Hell Has Frozen Over...

It is official; hell has frozen over. This morning it was -3 degrees, with a wind chill....feels like -25! Well, Iowa sure is showing us her stuff! Honestly, the negative 2 is not so bad, but when the wind is blowing it literally takes your breath away! Stay tuned for more...they say it gets down to NEGATIVE 35. Going home for Christmas, when it is only in the 30s is going to be like taking a vacation to Hawaii. I am very excited for the upcoming holidays; all my shopping is done!! Can't wait to see everyone!


Children of The Corn

After a long discussion with the United Rep, I made my way to Des Moines, Iowa. Via Omaha. Via Seattle. Via Tobin. Via San Francisco. Via New York. Via Massachusetts. Via South America.

I spent some time with K in Danville, eating and....um, eating. We had a list of places and types of food that we wanted to sample and we spent about 5 days living up to our dreams. The last day with her was spent in Berkeley, with her roommies and her Mom, going on a food extravaganza....for breakfast, chinese and tea, for snack pizza, and for desert, cupcakes and then....for another snack, chocolate. By 3 we were stuffed and so K dropped me off with my mom and we headed to Tobin.

I stayed in Tobin for a few weeks, visiting with Mom, Sara, Lea and Nadine and then headed to Seattle for our Thanksgiving up at Karl and Ruths. We ate some more (I even ate some turkey!) and we played lots of games and generally had a blast!

From Seattle, I was supposed to fly to Des Moines, but due to weather and a mechanical problem, I couldnt make my connection, so ended up having to go to Omaha instead (first time there, wow, its great *wink, wink*) and then drive to Des Moines. Luckily I had my Dad as company, as he had had problems getting his flight as well.

Now I am in Iowa; it was 18 degrees yesterday morning and snowing today. Welcome to work and welcome to winter!


Mawidge..its whats bwings us togetha today...

From Columbia, the first stop was in Massachusetts - to meet Mr L's family (all 400 of them...who turned out to be pretty nice *wink, wink*) and to see Grandma Sue, Aunt Lucy, Hannah and Nick as well as my friend Dave and his kids Emma and Finn (we missed Penny!!) We spent a few days there, meeting up with friends, eating, eating, drinking, shopping and eating... If you get a chance to go to the Roasted Pig in New Bedford, I reccommend it; it is very good! Also, Mrs. Bee's House puts on a very good lunch on Sunday! So, after cramming ourselves full of food and my having met about 487 new people, we decided to leave town for a respite....

We got on the train in Providence and took it down to New York City, where we had a nice hotel in Times Square. Wow, it sure is nice to be home and sleep in clean, soft beds and take real, hot showers!! The simple pleasures in life! Mr. Lovely and I spent the first night, which was our anniversary night (he has put up with me for a whole year!) having a very nice dinner in the City. There are such an abundance of places to eat...I think the eating binge in not even close to over! We spent the next day strolling the city and at night we went and saw Wicked, the Broadway show... If you get a chance, you really should check it out...it was Wonderful!

The next three days were spent doing Seth Berr wedding events, which were also wonderful. On Friday we had a meet and greet for out of towners which began at the Thai restaurant where Seth met his wife and ended at a bar with over 100 themed shots, where you have to wear a wig and play a song while taking your shot. Saturday we had the wedding at the Water Club, which is right on the East river -- great location, great food and very great company abound! Sunday, we had brunch at the Russian Tea Room, which
was opened in 1927 by former members of the Russian Imperial Ballet as a gathering place for Russian expatriates and became famous as a gathering place for those in the entertainment industry. Again, it was top notch.

We spent the next couple of days just wandering around the city...We love Greenwich Village!! Eating, eating and eating again...I love the food here! Yesterday we split, Mr. Lovely went back to NOLA and I came to San Francisco. I am staying with K for a few days, then it is up North to hang out with Mom for a while...cant wait!


Last Day!!!

Today I sat in a speedboat coming from Playa Blanca going back to Cartegena and I felt like the lead character in a movie...who is sitting on a ___________ (pick your moving vehicle) looking out the window, reflecting on _____________ (whatever happened in the movie). Fade to black. Roll credits.
So, today I am fading to black on our 10 country, almost 10 month journey to the South of the Equator (and a tiny bit of North)...starring many main characters and many, many guest appearances.

Roll Credits.... Thanks to the Academy...and to Mr. Lovely, my parents and CK, without whom I would have never been able to make it through this trip. Thanks to S, Grant, KE, Rafe, M and HN who all joined us for part of the action and adventure and with whom I had a wonderful time and can't wait to see again. Thanks to all my friends and family for putting up with my long gaps in phone calls and/or emails. And for the crappy quality of them once they arrived.


Cartegena and Juice

We have finally arrived at our final destination, Cartegena. After walking around the old town area, which is fabulous, we had a fresh juice (there are so many!) and met up with another traveler to watch the Columbia soccer game. We spent the next day going to a mud volcano where you can actually sit in the mud and it is supposed to have many healthy properties. To me, it was just kind of gross. Sitting in a mud bath with 30 other people while not being able to move away from them is kind of weird to me. And there are these guys there that want to massage you and it just makes me kind of disgusted... Other than that, in Cartegena we admired the beautiful architecture of the old town and enjoyed the street food and juices...

So, from here we will fly out - Chris to Chicago and I to Boston and New York... The end is upon us!


Ciudad Perdida

Whew! We just got back from a 6 day hike into the jungles of Columbia, where we crossed the Buritaca River 9 times in seach of the elusive Ciudad Perdida (Lost City). It being the rainy season, we hiked in the mornings while it was sunny (mostly) and then (mostly) took it easy, chatted and swam in the afternoons while it rained. Our group was good, 4 kiwis, 1 scot and Chris and I. We all got along great, as well as pretty much hiked at about the same pace. Our guide, Wilson (fitting) was great, but only spoke Spanish, so those of us who spoke Spanish had to translate for those that didnt. It was actually great practice for my Spanish skills.

The hike was very difficult. Every day we went up a huge muddy hill and back down the other side of it, to end up campìng near the river. The next day we would do the same. It was about 85 degrees most of the time, with a humidity of about 98 percent, much like hiking in New Orleans would be if they had any hills. However, although we did have to carry our own bags, we did not have to carry or make our own food, so it was not as hard as it could have been. Nothing like carrying 20 cans of tuna on the Patagonia hike!

We arrived at the Lost City on day three and got to explore it a bit in the afternoon. It is massive! However, only about 10 percent of the city is uncovered for tourists to explore. I cant really even fathom how big the entire thing really is. The city was discovered in 1972, but unfortunately was raided by a bunch of gold seekers, who raided the tombs in the city (the dead were buried with their possesions, often gold and ceramics, to take to their next life with them). Finally the military intervened and people caught selling the relics in the nearby towns were punished. In the mid 80s, tours were started.

In 2003, 8 tourists were kidnapped from the Lost City by a Columbian terrorist group, who demanded government investigation of human rights groups in return for the hostages. Eventually they were all released, unharmed, and the trail as well as the site are both safely guarded by the military at the current moment. We even got pictures at the top with the military guys who are stationed there. They have some wickedly huge guns!

Now we are back in the real world, the not so lost city, and are enjoying a couple of half days on the beach (it is still raining a lot) before heading off to Parque National Tayrona for some hiking etc.


