May 1, 2004

On the way to Ecuador

From Panama to our current position (02.17N/080.26W) we have had good
winds and the sea has been very calm: - perfect sailing conditions.
The Pacific seems to like TOPtoTOP! There were dolphins, whales and some strange birds welcoming us to this new ocean. The water is less salty than the Atlantic and just right to cook pasta. The waves are like huge hills and much more comfortable than in the Med or Atlantic.

Yesterday evening conditions changed when we tried to navigate around Cap Galera on the border between Columbia and Ecuador:
We have 25 kn of wind on the nose; and even worser, the Humbolt current from Antarctica is just opposite our course. Some minutes ago we just saw that we are on the same place like 3 hours ago.

So we have hard work tacking. We estimate to cross the Equator on Sunday and to be in Salinas, Ecuador at the Puerto Lucia Yacht Club on Monday afternoon. From Fiona we got the message that the Swiss ambassador Mr. Reich is happy to welcome us and to help organizing our stay!

IMPORTANT: for people who like to hike in the Andes or climb Cotopaxi or Chimborazo with us in June - July 2004: Please call 00871 7625 68 933 or email to

Some thoughts about developing countries in German:
Da uns die Lebensweise der Kunas sehr beeindruckte, hier noch einige Gedanken zu unserer Arbeit in Entwicklungsländern:
Eigentlich ist der Ausdruck Entwicklungsländer falsch!; denn in Sachen Klimaschutz sind sie den reichen Nationen weit voraus.
Das Leben der Kunas in den San Blas Islands ist exemplarisch:
Verkehrsmittel ist ein Einbaumkanu mit Segel, Elektrizität für die Krankenstation kommt von Solarpanels etc..
Im Gegensatz zu den bisherigen Schulbesuchen ist es in solchen Gemeinschaften deshalb nicht das primäre Ziel, die Schüler für Alternativenergien zu begeistern. Vielmehr geht es darum, ihnen das Selbstvertrauen zurückzugeben, indem man ihnen zeigt, dass ihre Lebensweise vorbildlich ist und unserem Planeten dient. Sie sollen erkennen, dass sie mit ihrem partnerschaftlichen Umgang mit der Natur nicht rückständig, sondern im Gegenteil fortschrittlich sind.

Aufruf an die Lehrer:
TOPtoTOP würde diese Schulen sehr gerne mit Schulen aus der ersten Welt zusammenführen, damit beide Seiten voneinander lernen können und das Verständnis für einander wächst.
Aufruf zu ACT NOW!
Weiter möchte TOPtoTOP Gemeinschaften wie die der Kunsas für ihren vorbildlichen, nachhaltigen Umgang mit der Natur danken und sie mit einem Geschenk belohnen. Mach mit, ACT NOW und beteilige Dich an der Farbstiftaktion für die Kuna-Kinder (vgl. exped report: first contact with native Kunas).

Posted by at 5:39 PM

May 5, 2004

Last call for climbing in Ecuador

In Balboa, Panama we have had a goodbye party with our friends from Scandinavia and Hanspeter. The Pacific was so calm that we were able to have normal dinner and eat like human beings with a fork and knife from a plate. There we met some new friends: dolphins and whales. We never saw so many dolphins and whales at the same time up until now. Our French crew were quite exited when they were playing with the bow. Elise screamed once so loud that my heart sank into my stomach, because I thought we are just going to crash against a big container vessel; - but she saw "only" a wale!
On the first of May Pachamama passed for the first time the equator. We are happy to report that Elise and Jonathan succeeded the hard tests of Nepteuse (Sabine) and Neptun (Dario).
Now we are heading to Quito to meet the Swiss Ambassador Mr. Reich and start organizing with him the next school presentations and the climb to Cotopaxi and Chimborazo. Note: Chimborazo is the highest mountain on earth measured from the center of the planet, because our planet is about 20 km larger at the equator.
Last call for people who would like to bike, hike or climb with us in Ecuador over the next few months. Please email ASAP to, if you are interested to join us.

