July 7, 2004

New record: highest peak climbed!

After Cotopaxi Sabine and I (Dario) moved to the region of Chimborazo; - with 6310 m the highest mountain on our planet measured from the center of the earth.

There we did presentations at the schools of Marcopamba, Santiago and San Jose de Chimbo. The school at Las Queseras also joined the drawing contest .

The students were very happy to receive the colouring pencils
sponsored by Caran d'Ache. But could have done with more and we hope that Caran d'Ache www. will be able to donate some more boxes .

In Chimbo we also had a one hour radio interview.

The people in San Jose de Chimbo are specialists in making fire works for the whole country. During our stay, there was quite a dangerous party for San Peter in San Jose de Chimbo and Santiego...and we enjoyed the food .

More dangerous than the party was the climb of Chimborazo . We started at midnight. The glacier was technical because of the "Blankeis" till 5700 m. The weather was just perfect and we had a full moon : We were able to see to the coast. Just before the main TOP there were very difficult and ugly crevasses which we had to pass.

On the 3rd of July, at 6.30 h we were on the highest mountain of our planet. - Two new records: 1. It was the first time somebody climbed Chimborazo only with muscle power from the sea to the TOP. 2. It was the first time somebody climbed it from the TOP of Europe and the TOP of Switzerland to the TOP of Chimborazo only with human power and nature's force!

After the Blankeis I had to make the trek to the "Büsereis" further up; - result, I was exhausted. It was so cold that even the tea was ice. The picture camera worked for two pictures and so we only kissed each other and didn't take a rest. The reason why we rushed down like maniacs was because the glacier has retreated so much in the last few years that there is a high risk of rock falls in the lower part: On the way up a stone crashed into my shoulder and we really didn't want to be there when the sun touches this face. That's why we were back in the refuge at 10am and very happy! Just before that I broke my crampons.

Back in Quito Reno offered us to stay in his wonderful bed&breakfast called Hostal Toa.

Today we got the new passports from the Swiss embassy and tonight we start heading for the boat.

Posted by dario at 3:24 AM

July 21, 2004

New record in media

The newspaper Sarganserlaender published an articel about the new record on Chimborazo and two days ago we were in the news (TV) here in Ecuador.

At the moment we are biking back to the boat and fighting with the dogs.

Posted by dario at 3:07 AM

July 24, 2004

The Ecuadorian Rainforest and the Oil Exploration Industry.

While Dario and Sabine were in Chimbarazo, we (Fiona and Eleanor) decided to take a bus from Quito over the Andes to Coca. Our twelve hour journey took us along narrow stony roads through valleys and gorges and over shaky bridges with large drops below. To the Ecuadorians this region is more famous for oil production than the rainforest that we went to see. Along the whole journey the oil pipeline followed the road and the rivers from Lago Agrio and Coca. The pipeline runs northwards to central and north America and although some refining is done in Ecuador most of the oil is exported.

In the 1980’s, companies like Texaco and Chevron started to drill for oil in the rainforest and small villages developed rapidly into busy towns due to the influx oil workers. Oil production brought jobs but also significant environmental problems due to oil spills into the ground and rivers and the destruction of the rainforest. There are still some ongoing court cases trying to make the oil companies liable for the problems they caused in the 1980’s. However, without established environmental laws and the lack of the polluter pays principle, there the struggle against the oil companies to clean up will continue. Many parts of the north Orient, in particular, remain polluted from the legacy of the oil industry.

In Coca, oil production is still the main industry but it is now operated by companies such as Repsol, Igip and Ursa. BP operate there under a different name. I noticed that Texaco have several fancy petrol stations throughout the region. Diesel costs $1.037, Extra $1.48 and Super 2.099 per gallon. Oil production in the area is still very active and is likely to continue with the increased exploration of the rainforest. Oil spills still occur mainly due to earthquakes and landslides along the pipeline route.

The rainforest region is controlled by tribes of indigenous people who traditionally lived very basic lives dependant on the biodiversity of the forest and the river Napo. The oil companies have to do deals with the natives in order to start drilling and usually offer facilities such as new schools, motors and canoes. The natives own the property rights to land on the surface however the Ecuadorian Government owns the rights to the ground under the surface and can override the decision of the tribes in the event of a dispute with the oil companies.

