Pyranees Backpacking Day 1

Day after Lolo’s surprise wedding. Castet, France.

Woke up “relatively” early to a beautiful day in the Pyrenees: mountains all around. Today, after the picnic at noon in Port de Castet, we were headed out towards GR-10 trail close to the border of Spain, en-route to Pic Midi D’Ossau. It will be just T, K, D and I. Getting excited, we were gearing up, going to the grocery story where we bought too much food (as always), and some gifts to take home. While we’ve been in France, D and I have completely broken our diets, eating bread and cheese almost every day. I still refrain from eggs for the most part. So far we have experienced little to no side effects, having regular bowel movements. D’s even been eating pork.

Lolo was so welcoming, allowing us to use her new car when we needed one and we also borrowed sleeping bags, a tent and pads from her. Plus her most favorite 49L backpack since I didn’t have one big enough. The brunch was left over food from yesterday, enjoyed on a wide plateau 5km east of her castle-like house in Castet. As the four of us drove up in her tiny white Dacia, we had more and more expansive views of the opposing mountains.

PicnicFrench FoodAt the top, we were treated by a loud eew-haw from the next door donkey and grazing horses with cowbells chiming across the field of soft green grass – the type you would want to roll around in – except for the minefield of fresh and sun-dried cow pies. Paul had driven his yellow camping van to the middle of this open pasture, and dished out the boeuf-roti, ham, fromage de brebis, carottes-rapés, haricots vests, among many other delicacies of the region.

We found the beer tap in the basement, next to the “dungeon” dormitory we slept in that night, and brought over a bottle to everyone’s delight. The mood was very relaxed, a lazy dimanche après-midi in South France.

SiesteAfter a large plate of food, a glass of juice/beer/wine, we lazed around in the sun, the chilly breeze whipping up light goosebumps on my skin. In the distance, colts rolled about in the dirt, hooves kicking the air. A bit closer, dogs licked the remainder of plates to their owners’ nonchalance, and babies hummed softly as they learned the art of the afternoon “sieste”.

Packing up, the drive to the Pic began – first in a wide valley, then detoured through a village where we got stuck behind a tractor and some herders herding two cows (which decided to take a nice shit right in front of the car, our wheels squishing through the moist manure seconds later). Finally back on the main road, it narrowed between a deeper canyon on the right, and steepening walls on the left.

Pic Midi D'OssauNoses pressed to the passenger glass window, we arched our necks up to see the tippity-tops of rocky peaks peeking out left and right. Parking the car at a lake we were originally going to hike to (we weren’t sure if the roads were open), I was really jumping up and down in excitement watching other people mull around with packs, hiking poles, and climbing gear. It was so great to be out here, the Pyranees where I had spent my 23rd year of life, six years ago.

Our team of hikersThis time it was with my life partner and two of my favorite people in the world. We even brought a rope, as we expect the peak to be a series of easier 5.3- 5.4 climbs – which we will do tomorrow. Six and seven-tenth km, rolling hills, many sheep, cows, and horses in the shadow of high-jutting peaks later, we reached the refuge de Pombie at 2032m.

Nearby was a lake and farther, awe inspiring views to mountains in the east turning orange, red, then purple in the reflection of the quickly approaching sunset. Tent set next to a stream of water, we finished 1.5 L of wine and nearly a full bar of hazelnut chocolate before retiring to bed.

Bicycle Charged Cellphone ChargerPS: there was a bike to recharge non-iphone mobiles (Pedal to create electricity) and T & K found the coolest camp spot under a 45degree angle boulder. They called it their “living room 🙂

Mt. St. Helens – the Edible version

This was a journey requiring 1 hour of shopping, 6 hours of mixing and baking, and 1.5-2 hours of decorating. The idea came out of a weekend getaway in the enchantments. On the drive home, a two hour discussion then turned into reality: a cake in the shape of the famous Mt. St. Helens. It even included spirit lake, the logs, and certain contours around the area. Besides that, all the ingredients except for the tan-sand colored frosting was home-made. The base material was made of a sponge cake, the same as what the Hungarian Dobos Torte is made of. Here is the time-lapse in pictures:

First rough cake-looking part. This will be the main mountain.

Image of one of the thin layers. Kind of falling apart but it will be used!

