Remembering my sister Adri

A tribute to Adri van Zyl Forster Spies

Born Adriana Alletta Grové in South Africa, December 19, 1941

Adri went on to her eternal reward on Monday, August 24, 2015 in Kempton Park, South Africa

Alletta means FOOTLOOSE, FREE.  That was Adri!

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Click on the photo for a TRIBUTE to Adri (00:09:46) on  YouTube Logo Cropped.  This tribute was used during the celebration of Adri’s life at our church in South Africa on August 28, 2015.  A wonderful way for our family to remember a wonderful life.

 

For My Dear Sister Adri

From your little brother, Willie Grové in America

28 August 2015

It feels like it was yesterday. I remember it as if it happened just now.

A 10-year-old child

I stood there and cried like a baby. We were in church in Bloemfontein and I heard Patrys van Zyl say that he is taking you for life, until death parted you. I cried even harder. Why would he take my big sister away until death?!

Then came Willem. And then Mari. And next Doreen. And Patrys took me under his wing like I was his little brother, and he the big brother I never had. And he taught me everything about fixing cars and so many other things. And together with Pappie and Patrys I learned to weld, and to fix toasters when they broke, mix and pour concrete driveways, to build arbors for the grapevines we planted, and to take care of the peach trees – all things we could not afford to pay others to do.

What a wonderful big brother you gave me!

You were very beautiful. I did not know it then but now with adult eyes I see it with surprise in the photos. But you were such a good person, with your young heart wanting always to take care of everyone. And the most beautiful part of you was your soul and your spirit to the end.

I was in high school when the telephone call came. We rushed to the hospital but Patrys did not survive the car crash. I remember how I cried because I lost my big brother, the one who said he was taking my sister until death separated them.

I gave you and your three little ones my bedroom. Pappie and I made a screen and put a small bed in the living room, and that’s where I slept for several years. I always thought of it as camping out in our own house! We lived together as a family, Mammie and Pappie in their bedroom, Ria and Martie sharing theirs, you and your three beautiful little ones in mine, and I in the living room. We ate together, slaughtered sheep and raised chickens. Oh it was such a wonderful time when you lived there with us!

I helped some with the three little ones, as did everyone else. But Willem became mine. I taught him everything his Pa Patrys taught me. And I feel to this day he is my son and my friend. And a special bond formed during those years also with Mari and Doreen which is as strong to this day.

Do you remember the time whenever you wanted to go someplace and you always spoke in English so as not to upset the kids? One day Willem said, “You are speaking English again. I’m coming along!”

Music! It was so wonderful that you came to live with us even though we were so cramped in that small Railway house in Elandsfontein. We always made MUSIC!  All of us!  Together.  How beautifully you could play on the accordion and the electric organ… And when I was just 17 or 18 you got me into the SABC National Symphony chorus where you regularly performed so beautifully with all those wonderful singers. Accompanied by the SABC Symphony Orchestra we performed and even made a record of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. And it was there where you at first let my love for classical music see the light, a love that today, 50 years later still enriches my life daily. I will never forget that.

And then Wilf came into our lives. Wilfred Forster became my second big brother. And he raised your children as his own. That does not surprise me because they were YOURS. Oh, all the adventures we had together! And when the tragic accident happened there at the lake, you were there to hold me tight, and my heart broke. But you picked up the pieces and together with Wilf you helped me to put my heart back together. Once again you were there when I needed you.

And then you and Wilf surprised me when you stole onto the plane to America for my marriage to Katie, to be there at my side when I made my biggest decision to marry and American girl. And you adopted my American family as your own.

And for more than 37 years here in America you continued to love me over the great distance and never said to me, “Why did you go so far away?”

When I arrived at the hospital a few weeks ago that Saturday morning at the end of July, you were lying there, non-responsive. It was so difficult to see you lie there, knowing the end must be near. But I knew you knew I was there as I talked to you, and sang our childhood songs ever so softly in you ear. And I could see the peace on your face and I knew you knew where you are going.

A life lived perfectly… and you knew it.

We decided to remove the life support on Monday, and by Wednesday you were lucid enough to ask me, “ Now, how is it that you are here?”

“I got word that you are very ill and I got on a plane and came to be by your side, as you were at mine so many times in my life.”

“Then that is why I am getting better”, you said.

And then I sang another song for you from our childhood because your soul is filled with music.

Well, of course I would have known that the new husband you took would be special also, because you only went for special! I am so thankful for the few extra years that Willem Spies gave you, and admire him so for the way HE stood by your side through this illness. Of course we all know that he, Wilf and Patrys didn’t deserve a wonderful woman like you anymore than I deserve my Katie!

During the week that I was there, Willem (your son, Willem) said to me in great distress, “But what will I do now? She was my ROCK. How could I live without her?”

You were a ROCK for many.

“We must not confuse the body-ROCK with the soul and spirit-ROCK”, I said to Willem. “Because the rock you are for your children and grandchildren, and for so many others, is not the imperfect vessel in which we travel through this life, but the PERFECT soul and spirit which will endure forever.”

The times we spent there at the Vaal Dam are for me very special and precious. The good times with our boats! And I so often think about the special moments at the end of a perfect day when we would sail there in the sunset as the evening breeze softly announces the cool of the night, just before the earth swallows the sun.

And I think of the beautiful poem by Henry Van Dyke, “Gone From My Sight” because it so clearly describes my sister.

Gone From My Sight

Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore

A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails

To the moving breeze

And starts for the ocean

She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until, at length,

She hangs like a speck of white cloud

Just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone”

“Gone where?” I ask.

Gone from my sight, that’s all

She is just as large in mast, hull and spar

As she was when she left my side

And she is just as able to bear her load

Of living freight to her destined port

Her diminished size is in ME — not in her

 And, just at the moment when someone says,

“There, she is gone,”

There are other eyes watching her coming

And other voices ready to take up the glad shout,

 “Here she comes!”

 

Your journey on earth was fantastic, well lived, organized. But I feel sorry for those in heaven who may not listen to you, because you will in short order organize them!

You are now in The Holy City. Some day we will all be there, together again, and when I arrive you will take me by my hand as in days of old, and you will say, “Come, my little brother. Let me show you the wonders of The Holy City. And all the people who have been expecting you for so long, they are here.”

And the symphony orchestra will play and the choirs sing, and our whole family shall once again make music together and entertain them with Gister se Wysies (Yesterday’s Tunes).

And I will thank God for you and the example you were for us all.

And I will sing:

Hosanna in the highest

Hosanna for evermore

The Holy CityPlay Button

A recording of The Holy City made at Trinity United Methodist Church, Columbus, Ohio.  Willie Grové, soloist.  Eileen Huston, piano.  Jan Linker, organ.

 And here is my tribute to Adri in Afrikaans:

Vir my Sussie Adri

Van jou klein boetie, Willie Grové in Amerika

 28 Augustus, 2015

Dit voel of dit gister was. Ek onhou dit asof dit nou net gebeur het.

‘n Tien-jarige kind.

Ek het daar gestaan en huil soos ‘n baba. Ons was in die kerk in Bloemfontein, en ek hoor daai ou Patrys van Zyl nou sê hy vat jou vir die hele lewe tot die dood julle skei. Toe huil ek nog éérs! Hoekom sal hy dan my sussie wegvat to die dood toe?

Toe kom Willem daar aan. En Mari. En Doreen. Daai Patrys van Zyl het my soos ‘n klein boetie onder sy vlerke geneem en my alles geleer van karre en nog baie ander dinge. Saam met ons Pappie en Patrys het ek geleer om te weld, toasters wat breek reg te maak, wingerde te bou en druiwe an perske bome te plant, sement te mix en gooi – al die dinge het ons self gedoen want ons kon mos nie ander mense bekostig om dit vir ons te doen nie.

Wat ‘n wonderlike groot broer het jy my gegee!

Jy was baie mooi. Ek het dit nie toekans geweet nie, maar nou met volwasse oë sien ek dit met verbasing in die prentjies. En jy was so ‘n baie goeie mens, met ‘n jong hart wat altyd vir almal wou gesorg het. Maar die mooiste deel van jou was jou siel en jou spirit – tot die einde toe.

Ek was in hoërskool toe daai oproep kom. Ons was hospital toe, maar Partrys het nie die ongeluk oorlewe nie. Ek onthou hoe ek gehuil het want ek het my groot broer verloor; die een wat gesê het hy vat my sussie tot die dood julle skei.

Ek het my kamer aan jou en jou drie kleintjies gegee. Pappie en ek het so ‘n skerm gemaak, en ek het in die sitkamer of a klein bedjie geslaap. Ek het gedink dit was soos uitkamp in my eie huis. Ons het as ‘n familie saam gelewe, Mammie en Pappie in hulle kamer, Ria en Martie in hulle kamer, jy met die pragtige drie kleingoed in my kamer, en ek in die sitkamer. Ons het saam ge-eet, skape geslag hoenders groot gemaak. Ai, dit was ‘n lekker tyd toe jy daar by ons gebly het.

Ek het maar gehelp met die drie kleintjies, soos almal het. Maar Willem het myne geword. Ek het hom alles probeer leer wat sy Pa Patrys my geleer het. En tot vandag voel ek hy is my seun en my vriend. En ‘n spesiale bond met Mari en Doreen het ontwikkel wat tot vandag so sterk is.

Onthou jy die keer toe jy êrens wou heen ry? Jy het altyd in Engels gepraat sodat die kindertjies nie upset moet wees nie. Toe sê Willem eendag so kostelik, “Jy praat al weer Engels. Ek gaan saam!”

Musiek. Dit was so lekker dat jy by ons kom bly het, al was ons so gecramp in daai klein Spoorweg huisie in Elandsfontein. Maar ons kon MUSIEK maak, almal van ons! Hoe mooi het jy die trek klavier gespeel, of die orrel. En toe ek net 17 of 18 was het jy my daar by die SAUK se groot koor ingekry waar jy so mooi saam met al die ander goeie sangers opgetree het. Saam met die SAUK Simfonie orkes het ons Beethoven se 9de Simfonie gesing en selfs ‘n plaat gemaak. En daar het jy my liefde vir klasieke musiek die lig laat sien, ‘n liefde wat vandag, 50 jaar later, nog my lewe verreik elke dag. Ek sal dit nooit vergeet nie.

Wilf het toe in ons lewe gekom. Wilfred Forster het my tweede groot broer geword. En hy het jou kinders groot gemaak soos sy eie. Ek is nie verbaas nie, want hulle was JOUNE. Al die avonture wat ons saam gehad het! En toe die tragiese ongeluk daar by die dam gebeur het, was jy daar om my vas te hou, en my hart het gebreek. Maar jy het die stukke opgetel, en saam met Wilf my gehelp om dit weer aanmekaar te sit. Weereens was jy daar toe ek jou nodig gehad het.

En toe jy en Wilf my so verras het toe Katie en ek getroud is, om so skelm daar op die vlieguig te klim na Amerika toe, om weer daar by my sy te wees wanneer ek die grootste besluit geneem het om ‘n Amerikaanse meisie te trou. En hoe jy my Amerikaanse familie aangeneem het as jou eie.

En vir amper 37 jare hier in Amerika het jy my altyd bly lief hê en nooit vir my gesê, “hoekom het jy so ver weg gegaan” nie.

Toe ek by die hospitaal aankom daai Saterdag ‘n paar weke gelede by die einde van Julie, het jy daar gelê en my nie eers gegroet nie! Dit was so swaar om jou so daar te sien lê en te weet die einde moet naby wees. Maar ek het geweet jy weet ek is daar, want wanneer ek vir jou saggies ons kinderliede gesing het het jou gesig soveel vrede gewys.

‘n Lewe volmaak gelewe, dit het jy geweet.

Maandag het ons saam met die dokter besluit om jou lewen-ondersteuning af the vat. Woensdag vra jy toe vir my, “Nou hoekom is jy nou hier?” A miracle recovery!

“Ek het woord gekry dat jy baie siek is, toe het ek op ‘n vliegtuig geklim en jou kom sien.”

“Dan is dit nou hoekom ek beter word”, sê jy.

En toe sing ek nog ‘n liedjie vir jou van ons kinderdae, want jou siel is vol musiek.

En natuurlik moes ek weet dat die nuwe man wat jy nou gevat het spesiaal sou wees, want jy het mos net vir spesiale ouens gegaan. Ek is dankbaar vir die paar jare wat Willem Spies aan jou geskenk het, alhoewel ek weet dat hy, Wilf en Patrys almal jou nie verdien het nie, net so min soos ek my Katie verdien!

Gedurende die week wat ek daar was het Willem (jou seun Willem) vir my gesê, “Maar wat sal ek nou doen? Sy was my ROTS. Hoe kan ek sonder haar lewe?”

Jy was ‘n ROTS vir baie.

“Maar ons moet nie die liggaam–rots met die siel–rots deurmekaar maak nie”, het ek vir Willem gesê. Want die ROTS wat jy vir jou kinders en kleinkinders is, is nie in die imperfekte liggaam nie. Dit is in jou perfekte siel en spirit, en dit sal ons vir ewig hê.

Daar by die dam was vir my die lekkerste tye met ons bote. Ek dink so baie aan ons seil daar in die sonsondegang as die aandwind so saggies die koelte van die nag aankondig, net voor die aarde die son insluk.

En ek dink aan die gedig van Henry Van Dyke, Gone From My Sight, want dit beskryf my Sussie, Adri:

Gone From My Sight

Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore

A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails

To the moving breeze

And starts for the ocean

She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until, at length,

She hangs like a speck of white cloud

Just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone”

“Gone where?” I ask.

Gone from my sight, that’s all

She is just as large in mast, hull and spar

As she was when she left my side

And she is just as able to bear her load

Of living freight to her destined port

Her diminished size is in ME — not in her

 And, just at the moment when someone says,

“There, she is gone,”

There are other eyes watching her coming

And other voices ready to take up the glad shout,

 “Here she comes!”

