Category Archives: Uncategorized

Drain Bramage

I asked for the 50 soles in change back. She gave me a blank stare and said she already gave me back my change. We went back and forth as I thought I misunderstood her.

She pantomimed as she spoke that I gave her 100 soles, and she returned 50 soles. I looked at her as if she was crazy. I remembered only handing her a 100 skle note, asking if she had “sencillo” (change), and waiting for it. Then, I thought if she had handed it to me I would find it in my wallet.

I opened my wallet and saw a 50 soles note.

It had me wondering about the concussion I sustained while rock climbing a couple weeks back. I wondered how I could have blanked out the entire exchange, and if it was related.

I still have some residual dizziness in the mornings, which usually fades as the day progresses.

But this sort of brain edit had me thinking.

I didn’t go to the hospital, frankly because I wasn’t sure if my insurance would cover “hazardous” activities lkke rock climbing, and also I frankly didn’t think they could do much except prescribe pain killers or dizziness meds. Nothing that could affect the source, only the symptoms.

I asked my friend Yasmeen about jt and she said, ‘Oh, I had a ton of concussions playing soccer. Not a lot they can do except bed rest.’ She said she would go to the nurses office between classes to lie down in a darkened room.

But then, I thought not noticing my change could just simply be a late afternoon brain fog. Unless and until it happened again, it was nothing to worry too much about.

I figured, if I could still do a 4 day trek at altitude, and climb 5.10 off the couch I was still in reasonably good shape.

And the dizziness was receding.

Alain Robert

a d then there’s Alain Robert, you know, the guy that free solos huge buildings? I looked up his Wikipedia entry regarding his accidents

Suddenly, I feel alot better about myself. No comas, induced or otherwise.


Tomorrow I climb near Banos.


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Forbidden Fruit: Don’t Cross the Border Agent

Crossing Borders – Renewing my Peru Visa

I left Arequipa at 7am, missing my 6:30am time because my alarm didn’t go off, probably because I neglected to set it.

I planned on heading to Tacna, the southernmost town in Peru about 135 miles away, get there at Noon, then transfer to a bus to Arica, Peru, about 15 minutes across the border.

At the station, I was just in time to get an Olsura bus just about to leave. Cost at the time: $29 soles. You also need to pay for an additional ticket or tarifa for 2 soles. An additional fee/tax/what-have-you.

The bus was nearly empty, with only about 6 of the seats taken on the upper deck.

I was able to review some of my Spanish audio lessons along the way. I actually enjoyed having some extra time to catch up, ignoring the “Expendables 3” movie playing in Spanish overhead. They actually got similar sounding Spanish language dubbers for the voice-overs.

Arriving in Tacna, I had to transfer to a bus going from Tacna to Arica, which means crossing the street from the “National” bus station to the “International” one across the street. Seems to be an odd way of doing things – I mean, why not use the same building for both?

On this bus you just surrender your passport and take a seat. I had a brief instance of wanting to play tug-of-war with my passport. I mean, the guy didn’t wear any official badge or anything, could have just been anyone standing near the bus with a handful of passports. Felt very naked without it.

You also have to fill out a Visa form, making sure to mark “No” for things like transporting livestock, fruits, or over $10,000 in cash, etc.

Not sure if the bus was simply full, or if be was just doing a random act of kindness to an “extranjero” (foreigner), but the bus assistant let me sit up front next to the driver, while other folks got on the full bus afterwards, sitting on the floor, a few standing.

At this border, the Peruvian and Chilean border officials sit next to each other. The Peruvian guy looks over your “pasaporte,” then pushes over to the Chilean guy. If all goes well, the Chilean guy gives you a new PDI document:

Here’s the thing: no one tells you that this Chile PDI document is important. You need this in order to leave the country, even though your passport is stamped.Peru has an equivalent form.

Another annoying inefficiency.

Not sure what delay happened where, but our bus finally made it through Customs at 4:40.

Even though my friend Yun-Fen was able to get off at the border and get a return bus back,I couldnt detect how one would get a return bus back. I decided to just go the 10 kilometers from the border to Arica, and get a return bus back.

I got a tad turned around at the station, walking out, then back in, realizing that I was, in fact, already at the international station, and just needed to look around.

I finally asked this guy soliciting tickets if he was headed back to Tacna. He said he was, and that it was “Dos mil”, or 2,000 Chilean pesos. Luckily, I had already changed some of my soles to pesos, so I was ready.

The only US Passport in the pile.

He asked for my “documentos” and I handed my most precious travel document again to a complete stranger.

Funny, just the way things work. I got a seat on the bus back to Tacna.