The frosting I made – It is a mixture of coconut oil and semi-sweet chocolate chunks from trader joes

Spirit lake being created…

Cutting out contours for the glaciers

Bird’s eye view of the contoured mountain. Looks like a mess without frosting and cover up.

Closer image of contours

Frosting starting to be applied

Almost finished, only the vegetation missing now.

Finished! (not the best quality…) this is when we presented it to the birthday boy. Maybe next time I’ll put an explosive in the crater or some dry ice or something.

The birthday boy was really happy for the cake. real man hug 😉

Oregoni Cserkész Toborzó Tábor: Péntek, Aug 24, 2012

Pentek reggel 6am: Csorog az ebreszto! Ma kezdodik a nagy hetvege amit mar 9 honapja tervezek.. fejem meg mindig kicsit kodos, hiszen kora reggel van, de ennek ellenere, mar gondolkozom – meg van-e minden a taborra? Pakkoltunk ruhat, etelt, szerszamokat, jatekokat, edenyeket, lisztbombara anyagot, jelmezt? Felhivtam a ranger-t kerdesekkel ket napja, meg van a cim, az utirany, gyerekeknek az erkezesi ideje/modja.. Telefonom mar egy hete robban fel a sok sms, email, hivasoktol: szuloknek utolso perc kerdesei, erkezesek a repterrol, SF cserkesz st. segitoknek utja szervezese, stb.

Utra keltunk reggel nyolckor – ket kocsival, amit a Suto csaladnak koszonhetunk, mivel nagy ut, sok merfold, s mind ezt felaldoztak erre a kis taborunkra. Kb 5 es fel ora mulva, megerkeztunk Cave Junction varoskaba, mar tuzzo nap alatt volt, es ki volt irva mindenhol: Extrem Tuzveszely. A ranger allomasnal egy alacsony, tul-kondizott hajas kis nenkie vart minket a kapu kulcsal, mondta hogy tuzet nem szabad rakni, utana csak pislogott felenk, es egy akkora mu-mosoly volt az arcan, mint ha oda festettek volna. Nem szabad tuz?! Na meg csak ez kelett… akkor vegul rakerdezek – de a telefonon mondta, hogy szabad tuz, az “approved fire ring”-ben es gaz egon amit hoztunk… hogy hogy mar meggondolta magat? Ekkor mondja, ahh igen, azt meg szabad.

en: o_O

Ezek szerint nem tudnak semmit, csak szedik ki a szoveget a szek alol.. ahogy bebizonyult az igert “ujbol kitisztitott budakrol” ahol “most tettek uj wc papirt”. Haha. se WC papir, sem tiszta buda. Odafele megveszunk meg egy asot is amivel pocegodrot astunk konyha felallitas kozben. 2 es kb fel 5 kozott a kovetkezo terv volt:
-Terep szemle az akadaly versenyre
-Konyha felallitasa
-Vezeto satrak felallitasa
-Gyerekek satra felallitasa (SF lanyok erkezese utan, mert naluk volt a sator)
-nyakkendo gyuruk, cim-cetli keszitese
-Gyongy jutalom tabla keszitese
-Szendvics csinalas vacsorara
-Zaszloter fellalitasa

Szulok gyermekukkel Magyar modra gondoltuk 6 utan fognak erkezni, de sokan fel negytol kezdve, egeszen nyolcig erkeztek. Ezek alatt meg kimentek a patakba furdeni, mikor osszegyult eleg gyerek, kezdtuk ismerkedesi jatekokkal, s kis szendvics-vacsoraval. A szulok lassan el is mentek, sajat taborhelyukre, fel merfoldre a mienktol.

Nemsokara be is sotetedett, de mar elore latszott, hogy a fiuk keszen alltak lefekudni, mig a lanyok nyafogva, szerepelve hajtottak vegre a fogmosast, agyba keszulodest. Mesemondas utan vegre csend lett, s a ket orsi satorbol hosiesen osontak ki az orsvezetok, hogy vezetoi gyulesben resztvegyenek. Ekkor beszeltuk meg a holnapi fejlemenyeket: enek, jatek, forgo szimpad, vizi program, babszinhaz, keretmese jelenetek, tabortuz (szuloket meghivtuk), termeszet seta, szeder szedes… na, szoval nem lesz rovid napunk.