Mitad Del Mundo and More!!!

For the first time in about 9 months, we are back in the Northern Hemisphere! We spent one week in Ecuador, ending in Quito and visiting the Mitad Del Mundo, or Center of the World, where we straddled the equator and passed for the first time into the N. Hemisphere. Next we crossed over into Columbia, where we are now.

Columbia is not as scary as the US Government would lead you to believe, but there are still some precautions that should be taken. Buses have been known to be hijacked at night, so we have not been taking buses at night (obviously!) However, this means we have to do all of our travel during the day, which cuts into our time to explore the country. However, the scenery here is beautiful; the mountains are all green and they are in their growing season, so there are plants and vegetables and fruits everywhere!

We first stopped in Pasto, in a 7 dollar flea bitten hotel near the bus station. That was a 10 hour rest stop so we wouldnt have to travel at night. Then we went to a nice little colonial town called Popayan, where the streets are all numbers and you can get lost, but not in a bad way. Next we went to the town of San Augustin, which sits at the top of the Cordillera Central (Central Mountain Range) and looks down onto the valley of the River Magdalena. We took a horseback tour to a bunch of old ruin sites which are from BC.

Our most recent stop is here in Bogota, where we are now. It is nice to be in the city, where there is semi decent internet, but it is just so big and everything is so expensive....we are looking forward to our next stop, Valle de Leyva, where we will go hiking and biking and nature watching.



Whew! Well, I must have ate something bad, becuase I was pretty sick for a little while...Luckily, thanks to the F word and Mr L, I was put up in the Lima Sheraton for a few days, which allowed me to get better in style.

Then I met up with Chris and we headed up to Trujillo, which is the jumping off point for the ruins of Chan Chan. Chan Chan is an all adobe city, which is reputed to be the biggest adobe pre-Columbian city in the Americas. It was partly pile of dirt, partly cool old fortress.

Next we headed to Ecuador, where we are now. First stop, the city of Cuenca, where they make Panama Hats (go figure, Panama Hats are NOT from Panama). We went to a National Park and did some hiking, it rained on us a bit, and we sampled the local fare (really good buns!!) Then we took the bus to Baños, where we are now. Baños is the city of hot springs and massages, so we went to the hot springs (it was closed) and then got a massage (only 17 dollars - Ecuador uses dollars so it really seems like my money is going faster...is that weird).
Next is the city of Quito, where we will visit the ecuator and then head north to Columbia. Our trip (feels like it) is nearing the end....we only have a little over a month left!!! It will be strange to be back in the States, doing NORMAL stuff again...will I be able to handle it!!?? We shall see.....


5 Days of Fun!

Machu Picchu! We did it! We did a 5 day trek over the Salkanty mountain, which took us to a height of 4600 meters (15,180 ft) into the cold and then down to 1500 meters into the jungle, finally ending at Machu Picchu. It was a hard hike, but very rewarding at the end.

Before going to Machu Picchu we went to the Sacred Valley and to the very important ruins of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced Sexy Woman), which was a fortress made from 8 (or more) sided rocks used to build the zig zag shaped walls (also used to represent the teeth of a puma, where Cuzco represents the rest of the head).

Now we are in Lima, where I will meet back up with Chris, who has been volunteering for the last month in Bolivia while I have been cavorting in Peru (he already came here with his parents, hiked Macchu Picchu, got e-coli and then came back and met up with me in Brazil).


Titty Caca

Haha, I can actually say that without feeling like I am disrespectful! We are near Lake Titicaca, in Puno, Peru. According to the Peruvians, they got the Titi and Bolivia got the Caca. The funny thing is that Bolivia actually has the more beautiful side of the lake. There are a bunch of mountains surrounding it which are more than 6000 meters high (19000 Feet) and are covered in snow. It is a very nice place to be.

First we went to the WORLDS MOST DANGEROUS ROAD, which is near La Paz, in Bolivia. We survived! We mountain biked down from about 4000 meters to about 1000 meters in about 4 or 5 hours. Half of it was paved and half dirt, but the whole thing was a lot of fun! Next we went to Copacabana and the Isla de Sol, which is supposed to be where the Inca civilization began.

Next we headed to Peru, where we visited Arequipa, which was built in the 1500s and is quite beautiful with a huge church on the main square which occupies the whole block. We also visited the Convent of Santa Catalina which occupies a whole city block and is where the rich Spanish families would send their daughters (for a hefty fee of course). The picture above is one of Santa Catarina. It was beautiful!
From Arequipa, we came to Puno, where we are now. Yesterday we went on a tour of the floating islands and got to spend the night in the house of an indigenous person as well as dressing up in local dress and going to a local fiesta (pictures to come later - it was great!).
Tomorrow we head to Cuzco and then we will tackle Machu Pichu!! I am very excited about this although the altitude has been a little rough at times!


Huelgas, Desfiles y Fiestas!!

The election is in 3 days. Actually it is not an election, it is a referendum. What happens is this... Everyone goes and votes whether they want to keep Evo or not. If so, he remains President. He has been President for 3 years...normally a term is for 5. If they vote no, he gets impeached and they have to vote for a new President. Supposedly, out of the 9 departments (states), only 3 are for Evo and the other six are against him.

Like I said before, they love to protest here! So, we have protests every day...and if Evo gets voted IN (to remain) there will be even more. If he gets voted out, I dont really know what will happen. Yesterday, he flew to the city of Santa Cruz and they would not let him get out of the plane! They canceled the parades for Independence Day in 3 cities...! These people are crazy! They are saying that never has there been such unrest in the month of the Patria (Patriot)!!!

So, we shall see what happens. I bought a flight to La Paz so I wouldnt have to worry about whether or not I will be able to take the bus...However La Paz is going to be crazy!! Evo is going to be in La Paz during the election... We are making history here!


Mi Patria Bolivia

Tomorrow is the Dia de Independencia of Bolivia and the flags are flying! They have been practicing their drums and batons for the last couple weeks and today they finally got a chance to show their stuff.

This week has been very interesting, to say the least. Not only is it Independence Day tomorrow, but the Elections are on Sunday, the 10th. On top of that, the President, Evo Morales, is still imposing taxes, cutting pensions in half and making other changes like that, so...this means people are striking, protesting and rallying on the streets. The last week, there have been protests every day, there has been no school (the teachers are on strike) and there have been roadblocks (no busses or cars can come or go out of any of the cities)... However, this is normal. The only problem is that I need to get to La Paz in 4 days and I dont know if there will be any busses!

However, that is in 4 days. There are parades, parties and fun to be had right now! Viva Mi Patria Bolivia!


Honk If You Are Bolivian!

I almost got hit by a car the other day. It is becuase the people here drive like they are the only ones on the road. It is funny sometimes, the complete lack of rules or maybe just disregard of the rules, but sometimes there are some close calls. They just honk when they are about to hit you, so at least before you get hit, you are sure of what is about to happen.

Here is the thing. At most of the intersections, they dont have stop lights or signs. Basically, whoever gets there first and squeezes their way out into the intersection first, has the right of way. Where there are lights, they are just suggestions. If it is red, but you dont think that other cars are coming, go ahead and go (maybe to make yourself feel better, you should honk). If other cars ARE coming and they are about to hit you, just honk, you will be fine.

