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Peru 2000 - Simeon's report

11 Jul 2000 | climbing

Jim has scanned some of his pictures which are at http://www.summsoft.com/people/jim/,I’ve linked a few in with the text. They are all quite large 200-300kB so they may take a while to download.

Friday, 16th June - USA to Cuzco, Peru

Flew with Martin from Houston to Lima to meet Jim, Lucie and Simon. Paid 10 soles for Martin’s and my luggage to be pushed to the domestic check-ins through a barrage of taxi drivers and hotel owners. Had to pay a few dollars excess baggage for the flight to Cuzco since between Martin and me we had over 100kg. Passed Salcantay on the north and flew with the cabin at an equivalent of 2000m for most of the flight, pressure was reduced to ambient (3250m) over the last 15 minutes in preparation for landing. Eric was waiting for us at Cuzco airport and Ana-Maria from Los Aticos met us with a van for all our stuff. Eric had one food bag weighing 35kg!

No one felt too bad on arrival and we went for a walk around the Plaza d’Armas. Soon got dragged into a touristy but very pleasant balcony-bar for beer overlooking the Plaza.

Saturday, 17th June - First full day in Cuzco

Jim didn’t wake us until about 8:30am, could have been worse. Breakfast at Los Aticos – sick smelling but tasty papaya juice, bread, cheese, eggs and matte de coca. Hiked through town and up the hill to Sacsaywaman (pronounced similarly to `sexy-woman’) and Qenko (means zig-zag).

Since we all felt okay with the altitude we decided to head off on the Inca Trail one day earlier than planned. We spent some time talking to Ana-Maria discussing the complications of buying train tickets.

Sunday, 18th June - Inca Trail (day1)

Jim and Martin got up early to buy train tickets and then came back from a quick breakfast. We all went to the train station in good time to wait in a crowded, zoo-like atmosphere for the train to km88. The train line out of Cuzco climbs a very steep and heavily populated hillside by means of four or five switch backs at which the train changes direction.

The train ride was very slow and bumpy. The line ran along a gentle valley for some time and then started following the gorge of the Rio Urubamba downhill with impressive hills and cliffs to either side. At km88, we got out with a large number of other hikers and had to queue for quite some time to pay our US$17 park fee and cross the river.

The trail set off back along the other side of the river and then headed S up the Cusichaca river, past lots of small dwellings. At Wayllabamba we turned W and up steeply for 400m height gain through mossy and damp forested sections. Saw a couple of hummingbirds. The campsite was boggy, the air damp. Met an American climber, Doug, who had just failed on Alpamayo because of overcrowding on the route.

Monday, 19th June - Inca Trail (day2)

Woke up with frost on the tent and we all took ages to get going. Eventually (11am) left with Martin feeling very ill and empty stomached. Ended up taking some of Martin’s load on the 600m climb to the first pass at 4200m. Jim and Eric got bored waiting for us at the top and came down to help too.

From the first pass we went down to a stream past waterfalls and the tents and dining tables of the portered-for classes. Half way up the next hill we got to the Runkuracay ruins where Lucie painted and the rest of us relaxed. From there we continued to the top of the second pass finding lots of lovely yellow and red/brown orchids by the path. Simon and Jim went ahead from the pass while Eric, Lucie, Martin and I took a more leisurely hike down to the Sayacmarca ruins. We argued that the tents should be moved to the campsite a little past Sayacmarca and Jim reluctantly agreed to move them. We visited the Sayacmarca ruins in the late afternoon light and marvelled at the imposing views.

Tuesday, 20th June - Inca Trail (day3)

Up early to find a frosty morning. We left camp at about 8:45am and enjoyed the easy yet dramatic hike to the third pass. Eric spontaneously took all his clothes off to model for Lucie while the rest of us enjoyed the views of Salcantay, Pumacilo and Veronica. We took a quick look around the Phuypatamarca ruins and then continued down seemingly endless Inca steps. In the distance we could see the Winay Wayna ruins but not Machu-Picchu. The path contoured around the hillside for a couple of miles before descending steeply to the campsite at Winay Wayna.