 

Jou reis op aarde was fantasties, goed gelewe, goed georganiseer. Maar ek voel jammer vir hulle in die Hemel as hulle nie na Adri luister nie, want jy sal hulle sommer dadelik organize!

Jy is nou in die Heilige Stad. Eendag sal ons almal daar weer bymekaar wees, en jy sal weer my hand vat soos in die ou dae en sê, “Kom, my klein Boetie, ek will jou al die wonders van die Heilige Stad gaan wys, en al die mense wat jou al so lank verwag, hulle is hier. En die simfonie orkes sal speel, en die kore sing, en ons hele familie sal vir hulle musiek maak daar met Gister se Wysies.

En ek sal God dank vir jou, en vir die voorbeeld wat jy vir ons almal was.

En ek sal sing:

Hosanna in die hoogste.

Hosanna for evermore

The Holy CityPlay Button

A recording of The Holy City made at Trinity United Methodist Church, Columbus, Ohio.  Willie Grové, soloist.  Eileen Huston, piano.  Jan Linker, organ.

Pelotonia 2015

2015 -MY SIXTH PELOTONIA 

Scroll down to read my 2015 Rider Profile

Casto 100 group

2013 Playlist

Click on the YouTube icon above to go to the Pelotonia 2015 VIDEO

August 13, 2015 – Update

SUCCESS!

Pelotonia 2015 banner

DSC_2024

Made it in 6 hours 30 minutes saddle time. Had a fantastic ride with not a pain or ache afterwards – okay, maybe with the exception of my bottom!

Many thanks to all the donations to support cancer research – my contribution, with the generous support from so many, is close to $21,000 over the six years).

Almost 8,000 riders this year with the anticipated total funds raised this year approaching $20,000,000 by the time this year’s campaign ends on October 9, 2015.  This brings the seven-year total for this event to over $100,000,000 raised for cancer research at The James Cancer Center at The Ohio State University. Now THAT is impressive!

And thank you for all the many words of encouragement.

All along the 100-mile route people line the streets, and even the country roads. They clap, shout, ring bells, and cheer us on in other ways. Many have big signs on display to name a loved one or to support a rider. I was brought close to tears when, in the middle of nowhere at about mile 68, there stood a man on the side of the road, with a huge sign.“Thank You!” the sign read. “You saved my wife.” My partner, Colin Parks, stopped to say hi, and the man explained, “My wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and the local doctors said she had three months to live. We went to The James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, and now, two years later, she is still with me. Thank you for saving her life.”

That is why we do it!

And this one, this year, is for my riding buddy, Captain Bill!

Willie Grové

I have compiled a short video (08:52:00) available on YouTube.  Just click on the YouTube Logo to be directed to the video.

2013 Playlist

Click on the YouTube icon above to go to the Pelotonia 2015 VIDEO

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2015 -MY SIXTH PELOTONIA

Columbus to Gambier, Ohio – 100 Miles

With my friend Wade Kosich at the 2014 Pelotonia finish line.

With my friend Wade Kozich at the 2014 Pelotonia finish line, Gambier, Ohio – 100 miles

Here is the link to my rider profile where you may make a contribution. Please know that your support of other riders’ efforts is appreciated greatly!

DONATE HERE \/

Profile Rider

Why I Do This

When I committed to get a bike and ride my first Pelotonia-100 miles to Athens, OH, six years ago, I never thought I’d get so much benefit from the experience. I was thinking it would be nice to make a contribution for cancer research and treatment, and get some exercise to boot. Now I am hooked. I ride every opportunity I get.

So, this year I am doing my SIXTH Pelotonia, from Columbus to Gambier, Ohio – 100 miles. I am proud to join thousands of riders for this important fundraising event, helping to find a cure for cancer.

Each year this ride is just a few days short of my dad’s birthday on September 2. My dad passed away in 1979, a few days after his 62nd birthday. I will be just shy of my 66th birthday. My Dad suffered from hypertension, and in those days, untreated, it killed people–just like so many types of cancer still do today. So, I ride to help raise awareness of cancer, and in the process I also help raise money for research.

And I ride for my own health and fitness–in November 2013, I did my second trek to Everest Base Camp and back, and this December I will do the 14-day Drakensberg Grand Traverse Trek in South Africa. Preparing for the annual Pelotonia helps me prepare for these vigorous treks.

This year, as I did every year before, I am again dedicating my ride to my father, Willie Grove’ Sr. I miss my dad. I am sure he is smiling on me. I know he is very proud that I, this year four years older than the age he died, am actively taking care of myself, and am making a small contribution to others.

How You Can Help

I have made a personal contribution in addition to my ride for cancer. Your contribution, if you so choose, will go 100% to the James Cancer Center. Thank you for giving a small portion of your time and treasure for the victims of cancer.

100% of every donation will fund essential research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. Think of this as a donation not to me, or Pelotonia, but directly to The James. Please consider supporting my effort and this great cause.

Casto Peloton 2015 -Riding with the Casto Peloton, Bill Riat Peloton Captain 

 

 

 

 

Comments on my Book – Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back

A collection of clients’ and friends’ comments

Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back: Published November 2012

Comments were sent by clients and friends after receiving a copy of the book at a Multi Media Presentation: What I Learned on the Way to Mount Everest: November 2012 and February 2013

 Based on a trek in November 2011

Click on the image above to see the book online.  The proceeds of the book, as well as many donations directly attributable to this book has made a significant contribution to the Maya Sherpa Project (MSP)

Click on the image above to see the book online. The proceeds of the book, as well as many donations directly attributable to this book has made a significant contribution to the Maya Sherpa Project (MSP)

All comments posted with permission.  All contributors’ names published with permission

Bennett, Carolyn

January 29, 2013

Dear Willie,

I don’t know how I lose so much time and get so far behind, but I do. I am so long overdue in writing to thank you for sharing your beautiful book “Everest” with me. You write so beautifully about your trek to the base camp and the pictures are spectacular. You never cease to amaze me with your drive, determination to succeed, and your success in everything you do, whether it is climbing mountains, sharing your amazing singing and musical abilities, and relaying your expert wisdom in investing advice. I feel so privileged to know you and to be a small part of your financial group. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the lovely book and for your willingness to continue to work with my small portfolio of investments with you. I hope that 2013 is a wonderful year for you, Katie, and all your family. May it be filled with lots of love, joy, peace, and good health.

Blessings,

Carolyn Bennett

 

Berlett, Greg

January 15, 2013

Willie,

Wow! Congratulations on the big ascent. I am inspired by your adventures. Thank you for sharing your photo journal. I will share with partners.

All the best,

Greg

 

Blose, Dennis MD

November 2, 2012

Dear Willie,

I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful and interesting evening last Thursday. I am always amazed at what you are willing and able to do to climb a mountain. I know my mountain climbing experience will only come through hearing your stories and reading your books. Congratulations on your accomplishments.

Thank you, also, for providing a copy of each of your books. Sharon and I enjoyed reading your first book and look forward to finishing the book we received Thursday.

Finally, thank you for your investment team. I told Grace the other night that choosing your team for our corporation and for Sharon and me personally was one of the best decisions we have made.

Best wishes,

Dennis Blose

 

Burt, Brady

November 2, 2012

 Willie,

Thank you so much for the incredible experience at the Columbus Zoo last evening. Annie and I really enjoyed saying “hello” to you and your wonderful UBS team. I (we) continue to be amazed at your life experiences and travels. You’re kind of like an intellectual forest Gump. We greatly value our relationship with you and your team and look forward to a very long relationship going forward.

All the best, your pal,

Brady

 

Burt, Larry, & Gwen

March 17, 2013

 Dear Willie,

What a lovely surprise we received Saturday in the mail, your Everest! book. Larry and I have both been reading parts of your adventure, enjoying the photos, and soaking up the magnificence of the scenery. We feel honored that you have shared this with us and look forward to slowly working our way through the entire Everest! book. You are such an incredible man with accomplishments that most of us can only dream of. Thank you so much for thinking of us and showing your adventures.

So glad indeed that you are our guide.

Larry and Gwen Burt

 

Chapin, Don

November 19, 2012

Willie,

Your book – EVEREST! – is quite a beautiful book. I am so grateful that you included me for a signed copy. I have only looked through it tonight but will have a chance to read through it over the Holiday Weekend. Again, I must say what a beautiful gift and what a fabulous achievement! Congratulations on both fronts!

Best personal regards, Don H. Chapin, Esq.

 

Currie, Pat

December 1, 2012

Willie,

How wonderful of you to share your adventure to the base of Mt. Everest with your clients. I admire your spirit of adventure and willingness to keep going. I am thankful for you and Colin and the rest of your team. All of you so willing to help me after Julian’s death. I am immersed in your book, the day after Thanksgiving. Thankful for all I have and grateful for people like you, who will do the climbing and I can read about it. You are a courageous man!

Tank you for your book and for being the leader of a pack I can trust.

Sincerely,

Pat Currie

 

Dangel, Ruth

November 20, 2012

Dear Willie,

Your presentation was so very good–I feel like I trekked to Everest Base Camp myself! Thank you for inviting me. I love the book you were so generous to give me.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Ruth

 

Davis, Melba, & Don

November 1, 2012

Dear Willie,

What a wonderful program! Thank you so much for inviting us. And your beautiful book!

Bless you,

Melba & Don Davis

 

Detwiler, Jim & Janet

November 1, 2012

Willie,

Jim and I want to thank you so much for allowing us to share in your extraordinary experience. We really enjoyed the evening. Thank you also for the beautiful book. We are enjoying leafing through it from time to time. Your leadership and your great team are why we are comfortable in retirement. Thank you for guiding us.

Sincerely

Jim & Janet Detwiler

 

Eickelberg, Sue

January 31, 2013

Dear Willie,

I recently saw Derek who presented me with a signed copy of Everest! What a treat and a true gift that now finds a special place in my newly redone family room. Several guests have already pursued it and said, “That’s a keepsake”! I thank you so much for being so generous and I hope to hear your next presentation on Everest. I believe I was visiting with my two grandbabies when you last spoke.

Graciously received,

Sue

  

Eickelberg, Sue

April 30, 2013

Dear Willie,

What a privilege to be among those on Monday evening to attend your presentation. I have shared your wonderful book with many. What a gift to have received a signed copy!

Enclosed are checks to be forwarded to the Maya Sherpa Project and the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project. I applaud your rigor, commitment, and fulfillment of a personal goal. You inspire us all.

Sue

 

Frazer, Mary Jane

December 31, 2013

Dear Willie,

Thanks, thanks, thanks for your beautiful book, “Everest!”. I am really enjoying your descriptive story telling of your exciting adventure. Gene would have loved every minute of it. Mark has picked it up time to time and made great observations. I know you had a wonderful Christmas.

May the New Year be showered with blessings for you and all the family?

Love,

Mary Jane

 

Gould, Willis & Emily

December 3, 2012

Dear Willie,

Willis and I truly enjoyed both of your books, Kilimanjaro!, and now Everest! Your descriptions are so vivid, and we could not put it down until we arrived at the end of the journey, exhausted! We truly appreciate your can do spirit, which shows through in the way you lead your team to take such good care of us and our investments.

Thanks you!

Emily and Willis

 

Hooker, Ron & Mary

November 11, 2012

Willie, Derek, Colin, Suzie, et al… Thank you for including us in your family of clients. We are so glad that you are all in charge of our financial affairs. I still challenge Willie to a race to the top of K-2. Your books are not only beautiful but very meaningful.

Ron & Mary Hooker

 

Hooker, Ron & Mary

April 30, 2013

Willie, Derek, Suzy & Team,

Thank you for all that you are doing for us. The program last night was great. The review of your trek to Everest was able to bring your book to life for both of us, and we feel privileged to have been included in your event.

Thank you for taking care of us as your clients.

Ron and Mary Hooker

 

Keckley, Elaine

November 13, 2012

Dear Willie,

Your descriptions of the hardships and the spiritual and physical rewards of trekking to Everest Base Camp and back are vivid and inspiring. Thank you for the inspiration, both in this adventure, and in the difference you and your team have made in my life. Not sure where I would be without you—certainly in a worse spot!

Thank you for always caring.

Elaine

 

Kelly, Ed & Teri

March 13, 2013

Willie,

Sincere congratulations! If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it. Thinking of you at this proud moment in your life and wishing you success always…

And thank you for all you do for us!

Ed & Teri Kelly

 

Klase, Kay

December 4, 2012

Hi Willie, Courtesy dictated a swifter thank-you note for the Everest book; but I couldn’t resist reading it immediately. Then, of course, I had to locate a jacket (no easy feat in Last Vegas) because the text and pictures made me so cold. One night, I actually dreamed I was climbing boulders. Then I finished the book; it caused me to recall similar feelings of grandeur and humility while sitting in total darkness in an undeveloped cave in the bowels of the earth.

Thank you for the opportunity to share your adventure. I’m sure it’s as close as I’ll ever come to Everest but a most enjoyable trip nonetheless.

Kay Klase

 

Koester, Lou

November 1, 2012

Dear Willie,

Just a fast note to let you know how much Dave and I enjoyed your talk, your journey, and pictures of Mt. Everest. Thank you for the book and all the hard work it took to put together. We will really enjoy the book. Thank you for everything you do for us. I am so glad God (and dad) put you in our lives.

With lots of love,

Lou Koester

 

Krueger, Jim & Dianne

December 6, 2012

Hi Willie,

We hope you had a great Thanksgiving and that all is well with you and your family. Jim and I were home for a whirlwind visit over Thanksgiving. We received your GREAT BOOK….THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. You are so hard to keep up with all of your adventures. Thank you for thinking of us, and thank you for taking care of my financial plan and investments.

Di

 

Lantiere, Tom & Sharon

November 1, 2012

Dear Willie,

Thank you so much for inviting us to your talk about your trek to Everest base camp and back. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, thank you so much for the beautiful book, so very informative and interesting. We appreciate all the guidance you have given us. We plan to make a contribution to the Maya Sherpa Project before the end of the year.