This is all well and good, but if you are a pedestrian it is a little hard sometimes to figure out what the cars are going to do. You cant just go if your light is green... So that is what I was doing. The traffic was stopped. There actually WAS a light, which was RED. The green way was stalled becuase they were all backed up through the intersection, so I had a green light basically. So I went. And some dude with a red light decided to try to creep through the stalled intersection and make his way across...and he almost hit me.

But I survived. I just laugh when I see the way they drive. It is comical. Oh, and PS, the car at the top is a Volkswagon Brasilia...this is the most common car in the city of Cochabamba...


Hoy Es Un Dia Normal

Well, we are now in Cochabamba and have been here for about a week. We are settling into our routine...Here it is, for your reading enjoyment.

-8:00 get up
-Have breakfast, watch my favorite show on Discovery Kids (in Spanish, its about what I can understand), Charlie y Lola
-Walk to class (about 20 minutes, mostly downtown, with a few plazas thrown in)
-10:00 - 12:00 Tutor in Spanish. We mostly just talk girl talk, in Spanish...I mean, what else am I paying her for? I am getting the best gossip in Cochabamba!!
-Walk home
-1:00 - 2:00 Lunch with the family (we are staying with a family in the down town area. They have other family come over all the time for lunch, so we always have a full table for lunch)
-2:00 - 2:30 Bus ride to work (volunteering) goes from down town to the subburbs, where the orphanage is
2:30 - 6:30 Help the kids with their tarea (homework), help them with their work (they each have a daily chore) and if there is time, play with them. The kids are from 3 yrs - 17 years. 30 kids live in the orphanage full time and another...maybe 30-40 come for an after school program around 3. It is busy, busy, busy...and my arms are tired from all the spinning around and carrying we do! But it is a great time.
-Bus back home
-7:00 Dinner with the family
-At 8 Julietta´s novela (soap opera) comes on and if you want to watch it with her (and another at 9) you can...It is actually good becuase they speak really slowly, so it is easier to understand the Spanish this way...but they are SOOOO cheesy!!!
-After dinner activities (there is a festival/holiday right now for one of the virgins, so there is a mini carnaval with food and fireworks and music every night)

And that, my friends, is our normal day!!!


16 Tons And What Do You Get?

Today, we are in Potosi, the highest city in the world. It sits at roughly 4100 M (about 13,500 ft) which is only 1000 feet less than Mt. Whitney, the continental US´ highest mountain. We arrived last night and decided to walk to the center of town to get some dinner. The hill we walked up was not too steep and the entire walk was about a mile, but I was so out of breath just trying to accomplish the short walk. I also had a little bit of a headache, which is one of the syptoms of altitude sickness. However, the cure for that is a tea made of coca leaves, which actually helped! After dinner we went to bed early, becuase we had scheduled a trip into the mines for early the next morning.

The mine tour was very interesting. We got to see how the minerals are mined, processed and what the finished product is. In the Potosi mines, they are all collective, which means that each miner works for himself. Actually, groups of miners work together as a team; they each have their own area of the mine. There are approximately 15,000 people working in the mines, the youngest is about 8 (which is illegal, the age limit is 18) and the oldest is about 68 (which is rare, many die after 10 or more years from black lung).

We were down inside for about 2 hours, breathing dust and stuck in small hot spaces. It was horrible. I cant believe so many people spend 8-10 hours a day in that (6 days a week)!! I really have a new respect for the miners. After the tour, we went outside and we got to set off dynamite. It was pretty cool. With a wick of about a foot, you have about 4 minutes before the dynamite goes off.

Now we are back in the town, walking around, waiting for our overnight bus which will take us to Cochabamba, which is where we are going to do a month of volunteering.

Bouncy, Bouncy

After crossing the border from Argentina back into Bolivia, we took the bus to Tupiza, which is supposed to be a kind of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid kind of place. After getting in late and getting over charged for a room, we kind of had a bad attitude towards the place, but the next day we booked a horse riding tour and our attitude changed.

I have only ridden a horse maybe a half a dozen times, so I am no expert, so when our guide, a 14 year old named Michael (NOT Miguel, what is that all about) asked if I had any experience I said, un poco (a little). Well, a little spans a big gap. Chris and I have gone riding a couple of times and he is much more advanced than me, so he told me how to (try to) sit when the horse is walking, jogging and running (I dont know the correct horse terms but you get what I mean) and I have JUST mastered the walking (go me!) and started to work on the jogging.

The ride was nice. It went through canyons of colored rocks, cacti and crazy thorny bushes. However, we got onto a straight away and Michael decided to get the horses to a run! I had absolutely NO IDEA what I was doing. I just tried to sit like I did during the jog and it did work, but wow, we were cruising!!! It was great!! I was so scared but so excited at the same time! I loved it although the whole time I thought I was going to fall off.

When we stopped, I realized I had a blister on my butt! I have never had that before, I can say that for certain! And now, today, two days ago, my ass is still so sore, I can barely sit in a seat. It is pretty funny really. All I can say is, I love riding horses, but I have a lot to learn.


I Am SO High!!

We just came back from a wonderful time in the salt flats of Bolivia. We started in the town of Uyuni, which is kind of a dirty little city and is mostly used as a base for the salt flat tours. Uyuni was FREEZING!!! We only stayed one night there and then took off the next morning for our tour of the salt flats.
The salt flats were amazing!! I am not sure of the whole story, becuase our guide spoke all in Spanish, but from what I understood, they are about 12,000 square km and used to be under the Pacific Ocean until the plates shifted and they got pushed up. They sit at about 4000 M (13,200 ft) above sea level and are only interrupted by a couple of islands which are covered with coral, proving that they used to be under water. How cool is that?
Our first day was spent making silly pictures, which I will post later on, and going to see how the salt is harvested and processed. We also visited a town where the buildings are all made of salt. We went to the island, which has a lot of coral on it, as well as being covered with thousand year old cacti. Pretty cool. That night we slept in a local village, where the temperature was...-6 degrees celcius (about 20 degrees F). It was cold! The next day we went and toured the colorful lakes and mountains of the antiplano. The next day we got up at 4 to go see the geysers, which are at 5000 M (16500 ft)!!! It was freezing and hard to breathe! Our next stop was at a thermal springs where the water was warm, but not warm enough for me to get into it!!
After exploring the salt flats, we headed back down (to ONLY 2500 M) to San Pedro de Atacama, which is in Chile and sits right in the middle of the Atacama desert, the driest desert in the world. We met a couple of nice folks from the UK and Australia and hung out with them there. We also all traveled to Salta, Argentina together, where we celebrated Chris and my birthdays (we had not had a chance to celebrate them together before), our 6 month travel anniversary AND 4th of July as well as Matt and Sally's 6 week travel anniversary...It was a lot of fun. We splurged and got a room at the Sheraton, where we decorated the room with balloons and bought hats and noise makers and drank Argentine wine (mmmm) and had a grand time!
Now we are back in Bolivia (high again, 3000 M) and are planning some horseback riding and hiking.