We took a boat with a group of twenty other eco tourists about four hours down the Napo River to Yuturi Lodge. The place was utter paradise and we spent 3 days exploring all aspects of the wetlands and the rainforest in the area. We caught a glimpse of the very rare pink dolphin and giant otters, as well as various monkey species, snakes and lots of large insects such as tarantulas and centipedes. There was birds and wildlife everywhere and it was hard to imagine that this environment is being destroyed continuously for agriculture and forestry throughout the Amazon. I was constantly analysing our impact on the area by just being there. But our guide Alex Alvarado believes that eco tourism is what will save the rainforest because if the natives see the value of the forest for tourism they will keep it. Many of them are turning away from the forest for their livelihoods and are living off the economy which is dependant on the oil industry, so they don’t need to keep the rainforest.

On Sunday, we were invited to visit some native homes. In the first house we were invited to buy some handmade jewellery and souvenirs typical of the indigenous culture. I noticed that the manager of the Lodge gave the family a large container of Ursa diesel oil, probably as a present for allowing us to visit.

In the next house we got a great insight into the lives of a typical family. Most of the people live in raised huts along the river. I asked Raphael, the man if the house, if he had noticed any change in the Napo River over his lifetime. He said that it rains more and the river is in flood more often and the level of the water is higher than the years before. This makes it difficult for them to navigate the river and is particularly dangerous for the children to go to school by canoe. The natives increasingly need motors to enable them to go up and down the river to Coca. It seems like a Catch 22 to me and I couldn’t help thinking what would happen if they could link the rising river waters with the activities of the oil companies, burning oil, global warming and climate change? But the only thing they seem to care about is dollars and oil. We didn’t have the opportunity to visit schools in this area but it would be a very interesting project to undertake.

Posted by at 9:19 PM

July 25, 2004

Ready for Galapagos

Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, La Libertad, Ecuador, day 600

Biking total: 60 days, 2979 km, 21'000 altimeters.
Climbing total: 240 days, 3151 km, 118'400 altimeters.
Sailing total: 300 days, 8873 nm, 26 altimeters (Panama Channel)

After Cotopaxi and Chimborazo we visited the school of Las Queseras on the South face of Chimborazo.
In these native communities high up in the Andes the "minga" still exists: All people come together to participate on community work like fixing a road or run a community kitchen to feed their children.
The last 5 years these friendly people suffer a lot because the climate gets dryer and dryer. Today they are only able to produce half as much as before. Result: No money for health care and education! Sabine was shocked when she saw the community pharmacy for more than 2000 people. Students as well as teachers were exited about the Caran d'Ache colours we gave them. - Thanks again to Caran d' Ache and to Angel's family for their hospitality! We will stay in contact with Angel to organize more help for this wonderful community. This time we were able to support the natives with school material and explained the community how they can purify their water easily.

We said goodbye to this wonderful people and to Chimborazo and started biking down from the Andes through remote villages and rain forests to the coast.

Back in La Libertad at the sea! We made a new record: From the sea to Chimborazo and back only by human power! ... so we have had something to party:

Sabine bought a new guitar for the boat for US 30.-.

Nick Mitchell, the director of Dole Ecuador, and his family joined the party on Pachamama. He gave us a donation and will try to get DOLE International as a main sponsor for TOPtoTOP.

Puerto Lucia Yacht Club painted as a present our website on Pachamama.

The Swiss Club in Quito organized a fondue-party in Quito so that we were able to say goodbye to the Swiss ambassador and all our friends there.

Finally, Akko Kama, a mathematic from the Netherlands (on the right) calculated, that from the centre of our planet, Chimborazo is the highest point on earth and 2212 m higher then Mount Everest in the Himalayas!