Thanks again.

Sharon & Tom Lantiere

 

Leick, Alfred

November 27, 2012

Hi Willie

Thanks for the Everest book. Looks great. I am looking forward reading it over Christmas.

I’ll show it to Thomas and Belinda.

Alfred

 

Leitzel, Joan

January 19, 2013

Willie, thanks again for the gift of Everest!. What a wonderful book. Fortunately, I’ve been able to spend quite a bit of time with it in the last few days. (Indeed, it is very hard to put down.) There are parts I haven’t read yet, but I’ve studied each photo, and part of me now believes I was with you as you climbed. I also see now that we’re more fortunate than I realized to get you back with us in one piece. Thanks very much for sharing your awesome experience with those of us who will never do anything similar. I think I now understand better than I ever have before why people like you are compelled to undertake such adventures. That is how you are able to take care of my life plan so well!

Joan R. Leitzel

 

Lindeman, Bob & Polly

November 19, 2012

 

Dear Willie,

 

Bob and I had a lovely evening at the Zoo seeing you and Katie and others and your marvelous pictures – and enjoying enough hors d’oeuvres to fill our tummies. I have enclosed a donation for the Maya Sherpa project. Your book is wonderful – we are enjoying it.

 

Thank you, have a great Thanksgiving.

 

Grateful,

 

Polly & Bob

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipetz, Robert

February 5, 2013

 

Willie,
Thanks for the Everest trek book. That’s an impressive self published book. You have an eye for the camera. One of my GPC advisory board members is doing a Tibetan trek next month to 18,000 feet. It’s a big interesting world. Thanks for sharing some of it with me.

Bob

 

 

 

McNeal, Ruth

November 16, 2013

 

Dear Willie,

 

I went to the mailman yesterday and there was a package for me. I couldn’t figure out what it was and then my eyes really popped out of my head when I saw it was your beautiful book. I’m so thankful to have it – I really enjoy your other one, “Kilimanjaro!” – this will be as equally great to read, I know. Thank you for sending it to me.

 

Huge with thanks,

 

Ruth

 

 

 

Neal, Susan

November 16, 2012

 

Dear Willie & Staff, Thank you so much for the presentation of “Everest”. It was a fascinating evening and story. Thank you also for the beautiful book. Unfortunately I had to leave early so I am able to finish the journey through the book. Thank you again for your generosity and sharing this once in a lifetime adventure.

 

Sincerely,

 

Sue

 

 

 

Rich, Jeff

November 28, 2012

 

Willie,

I just got back from AZ and found your wonderful story waiting for me to read. As with your Kilimanjaro book, I could not put it down. What a great adventure. The pictures were even better than Kilimanjaro!

 

Have a happy holiday and kisses to the family.
Sent from attorney Jeffrey A. Rich’s iPhone

 

 

 

Storey, Dr. James & Judy Slowek

April 1, 2013

 

Dear Willie,

 

We want to thank you for sending your new book, “Everest” to us. We have one word to describe it – wow! As we read it, we actually felt as though we were on the trip with you. The book now occupies a prominent place on our living room table for all to see. Again, our thanks. Our thanks also for having guided us for so many years in our financial “mountain climbing!”

 

Dr. James Story & Judy Slowek

 

 

 

Townsend, Tom & Karen

February 13, 2013

 

Dear Willie,

 

Thank you for your stunning “Everest” book. It surely, thoroughly, reflects all aspects of your spiritual adventure to a place few of us will ever see in person. It reflected amazing, beautiful vistas, the fundamental stalwartness and kindness of the native people; the scope of detailed planning it took to go on such a trek, and most of all the courage it took for the six who attempted it. What a relief that Al made it home O.K. It’s a good thing he listened to you and purchased insurance to cover the helicopter lift.

Those photos of the golden glow on snow peaks – transporting.
Thanks for sharing!
Tom and Karen Townsend

 

 

 

Ullen, Sue Ann

December 1, 2012

Dear Willie,

I got your wonderful book on your climb to Mt. Everest. Thank you so much! It is excellent. You are such a trooper. Ryan (9 years old) was fascinated with it and kept saying, “he actually climbed it? Is that what he does?” I explained to him more of what you do, and how well you take care of us as a family. Hope you and your family are well. Thanks for all your efforts.

Your friend,

Sue Ann

 

Verney, Roger

March 20, 2013

Willie,

I got the Everest book. It is simply amazing! You did such a fantastic job combining the text with great pictures. It brought back a flood of memories of our wonderful journey.

Your leadership and friendship made the trek an adventure of a lifetime for me.

Thanks so much,

Roger

  

Wallace, Marilyn

November 30, 2012

Willie,

First I thank a higher power for placing the Grove Team on my path of this life time.

Now I wish to thank you, Willie, for giving me a wonderful life, due to all of your hard work.

Willie, on a beautiful warm sunny day before Thanksgiving I received your beautiful book “Everest” at my door. I immediately headed for my garden with a cup of tea and your book to totally enjoy myself. As I sat reading all of the emotions came: laughter, tears, awe, amazement, etc. I looked up at my colorful prayer flags flying over my patio outside my kitchen window, down at my prayer bracelet on my wrist and all of the memories of this past summer buying beautiful clothes made by the talented women of Nepal. Now I sat reading about your adventure in this wonderful part of the world! Your writing and pictures made me feel I was “almost” a part of the “six pack”. Thank you for your magnificent book, showing your adventure and all of the financial help you and your staff give me. I love hiking the mountains (hills) of N. Carolina and the Grové Team makes this possible for me.

I wish you, your staff, and your family a holiday of love, peace, and health.

A donation has been mailed to MSP.

Love,

Marilyn Wallace

  

Walters, Robert

December 1, 2012

Willie,

Thanks so much for including me among your guests. I really enjoyed your sharing of your experience. And thanks for the book. I look forward to reading it. Those mountains make steamboat look small.

Best wishes,

Bo

 

Wiseman, Judy

December 19, 2012

Dear Willie,

My heartfelt thanks for sending the book of your most recent adventure. I cannot wait to delve into it and digest your spiritual mission. You are such an inspiration to me, Willie. As is your company and your team. I am humbled and honored by your continued attention to every detail in my financial journey.

God’s blessings to you and family.
Thank you for all you do for me!!!
Love,

Judy Wiseman

 

Book Insert

I hope you enjoy reading about this amazing adventure I was privileged to experience in November, 2011. The physical challenges were great, but the spiritual and emotional rewards far exceeded my expectations. The vistas and the majestic high Himalayan peaks will remain with me forever.

During this trek I was reminded of the similarities between the preparation, planning, and execution of this adventure and what we, as investment advisors, do for our clients.

I learned three things:

Set the Goal

I would have loved to have set my goal to summit Mount Everest, but it was clear to me that that was beyond my risk tolerance. My goal was to reach Everest Base Camp, a much more acceptable risk for me. We help our clients decide their goal and determine how much risk is appropriate to reach that goal.

 

  1. Set the Pace

I learned that it does not pay to rush up the mountain. Rather, one must decide on a pace which is acceptable, sustainable, and realistic. Then one must develop the discipline to stick to that pace. It is unlikely that one would reach Mount Everest if one ignores this rule. No matter the elevation changes, the severe climb up a steep trail for hours, just to descend hundreds of feet, followed by more uphill, one must stick to the discipline. Markets go up and down, but the investment strategy and discipline of the pace, is what eventually will determine our success.

 

  1. Get Down Safely

It is funny that nobody ever asks how we got down, or how difficult that part of the trek was. The same rules apply on the way down. Set the goal, stick to the discipline, and keep the pace. Our commitment to our clients is not only to guide them during the accumulation phase, but also to be at their side during the distribution phase. The journey down the mountain is often more challenging than the ascent.

I thank our clients and friends for their ongoing confidence and trust in our group. Thank you for the opportunity to walk this journey with you.

                    
Profits from the sale of
Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back as well as donations received benefit the Maya Sherpa Project, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to supporting the Sherpa people in the Solukhumbu region of Nepal.  All proceeds from donations go to the actual material and local labor for the various projects; no moneys are distributed to any of the officers or others who help or travel with the organization, or for any other uses.   You may make a donation to the Maya Sherpa Project by sending a check directly to: The Maya Sherpa Project P.O. Box 880144 Steamboat Springs, CO 80488   If you do make a donation, please send us an email at william.grove@ubs.com to allow us to monitor the contributions and the use of the donations.   The Maya Sherpa project is a 501(c)3 public charity and, as such, all contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.   For more information please send an email to ntainfo@me.com, or call us at 614 477-0105. Please visit the Maya Sherpa Project website at www.mayasherpaproject.org

© Copyright 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

 

 

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Vietnam 2014 – With Ryusei in Ho Chi Minh City and Bai Tram Hideway Resort

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I made a video of our recent trip to Vietnam: With Ryusei in Ho Chi Minh City and at Bai Tram Hideaway Resort.  It is viewable on my  YouTube Logo Cropped channel Vietnam Playlist.

Vietnam 2014 Video Slide for website

Click on the photos below for a full-size view.

Vietnam 2014 – With Ryusei in Ho Chi Minh City and Bai Tram Hideway Resort

After almost 30 hours’ traveling from Atlanta via Tokyo, we arrived late at night in Saigon.  Thomas met us at the hotel, and spent the night to be there when Ryusei came over first thing in the morning.

What a wonderful reunion on Monday morning, July 1, 2014.  I was so pleased to see Ryusei so grown up!

We spent a wonderful two weeks getting to know this great young man.  We once again visited the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, swam in the hotel pool several times, took Ryusei to Vietopia, an amazing place where kids learn about many different occupations.

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Willie and Ryusei immersed in technology… Click on the photos for a full-size view.

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At the Saigon Zoo: Katie and Tyusei at the Asian elephant exhibit

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At the Saigon Zoo: Ryusei getting ready for the train ride.

On Monday, July 7, we flew to Nha Trang on the coast, North East of Saigon.  From there we travelled by car through several cities and some beautiful countryside to Song Cau on roads that reminded me of some parts of Africa, they were so bad and congested.  Even thought the distance was only 120 Km (About 70 miles), it took five hours, and we arrived after dark at the beautiful Bai Tram Hideaway Resort.

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The beautiful beach at Bai Tram Hideaway Resort

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The view from our villa on the beach

We woke the next morning to find the most beautiful, very private and secluded beach.  Resort manager Ieks Poppema gave us a briefing, and we knew we would have a wonderful few days at this fantastic place.  I cannot say enough about the facilities, the food, the incredibly friendly and helpful staff, and the beauty of this place.

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Katie, Thomas, and Yuki: Lobster dinner on the beach

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Katie and Thomas at the lobster dinner on the beach

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Yuki, Willie Katie, Thomas, and Ryusei on a lobster farm and snorkel excursion

I left Bai Tram refreshed and renewed.  Too bad we had to travel for 30 hours to get back home, jet lagged and tired!

I made a video of our trip to Vietnam: With Ryusei in Ho Chi Minh City and at Bai Tram Hideaway Resort.  It is viewable on my  YouTube Logo Cropped channel Vietnam Playlist.

Willie Grové – July 2014

 

 

Everest 2013 – A Trek to Base Camp and Back

Everest 2013 Invitation
2013 Playlist

2013 Playlist

This blog covers my 2013 trek to Everest Base Camp and back, October 31 to November 23, 2013.  I organized the posts in order of the climb to enable reading the complete story consecutively. Click on the YouTube icon to go to my Everest 2013 Trek Playlist.  You can also read my 2011 Everest Trek BLOGS including a documentary video of the 2011 Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and

Back adventure.

 

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Click on the image above to see a documentary video of the 2011 Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back adventure.

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Everest 2013 – A Trek to Base Camp and Back

PHOTO COVERAGE

I have uploaded our daily photo record to Flickr.  Please click HERE for my FLICKR GALLERY,

INDEX

Click on the thumbnail to go directly to the chapter below
Everest 2013 Invitation
Blog Update 1:
October 20, 2013 – Preamble 1

Everest 2013 Pre-amble - 01
Blog Update 2: October 25, 2013 – Preamble 2

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Blog Update 3: October 31, 2013 – Exeter and London

London Heathrow Airport Rail line
Blog Update 4:
October 31 to November 2 – Stuck at Heathrow International Airport and Arriving in Kathmandu

Surke to Phakding 02
Blog Update 5:
Sunday November  – Trek from Surke, 8,442 ft. to Phakding, 9,285 ft.

Phak to Namche 06

Blog Update 6: Monday November 4 – Trek from Phakding, 9,285 ft. to Naamche Bazaar, 11,417

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Blog Update 7: Tuesday November 5: Trek from Naamche Bazaar, 11,417 ft. to Hotel Everest View, 12,448

 

Namche Tengboche 01
Blog Update 8: Wednesday November 6 – Namche Bazaar to Tengboche

Lobuche to Base Camp 06
Blog Update 9:
Saturday
November 9 – Everest Base Camp – Lobuche, 15,505 ft. to Gorak Shep, 16,162 ft., Everest Base Camp, 16,736, back to Gorak Shep

 

Blog Update 10: Sunday November 10, and Monday November 11 – Kala Pattar and Pangboche

Blog Update 11: November 12 to 15 : Pangboche to Namche Bazaar and on to Lukla for helicopter to Kathmandu

Blog Update 12: POSTSCRIPT – Thanksgiving Message

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 Blog Update 1:

October 20, 2013: Pre-amble 1

(I suppose I’ll “amble” a lot more in the next month!)

On October 31, I will arrive in Kathmandu to start my second trek to Everest Base Camp and back in as many years.  This blog will record our progress day to day, assuming internet connections and physical ability; sometimes at high altitude one’s head gets so messed up that it becomes impossible to type a sentence, post a photo, or edit a video!