Sucre - So Sweet

We made it to Sucre, but it took a while to get here!
From the town we were in before, Semaipata, we caught a bus...which was supposed to pick us up at 7, but arrived at 8:40 pm instead. We got on and got comfy. About 10 minutes later, the bus stopped for dinner. As we had just gotten on, I stayed on the bus and made myself comfortable. All of a sudden the bus was moving, without anyone on it. As I sat there, I felt the bus being jacked up. They were changing the tire!

It was over in about a half an hour or 45 minutes, I dont know, as I kind of dozed through it. So, around 9:40 we got back on the road. I fell back asleep but was awoken about 3 more times by the bus breaking down once and getting 2, yes 2 more flat tires! Then finally around 8 am, the bus pulled over (I had to pee so bad! There are no bathrooms on these buses) and I went to the bushes to pee...Then I realized they were putting oil in it or something - another break down? We arrived in Sucre about 3 hours later than we were supposed to.

Sucre is beautiful. It used to be the capital, but La Paz has taken over that title. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1991 and rightfully so. It was built sometime in the 1500s and many of the buildings are old and beautiful. The roads are small and some are cobblestoned and there are archways over some of the central streets. We went to the municipal market and drooled over the fruits and veggies before finally buying lunch for 8 Bolivianos, which is about 1 dollar.

Unfortunately, I caught a cold and the weather has been...COOOLLLLD (about 30) and so I am taking it easy lately. Luckily Sucre is warmer (I think it is in the 50s or 60s here in the day time) so it is a good place to recuperate. However, nobody has hot water showers, so if you want to be clean, you have to be even colder. I am deciding to be dirty most days. We leave tomorrow for Uyuni, which are where the salt flats are (and houses etc all made from salt). Supposedly in Uyuni it can get down into the teens! BRRRRR... I need to buy another sweater! From Uyuni, you can do tours of the salt flats, so we will do a 3 or 4 day tour from there, ending up in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.

Countries Visited


Every Picture Tells a Story, Dont It?

Well, I finally....got more photos online!

You can visit them here.

Or you can see Chris´pics here.


Tuiui (source)
We just got out of the Pantanal, where we spent 4 days. We had a great time - we went horseback riding, fishing for piranha, cayman hunting, and on an all day safari. We saw lots of birds, including blue macaw and toucans and a huge giant stork, called in Portuguese "tuiuiu", which is really fun to say. This bird is 1.5 meters tall (about 4-5 feet!) It is crazy! We also saw many, many caymans, a giant river otter and many capyvara, the largest rodent in the world, which looks like a huge guinnea pig and SWIMS! They have crazy animals. It was great!

We were hoping to see an anaconda and a giant anteater and a jaguar...or an anaconda eating an anteater and both of them being eaten by a jaguar... but it was not meant to be. We did see an anteater named Phillipe when we got to the border town of Corumba. It was really cool. He was really big and has no teeth but will suck on your fingers and lick you with his weird tongue. He does have large claws, but is basically like a big funny looking dog. (pics will be put online later)

Now we are in Bolivia. We just arrived today after a long (23 hours) ride on the Death Train, which goes from Quijarros (the border) to Santa Cruz. The ride was good, although long, and we did not have any scary situations. The reason it is called the Death Train is because apparently in the 80s they used to carry a lot of contraband in the inside of the train and the people would ride on the top. The train used to derail a lot and many of the people on the top got killed. Hence the name. But now it does not derail as much and I did not see anyone riding on the top (or any contraband *wink, wink*)
Next stop, the Jesuit Mission Circuit, which is a few hours East of the town of Santa Cruz, where we are now. We are excited to be in Bolivia, but it is going to be hard to adjust to the temperature after being in the warmth of Brazil for so long! Where we are going in the next couple weeks, it gets way below freezing! Oh and now that I finally learned a few words in Portuguese, I have to switch my brain back to Spanish! Oh mio dios...


Jericoacoara - Land of Sand

I found my new favorite place! It was hard to get to, but in the end, it was totally worth it! To get here, I had to take a bus for 2 hours, wait for another 2 hours, take another bus for 8 hours, wait for another 2 hours, take a bus for 5 hours, get off and then on to another "bus" (this one is 4 wheel drive, open sided with bench seats and the luggage goes on the top) for an additional hour.

After all that, I arrive in a town with all sand roads, no sidewalks, barely 2 small markets and no
stress. This town is, as the locals say, TRANQUILO, tranquil, layed back and beautiful. The beach stretches some 30 km the town one way and I dont know how many the other way... I was going to stay here for two or three days and then...Chris finally met back up with me AND we both loved it so much we ended up staying about a week. We met some great people, hung out at the beach, relaxed at the hostel with our books, chatted with the owners of the pousada, hiked up sand dunes, rode horses, watched MANY sunsets.... it was great.
Then we decided to get back to the real world...but first we wanted to go to a Park called Lençois Marahenses, which is full of sand dunes and lakes. But to get there, we had to...take a 4x4 for about 2 hours, a van for about 3 hours, a bus for about 4 hours...to the town of Tutoia, where we spent the night. Then the next day, we took another 4x4 to a small town where we spent the night, then the next day another two hours to Barrerinhas, where you can do a jeep tour to the dunes. Whew!

The jeep tour was great! We went in the afternoon to be able to see the sunset, but it was kind of cloudy. However, we did swim in a few warm fresh water lakes and hike over some beautiful white dunes...
Next we went to the big city of Sao Luis, where we walked around the colonial center, met a bunch of people and got to see the locals practicing for the Bumba do Moi festival by dancing around in cool feather costumes...It was very cool!

So, next stop, Brasilia and then the Pantanal!


Potty Please

So, one of the things that many of you people who are sitting in your office or home where the bathroom is within easy reach dont think about is the idea of NOT being able to go to the toilet whenever you want. If you have ever driven on the Mass Turnpike (Grant - hehe! Thanksgiving 05) you know what I mean.

Here it is a constant battle. We get so used to the good old US of A, where we can stop at McDonalds or Starbucks or the Rest Stop on the side of the road (ha! no such thing here!) or...pretty much
wherever and people will let you use their toilet. Here, first of all, they probably dont have a toilet and if they do, they may or may not let you use it. If they DO let you use it, you may have to pay. Oh, and, there probably is not toilet paper. Actually, it is more than likely there is none. And maybe no seat on the toilet, as if you were going to sit on it anyway. Oh and probably no sink.

BUT you are LUCKY to have found a bathroom in the first place, so you can't complain. But it sure is a shitty situation sometimes!


In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle...

I have arrived in the Amazon and there are many trees.

We first arrived in Manaus, which is not the middle of the jungle villiage you imagine. It is a teeming city of over two million people, which is a major hub for commerce on the river. It reminds me of something that used to be a beautiful place and could still be if it hadnt gone into disrepair years ago and never recovered. The city is filled with what used to be beautiful buildings, with tile façades and gated courtyards, but are now covered with soot and dirt and grime.

Next a boat cruise was in order. There are two ways you can do it... 1) like the locals, who use the Amazonas River as a means of transport as well as commerce. This entails a 3-5 day trip from Belem to Maunaus, which can be fun. However, the river is quite wide and you dont really get to see a lot of wild life. 2) a group tour, with a bunch of white people. We chose the latter. Which I was not really too keen on at first, becuase going with a bunch of other tourists is not usually my thing. However, it was GREAT! The first day we went on a sunset canoe ride and saw snakes, birds and frogs. The next day we went on a sunrise canoe and saw another snake and many birds, including parrots and macaws. We also took a hike and learned a lot about the flora of the jungle. There are about 800 species of vines, many of them with medicinal properties. There are more than 3000 species of trees in the Amazon. And 3000 fish, 70% which are edible. And the Amazon dumps more water in one day into the ocean than the Thames river dumps in ONE YEAR!!! Crazy huh?