Wednesday 21st June - Inca Trail (day4)

Jim woke us at 3:15am for a fast walk and run to Machu-Picchu. We overtook a few other parties and were first to the Sun gate – we could just make out Machu-Picchu in the dim pre-dawn light. We were undecided about whether to wait there for the sun or to continue to the main ruin. This indecision lost us pole position but we continued to the main site. After another brief stop we joined many people running down the last of the Inca Trail to Machu-Picchu. We got there and had to wait 1 1/2 hours for the sun!

Jim photo: Machu Picchu

The ruins were wonderful but I had a terrible stomach all day (ask the others!). Hike up to Hyuana-Picchu was very impressive and 25 minutes hard work. Great views from the top and impressively precarious terraces which were supposedly used to grow corn for ceremonial chicha. Feeling weary we persuaded Jim to get the bus down into the village and spent the afternoon drinking coffee and eating pizza, with occasional shopping excursions.

Caught the evening train back to Cuzco. It was a long long ride with far too many people for the seats. Jim and Martin had booked 8 seats for the 6 of us which created a rather awkward situation when they insisted that we should either be able to use the seats ourselves or to give them to whoever we chose.

Thursday, 22nd June - Back in Cuzco

Nice long lay-in at Los Aticos… until gone 8am. The guy was late for our 9am meeting to arrange transport and mules but we eventually got it all sorted. There was some random haggling over prices and we agreed upon $9/day for the guide, $9/day for the cook, $7/day for the arriero and $5/day for the mules. This gave us an estimated total of $650 for our 14day trip.

Leaving all planning behind we went out to the main square with Ana-Maria and saw parades including the Monsignior in a huge silver float. The square was packed so Ana-Maria took us to an even more crowded street with vendors selling beer and food. We sat down to a traditional plate of guinea-pig, sausage, fish-row, sea weed and bread, all washed down with some Cusquena beer. After lunch we headed for the vegetable market and bought coconuts with lovely milk and some so-so sugar can.

We spent the rest of the afternoon drinking, sorting gear, talking with our guide, and being good people writing postcards and sending email (at least the others were good people). We had dinner at `Al Grano’, excellent lamb curry.

Friday, 23rd June - Cuzco to Tinqui

I got up first, a first, to shower, eat breakfast and sew my camera case. Lots of other Los Aticos residents were watching a very bogus Nova program on crop diversity.

Our bus arrived and we packed huge quantities onto the roof. It was a small Toyota minibus that looked as if it had been living a rough life. There were five police checkpoints on the main road out of Cuzco. At each the driver had to get out and show his documents. We descended to about 3000m and then headed up a dirt side-road going south and up to a pass at 4100m. After many more miles of dusty road we reached Ocongate from where it was just 20 minutes to Tinqui (also Tinki) at 3600m. We stopped in Ocongate for a short time and I missed the opportunity to take a picture of a guy selling vibrantly coloured dyes from tins placed all around him. At Tinqui we unloaded all our gear, looked around the hostal and then took a brief wander around the village and up a hill from where we could look at Ausangate through binoculars.

Saturday, 24th June 2000 - Tinqui to Pacchanta

Got up and wandered about the hostal for a while before Julio served up bread and eggs for breakfast. We then watched the ponies being loaded, each got two large bags, one to each side. With 10 of our bags, a `Llamagas’ cylinder (propane), two big wooden food boxes, the porters’ tent and a few other bits and bobs it took 7 ponies. We hadn’t really hoped to keep it down to 5.

With only light day-packs we followed the ponies up the valley for about 3.5hours to Pacchanta and a fine campsite just above the hot springs. We took a hot soak and drank coke purchased from local women who came to the springs with soda and beer. Amazingly the prices were quite reasonable. From the hill next to the camp we had wonderful views of hard looking routes on the north side of Ausangate.

Jim photo: Loading the horses

Jim photo: The three amigos standing in front of Auzangate

Jim photo: Local girl in Pachanta

Sunday, 25th June - Pacchanta to Campa Pass

A cold start as we waited for the sun to hit the hostal. The situation was much improved by Julio’s pancakes. We followed the ponies up the valley, to the west of the large rock outcrop to go past Laguna Azulcocha, Laguna Minaparayoc etc as opposed to the Laguna Comercocha route marked on the SAEC map. We got to a campsite a little before the Campa pass on the last of the grass. We’d pitched the tents by 2:30pm. After a rest and much arguing about the names of the surrounding peaks we headed up to the top of the pass to check the route up Campa and to scope the peaks on the other side: Callangate I, Ccapana, and Paccahnta. The campsite was about 4800m and the pass at 5000-5100m.

