Arlene's Blog

Sunday, April 16, 2006

In Calcutta

I an enroute from home to Sikkim with half of the members of my trekking group. Due to big head winds the plane didn't make it to Hong Kong and we stopped for refueling in Tapei which made the trip 16 hours. Not so fun, but survivable. After flights to Bangkok and Calcutta, I am on line with some difficulty in the lobby of my hotel They had broadband and I had to change the IP address numbers , but it finally worked.

Calcutta is much less crowded and more orderly and prosperous than I remember it to be. After our arrival some 26 hours after we had left home, we visited a georous Sikh temple. The young women were dressed in their finest Aris to attract attention from the young men. Then we strolled by the river and admired the amazing Calcutta bridge. Unlike my memoires of northern India, no one hassled us at all, maybe becuase Caltutta or Kolkota, as it is now known, is not a major tourist destination.

Struggling to stay awake and avoid jet lag we went our to the best Indian dinner I have ever had at a place called "Grain of Salt." The velgetarian grill was the most interesting best vegetarian food I have ever tasted. I hope Annalise comes here and tries it sometime. When I paid the bill, I was sleepy and did my math wrong so I paid too much, leaving a tip of about 500 Rupees or twelve dollarsl. The waiter chased us to the elevator, telling us we had paid too much.
Nothing like this has ever happened to me in Asia before. Hopefully this is a good omen for our trip.

I wonder if there is broadband in the Himalaya?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

On the way to Sikkim

I'm in SFO waiting to board my flight to Hong Kong. I already learned that due to headwinds, the plane will have to stop to refuel and we will miss our connection to Bangkok. Sigh. I hope we don't loose a day in Sikkim. It's such a short trip.

I've worked up to the last minute to get ready for this trip and think things are in good order with Amy taking care of the cats and Annalise happy on her gap year. I hope to get lots of good excercise, walk, relax, and recover a bit from the last months stresses. Not bad to escape the incessant rain.

I planted wildflowers again and hope they work this time. I also hope I can find a way to get back to my research on toxic chemicals. It really seems important to me that chemicals be tested before people and the envoronment are exposed to them. I'd like to work on this, but am not at all sure of the best way to do it. The next weeks will be a good time to think.

I enjoyed Sedars the last two nights and am bringin Matzoh to India trying to keep Passover. We will see.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

New York Times Article: A Special Danger

Special Danger for New Mountaineers

April 1, 2006 Outdoors


On a cold night last April, I stepped out of Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon at 3 a.m. As freezing rain pelted us, my climbing partners and I clambered into a snow tractor that would take us up the first 2,000 feet of the mountain. We had come to Mount Hood to ascend the easy route on the south side as a backdrop for a magazine photo shoot to illustrate an interview about my style of decision-making when leading mountaineering expeditions.

At 8,700 feet, we reluctantly emerged from the relative warmth of the snow tractor and marched up the mountain in a blizzard. An hour later, we climbed out of the storm into a sparkling world high above the clouds. Mount Hood was encrusted with rime ice feathers and large cauliflower-like formations about three feet across. The neighboring Cascade volcanoes — St. Helens, Rainier and Jefferson — hung suspended in the sky.

When we reached the summit, I continued to the far edge of the small plateau, lay on my stomach on the snow, and squirmed out to peek over the nearly vertical slope leading up from the north side of the mountain. I vividly remembered ascending a route on this side called the Eliot Headwall — then considered the toughest route on Mount Hood — many years earlier. That ascent was probably the closest I came to dying on a mountain.

The beginning of a mountaineer's career, when energy and enthusiasm outpace experience and judgment, is said to be the most dangerous part. And I was no exception.

Early on a July morning, three new climbing partners and I hiked up to below the precipitous north face of Mount Hood. Looking up at the Eliot glacier, I saw translucent blue and green ice walls and white towers of ice called seracs. But far above, I could see huge boulders frozen into the sheer ice slope. We had to quickly ascend before the sun loosened the boulders and turned the route into a shooting gallery.

Ted and Jon, the more experienced climbers, roped together and headed up the glacier, leaving me roped to Greg, a novice like myself. Greg moved in slow motion as he led us up a short wall of almost vertical ice. I plunged my ice ax into the snow and wrapped the rope between us around it, carefully feeding out rope as he moved upward. This way of safeguarding a climber is called a belay.