The next day we went piranha fishing. I caught NO piranha, but our driver caught about 7. I kept feeling them nibble, but could never jerk the line up fast enough to catch one. They are smaller than you think and most of them do not eat human. So, there goes that myth.

The last day we went to see the meeting of the waters, where the Rio Negro meets the Amazonas river. The Rio Negro is black and the Amazonas is brown and they flow next to each other for about 3-5 miles without mixing. It is pretty cool!

So, I got a little bit of edumacation and had a very awesome time on my jungle trip!


Trip Pics

Well, it is raining today so I finally got a chance to put more photos online! Yay!

You can, of course, view them here.


Chopping Broccoli

You never realize that when you travel you are going to miss some things. Little things. ¨Normal¨ things. Everyone alwasys wonders how much fun you are having, what new things you are doing, who you are meeting, etc. But sometimes I just want people to tell ME what THEY did today, who they hung out with and what they did. The normal things, the mundane, everyday, normal things have become more desirable to me. I want to go to dinner on Friday night with the normal work crowd. I want to have a beer at Vics while watching the koala fly back and forth. I want to play pool at Cooter Browns; I want to make pizza with Matt and Pam; I want to hike to Bucks creek with Dad and Shay. Okay, so I am not saying I am not having fun, quite the contrary, but it is funny how we always miss or want what we dont have.

The food here is good. A lot of it is fried, but there is also a lot of good local food, seafood and fruit...oh the fruit! It is delicious. Many papaya (mamãou), pineapple (abacaxi), passion fruit, watermelon and more! Every day for breakfast I eat about one ton of fruit. However, I had a dream the other day about broccoli, and now I want some broccoli SO bad! However, they dont have it here at all. Well, at least I have not seen it. And it is not a choice on the street or in the grocery store.

So, I have made a list. When I get home, I am going to eat good cheese and many soy products. I am going to play pool at Cooter Browns; I am going to go to the Mission for a burrito; I am going to have miso soup with K; I am going to have girls night on Thursday (where I eat good cheese and drink good wine) and last but not least, I am going to have tons and tons of Broccoli!

The Bane of the Bag

Chris and I always say that our home is where we lay our backpack. However, it is more than that. Not only do we lay our backpack somewhere, but we also lug the damn thing around everywhere before finally laying it down in its temporary home. There are levels of difficulty when carrying a bag that you dont think about when you are traveling in the US with your car and your hotel room and your whatever else.

The worst so far is Brazil. All the local buses have turnstyles. You pay, then you go through the turnstyle. If you are overweight or you have a big packpack, there is NO WAY you are getting through the turnstyle. So, luckily I am not the former, but I am still the latter. So, here is how it usually goes...

I get on the bus, give the guy at the turnstyle one of those looks (you know, glance at the pack, shrug your shoulders, raise your eyebrows - what should you do now?), then he gives you one of those looks (you know - glances at the pack, raises his eyebrows, shrugs his shoulders - what can he do about it?) then you give him one of those guestures (point at the backdoor - can I get on that way instead?) and he gives you one of those guestures (finger goes in a circle - go around to the backdoor). Then you go around to the backdoor (and, by the way, the bus is ALWAYS packed with people when you have your pack on, never fails) and put your pack down OR bump EVERYONE on your way back up to the front to pay the guy. You finally pay the guy and then have to stand there with your pack on, or stand there next to your pack, always taking up way too much room in a crowded bus.

It is funny, kind of tiring, the bag is very heavy and it is sometimes hard to communicate...but most people are nice and they dont mind too much my standing in their way with my pack or my ignorance about how to board the bus with the huge thing.

Luckily one of the things I DO know how to say in Portuguese is EXCUSE ME.


sol, araya, ondas!!!

That pretty much sums up our last few days. Sol = sun, Araya = sand and Ondas = waves. We are currently in a nice little town called Saquarema, where we are staying with a nice guy named Jose, who runs a small guesthouse only 100 M from the beach. Mira is with us now and has been for the last week and a half. She is leaving tomorrow, sadly. However, our trip with her has been very fun and we are going to be sad to see her go.

First we went to a town called, fittingly enough since Mira is here for her Spring Break, Paraty. It is a nice little colonial town which sits right on the ocean and is surrounded by, as the Lonely Planet states, some 300 beaches. We went to a nice one called Trinidad. Next we headed out to one of the islands, Ilha Grande, which boasts as having the most beautiful beach in Brazil. Ilha Grande is great; it doesn't have any cars and really only consists of one town and maybe a dozen beaches. We were there for a holiday, Tiradentes Day, so it was a little bit crowded, but not too much so. I think the normal population of the island is about 1200 people.

Next, we headed to Rio, which was very beautiful and a great time, but SOOO expensive, so we only stayed a few days there before heading here, to Saquarema, where we have been relaxing and soaking up the sun ever since.

Next stop, I dont know where....we leave tomorrow, but there are so many good places I have not yet been able to decide where I am going to go!

I am still slacking about putting photos on the internet, but Chris has been keeping up with it pretty well...You can see his photos here.



If you go to Brazil, you absolutely have to stop at the Bells Company Hostel. Even if you are not staying there, have a drink and chat with the lively owner, who´s name is Gecko, yes, like the lizard. This hostel is situated on the Praia (beach) da Arcação, which is on a little island called the Ilha da Santa Catarina which is in the southeast part of the country, about 12 hours south of São Paulo. The reason I say that is this: Gecko is great, the hostel is RIGHT on the beach, there are surfboards, body boards and a kayak just waiting to be used, internet and breakfast come with the room rate, AND if you are lucky, Gecko will drag out the karaoke machine and you can embarrass yourself as much as you want.

Chris and I arrived here on Wednesday after a long bus ride from Iguaçu with plans to stay for two nights. Two quickly turned into four as we met a great group of people, practiced our surfing and honed our karaoke skills. Today we board an overnight bus and go to São Paulo, where we will meet up with my friend Mira, who has decided to come down and meet up with us for her Spring Break. She will stay for about two weeks and we will probably hit up a few different places while she is here, including Rio and a couple of other smaller towns near it. After that, we continue to travel north.


Cataratas do Iguaçu

Well, we are now in Brazil. We had a great time in Buenos Aires, but had to finally move on so we can get everything done that we want to do. One of the things that was on the top of my list was Iguazu Falls (otherwise known as Cataratas de Iguazu - AR- or Cataratas do Iguaçu -BR). So, from Bs As we boarded a bus for Iguazu. We splurged this time...in Argentina there are usually three classes of busses - semi cama: this is a semi-reclining seat and you probably get a little snack cake and some coffee somewhere along the way, cama: this is a seat that reclines more and you may even get a hot meal, and, executivo: this is like first class - the seats go back all the way, you get breakfast, lunch and dinner, movies and DRINKS! The ride was 20 hours, but it seemed like nothing...we ate, watched a movie, had some wine, then some whiskey, watched another movie, went to bed...we got up the next morning, had breakfast, watched a movie and...we were there! It was great!