Monday, 26th June - Climb Campa (and summit!)

Got up to a very cold 6:30am breakfast of omelettes and left camp at about 7:10am. We hiked along the tail to the top of the pass where the sun greeted us warmly. After some stripping and regrouping we left the trail and followed a moraine and then crossed talus to the glacier. We roped up in team of Simon and me; and Jim, Martin and Eric. Simon led off and we zig-zagged up the snow. Conditions were good an I felt pretty strong. We had a good rest at the col between peaks and then headed up the ridge to the peak of Campa I/II at ~5500m. Simon and I took photos and ate while we waited about 15 minutes for the other rope to arrive at 10:30am. A solo climber, David Sharman, joined us at the top. After more photos and my brief excursion to the peak the other side of the col (Campa III?), we followed David down scree to Ticclacocha where he was camped and where our porters met us. On the way down we had to retrace our steps for quite some way on steep scree to find Simon’s axe. We ate lunch at the Ticclacocha camp and lazed around for the afternoon. David spent some time quizzing Apolinar about names of peaks, and then some time talking with us about routes. He had been in the area for 3 weeks, solo except for one arriero, and was working to compile a Vilcanota guide book. He suggested three possible and unclimbed routes on the west side of Mariposa and explained that the `standard’ route on Mariposa probably wasn’t a viable option since if doesn’t get enough snow anymore.

Jim photo: Summit of Campa, 5500m

Tuesday, 27th June - Ticclacocha to Ausangate base camp

We woke to another cold morning and waited for ages for the sun to rise over Jatunhuma. After breakfast we said goodbye to David and packed our gear again. Soon after we set off I headed up to the right of the path for a miles or so. Apparently (and I should have guessed), this caused some annoyance, especially with Apolinar. Great views from my hike though, lots of birds and rabbits too. Our route followed the Chillcamaya valley downstream until we got to the place marked Pampacanca on the map. There we turned NW and followed the valley upstream to the Ausangate base camp. From the camp we could see the Ausangate glacier and the W face of Mariposa; the route on Ausangate was not visible. We spent a while debating routes on Mariposa. Camped at about 4800m.

Jim photo: Base camp for Auzangate

Wednesday, 28th June - Recce Mariposa and camp by Glacier

Finally a campsite that got the early morning sun! However, even with that incentive we didn’t get out of our tents until about 8am, then we ate breakfast and spent ages packing. We left at just gone 10am and got the the moraine campsite at 5150m shortly after noon. Simon and I headed out onto the glacier to wand a route to the NW face of Mariposa. It was hot and the snow was soft so we often sank 8-10” with each step – a wearying 1 1/2 hours to the base of the route at 5300m. We estimated about 250m of technical climbing and then about another 250m to the summit via the N ridge; the route looked okay. Meanwhile the others made very fine tent platforms in the rocky moraine and then Jim and Martin went to check out their route (W face to the S of the peak). We were all in bed by 6pm, ready for a 4am start.

Jim photo: Jim on the hike to Mariposa high camp

Jim photo: Mariposa high camp in the moraine

Thursday, 29th June - Mariposa attempt

Up at 4am; breakfast of oatmeal and soups in the dark and the cold. We were very slow getting organized and it wasn’t until 5:45am that Simon, Eric and I were roped and off. It took us about 1hour to get to the base of the route where we re-roped for climbing. Climbed unbelayed for 2 rope lengths and then set a belay under the bergshrund. Simon led off then Eric and I climbed together. Simon had a couple of lousy snow-stake runners but got a screw for the belay by digging 6” into the snow. The neve was pretty good. After switching ropes I led the next pitch, bringing Simon and Eric up together. Again, I had some dubious snow-stakes runners and a screw for the belay by digging to the ice. We continued alternating leads between Simon and me, each time with the two seconds climbing together. Snow conditions varied between good neve and soft snow which required steps and axe handles. The sun hit the face at 11am, after which the snow deteriorated. From about the third pitch on it always looked as if the top were just 1 1/2 pitches away. This was still the case when we got to the top of the fifth pitch at 12:45pm. We had long since lost hope of the summit and now decided that to forgo the ridge also. Simon suggested that we had time for one more pitch but I was convinced that this would not allow us to gain the ridge and so suggested rapping – there were no objections. We had earlier seen Jim and Martin come to the base of our route so sadly neither team had succeeded.

