Monthly Archives: November 2008

Acapulco, friends and Thanksgiving…

it has been a while since our last update, but worry not things have been as enjoyable this week as ever. Hannah and Andy arrived last Saturday night to join us for a week by the beach. We hung out in Acapulco Sunday for the day…plenty of time by the beach, some tacos, and a bit of Sunday football for Chris and Andy. not bad. OH, before i forget, Chris and I went to bingo at the casino by our hotel last Saturday night. it was incredibly fast, there were no letters involved (all numbers), and i incorrectly called out bingo. ha! the place was packed and it was quite funny. we never knew bingo could be exhausting, but it was. anyways, the beach days that followed quickly made up for our bingo overload. it continues to be a rough life we lead.

monday morning we headed to puerto marques where the timeshare is. chris´s mom kindly offered us a week to enjoy, and enjoy we have. i have been happy as can be to have a kitchen to use…we´ve cooked every night and managed to make ourselves a thanksgiving dinner as well. the bay sits right outside our window, and on more than one ocassion we have caught fireworks going on in the town below. there´s a glorious pool, a couple hot tubs, and a beach nearby. needless to say, we have enjoyed a week in the lap of luxury after spending so much time with our bags on our backs.

as for thanksgiving, we did a good job. breakfast began with rice, beans, eggs and plantains. follow that with some time by the beach, some football on tv for the boys, and some time in the hot tub for me. for dinner we made tequila lime chicken, some potatoes and veggies, and some fresh black tuna we bought from a fisherman that morning. we spent less than five US dollars on over two pounds of fish…perfect! following dinner, chris whipped up some fresh margaritas which we complimented with homemade churros…yum! next up was a visit to town to join in the festivities taking place there that night. there was a huge town party for what they called the presentation of the child. we´re not sure what exactly it entailed, but the guy from the beer shop had invited us to join, so join we did. we had ourselves a true mexican fiesta for thanksgiving complete with dancing with the locals. it made for a fun night, that´s for sure.

anyways, today is our last day at the timeshare. tomorrow we leave to head north to Zihuatanejo, a beach town that many people know of as the town the guys meet up in at the end of the Shawshank Redemption. it´s supposed to be just beautiful. we´ll be there for at least one night, then we head inland again to meet up with Annie in San Miguel de Allende. we´ll spend our last bit of time there before we head home in a little over a week.

hope all is well at home…sorry about the lack of photos again

Mexico!

well we´ve journeyed back to the northern hemisphere at this point. we arrived in mexico city late sunday night and spent monday through thursday enjoying the city. unfortunately i can´t post photos from this computer, but i´ll do my best with words.

monday morning we spent walking around the neighborhood where we were staying. it was a national holiday, so many things were closed, but we were still able to walk around for a while and enjoy. the city park, el bosque de chapultepec, is the largest green space in latin america, and it was packed with families enjoying a sunny holiday in the city. it was beautiful, with lakes and trees and happy people everywhere. not a bad way to enjoy the morning. in the afternoon we hopped on a bus that took us outside the city to teotihuacan (pre-aztec ruins). here we spent our time hiking up and down pyramids and enjoying some more sunshine. monday night we finally went out for the nice dinner that we had riding on the patriots/broncos game from a while back. we found a nice little place and – lucky for us – tequila was on special 2 for 1. chris ordered a couple glasses and we were both pleasantly surprised to find out that good tequila can be sipped AND that it tastes good! they offer you a shot glass of spicy tomato juice alongside the tequlia, and that serves as the perfect counterpart for the tequila. yum. coupled with a beer and some tacos, the tequila made for a nice treat.

tuesday morning we were up and out early to wander around the historic part of the city. we took our first journey on the metro and were amazed to discover that not only was it efficient, but it was also super clean and incredibly cheap. thanks to lots of subsidies, a single ride costs about 20 cents US. not bad! after winding our way through the historic part of town, we jumped back on the train to head to the national anthropology museum. it was huge and housed an unbelievable amount of stuff. chris managed to spend about 3 hours there, where as i only lasted about 2 before i was beat and had to head home. it was just too big!