Everest 2013: A Trek to Everest Base Camp and Back (Photo: Everest on the left, Lhotse on the right, from the summit of Kala Patthar, 18,400 ft..  2011 Trek)

I am excited to share this adventure with friends old and new:

  • BRIAN NOCCO with whom I summited Kilimanjaro in 2008.  Brian went back to Kilimanjaro in 2012 with his and Julie’s daughter, Jennifer, and son, Brad.   I know how special that was; Katie and my son, Thomas, and his wife, Yuki, summited with me in 2008.  Nothing beats that!
  • JENNIFER NOCCO who already trekked in Nepal before, loved the Kilimanjaro experience with her dad, Brian, and will get her first view of Everest from Cholo Pass.  Jennifer will leave us there to trek back to Lukla while we trek on to Base Camp.
  • BARRET MCDEVITT, a friend and along with Adair, our neighbor on Ambergris Caye in Belize.
  • DOUG NELSON, a friend of Barrett and Adair’s.

Click HERE to see a copy of my coffee table book, Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back published in November 2012.

Younger Next Year – Chris Crowley  

See the book website at http://www.youngernextyear.com/

Everest Photo with text - Younger Next Yr

Click on the image above or HERE to see a short video intro I made while at the Everest View Hotel. 15,000 ft., on the way to Everest.

On November 16, 2013 at 9 AM at the Fawcett Center you will have a unique opportunity to hear Chris Crowley speak as part of the UBS event: Maximizing your retirement’s potential. What you need to know I hate to miss this event, since Chris Crowley is arguably one of my top favorite people.  I will be on my way down the mountain from Everest Base Camp.  While there, I will record a video message to be presented at this event. In 2008, just after I summited Kilimanjaro, my friend, Jim Grote gave me the greatest gift.  He gave me a copy of Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge’s book, Younger Next Year.  I was 60 years old, and for years had a goal to summit Kilimanjaro.  It was at the top of my bucket list.  After such a major accomplishment I thought I had done all I needed to.  I could now let go and grow old… Until I read this book.  I realized it was only the beginning to a healthy life well into old age! Chris Crowley changed my life, as I am certain he has changed the lives of countless others.  Rather than a one-time, flash-in-the-pan event I thought Kilimanjaro was to be, it became a life-long pursuit for fitness, strength and health.  I am now 64, and hope to do these marvelous things for many years to come, thanks to Chris Crowley’s book. You would not want to miss the opportunity to hear Chris Crowley as the featured speaker at this important UBS event.

Return to the INDEX at the top of the page.

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Blog Update 2

October 25, 2013: Preamble 2

Today, October 25, 2013 I leave for New York and London to spend a few days with my wife, Katie, before going on to New Delhi and Kathmandu, Nepal on October 31.  Backpacks are packed with 50 pounds of stuff – trail mix, cliff bars, medical stuff, the minimum amount of clothing – last time I took way too much – I had almost 80 pounds of “stuff”.  I left about half of it in Kathmandu, and gave a bunch more away; stuff I never used but carried all that way.  Experience is the mother of efficiency!

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A beautiful day flying into New York this afternoon!

On Wednesday morning this week I did a presentation of my November 2011 Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back adventure to the Westerville Rotary Club.  It was almost impossible to tell the story in 25 minutes with video, photos, music, graphics, and live narration, but I was pleased when the club president mentioned to me afterwards that he did not remember a speaker ever getting a standing ovation!  The message of Everest is just SO POWERFUL! Last week I presented the program to my church, Trinity United Methodist Church – I had a little more time!  That presentation is 49 minutes, and I have now recorded all the elements in a video.  I posted the video – I actually would like to call it a documentary – to You Tube.  If you have the time to watch this, it will give you a good indication of what we may expect on this next trek to Everest Base Camp. There are two videos on line: a smaller, lower quality version and a high definition version. Click HERE or on the image below for a documentary video of the 2011 Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back adventure.

Arriving in Kathmandu

Left to right: Mount Everest, Lhotse (Poster in the Kathmandu Airport arrival terminal)

Wish us good luck and good health as we take on this amazing adventure and terrific challenge.

Return to the INDEX at the top of the page.

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Blog Update 3

October 31, 2013: Exeter and London

I had a wonderful two days, flying to New York on Wednesday last week for a meeting at UBS headquarters on Thursday, October 24.  We had a great dinner at Joe Allen, a restaurant frequented by many Broadway types.  I was joined by my clients and friends, Mitch and Julie McLeod, as well as  by Katie, Dan and Jessica, and Derek Hegarty, my business partner at Grové Wealth Management Partners.  After dinner we went to see Jersey Boys and enjoyed a backstage tour after the show, visiting with two of the principals, Matt Bogart and Drew Gehling, friends of Jessica and Dan’s.  On Thursday evening I flew back with the McLeods and Derek to Columbus, just to pack for the Everest trek and return to NY on Friday to meet Katie at JFK for our flight to London. From Heathrow on Saturday October 26, we took the train to Exeter where our long-time friend from South Africa, Chris Copeland lives with his dear Jane.

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Katie, Chris and Jane in Totnes

Chris had not changed one bit in the 12 years since we last saw him in London.  We enjoyed their company immensely as they showed us around the lovely English countryside, through lovely towns like Topsham, Teighnmouth, Torquay, Paignton, Dartmouth, and then on to Totnes for some Yorkshire pudding and a pint. DSC00058

London

We arrived in London on Monday evening, October 28th.  Miguel and Mariana DeAlmeida have a lovely flat on the Thames in Chelsea.  We have been friends since they lived in Rio de Janeiro where in 1976 I proposed to Katie when we visited them there.  I love being in London (actually anywhere!) with them.  We visited fantastic exhibits in some of London’s many art galleries and I felt quite educated after the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea and the new Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens to see the amazing Adrian Villar Rojas exhibit.  Like the last time we visited Miguel and Mariana in London, we had wonderful meals, including at The Wolesley last night.  We were joined by a high school friend of Jessica’s, Ben Dietz.  Ben lives in London with his wife Allison, and he summited Kilimanjaro last year.

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Ben Dietz, Katie Grové, Willie Grové, Miguel D’Almeida, Mariana D’Almeida in front of the Wolesley

Today, Thursday October 31, I will meet two of my trekking buddies, Barrett McDevitt and Doug Nelson at Heathrow to fly to New Delhi where we will meet up with Brian Nocco to fly on to Kathmandu.  Jennifer Nocco, Brian and Julie Nocco’s daughter, will meet us in Kathmandu late at night on Friday, November 1. Click on the images or on This link.  It will take you to my You Tube playlist: Everest 2013.  There is a short video I call Preamble.

Return to the INDEX at the top of the page.

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Blog Update 4

October 31 to November 2: Stuck at Heathrow International Airport and Arriving in Kathmandu

The travel from Heathrow to Kathmandu was my first challenge! Katie and I arrived at the airport with plenty time to spare – two hours before her flight to JFK and mine to Delhi.  The ticket agent told me, “Sorry but you do not have a seat.  We are oversold.  But don’t worry, we will put you up for the night and give you compensation.” “Compensation?!@#&*,”  I said.  “I have two friends meeting me here to connect to New Delhi, where another friend will meet us tomorrow for our connection to Kathmandu, and a trek to Everest starting on November 2.  I MUST get on this flight!!” “Sorry, you have to go see the agent at A14,” in a sweet, pleasant British accent, looking down his nose.

At A14, on the other side of the beautiful, HUGE new Terminal 5, a very nice lady explained that they oversold the flight, and I was one of five or six who got bumped.  Her name was Sandy.  “But don’t worry,” in a sweet British accent.  “You will be put up in a hotel and get compensation.  There is nothing else I can do.” “I don’t want compensation or a nice hotel room, I have a ticket to Delhi and Kathmandu, and I want the seat that goes with that ticket!  I have two friends…” explaining the whole snafu this is causing, all the while with Katie at my side reminding me to ”be nice.  They can keep you here for days if you really tick them off.”

The nice lady explained that British Airways has “a contractual obligation to get you there, but not at any specified time!”  That was a new one for me. We decided that Katie would go to her gate.  Her flight was close to the same time as mine.  She would look for Barrett and Doug at their gate, close to hers, and give them the news.  We said goodbye, and I immediately calmed down as she hugged and kissed me, and told me she loved me, and to be safe.

I decided to let things happen as Karma decides – leave it up to destiny. The lady said she’d give me a coupon for coffee and to come back at 6:45.  I said, “No thank you, I’ll stay here and make sure you do not forget about me.” I must admit it was somewhat nerve wracking to sit there on my backpack, not knowing what was going to happen next, but I decided it was not life or death.  Nobody died, and there was still hope.  At any rate, I actually had one extra day in Kathmandu – I was thankful that our trek did not start until Sunday, November 2.

At 7 PM Sandy told me that I was not getting on the 7:30 to Delhi, but that her manager was trying to work out something else.  I walked over to the manager’s counter, lugging my huge rucksack with the two hiking backpacks, my duffel with seven copies of my Everest! Atrek to Base Camp and Back book – a gift to some of the folks I met in Nepal last time, and my backpack with my cameras. Claire was very nice, and was frantically talking on the phone.  “I found you a seat on Virgin air, leaving at 23:30 PM from Terminal 3,” she breathed in English.  Sounded so sophisticated!  “But first let me give you your compensation.”  She gave me a gift card for $300! Katie and I had already traveled from Terminal 3 earlier.  That’s where I left my hiking backpacks last Saturday at LEFT LUGGAGE.  It is a long walk and train ride.  Claire took me to the Virgin Air folks to arrange my ticket.   A half hour later she came out, breathing in that sexy English voice that my seat was given away by the Virgins of Virgin Air, but she had me a seat on Air India, also leaving from Terminal 3, but at 21:30 (9:30 PM).  I would have to rush because it was now almost 8 PM. Claire walked me to the exit from where I would have to walk a long distance to catch the Heathrow Express back to Terminal 3.

Lugging my substantial luggage, finally exppropriating a cart, I huffed and puffed and sweated my way to the station, got on the train, and by 8:15, after a long walk from the station, I was at Terminal 3. But no Air India! “No sir, Air India is at Terminal 4,” a uniformed person told me.  “How do I get to Terminal 4?” I asked, by now getting worried about missing the Air India flight.  “Go back to the station and take the train from Platform 1.

All the way back to the station I convinced myself to stay calm.  “This is good exercise, carrying all this luggage all over England,” look at is as preparation for the trek, I kept on saying to myself. I got to Platform 1 and the train was there, with the doors closing.  I lunged forward, 50 pounds on my back and 40 pounds in my hands.  I shoved my duffel bag into the closing doors, and they squashed my bag until she had a marvelous figure, thin in the middle and bulging on both ends.  I and 90% of my luggage was still outside the train, with half my duffel and my right hand inside the train.  I applied all the force I could and stretched the doors open just enough to squeeze through.  I almost fell down on the floor inside the train as it took off. “This is the train to Terminal 4, isn’t it?” I gasped at the man standing there gaping at me with his mouth open.  I wondered what he thought, but by now I really didn’t care. “No, Terminal 5.  Terminal 4 is on the other side of the platform.” So I rode the train all the way to Terminal 5.  Again.

I waited 10 minutes for the next train back to Terminal 3, where I had to cross the platform to catch the train to Terminal 4.  I was sweating and gasping, by now just dragging my big bag with the two trekking backpacks weighing exactly 50 pounds. I rushed onto Termial 4 going the other direction, and the doors to the train were just closing.  I figured if I missed this train there was no way I would make my Air India flight.  Two uniformed persons standing there yelled at me, “You missed it!  Don’t do it!” as I threw my 40-pound duffel into the closing doors.  They kept on yelling as I forced the doors open.  I was getting pretty good at this! “Sir!  Sir!” they yelled as the doors closed behind by 50-pound anchor by now weighing 100 pounds! I made it to the Air India check-in counter at 8:40.

“The check-in is closed,” a man said.  I ignored him, pushed up to the counter, and almost begged the nice Indian man to allow me through.  That took 10 minutes.  I now had less than 40 minutes to get through customs, immigration and security. A nice lady from Air India walked me all the way to security, and got me as far up front as she could.  But there were still hundreds of people ahead of me, and there was no way I was going to get through.  I was panicked a little, since boarding started at 8:20.  It was now 9:20 and the flight certainly has closed the doors for the 9:30 departure.  I resigned myself to the fact that I would not get to Delhi tomorrow to meet up with Brian, Barrett and Doug. I thought I would give it one more try, though.  A uniformed person walked by in the Express Lane.  I whipped out my Global Access card, issued by the USA TSA.  I knew it had no authority outside the USA, but I made up this quick story how this card is supposed to give me access to the Express Lane.  He turned the card over several times, lifted the barrier and let me into the fast lane.

I made my way though security at 9:30, the departure time for my flight.  A nice man approached me.  “Mr. Grove?  Follow me to Gate 11.”  I got to the gate.  My boarding number was 328/328.  The head attendant greeted me by name also and asked if I needed anything, and welcome aboard.  “I need about a liter of water,” I said, realizing that I had been running around that vast airport since before 5 PM.

This was the first time I ever took my seat in an airplane with a liter bottle of water all to myself.

I met up with my trekking buddies in Delhi, and together we traveled to Kathmandu where we were met by our Himalayan Adventure folks, and braved the rush hour traffic into Kathmandu and to Thamel where we checked in at the Hotel Manang.

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Arriving in Kathmandu (Brian Nocco on the left. I don’t know the other trekkers in the photo.)

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Arriving in Kathmandu – Barrett and Doug

As we stepped out of the van, I heard someone yell, “Willie!”  It was Pattie Moon, Executive Director of The Maya Sherpa Project.  http://www.mayasherpaproject.org/.  She, along with her son Alex, had just returned from a month in the village where the MSP is working to improve the lives of the villagers.  We had dinner together; a lovely evening in the restaurant of the Hotel Manang, complete with traditional Nepalese and Sherpa dancing.

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At The Hotel Manang: Willie Grové, Doug Nelson, Pattie Moon, Barrett McDevitt, Brian Nocco.