Ubud Days 1-3

Day 1

I wake up around 6am, sprawled out on a king-sized bed in a room about 4 times the size of my room at home with the air conditioner on and black curtains blocking out most of the sun outside.. and snap- it comes back to me. I’m in the Villa of my cousin’s fiancee’s gay cousin. and he gave me his bed because he was spending the night with this guy he just met 2 days ago and they were going on a bike ride at 7am that morning.. easier to just eliminate the meeting part in the morning and just stay at his place, right? Sure..

walk out to get the other half of my breakfast, sat out in the pool area to eat it. met up with emily, gave michael’s key back at the receptionist making up a story about how he left it in “my” room so they didn’t think i slept in his room because that would have been an extra fee. took a cab back to emily/endre+ his family’s villa, from which they were moving out of to go to Ubud. I was to take the car with them. Little did I know that I was going to be the two kids’ playtoy on the way there.. after braiding their hairs (one was in the car while the girl was turning her head around not really helping me do the job, and was while we were dodging around motorcycles and potholeing) then had to hide a toy and use “hot/cold” to figure out where it was – but of course it was always under her butt or behind her back, so i had to pretend to not know that and start somewhere far away so she was always delighted to see that I took such a looooong time to find it, so she must have hid it in a clever place.
As we made our way out of Seminak, the terrain got more hilly, and rice fields were everywhere around us, with harvesters using old-fashion scythes to cut down the crop.
When we got to the new Villa, i was breathless- it was at the outcrop of a hill-but almost as steep as a cliff, with a river roaring down below. The panoramic view at the top area was of the largest palm-jungle I’ve ever seen. The villa hosts even told us that there’d be the occasional monkey and other wild animal that we would see. On arrival, they gave us fresh-cold towels, and iced-tea. After a tour of the place, we dove straight into the pool, and I spent about 1 hour teaching my little nieces (or cousins? not sure what my cousin’s children are in relation to me) how to swim.

Back to Ubud center, Endre rented a motor-bike. Him and I sat on, and zipped over to a supermarket to get me a SIM card into my faithful phone that I have used throughout Europe as well, and has the capability to connect to any network I’ve tried thus far. On the way back, we got a bottle of vodka to fuel the motor – hah just joking, it was gasoline, but here’s the best part: it was sold in a vodka bottle. Gas station = a shelf of petrol at the side of the road housed in clear bottles. Price ~ $2/gallon. (and the motor only cost about $5 per day) Barring that you don’t drive off the side of a bridge, I’d say that’s pretty worth it (and the rental is filling out your name, and signing.. they don’t even check if you have a lisence which technically should be a Balinese license.

That night Endre+Emily, 2 of Emily’s friends and i went out to dinner where about 1 hour in, jetlag hit hard. I just couldn’t get a comprehensible sentence out of my mouth, although it may also have been because of this insanely spicy fish I ordered.. i swear it was the most spicy thing I ate in my life, felt like my tongue was about to burn off. But good news was that anything after it seemed mild. I was even cooling my mouth off with a rice that the rest of the table deemed “very spicy”. I guess next time watch out for the phrase “traditional Balinese spiced”.

Day 2

After riding the motor on monday, i just had to get one myself. Of course all the “danger” alarms were going off in my head: No, I’ve never driven a motorcycle, people drive on the opposite side of the road here (well… theoretically) so I’m not used to that, I am not “actually” allowed to drive with an american lisence, so i may get stopped by the police, I’ll have no protective gear, just a helmet. But then I looked at the flipside: if I don’t rent one out (and price was definitely not an issue here), I will come home with the dissatisfaction of not having done it.

So here i go: rented the bike, weaved my way down a potholey path that was smaller than a regular sidewalk at home, and not even a 1/4 km away, i already bumped something. Now a normal person would probably curse and wish they never did this, but I just thought – yeeah adrenaline! awesome! now I have to think quickly what should I do? A taxi driver came and helped me then said he would go with me to the mechanic to get it fixed and he would get a better price than if I would go by myself.. i was skeptical, and good thing i waited around a bit, because the owner of the bike just came by, and said no no, he will bring his wife and then we would go together. Long story short: damage done: $30. All the while I had a great experience in waiting for the bike and observing how they fixed it in around 45 mins, talking to the lady from who we rented the room. All this instead of getting a massage like i originally wanted to. Haha, don’t regret it at all 🙂 Picked up my gay roommate, then headed back to the Villa on the motorbike through windy roads weaving through the jungle-like landscape then the rice paddies, all the while feeling the poor guy behind me shaking as I tried to hide my own nervousness by talking to him. Apparently did it well because he though I was totally chill, without a drop of anxiety. And we made it the whole 7 kms without a scratch. Score!