wednesday we journeyed back to the historic part to visit the templo mayor of tenotitchitlan (what mexico city used to be when the aztecs were there). when they discovered the templo mayor, it was buried under city buildings. they had to clear an entire block to unearth what was left of the temple. kind of cool, and the museum was quite impressive. wednesday afternoon we took the metro south to visit the university of mexico city campus. it was HUGE. the university has 260,000 students enrolled in it and boasts a staff of 30,000 teachers. they had their own crazy bus system that we rode around for a while before ultimately admitting university exploration defeat and hopping on the metro home.

all in all, mexico city was much more impressive than either chris or i expected. it was polluted for sure…you could see the smog as we left the city yesterday…but it was also very modern and efficient. there´s an astounding number of people living there – we read that nearly 4 million people use the metro each day – but at the same time the city is very well organized and run for a place of such size. it was a wonderful surprise to see that many of the beliefs that i used to hold about mexico city are not necessarily grounded in the city´s reality now. it was a refreshing change in mindset, that´s for sure.

much to my delight, the food here is also amazing. tacos, tacos, tacos. we eat them everywhere. little street vendors, decent restaurants, nicer places…they are so good and they all come with some new delicious salsa. it´s just about all we´ve eaten since we got here. YUM.

anyways, yesterday morning we grabbed a bus to acapulco, and we´ve been relaxing here since. it feels like a vacation from our vacation, which is terribly gluttonous of me to say (it´s true though). hannah and andy arrive tomorrow night around midnight, so we´ll have a couple of other friends to enjoy the beach with for a week. we don´t have much planned aside from days on the beach. i intend to cook some good dinners once we´re in the timeshare, but in the meantime tacos do just fine. we´ve now been traveling for over 10 weeks which means that we´re down to less than 3 remaining. crazy! everything continues to be well though, so we´re happy, relaxed, and – after a day at the beach – sunkissed.

hope all is well at home…we´ll be back in touch soon (hopefully with photos). bye for now!

Our last day in Peru…

greetings all from our final day in Lima. We depart tomorrow for Mexico City, so this marks the end of the South America portion of the trip. It´s a bit sad that we´re ending so soon, but alas who are we to complain? We´ve had a pretty great run of it so far. Here are some photos from the past couple weeks (it seems it has been a while since I was able to upload any), along with a brief update of our recent days…

the first one is of me in costume for Puno Days (that was the celebration on lake titicaca with the parade that lasted all day):

next up we have one of Chris, me and our donkeys celebrating Obama´s victory. we were in Arequipa at this point:

following Arequipa we headed to Colca Canyon; here´s a shot of me at the top of the canyon (before we began our descent down into it):

next we made our way to Camaná, the town on the coast that had suffered all the tsunami damage. we were greeted by one heck of a sunset:

following Camaná we hit up Huacachina for a little sandboarding and dune buggying. we wound up relaxing there for a couple of days because it was a place well suited for lazy days by the pool. on the first afternoon we went out for a dune buggy ride. it was pretty sweet; the dunes were huge and the driver sure did know how to make that dune buggy go. it was crazy! here´s our crazed looks at the end of the ride, along with one of me on the sandboard (we quickly learned that it was no use to actually try and stand on the board – going on your stomach was much faster and much more fun!):

when we got home from sandboarding, chris thought it would be fun to play with the hostel owner´s pet monkey (tied to a tree outside the hostel). well it was fun until the monkey climbed chris´s leg and ROBBED him! ha! for real. chris even said out loud, “he´s trying to rob me,” to which the monkey responded by reaching into chris´s pocket and stealing his money! here´s a photo of the monkey robbing him, along with one of chris trying to talk the thief into giving him back his riches:

our second day in Huacachina was spent by the pool in the morning and at some wineries in the afternoon. we stopped by three separate places. one was a larger, industrial winery. this was followed by an artisan winery (lots of pisco here – yikes!), and the final one was a more historical, old fashioned kind of place. following the wine, we headed back to the pool for an afternoon of relaxation and to enjoy the wine we bought at the winery. here´s one of chris and his other animal friend from the hostel. the bird is eating a cookie while chris enjoys his wine (this animal did not rob him):

