World Trek-II
Journal


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13 Nov 2009: D-14

This log will be filled in during the trip as opportunity offers.

Introduction

2 weeks to go! Time to start this log, & begin with some background.
After the original World Trek in 1974, the 4 participants split up around Australia. Rik Favalli & David Brooks (ie your narrator) were more often in Perth than not, & maintained contact. The idea gradually developed to complete some of the unfinished business left from the original trip, beginning with an attempt to return to the bridge where we stopped in 1974, and try to get further, hopefully over Babusar Pass & so to Gilgit.
Eventually, 3 foci developed: There is no intention to fit out expedition vehicles as we did 35 years ago: we will use public transport where possible, & obtain resources locally as needed. We had made contact with a Pakistani tour operator, who specialises in the northern areas, and were well advanced in planning, when political & military developments in Pakistan rendered Babusar impractical, at least for now.
So there remained South America, and the Antarctic Peninsula. The Antarctic segment now set the timing for the whole enterprise: the cruises run from November through March. If we visit Roraima before the Antarctic, we have a hard deadline to meet coming out of the Amazon jungle: this was seen as a bad idea. Also the river levels around Angel Falls are too low for boats after December. These considerations pointed us to an early Antarctic sailing, with Roraima to follow.

Itinerary

As developed, the overall plan has 4 segments:
  1. Antarctic Peninsula
    Flying from Perth on Nov. 27, via Sydney & Buenos Aires, to Ushuaia, Argentina, the world's southern-most city. The Antarctic ships leave from here. Our trip, Antarctic Adventure runs for 10 days, returning to Ushuaia.
  2. Mt. Roraima
    From Ushuaia, flying via Buenos Aires & Sao Paolo, to Manaus, Brazil, on Dec. 11. Manaus represents the end of the pre-booked section of the trip; we play it by ear from here until we leave Chile to return to Australia.
    From Manaus either by bus or plane to Boa Vista, and so by road to Santa Elena de Uairén, Venezuela, the departure point for trips to Mount Roraima.
  3. Amazonia
    Returning the same way to Manaus, we take a boat up the Amazon to Tabatinga, another boundary triple-point, this time Brazil, Peru & Colombia. One walks across the border to Santa Rosa, Peru, then takes another boat to Iquitos. Iquitos is considered the world's largest city (pop. 370,000) that has no road access. So from there, we fly across the Andes to Lima.
  4. Andes From Lima, we have no definite plans, but heading in a southerly direction, to join our flight on Jan. 18 from Santiago to Sydney and home.
Timescale being 2 months, Nov. 27 to Jan. 20.

Ham Radio

As a licensed radio amateur (VK6ZMA), I had hoped to bring a "rig" (a portable transmitter/receiver), and operate from various locations en route. However powerful radio transmitters are viewed with alarm in some countries, licensing requirements are strict. I had sent enquiries to several South American countries: Chile replied promptly and very helpfully, no others replied at all. So the radio aspect was regretfully dropped.

Visas

We had been advised that visas were not required for Australian visitors to most South American countries, none at all were needed for British people. Rik and I planned to take advantage of this, as we are both dual nationals. Very late in our preparations, we discovered that visas are waived (by Brazil & Venezuela) only if one arrives & leaves by air. Surface passengers do need visas. The situation is complicated by our making 2 entries into Brazil, one from Argentina (by air), and one from Venezuela (ground). So a regular (1-entry) tourist visa will not do, & there is no way on the stock form to explain what we were doing.
As of this writing (13 Nov.) the Venezuelan visas have been issued, & our (Australian) passports are now with the Brazilians. In the event they don't get returned in time, we plan to travel to the Antarctic using our British passports, & have the Australian ones (with the visas) sent to meet us when we disembark.

18 Nov 2009: D-9

(Sound of breath exhaling!) Yesterday we were thrown into a panic when Rik enquired about the progress of his British passport application. No-one seemed to have any record of it! To all appearance, Australia Post has mislaid the application (almost unheard-of, when they are sent registered.) The British High Commission noted that, if that was the case, it was far too late to start a new application.
A little later, the misunderstanding (for such it was) was resolved. The application had arrived, and the British have it well in hand. So (as Rik put it), it's now a race between the UK & Brazil!

23 Nov 2009: D-4

Further to the passport saga: the Brits now advise Rik's passport won't be ready in time.
However the Brazilians have come good: our visa'd Australian passports should be ready on Wednesday.

25 Nov 2009: D-2

Rik has picked up the visa-ed Australian passports. So we are now clear to go!

27 Nov 2009: D+0
Sydney

After an uneventful flight from Perth, we collected our bags at Sydney, to find that one of the catches had burst on mine (which was jammed full, at 18kg.) We were told the hotel was a 5 minute walk from the airport, so we set off, in typical Sydney (hot, humid) weather. It was quickly apparent that the wheels on my bag were no better than the locks: the bearings were seized, & I was dragging, rather than rolling it. Soon we had to cross a road of heavy traffic (with no crosswalk); Rik, who was behind, called out that I was leaving a trail of clothing! Sure enough, the other lock had burst also. So I quickly lashed it together, & we continued to the hotel.
Once there, I examined that bag. It clearly wasn't fit to take on the trip, with both locks & wheels faulty. So we took a taxi to a nearby shopping centre, & bought a replacement.
On returning, we sorted out the Antarctic documentation, which Rik had picked up from Peregrine along with our passports.
The hotel advertises that it offers breakfast, however the restaurant is currently closed for rebuilding. So we must find something at the airport tomorrow. The flight leaves at 1100 (Sydney time), so we plan to check in 3 hours before, & then eat.
  1. Ushuaia, world's end
  2. Antarctica
  3. Roraima
  4. South through Brazil
  5. A quick look at Bolivia

Acknowledgement

A special "thank you" to my wife Xum, for permission to make this trip! Xum felt that she lacked the experience & stamina to do it herself, so I am to be her eyes in these places.
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