As I sat, the bus driver asked for my “boleto”. I thought the previous guy said I paid onboard. He neglected to tell me that Chile needed an additional “boleto” as well, for another 350 Chilean pesos.

An additional fee all passengers must pay – for some unknown reason

I paid the “Dos mil” Chilean pesos for the ride to Tacna, hoping the border crossing was uneventful.

My friend Yun-Fen was able to just cross the border, then get a return bus, so I didn’t anticipate any difficulties, but just prior to leaving that morning I read a blog where the author said there is a 24 hour delay requirement, before they let you back over the border. I’m hoping this is not enforced, as I made my way back.

One of the things that struck me as I crossed the border is that nearly all the buildings on the Chile side were complete, with roofs.

Wow, roofed houses, whaddayaknow?

That may seem odd to someone from the US, but in Peru many of the buildings were unfinished, with steel reinforcement rods sticking up where roofs should be. Someone told me that he was told that you only paid tax on finished buildings, so that was the reason most buildings in Peru stopped before putting on a roof, leaving the rods sticking up, even though they had no intention of finishing the building. Not sure if that’s true, or not.

Border Problem

The Chilean guy passed my pasaporte to the Peruvian guy. When asked my profession, I made the mistake of saying “Soy voluntario” – I am a volunteer.

He angrily said I needed a special visa. Confronted by his anger, I lost my Spanish.

List of forbidden fruit

I tried to explain that I am, in fact, a turistico, I just happen to trade volunteering for a free room sometimes. It came out broken: I am a tourist. Workaway? Only volunteer trade free room.

He didn’t buy it. You could see him figuring what to do with me, with a line of people behind me out the door, and since the passport was passed from the Chile agent to him, I was now his problem.

I stood there helplessly, wondering what I’d do if refused entry. He finally stamped me with 30 days, which I guess is better than being stuck at the border.




Need to send luggage through x-ray, and declare anything weird or illegal

Well, the bright side is that this would force me to decide whether to go onwards to Ecuador, or just return and renew in 30 days. I’ve sort of overstayed in Peru anyways, time to move northwards.

With only 30 days (a luxurious amount of time, for some), I knew I needed to become more efficient if I wanted to do the things I wanted to do.

– Climb Volcan Chachani, a 6,000 meter (over 20,000′) volcano. See Nazca. Eat at some fine dining in Lima. Climb in Huaraz.

Not much else.

I’ve been made drowsy with time, volunteering to save money on rooms.

Now: time to act.

The time shift from Chile to Peru whacked me, 6:30 Chilean suddenly switched to 4:30 Peru. It’s earlier than I thought. With any luck I’d be back in Tacna at 5, then back to Arequipa by 10pm. Find some late night eatery.

Claro’s Crime against Nature, or Natural Advertising – you decide!

It finally dawns on me through my foggy brain that I need to go to the National terminal across the street. I buy a ticket on the Flores busline to Arequipa, leaving in 10 minutes at 5:30pm. When I ask when it arrives, the counter person says: in 7 hours. 12:30.


Well, it’s better than waiting until the night bus leaves, like at 10pm.

I pay the $20 soles, another $2 for the tarifa, and way we go.

Midnight rides

It’s 11:30 pm, and I’ve been sitting in this bus for 6 hours. Total, probably 15, with an hour more to go. If I knew it would have taken this long I would have done one leg as an overnight, then stayed in Arica for a day or two prior to returning. Yun-Fen advised me to take an overnight bus. Like she says, “Girl is always right!”


So, I only have 30 days. But I have already spent 90 days here, split between Arequipa, Puno and Cusco, now back to Arequipa.

How to cross at the Tacna/Arica border:

  1. Get a bus from the Arequipa Terraport to Tacna. Also pay the 2 sole tarif prior to boarding.
  2. At Tacna, cross the street to the International Bus Station and get on a bus from Tacna to Arica. Surrender your passport. Pay the fare on the bus. Fill out one of the custom forms.
  3. Do the customs thing. The driver or his helper will hand out your passport to give the border agent, along with your paperwork.
  4. At Arica, get on a bus back to Tacna. Remember to buy the Chilean version of the tarifa (350 pesos).
  5. Do the customs thing. Don’t say you are a volunteer unless you actually have that special visa. Don’t act sketchy. Don’t volunteer additional information. Don’t make a wise-crack. Stick to “touristica”.
  6. At Tacna, buy a return bus back. I prefer one of the more expensive lines (like Olsura or Cruz del Sur), as it is a long 6 hour bus ride. The semi-cama or cama (reclining) helps alot.
  7. (Optional) Stay overnight in Arica. The way I did it I started at 7am, and didn’t get back till after midnight. An overnight in Arica would have gave me some needed rest, and would break up the journey. Arica is a cool little town, with surfing, seafood and sand – might as well!