Then we went to find our hostel. We had booked into a hostel that advertised itself as being an old casino that had been remade into a hostel. When we arrived, we wondered...is this really where we are staying? It was so nice...It had a pool, pool tables, ping pong, free internet, barbeques and tango dancing and nice rooms with their own bathroom! It was like paradise!

The next day we went to see the falls...wow! They were very nice. We spent the day walking around to all the different views and trails... Today we came over to the Brazil side of the falls and spent the day doing the same thing on this side. Both sides are equally magnificent in their own way. I definetely recommend it!

Tomorrow we will go to see the Itaipu dam, then we are on to Florinapolis, which is in the southeast on the coast. It is supposed to have some of the nicest beaches in Brazil. I cant wait!


River Plate Game!

This was absolutely crazy! We went to the River vs Arsenal game on Sunday and a huge fight broke out in the stands! Luckily it was not near where we were sitting, but it was quite a sight!

Swollen Summer

Chris and I went to Uruguay for about a week and a half. It was a lot of fun! We took the boat over from Buenos Aires to Colonia, which takes about an hour. From there we bussed to Montevideo, where we stayed a couple of nights. It is a nice city, except it seemed to have an unusual amount of beggers. Also, Uruguay loves their Mate. Mate is a tea type thing, except instead of having it in a little bag, you put the actual leaves into a cup and add hot water and then you sip it through a straw which has a filter on it. There is also a ritual to drinking it. In a style which I assume to be similar to a peace pipe, you drink one whole cup and then fill the water back up and pass it to the next person.

After Montevideo, we headed up the coast to Punta del Este. We were there for the Easter weekend, so it was kind of busy. This weekend is kind of like our Labor Day; it signifies the end of the summer for them. So everyone was at the beach, chilling and getting some last minute sun. It really doesnt get very cold, even in the winter, but it still is kind of the end of the summer for them.
Our next stop was La Paloma, which was a very small beach town. We camped at a nice site which was about a 5 minute walk to the beach. It was great, very relaxing and just what we needed after being in the city for the last couple of weeks. We spent some time at the beach and some time just hanging out and playing cards and reading... However, it was here that a crisis was averted.

We went to the beach one day and everything was fine. The next day we got up and were preparing to leave when I started to itch. I had peed in the dark in a bush the night before and thought maybe I had squatted in some poison oak or something, but soon a rash had spread all over my body. Next the rash kind of dissapated and in its place was just swollen redness. We went to the doctor who gave me cortizone and told me to stay out of the sun. Apparently I had used a lotion or soap which in addition to the sun had given me some sort of allergic reaction. Who knew! To the right is a photo of my misfortune.

So, after that we went to a great little town called Punta del Diablo. However, I couldnt go out in the sun, and it was a beach town, so we ended up just hanging out in our little cabina playing cards with a small boy named Santiago. Which of course was fun! He taught us the name for all the shapes, but we found out later that he actually may have given us the wrong names...

Now we are back in Buenos Aires. But I will have more to say about that later....


Rain, Rain Go Away!

We were camping in Uruguay and it rained SO hard. I thought the tent was going to get swept away. By the way, we named all of our accessories.

Backpack = Vicky (Queen Victoria)

Chris' Pack = Elvis (the King)

Tent = Selma

Sleeping Pad = Matt (and Chris' is Maxi)

So, Selma was SOAKED! And Vicky and Elvis were getting wet, so we had to bring them into Selma with us...it was a bit cramped. Then Chris had to go out into the rain and dig a trench around Selma so we would not get carried away or wet. Pictures below:


Sunday Bloody Sunday

Haha, just when you think you are organized....

We had a very interesting Sunday last weekend. First, let me explain a little something. I want to go to a futbol (soccer) game. So, I asked about the schedule while we were at the Sheraton and the concierge told me that River and Boca both played on Sunday, River at 5, Boca at 7. In Buenos Aires. Both stadiums are easy to get to, and he had said that to get tickets we needed to go to the stadium. On Sunday, we were at Mar del Plata, which is about 5 hours from the city, so we planned on leaving early to give us enough time to settle in and then get to the stadium. On Saturday, we bought 7 am tickets for the next day.

On Sunday, we missed our alarm and woke up at 730. I was so pissed off, as I knew that if you missed your bus, you had to re-pay for your ticket. There was no such thing as a refund. So, we hustled to the bus station, becuase we still wanted to get an early bus. We arrived at the station at about 2 mintues until 8. The counter we had bought our ticket from was not open, but one of their partner companies had an open counter. We went and asked the guy what we could do and he said he thought we could get onto a later bus but we would have to enquire at the counter we had bought the tickets at. I asked what time it opened and he said 8. I looked down at my watch; it was 8:02. The counter was still not open. We sat down at a coffeeshop for a quick breakfast, while still continuing to check on the counter, which was still not opening.

Finally at 9, the counter opened. By now I was cursing the Argentines and thinking how the hell could they be an HOUR late in getting open!! We went to the counter and the man said he could get us on the 9 o'clock bus. I looked at my watch; it was 9:15. I said, ahora? (now?) and he said, no, in 45 minutes. I showed him my watch, ÿou mean at 10?" I asked. "No," he said, "in 45 minutes! We set our clocks back last night". Oh MY god! I was suprised. They had JUST set their clocks FORWARD about 2 and a half months ago! So I guess they observe "summer forward" AND "summer back"!

So, we bought another ticket and made it back to Buenos Aires. Next stop, the Boca Jr Stadium to hopefully catch that futbol game. We caught the bus to the stadium about 2 hours before the game and there was nobody there!! I went to ask a guard what time the game started and he said that there was no game today, that is was NEXT Sunday! So, we went to the local bar, which was empty, and sat down to have a beer and figure out what we were going to do. The owner of the bar, Luis, sat down with us and we ended up hanging out with him for the next three hours, just shooting the breeze and learning about Boca and slabs of meat and swords and all kinds of things! He was great! We promised to come back when we got back into town to sample his Sunday Asado (barbeque); he even said he would cook some fish for me!

So, we messed up twice in one day but got to meet Luis, which made it all worth it!


Easter Island

I love this picture...I just had to put it up.
It reminds me of the Lucy Kissing A Cow photo.


Me Gusta El Mar!

Since my last post, CK and I spent some time in Mendoza, drinking more wine, enjoying the Mendocino life. We went on a wine tour, which is not what I was used to. We only got to taste two types of wine at each place, however, the tour was interesting. It was all in Spanish, so I only understood half of it, but I still feel like I learned something. We stayed in perhaps the worst hostel ever while there. It was so dirty and nasty; I didnt even take a shower for a couple of days because I was so disgusted by the shower. Also, they were supposed to have breakfast included, and there was none. They were supposed to have internet access and there was none. They totally falsly advertised and were so dirty to boot! The worst thing is, it was the wine festival and so we ended up having to stay there regardless. However, in spite of this, our stay was very nice.

After Mendoza, we went to Buenos Aires to apply for our visa to Brazil. S had done this earlier in the year and had had a really bad time of it. He had to stand in line for 6 hours or something. We went early on Monday, thinking we would have the same experience. However, we were in and out in about 15 minutes, leaving us a whole extra day to hang out in the city. We had even brought lunch, thinking we would be stranded in line and not able to leave to get food! It was a welcome surprise.

