Ecuador: Climbing High Mountains

” Edging along a narrow ledge, the steepness of slope was terrifying; the ice just disappeared into blackness next to our feet. If one of us slipped we would drag the two others with us, only our ice axes would have a chance of stopping us.  It was scary but we were calm, probably because of the lack of oxygen making us a bit mentally slow….. ”  (NM)

At the end of January under the post   “An Invitiation” two intrepid women, Nicole Morse and Marelise Bardenhorst anticipated a journey climbing high mountains in Ecuador with the goal of raising funds for the “Homes to Grow” project in Masiphumelele, a township in the southern peninsula, Cape Town.

Lisa Brunetti, an expat living in Ecuador also kindly posted notice of the intended challenge on her webpage www.playamart.wordpress.com,  and now linking back to that post as well, here is the follow up on the gripping account of the duo’s achievement and their adventures in the high altitudes of that diverse country.

Before tackling Cotopaxi, rigorous preparation entailed climbing on lower mountain slopes, acclimatising to the altitude.  Both suffered from acute mountain sickness (ACM) in the lead up and intense sessions of ice training on the glacier were grueling.  This is how Nicole describes her elation on reaching Cotopaxi’s summit: “I was proud, I was exhausted and I wanted to cry from relief. The spectacular views I had hoped for were obscured by the whiteout conditions, we couldn’t see into the volcanic crater but we could smell the sulphur. The clouds had lightened so we knew it was now daylight but we didn’t get to see the sun rising from the curve of the earth.  We took a few photos and then turned around to escape the cold.”   Then, still facing the difficult descent over the glacier, the effects of altitude and the extreme cold struck in an unnerving and threatening way …….. 

Click on the link  – (written in three installments) –  “High Drama On High Mountains” an account of the team’s steely determination and courage in achieving personal goals and raising funds for the children’s education. **

Nicole has kindly supplied the photographs and the visual impact highlights the difficult terrain and conditions.  A pertinent observation is Nicole’s comment on global warming: “The glaciated ice cap of Cotopaxi used to reach all the way down to the refuge, it now takes us an hour to hike up to the glacier before we need to put on our crampons and take out our ice axes. Global warming has caused the ice cap to recede by 40% in the last 25 years, I find that terrifying.”   How long will it take before the ice completely disappears?

Nicole concludes with these words: “This adventure taught us that even if you take small steps you will eventually get to the top, as long as you keep going. Thank you to everyone who donated to the Homes to Grow fund, your efforts have given some very special children a chance to reach the top too. May we all keep building towards their futures, one step at a time.Vamos!”

** Feeling inspired by their efforts?  If you’d like to find out more or would like to support the ‘Homes to Grow’ fund follow the link to the GivenGain page.

 

 

 

 

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Post Fire Scenes at Cape of Good Hope

Returning home after some weeks away, the first order of the day is catching up on local events and life round the neighbourhood.  These scenes at the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, are of the area impacted by a ravaging fire in early March and are so devastatingly familiar.   This is an area where we often cycle and part of the cycle track goes right through the middle of this desolation and we’re gripped both by a sense of loss and awe.  That the fynbos vegetation which forms part of this extraordinary Cape Floral Kingdom, is sustained and flourishes in such nutrient poor soil is remarkable.  Stripped of the green foliage, the revealed soil looks much like beach sand (from quartzite).  Parts look like wastelands, but in some areas green shoots  are already appearing attracting browsers like buck and zebra.  The geophytes, such as the red Candelabra lilies (Brunsvigia orientalis) are flowering profusely and against the burned vegetation look quite stunning.  With climate change affecting local weather patterns, predictions for Cape Town are that total rainfall will decrease by between 10% – 30% over the next 50 years.  Fire frequency and intensity will undoubtedly increase, putting post fire vegetation reseeding under further pressure. We’re hoping this year that the seasonal rainfall over the winter months will break the current drought cycle.

The Octopus’s Garden

 

Krista poses the question this week: “If given the choice, what would you rather be doing, right now?”   Imagine a place – a “Stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off” kind of a place where you can escape the hurley-burley and be amazed and awed by a completely different world.  False Bay here in the southern peninsula of Cape Town is a wondrous place, where the influence of two ocean currents – the warm Agulhas and the cold Benguela mingle and create a flourishing ecosystem.

It’s been a while since i dipped below the waters, but recently my interest is inspired through the marvellous Blue Planet II series where the episode the ” Green Seas” features the extraordinary creatures living in the kelp forest including the cunning behaviour of a smart octopus.

WPC: Rather

 

Haemanthus – Paintbrush lilies

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Like symbols of defiance, the gorgeous blooms of the paintbrush lilies are putting on a show in the midst of one of the worst droughts in years.  These geophytes cope  by storing moisture in their bulbs through times of restricted water ensuring the plants needs in producing the next generation through the cycle of flowers and fruit.