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Best Damn Hostal in Antofagasta!

The address was right, but it looked like it was an apartment dwelling,with 6 buttons to ring the residents. I didn’t see any sign for a hostal anywhere.

After rolling my roller luggage in circles trying to find anything that looked like a hostal, I decided to ask these 2 older gentlemen in front of a used furniture shop. They said something about going down the street and taking a right blah blah blah.

I decided to use and find a hostal on my own.

Apparently, a typical thing in Antofagasta is to list apartments for rent on Not official hostals. About the 3rd hostal, I finally find a sign: “Hostal D’Milan.

The door is opened by a huge Chilean guy named Juan Carlos. I managed to express in my rough spanish that I needed a room. He shows me a room with three beds, and after some miscommunication I gather that I would be the only one in the room. I say, “Fine,” tired of going in circles. After that, he drops it:

There are no locks on the door to my room, or any interior room, for that matter.

At any other time I would have bolted. But my gut said he was true to his word when he said he would watch closely, and that I shouldn’t worry. That, and my cable lock decided it for me.

Turns out, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Juan Carlos and his wife Merlida took quite good care of me. Juan even took me around in his car, showing me his beachside home, and trucked me to one of the sights: La Portada, a dramatic beach with huge waves, cliffs and even Condors circling. That night, we drank jote (Red wine and Coca cola) cervezas including a Michelada (beer+salt+lemon juice), and ate boiled oysters and clams till I could hold no more.

He even took me in his car to get bus tickets out to San Pedro a couple days prior to my trip, and said he would take me on my bus out in the morning of the trip.

Hostal owners aren’t so charitable, but these two were. Don’t let the unlocked doors fool you – this is the place to stay in Antofagasta!

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Chased by a Bull in Frutillar!


The bull was running, and omigod it’s running towards me!

Having not grown up among large farm animals, I had no idea what to do: run away, or stand and face it bravely like a matador?

I split the difference, crossed to the other side and sorta jogged-walked fast while looking over my shoulder. I figured if it crossed to my side of the road – then I would know. I figured I could dive into this ditch if things got serious.

He passed.

It’s always a little weird confronting something larger than you in the same no-holds barred space. I had a similar stroke of fear scuba diving in Cozumel when a huge grouper swam by me, as wide as I am tall.

When I saw the bull push through the gate and come towards me, I had no idea whether it was just taking a stroll – or, you know – coming for me!


Tallest building in Santiago – no idea what it is.

He went to where a herd of cows were in another field. Funny how they gathered around him, seemingly fawning over his massive studness.

So, okay, the bull probably wasn’t chasing me, probably barely noticed me, but in my mind I thought he was, and that’s got to count for something!

El Muro

My final day in Santiago I felt somewhat accomplished. I figured out the metro (subway), which on my first day, among a huge crowd, with a line behind me at the purchasing machine – seemed impossible. But this day, I figured it all out, found the right bus station (after a couple wrong stations), and then making my way to one of 3 rock gyms in the area: El Muro.

I figured out the metro! My mother would be so proud!

The walls were very small in comparison to my home gym of EarthTreks Golden. And, there was no set routes – everything was a rainbow route – meaning you just picked whatever hold you wanted to. Regulars seem to make up routes for themselves. One young rockstar picked out routes for other people. He was pretty impressive moving powerfully across the bouldering area, up through a cave route and traversing across  for a bit before downclimbing.


Saw this in a window in Santiago

If there is rock climbing nearby, I will find it

El Muro Rock Climbing, Santiago

‘Que es su favorito?’ I asked the waiter. ‘Yo?’ he asked. ‘Si.’ ‘Salami.’ Salami it is!

Double decker interstate busses. Seats recline all the way – perfect for overnight red-eyes

Bus station in Frutillar

I was curious how he’d do at EarthTreks.

The other curious thing was that no one had their own chalk bag – except for me. Everyone else dipped into a communal bag – probably owned by the gym. In this limited space bouldering area that sort of made sense. The bag was within reach of everyone who wanted to use it.


I didn’t speak to anyone, except for the desk person who spoke the perfect english he learned after a year in Vancouver, Canada.

I wanted to talk to my fellow climbers, but even with a shared activity, it’s not the speaking that’s hard – it’s the understanding what they respond with that is the hardest. I could feel the language barrier as stiff and solid as the rock wall.

Onwards to Frutillar!

Figuring out transport is always a bit difficult. Pushing through crowds and figuring which bus to take and where is difficult in your own language let alone another. But, with a few well placed questions I was able to figure things out.