From Buenos Aires we came to Mar Del Plata, where we are now. It is a beach town about 5 hours south of the city, where all the city dwellers come for the summer months of January and February. However, since we are here in March, it is still warm, but not very busy, which is perfect. So, we are back at the beach again. In Argentina this time though. Yeah, I know, we just cant get enough of Argentina, really. We actually like it so much, we decided to find an apartment in Buenos Aries again. I will take a Spanish class, and we will sit at the cafes and watch all the beautiful people go by.


Back In The Land of Earplugs

I have been spoiled for the last couple of weeks. Mr. L came to visit and he splurged on a few places that were a lot nicer than the ones I have been staying in. Also, I finally used up some of my Sheraton points and splurged for a five star treat in Santiago for a few nights.

In a nutshell, the past few weeks...

1. Valdivia, CH - College town, near a river, famous for its fish market....we only spent a day here before going back to the lake district.

2. Pucon, CH - Lake town, with many National parks, Lakes and Volcanos. We hiked Vocan Villarica, which is about 3000 Meters of steep climb, complete with dust and smoke. It was not a very difficult climb, but it was hot and I did not have enough water and it felt like I was smoking a few packs of cigarettes while hiking up a dusty mountain. We also spent some time at the lake, which was packed with Chileños and their niños and people trying to rent you quitasoles (umbrellas) but was still a refreshing treat.

3. Mendoza, AR - A little unexpected side trip - a sample of the outdoor cafe life, a little bit of wine and lots of relaxing days spent drinking coffee and chilling in the shade. Mendoza is the main wine region of Argentina, known in the US mostly for its Malbec, I believe. There are many others, of course, and try as we may, we did not have time to sample them all.

4. Viña del Mar - Beach town on the W Coast of Chile, this is actually part of the outskirts of Valparaiso, CH. It was nice, very much like Santa Cruz, a little bit foggy in the AM and then around 3, the fog blows off, leaving a very nice day behind. The beaches were packed, the seafood here was delicious, the houses on the hill were very quaint and precariously perched.

5. Easter Island, CH - Oh the heads!! I am so glad that I went here. It is very far out of the way; it was a 5 hour flight each way, but it was totally worth it. The history here is so interesting and captivating. Maybe I can summarize a little. There were two tribes, the long ears and the short ears. Both of them made these statues of the heads, called Moai. They went to war, and many of the heads were tipped over (and still are). However, some have been put back upright, so we can enjoy them. They were huge! Some of them have hats and the hats alone are as tall as me. It was great! This is a beatiful polynesian island which would be great all on its own, but with the history included it was a ten!

6. Santiago, CH - A couple relaxing days spent by the pool at the Sheraton was exactly what we needed after so much moving around. Here I met back up with Chris and we got back on the move again.

So, now I am back in the land of earplugs, cheap hostels, noise and PB&J sandwiches!!! More news later and pictures to boot!


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

A while ago, I read about women who were donating their hair in order to make wigs for those who needed them (ie cancer patients etc). I wanted to do that and have been considering it for some time, but have kind of been a little scared... You have to have ten inches, which is basically all my hair. So I have been dragging my feet a little bit. However, last night I finally got up the gumption to do it.

Chris volunteered (he almost peed his pants he was so excited to do it) to cut it off for me. You have to put your hair in a ponytail or braid and then chop it off, stick it in a bag a
nd mail it in. So I put my hair in a ponytail and Chris took up the scissors and 10 seconds later I was minus a foot of hair. I knew it would be short, but I guess I didnt think about the fact that when you cut at the ponytail, the back is shorter than the front...so, I went to the hairdresser today and he fixed Chris´ hack job, but it is still pretty short!! Anyway, some photos are below:



Click here to see why I did this crazy thing...


Guanaco Hike, Ushuaia

Rapido Por Favor!!

Well, wow, I FINALLY got some photos online!! We are staying at a hostel with not only free internet, but fast enough internet that I can upload pics! Yay! So, enjoy a few photos here...


Brrrr...It´s Chile

No wait, it´s Argentina. Wait, where am I? No, really, we are in Bariloche, Argentina right now. We were travelling up Chile, going north, with no intention of going back in to Argentina for at least three more weeks, but we ended up flying from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt instead of taking the bus, which would have taken us about 30 hours (the flight was about 2) and then missing out on a couple of National Parks that we wanted to hit up, so the bottom line is...we have extra time! So we flagged down a bus (literally flagged down and didn't have a seat and had to negotiate a price with the driver) and headed back into Argentina.

Before this, we have been hanging out in the Lake District of Chile, which has been great. It reminds me of Tahoe a little bit; it is beautiful, but not too hot, only about 70 degrees (sorry, North-easterners!! ONLY 70?!) It has been nice to do some hiking, hanging out at the lake, eating empanadas and seafood and just enjoying the Chilenos and their way of life, which is NOT bad at all! We went to a beach on the Pacific (Maicopue) that was ¨off the gringo grid¨. Nobody spoke English, we mingled with the locals on the beach and ate lots of cheap fried food and swam in the freezing cold Pacific... It was great!!

Next up is... a few more days here in Bariloche (nice to relax and not have to worry about where we are going next) and then its back to Chile for a festival in Valdivia and then onto the Lago Villarica, where there is a nice beach and a massive volcano...activity and relaxation all in one... Then we will contiue our quest north towards Santiago.


Tracking Us...

My brother is doing a google website tracker of our trip. You can get the link to it here On this site you can also see a photo of his wrinkled bald head....



Chris´ Photo Links

The internet is still slow and I am still not patient, so have not gotten many pics online. I did get a couple of Ushuaia - Literally, like 2... and you can view them here.

Chris has more:


Chicago Ain´t Got Nothin´ on Laguna Nordenskjold!

I am going to write another weight loss book – the premise is this - carry around a 40 pound backpack for 10 days and only eat oatmeal, tuna and packaged soup. Oh, and don´t shower. I think that helps too.

We just got finished with a 9 day hike in Parque National Torres del Paine. We competed the ¨circuit¨, which goes around several different peaks, including Paine Grande (aka Major Paine), Paine Sud, Paine Nord and Paine Central.

Some Stats:
Number of cans of tuna eaten: 13
Number of bugs eaten: 8
Number of bugs snorted: 6
Number of miles hiked: 100
Number of days without a shower: 9
Longest hike in one day: 20 miles
Longest hill: 3 hours STRAIGHT UP

A quick rundown of our trip is as follows.

Day 1: The Day We Had Cheese
This was our first day, so we were able to carry cheese for a little while and eat it on the trail along the way. Oh, cheese, how I miss you so! We hiked about 6 hours and set up camp about halfway up the mountain. The camp is nice; the bathrooms are semi clean, no TP, but that is what was expected.

Day 2: The Day That Was Easy
We purposefully made an easy day for today, as CK´s knee was bothering him and we also had decided to take the whole trail slow so as to enjoy every minute of it. We hiked up to a Mirador (lookout) which afforded us a beautiful view of the three aformetioned peaks (all but Grande). Then we took another easy hike before playing Hearts and making my favorite dinner, packaged soup.