At each belay we had managed to find a screw placement by digging ever deeper holes in the snow. At the last belay we had dug about 18”. There were occasional stone-falls over most of the face. This was getting worse as the temperature rose and worried us. Maximum height was about 5500m (altimeter) and we later saw that it was probably two more full pitches to the ridge. The slope was about 55degrees.

We spent some time eating, drinking, taking photos and cutting up rap webbing. We started to rap at 1:30pm and left one cheap titanium screw at each belay, the first two people had a second screw as backup. I went last for the first two pitches then swapped with Simon as he was getting tired digging holes in the snow to find ice for the screws. I took the rap line left (N) in the hope of avoiding stone-fall after we got hit on the second rap. I got hit on the arm quite hard and Simon got hit on the leg. The fifth rap just dropped us over the bergshrund. As we were feeling lazy we left one stake so that we could rap one more rope length before butt-sliding of stomping the rest of the way down.

Down by 3:30pm, some food and off along the glacier, taking out the wands as we went. Jim and Martin had taken down the tents and left. They had thoughtfully left us our share of gear and a note about a stash on the trail. Wearily, we carried gear to the stash and then headed down to base camp to arrive at about 6pm. Supper had been arranged for 8pm I was almost too tired to eat it. Slept very soundly that night.

Jim and Martin were repelled by soft and deep snow after 2hours of climbing. They worked out later that the route they tried never got any sun. Jim’s route description follows:

“Cross the Mariposa glacier directly towards the base of the face, heading to the right of the obvious low ice fall. Avoiding numerous holes, weave onto the face, passing a few steep snow sections to the broad slope below the snow plastered face above – considerable serac and rockfall danger here. Traverse leftwards to the shrund with increasingly deep snow until just below the looming seracs above. Cross the shrund and start directly up towards the seracs; chest deep snow here. After a few ropelengths, we realized the foolishness of the route and turned around. Unfortunately, despite the elegant line, the course of our route cleverly avoids the sun and, thus, is totally unconsolidated. Further, despite no obvious evidence from below, the route is subjected to considerable danger from rockfall and seracs.”

Jim photo: Mariposa, showing the area of the two attempted new routes

Jim photo: Smaller section with routes marked. Jim and Martin’s route in black; Simeon, Eric and Simeon’s route in red. In both cases the arrow marks the high point.

Friday, 30th June - Rest day

We didn’t get out of the tents until the sun was nice and warm; breakfast at 8am. We lazed around reading for the morning. In the afternoon a group of 17 trekkers and climbers from Pittsburg arrived with 10 cooks/porters, some llamas, and lots of ponies. They planned to try Ausangate starting the following day.

The cloud level came down to about 5600m around 3pm and even a few flakes of snow fell on base camp. The skies were clear again by 7pm but this was certainly a change from the wonderfully clear skies we had been having.

Saturday, 1st July - to Ausangate high camp

Got up with the sun (7am) to sort gear and eat eggs with stale bread. The bread was getting very dry and caused much complaint. Jim and Simon got ready first and left while Eric, Martin and I pfaffed and left about 30 minutes later. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to get to the gear stash where we found Jim and Simon who had already organized most things. Julio and Luis had hiked up too and offered to take the things we didn’t want from the stash back to base camp. What we hadn’t realized was that because they were `muy macho’ they carried everything up to high camp first!

After another couple of hours we reached high camp, just above the snow line, and pitched out three Biblers on some level snow. We sat about drinking and filling water bottles and then hoards of the other party started to arrive in the early afternoon with small amounts of gear and several porters. They had decided to hike up as a day trip; apparently 11 had set out but 3 turned back.

Jim photo: High camp on Auzangate

Jim photo: Jim, eating soup at the high camp on Auzangate

The weather started to deteriorate from about 1pm and there was some hail-like snow from about 3pm. Having finished preparations and agreed to get up at 11pm, we all retired to our tents hoping the weather would improve.