Posted by dario at 4:11 AM

May 7, 2004

Warm welcome at the Swiss embassy

We arrived in Quito with the climbing gear and have had a warm welcome at the Swiss embassy today.

The secretary Mrs. Rachel Gonzalez-Hauri offered us to stay at her place. She is from Frauenfeld and owns together with her husband Victor the wonderful hostel Villa Nancy in the middle of the town.

The Swiss ambassador Mr. Robert Reich introduced us shortly with the DEZA director Walter Fust (Departament fuer Entwicklungshilfe und Zusammenarbeit) and we got the important message that the following year will be the year of ¨Sport and Environment¨in Switzerland!

Martha Garcia-Bürki, employee of the Swiss Embassy, helped us to get a new passport and finding the best bike-route from the coast to the mountains.

Our program for the next weeks:

We will stay in Quito till next Tuesday to organize school visits and media together with the Swiss Ambassy.

We will meet the director of the marina Mr. Ricardo Palau hopefully next Tuesday in Guayaquil and hope, that Puerto Lucia Yacht Club is going to sposor us a free slip for Pachamama.

Then we go back to Pachamama in La Libertad to take our Swiss CANYON bikes and bike back to Quito.

There we will visit the schools and the media between the 23th of May and the 13th of June.

All TOPtoTOP climbers meet at the 14 th of June 2004 at the hostal of Rahel and Victor in Quito. From 14th to 20th we will do acclimatisation hikes at Tambopaxi, climb Cotopaxi between 21th and 27th and Chimborazzo between 28th of June and 4th of July.

Then we will spend some days in Quito to collect some environmental friendly projects in the area, before we bike back to Pachamama to meet our two members Nicole and Gabi at the 15th of July in the Puerto Lucia Yacht Club in La Libertad.

As soon as the provisioning (we need lots of food!) is done we will sail to the Galapagos Islands. From there we go South to Aconcagua or Nord to Denali. This decision we will do next week depending where we have better repair and sailing conditions and also more support.

Our new Frensh members Elise and Jonathan mailed their TOPtoTOP-Panama-Channel-report in French:

Jonathan et moi meme, Elise, sommes un couple francais qui avons rejoint l equipe de Top to Top (Dario, Sabine et Hans Peter) pour participer a la traversee du fameux Canal du Panama. Mike, un australien arrive tout droit d Angleterre avec sa petite famille est venu nous preter main forte.

L aventure debute a 4h15, quand M. Gonzales nous rejoint a bord. Toute embarcation, qu elle soit grande ou petite doit avoir un equipage de 4 personnes au minimum plus un panameen.
Sous une pluie torrentielle, au pied de l ecluse de Gatun, nous sommes rejoint par un autre yatch et attachons solidement les 2 navires. Pour prendre place, nous sommes aides par les employes du canal qui tendent et fixent les cordages afin que les deux bateaux restent bien a l ecart des murs qui composent l ecluse. Devant nous, un cargo. Les grosses portes metaliques se referment, nous disons au revoir a l Atlantique. L eau commence a monter. Nous nous elevons ainsi de 8 metres environ. Les portes s ouvent a nouveau. L operation se repete et nous montons ainsi de 2 autres niveaux.

Sur le lac de Gatun, nous croisons des cargos et apercevons des singes dans la jungle. Le soleil fait son apparition. Enfin!

Apres 3 heures de traversee, nous arrivons a la 2 eme ecluse. Processus inverse : il faut maintenant descendre. Nous retrouvons nos amis suedois et nous nous attachons de nouveau.

12h: nous apercevons la derniere ecluse: celle de Miraflores. Des touristes observent le fonctionnement, vous pouvez en faire de meme en temps reel grace a la webcam installee la!
Nous prenons place pour un grand moment photo: les portes s ouvrent sur le Pacifique !