When Greg reached the top of the ice wall, Ted and Jon were far ahead. Greg did not stop to rig a belay to protect me in case I were to slip. I didn't ask him to, because we would go faster if we moved at the same time. The sun was softening the slopes, small rocks were beginning to whiz down, and I wanted to get up and off the headwall as quickly as possible.

Suddenly, the snow below my right boot gave way. I struggled for balance and felt myself falling off the face. I yelled, "Falling," the climber's time-honored signal of the obvious, plunged my ax into the ice, and reduced my fall to a slow slide. But then the rope between us pulled Greg off the slope. He, too, began tumbling, yanking me out of my attempted self-arrest. We were both rolling and bouncing down the slope. I did an inadvertent back somersault, landed on my head — fortunately, I was wearing a helmet — and thought, "You've really blown it this time." An image flashed through my mind of my falling hundreds of feet into an enormous crevasse gaping open below the headwall.

Then I felt a painful jerk around my waist and found myself hanging by the rope tied to my harness. Greg was similarly stopped 20 feet across from me. Miraculously, the rope between us had snagged over a small serac poking out of the face. The rope had sawed through most the serac, leaving about an inch of uncut ice. Greg and I were suspended on either side, our lives depending on that finger of ice. Shaking with relief, I quickly chopped a platform in the ice big enough to stand on and scrambled onto it. Greg inched across the steep slope and joined me in my perch.

Ted and Jon hurried back down. "That's the best fall I've ever seen!" Ted said. "I sure wish I'd had a movie camera."

After we rested for a few minutes, Jon suggested that we finish the climb. "The safest way off the headwall is straight up and down the other side," he said.

Shaken, I followed their lead up melting ice slopes mixed with loose rock and mud for the next six hours. Boulders loosened by the sun thundered down on either side. Several large stones glanced off my helmet.

In the late afternoon, we reached the top of Eliot Headwall. Ted exclaimed with enthusiasm that we had made a new route on the mountain, but I didn't care. I was just glad to be alive. As we ran down the south side of Mount Hood that July afternoon, I realized for the first time that mountain climbing could be a lethal activity.

My imprudent Eliot Headwall ascent was still vivid in my mind when we descended after the photo shoot. During the intervening decades, I never again had such a close call. Had my nearly fatal fall helped me to make better decisions, to be wiser in my choice of partners and not attempt routes beyond my abilities? Had it tempered my youthful feelings of immortality and extreme optimism?

On Mount Hood, I learned the importance of taking every step with care and deliberation. The misadventures of our youth, if we live to tell the tale, can influence the course of our lives.

Spring newsletter

I am just back from the where UK I spoke at a mountain literature conference in Leeds and was interviewed on the popular BBC Women’s Hour My other news is that Harcourt bought the paperback rights to Breaking Trail to come out next March.
The first in a series of Outdoor adventure articles I’m writing for the Sports section of the New York Times was published April 1 and is at the end of this message.
and there's an interview about Breaking Trail in the Berkeley Monthly
Happy spring,

Annalise and I found Burma to be one of our favorite countries. The people are kind and compassionate and the landscape is stunning. Trekking through the tribal villages is reminiscent of walking in the
Himalayas with the addition of temples of every possible shape and description.

I’m planning to return to Burma this December to trek, visit ancient temples and also the NGO we are supporting that brings water roads, schools, health and family planning education to the tribal peoples in Shan state. Part of the trek fee will support these charitable programs. This trip starts in the capital of
Yangon, and features touring, biking, and hiking amidst the temples of Bagan, treks through tribal villages in Kalaw area, and relaxing at Inle Lake. An optional extension will take us to the tranquil beach at Ngapali for snorkeling

My daughter Annalise is in Guatemala now very happily teaching at a girls school, studying Spanish, and living with the same loving big family with five teen aged daughters where she lived two summers ago.
She is writing about her gap year at

2005 Holiday Letter

After neglecting this blog for some months, I thought I'd begin again with our 2005 holiday letter below.
Happy 2006. I feel optimistic that this year our country will wake up to the dangers of poverty, climate change, and war and begin to plot a more reasonable course.
Last year was one of changes for our family. My mother died after a long illness in August which was not a surprise but sad nonetheless. There are some photos of her and a paragraph about her life on the reverse side of this letter. Putting this together was healing for me.

