The events that shaped me into a mountaineer took place back in jan 2007, at bolivian soil. I’ve been a backpacker since my 18th birthday, after my mom passed away (she suffered a medical mistake, was considered dead and buried alive in 1996, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – long story, huge process, psychian charged for stealing patient profile records – my mom's of course – with the intention of hide proof against the hospital...long and sad story), a week after that I had an alcoholic coma and I was officially dead for 50 seconds, woke up with cardiac massage...Yeah, I know, not good. But at least I never touched drugs (besides drinking, which I stoped 3 years ago), and after all that mess I decided to change my life. So, I became a backpacker. My first trip was to Iguazu Falls and as usual I slept in the street and got myself a ride back home in a couple days more.
Since 1996 I am a backpacker, very well known here in Brazil, until just two years ago I used to help people with tips about backpacking and related kind of things. But, as I didn’t had enough money, my trips were only inside brazilian territory. My country is huge, and I had some fantastic 10 years of backpacking in Brazil. But, I wanted more. At august 2006 I decided to go outside my own country, got the plane ticket (which i had to pay in 6 months hehehe) to Santa Cruz De La Sierra, Bolivia, for next jan (2007). I quit my job and that’s it. The road was waiting for me, and my main goal was to visit the Machu Picchu ruins, the one place I knew since I was a little boy, read about it, saw tv shows about it…
The first day was a complete fun tragedy! I got to Santa Cruz in the middle of the night (around 2am) and went for the center to try to find myself a hostel to get some sleep before start my new kind of backpacking. But, when i got there, everywhere i went was fully booked. I never had problem in sleep at the street so...Went to a gas station and got some beers (paceñas!) and started drinking. After a while i went for a room search again, and a nice lady let me sleep at the sofa for a couple hours until the morning. That was great, one of my best sofa sleep ever...
When I woke up the city was a mess, I heard of a road block in Cochabamba and that was causing some problems around the area. But i didn’t care so much and went to the Bus station to get a ticket to La Paz. That’s a NO for me. All roads blocked, trains not working, the only way was to fly. I got back to the airport and got a ticket to Cochabamba (how stupid am i?! Ahahahahahh) two hours later. That probably was the biggest mistake ever, i jumped inside the problem just to save some money. When I got there, BUM! I was stuck. After several hours i manage one taxi that promissed me to take me to La Paz for just 100 dollars! But after 1 hour driving the driver quit, charged me for just 5 dollars and left in the middle of nowhere at some poor part of Cochabamba.
Everyone was walking, screaming, fighting with cops, throwing rocks...tsc tsc tsc...While walking every now and then i took a shot about something. One of them almost cost me my camera and a few punches on my face! I saw this sign someone did with some magic marker, complaining about the government. Of course, i took a shot. The people saw me with my camera and they grabbed me, thinking i was a reporter! I spent like half an hour talking to them trying to explain I was not a reporter, that I was just a brazilian Historian backpacker passing by. That was tense...
Before go to sleep i agreed with the other guys to hitch a ride with some workers on the back of an old truck by 4am. Woke up at the time and it was a cold night, probably –5°C. Got on the back of the truck and here we go, to cross the Cochabamba Sierra, and my goal was La Paz. Let’s go baby! :P
But, as usual, backpacking is always an adventure and nothing ever goes as planned. After a couple hours the truck brocked (overheated). So i jumped off the truck and got on the back of another truck passing by with corn crops! Hehehe, that was fun! I was so hungry I eat the corn raw! Anyway, a couple hours more and the road block stoped us definitely. I had no choice so I got off the truck and started walking. The altitude was around 3.300 m high. I had a heavy backpack (about 18kg), I was not used to carry such weight, and I had a bad case of meibomian cysts. There was thousands of people going up and down the road, walking, just like me.
I walked for like 10 hours, my huge cyst on the eye blow off and i’m pretty sure you can imagine the scene. I had it all infected, bleeding, I was really hungry and dehydrated, and I finally got to the top of that mountain. There was a sign by the road: “Zona de Cumbre – 4.496 msnm” (that means – summit zone, 4.496 meters above sea level). I was so happy I dropped my backpack, went back a few hundred meters and took that shot with the rocks at the road. Went back to the summit and got some rest...After like 20 minutes a taxi came by and the driver was yelling “Oruro”, “Oruro” (next city, still 125 kms away!). Walking I got almost to the end of the road block, which ended only a few kms after that point, the ride cost me only 35 bls (about 8 dollars at the time) because I had two people more with me inside the cab. In just 1 and a half hour I was in Oruro, got a bus ticket to La Paz, a nice room on a simple but clean hostel by the bus station, the first shower of the trip, the second meal, and 12 hours of straight sleep. Looking at the signs by the road, I saw I walked in two days a total of 43 kms.
That happened on jan 2007, i consider that mountain my first summit and my first andean summit. I was now a mountaineer, addicted. Now I am famous at my country not just as a puzzle lover or as a backpacker, now I write for the biggest brazilian website about climbing and mountaineering and I am a mountaineer for not even four years (will be in jan 2011!). Google already completes my nickname (when you get to the “f”) when you type it for the search, I can show my adventures and the brazilian mountains here at summitpost, a place where I met so many friendly people such as Marc, Eric, Liba, TyedyeTwins, Chad, Noondueler, Romek, Zeejay, Adam (gimpilator), Henry, Icypeak, Ojo, Icarreau, Rdmc, Winemanvan, SenadR, Azra, Flávio Varricchio, Marcelo (Mountainfriend), Antonio Giani, Afzal, Jasano, FortMental, Sarah, Silversummit, Aranka, CJ, Osvaldo, Belexes, Lodewijk, and a lot more. So, the mountains gave me a better life (not money, I hate money) and helps me to forget the problems for that 5 or 10 minutes I stand on a summit, and that’s the reason I climb for my mom, raise the portuguese flag and not a brazilian flag. My mom came to Brazil with 2 years old and never became a brazilian actualy, until the day she died (at 37 years old) she used a foreign identity.
That day, the day I suddenly climbed a 4000 m peak at the andes without any plans, that was the first day of the rest of my life.
External LinksA brazilian website to get mountains info, including gps files to download:http://www.rumos.net.br/rumos/
My youtube channel: www.youtube.com/parofes - Now with 250+ videos online!
The biggest brazilian website about climbing and mountaineering, for which I'm a columnist:
After that trip I wrote a book available for download as a e-book at 4shared (portuguese): E-book Parofes
One of many interviews i was for different websites about backpacking (portuguese, possible to use google to translate): http://junesmerth.wordpress.com/2009/06/06/entrevista-com-o-mochileiro-paulo-roberto-da-silva/
Additional info (Nov 4th, 2010)Today, nov 4th, 2010, i found some info online about the events i described here at my article regarding some of my life and how i became a mountaineer, the roadblock in Cochabamba, Bolivia, jan 2007:
> Wikipedia page about the problem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochabamba_social_unrest_of_2007
> The news about the roadblock by the US Embassy in La Paz!: http://www.megalink.com/usemblapaz/consulado/anuncios.htm
Thank you all by the votes and kind comments!