The interstate bus cost about $24 US to take an 11 hour trip south from Santiago to Frutillar. It’s a red-eye that starts at 10:45 and arrived at 10am the next day.

I slept relatively well in the seats that reclined nearly horizontal. I thought, ‘the airlines could learn a thing or two from this.’

Frutillar was overcast, yet not rainy (yet). After meeting my host Ricardo, and having breakfast with him and his mom and dad (and a couple somehow related – not sure) we talked about his different projects and how I could help.

I don’t think it the project is well-defined, but I will find out more tomorrow. Basically help with the interface – whatever that means. I want to be able to contribute before I leave.

I’m staying in a large communal hostel house by myself. Another volunteer couple is staying in a different house.

Anyway, a short nap, and a hike to the beach and along the road marked my first day in Frutillar.

Oh yeah, and being charged by a bull 😉

On the shores of Lake Llanquihue

Apparently, Frutillar is big on meat and potatoes. What I received for my meals – A bowl of meat (beef) and a bowl of boiled and skinned potatoes.

Heated and potatoes sliced – it was pretty good!

My window view…till I changed rooms! I have a house to myself with like 4 rooms – and I can pick any room.

Una Piscina

Interesting looking restaurant nearby – may have to try it!

The bull looked like this…

…but to me, really looked like this

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Shed what holds you back, retain what is essential.

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After traveling a bit to Moab, Shelf Road and the EPC, I have been contemplating, nay taking action on reducing, removing and recycling my unused belongings. In my travels I’ve met several people who are living minimally: the vanlife, the camper trailer life, a life with only few possessions, and what I’ve found as I shed belongings that I once thought dear, that we can get by without most things in our lives, and that in fact what we once possess comes to possess us. What we own we have to defend, or it takes up mental space cluttering not just the physical space, but the mental and spiritual space as well.

I’ve been getting rid of a box or two of books every day for the past week. I’ve shed several bags of clothing, and plan to get rid of much more. I am even contemplating getting rid of my house – either renting it out, or selling it out right.

Every item I remove I feel lighter – mentally and spiritually. I see what these minimalists that I mean talk about as I own one less thing.

When I started considering minimizing, I kept getting recommendations to read this book by a Japanese author The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. It got me to start thinking that there is a way I could start doing this – getting rid of crap.

In my former corporate life, where I was making 6 figures, and would walk into any store and point at anything I wanted – and just buy it.


So I would just start to accumulate things, a motorcycle, a house, couches, expensive clothes, anything I wanted. I saw a jacket in San Francisco that cost over $600. Without a thought I would pull out my card and buy it on the spot.

But during the past 7 months of my 12 month sabbatical from work I’ve come to realize that these things need to go.

When I was out travelling in my 13′ Casita, through Shelf Road and up North by Northwest to Moab, with few possessions and a tiny home whose only way of powering up was through solar panels, that I was the happiest I have been in a long while. Nothing to hold me down or back or anything. I was responsible only for my own survival. And with survival taken cared of, I was responsible for everything else – my thoughts, my growth, my next adventure.

I just realized once I got back that I had to make big changes, and in order to make big changes, the first big change was to get rid of anything that I did not take any value from, that didn’t contribute to my life in a meaningful way.

Here is my start, follow me here to find out what happens on my minimalist journey.

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GripandClip is where I write on my adventures, whether it be climbing, or mountain biking or whatever. I’ll also write gear reviews,  adventures with my 13′ Fiberglass RV Conchita la Casita or basically anything else that comes to mind.

Like many of us,  I am a moderate climber that is trying to improve, but I think writing about moderates and local routes is valuable to the majority of folks that also climb in the moderate range. Not all of us are rock stars, but we probably ALL felt like a rock star climbing a 5.8 for the very first time.

I’ve noticed that we all seem to get to sticking points, usually around 5.10, and then hit a point of rising above it, and for a few of us – beyond. Or, like myself, languish at 5.10, occasionally rising to 5.11s, but really not caring so much, as it’s all! And there’s plenty to climb up to 5.10.

I started climbing in 2010, and almost immediately knew, even though there was a huge sucking sound when I climbed, that this was the sport for me. I was known for climbing trees as a kid, and in college I scrambled up the first and second Flatirons in high tops, not knowing what the hell I was doing really.

But, seriously climbing since 2010, accumulating gear and knowledge, trying to safely (and unsafely) navigate the learning curve enough to become proficient.  All of a sudden, looking at my gear closet I see 2 sets of rope, 3 shoes (with 2 more at Rock and Resole), a double set of trad cams, 3 helmets, etcetera, etcetera…

Now, my climbing has evolved to learning trad and even crack climbing. In climbing, there’s always a next level.

So, feel free to look around, and let me know if you found something you liked.




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