Other changes were happier. Annalise graduated from high school and is having a wonderful gap year before she begins Stanford in the fall. The past months she worked with North Andaman Tsunami Relief in Kuraburi, Thailand setting up an English teaching program for villages that had been hit by the tsunami. In November she was flown back to New York where she was one of five US teens to receive a NetAid Global Action award for her work raising money and awareness of the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
I visited her in December for an enjoyable five day scuba diving trip to islands in the Andaman sea west of Thailand followed by an two weeks in Burma, one the most beautiful countries we have ever visited. I am now working to support an effective NGO there that brings water, schools, roads, and health education to tribal villagers in this wonderful but troubled land. Next December, I plan to lead a trip back to trek and visit temples and tribal villages in
Burma. This April, when blooming rhododendrons frame views of the highest Himalayan peaks, I'm leading a trek in Sikkim, a Himalayan region between Bhutan and Nepal. Friends and family are invited to join me.
Annalise and I led a fun trekking adventure to the mountains of Slovenia last summer, but most of my travel this year was related to the other big change in my life. After two decades of work, Breaking Trail: a Climbing Life was published by Scribner in October. I want to once again thank all of my friends for your invaluable contributions. These last months are a blur of book publicity; time spent with friends an family all over the country has been the best part.
Annalise is just heading off to the
Sea of Cortez to join her dad for a cruise in his boat. Then she’ll study Spanish and teach English in Guatemala and help make a documentary on the 1961 literacy campaign, a great opportunity for her. I’m hoping to find a useful way to go back to my work on environmental chemicals. Also I am looking into adding an addition on the flat roof of my house where I have a view. Moving to another house seems too difficult and expensive, though an addition is neither easy nor inexpensive.
I wish you all a peaceful and healthy New Year, and a happy Spring too.

Annalise, Julie, and Arlene in Burma in December 2005

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Friday December 23 Flight from Myanmar to Bankgkok

Sitting here on the Myanmar airlines flight, I’m amazed at the diversity of terrain and experience we have enjoyed during out two week stay in this “Golden Land.” Burma was the richest of the British colonies with mineral deposits, vast teak forests, plentiful flat rich soil, ports, a hard-working population including a wide variety of tribal peoples. But the history of this country has been tragic, especially since the 1962 military take-over. There is crippling inflation and little opportunity for the inhabitants.
Yet we met extraordinary individuals working hard to make better lives for their families and the country in the face of great difficulties.
I think first of a friend we met there who was imprisoned and tortured. Since his release, he has labored tirelessly and successfully to help the villagers in his area. He works with each village to decide what they need and then with their participation helps them obtain clean water, schools, roads, education about health, aids, family planning. Trekking in this region, we walked through clean prosperous villages where our friend had helped bring water to the village and desperately poor ones where he’d not yet worked. We also spent an evening at his hostel where some of the brightest children in the area live so they can go to middle and high school, not available in their villages. Listening to our freind talk of peace and foregiveness to those who tortured him and his countrymen, I think of Nelson Mandela and of Ghandi.
I have a number of ideas to try to assist our friend's work helping villagers from a variety of ethnic groups to a better life. I will write more about this soon.

Amazon Today: #5,694 in Books
(This is amazing. Breaking Trail seems to do better when I’m away!)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sunday December 11 A conversation about Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

We are in the Bangkok airport on our way to Myanmar. I have heard there isn’t free access to the internet in Myanmar and am not sure if I’ll be able to continue writing this blog very often until after my return Dec 23, but still one never knows the unlikely places one can find an internet café.
I had a very interesting conversation with a Pakistani who had been in Musharraf’s cabinet, who was sitting next to me on the flight to Bangkok. When I asked about how things were in his country, he said the Pakistani people were so unfortunate to be deprived of democracy and in a military dictatorship, and that that government was supported by the US.
He is a strong believer that democracy is the best system because the leaders are ultimately responsible to the people, and said he thought that the US support of dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in what our leaders short-sightedly think is our best interest, is indeed the contrary. He spoke at some length about angry young men of Saudi Arabia, being responsible for September 11 and that their anger was based on our keeping their corrupt monarchy in power. I wonder if there is any way to get this message to Americans who believe we are spreading democracy.

