Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kilimanjaro progress #2

Well as Socrates is reported to have postulated ..

I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance

For better or worse Kilimanjaro beckons. This weeks learning points include:

  1. Carrying my 15Kg rucksack on 90Km of test walks this week has proved it's possible, but also really heavy! Water is the real culprit. 2.5litres of water is obviously 2.5Kg and as it stands there is no room for my Salomon Speedcross 2 shoes, that I hoped to take to go running

    If it is really too heavy after day 1 I'll transfer some contents into the porters bag, which is currently weighing in at only 1.5Kg (Sleeping Bag, Peanut Butter and Nestle Power Bars !!)

  2. I understand that I need to take my Yellow Fever Certificate with me, I could be refused entry to Tanzania without it

  3. As a UK citizen I should really have purchased a visa before hand, but living in Switzerland this is impossible. I can't wait to the discussion this is going to generate at Border control Tanzania.

  4. British Colonialism has thankfully left us with UK electricity plugs in Tanzania

  5. You are best taking the US dollar to exchange into Tanzanian Shillings. Today Monday September 28th 2009 I USD = 1.305 TZS .

  6. I found out that you should be hiring 2-3 porters per traveller. Also they do not carry water. Water is obtained from mountain streams and purified by the cooks and then again probably by us. A porter should be carrying no more than 15Kg of your stuff, and no more than 25Kg total.

  7. My tests with 2nd generation Solar Powered battery chargers are the failure I had predicted. Once your phone and speaker battery is depleted a solar panel is not going effect a convining recharge, only a mains socket.

  8. Raidlight rucksacks and Carbon fibre poles are sufficiently fragile that I'll place them in a purposefully unattractive cardboard box box for air shipping. I'll discard the box on arrival. It's a nice gesture to donate some of your kit to the Porters or Guides at the end of your trip so there is less of a need to think how to bring it back.

  9. In addition to Powerbars I've settled on Kumquats as the ultimately practical trekking food. Since you eat the whole fruit including the skin (only the pips remain) and they are absolutely delicious. If you like oranges you will just love Kumquats.

  10. Due to peer pressure I'm taking a more cold weather gear than I would like. The dilemma is that no Google'd article or Guidebook is sufficently clear on the temperature profile at this time of year. When we get back we'll blog the real story. Did we need those big fat ski gloves and thermal trousers or not!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sensor Snobbery

We all recognise that sensor size not Mega pixels is the real determining factor for picture quality in a digital camera. So how do things stack up?

Leica M9 Kodak KAF 18500 36mm x 24 mm = 8.64 cm squared.

Panasonic GF1 sensor 17.3mmx13.0mm = 2.25 cm squared

Canon 7D 22.3 x 14.9 mm =3.33 cm squared

Canon 5D 36mm x 24mm = 8.64 cm squared.

Canon 500D 22.3mmx14.9mm =3.33 cm squared

Panasonic DMC-LX3 15.58mm 10.39 mm = 1.62 cm squared

But despite all of this the Panasonic DMC-LX3 (or should I say Leica D-LUX4) is still our camera of choice. At under 260 grams it is gram for gram the highest function, most portable camera we have yet found.

Now with Firmware 2.0 update it is rejuvenated and ready to compete with the big boys once more. If money was no object then the 600gram 5000GBP+ Leica M9 with its full frame sensor, manual focusing, no internal flash, or image stabilisation might be worth a punt but I get the feeling it might be more of a party piece.

Panasonic DMC-LX3 review Leica D-LUX4 instructions

Panasonic DMC-LX3 manual Panasonic 2.0 Firmware changes manual

Panasonic GF1 review

Sigma DP2 review

Pansonic LX3 vs GF1

Monday, September 28, 2009

Massage Wat Pho

You might be suprised to hear that Thailand is second only to Singapore in the production of Hard Disk drives. It is also a big player in the area of massage.