Our fifth trekker,Jennifer Nocco, arrived at 1 AM, and we all had breakfast at 8:00, in time for our 9 AM briefing at Himalaya Adventures’ office.  We spent the rest of the day wandering the streets of Thamel, making last minute purchases and checking our gear.  We all seemed to unpack and repack our stuff several times to get comfortable with what we need to take on the adventure.  We ended the day at the Rum Doodle Bar, a famous pub where many Everest expeditions start and finish. Tomorrow, weather permitting; we are off to Lukla by helicopter to start our trek.

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In the Rum Doodle Bar. Many Everest expeditions start and end here

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Signatures of trekkers going back as far as Hillary hang from the ceiling and walls. If one made it successfully to Everest and back one may add one’s name.

 

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Blog Update 5 

Sunday November 3: Trek from Surke, 8,442 ft. to Phakding, 9,285 ft.

We were up at 5:30, getting ready for our 6 a.m. pickup for the airport.  If we were lucky, we would get to Lukla for the start of our trek.  For the past three days there were no flights to Lukla from Kathmandu because of weather in the mountains, or because of poor visibility in Kathmandu. The airport was the usual chaos and pandemonium, but amazingly we were ushered through security, and almost directly on to the pickup truck for the ride to the heliport.  We boarded our helicopter and took off presently.  The air was thick and gray as we flew over the miles of tenement housing buildings and other construction of Kathmandu almost obscured by the smog.

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The helicopter ride was as incredible as it was two years ago

The helicopter ride was as incredible as it was two years ago, November 2011, when I last took this journey.  A huge difference this time though; we were soon able to see the snow-capped peaks of many of the giants of the Himalayas, impressively etched against the blue sky, with the clouds and fog far below us.  In 2011 we had to fly low in the Dudh Kosi River valley to stay under the clouds.  We never saw a mountain for the first three days because of fog.  This bode well for this trek.  Hopefully we would be lucky with good weather. The fog at Lukla was still too dense, so we landed at the same clearing in the mountains at Surke, a thousand feet below Lukla, adding a significant climb to the trek.

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Landing at Surke after a breathtaking flight from Kathmandu

At 10:30 we started our trek to Phakding.  We climbed to Cheplung where we had our first mountain lunch.  It was a steep climb, with many irregular steps, and with astounding beauty.  We did not see any of these spectacular views for the first three days of the 2011 trek since the mountains were covered in a dense, cold fog.  To trek in the beautiful sunshine and clear blue skies was magnificent.

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                                 On the trail from Surke to Phakding steep climb: Willie Grové, Doug Nelson,                                           Barrett McDevitt, Jennifer Nocco,and Brian Nocco

After lunch we trekked another few hours to Phakding at 9,230 ft., arriving at about 4 PM.  I was pleased with my performance this first day.  I felt strong and completely in control, a stark contrast to the 2011 trek when this first day’s climb seemed very difficult

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Arriving in Phakding: Willie and Doug. 

We checked into the Tibet Guest House, and actually had rooms with a bathroom and shower!  Hot water was 250 Rupees – about $2.50.  The bed was comfortable with a great blanket.  I did not even roll out my new Mountain Hardwear -20 degrees sleeping bag. I had a wonderful night’s sleep, waking up only once at 3:30.

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Blog Update 6

Monday November 4: Trek from Phakding, 9,285ft. to Naamche Bazaar, 11,417 ft.

This morning a big surprise.  The menu had fried eggs on it!  Last time we were limited to oatmeal every morning. After a hardy breakfast we started the second day’s trek.  I remembered that this was a brutal climb last time.  I prepared my trekking mates for this difficult day. Describing some of the great, steep climbs, I was almost breathless as I remembered the difficulty we experienced last time.

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Barrett on the trail from Phakding to Jorsale

We made it to Jorsale, a lovely village on the Dudh Kosi River, and had lunch at the Everest Guest House and Restaurant, enjoying a relaxing hour in the bright sunshine after what was a relatively easy trek.  We were all feeling very good.  The trek up to here was relatively flat, gaining only about 500 vertical feet.

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Jennifer on the trail to Namche Bazaar

At lunch I reiterated the difficulty of the next four hours.  My recollection was that it was extremely taxing.

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Taking a short rest on the steep trail: Jennifer, Barrett, Doug, and Brian

I am sure my insistence on the difficulty of this day filled some of my trekking partners with trepidation as we started the difficult climb after lunch.  We walked for some distance along the Dudh Kosi River, and then saw the Edmund Hillary Bridge in the distance.  The climb up to the bridge was steep, but not nearly as difficult as I remembered.

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The last steep part of the trail before entering Namche Bazaar,  Edmund Hillary suspension bridge behind us

After the Hillary Bridge we had continuous uphill for about 2,000 feet, and walked into Naamche Bazaar at 3:300m p.m.  I was surprised, because it took us only two and a half hours.  I took a lot of ribbing from the trekkers for having made it sound so difficult, but that truly was my recollection.  It was significantly easier for me this time, and rather than feeling totally spent upon arriving in Naamche Bazaar, I felt excited and exhilarated.

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Blog Update 7

Tuesday November 5: Trek from Naamche Bazaar, 11,417 ft. to Hotel Everest View, 12,448

Today was a rest day to recover and adjust to the altitude.  We went for a trek to the Hotel Everest View, the highest five star hotel in the world. This climb to 12, 500 feet is necessary to help us acclimate to the altitude, and al;so to build additional strength for the rest of the trek.

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Willie on the trail to Hotel Everest View

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Brian, Jennifer, Willie, Amadablam in the background

We climbed for two hours on a very steep trail, and had the most incredible views of many of the tallest mountain peaks, including Mt. Everest, and my favorite, Amadablam.  We were back in Naamche by 4:30, seven hours’ trekking and climbing on our rest day! Tomorrow to Tengboche, another difficult climb.

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Our porter Tiva Sherpa at Hotel Everest View.

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Blog Update 8

November 6: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche

After a hardy breakfast we took off for Tengboche.  I remembered this to be fairly easy trekking down to the Kumintanga River for lunch, with an extremely difficult, steep, relentless climb after lunch.  To my surprise this time it was quite challenging, but completely doable.  I kept on thanking my trainer at the Powershack Gym in Columbus, Nick Piccolo, who clearly prepared me appropriately for this trek.  This time around I was able to keep the pace up the steepest inclines, without too much trouble, and arrived in Tengboche feeling like a million dollars.  Last time I felt like, you know what. It was a beautiful climb down from the Tenzing Norgay Stupa at 11,100 feet to the village of Pungi Thanga on the Phungi Tanga River (10,300 feet) where we had lunch. Lunch was delicious.  Everything is so different this time.  The food, the trekking, the weather.  I just feel so lucky to be here!  Every meal we have been presented with a MENU!  Last time we had a choice of noodles or rice.  I had a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, augmented with some tuna from a Star-Kist package Doug brought along.  I brought three pounds of Biltong, a South African “Jerky”, which my buddies like very much, and we have used this to augment some of the local foods.  Everyone contributes and participates, sharing trail mix, energy bars and other supplements. A few words about my trekking buddies.  Barrett, Brian, and Doug are able to keep a faster pace than Jennifer and I.  I am very pleased that Jennifer and I are very well matched, and are able to make the most difficult parts without trouble.  I am so impressed with all of them for their stamina and strength.  It certainly serves as a motivator for me, and I truly enjoy walking, climbing and trekking with them.  I have learned to control my breathing and heart rate, and the repetitive, hypnotic motion of the step, step, breathe, breathe, is both meditative and nourishing. At lunch we had a lot of fun as Brian and Umesh Kharel, our new Sherpa porter who joined us in Namche Bazaar last night, compared their chest hair. The view of the mountains remained with us throughout the day.  Often I would just stop in mid-stride, overwhelmed by the majesty and beauty, with a new realization of why I am here. We did not get to experience the Tengboche Monastery’s monks’ ceremony – they were doing a sand painting instead.  However, we plan on attending the 6 a.m. ceremony tomorrow morning.  A major surprise, however: Brian, Jennifer and I ended up at the bakery.  Brian was blown away that he could order a cappuccino along with a slice of chocolate cake! We were joined by a lady we met in Khumjung where we had lunch yesterday.  Wilhelmina (Winnie) is from Arizona, but of Dutch descent.  We had fun speaking Afrikaans/Dutch together, and she knew some of my childhood Afrikaans songs like “Bobbejaan klim die berg,” and we sang them together at 12,500 feet in the Himalayas! We are staying in the Himalaya Hotel, again with everything so different from before.  There is actually a working toilet on our floor this time, and just before dinner a nice lady came around with steaming hot towels.  EVERYTHING is upgraded this time! Tomorrow on to Dingboche, 13,920 feet.

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Amadablam
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The Phungi Tanga River Valley
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We made small donations for trail improvements
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The trail sometimes seemed endless
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Jennifier, Barrett, Willie, Brian, Sherpa Porter Mahendra Kunwar, our guide, Bhairab Thapa (Photo by Shiva Kharel)
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Brian and Sherpa porter Umesh Kharel comparing chest hair
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The climb up to Tengboche was steep but the views breathtaking
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Jennifer on the trail
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Willie, Brian, and Doug at the Tengboche Stupa
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Tengboche Stupa and Monastery
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The Golden Buddha in the Tengboche Monastery
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Blog Update 9

No Posts the past three days…

The Tea Houses in Dingboche and Lobuche did not have WiFi, so no posts.  That was good since I was too exhausted to write anything anyhow.  I would sit there with my computer, unable to think of the first sentence to type. Thursday and Friday were very difficult for me, and today was no exception.  I was not feeling well in the evenings, certainly a result of the altitude and the trekking, and the diminished appetite.  I slept very little each night.  Sleeping at these altitudes seem to be near impossible for me, and I get up tired in the morning.

Here are a few photos of the last three days:

November 7: Tengboche to Dingboche

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Brian and Willie.  Following the headwaters of the Dudh Kosi River

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                              Amadablam – I think it is the most beautiful mountain in the world.                           This view alone is worth the trek!

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Arriving in Dingboche

November 8: Dingboche to Lobuche

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A wild Yak on the way to Lobuche

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 A Hobbit-like stone hut provides shelter along the trail

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Chikpulhara, a sacred place at the top of Dugla Pass.  Hundreds of stone cairns and markers adorn the top of this mountain, with prayer flags strung to remember the brave ones who died in the pursuit of EverestP1000414

During the climb I try to stick to my pace, one foot in front of the other, breathing rhythmically, and got through some of the most difficult days of the trek exhausted.  Brian, Jennifer, Barrett, and Doug all are doing well, and seem none the worse for wear.

November 9:  Lobuche to Gorak Shep and on to Everest Base Camp

Made it to Base Camp today!

Today was a long trek from Lobuche to Gorak Shep.  We left our backpacks here at the Yeti Resort where we are staying tonight..  Resort is a bit of an exaggeration, since the accommodations are quite primitive and the toilet quite disgusting.

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We trekked another 2½ hours to Mount Everest Base Camp, a difficult climb of multiple ups and downs over rock and ice. Arriving at Base Camp was for me as emotional an experience as it was last time.  I took out a prayer shawl and added it to the many offerings here, saying the um mani padme hum prayer.  A highlight was that I had full cell service and called Katie in New York.

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We got back to Gorak Shep before dinner in time to take some photos as the spectacular sunset  turned the peaks of Changaste and Nuptse a brilliant amber. I had all intentions to post a detailed description of the past three days, but need to get to bed – not feeling too good!

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Golden sunset on the mountains behind Gorak Shep

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Blog Update 10

November 10 and 11: Kala Pattar and Pangboche

Forgive any typos  I lost my contact and can’t see a thing!

Yesterday we summited Kala Pattar at 18,200 feet. It was much more difficult than two years ago, as there was lots of snow and ice, and only one extremely difficult trail to the summit was open.

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On the summit of Kala Patthar, with Pumori behind us.

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The ultimate “selfie” on the summit of Kala Patthar.  Everest on the left, Lhotse on the right.

 

 

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Jennifer on top of Kala Pattar

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Prayer flags on the summit of Kala Patthar frame this spectacular view of Everest and Lhotse

After enjoying the most spectacular view of Everest and surrounding mountains we climbed back down to Gorak Shep where we had launch, and trekked to Lobuche where we spent the night.

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All the modern conveniences back in Gorak Shep!

After enjoying the most spectacular view of Everest and surrounding mountains we climbed back down to Gorak Shep where we had launch, and trekked to Lobuche where we spent the night. Unfortunately the same thing happened to me  as last time – I came down with a terrible head cold, and developed the Khumbu cough.  Fortunately this time I brought NyQuil, lots of Halls, and a Z-pack. The problem is this just about puts me out of commission.  I just did not see how I could go climb Cho La Pass, another 18,000 foot climb, but in extreme ice and snow conditions,  and hike in the Gokyo Lakes area feeling so weak and feverish.  I also developed an excruciating back pain after about five hours’ trekking each day.  Actually, it only hurts when I inhale.  And when I exhale. When we arrived in Lobuche last night I discussed my condition with our guide,  Bairab, and we agreed that I would join Jennifer for the trek to Lukla, instead of going on with Brian, Barrett and Doug.  Jennifer had a shorter original itinerary than the guys, and I proposed this idea to the guys.  It turned our Barrett and Doug both have the same affliction and we unanimously decided to trek to Lukla the next three days with Jennifer, and change our helicopter charter to Katmandu. I am really struggling with the altitude this time, with tingling and shortness of breath above 16,000 feet.  I can’t wait to get to lower altitudes. We are in Pangboche, after a hard day’s trekking, with my painful coughing  slowing down the group.  I remain amazed at Doug and Barrett’s stamina, but then, they are younger and clearly in fantastic shape!  Brian really impresses me, trekking all day today not even using his poles.  But I am most impressed with Jennifer  who just keeps her steady pace, never faltering. When I called Katie from Base Camp the day before yesterday she said, “You made your goal.  Now don’t do anything stupid.”  I responded with the well known mountaineer’s mantra, “Getting to the summit is optional.  Getting down safely is mandatory!”