anyways, we arrived back in lima yesterday morning so that we would be able to visit the Peru office of Pathfinder International (Pathfinder is where I worked in Boston before I moved back to Denver). It´s a small office, and I had daily contact with the folks down here while in Boston, so it was quite fun to put faces to names and to hear about some of the new projects. They are quite busy these days, and the work they do is admirable. Needless to say, I was very pleased to enjoy a few hours chatting with everyone…here we all are:

for our last day we have been enjoying some of our peruvian favorites. we started the day off with a humita (similar to a tamale – cornmeal and cheese in a corn husk – yum!) and followed it up with some choclo y queso (choclo is giant corn). next up we had an inca cola (local peruvian cola – it outsells coca cola down here!). we still have to find salchipapas to complete the day, but so far we have done well in satisfying all our favorites. salchipapas are french fries with a hot dog cut up on top and somehow they make it taste amazing down here. here´s one final photo of chris enjoying his choclo this morning:

well, tomorrow we´re off to Mexico City. we´ll be back in touch when we get there! bye for now…

Arequipa, Colca Canyon, back to the coast…

greetings once again,

we´re currently holed up at an internet cafe in Camaná waiting for our night bus to arrive and take us to Huacachina, our next stop. since we last wrote, we finished up our time in arequipa with a few relaxing days. our days were spent watching cnn, wandering around the city, and visiting a museum here and there. we went to one that housed juanita the ice maiden. she was an inca girl that was discovered frozen on top of a mountain right outside arequipa a few years ago. it was fairly crazy in that she isn´t a mummy (she has all her internal organs), and she still has hair and skin and everything. she was sacrificied hundreds of years ago as an offering to the inca gods. crazy. anyways, after culturing ourselves at a museum, we went to the market to pick up some stuff to cook for dinner. recently i´ve been feeling the distinct lack of vegetables in peruvian cooking, so we bought plenty of vegetables, along with the makings of chicken parmesan. YUM, we had quite the feast.

friday we left arequipa to head to chivay, a town at the edge of colca canyon. colca canyon is the 2nd deepest canyon in the world (2nd only to another canyon in peru that is much more difficult to access). we hiked up to some hot springs a few km out of town for an evening of relaxation. they were absolutely beautiful…tucked right into the mountains of the canyon and super nice and clean (which isn´t always the case as we have learned). anyways, following a night of hot springs and a light dinner, we headed to bed to wake up early for our journey deeper into the canyon.

we hopped on a bus to Cabanaconde the following morning. the town proved to be incredibly quiet, so we opted to hike down into the canyon rather than spending the night. the hike was beautiful – about 2 hours straight down into the depths. we don´t know for sure the elevation change, but it was quite a bit. the canyon itself is not as impressive visually as the grand canyon because there isn´t that sheer drop of flat land to canyon (rather, it´s mountains surrounding the canyon). when we reached the river basin at the bottom, we were greeted by some lovely pools and some very rustic cabins. after a quick dip, we shared dinner with the rest of the folks that were staying there and headed to bed. we almost made it to 8pm…but not quite. sunday morning the sun greeted us bright and early for a day by the pool. we began our hike out of the canyon at around 2 and made good time up; we were back to our hostel less than 3 hours later. needless to say, that was another tired, early night.

