Wrapping up Indonesia

So as I’m sitting here trying to come up with the words to express how disappointing the last trip to Indonesia was and the attempt at the summit of Carstensz Pyramid, I’m reminded of the importance of life. I’m back home alive and have some incredible stories to share, and it was due to some dumb luck, yea, but also to some good decisions on my part.

While I was in Indonesia, I started a list of “things that went wrong” and started to get depressed, but I’m glad I did, because now I can type it out and laugh at everything because I had absolutely no control over all of these things and it’s only something that could have happened in a movie.

After booking the original trip of trekking to Base Camp (BC), it was cancelled because the villages we were going to trek through wanted more money and wouldn’t let anyone through. A week later, I was told we couldn’t trek in and had to go via helicopter, requiring more money (fuel for those things isn’t cheap), and a change in flights from America to Indonesia. A day before I was going to arrive, I was told the helicopter was broken and it wouldn’t be fixed for another week. Changing my flight, hotel, reservations, etc would be more expensive than going to Indonesia and staying at a cheap hotel because the helicopter “might be fixed” while I was in the country. Think that happened? Sigh.

So when I arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia (where the international flight landed in Indonesia and where I’d leave to get to Nabire (town where the helicopter was being “fixed”), I was told the heli would be just fine by the time I got to Nabire. So while there, I visited the local cancer hospital and shared my story with the children fighting for their lives as well as their parents and the adult patients… making the best of my time. I was in Jakarta for 2 days.

It’s expensive in Jakarta (it’s like NYC), and I found a flight to Bali for $50 and left the next day because it was MUCH cheaper there and I could leave from there to get to Nabire. I won’t even get into the internet problems with the hotel in Jakarta, but the hotel in Bali… well… I didn’t have one because everything was booked, but about an hour before I left Jakarta to get there, my friend (a travel agent in CA) found something for me.

While in Bali (we’re on day 4 by the way), I was told the “part” for the heli was ordered and would take about a week to get to Nabire. Later, I find out this “part” wasn’t anything like a “part” you’d expect. Maybe a spark plug, a rotor, anything but what it really was… the tail. Yea, the TAIL TO THE HELICOPTER!! Haha. So when they said “part” they actually meant “the helicopter itself.” So this “part” was going to get into Nabire in about a week and was an easy fix they said. Ok… no prob. My hotel in Bali was only for 3 nights because I was told the heli was going to be fixed by then. So I had to find another hotel (the one I was in was booked solid when my reservation was over). Hotel number 3 was nice, but didn’t have any mosquito netting to fend off any bugs with malaria. Sigh. No… I don’t have malaria, thank god. Anyhow… by this time I had no idea when I was flying to Nabire, but received a call after a few days at this new hotel and said we were leaving later that day to go from Nabire to Makassar (1.5 hour flight) to Biak (5 hour flight) to Nabire (1 hour flight). So I packed up my stuff to head out to another hotel and another city.

So I took off from Bali to Makassar, but in Makassar, I was told that all flights were booked to Biak and Nabire. (keeping up?) SO… hotel number 4, here we come. I was in Makassar for a few days because all flights were booked into Nabire (except another group managed to get 8 seats from Makassar to Nabire… hmmmm). While in Makassar, I was told the “part” for the heli got there, but they didn’t have the tools to put it on. Haha. Really? So a few days later (day 15 of the trip??) I was told the “part” was on, and there were flights to Nabire again. GREAT!! I’m heading over and going up the mountain because the heli was going to be fixed in a couple of days. I get to the Makassar airport and head to the gate for my 1AM flight to Biak where I was supposed to arrive at 6AM (2nd time zone change in Indonesia after the 12 from America), and the flight was delayed. I take a nap. Wake up… delayed. Nap. Wake up… delayed. Nap. Wake up and find out that the flight isn’t leaving until 6AM. By this time I had been at the airport for nearly 8 hours. Finally get an answer on the plane where they attempted to speak English and they said, “we apologize for the delay. The delay was due to reasons.” ………thanks. That clears everything up. I appreciate it.

Getting into Biak late, I luckily only had an hour before the flight to Nabire and it was a nice day. It was only 94. The entire time while I was trying to get to Nabire, we were also trying to negotiate using a different helicopter to take us to base camp. It was a Russian Kamov heli piloted by a crew of 4 Koreans. Through the negotiations, it was like that old “telephone game” where we’d say something in English to someone who spoke Indonesian to someone who spoke Korean. Hahaha… I give up. So we finally come to conclusions about the Kamov (basically price and the fact that we’d be “borrowing” it from a local gold mine), but there’s no fuel. So we try to get fuel, but get this… a couple weeks before, the country had a week-long holiday where people went to Nabire for vacation. The airlines ran more flights than normal to get the people there, but the week later, when they were trying to get people back home, they ran out of fuel because they didn’t plan for the extra flights. The fuel tanker comes by to sell them the normal weekly supply, they didn’t order more, the tanker didn’t have extra, so the people trying to get back home had to wait another week for the fuel and because of all that, we actually got fuel from the military in Biak to drop fuel in Nabire so we could use the Kamov heli. ….have I lost you yet?? Haha.