My holiday newsletter

I just sent out a holiday newsletter and thought I’d post it on my blog in case you don’t receive it. Please let me know at if you’d like to be added to the list. I usually send messages four times a year or so, but have been sending them more frequently this fall.

For the Holiday Season: A Book, an Adventure, and a Good Deed

Dear Friends,
As a beautiful dawn breaks over the Ko Surin Islands off Thailand where Annalise and I are enjoying our first ever dive trip together, I wanted to share with you with an eclectic list of suggestions for the holiday season.
My first suggestion is a holiday present that will, I trust, entertain and inspire the recipient. This gift is my memoir Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life, my endeavor of the past decades, written to help the reader, and me too, understand: "How does an over-protected Orthodox Jewish girl from the Midwest who doesn't like to take risks end up leading expeditions to some of the world's highest and most dangerous mountains?"
For a more major gift, consider giving a loved one or yourself one of my Himalayan adventure treks. So far I have a rugged high altitude trek to Tibet planned for April, a gentle trip to Sikkim in November, and I do hope to return to Nepal soon.
And finally, I would like to share with you below a brilliant column from the New York Times telling how we can do a simple act that will help stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
Consider taking a few minutes in the next days to write to your Congressman or Congresswoman suggesting that the US House pass the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. This legislation, which would apply sanctions on Sudan and pressure their government, who is sensitive to world opinion, to stop the killing, passed the Senate unanimously but now faces an uphill battle in the House.
According to NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff "?if only 100 people in each Congressional district had demanded a stop to the Rwandan genocide, that effort would have generated a determination to stop it. But Americans didn't write such letters to their members of Congress then, and they're not writing them now."You can get more information for your letter and other suggestions for how to help at
Annalise plans to work on this. If you want to help her or know any one else (especially young people) who might want to work with her, please contact her at
We head for Myanmar where we will probably be out of email contact for much of the next couple weeks and then home Dec 23.
We wish you a joyful holiday season.


For a holiday present, consider an autographed copy of Breaking Trail, available on my website at , from, or at your local independent bookstore. If the store doesn't have it in stock, they can easily order it.

"Disarmingly honest...refreshing. Provides the requisite bits of grace, glory, strength and pain: the stuff of all worthy ascents."
-- New York Times Book Review, October 2, 2005
This is an engaging, well-written adventure should be required reading for young women of today who haven't experienced the closed doors and closed minds that Blum conquered as a women student, scientist, and climber.
Mountain climbing drama comes to life as mountaineer, biochemist, and author Arlene tells the story of how she got to be a climber, moving from an overprotected Chicago childhood to reach some of the highest mountains on Earth. Each chapter starts with a memory from her early life, which serves as a starting point to trace an element which contributed to her becoming a climber. A fascinating account.
-- Midwest Book Review
"Breaking Trail is a magnificent and compelling story. Blum leads the reader into beautiful, exciting, and terrifying world of mountain climbing. Her writing soars. She skillfully conveys the drama, mind set, and courage that it takes to go to places where few have ventured ."
-Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica
"Arlene Blum's gripping and intensely personal narrative of her life among the enchantingly beautiful, but dangerous, high peaks is a profoundly encouraging story for all of us who battle to climb our own inner mountains.
--Royal Robbins, pioneering climber, businessman
Breaking Trail reinvents the climbing memoir. It is not simply the story of "one damn peak after another"; rather, it is the record of a woman's experience of the social upheavals of the 1960s and beyond as they were played out on the world's highest terrain.
--Maurice Isserman, Mountaineering Historian, Professor of History, Hamilton College.
"Why we climb is never an easy question. Arlene searches her soul for her own motivations and in doing so tells with insightful and inspirational prose a story that spans her childhood, career as a scientist, and brings her to the roof of the world."
--Conrad Anker, author of The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest
A more than worthy sequel to Arlene Blum's Annapurna, this is by far the best mountaineering book I've ever read -- and I've read hundreds of them--Janet Brown

In April 2006, I'm planning a three-week Tibet trip. It will including 14 days of trekking in the Minya Konka range of eastern Tibet (called "Kham" in Tibetan), and visits to Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and cultural sites. Co-leader Pamela Logan speaks Tibetan and Chinese, has extensive knowledge of this region, and founded the Kham Aid Foundation, which operates charitable programs for Tibetans. Part of the trek fee will support Kham Aid's charitable programs.This rugged high altitude trip starts in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, and features trekking in the high and spectacular terrain west of Mount Minya Konka, at 24,935 feet. The highest pass we will reach is Buchu La, at 16,000 feet. Horses will carry the baggage and be available for occasional riding. An optional week in Lhasa will follow.