Sunday, 2nd July - Ausangate attempt

Sunday actually started at 11pm on Saturday when Jim woke us with the news that the sky was full of starts – a good sign. We had several brews and left camp at about 12:30am. Jim set off in front trailing Martin and they set a good gentle pace. Simon, Eric and I made up the other rope in that order. There were a couple of short steep sections but otherwise it was just a slow trudge to the headwall, with Eric setting wands as we went. Here we went back and forth a little looking for a place to cross the bergshrund.

We found a place to cross the bergshrund at the left of the face and decided to move together will occasional snow stake runners. Simon started off for 1 or 2 rope lengths, then I did about 1 1/2 rope lengths before stopping out of tiredness and to change my headlight battery (a good excuse). There was some frustration when Eric cut about a dozen step while following! Jim, a man on a mission, to the lead and charged up to the top with no gear. All topped out at 6:30am in the early morning sun.

Jim photo: Topping out on the head wall on Auzangate just before dawn

Jim photo: Dawn on Auzangate, looking over Mariposa

From the top we wallowed around and Jim (breaking trail) headed for the ridge. We the tried following the ridge up, Simon in the lead, but it was very slow and not very safe. As one last try Simon went to the top of the ridge to try the east (sunny) side, but the snow conditions we not much better and the run-out was very much worse. We gave up at 6177m (GPS), 9:30am and could see the summit some way off at 6372m.

Jim Photo: Martin, nearing the ridge on Auzangate

Jim photo: Jim at the high point on the ridge

Jim photo: Simeon at the high point on the ridge

Jim photo: Martin at the high point on the ridge

The descent was uneventful although rapping as a team of five was slow. We left one screw at the top and then some stakes. We stopped to eat and brew-up at high camp (2:15pm) where we also met the other team who had come up to attempt the summit the next day. The cloud came down again in the early afternoon and we got to base camp at about 4pm.

Jim photo: Jim somewhere on Auzangate

Jim photo: Descending Auzangate

Jim photo: Snow bridge on Auzangate

Jim photo: Rappelling the headwall on Auzangate

Monday, 3rd July - Ausangate base camp to Pucacocha

I was woken by the noise of a radio conversation between members of the other group and sick people at high camp. They had set off around midnight and one person had felt very ill by the time they got to the headwall (3 1/2 hours from high camp). The casualty was being given oxygen and they retreated from high camp at first light. There was nothing we could do so we had a relaxed morning packing up in only partial sun – not good climbing weather. We had decided to all head out together even though Simon, Eric and I could have stayed another couple of days. However, our porters wanted to go and the weather didn’t look promising.

Eventually we got packed and left just after we saw the other climbers, complete with casualty, get in to base camp at 10am. It had taken them a very long time but everyone was feeling better because of the lower elevation.

Our route went over two passes: the Polomi pass at 5100m and the ??? pass at 4900m, with a beautiful glacial lake at 4615m in between. The two 300m climbs didn’t seem bad at all.

We camped at Laguna Uchuy Pucacocha (SW side) with lovely views of Extremo-Ausangate and ????. Rather optimistically we set several fishing lines according to the instructions of Julio and Luis. We left the lines overnight with worms as bait but they still had no trout on them in the morning. Seeing sheep around there we asked Apolinar how much it would cost to buy a sheep to eat (80soles). He assured us that we would feast on sheep back in Tinqui.

Jim photo: Camp at Pucacocha

Tuesday, 4th July - Pucacocha to Tinqui

No sun, no warmth and more stale bread. As we ate our boiled eggs we all decided that what we really want was to get back to tasty food and the rest of the world. Up to then Apolinar had been insistent that it was 2 more days to get back to Tinqui. That was until we decided to offer him 2 days money to got out in one day. Generally we’d only done about 3 hours hiking on the trail each day so we thought that it shouldn’t be hard to get back to Tinqui in one day. The deal done, we packed up quickly with stern warnings about an estimated 12 hours of hiking.

Jim photo: Breakfast at Pucacocha

The trail went down a little through very Welsh looking scenery and then up to the Arapa pass past some disturbing piles of trash. Then there was a long traverse across shale hillsides before we finally got to the pass; a really severe landscape unlike the rest of the trek.

Jim photo: A bunch of ponies (‘Erics’) crossing the stream

After the pass we followed the valley down to Upis with the weather worsening all the time. We had snow, hail, rain and sleet. Julio wasn’t feeling well and several times we had to wait for him when he took a rest (and a smoke!). From Upis we went over some hills and over into the Pacchanta valley. The snow turned to rain as we neared Tinqui and we hiked ahead of the horses, arriving about 20 minutes before them. As we imagined, it took only 6 hours.