So after the fuel was “found” and after we could use the Kamov, they decide that the Kamov needed some sort of “anti-freezing” instrument placed on the blades because of the altitude. Great. Another part. Well that part was ordered, got there quickly (quick enough) but they didn’t have the tools to put it on either. Wonderful.

Back in Biak… flight finally takes off (it was delayed 5 hours) and I land in Nabire where I heard the smaller heli was fixed and was ready to go… GREAT!! But later find out that the heli IS fixed, however the Indonesian government wouldn’t let them test fly it until they had someone inspect it. …another 3 days for that person to get to town. In the mean time, the pilot for the heli isn’t even on the island and hasn’t come back from his vacation yet to do the test flight.

So back to the Kamov… fuel is there, crew is ready, we’re ready, part is finally on… we still can’t take the other heli, so we head up in the Kamov. After about an hour of flying up to base camp, we see it, but can’t land because the clouds are too thick and it’s too dangerous to land. We discussed us jumping out and the crew tossing us our climbing gear, but they weren’t too keen on that idea. So it’s back to Nabire.

Weather the next day wasn’t great, so we didn’t go anywhere and enjoyed the 103 temps with 100% humidity. I think one of my ears is a little lower because it melted a little and slid down my head.

The next day we attempted the base camp again. No dice. Back to Nabire again. We figured we’d try again tomorrow, but guess what… no fuel. We’re out. By this time the “inspector” for the smaller heli showed up and looked at the “part” they put on only to say, “great. Looks wonderful. Now take it off and put it back on in front of me so I know you did it right.” Sigh. Another 2 days of playing around in the jungle heat waiting on something that might not happen. In the mean time, we wanted to meet with the pilot because we heard he was going to be back on the island. We were told he was, we went to meet with him (but he was actually the co-pilot – pilot was in Makassar still on vacation). After meeting with the “pilot” as we were told he was, he mentioned something about the “part” being put back on the heli, but because it cracked, they had to wait for … I kid you not… the glue to dry. That’s about the time I figured it wasn’t in my best interest to go up this mountain and the signs (the numerous signs) were telling me it wasn’t my time and I should try to go home and return.

The next day I took off from Biak back to Jakarta, changed my flight out of Jakarta to a few days later (when I thought I’d actually get back to Jakarta), and spent nearly 10 hours in the airport trying to fly standby to get to Seoul to Chicago. Midnight comes rolling around, I sleep in the airport for a while, finally find a hotel, take a taxi there, check in, sleep for an hour or so, and get ready to head back to the airport again and fly home. That worked, and 2 days later I landed in Chicago.

Looking back at it, it’s one frustrating trip to say the least and I didn’t even cover everything that went wrong because this novella has gone on long enough. I did, however, get the opportunity to meet some incredible people and they have become some good friends...

Heli - 2


Internet problems

Happy ending

Makassar update

Trip to Nabire

Bali pt.1

Bali pt. 2


Hotel Secrets

Internet Problems

Chicken Liver


Hospital Visit Security

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Dont Drink the water!

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Dispatching from Seoul

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 6 Kilimajaro -- Really, Really, Late

Day 6 -- Really, Really Late

No blog for Sean and the CancerClimber team today... however, they are doing the summit push tonight at 12am Kilimanjaro time, 3 pm MST. It should take about 8 hours. Everyone is in amazing spirits and wants you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Everyone on the team is healthy and looking forward to reaching their goal of reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Keep Climbing,


Day 5 Kilimajaro -- 9:17pm Kili time

Day 5 -- Kilimanjaro Climb

Windy, Windy, Windy... That describes how last night was.Thank god for

earplugs, that's all I can say. Up early at 6:30am, breakfast, then we hit

the trail for a 7 hour day. The only way to really describe this hike, is

to step on a treadmill at the incline on the steepest setting, do it at a

walk for 7 hours, only stopping to pee and have a 30 minute lunch. We did

manage to get up to the lava tower at 15,000 ft for some great acclamation.

Tonight, we are sleeping at 13,000 ft and hoping to get some rest before

heading to 16,000 ft and the last camp. Tomorrow night, we head up to the

summit God willing. One of the Climbers is doing a short guest blog and I

would like to share that with you now...

