Thursday, March 21, 2013

From the Set: A Wedding in Sunriver- Coming Soon!

The bright side of filming these late night/all night TV projects is the free time that piles up during the additional lighting setup, etc. that is required for shooting night scenes.  The downside is that I'm now officially out of excuses for not finalizing the terrific blog post that Kathy wrote last month about Brent and Cheryl's February wedding.

It's hard to predict how late we'll be here filming on set, but I'll keep plugging away at that post from my Galaxy Note 2 in between takes and scene rehearsals until it gets done. It will be easier to add the photos from my laptop later, after we wrap filming for the night.  Check back here soon for Kathy's "A Wedding in Sunriver" post!

April update:

My break from "Garth's Blog" is lasting longer than planned.  There is only so much mobile editing that I can do while working, filming, and doing photo shoots.  New content is still be posted to my other blogs.

Garth's Blog will return on the 2nd week of April!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Leaving Bogota: Hiking Mt. Monserrate and Scaling the Wall

Taking the easy way down from Mount Monserrate, Colombia (The 17th century chapel in the background sits at the top, at 10,341 feet above sea level)

The final afternoon of my quick 2 1/2 day weekend in Colombia included a hike up Bogota's highest peak, a boisterous celebration at the top with new friends, and lowering a trio of older women down a wall to escape a locked gate.  Sound unbelievable?

Fortunately, the day did NOT include any more attempted muggings at knife point (click here for a link to "Bogota, Pt 4: In Harm's Way," and a reminder that everything turned out okay on Sunday night). On a side note, Garth's Blog readers with decidedly polarized opinions of my earlier antics may not be won over with this adventure, either.  Judge for yourselves.

Laughing at the local music video channel with my friends over Monday morning breakfast doesn't just sound culturally insensitive.  It was.  Ezra, Fancy, Carla, and everyone else in our hostel loft tried in vain to block out the TV's eye-popping inanity as we planned out the upcoming day.  For my take on the Musicology Hostel, check out my previous post, Bogota, Pt.5: Risky Business and the Musicology Hostel (link).

Knocking out all day Sunday with the harrowing events of "In Harm's Way" pushed my moonlight Mount Monserrate hike back to a daylight hike on Monday. Even more disappointingly, well researched plans to hike through the Chicaque region before flying back to the U.S. that day had to be scrapped entirely.

I should have known better than to make a second feeble attempt at a solo exploration. No less than four separate groups of wonderful friends from two different hostels bumped into me during the crosstown jaunt to Mount Monserrate. The diversions were energizing but also ate up a large chunk of daylight. Love those people, though!

A cable car glides up the side of Mt. Monserrate, sparing view-seekers the hike to the top

After lunch, one of these friends walked with me to the base of Monserrate but was deterred by the its modest height. We said goodbye at the trailhead so I could start running up to the peak.

The lung-busting altitude occasionally slowed my cobblestone trail run down to a brisk walk. Meeting fellow hikers on the way up also compelled me to slow down to match their pace as we chatted en espanol. Most foot traffic was heading downhill, though, due to the popularity of the funicular and cable cars that tempted visitors to bypass the uphill hike.

At times, the trail run seemed more like a cobblestone stair run.  Even the tamest sections were accommodated by, you guessed it, more stairs.  And many sections of these stairs were quite oversized.  Only on the downhill return run was it possible to lunge far enough to soar over an extra giant stair or two with a single leap (there were also sections of normal-sized stairs).

At 3,152 metres (10,341 feet) above sea level, the peak's panoramic views of Bogota and the surrounding mountains were stunning. The white 17th century chapel at the top was closed at that hour, but two restaurants and a snack bar served to remind visitors that this pilgrimage was also a tourist attraction. The warm empanadas and pastel de pollo paired perfectly with the hot cocoa.

Please note:  Cocoa was consumed, not coca. We've made it this far into my Colombia travelogue without a single joke about the C-word, A.K.A. Colombia's most infamous and unfortunate export. Why ruin this streak of cocaine-free blogging restraint now?


For whatever reason, my stealthily makeshift (though not recommended) route to the top of Monserrate earlier had drawn the attention of several camera snapping tourists. Don't worry, nothing life-risking happened here. But climbing up over the ledge drew mixed reactions, many of them admittedly gratifying.  It was a relief to see amused expressions even on the guards' faces.

After that edgy (pardon the pun) entrance, excited strangers inexplicably lined up for me to be photographed with them. And with their girlfriends. And with various attendees of a gigantic South American Herbalife convention. And even with some lady's kid.  Maybe they thought I was somebody else?

Someone from the crowd snapped a few pics with my own cell phone (a couple photos are included above). Let's hope that the more outlandish photos will surface someday.  If any of you Monserrate hikers from Monday are reading this, please send some of those crazy pics my way!


Lingering for so long with my new friends at the top of Monserrate led to a downhill sprint to beat the closing of the gates. Determined to avoid buying a ticket for the cable car, I started running down the trail. It was too late.

