Published November 26, 2008
For some reason people assume by virtue of what I am doing that I would be a good candidate for the television show, The Amazing Race. I have never seen the show in its entirety but from what I have seen I figure I don’t have the time or energy to go racing around the globe with a travel partner stressing out about local customs and schedules. I’ve never considered myself a suitable person for the show’s premise.
After a harrowing driving experience during rush hour in Sydney, I have changed my mind. Brooke and I would be ideal candidates for the show. Imagine doing what we do and possibly winning a whole bunch of money just for doing it? So far we have hunted for native wildlife on a golf course in Canberra in the dark. Had we actually found something out there we would have been terrified. Instead we drove down a road on the wrong side, well, right for us, wrong for Australia. We flew in a hot air balloon, hit a tree while landing and tipped the entire basket with 11 people in it over. Okay we weren’t responsible for that little mishap we just happened to be a part of it. We soon discovered that the GPS system we rented from Hertz has no clue where anything in Australia is, constantly flips roads, tells us to make U-turns or shuts down completely just when we need it the most. We named her, but I can’t repeat the name on a blog. Suffice it to say Hertz gave us a refund on that one.
Sydney proved to be our Achilles heel and after a week of patting ourselves on the back as we made our way around the country, Sydney humbled us. We started to bicker which would have made for great reality tv. We circled the same streets having no clue how to proceed out of them. We got a great photo of the famous Sydney Opera House only because we accidentally ended up right next to it. Just as we were ready to quit and change our plans – we found the Hilton. Not a moment too soon either. Not having a reservation I was afraid that after the bad luck we were having they would be sold out. Instead we got a great room and a bottle of champagne sent up with a personal note congratulating our 6th summit and wishing us the best on Everest. We walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner and a few stiff drinks only to end up next to a table of boisterous ‘blokes’ who wanted to insure we understood their country and customs. I asked if they worked with sheep? Just like our GPS name, I can’t repeat the jest of this conversation.
This morning we awoke early to allow plenty of extra time to get to the airport for our flight to New Zealand. We got to the airport forty minutes late. We probably shouldn’t have given the GPS one more chance. The airlines, in typical Aussie fashion, were wonderfully accommodating. “No worries Mate! You’re not late. This flight left yesterday and you weren’t on it!” Guess somewhere between time zones, mountains and just laughing too much neither of us looked closely at our itinerary. We really weren’t supposed to be in Sydney at all.
Heading to New Zealand and the “Kiwis” a day late. Brooke and I are still speaking. Still laughing more than ever to the point we are rendered useless and continue on with our ‘mountain’ adventure.
I think we could have won The Amazing Race!
Road signs along the highway have a picture of a critter crossing for the next 2 km. It looks like a little bear. Another sign warns of kangaroos crossing. Still another sign warns that we are driving in a high incidence zone of car encounters with kangaroos. I wonder if that is like the signs we have in New England telling how many moose have met a car in the past year. Finally at a toll booth I asked the attendant what the little bear on the sign is. It’s a Wombat and she says not to hit one with your car, ‘it’s like hitting a rock.”
Brooke is the driver of our Ford SUV and although I normally am anti SUV’s – I like the security this one provides since we are driving on the left, a first for both of us. Brooke is the driver, I’m the navigator. Good thing we haven’t run into one of those wombats.
It was time to take on Kosciusko. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t cooperating but we have lots to do in Australia so we decided to put ‘work’ before ‘play’ and headed up. It was cold, wet and miserable. In fact, I can’t remember being quite this miserable in….well since the monsoons in Nepal a month ago. I put my head down, leaned into the prevailing wind and burrowed on through. The wind and wet were so severe we couldn’t talk to each other without yelling. At times Brooke totally disappeared in the clouds and rain. Water dripped off my nose, my feet squished with each step. And this mountain was supposed to be easy? Okay, it was pretty easy. We were back in Thredbo taking a hot shower three hours later.
We have been on the move since. This is a vast continent and we have traveled for days from the coastal town of Torquay to Melbourne to Canberra. Thousands of kilometers, hundreds of road signs warning of impending ‘roo’ crossings, and not one spotting of a kangaroo…. anywhere. I keep my eyes riveted on the landscape checking the ‘bush’ for this famous critter. Locals assure me they are prolific and everywhere.
Not sure what the summit of Kosciusko looked like, too many clouds and high winds. One of those ‘can’t see your hand in front of your face’ kind of summits. We did our best taking pictures but now that I look at them you can’t even tell that is a person standing up there. Do you think that possibly it is one of those illusive kangaroos?
I’m thrilled to report that Wendy and her climbing partner, Brooke, have successfully reached the top of Mt. Kosciusko in the Snowy Mountains of Australia! At approximately 11:30 on Friday, November 21st Wendy passed one more milestone on her way to the Seven Summits.
The only mountain left is Mt. Everest…
Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia
Published November 17, 2008
Continent #7, mountain #6 here I come! Funny, but I don’t feel like I’ve come back to the 21st century yet after my return from Nepal last month but here I go again. This continent will be a true trip and Brooke and I are treating it accordingly. I leave from Denver tomorrow evening, arrive in Sydney on Wednesday and plan to climb by week’s end. Then we’re off! Our agenda is diverse, unstructured and very exciting. We are off for the outback. We have plans to drive on the left in a rented car with a map and a true sense of adventure. Afterall, what would one expect from two women about to embark on Everest next spring and having been in Antarctica last winter? Our adventuresome streak is getting more difficult to quench and so we are going to this continent with just that in mind. We plan to scuba dive, take surfing lessons, although Brooke is a California girl and already an accomplished surfer. Me? Well I’ll just have to let you know about that one. A hot air balloon ride in New Zealand and climbing anywhere and everywhere the landscape moves us. I understand the country is gorgeous and I am anxious to take it all in not missing one detail.
I return in Dec. to my new home just north of Boston for the holidays before heading back to my Boulder apartment where I will be training for three months. I will also be heading to Bend, OR to train a very different way; crossing ladders with full gear, crampons and loaded backpack to simulate the Khumbu Ice Falls just outside base camp on Everest. I understand the first few crossings can be intimidating practice on ladders is an advantage. I’m starting to wonder what I will do with myself when I run out of mountains? Give me time, I am certain to come up with something.
To “my” kids at the Donald McKay School are you ready for our next adventure? I’ve got the satellite phone ready to go!
I’ll check in from ‘down under’ soon. In the meantime……..