We were pleased to be back at the hostal and enjoyed a fine dinner of meat, papas fritas and spaghetti, washed down with the usual matte de coca or hot chocolate. We were starting to become aware of how bad we smelt and how good it would be to wash.

Wednesday, 5th July - Sheep feast and bus to Cuzco

A lazy morning in glorious sunshine, the weather had gone back to clear blue skies. We milled around reading and observing the preparations for our lunch. Apolinar, Julio and Luis dug a hole and built a rock oven over it with large rounded stones. At some stage a local farmer arrived with our sheep over his shoulder, minus skin. The whole sheep cost only 30 soles ($8). This was cut into about 10 pieces by Apolinar’s wife, and wrapped in soaked paper. A fire was lit in the oven an allowed to burn for about 1 1/2 hours before the meat and potatoes were put in and the stones collapsed on top. 1 hour later we feasted on very tasty meat with the usual fine South American potatoes and a few bottles of Cusquena. I have never eater as much meat in one sitting as I did that day.

Jim photo: Me looking rough (Jim’s title: Pretty boy Simeon)

After our meal we settled up with Fernando and tipped the porters. At first we omitted a tip (propina) for the little boy who had been with us some of the time. His mother then asked for him and we obliged to large smiles. Our bus arrived and we endured the 5 1/2 hour ride back to Cuzco, arriving late.

Thursday, 6th July - back in Cuzco

We all went to get shaves and/or haircuts. Eric and Martin got all their hair removed again and tried for a long time to persuade me. Jim did some shopping while the rest of us were rather more lazy. We had a find meal at `Greens’ in the evening which involved several bottles of wine and some harassing of the manageress who was from London. The others had never heard of banoffee pie before, what sheltered lives!

Friday, 7th July - Jim and Martin fly out

Jim and Martin got a taxi early leaving Simon, Eric and me to take it easy. Simon and I had managed to change our flights to Lima for the 9th, the same as Eric. We ate an excellent lunch of stuffed peppers (rocoto relleno) at Quinta Eulalia. Quintas are local lunch-time only restaurants.

Saturday, 8th July - Tourism in Cuzco

Still feeling lazy, we eventually wandered down the Avenida del Sol to visit the remains of the main Inca temple, Coricancha, partially built over by the Santo Domingo cathedral. We paid about $1 each for a guide who was very helpful in explaining what was original and what had been destroyed by the Spanish. For lunch we went to another Quinta (Zarate).

Sunday, 9th July - fly to Lima

My flight was significantly earlier than Eric’s or Simon’s so I got a taxi alone and my trip to Lima was uneventful. It was a bit cloudy and I couldn’t see Salcantay on the way out. It turned out that both Eric and Simon’s flight were very delayed so I ended up spending almost all of the day waiting for them at Lima airport, we thought Simon was not going to make it that day but the plane took off just as the wind dropped and the air cooled with evening. All together we put our bags in left luggage and got a taxi to the hotel in Mira Flores. We went out to a good restaurant where I foolishly ate cebiche which made me sick the following night/day.

Monday, 10th July - Eric flies home; Simon and I `do Lima’

Eric left early to go back to the airport, Simon and I took a more leisurely approach. We got a taxi out to the Museo d’Oro only to find that it didn’t open for another hour or two. The museum was quite a ways out of town so we just found a coffee and cake shop in which to spend the time. When we could get in we found a huge collection of weapons and uniforms on the top floor and an equally huge collection of Inca gold and jewelry in the basement. Well worth a visit. From there we got a taxi into the center of town and some lunch at a very reasonable office-worker’s restaurant. After lunch we went to the main cathedral and saw Francisco Pissaro’s tomb and various painting. Much better was the tour offered by the Franciscan monastery which had fine mixed Moorish/Spanish architecture and a wonderful wood-paneled library with many old texts.

After getting thoroughly touristed-out we wandered around the main shopping areas and found a bar. From the bar we went to a Chinese restaurant (a local tradition, called Chifa) and from there to the airport in a rickety taxi through some scary looking neighbour-hoods. No problem with the flights home.


2014-10-27 Reformatted in Markdown