That night the whole gang went to the Jazz cafe, had a delicious buffet, and danced to a stevie-wonder double singing Superstitious, among many other great songs. Any jetlag I had for the first half of the night was pretty much gone after boogie-ing and making a human train on the dancefloor with Emily, Louise and Michael. Great night!

Day 3

In the morning, shortly after waking and washing my face, the homestay owner came up to us and asked if we were eating breakfast now or later? I said, oh, now.. and 10 mins later, he came back out of the kitchen with two places of the best looking egg-tomato-garlic toasted bread sandwich ever. I could not resist the temptation to eat at least half of one – it was delicious.. and although I was supposedly allergic to wheat and eggs in the states, I must have left it behind, it’s fists shaking on the California coast because I went through the day without a pang of pain in my stomach. He also brought a plate of fruit: papaya, watermelon, pineapples, and the sweetest bananas I’ve ever tasted! On top of all this, he brought two enormous coconuts with straws poking out! Remembering the coconut water I tasted back home, i was a bit wary about drinking it, but I thought – why the hell not.. it’s the freshest you can get.. and indeed it was very different from that store-bought, so called “100% coconut water” drink they sell at costco. Refreshing and semi-sweet.

By 10:00, we were at Emily+Endre’s villa where Michael and I booked a hotel for the Gili Islands where we were going to take a jetboat Saturday around noon. Then at 11 I hopped in a tour-car with my family except Endre (included 2 nieces, cousin, her husband, and my aunt and her husband) The adventure has begun!

In the following 10 hours, I saw the oldest temple in Bali, the elephant caves where some old men liked to meditate for 1 month without food and water (the smoke in there definitely made me want to sit and just “exist”.. and never go back to work :D), a coffee plantation where I tasted some amazing coffee, tea and hot chocolate – and witenssed the most interesting coffeemaker-contraption.. looked more like a science experiment, wolfed down mouth-watering fried bananas with fresh cane sugar on top, then saw their handmade-silver factory, the monkey forest where monkeys go abound stealing stuff out of your pockets and bananas out of your hands.. with certain ones thinking I’m friendly enough to even climb on my backpack and then pulling my hair, and finally the famous female-only kacak fire dance that celebrated the life of their sun-god Ramayana, as well as the horse rider’s dance through burning coconut husks. I finished up the day with the most delicious snapper fish dinner with rice and greenbean and cabbage salad. I even cleaned out two small bowls of spicy tomato and pepper salsa-like sauce. I must have grown some hair on my tongue or something after that first night out where I had to drink 2 large cups of orange-mango smoothie before I could breathe normally again. On the way back home I even witnessed the second pair of mating animals that day (first being a pair of monkeys, this second one being 2 dogs).

Face of Tomorrow

Today I had a lot of fun, met over 100 people, and helped an open-source project all in 1 and a half hours with the help of a couple of friends. It took place at the Capitol square in Toulouse.

In this 1.5 hours, the goal was to take photos of 50 men and 50 women between the ages of 16 and infinity in order to create an average face of Toulouse, which will be executed by the artist Mike, the owner of the website “Face of Tomorrow“. He has already taken the average of large cities around the world such as Sydney, Australia; Florence, Italy; Amsterdam, Netherlands; London, UK, etc.

We ended up asking probably around 180 people in order to get 100; overall, people were very open-minded and curious about the project.

Among people that we ran across were men with dreadlocks, members of two bachelor parties, one where the soon-to-be-wed male was wearing a red dress and a black bra and a blonde wig, the second where the bride was wearing her underwear and bra on the outside of her clothes. There was also a larger group of Asian tourists, some of which agreed to have their pictures taken. Overall I think we got a very diverse collection of people.

I used a bamboo stick as a monopod because my tripod is sitting in my closet in the USA, and advertised for Vibram 5 fingers by wearing mine out. Originally I intended to use them as attention-grabbers, but ended up talking about how much I like them, and where to buy.

Afterwards, I was in a great mood from a successful organization of a fun project and grateful for the great friends I have that came out and helped me harpoon people on the street. Here is one of them:

The photos have been created, but for some reason aren’t online. However, I have a copy, so here they are:

Male ToulouseanFemale Toulousean