monday we were up early to hop on a bus back to arequipa, where we were to find another bus to the coast. 9 hours of hot, stinky buses later, we had arrived at camaná, a coastal town. interesting thing about camaná is that the town was hit by a tsunami in 2001. according to our guide book, the town still had yet to recover entirely from the tsunami, but there were a number of hotels and restaurants up and running. the guidebook was published in 2006. anyways, we got a cab to the beach where we intended to find a hostel – and did. after dropping our bags, we went off in search of dinner. it turned out to be a bit trickier than anticipated, but we finally managed to find one restaurant open and serving food. expensive food, but food nonetheless. after a 5am wakeup call by the birthday party of children staying at the hotel with us, we read and finally went out in search of breakfast and water. a walk down the beach revealed to us that there was nowhere to eat and nowhere to buy water in this deserted, fairly destroyed little tsunami town. we made our way out to the main road and happily stumbled upon a truckstop-type little shack of a restaurant. thinking it would be cheap and fine, chris saddled up and ordered fried fish. i settled in with a coke (i was not feeling so hot this morning), and he enjoyed his feast. feast it was, as the whole meal cost 34 soles. now, that equates to around $11, BUT keep in mind that we generally pay 30 soles a night for a hostel, and our meals NEVER amount to 34 soles…especially not when it´s just one meal. we were a bit frosted by this, as it was a truck stop…and we didn´t even have enough money to pay! for real. we had to go back to the hotel, dig up some more cash and hike back to pay the woman. crazy. i would love to meet the trucker who´s paying that much for his fried fish…but alas, so it goes. at least chris ate the whole thing (aside from the eyeball).

anyways, we spent the day on the beach today, and i acquired a pretty solid shoulder sunburn. tonight we´re off to Huacachina, a town up the coast from here. there is supposed to be great sandboarding there, so we´ll see. neither of us have tried it, but it comes highly recommended by many gringos we´ve met so far. should be fun!

sorry for the lack of photos again…hopefully next post!

bye for now…

O-BAM-A!

greetings from our obama-happy state in peru. we´re nestled into arequipa, the second largest city in peru right now. we arrived yesterday morning after a long bus ride from puno. our last day in puno turned out to be quite crazy for a day that had been slated for relaxation. monday was the beginning of puno week, an annual celebration of puno´s heritage. we awoke to the beginning sounds of a parade outside our window, and those sounds did not subside until we climbed into bed around 9:30 that night. they literally had a parade that ran through the town all day long. costumes and music and beer and kids running around and people dancing and noise noise noise. the computer i´m on right now doesn´t have a slot for my camera, so i can´t upload photos, but next time i will…it was pretty neat.

anyways, following puno days we hopped on a bus up to arequipa in an attempt to find other gringos to watch the election with. we checked into our hostel, grabbed a late lunch and headed out in search of the local irish pub (what better place to find whities than in an irish pub?). saddled up at the bar, i enjoyed a few mojitos and chris a few (take the term “few” lightly) beers while we chatted away with our new american, irish and french friends. believe it or not, by the end of the night the frenchies were offering hugs all around (this is another one that we have photos of but will unfortunately have to wait). we´ve taken it as a small research study that has allowed us to come to the conclusion that barack obama is better for foreign relations than john mccain would have been. ha. it was pretty interesting to hear the international perspective though. we haven´t met a single person down here that was rooting for mccain, and the election seems to have been a test of the american perspective vs. the perspective of the rest of the world. the overall emotion right now surrounding the election seems to be relief. it´s kind of neat to see it from the eyes of another nation, but at the same time we both agree that right now would be a pretty great time to be at home.

anyways, we´re hanging around arequipa for a bit longer before we head to the mountain towns around here. we leave peru in less than two weeks, so it feels a bit like we´re in the home stretch of this country.

i should be able to get back on a computer soon and upload some photos of the past few days, but in the meantime hopefully the text works just fine.

bye for now!

Cuy, Lake Titicaca, and some alpaca…

greetings once again from Peru. we´re currently holed up in Puno, a town right on Lake Titicaca. we were lucky to get down here friday morning, as a transportation strike had prevented any travel to or from puno since prior to our departure for machu picchu. it ended thursday night, so we hopped on a bus friday morning and off we went. our bus was greeted by some unhappy ex-strikers along the way though, and by the time we arrived in puno the windows were covered in painted-on strike-related messages. kind of crazy, but we made it nonetheless. upon arrival here, we checked into our hostel and headed out for a late lunch of cuy (guinea pig!). our friends, erin and joe (from our inca trail trek), joined us along the way, so we were at least able to enjoy the experience with some other cuy newbies. chris didn´t think it was so bad, but the rest of us agreed that it left a bit to be desired. someone said it tasted like frog´s legs. i thought it just tasted like slimy meat. blech. anyway, here´s the pig before we dug in, along with a photo of chris mid-feast (he has some cow heart on the plate at that point too):