Posted by dario at 3:53 AM

May 11, 2004

Swiss ambassador will join on Cotopaxi

We left our climbing equipment at our base camp, - Villa Nancy in Quito.
The owner family Gonzales-Hauri not only sponsered our stay, they also invited us to Otavalo. We were on the market and met a lot of natives. The people here are happy and very friendly. We hiked to the Cascada de Peguche and around the Laguna Cuicocha to acclimatize.

On Sunday evening we met Reno and Padre Nino Calzada. Reno is a very helpful mountain guide, who will help us to organize the climbs and offered us to stay at Tambopaxi Lodge just at the bottom of Cotopaxi. The Padre will help us to organize some school visits and places to stay during our bike tour from the boat to the mountains. Today we got an official letter from him, so that we are able to stay at priests along the way.

Today we met also ambassador Robert Reich. He offered us to help with organizing the media and school presentations. He was extremly helpful and we got his sun's mobile for the time we are here!
He will climb with us Cotopaxi in the back of Quito. We fixed the date between the 18th and 20th of June, - it will be full moon at the 17th of June!

But the best is: Today is our 3th wedding anniversary and we love each other veeeeeeeeeery much!

Tomorrow at 5.50 a.m. we go back to Pachamama to get the bikes and bike up to the mountains. We just got the info that Reno is planing to join us with his friends.

We also got an email from Rainer Henfling and Katja Bohner. They want to join us next May for several months! - Super!

Last message we got: Veronica Moreno from the World Conservation Union wrote published a great story in Spanish about ToptoTop.

Posted by dario at 6:07 AM

May 15, 2004

Puerto Lucia Yacht Club sponsored the facilities!

Mr. Ricardo Palau of the Puerto Lucia Yacht Club sponsored TOPtoTOP the facilities in this great marina.
For all cruisers: This is really an alternative: - to explore Ecuador, instead to wait during the hurican season in Trinidad! It is dry, the people are friendly and all facilities are nearby. More soon...

We are on the bike and we do not know if we have internet access before we arrive in Quito next weekend.

Posted by dario at 10:26 PM

May 18, 2004

160 km biking on the first day

We left Pachamama today at 6 a.m. and biked 160 km to Guayaquil and arrived at 3 p.m.. Because we were sailing since July 2003, we didn't have the same fitness as after Swiss TOPtoTOP. But we are still a little bit proud about the long distance we made on the first biking day!
Again we can stay in Guayaquil at family Widmer's house, - origin from Solothurn, Switzerland. Silvia and Peter Widmer are so hospitable to us!

If you would like to call us, here is our mobile: 00593 9 775 95 36

Posted by dario at 6:26 AM

May 20, 2004

2750 altimeters in a day!

Yesterday we biked from Babahoyo to San Jose de Chimbo; - 2750 altimeters in a day and always in the subtropic rain! After this climb our legs hurts and the rain stopped as soon as we reached the Sierra. We have had a very warm welcome by the priest of chimbo, "Pepe"; - he is a relative from Martha Garcias from the Swiss embassady.
Now we are in good physical shape and enjoy the wonderful people and the maginficant landscape. At the moment we are in Garanda and will bike tomorrow to 4800 m over sea level to the mountain hut on Chimborazzo. - It will be the first time somebody climbed Chimborazzo from the sea only with human power.

Posted by dario at 7:59 PM

May 24, 2004

Biking to 4800 m over sea level

Villa Nancy, Quito, Equador, day 538

Biking total: 50 days, 2428 km, 19'400 altimeters.
Climbing total: 188 days, 3060 km, 106'700 altimeters.
Sailing total: 300 days, 8873 nm, 26 altimeters (Panama Channel)

We started biking from Puerto Lucia Yacht Club. Here are some thoughts and pictures about this unique place, where we got a slip for Pachamama sponsored:

To do an investment like Puerto Lucia Yacht Club in a country like Ecuador needs people, they believe in the future. An important issue of the innovative owner family Palau is to build sport facilities for children: - here some optimist sailors from PLYC, visiting Pachamama.
Thanks to this great marina, this beautiful country is now open for cruisers! It means also new job possibilities for young people in the marina and the tourism industry.
Tip: Stay during the hurricane season at PLYC and explore Ecuador and refit your vessel in this dry climate in the mean time! Nevertheless: sailing from Panama to Ecuador first, instead of sailing directly to Galapagos, means much less beating against the WSW-winds too.