Jeff Dalpoggetto --

This has been the greatest challenge of my life. It has also been the

greatest experience of my life. There is no better way to celebrate 20

years of testicular cancer to be free and living life by challenging

yourself to do heights, experiences and adventures.

Sean --

Thank you all for the sat messages, please keep them coming and don't stop.

Peace out from the Baranco camp everyone is in great spirits and is excited

about tomorrow.

Keep Climbing,


Day 5 Kilimajaro -- 81

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 4 Kilimanjaro -- 8:00 pm Kili Time

Day 4 -- Kilimanjaro Climb

Morning came early today because not many people slept well.  Everyone woke up around 2am and couldn't get back to sleep.  Kris even stayed up till 4am reading.  Jeff ran to the toilet in his scibbies while Ursula and Deb were kept up by a snorting wild boar...  May be that is what was shot and would explain the bullet hole in my meat last night.  Breakfast was scrambled eggs and toast, Followed by some type of cream of wheat.  Good way to start our day.  After a looooong way up steep hills, we had lunch.  However, on our way I chatted with another cancer survivor.  Victor form Toronto, was hiking up and we chatted about hope and why each were doing the mountain.  Tomorrow, you will get a guest blogger and understand more about our quest to reach around the world and help through inspiration, hope and a never say die attitude.  Upon arriving Shira Camp we were all exhausted from the 6 hour trek and nearly 3000ft increase in altitude.  After getting some rest, a few people went to a really cool cave while others went and flew a fighter kite.  Good times had by all.  We just had dinner and are now snug in our sleeping bags and ready for bed.  Its not even 8pm and we are all ready to call it a night.  Tuto anana kesho and asante sana from the CancerClimber Kili family.  Thank you for the texts, please keep them coming... And always, Keep Climbing.

If you would like to sent the CancerClimber Team a text:

Go to www.iridium.com

Click send a satellite text (upper right corner)

881632511299 enter this number and write your text message to me and the CancerClimber Team.

Sean Swarner

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 3 Kilimanjaro -- 9:00 pm Kili Time

Day 3 -- Kilimanjaro Climb

Communication made possible by www.mvsusa.com

Day started off on a wonderful note and we all packed up the van and headed to the Mountain's gate.  I have been fighting a cold and the higher we went the more my ears clogged.  Higher and higher my ears got more clogged.  Now I can't even hear very well.  The Machame gate was wonderful and after signing in we took off on the trail and headed up onto the mountain.  The rain forest was absolutely beautiful and the trek was fantastic.  Very difficult day and very steep.  It was amazing none the less.  About six hours later we rolled into camp and ate some snacks.  All the porters had the tents set up and ready for us.  Dinner was meat... Not sure what kind, but I swear my piece had a bullet hole in it.  Now its off to bed and we wake up at 6:30am  and go from the Macheme camp to the Shira plateau.  Five hour hike and we get to rest.  Got the text messages- awesome.  Thank so much and keep them coming.

If you would like to send me a text:

Go to www.iridium.com

Click send a satellite text (upper right corner)

881632511299 enter this number and write your text message to me and the CancerClimber Team.

Keep Climbing,


Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 2 Kilimanjaro

July 26th -- Kilimanjaro Climb

Communication made possible by http://www.mvsusa.com/

Yesterday had a great time with Theo, my friend, and his family. A couple of beers, some good laughs, a prayer for the trip (his brother is a pastor) and some great food his wife made.

Lincoln - his 14 month old son - was walking around, playing with the people there, until he dropped a bottle cap into Teel's glass. He shoved his entire hand into the beer, grabbed the cap and licked his hands clean. I mean slurping them. Like father like son I guess.

Then it was off to the airport to pick up the group. 7 of them came in last night. All looking pretty good considering they just had an 8 hour flight from Amsterdam. Gathered luggage, loaded up the bus and took off to Moshi. all were chatting until about 15 min into the trip when the entire bus went quiet. they all checked in, had some snacks, and crashed hard.

I got up for breakfast, waited for everyone else to get up. We have 2 more coming in later today.

I'm also heading to the local hospital today to visit the cancer patients and a radiologist I met yesterday. should be a great trip....

Keep Climbing,

Sean Swarner

Day 1 Kilimanjaro

July 25th -- Kilimanjaro Climb

Communication made possible by http://www.mvsusa.com/

Teel and I made it in just fine... tired, but just fine. Slept about 1 hour on our 30 hour trip but both doing well today. Jeff just got here about 1pm local time, nine hour difference from Colorado. He was looking good considering he was coming from California. The mountain just poked her head out for us to see and its just beautiful.

Wonderful to be back here. My buddy, Theophil, came off the mountain today and he is going to be our guide on Tuesday.

Thanks for the messages always wonderful.

Keep Climbing,

Sean Swaner