on the side of a cliff hundreds of feet in the air, with no gear, nothing to stop my plunge but the hand of God, life and death were but fingertips apart; they met, one dark and one light, one a crew of demons roaring lustily for my destruction, and the other a host of angels encouraging me on, bidding me careful maneuver, both as visible to me as the next rocky ledge on which I pinned the entirety of my mortal future.

I reached the top of the cliff, but it was neither the top of the mountain nor the end of my perils. I continued gingerly along a narrow pathway that existed in the form of a ledge several feet in width, not against a vertical cliff but in the midst of an incline impossibly steep and chocked with boulders and trees growing horizontally out of the soil, turning upwards to the sun so that they made leafy L’s. I used them as handholds when I could. At least once they saved my life. The ground slipped from under me, my footholds collapsing, and I slid towards the precipice and certain doom. I threw myself to the ground, lowering my center of gravity, and latched frantically onto the tree, which thankfully did not itself come uprooted, as that would have been the end of me.

After fighting these conditions for a good half an hour, as well as a Pandora’s Box of horseflies and spider webs and vicious bull ants and rivulets of sweat dropping constantly into my eyes, I reached another sheer cliff, this one devoid of outcroppings. It was impassable. I was considering going back, frustrated because I had to be near the top, when I saw a bright orange marker nailed to the trunk of a eucalyptus tree several yards away. And when I saw another one past it I realized I had found the original trail.

I followed it, up and through a large crevice in the cliff face, and just like that I was climbing onto the flat top of the mountain. I whooped ecstatically. Two hours of hair-raising hell had paid off and I was at the summit. I could see in every direction, an unobstructed panorama of the Wollemi wilderness area, which stretched as far as my eyes could see: nothing but canyons and gorges and mountaintops like mine. It was desolate, wild, untamed country, and I had tamed a piece of it at risk of my very life.

My heart was warm and full as I descended, chasing the waning light, and I thanked a god I still very much doubted, without a second thought, for delivering me from the pantheon of dark rogues who had cheered so mightily for my entrance from the light into their domain.

When I left the next morning, Newnes lost twenty-five percent of its population, and significantly less food for its population of arachnids. I can’t say I felt sorry for them.

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