On Sunday we were putting our super CANYON bikes together on Pachamama. The same day Peter and Silvia Witmer visited us on Pachamama and invited us again to their house in Guayaquil.

Early Monday morning on the 17th of May we left Puerto Lucia Yacht Club for 160 km to Guayaquil. In Guayaquil we have had an interview with a newspaper. Peter Witmer described to us the best biking road to Chimborazzo. Here in Ecuador the arguments are not only to get the shortest road from A to B with less traffic but more importantly to have a safe trip avoiding kidnapping, robbery and crazy dogs.

From Guayaquil we biked through the flat lands where the people cultivate rice. We slept in a cheap hotel in Babahoyo for 7 US dollars and locked the door with our CANYON bikes. The next day we climbed from nearly sea level up to 2750 m in the rain. The climate is subtropical, because the humidity from the Pacific crashes towards the Andes. Just in front of us, a track went too fast into a turn. Result: Bottles with sweet drinks all over the road. Just some seconds later there were lots of people stealing the bottles from the road. On this remote road we have had no idea where all these people were coming from!

As soon as we crossed the pass on 2750 m we descended into a beautiful valley towards San Jose de Chimbo. There we had a warm welcome from Padre Pepe. The next day we went only 15 km to Guaranda to relax our knees. On the way we saw that there is still a lot of work for TOPtoTOP! In the distance we saw our goal for the first time: - Chimborazzo.

On Friday the 21st of May we climbed to the pass on 4250 m between Guaranda and Ambato. People still live in this high altitude. There is a monument for Humboldt, maybe the greatest geographer. The kids had fun to playing with our CANYON bikes!

From the main road we biked another 20 km to the mountain refuge on Chimborazzo on 4800 m over sea level.
At the beginning of the climb we saw many vicunas, but then the weather turned really bad: First it was raining with a stiff breeze and then it started snowing. - Sorry, it was too bad to take pictures and I can not remember the last time I was freezing like that!
The guardian Ramon in the mountain hut couldn't believe his eyes: Two people with bikes in this weather. He offered us a hot soup and we went naked into our super YETI sleeping bags, because everything was wet and frozen.
From the boat to the hut it was 471 km and 6000 altimeters, all that in 5 days after one year sailing; from sea level (Guayaquil) to 4800 m (hut) it was 76 hours; - so you think we were able to sleep like marmots, - negative, because of the high altitude we didn't sleep very well.

The next morning we saw Chimborazzo just in the back of the hut in the sun. We said goodbye to Ramon. On the downhill we stopped several times to study the route for the climb to the TOP of Chimborazzo. This we are going to do as soon as we have done some school visits and got our climbing equipment from Quito.

As soon as we got back to the main road it started raining and blowing again. Our goal was to kill altimeters as fast as possible to bike into warmer temperatures further down. By Padre Pepe in San Jose de Chimbo we were able to leave the bikes till we will need them for the ride back to the coast. In Chimbo we also organized some school visits in the region for the time when we are coming back to climb the TOP of Chimborazzo. Last Sunday we took the bus to Quito and got again a room sponsored in the Villa Nancy by family Gonzalez-Hauri.

Christian Silva owns the internet cafe BlueNet and offers us free internet access that we are able to do our work!

Now we are looking forward to doing some school visits in the area of Quito, before we head for the TOP of our planet.

If somebody would like to call us: Dial 00 593 2 256 3084 at around 1h or 5h or 13h MEZ.

Posted by dario at 10:01 PM