Day 3: The Day S Got La Guardia/ The Day We Almost Got Blown Away
S woke up very sick and so after leaving him at the guard station, we kept on. Today we had scheduled 10 hours of hiking. The way they set up the camps is kind of weird. You have one camp 3 hours away and one 10 hours away. So you can either hike 3 hrs or 10. We chose 10. The hike was not too bad until we got to Lake Nordenskjold. Then the wind picked up. It was so strong it was blowing us over. Literally. I fell and scraped up my knee and CK fell over backwards into the bushes. It was brutal. It was also our last 2 hours and so we were tired already. We finally made it into camp around 730 pm and fell almost immediately to sleep. Since we are still so far south, it still stays light at least until 10, so it is a little hard to get to sleep, but with an eyeshade and some earplugs and a hard days hike, anything is possible.

Day 4: The Day I Stuck My Feet in a Glacier
We ONLY hiked 7 hours today. When we got to camp, I felt so dirty, so I went to the river and had a VERY cold bird bath. It is refreshing, as Dad would say. Invigorating as well.

Day 5: The Day We Walked Uphill Both Ways
Another 10 hour day and the last hour and a half was totally uphill. No break. Every time we thought we had gotten to the top of the hill, we were wrong, it was only more uphill again. There were a lot of bugs in camp, so we took defensive action and hid out in the tent. Unfortunately, we have to eat, so we had to brave the swarm for a little while.

Day 6: The Spa Day
Today we only hiked 3 hours. It was mostly uphill. We decided to save the rest for the next day, as it was a 6 hour hike from 250 M to 1250 M, so we knew it was going to be a difficult one. We took a spa day today, washed our socks and selves as much as we could, cooked a hot lunch (oh, bliss, top ramen) and relaxed in preparation for the hard day ahead.

Day 7: The Day Our Knees Hated Us
6 hours, 12 K, steep, steep uphill for 2.5 hrs, then steep, steep downhill for 3 hours. In some places there was no trail, only rocks. We had to blaze our own path. It was really hard on the knees! However, we got to the tallest point of the hike, Paso John Gardner, which is 1250 M, and afforded really beautiful views of Glacier Grey, which we had been hiking along side of for the past few days.

Day 8: The Day We Joined a Bug Colony
The bugs are getting really bad. I have bites everywhere. Our hike today was fairly flat, but very, very long. We hiked 30 km today and by the time we got to camp (11 hrs later) we were so tired and annoyed with bugs and ready to just relax. We ate the rest of our food – we had a Thanksgiving feast – 3 different kinds of soup! Then instead of battling mosquitos, we went to bed.

Day 9: The Day My Dogs Barked
Oh my feet. Thank goodness, they have not hurt before, but today they hurt! Luckily we only had a 4.5 hour hike to the end of the trail and let me tell you, when I saw the end, I was soooo happy. The hike has been fun, but I really can´t wait to take off my boots and stinky socks and get into a shower. My pants can stand up on their own. Actually my hair probably can too!

We are now in Puerto Natales, waiting for our flight to Puerto Montt, which is tomorrow (hopefully!) From there we will visit the island of Chiloe and then the Lake District of Chile.


No Hay Peanut Butter

When I was in France, I was trying to find Peanut Butter in the grocery store. When I asked my flatmates boyfriend to help me because he spoke English, he did not even know what I was talking about. I tried to explain the concept of ground up peanuts and the fact that we put it on bread and he thought I was crazy. Well, the same thing goes for the Argentines. They do not have peanut butter. Our plan for our hike was to eat a lot of PB and Js, but it was not meant to be. We are eating a lot of Js though...

We just got back from one two day hike and one long one day hike in the Fitz Roy Range of the Andes in the Argentina side of Patagonia. They were all quite long and grueling hikes, but totally worth it once we got to the end. The first day we hiked into a valley and ended up at a glacier fed lake (Laguna Toro). The trail was hard - the first hour and a half way all uphill, then there was some flat ground, but much of it was marshy and so then we all had wet feet. Next was a loooooong downhill, which sounds like relief, but really is harder on me than the uphill. When we got to the bottom of the downhill, it began to rain really hard and the wind picked up. We hiked the last hour in the wind driven rain (haha, sounds like I am writing a PW) and finally arrived to camp about 6 hours after we had set out. Then we have to deal with starting the stove in the wind and rain and setting up the tent....but to me the challenge is what is part of the fun. The next day we hiked back, again, it was up, then flat, then down. CK hurt his knee on the downhill section and has been gimping around for the last couple of days.

Yesterday I (without the gimp) hiked up to the Laguna de los Tres, which is a path that affords beautiful views of Cerro (Mt) Fitz Roy, which is a huge craggy peak, and the tallest (at 3500 M) around. There is still snow on the top and the moutain shines kind of a bluish grey color. It really was a sight to behold. I have photos, but somehow they just do not do it justice...

Today we bussed back to El Calafate and tomorrow we will go to the Perito Moreno glacier, which is supposed to be quite a sight. Then Grant leaves us tomorrow afternoon and the rest of us (S, CK and I) go on to Puerto Natales, which is the Chilean side of Patagonia. From there we will tackle the "W" (S) and the "Curcuit" (me and CK) trails (5 and 8 days respectively). This will be the true test of our hiking and camping skills.

We are all so happy to be back in "civilization" where we can get a hot shower and some laundry done (it has been a while, I wont say how long..it is kind of gross - let me just say, I wouldnt touch any of us with a ten foot pole) and get ourselves ready for our next big hike...

I hope to get some photos and videos online soon, but with the internet the way it is here (Calafate is a really small town) I dont see that happening for a while. The next time I will be in a largish town will probably be in a couple of weeks.

P.S. Funny...as I was talking about smelling bad, a guy sat down at the next computer...and he smells worse than I do! I didnt think it was possible! Ciao!


Bella Vista

We arrived in Ushuaia safely yesterday and set right to it. We hopped on a boat and got a tour of the Beagle Channel. Ushuaia is the ¨southernmost point¨in the world. Except for Antarctica. Oh and a few small ports which are south of here...but whatever! It is cold here. After being in Buenos Aires where it was in the high nineties and hundreds, it is strange to be back in 40 degree weather. I guess this is what I have been carrying around all those heavy winter clothes for.

Today we hiked to the top of a mountain and from the top there were the most beautiful views! I have a video, it is on the bottom of the page. Hopefully it works, I haven´t tried to upload videos before. We are all going to be tired pups tomorrow. You can also see some photos on Chris´flickr site: check here. You can also see our Buenos Aires photos at Chris site: here. I will be putting mine online soon, hopefully....

So we are at the end of the world, where it doesn´t get dark until about midnight and it gets light again in the morning around 5ish...It is crazy. I was so tired last night around 11, but it felt like it was about 6, so I felt like I should be wide awake. Then the sun streaming in the window made me think it was about noon, but it was only 6 a.m. It is hard to go to bed when it is light!

Tomorrow we will do some more hiking and then we will hop on a bus for El Calafate, which is the gateway to the Puerto Morena glacier and the Fitz Roy Moutains, which is the Argentine part of Patagonia.

PS I tried to upload the video but the internet is just tooooo slooowww!!! I will have to do it some other time. Until then, ciao!