New Jersey, New York!

I think this post may take some time. I have so much to write about, so will have to just condense it as much as I can I. Reason is I just spent the last weekend in New York, staying actually just over the Hudson in Jersey City, and had the most fabulous weekend imaginable.

Now on the face of it, this may appear to not have much to do with Kilimanjaro, but actually it wouldn’t have happened without it, and moreover the weekend I think has opened up the possibility of an adventure every bit as great as Kilimanjaro itself. That may be blasphemy of course, even though I wrote it, but all will soon be revealed…..

So the weekend (or actually five days in total, taking full advantage and more of the Bank Holiday weekend) was spent with Heather, who those of you who have followed this blog from way back will know I met for the first time doing Kilimanjaro. Having kept in touch via email, Heather invited me to come and see New York, and I couldn’t refuse, so that was that!

I very nearly thought the trip wasn’t going to get off the ground at all, as between BA strikes and volcanic ash clouds I was concerned that the anti-travel gods were conspiring against me, but all was good in the end. I feared on the journey over to Newark from Heathrow however that all was going too smoothly, when the plane got diverted due to storms to Boston. Just my luck! Thankfully this was a brief-ish delay and I was only around four hours late overall.

It was fantastic to see Heather. I think we are pretty like-minded in terms of outlook and sense of humour, and the whole time there was just a blast. I had been to New York City several times before, but not for a few years now. We sort of did the touristy thing, and rode the big red bus and the Empire State Building etc., also taking in a game at Yankee Stadium where the Yankees annihilated the Cleveland Indians 11-2. Oh and we also went to see Mamma Mia on Broadway, which was just off the scale in enjoyment terms for me.

So here are some pictures from my trip:

First was taken on a ferry over from Jersey City to Manhattan.

Heading over the Hudson River to Lower Manhattan

Second is on the Hudson again, looking towards Uptown from the boat – this is very close to where the airliner crashed there last year:

Uptown and the Empire State Building from the river

Third up is quite a poignant sight – this is the new World Trade Centre being built on what has been known as Ground Zero for the last few years. The new building will be 1,776 feet high and is due for completion in 2013.

Construction in progress of the new World Trade Centre.

The next was taken at the entrance to Times Square from the ‘big red bus’ – ahead in the distance is the ball drop which happens on New Year’s Eve each year.

Times Square - too bad if you don't like crowds....

So the tour was great. We saw The Flatiron Building, The New York Stock Exchange, Central Park, 5th Avenue, The Brooklyn Bridge, The United Nations Building, the Chrysler Building, The Statue of Liberty, and Broadway, to name but a few places. It was a great tour, even if the tour guide was probably not the most entertaining or educational I have ever come across, and I am being very very kind to him here, believe me. Oh and I really loved seeing Grand Central Station too, it was the first time there for me. Mamma Mia was brilliant, the first time I had seen it – I love the movie too (should I admit to that?).

Here is a view back over to Jersey City from the Manhattan side:

'The JC' as it is known locally, from the other side of the Hudson

On the Sunday we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, which was great, and the views were stunning.

Downtown from the Brooklyn Bridge

Then it was on to Yankee Stadium for the game:

Don't think they've seen too many Sunderland shirts in 'The Yankee Tavern' before...

And here is Yankee Stadium from the outside:

The new stadium was completed just last year at a cost of a mere $1.5bn....

And here it is from the inside too:

Not too shabby a place really..

After the game we went up the Empire State Building, where thankfully, despite being threatened with 1 1/2 hour lines, there was actually no queue at all. It was a bit hazy at the top, but the views were fantastic nonetheless:

Uptown and the East River from the Observation deck

And here is looking towards Downtown:

Lower Manhattan, 'the JC' and the Hudson River in the distance, the 'Flatiron' building visible in the centre foreground.

OK, so enough of the touristy photos, you get the drift. Finally a piccie of two other friends I met at the weekend, first up is Louie:

Louie liked my flip-flops so much he started wearing them.

Next up is Rumple. Now Rumple was described to me as being ‘very muscular’. He may alternatively be ‘big-boned’ – what do you think?

I was not surprised my bag was so heavy!

OK, so now on the the very exciting part. Whilst there I was talking to Heather about my bike ride, and saying that whilst I am looking forward (with albeit not a little trepidation so far I might add) to it, I would love to do another adventure, and a ‘proper one’. So to my delight and surprise she said she would gladly do another one with me, and that made me ridiculously happy. Upon exploring this further, it seems we both have hankerings for South America, and the Andes. We discussed things like Machu Pichu, but to me whilst it looks great, I have the impression that it is just a bit over-touristed for my liking.

And so we got onto talking about some serious stuff. I mentioned that a colleague of mine had done Aconcagua. This started some serious googling, as a result of which Heather said that if she ever learned to be able to pronounce it, then she would do it. So after me trying to get her to recite it for about the next three hours I think we got there, and so we may just have a plan! Seriously though, Aconcagua is a monster. It is the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalayas, and at 22,841 feet, is about 3,500 feet higher than Kili. On top of that you have to carry your own kit, and it takes about 18 days, three of which are all above where we were on Kili, and you need ice-axes and crampons. I think we both looked at the descriptions and got fairly scared, which I suppose is good in that we are not just recklessly stupid 🙂 We also then considered Torres del Paine. Heather has wanted to do this for ages – it looks magnificent and is much shorter (about 7 days), much lower down, and more of (just a) trek. It looks beautiful. Or another possibility is Tupungato, which was done by a colleague of Heather’s and was recommended as a (presumably much safer) alternative to Aconcagua, although it is still a monster at 21,555 feet.

I have no idea where this will lead. I just know that I am excited beyond compare. I will not get too ahead of myself however, and know that there is much to do as far as planning and logistics if it is ever to get off the ground.

But you have to dream don’t you? When you have done Kilimanjaro it leaves you with such a sense of achievement, but also a sense of awe, of passion, of respect, for the mountains and for all of nature itself. I want now to follow on from that and to do more, to have more adventures. If this trip comes off to the Andes then it will be so much of a pinnacle for me that it might top even Kilimanjaro if that is at all possible. That is how much it means. Aconcagua would be the dream, and if it is possible for me, then I want to do it. If not then Tupungatu.

As they say, watch this space…………..

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