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Blog Update 11

November 12 to 15 : Pangboche to Namche Bazaar and on to Lukla for helicopter to Kathmandu

I have uploaded our daily photo record to Flickr.  Please click HERE for my FLICKR GALLERY, or go to the end of the blog entries to see a day-by-day index of photos.

November 12 to 15 – Pangboche to Namche Bazaar and on to Lukla for helicopter to Kathmandu

Readers may recall that, while our main goal for this trek was to reach Everest Base camp – 17,600 feet, and to summit Kala Patthar – 18,200 feet, I also had a goal to trek to the Gokyo Lake Region, via the 18,600 ft., Cho La Pass.  Well, we never did make it to Cho La Pass or to the Gokyo Lakes Region.

We met two groups of trekkers, one in Lobouche and one in Gorak Shep who reported that it had snowed so much that Cho La Pass was impassable.  One group turned around after 11 hours’ trying.  We decided that we were too old for that kind of sport, and I certainly felt too sick to go higher again.  I particularly felt the altitude this time – must be because at 64 I am two years older than last time!  Although I was physically feeling very strong and well prepared with all the training I did – I never felt muscular exhaustion or pain – my chest would not work very well because of the infection.  I figured we had about 50% of normal oxygen levels at 16,000 feet, and the chest infection reduced my aerobic capacity to probably 60% – not a good combination.  I was constantly gasping for air, even lying in bed at night; a horrible feeling!  Barrett reported the same symptoms.  During the day I was getting weaker, and I knew some of my partners were struggling also.  So that evening I made a decision with Bhairab, our guide, that I would return to lower altitudes with Jennifer, and do the three-day trek to Lula and wait for Brian, Doug and Barrett there.  When I announced that at dinner, the decision was unanimous – we all would trek down together.  Since we had a helicopter chartered, Bhairab was able to change the helicopter schedule to meet us in the new time frame. I still felt terrible the next day from Pangboche to Namche Bazaar, but as we were climbing up and down the amazingly spectacular mountains, descending through about 1,800 feet to Namche Bazaar at 15,000 feet I began to feel much better in spite of eight and a half hours’ climbing.  So many times on this pen-ultimate trek day I stopped and with a heavy heart admired the astoundingly beautiful mountains, so starkly etched against the cobalt blue sky, saying to myself, “This is likely the last time in my life I would see this view.”   I looked back often to see the dramatic peaks of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Amadablam, Kongde, Thamserku, and the many other Himalayan giants slowly becoming more distant with each step, with my spirit continuing to soar vertiginously higher and higher as the mountain ranges diminished in size. Of course the cough and snot never went away but that night in Namche Bazaar I slept like a baby!

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We were staying in the Khamal Lodge in Namche, the same place I stayed last time, and also where we stayed on the way up this time.  Mr. Khamal, the owner, welcomed us back like we were long-lost friends.  On the way up I had given him a copy of my book,  Everest! A trek to Base Camp and Back in which he and his Tea House, as well as his daughter, Meena and her two-year-old daughter are mentioned.  He had placed the book in the dining area next to the potbelly yuk-dung-fired stove.  No sooner had we sat down for our first of three cups of tea, or another trekker came up to me and said, “You are in this book!  Oh, wait, you WROTE this book!”  and started passing the book around to others.  At breakfast the next morning three Japanese girls wanted their picture taken with me and the book.  I gladly obliged!  A Swiss trekker came up to me with high compliments, as he shook my hand, saying, “You are a celebrity!” The night before Mr. Khamal wanted to treat us to his specialty dinner – Yak Steak Sizzler.  We were a little cautious because of the danger of contaminated meat, but we ate a sample, and no one got sick. Through Bhairab Mr. Khamal told me that I was his friend, and please to come back many times, as he draped the prayer shawls around our necks with a prayer for our next 8-hour trek to Lukla. Other than my sinuses and lungs I was feeling great this last day, keeping up with the younger guys with ease.  I wish I could have felt this way the previous few days!DSC00793

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The Liquid Bar in Lukla.  A well-deserved beer!

We got out of Lukla no problem the next morning, and I am now in New Delhi on my way to London and on to NY this morning. This, my second Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar experience was a reminder for me that we never conquer the mountain; she merely allows us to reach our goal if we respect the mountains and the traditions of the gentle people who live here.  This is why I very seldom passed a prayer wheel without turning it and saying the um mani padme hum mantra, a prayer for safe passage at each village.  This is why I once again sat in the Tengboche monastery, enveloped by the monks’ drone as they said their prayers, the words of which I could never understand, but the spirit of which will remain burned in my soul forever. I will be home earlier than expected, both because we were able to complete the trek in fewer days than planned, and also because we were denied the opportunity to complete the planned itinerary.  There is a lesson in that for me.  I am thankful that I once more had the opportunity to experience the unbelievable majesty of the Himalayas in such a difficult, physical, way with such a rewarding spiritual immersion, day after day.  I am also thankful that we made a good decision to come down when we did.  I repeated the famous mountaineer Ed Viesturs’ admonition several times: “Reaching the summit is optional.  Getting down safely is mandatory.” I am thankful for the opportunity to have shared this experience with friends, old and new. The Himalaya Journeys personnel: I was pleased to reunite with Shiva Katurel, one of our very able Sherpa porters from the last time, and to meet Mahendra Kunwar and Umesh Kharel.  How these gentle, marvelous men carried our heavy loads as well as their own packs astounds me and never stops to amaze me. I was disappointed that Ramesh Karel, my guide on the last trek was not available, but I REALLY liked Bhairab Thapa, a gentle but firm young man who never stopped caring about us and led us through some difficult opportunities, never faltering or getting flustered. My thanks to Ram Pahari and Himalaya Journeys who once again made all the arrangements in the most efficient and pleasant manner, the same as he did last time.  I would recommend this outfitter highly for folks wanting to have top level professional guidance and service in Nepal.

My trekker friends: Barrett McDevitt, who I really only knew very superficially as our neighbor in Belize, and who surprised me with his stamina even when sick.  A steady, solid person with amazing artistic ability – he recorded the journey in his journal, and illustrated it with amazing watercolor paintings! Barrett’s friend, Doug Jones, who is an amazingly well read and informed man, and by far the strongest hiker of us all.  Each day he would take off like it was a time trial, and make it to the lunch destination or the day’s final destination long before the rest of us.  Doug knew more people than I could ever imagine, and constantly regaled us with stories of the people he knew and the places he’d been. I was particularly pleased to get to know Jennifer Nocco, a gentle, sweet person, who often stayed with me when I was slow or sick, and mothered me, admonishing me to drink water or to eat something.  Jennifer totally amazed me with her steady pace and stamina, never faltering physically or emotionally.  She never even panted, even when I was completely exhausted and gasping, sucking the thin air into my lungs in deep and rapid gasps.

One evening Jennifer said she would like to write something in my journal.  This is what she wrote: Willie, you inspired me to come on both this and on Kilimanjaro trek by providing a frame of reference; someone that I know had completed the task.  Not least of all, the joy you have in consuming your memories through your blog and your books and video infects others and puts things in reach which they might not otherwise have considered, whether it is replicating the same adventures that you have first completed, like I have, or being inspired to challenge themselves in some other way that poses the same relative challenge. “Consuming your memories…”  I have never thought of it that way, but it truly was a wonderful thing for her to say; just a small example of the many things that impressed me about this spiritually and physically strong young lady, and another example of why I will continue to do these things that I find so rewarding.

And then of course my friend, Brian Nocco, who summited Kilimanjaro in 2008 with me, and who contributed to the reason I did this trek again.  Strong – physically and mentally – never faltering, and providing me with so much support on this trek.  When we reached Base Camp together and Brian came over and hugged me and said something like, “best friends!” that meant the world to me. When I finally made it up to the summit of Kala Patthar, my trek buddies having reached this pinnacle surrounded by the highest peaks in the world, Brian said, “ you have done this before; I can’t believe you wanted to climb this mountain again!’  Truthfully, it was a lot harder than I remembered.  But sitting on top of Kala Patthar at 18,200 feet, the summit ledge barely three feet wide with vertical drops of thousands of feet on three sides, the bright morning sun once more warming my body and soul, I remembered the poem I wrote when last I sat there:

Oh, to once more gaze upon the glory of that mountain’s grandeur,  

And to caress the morning sun’s life force

Perched atop Kala Patthar

Surrounded by mountain peaks with magical names

Like Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumori, Thamserku,

Amadablam the Jewel, And Mount Everest, the Crown.

Just once more…

 

And I know now where my limits lie,

There where eagles dare to fly…

And I went beyond.

Thank you for following this journey.  Thank you for walking with me these past two weeks.  I could feel your prayers with us, lofting us as if on Eagle’s wings.

November 2013.

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Blog Update 12

POSTSCRIPT: Thanksgiving Message

In reflecting upon the adventure just concluded, I sent the following Thanksgiving message to our clients and friends:

Thanksgiving 2013

The Therapeutic Value of Deprivation

Most of our clients and friends know that I made it to Everest Base Camp and that I summited Kala Patthar at 18,400 feet, right next to Mount Everest, earlier this month.  (In case you missed it, you can read about it at the blogs below.) The amazingly spectacular sights, the indescribable grandeur of mountain range after mountain range in the high Himalayas, the physical and spiritual achievement, and the emotional gratification all were there in the same intensity I experienced two years ago when I first took on this challenge and met the goal. But I learned something else this time – the therapeutic value of deprivation.  I returned with a profound feeling of gratitude, having been deprived for two weeks of so many things:

  1. The extreme cold we experienced, with no way to warm up except the clothing one brought, a good sleeping bag, and for an hour-or-so in the evening crowding around a small iron stove fired by dried Yak-dung cakes (smelling that way) waking up in the morning with ice crystals hanging from the small, cold bedroom’s ceiling, the result of one’s own breathing
  2. Precious water used only for drinking and stingingly brushing one’s teeth – no washing of any kind for two weeks
  3. The simple task of going to the bathroom in zero degree temperatures, in a hole in the ground, using exactly 12 squares of toilet paper and being unable to “flush” the hole since the flush bucket and empty jam tin used for flushing are all frozen solid
  4. Yearning for a hamburger or a steak, but having no protein available in the tea houses
  5. Oxygen!  Gasping for the precious air in which one has very little oxygen at high altitudes, unable to sleep for nights in a row, fearing one might lose consciousness if asleep, missing the clean and by comparison unpolluted version of which we take for granted here in the U.S.A.

I suppose I returned this time a lot closer to my Zen, to my soul, than before! I also realized that the therapeutic value of this experience might wear off very quickly if I had to endure the deprivation for any extended period of time; like the materially impoverished but spiritually wealthy Nepalese who live under those circumstances most of their lives. After almost 48 hours travel from the incessant pandemonium of the traffic in Kathmandu, the foul air caused by the polluting tuk-tuks, thousands of scooters, motorcycles and other vehicles noisily tangled up in perpetual gridlock in the narrow, dirty streets of this incredibly crowded city, I said a quiet prayer of thanks as my flight glided into Port Columbus.  I was looking down on the organized, clean suburbs surrounding Columbus, the orderly flow of traffic in the tidy streets and the air free of pollutants from unmitigated foul emissions from vehicles, with no disease-causing animal and human fecal dust mixed in with the smell of thousands of Yak-dung fires in the air. I am Thankful… And as I did two years ago, I again said Thank You!  Thank you for America and our imperfect system, for a government that’s all broken and contributing to the economic and investment volatility, and for a tax system about which we all complain from time-to time.  Because I know that those wonderful, friendly, open, and caring people I met in Nepal in the mountains from village to village, with no roads, no heating, and questionable sources of food and water, and the throngs of humanity I saw in Kathmandu, would give their left arm to live in this dysfunctional society, the United States of America. I am Thankful… … for the privilege of living, working and serving in this country.  Each year, we here at Grové Wealth Management Partners, try to make a difference in our community because even though we live in the best place in the world, there is a great need in our country.  Rather than sending Holiday cards, we support community needs which are important to us.  One such cause is Christine’s Christmas, (this year on Saturday December 14, again at the Capitol Theatre in the Riffe Center) an event we are supporting financially, and in which we are participating for the fifth year.  We hope you will have the opportunity to experience and help support this amazing cause this year. I am Thankful… … for YOU, our client, and for the opportunity to serve you. I am Thankful… … for my family and my friends, and for the opportunity to spend a day with them tomorrow to reflect on our good fortune in our beautiful, wonderful country, state, city, community, and home. With gratitude, I wish you a very blessed Thanksgiving 2013.

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PHOTO COVERAGE

I have uploaded our daily photo record to Flickr.  Please click HERE for my FLICKR GALLERY, or click on the following links/thumbnails to view these photos for each day separately: DSC00119

Preamble – Exeter and London, UK with Katie

In Kathmandu, preparing for the trek

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Day 1 Kathmandu, Surke

Day 1: Surke to Phakding: Click HERE for SET II

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Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar

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04 Day 3 Hike to Hotel Everest View

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05 Day 4 Namche Bazaar to Tengboche

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06 Day 5 Tengboche to Dingboche

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07 Day 6 Dingboche to Lobouche

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Day 7 Lobouche, Goral Shep, Base Camp

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Day 8 Kala Patthar, Gorak Shep, Lobouche

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Day 9 Lobouche to Pangboche

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Day 10 Pangboche to Namche Bazaar

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Day 11 Namche Bazaar to Lukla

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Vietnam Adventure – Grové Family – January 2012

In January 2012 our family spent three weeks traveling in Vietnam.  Our son, Thomas Grové, his wife, Yuki and our grandson, Ryusei, just over 2½-years-old (at that time)  live in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.   We clearly had no idea where to start, but Tommy and Yuki had moved to Vietnam in May 2011 (see my blog Goodbye San Francisco, Chao Vietnam – yes, while in Vietnam I confirmed the Vietnamese spelling for the word Chiao, which in Vietnamese means both hello and goodbye).  So, we relied on them to figure out where we would travel.  Thomas contacted a travel agent in Saigon, Viet Voyages, and we were well taken care of by Quoc Hien Alexandre (Alex).  (See contact information and review of Viet Voyages at the end of the blog). This was one of the most amazing trips we have taken together as a family, particularly since this was our first adventure which included both our grand children.  I compiled a video record of our adventure, using each destination as a Chapter. There are 10 chapters.