So after daily passing the Massage Thai Wat Pho near the Hotel de Police in Lausanne my curiosity got the better of me. I had to venture in and at least grab a price list. A moment later and I was booking us in for a 60 minute session.

And the results are: well a somewhat more expensive pleasure than in Thailand (where we have toured extensively in search of the perfect massage). But anybody who is prepared to massage us for a full hour deserves riches indeed.

After the visit I had the best surprise of all visit their website for a truly charming message.

I have been smiling all day!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A good night at the Museums

We have just got back from 2009 Night of the Museums a Lausanne . Marcus, Agata, Rashida and Jose agree that a wonderful time was had by all.

Waiting for a train on the big city Lausanne metro :-)

A village no more. Lausanne how has its own Down and Outs just like any big city.

Museum preparations and not just for the grown ups

Arrival at Musée de l'Elysée, crime exhibition

There is a body in the garden

Arrival at the Olympic Museum

Marcus with muscles at last

Jose and Rashida racing towards Vancouver

Chris Boardman's Lotus 108 time trial olympic bicycle

Pascal Richard's Gold medal winning Colnago

Olympic inline skating gear (sans flame thrower)

The divine hero Heracles

La flamme Olympique

Espace Arlaud && live music sets

Rashida shamelessly joins the Marlboro club

Welcome to Mudac

The chair exhibition from Nature en Kit and no sitting was allowed

Live music at La petite theatre

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kilimanjaro Preparations

Soon our happy team will be walking up Mount Kilimanjaro. At over 5800 metres tall, climbing this mountain peak in Africa is on many trekkers must do activities. Reasons vary, but for sure in the future standing on the top of this snow capped mountain may never be possible; for Global warming approaches.

Practical considerations: Given an unlimited budget and a few free months of spare time I am sure the nature of our holiday would change. But (news to some is that) we have finite money and time so compromises have had to be made.

In particular we have not had the luxury of arriving and selecting the mandatory tour company. So we have done this in advance. In order to gain foreign revenue Tanzania obliges you to pay a daily park tax and also hire a guide and porter. My initial plan of running to the top and then down again has been vetoed.

Here then are our planning activities that we think have prepared us well:

Get the Jabs and Tablets
Something that a course of pre, during and apres pills can help prevent against is Malaria A particularly annoying complaint since it can reoccur years after you have succumbed to it. We chose Malarone tablets.

You may also want to stock up on Yellow Fever, Tetanus, Typhoid

Altitude Ability
Acute Mountain sickness (AMS) is possible since we will be above 2500 metres. Apparently a good fitness level is no defence but our test walk up Breithorn was managed by all so fingers crossed we won't be carrying more than just our rucksacks (i.e.not also a sick partner) on this trip.

Read a Guide Book
Kilimanjaro by Henry Stedman is our preferred publication, and Lonely Planet Tanzania for a broader perspective. There are some videos like: To the Roof of Africa and National Geographic In the process you will notice there are several different possible routes . Decide which is best based on your ability, time on mountain, comfort level.

Check the Climate
Somewhat counter intuitively for me, it is going to be cold, but only at the end of the trip. Therefore I propose to take several layers of clothing, and, as it gets colder more layers will be applied! For example, I'm not taking a down jacket but only a windproof jacket and a fleece.

Pack and repack the Rucksack
The recommendation is to take 2 rucksacks. A small day sack which will contain your 2 litres plus of daily water, snacks, and essentials like camera, toilet paper and walking poles. Also, a larger sack with your sleeping bag, clothes, toiletries. The idea is that your (mandatory) personal porter(s) will take your heavy rucksack leaving you with a 4-6Kg day pack. Of course I'd prefer to carry all my own gear and so this is what I'm proposing, with a single Raidlight 40 and for porterage a separate bag which contains a single 1kg Western Mountaineering VersaLite. So if things go according to plan my porter gets a rest!