following the pig feast, we wandered around the town for a bit. believe it or not, they celebrate halloween down here, so the streets were packed with little kids all dressed up chanting “halloweeeeeen, halloweeeeeen…” they do trick or treat, but from what we could tell, they trick or treat at stores, restaurants, and even bars, and they chant “halloweeeeeen” rather than our old favorite “trick or treat.” either way, it was kind of fun to see the streets packed with costumed kids. chris nearly squished the cutest baby giraffe with his giant american feet, but so it goes. the kid lived.

the next morning, joe, erin, chris and i hopped on a boat to head out into lake titicaca. our first stop was the islas flotantes, which – as the name suggests – are actually floating islands. the people that live there add a new layer of reeds to the islands every weekend as the bottom layer continually rots away. at times it felt like we were walking on a water bed as we wandered around! the reeds are pretty much all purpose for the Uros people that live on the islands. their houses, cooking fuel, a main staple of their diets (we got to eat some reed), and land are all made from the reeds. their reed boats have since been replaced by wooden ones that do not rot quite so quickly, but there are still reed ones floating around the lake for the glee of the tourists that visit. oh, and believe it or not, there is a floating school on one of the islands, along with a floating soccer field on another. the islands have a soccer team that not only plays other island teams, but also has matches against teams from the tierra firma (the firm land, as they call it). each island also had a house with a solar panel that could be used to bring electricity to the houses, which means that yes, the locals had tvs on the floating islands! crazy. anyway, here´s a glimpse of an island, along with some artistic reed-work of the locals:

following the floating islands, we made our way to an island called Amantaní, where we were to spend the night with a local family. it was a fairly large island – over 4,000 residents living in 8 communities – and probably one of the most peaceful places i´ve ever been. there were no cars on the island, no roosters (which meant no 4am wakeup call), and very little electricity. we were pleased to learn that our family spoke spanish (most only speak quechua), so at least we could communicate with them throughout our stay. following a lunch of potatoes and fried cheese, we ventured out for a hike to the highest point on the mountain. the sunset over lake titicaca was quite impressive from our vantage point at pachatata (father earth). after making our way home in the dark to enjoy some dinner with the family, we were offered traditional clothing from the family to wear to the party that was arranged for our group that night. while the ponchos they gave us to wear were quite warm, i was a bit disgruntled to be dressed as a boy from the island for the evening. many of the other girls in our group were offered traditional women´s clothing, which is quite bright and ornately embroidered. alas, erin and i played boys for the night. here´s a photo of a beautiful lake titicaca sunset, followed by one of chris, joe and erin all ready for the party (and all in BOY clothing…grr):

sunday morning we hopped back on the boat for a quick trip to Taquile, a neighboring island. the men of the island are very accomplished knitters, and we even saw some wandering around in their traditional dress with knitting needles in hand! the wool hats of the island are often made by the men, and each hat has meaning depending upon the colors, the tassels, and the way the hat is worn…kind of neat. we spent a bit of time hiking around the island before we retreated to the boat so that chris could enjoy a chilly dip in the lake. here´s a glimpse of us from a rest stop, along with one of chris on his way into the drink:

last night when we arrived back in puno, we went for a final dinner with joe and erin before their flight left. our pizza was topped with alpaca sausage, bacon and mushrooms. while the guinea pig left a bit to be desired, we all agreed that more alpaca ought to be on the menu for the rest of our time in peru; it was delicious!

today we have some time to enjoy puno before we hop on a bus to Arequipa tomorrow. Arequipa is a bigger, more touristy town, so we´re hoping to find some other gringos to watch the election with. in the meantime, we enjoy the lake for one more day before we´re on the move once again.

bye for now; hope all is well at home. oh, and happy november!