Click on [GO TO CHAPTER x] to go directly to that chapter entry below.

Click HERE to view our Vietnam Playlist

Click here for all videos posted in my YouTube channel.

Chapter 1 -Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

[GO TO CHAPTER 1

Vietnam 2012 – 1: Saigon.mov

Arrival and reunion with our family.  Sightseeing in Saigon
Video duration  00:10:04

 

Chapter 2 – Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels

[GO TO CHAPTER 2]

Vietnam 2012 – 2: Mekong Delta and Cu Chi.mov

An amazing journey into the Mekong Delta, traveling by boat into the mangroves, a homestay with a local family,  and a visit to the more than 75-mile network of tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war.
Video duration  00:15:52
 

Chapter 3 – Hoi An and Marble Mountain

[GO TO CHAPTER 3]

Vietnam 3: Hoi An and Marble Mountain.mov
We flew from Saigon to Danang to visit Hoi An and the Marble Mountains.
Video Duration  00:10:34
 

Chapter 4 – Hue and The Imperial City

[GO TO CHAPTER 4]

Vietnam 4: Hue and The Imperial City.mov
After a beautiful drive over the Hai Van Pass we arrived in Hue where we visited the Imperial City and other attractions.
Video Duration  00:04:09
 

Chapter 5 – Hanoi

[GO TO CHAPTER 5]

Vietnam 5: Hanoi.mov
In Hanoi we visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the government buildings, Ho Chi Minh’s home.  We saw the famous Water Puppet show, and visited the Temple of Literature.  The Anchiend District of 36 Streets was an exciting market visit, and we were once again saddened by the tragedy of war as we visited the “Hanoi Hilton”.
Video Duration  00:07:14
 

Chapter 6 Halong Bay 

Vietnam 6: Ha Long Bay.mov
A most amazing experience on an overnight junk (boat) on the beautiful World Heritage Site Halong Bay. Video Duration  00:11:52
 
 

Chapter 7 – Sapa

Vietnam 7 – Sapa .mov
 An amazing journey by overnight train from Hanoi and into the mountains of Northern Vietnam.  Hiking and an overnight homestay. Video Duration: 22:41
 

 Chapter 8 – Cambodia – Siem Reap and the Angkor Archeological Sites

Cambodia- Siem Reap and Angkor Temples.mov

Video Duration: 19:32

 

Chapter 9 – Cambodia – Lake Tonle Sap and Kampong Phluk “Floating” Village

Cambodia: Tonle Sap Lake, Kampong Phluk .mov

Video Duration: 15:55

 

Chapter 10 – Back in Saigon and Leaving for Home

Vietnam 10 – Saigon and Home.mov

Video Duration: 10:40

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Vietnam Adventure – Grové Family – January 2012

RETURN TO INDEX CHAPTER 1

Chapter 1

Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City

Our journey started in Saigon where we were reunited with Thomas, Yuki and Ryusei.  Our daughter, Jessica and our grandson, Gavin, just over three months-old at the time, joined us on the long flight from New York via Hong Kong to Saigon.  Later our son-in-law, Dan Cooney joined us in Hanoi.

In Saigon we visited the American War Museum (they do not call it the Vietnam War over there), and other tourist attractions, and acclimated to the 12-hour time change, while preparing for our road trip and boat journey to the Mekong Delta and the Co Chi Tunnels.

Click on any image for a video of our first days in Saigon

RETURN TO INDEX CHAPTER 1
 
RETURN TO INDEX CHAPTER 2

Chapter 2

Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels

From Saigon Katie, Yuki, Ryusei, Jessica, Gavin, and I traveled to the Mekong Delta where we went by boat up the Mekong River and deep into the jungle.   We hiked, were transported by horse cart, more boat rides in the lush, dense jungle, to reach our Homestay for an exciting evening with a local family hosting us.  We enjoyed a cooking class learning how to make spring rolls, and played dominoes with our host family until late into the night.

The next day we went to Cu Chi to explore the Viet Kong tunnels where much of the fighting went on during the Vietnam, war.  We all came to the same conclusion – war is hell, and nobody wins in the end. We retuned to Saigon to relax with our family.  We enjoyed a fun afternoon at our hotel pool, preparing for our journey the next day to Da Nang and Hoi An.

Click on any image to view a video of our visit to the Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels

RETURN TO INDEX CHAPTER 2

 

RETURN TO INDEX CHAPTER 3

Chapter 3

Hoi An and Marble Mountain

From Saigon we flew to Da Nang were were met by our guide to take us by Minibus to Hoi An.  After checking in at the beautiful Hoi An Beach Resort, our guide took us to the old town of Hoi An, which is listed as a World Heritage site.  Hoi An was a major international port in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the foreign influences are evident to this day.

The heart of the city is still the Old Town, full of winding lanes and Chinese-styled shop-houses.  It is particularly beautiful in the evening as the sun goes down. While almost all shops now cater to the tourist trade, the area has been largely preserved, which is unusual in Vietnam.

Some interesting attractions include the Japanese Covered Bridge (Chua Cau or Lai Vien Kieu), on the west end of Tran Phu Street. The bridge was constructed in the early 1600’s by the Japanese community, roughly 40 years before they left the city to return to Japan under the strict policy of sakoku enforced by the Tokugawa Shogunate, and renovated in 1986. Today, it’s the symbol of Hoi An.

We found the Quan Cong Temple at 24 Tran Phu Street very interesting, and enjoyed a lovely trip on the Thu Bon River in a beautifully decorated, ancient Swan Boat captained by the usual friendly and accommodating skipper.  Willie and Katie both got to “drive” the boat also.  This little excursion is a must – it gives you a very different perspective of Hoi An from the water level, and is a very relaxing few hours on the water.

Numerous congregation halls, where Chinese expatriate residents socialized and held meetings, are dotted about the town. They are typically named after the home region of their members.  My favorite was the (Quang Dong) at 176 Tran Phu Street. Built in 1885, it has a calm courtyard with ornate statuary and we liked the kitschy pastel dragon statues.

Tailor shops abound and made-to-measure shirts, blouses, dresses, suits etc. are on offer from the renowned tailors of Hoi An. There are now well over 400 of these shops throughout Hoi An. As a rule of thumb, keep going back until you get your clothes right – Yuki and Jessica each had a pair of pants made – they can vouch for this!

Food in Hoi An is, even by high Vietnamese standards, cheap and tasty.  We had some wonderful meals and good atmospheres in several restaurants.  As in most restaurants, we “lost” Gavin to some of the wait staff as we entered since he was such an attraction to the locals, being a “yellow-haired” baby with blue eyes!

We visited the Marble Mountains and one of the amazing marble carving shops.  The area is famous for stone sculpture making and stone-cutting crafts. Direct marble rock extraction from the mountains was banned recently. Materials are now being transported from quarries in Quang Nam province.

Marble Mountains (Ngũ Hành Sơn – “Five elements mountains”) is a cluster of five marble and limestone hills located in Ngu Hanh Son ward, south of Da Nang. The five ‘mountains’ are named after the five elements – Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth).

All of the mountains have cave entrances and numerous tunnels, and we climbed to the summit of one of the peaks. We were impressed with the many marble statues carved inside these Buddhist cave-sanctuaries.

We were able to get some laundry done, and although cold, took a long walk on the beach.

Click on any image to view a video of our visit to Hoi An and the Marble Mountains

RETURN TO INDEX CHAPTER 3

 

RETURN TO INDEX CHAPTER 4

Chapter 4

Hue and The Imperial City

We went from Hoi An through Da Nang to Hue by minivan.  According to more than one guidebook, the drive from Da Nang to Hue is the most scenic in all of Vietnam. Soon after leaving the town, we started climbing steeply upwards and were soon rewarded with a panoramic view of the bowl-shaped bay of Da Nang.  After climbing through several hair-pin curves for close to an hour, we reached the crest of the Hai Van (Sea Clods) Pass.  The pass forms an obvious boundary between North and South Vietnam.

Lang Co

We descended into a sequence of valleys and lagoons and passed the beautiful village of Lang Co which sits at the tip of a long peninsula which separates a shallow lagoon from the sea.

Hue was the capital of the country during the Tay Son and Nguyen dynasties. Over the centuries, the city became a major center of Vietnamese architecture, and the old imperial capital of Vietnam from the 18th century until early in the 20th was classified world heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 1993.

We arrived in Hue a few days before Tete, the Lunar New Year celebration at the end of January.  In the imperial city we were treated to a rehearsal of dancers and singers, preparing for the Tete Festival.

 

We then visited the Heavenly Lady Pagoda built in 1601, one of the symbols of the city, and Long Chau Temple, located on the south bank of the Perfume river.  Long Chau is a royal temple where the kings’ war elephants were buried and worshipped.

Afterwards we were treated to a lovely cruise up the Perfume River on an ancient riverboat.

After yet another great dinner, we went back to our hotel to prepare for tomorrow’s journey to Hanoi.

Click on any image to view a video of our journey to Hue and the Imperial City

RETURN TO INDEX CHAPTER 4

 

RETURN TO INDEX CHAPTER 5

Chapter 5

Hanoi

We flew from Hue to Hanoi, where with great excitement for all of us, we were joined by Dan.  Our Hanoi guide, Tommy, took us to a restaurant for lunch where, in the by now familiar custom, the staff grabbed Gavin and took him to the kitchen an all over the dining area to have their picture taken with him.  By now we have become used to this, but Dan, this being his first experience with the friendliness of the Vietnamese people, was quite concerned.  Soon he became used to it also.

Ryusei and Yuki in Hanoi Flower Market

Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, lies on the banks of the Red River, some 100 kilometers from its mouth. Human settlements date back as far as the 3rd century B.C.  We went to the Hanoi flower market, and after freshening up, went to the famous Water Puppet show.  Puppets are manipulated on a water-stage, accompanied by classical and folk music instruments, depicting scenes of daily life of the Vietnamese peasants.

On our way back to our hotel we went to the famous Metropole Hotel for drinks and a light dinner.

Ho Chi Minh MausoleumHo Chi Minh Mausoleum

The next day was very full starting off with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.  The mausoleum, built from 1973 to 1975 in a style similar to that of the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow, is located at Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh publicly declared Vietnam’s independence on September 2, 1945. Right after his death on September 3, 1969, Ho Chi Minh’s body was embalmed by a team of Soviet experts. Children were not allowed in the mausoleum, and the guards made sure that one went in hatless, with no hands in pockets, and acting respectfully.

We had a fun experience afterwards with Ryusei taking pictures of tourists taking pictures of him!

In the crowded market of The Old Quarter of 36 Streets

The streets of Hanoi are very wide with beautiful old buildings and homes mixed in with modern highrises.  It was quite a contrast to visit The old quarter of the 36 streets and the market, a historicarea, and candidate for UNESCO World Heritage list.

After walking through the crowded alleys, we came across the Truc Bach lake, today small remnant of the lake in which Senator John McCain’s bomber crashed after being shot down on October 26, 1967 on his first bombing mission over Hanoi.  The bomber was still lying in the lake, a wheel and a wing pointing to the sky as if to remind as of the futility of a horrendous war.

Visiting the Hao Lo prison – called the Hanoi Hilton by American prisoners of war.  Senator McCain was captured and imprisoned here for five years.  Again the horrors of war were impressed upon us in a very vivid, poignant way.

Willie trying out a traditional bamboo instrument at The Temple of Literature

We next went to the Temple of Literature.  This pagoda and the surrounding complex have played a prominent role in the history of Vietnamese thinking. Originally it had been built in 1070 in honor of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, whose teachings have influenced Vietnam almost as strongly as they have shaped China. This temple has been for centuries the place where exams for the rank of Mandarin were taken. The exams lasted for 35 days and were extremely difficult. In 1733, for instance, only 8 out of 3,000 candidates passed the exams.  Today, while still an active university, we also enjoyed entertainment by artists performing on traditional instruments.

After dinner we went to bed to rest for our early morning departure for Halong Bay by minivan.

Click on any image to view a video of our Hanoi visit

 

Chapter 6

Halong Bay

We left early by Minivan to drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay.  We have heard much of this beautiful place, but nothing could have prepared us for the beauty we were about to experience.

Halong Bay lies about 170 kilometers east of Hanoi near the most important North Vietnamese port city of Haiphong.  It is of a breathtaking scenic beauty.  More than 3,000 islands, islets and limestone rocks rise from the waters of the bay.  The coast is rocky and perforated by numerous caves and grottoes with ancient stalactite and stalagmite formations.

We boarded our Junk (boat) at about mid-day, and sailed off into the fog that curled around the marble island formations like ghosts in the mountains.  The beauty was eerie and beyond description.  The serenity and peace that surrounded us were palpable.  Halong Bay has a fairylike landscape and has indeed for centuries inspired Vietnamese poets.

We spent overnight on a very comfortable cabin, with water lapping the sides of the boat as it rocked in the gentle swell.

Sunrise was magic, and we explored a couple of caves before returning to the mainland later that day.We made our way back to Saigon to prepare for our overnight train ride from Saigon to Lao Cai and Sapa in the far North of Vietnam.

Click on any image to view a video of the beautiful Halong Bay


Chapter 7

Lao Chai and Sapa

We traveled from Hanoi to Lao Cai in Northern Vietnam by overnight train.  In itself a great adventure!.  We arrived at Lao Chai at 5 am, and were picked up by our guide, Lam, a member of the ethnic minority, the H’mang people.  After traveling to Sapa by mini van, we enjoyed our first exposure to the traditional H’mang and other minority tribes in this small town.