Ecuador was another highlight on our expedition and we are very satisfied with the work we have done here. All this was only possible with the help of wonderful people, who became friends:

- Robert Reich, Swiss Ambassador
- mountain guide Reno Cesar Roman Silva, Bed and Breakfast Toa, Quito
- Galo Ortiz, George Stewart and Ricardo Palau, Puerto Lucia Yacht Club, la Libertad
- Mahra, Rachel and Victor Gonzalez-Hauri, Bed and Breakfast Villa Nancy, Quito
- Martha Garcia Bürki, Swiss Embassady
- Escuela Theodoro Wolf, Santiago
- Escuela Martinez Barba, San Jose de Chimbo
- Padre Jose Lois Garcia, Chimbo
- Christian Silva, owner of the Internet Coffe BlueNet in Quito
- Peter Specker, Swiss Consulate
- travellers Chris Duva, Beat Müller and Marc Bolz, Switzerland
- Jaques Jörin, President of the Swiss Clun in Quito
- cook Susanne Mettler and sailor Arianna Heubi, Quito
- Escuela Pachamama, Veronique and Wolfgang Orris, Tumbaco
- Family Herbert Fuchs with Swiss Corner restaurant
- Fundation Pomasqui
- Escuela Pestalozzi, Leonardo Wild, Tumbaco
- camara man Siegmund Thies, Tumbaco
- Adriana Ona and Ramiro Segovia from the language school, Quito
- Collegio Aleman
- Veronica Moreno, UICN, Quito
- mountain guide Eduardo Agama
- Escuela Marcobamba
- Escuela Las Queseras and Angel Rea and his family
- Family Peter und Sylvia Widmer and Universidad Catolica, Guayaquil
- Tom and Vicky Jackson on sailboat Sunstone
- Ada and Akko Kama on sailboat White Haze
- Bernie Schürch, Mummenschanz theater, Switzerland
- Family Nick Mitchell, director of Dole Ecuador, Guayaquil
- Cesar Viteri,Fundation Natura
- Cecilia Falconi, UNDP, Quito
- Peter and Patrice Matthews, Miss Trinidad
- Charlie and Suni Danforth on sailboat Cosmos
- Cyber Way, cafe internet, Alfonso Durán, La Libertad
... and more!

And now our last project on the Ecuadorian mainland

The Children’s Project of Lilo and Bruno Eichmann in Mindo, Ecuador.

Contact: Lbeichmann@hotmail.com

While Dario and Sabine were cycling from Chimborazo back to La Libertad, the other members of the team including Andrea, Stefan, Gabi and Nicole went to Mindo a two hour bus ride northwest of Quito, to visit a children’s project called Salem (coming from Shalom or Peace). The project is situated in a unique cloud forest environment well known for its impressive biodiversity. It is the only place in the world where more then 500 bird species have been counted.

Salem was founded by Gottfried Müller (German) seven years ago and the project aims to help the poorest children of the village of Mindo. He has also established several other charity organizations all over the world. Bruno and Lilo Eichmann are now working for Salem and in 2003 they sold their house in Switzerland and came to Quito hoping to be able to create a place of confidence, safety and support for the poorest children of the village. One of their major aims is to offer structures, that allow children to experience the values of respect, responsibility and caring for each other both in personal relationships and in their surrounding environment. Thanks to Salem, those children whose parents don’t have enough money to pay for school uniforms and books, can go to school and be educated. More than 40% of all women living in the countryside have never been to school!

Another problem is that most children in Mindo suffer from a lack of vitamins. Children in Salem get a rich, balanced meal
every day as well as help with their homework and basic medical treatment. We felt a stimulating atmosphere in Salem that allows a child to just be a child and to play with each other and develop new ideas. The children can use toys, drawing materials and learn how to sew, knit and do embroidery . They can read books in the library and spend time in the big garden outside.

The future plans of Lilo and Bruno Eichmann are to establish a wood workshop, to teach gardening, upgrade the medical room and add seven more sleeping places. This project will only be possible with direct donations. If you would like to contribute to this project you can do so through TOPtoTOP and we will ensure that the full donation is given directly to Salem. The TOP to TOP Account Number is; TOPtoTOP,
Grünaustrasse 1.
CH 7320 Sargans
Post Account No. PC-90-119336-1
Remark: Salem

For payments outside Switzerland please go to the website on www.toptotop.org/joinus and scroll down to the bottom.

If you are a carpenter, bricklayer, gardener, nurse, teacher for sewing and needlework or think you can offer another skill then you can also apply to become a volunteer by contacting Salem on Lbeichmann@hotmail.com You can be part of a very committed team and work in this fascinating rich environment surrounded by cloud forest. The village of Mindo is a recreation area for the people of big cities nearby.

Visiting Mindo was a fantastic experience for us and we would recommend you to visit there.

Posted by dario at 1:19 AM