Sikkim is an area which I have wanted to explore ever since walking across it during the Great Himalayan Traverse. This comfortable and moderately paced trekking trip includes views of Mount Khangchendzonga and Mount Everest, forested river valleys, high ridges, ethnic hamlets, diverse - Lepcha, Bhotia and Nepali people, terraced cultivation, Buddhist temples, and a lot more. Please let me know if you might be interested in joining us and would like more information.

My final suggestion is for a mitzvah or good deed that can help stop the genocide in Darfur. Annalise is planning to organize a campaign to write letters after her return to the US in January, so please do send her a message if you'd like to help, or know others who would like to at . Here's Nicholas Kristoff's complete column from

What's to Be Done About Darfur? Plenty

In 1915, Woodrow Wilson turned a blind eye to the Armenian genocide. In the1940's, Franklin Roosevelt refused to bomb the rail lines leading toAuschwitz. In 1994, Bill Clinton turned away from the slaughter in Rwanda.And in 2005, President Bush is acquiescing in the first genocide of the21st century, in Darfur.
Mr. Bush is paralyzed for the same reasons as his predecessors. There is nogreat public outcry, there are no neat solutions, we already have our handsfull, and it all seems rather distant and hopeless.
But Darfur is not hopeless. Here's what we should do.
First, we must pony up for the African Union security force. The singlemost disgraceful action the U.S. has taken was Congress's decision, withthe complicity of the Bush administration, to cut out all $50 million inthe current budget to help pay for the African peacekeepers in Darfur.Shame on Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona - and the White House - forfacilitating genocide.Mr. Bush needs to find $50 million fast and get it to the peacekeepers.Second, the U.S. needs to push for an expanded security force in Darfur.
The African Union force is a good start, but it lacks sufficient troops andweaponry. The most practical solution is to "blue hat" the force, making ita U.N. peacekeeping force built around the African Union core. It needs more resources and a more robust mandate, plus contributions from NATO orat least from major countries like Canada, Germany and Japan.
Third, we should impose a no-fly zone. The U.S. should warn Sudan that ifit bombs civilians, then afterward we will destroy the airplanes involved.
Fourth, the House should pass the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. Thislegislation, which would apply targeted sanctions and pressure Sudan tostop the killing, passed the Senate unanimously but now faces an uphillstruggle in the House.
Fifth, Mr. Bush should use the bully pulpit. He should talk about Darfur inhis speeches and invite survivors to the Oval Office. He should wear agreen "Save Darfur" bracelet - or how about getting a Darfur lawn sign forthe White House? (Both are available, along with ideas for action, He can call Hosni Mubarak and other Arab and Africanleaders and ask them to visit Darfur. He can call on China to stopunderwriting this genocide.Sixth, President Bush and Kofi Annan should jointly appoint a special envoyto negotiate with tribal sheiks. Colin Powell or James Baker III would beideal in working with the sheiks and other parties to hammer out a peacedeal. The envoy would choose a Sudanese chief of staff like Dr. MudawiIbrahim Adam, a leading Sudanese human rights activist who has been pushingjust such a plan with the help of Human Rights First.So far, peace negotiations have failed because they center on two groupsthat are partly composed of recalcitrant thugs: the government and theincreasingly splintered rebels. But Darfur has a traditional system ofconflict resolution based on tribal sheiks, and it's crucial to bring thosesheiks into the process.
Ordinary readers can push for all these moves. Before he died, Senator PaulSimon said that if only 100 people in each Congressional district haddemanded a stop to the Rwandan genocide, that effort would have generated adetermination to stop it. But Americans didn't write such letters to theirmembers of Congress then, and they're not writing them now.
Finding the right policy tools to confront genocide is an excruciatingchallenge, but it's not the biggest problem. The hardest thing to find isthe political will.
For all my criticisms of Mr. Bush, he has sent tons of humanitarian aid, and his deputy secretary of state, Robert Zoellick, has traveled to Darfurfour times this year. But far more needs to be done.As Simon Deng, a Sudanese activist living in the U.S., puts it: "Tell mewhy we have Milosevic and Saddam Hussein on trial for their crimes, but wedo nothing in Sudan. Why not just let all the war criminals go. ... When itcomes to black people being slaughtered, do we look the other way?"
Put aside for a moment the question of whether Mr. Bush misled the nationon W.M.D. in Iraq. It's just as important to ask whether he was truthfulwhen he declared in his second inaugural address, "All who live in tyrannyand hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore youroppression, or excuse your oppressors."
Mr. Bush, so far that has been a ringing falsehood - but, please, make it true.