After breakfast we went to climb up Silver Waterfall, and then enjoyed some roadside food.  In the afternoon we returned to Sapa, and climbed Dragon Mountain (Ham Rong).

We hiked to a village where we spent the night in a “home stay”.  The next morning we set of into the mountains for an invigorating hike on the trails the local H’Mang people use.  We climbed through beautiful mountains terraced with rice paddies, hiked most of the day through the beautiful valley, accompanied by a bevy of young girls.

The next day visited a traditional H’mang village, before heading back to Lao Chai to catch our overnight train back to Hanoi.  On the way we stopped in at a traditional market and stopped at the northernmost region of Vietnam where we touched the border with China.

An amazing amount of territory covered in a very short time!

 

Southern Africa Travel Films

On the front page of my website is a link to the Southern Discovery! page, a comprehensive Southern Africa tour that Katie and I have lead several times.  Our first tour was in 1997, and we have conducted several until 2005.  In 2008 we led a Serengeti Safari to Tanzania, after I returned from climbing Kilimanjaro (See Kilimanjaro!  for my coffee table book, or click on this link for a video about the adventure.).

Southern Discovery! Promotional Video

I made a Southern Discovery! promotional film in 2001 from videos taken during our travels in Southern Africa from 1995 to 2000.  Katie and I have been blessed to lead several tours to Southern Africa since 2001.  The films below are excerpts from that old VHS video I made in 2001, long before digital videography.  The quality is… well… VHS, but I felt that the subject matter and the beauty of Southern Africa should be shared.

1. Cape Town
2. The Magic of the Okavango Delta – Sea of Land, Land of Water
3. Mashatu – Warthogs!
4. Chobe – Lion Buffalo Hunt
4. Victoria Falls
5. Bungi Jump – Victoria Falls Bridge
6. Johannesburg, Pretoria and A Message to the World

 Click HERE to see all six videos posted on YouTube or click on the link or on the photo of each description below.

Cape Town

Our adventure typically would follow the itinerary described in the 2002 Southern Discovery! Itinerary.  We start off in by visiting our favorite places in Cape Town and in the Stellenbosh and Fransch Hoek areas of the Cape wine country.  This film highlights these places we love.

Click on the photo of Cape Town to see the Video

Click on the photo of Cape Town to view the film

 

From Cape Town we fly to Johannesburg on our way to Botswana for some of the most exotic wildlife and game safaris in Africa.  Enjoy the following three films made from family footage we took in Botswana over many years traveling to our favorite Africa destination.

 

The Magic of the Okavango Delta – Sea of Land, Land of Water

One of our favorite safaris was in 1995 with our kids, then 12 and 15, in the Okavango Delta’s Moremi Wildlife Preserve.  A magical place like no other on earth.  Our daughter Jessica narrated this for me in 1995.

Click on the image to view the film

Mokoro in the Okavango

Mashatu in the Northern Tuli District, Botswana – Warthogs!

In the Northern Tuli District we love to visit Mashatu Private Game Reserve.  I made this short clip of an encounter with warthogs in Mashatu in 1997.

Click on the photo of the warthog to view the film

Chobe – Lion Buffalo Hunt

The and the Chobe and Savuti areas o f North Western Botswana are indescribable.  I filmed 6 lions hunting buffalo in Chobe National Park on the border with Namibia in 1997.

Click on the photo to view the lion hunt

 Victoria Falls

From Botswana we travel to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.  Victoria Falls is one of the world’s seven natural wonders.  The film includes a fly-over in ultra-light planes, a bungi jump by my brother-in-law, John Textoris, and a whitewater raft trip down the mighty Zambezi.  Filmed on the same 1997 safari.

Click on the photo to view the video

Bungi Jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge

In 2005 I also did this Bungi jump.  Talk about a rush!

333 Feet! Click on the image to see the film of my Bungi jump.

Johannesburg and Pretoria and A Message to the World

We return to Johannesburg and Pretoria for a visit to The Cradle of Humankind, an active archeological site where the oldest humanoid remains had been found.  The film ends with “A Message to the World”, inviting everyone to “come, come and see how beautiful it is.”

Johannesburg Grace Hotel. Click on the image to view the film.

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Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back – 2011 – Update 1

 Update 1

October 29 to 31, 2011 – Saturday to Monday

After 14 ½ hours from Chicago landed at New Delhi.  Spent the night in the Eaton Smart hotel in the international section of the airport.  We were met by a very helpful young man who escorted us to the hotel while our luggage and other formalities were magically handled by someone.  I was a little worried that they kept our passports, but the next morning at breakfast they were handed back to us along with other documentation and baggage receipts.

The itinerary sent by Ram Pahari of Himalaya Journey Treks and Expeditions said “Arrival in Kathmandu 1,334m, transfer to hotel”.  “Transfer” is a serious exaggeration – more like “crawl”.  There seemed to be no rules, with lines of cars, and what seems like thousands of motorcycles sometimes crossing the centerline two rows deep.  Lots of honking as we wound our way painstakingly through amazingly impoverished areas, avoiding pedestrians, a couple of cows, cyclists, and the thousands of other vehicles, all gunning for the same position at the same time.  The patience of the people in the midst of this chaos was quite inspiring.  While everybody leaned on their horns constantly and we witnessed hundreds of near misses, nobody seemed to get exited, and took the pandemonium in their stride.

After more than an hour in absolute traffic hell – which I found most exciting! – we finally made it into the Thamel area, a chaotic haven of less disastrous appearance, with thousands of shops, restaurants and other businesses lining the narrow “streets”.  People, motorcycles, rickshaws cars went everywhere, in every direction.  The energy of the place was palpable and contagious.  The spirit of this upper class area of Kathmandu!  We were excited to be there, in Kathmandu.  What an exotic name!

With the air grey with pollution, our eyes and noses burning and ears ringing form the cacophony of “hooters”, we arrived at the very adequate hotel, the Hotel Manang, and were greeted by some very friendly staff and a glass of fruit juice, a welcome libation after the smog, exhaust fumes and dust.

Five of our six adventurers made it to Kathmandu today.  Kathy and Al Wilson from Indianapolis, Indiana who joined me on the Kilimanjaro climb and Serengeti safari I organized in 2008;  Pete McIlroy, a friend from Columbus, Ohio, and his friend from Newburyport, Mass. Roger Verney.  Kent Stucky from Columbus would join us the next day.  We deposited our luggage in our rooms and set out to explore Thamel on foot.  A whole new experience!  Now WE were dodging cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and what seemed to be thousands of other pedestrians, all the while experiencing the polite nature of these gentle people.  How exciting it was to be there!

As we meandered down narrow streets surrounded by a zillion souvenir shops with incense burning and sellers motioning you to check out their wares, Pete and I decided we all needed a drink, and walked into a restaurant with a bar.  This led to a lovely evening of great Indian food (and great camaraderie and getting to know one another a little).  It confirmed for me what I knew already – this was going to be a great group of friends with whom to share an adventure such as we are about to experience.

Exhausted and somewhat out of sorts because of the 10-hour time-change we went to bed.  A strange thing, these mattresses on these beds.  It was about three inches thick, but hard as a board.  It reminded me of the time when I was in basic training in the South African navy in 1968.  We were on a march in a remote part of the Cape Province, and after three days have had very little sleep.  We came across an abandoned house with some furniture, lots of bats and other vermin.  I was so exhausted I found myself falling asleep on top of the kitchen table amidst the dirt and dust.  This mattress in the Hotel Manang felt like that tabletop.  I woke up at a 3 am. feeling like my hipbones were protruding through my skin.  I got up, stripped the bed, unrolled my nice new Thermarest self-inflating camping mattress pad, re-made the bed, and slept like a baby the rest of the night on a very comfortable camping mattress.

1st November, 2011 – Tuesday – Day 1

After a great breakfast we took to the narrow, crowded streets again, exploring and experiencing the smells and sounds of Thamel.  Back at the Manang Hotel we met up with Kent who had just arrived from New Delhi.  Unfortunately his backpack with all his hiking gear went somewhere else.

We spent a relaxing afternoon at a local pub, and then received the word that Kent’s backpack did not make it on the last flight from New Delhi.  I had been the brunt of the joke in that I clearly over-packed.  I had three fleece jackets, 8 pairs of socks, and multiple shirts.  “Who would need EIGHT PAIRS of socks?  Two pairs should be enough for 16 days!” they joked.  So Kent and I went to our room and I shared all my extras with him, including four pairs of socks.  He spent the rest of the evening shopping for boots and other essentials, and we finally got to bed just before midnight.Ram took us to his company’s office a few blocks from the hotel for our pre-hike “Lukla – Everest Base Camp – Kala Pattar trekking briefing with officially arrangements.”  Ram’s coverage of the next 16 days’ hike and adventure was exhaustive and complete.  We all felt a lot more confident after this briefing, with a much clearer understanding of what to expect.

2nd November, 2011 – Wednesday – Day 2

If you can’t Climb it, Drink it!

Itinerary Entry: After breakfast, Kathmandu by Flight to Lukla & trek to Phakding – 2,630m (the guys had some fun with this name – the “Ph” is pronounced “F”.)

I am sure I slept for only an hour, but my room mate, Kent, told me I slept a lot more than that judging from the snoring.  “I really was not sleeping”, I said.  “I just like to breathe that way!”

We had a 4:30 am. wake-up, and Ram collected us at 5:15 for the airport for our 6 am. departure to Lukla.  Our adventure is starting!

We boarded the mini bus and Ram escorted us to the airport on his motorcycle.  This time it took barely 20 minutes – very little traffic this early, but still many people walking in all directions in the dark.

We arrived at the airport in the pre-dawn dark, and the place was chaos!  How I love the energy of this craziness!  We were accosted by a herd of porters, all wanting to carry our bags.  We are rushed through security and to the airport tax counter, the check-in counter, through more security, all the while being urged to hurry because “the flight will leave exactly at 6 o’clock”.   We hurry and gather at the departure gate excited about departing on the small plane to Lukla.

We really miss our friend Mike Cantlin.  This adventure is really his fault.  Mike was my tent mate on the Kilimanjaro trek in 2008, and we decided that we needed another adventure, another goal.  After Kilimanjaro I wrote in my book Kilimanjaro! that one needs goals, and that my next goal was Aconcagua the highest mountain in South America situated in the Andes in Argentina.  A 23,000 foot mountain, I was dissuaded when Mike researched and found out that proportionately as many people die on Aconcagua each year as in the attempt to summit Mt. Everest.  Mike suggested that, at our age, Everest Base Camp would be a more appropriate risk.  I love adventure, but I do not have a death wish, so we decided on the Everest trek.  Unfortunately Mike’s knee surgery did not allow him to join us.  Bummer!

This topic of Everest Summit as opposed to Everest BC came up in discussion last night.  Al said that he felt Everest summit attempts require some drive, some passion, some extraordinary obsession, and that he felt it was an inappropriate risk.  I said, “I am so glad to hear you say that, because I have wondered sometimes if my position on Everest summit was just a cop-out because I am not capable of doing it.  I suppose if I judged the risk worth the reward, I would consider it.  But I don’t.  I always said that treks like Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp are adventure.  Everest summit, Aconcagua and other extreme endeavors are for me outside my desire for adventure.

3 pm. and we were still sitting in the departure lounge.  No word about the weather in Lukla clearing.  Conditions at Lukla must be near perfect for planes to land there.

One evening some time ago Mike called me at home in Columbus.

“Willie, are you home?’ he asked.

“Yes.”

“Turn on the History channel.  They have a show on about the 10 most dangerous airports in the world.”

Well, of course Lukla was featured as the number one most dangerous airport in the world.  So our anticipation mounted as we were sitting in the Kathmandu airport hoping we would even get out today.

Until just over 40 years ago the eastern Himalayan region of the Solukhumbu leading to Mt. Everest was inaccessible to most air traffic. The way to reach the heights of the trailhead in Lukla was to travel the road from Kathmandu to Jiri, then hike five days over the rugged lowland hills. In 1964 Sir Edmund Hillary initiated construction of the Lukla airfield (LUA), and from that time the area has been opened up to countless enthused hikers.  It is a great convenience to bypass the arduous hike beyond Jiri since the hike beyond Lukla is challenging enough for most.  Lukla is now a vibrant and welcoming entryway to the Himalayas.

Finally at 3:45 pm. – no flights to Lukla today.

Landing at Lukla is dangerous, and we were pleased that the authorities take no chances when it comes to the weather.  We got up, stiff from sitting on a hard metal chair since 6 am.  Hungry and tired we make the trek back to the Hotel Manang.   Fortunately we were able to get the rooms of the folks who were stuck at Lukla.

While disappointed, our spirits are high.  We have quite come to like the local beer named –what else? –  Everest.  So, as we contemplate our position and options I said: “I know what we will do.  If you can’t climb it, drink it!

Tired and hungry, we hit the streets of Thamel for libation and dinner, and hit the sack at about 8 pm.  Unfortunately Kent and I were both up at 3 am with a stomach problem.  Hopefully it is temporary.  .  Kent says it is “healthy diarrhea”.

We had a flight booked for 11:00 am that morning.  If this did not work out our last chance would be to go by helicopter the next day…

Bummer!

3rd November 2011 – Thursday – Day 03

We have been up since 3 am.  Going to bed at 8 pm. was maybe not such a good idea!

Kent went downstairs for an internet connection, and I liay in bed wishing I could sleep another hour.  I got my computer out and edited a short video – a “trailer” of our adventure.  Fun!

After breakfast, still making frequent short trips to the restroom, we settled in to wait for the word on the day’s travels.  Ram called and informed us that there were no flights to Lukla today.  We had only one option now and that is to go by helicopter tomorrow.  This would entail an additional two-hour hike just to get to Lukla, but we all enthusiastically vote YES for this option.  This is why we were here.  We came to go to Everest Base Camp, and nothing except the weather could stop us!

I took an Imodium.  Definitely a miracle drug and an essential on all trips!

Hope to post POSITIVE news tomorrow…