Note: This probably goes without saying, but the following is yet another example of inadvisable behavior.  Rounding a blind corner, I nearly trampled a few older ladies who were stopped, panicking, in the middle of the trail. A gate was blocking their descent.  Making the time-consuming hike back up to the cable car at the top would've been the proper thing to do, of course.  But it was improbable that, in their physical condition, they could still catch the last ride down anyway.

I hurdled myself over the protective wall on the side of the trail and hopped down to the ground.  It was barely more than a 10 foot drop, so I offered a hand to the trio of stunned ladies above. Reluctantly at first, they accepted my assistance and began to swing each of their legs over the wall.

Reaching up, I lowered the first two ladies down to the ground. The third lady's clothes got snagged on something.  She took quite a while to free herself.  At this point, we were all laughing at the absurdity of our dilemma.

Since the third lady was still securely stuck on the top of the wall, I quickly stepped away to snap this photo before returning to the escape effort.

After lowering everyone safely to the ground, I walked around the gate and hopped up the other side. Pulling the ladies back up over the wall was much easier to coordinate.  With the locked gate behind us, I ran ahead to scout out the remaining gates below. The women would have few problems bypassing them.

Stopping on the way down to gaze at sprawling Bogota, I discovered my Galaxy Note 2's panoramic photo mode.  That would've came in handy at the top of Monserrate.

I tore the rest of the way down the trail, slowing down only to visit with a local boy and some Spanish speaking maintenance workers who were calling it quits for the day.

How could anyone run past this boy's horse in the villa and not stop to pet him?

Feeling especially hyperactive, I continued running from the base of Monserrate and into the heart of the city.


Saying goodbye to my new friends (and making newer friends) at the Musicology Hostel took quite a while. Many of us will be meeting up again.  A couple of friendly U.K. backpackers even "booked" me as a guide for a Mount St. Helens climb in June!

Significant setbacks tripped up the jog back into town, the bus to the Bogota airport, and finally an unplanned taxi ride. Suffice it to say that nearly every word in my meager Spanish vocabulary was put to the test in a heated, um, discussion about excessive fees.

None of that mattered. Just after midnight on Tuesday, my Delta 767-400 left Bogota for New York. The familiar tunes of Matt Kearney and Mumford & Sons quietly flowed from the speakers in the Business Elite cabin. I was headed home!

The next leg of the vacation would begin in a few days, starting in Switzerland.  Would I be able to convince Kathy and Lena to come along with me to Europe?

Coming next on BlogSpot...

Two domestic "intermission" posts with the family, beginning with the wedding of the year in Sunriver!

And then we continue our story in...


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bogota, Pt. 5: Risky Business and the Musicology Hostel

My current quick trip to Europe is coming to a close, so I will be soon be resuming this blog from the Pacific Northwest.  There is still one final post from Colombia that will be uploaded on Friday this weekend, and it's classic Garth's Blog. In other words, my unconventional travel style may continue to polarize readers who may or may not share my sense of impulsive adventure.

Thanks to all the readers who contributed public and private feedback to my overwhelmingly controversial post, "Bogota, Pt. 4: In Harm's Way" (link). The offline fire storm brewed up by Pt. 4 made the criticism of my earlier "Bogota, Pt. 3: The Big Welcome Party" (link) post seem like a mild-mannered public library zoning protest!

I slightly reworded sections of the "In Harm's Way" entry (including the intro) to tone down the self-depreciating language that played up the "Oops!" factor of the narrative.  However, I'll admit that being intentionally vague about my true motives during that scary situation does nothing to vindicate my actions.  Oh well.  Even in its current form, it's still a completely true story (albeit missing crucial context that casts me in a more favorable light)... and a darn good one at that.


On a less divisive note--  Here's my pitch to fellow travelers that the Musicology Hostel should be a top choice for any backpacker looking to avoid any risky business in Bogota:

The balcony overlooking the courtyard of the Musicology Hostel in Bogota, Colombia

The Musicology Hostel in Old Bogota's colonial district of La Candelaria is THE spot for shared community and a staff of free spirited musicians, all joining to shape the mellow vibe. The location is within walking distance of Bogota attractions and nightlife, decorum is memorable, and the facilities are secure and well maintained. It is an upscale hostel at a reasonable price.

Sure, there's always the risk of innocently overhearing the brazenly inappropriate misuse of a neighbouring shower stall. Twice. But all in all, the Musicology Hostel couldn't be recommended more highly.

Reggae and Ellie are among the many wandering souls who search for musical bliss and harmony at the Musicology Hostel in Bogota, Colombia.

The always cheerful Sami keeps everyone smiling and laughing.

Diego keeps jamming into the wee hours of the morning.

As always, it's the staff and the other backpackers from around the world who make all the difference. I won't list each of you here, but let's make sure that our paths cross again!

Coming this weekend on BlogSpot...

Hiking Monserrate and Saying Goodbye!