Please contact us if you would like your name to be taken off this e-mail list or would like more information about Arlene Blum's lectures, leadership or intercultural classes.

To see photo essays from Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life, go to
To read about Arlene's book tour and Annalise's gap year, go to

Friday, December 09, 2005

With Patti Kenner, Ruth Gruber, and Annalise at Patti's wonder book party for Breaking Trail in Manhattan

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Hiking outside Seattle with Val and the Weltis in October

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Saturday , December 10 Kura Buri Thailand

It is very early morning and I’m sitting on the porch above the river back in the little cabin above the river where Annalise has been living, listening to a symphony of frogs, crickets, and night birds interrupted by occasional loud squeaks from the gecko resident in the walls.
The dive trip to the Similian and Surin Islands and Richalieu Rock was one of the best of my many years of diving and an amazing introduction to diving for Annalise at age 18. The Thai food at meals was delicious, the boat (with large Buddha eyes painted on the bow) comfortable, and Sea Dragon Divers who ran the trip were extremely competent. The trip had to be well-organized with 20 divers, a dive staff of five and a crew of six on a not so big boat. I would recommend this live-aboard trip as an excellent one at an affordable price. for more information.
We made more than a dozen dives and saw lush coral reefs full of brilliant tropical fish, moray eels peering our of the rocks, lionfish with their outrageous fluted and striped fins, turtles and larger fish calmly swimming by, and the whole range of invertebrates from tiny nudibranchs in brilliant colors to giant clams. We also saw lots of other divers on these popular reefs, very different from my early dives where a buddy and I would have a reef to ourselves.
Today we will visit a village where Annalise taught English to say goodbye. Her class today was cancelled as most of the villagers are out fishing for jellyfish.
Tomorrow evening I will do a book event in Yangon, Myanmar.
Amazon #17,587 in Books

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sunday Leeches in the Jungle

It’s three in the morning and I’m back on the platform above our treehouse in the canopy of the Thai jungle listening to the river and the symphony of cicadas and other creatures of the night. The waterfall hike yesterday turned out to be hot, muddy, and, to Annalise's horror, full of leeches. We had much drama finding three fat leeches attached to her legs at our lunch stop, but she survived. We didn’t actually see a waterfall but I swam in a beautiful clear pool in the river. There shouldn’t be leeches now as this supposed to be the dry season, but it is still raining here which is extremely unusual according to the locals. More climate change?

Today is the birthday of the king of Thailand and there are many festivities planned. Annalise has a refresher dive class and we’ll leave tonight for our four day dive trip to some of the best dive spots in the Andaman sea. More of a treat than our waterfall hike I trust.

We went for a dive this morning. After a lot of organising gear, driving and boating, the water was rough, my ear hurt, and I felt claustrophobic and sea sick. Sigh. I hope the dive trip is better.

#10,027 in Books

Sunday Leeches in the Jungle

It’s three in the morning and I’m back on the platform above our treehouse in the canopy of the Thai jungle listening to the river and the symphony of cicadas and other creatures of the night. The waterfall hike yesterday turned out to be hot, muddy, and, to Annalise's horror, full of leeches. We had much drama finding three fat leeches attached to her legs at our lunch stop, but she survived. We didn’t actually see a waterfall but I swam in a beautiful clear pool in the river. There shouldn’t be leeches now as this supposed to be the dry season, but it is still raining here which is extremely unusual according to the locals. More climate change?

Today is the birthday of the king of Thailand and there are many festivities planned. Annalise has a refresher dive class and we’ll leave tonight for our four day dive trip to some of the best dive spots in the Andaman sea. More of a treat than our waterfall hike I trust.

We went for a dive this morning. After a lot of organising gear, driving and boating, the water was rough, my ear hurt, and I felt claustrophobic and sea sick. Sigh. I hope the dive trip is better.

#10,027 in Books