This dude's real name is "Let", and he's my main instructor for the three-day climbing course that I'm doing here at Ton Sai. When I told Let that my name was "Jeremy", he had a lot of difficulty pronouncing it — the closest he could get was "Jet Li", and so that is now my official rock-climbing pseudonym. Let's a really nice guy: he's only been rock-climbing himself (let alone instructing!) for the past six months; before that, he spent ten years as a chef in a glamorous hotel restaurant in Phuket. His ability and his fitness levels are remarkable, considering how new he is to the sport; and after only six months of working with farangs, his English ain't so bad either.
As well as the smiling, joking *Cluck" — whose favourite sayings are "oh my Buddha" (ostensibly because they believe in Buddha, not G-d), and "no money no honey" — we also have another guide on this trek. I don't know his real name, but I call him "Mr. Baht". He's the accountant of the tour. He enjoys telling us repeatedly, and well in advance, whenever there's an additional cost coming our way, and exactly what the amount will be. And he takes great pride in keeping a drinks tab for all of us, every night, and in meticulously tracking our purchases and in chasing down our money every morning. Mr. Baht like his money.
Nobody ever found out his real name; but when asked, the loud and comical leader of our Doi Inthanon trek make a loud *cluck* noise with his tongue. Hence, he became known to us as *cluck*. *Cluck* is a real character. He enjoys introducing his tour groups to the wonders of bamboo bongs, of rock-sliding on waterfalls, and of fresh BBQ pig. He's a bit chubby, and he takes great pride in being able to make the rolls of fat on his chest "oscillate" in a way that most likely measures on the richter scale. Plus, he claims to own the largest house in the village where we had lunch today. None of us will be forgetting this bloke in a hurry.
Garth is a colleague of my Uncle Paul, who's just started doing a Master's in Economic and Social History at Oxford. Paul was kind enough to let Garth know about me, and Garth was kind enough to take me on a tour around Oxford university today. Garth's a great guy, and he has a lot of ambition — I guess that makes Oxford the perfect place for him to be.
Despite my best efforts, I simply can't remember what his real name is: anyway, we all call him "Finland", or "Finlandia". Finlandia is a giant of a dude (must be about 6"5'), with shoulder-length blonde hair, and an angular face that shows his Nordic heritage. He's a mountain guide (climbing, hiking, etc — he's fit enough to do it all), and he's been working in northern Chile for the past nine months. Thus, when we're not calling him Finlandia, his other name is "Chileno" (or just "juebon" :P). He's an extreme adventurer, as well as a great chef; and he's been an all-out partygoer during his time here at Patanuk.
César doesn't say much when he's up on the mountain — he's too busy stopping you from falling off the edge — but when he's back in civilisation, he's a real friendly guy. Like all climbing guides, he's incredibly fit, and ready for pretty much any emergency: as guides go, he's up there in the elite. César took Tony and myself up Cotopaxi this week, and we all agree that weather permitting, he would have gotten us to the top as well.
Roy was our guide on our three-day hike in the Cañon del Colca, and he's one of the funniest and craziest guides I've had so far on my trip. Every time we asked him how much hiking we have left for the day, he'd say something like: "nueve horas mas" ("nine hours more"). Sometimes it was hard to tell whether he was joking, or being serious. But we all loved his humour, and he did a great job of leading us through the canyon, and of then helping us get safely back into Arequipa at the end of the trip.
Issac was the guy who took me up the crazy climb of Huayna Potosí this weekend. He's an incredibly fit and ready-for-anything guide: he climbs the mountain as much as three times each week; and he knows it like the back of his hand. Couldn't have got to the top without him.
Orlando is a guide who takes his job very seriously. Like all the jungle guides in Madidi, he's a real character. When he walks you through the jungle, he goes stealthily, on tiptoe; and he motions for you to do the same. When he thinks he can hear an animal nearby, he turns around rapidly, and brandishes his machete, as if daring you to make another step or to produce another sound. And when he discerns that some animals are on the move not too far off, he suddenly breaks into a run, and you have to follow accordingly if you want to see what he's chasing. But also a relaxed, friendly, and amicable guy.
Another great Juan Carlos that I've met on my travels. This Juan Carlos took care of us during our three days in the pampas, mainly just driving the motorised canoe, but also catching anacondas for us, and taking us piranha fishing. A very relaxed and friendly guide, who knows his terrain like the back of his hand.