20090927 update: first test 25Km walk revealed 79.6Kg rucksack and me. 66.2Kg just me. At walk end 1.754-0.585Kg water consumed. Therefore a full rucksack weighs 14.6Kg. But considering my new weight loss is at least 7Kg it is equivalent to carrying a load of about 8Kg.

Some obvious things you would be a fool not to take include Plastic Bags, Toilet Paper, Leatherman, Compass, Phone, Fleece, Buff, Gloves, Suncream, Hat, Sunglasses, camp shoes

Travel Company
As noted above, I am quite sure it would be cheaper to arrive in Tanzania and choose your tour company for the ascent but with tight timescales and google not indicating how exactly to do this we have had to search for bigger more established companies. Agata made several enquiries and settled on

Check the Kit
Once packed the key thing is to test walking with this rucksack, using your Kili clothes for a period of a few hours. I plan to walk the 25Km round trip to work for a few days to see how it feels. I am aiming for a 13Kg rucksack weight including 3.5Kg litres of water and food.

Take Food
High energy food is essential for any climb. As a guide you can get 500 calories from a decent 100gram chocolate bar. Other candidates for our much anticipated high calorie high, altitude orgy include 55gram PowerBar sports bars , Peanut Butter and Cashew Nuts. It is unclear whether we can give used packaging to the porters (to take back down the mountain) so minimalist packing is key (i.e. after eating, you can't toss the packaging into a bin because there are none). For me, this rules out sport energy gels in solid plastic tubes which don't compact when empty. Also recommended are some Nuun minerals and Dried meals (e.g. Porridge). Latter is good in case you really hate the supplied food.

Select your Friends
You can't select your parents but you can choose your friends. So choose wisely! Ideally strong, cheerful people, good at map reading, and keeping a sleeping bag warm.

Talking Money
I would budget at least 5K USD per person for the 10 day expedition. Almost all of this is simply flight + Guide costs.

Gear Secrets

The Steripen Adventurer is a fast way to purify water. Other team members are taking chemicals as a backup.

Komperdell Carbon poles weight only 179 grams each. Clearly only an idiot would attempt any sort of sustained trek without walking poles.

Lowe Alpine Speedy jacket is less than 200 grams. A heavier Lowe Sierra jacket is about 450 grams

Our sub 265g Panasonic LX3 camera is being accompanied by a 16GB SD card and 3 spare batteries. No chance to recharge on the trek. For those with literally deeper pockets get a Pansonic GF1

For the duration of the 6 day trek you will not have access to a shower. At best you might get a small wash. This is going to come as a shock to my 3 clothes changes, 2 showers per day lifestyle. I'm packing deodorant and sterilising handwash.

What not to take
IMHO anything heavy. A laptop. A ghetto blaster. Anything that requires mains electricity which you are going to be without for about 6 days.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A day out at Comptoir Suisse 09

On a summery Monday Swiss bank holiday what better opportunity than to visit Comptoir Suisse in Beaulieu Lausanne. Comptoir is our opportunity to discover what are homegrown retail Swiss products. The answer in short is: Cheese, Wine, Milk, Animals for eating, multiple cleaning products, and exclusive furniture products. Absent from the show were Swiss watch manufacturers, I think they prefer events like Baselworld

A line of prize winning cows

I hope these horses are for petting and not eating

A cow has to sleep sometime

A sheep with a bell - Swiss styly

Sheep Meeting

Hold the front page - A Swiss crowd

Ye old traditional: come and buy my miracle kitchen chopping board demonstration

The Police were there

The Twike hybrid cycle and electric transporter

Traditional Swiss Horns

Unintelligent design personified - Your spine and all the pains it can cause

This better be the kind of tent our porters are going to setup for us each evening for our Kilimanjaro climb

Let us all the play the inscrutable Swiss Airport game

For an impossible heavy and expensive bicycle look no further

Yellow Mitsubishi EVO6, RHD. Priced unrealistically for the Swiss market.

Nice 20" rims. Good luck on corners and bumpy roads.

Swiss Flags