Thursday, April 23, 2009

TISA, right?

Hi! So let´s see. The trek. The trek! Oh my the trek!

Starting a little over a week ago, we traveled by bus to the start of our trek. Besides walking for eight hours a day, it was fairly uneventful. The scenery was beautiful, as always, and we saw a number of exotic birds and lots of llamas. We made our way through almost every kind of weather, starting in snow, working our way through cloud forests, and ending in the hot humid climate of the jungle. Our trek ended in the tiny town of Coroico, where we rested for two days. I was so sore I spent most of the time either in bed or waddling out into the square to find food.

From Coroico we had a twenty hour bus journey. Twenty hours! We ended up in another little jungle town which paved our way into the jungle portion of our adventure. We traveled by jeep to a small river called the Yunga, which feeds into the amazon. From the riverside we hopped on a boat and traveled to our jungle logde. It was a great ride, we saw all kinds of crazy looking birds and monkeys, and we actually got to feed a bunch of capuchins. My favorite bird was a big ancient bird with an orange mohawk and blue circles around his eyes. The lodge was pretty basic, but delightful all the same. There were a bunch of hammocks on the front porch, beds with mosquito nets, and some of the best food I´ve had all trip. Out front was a big tree you could climb and jump into the river from its branches, but after finding a crocodile on the shore one morning I avioded swimming in the river. Each day we had a different activity planned. We hunted anacondas...which is actually a lot more exciting in your head so Ill leave that up to your imagination to think about. We looked for crocodiles at night... really exciting and really creepy. The only way you can find them is by searching for the orange sparkle in their eyes which to me just looks like hunger. Everything we did, we did by boat, so inbetween activities we sailed around looking at the weird plants and animals. On the final day we swam in the river with pink river dolphins and fished for pirhanna in the swampy areas. All in all it was a great trip, except for the fact that I am covered head to toe in mosquito bites and can´t stop scratching them.
At the moment we are back in La Paz, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities. Two nights ago we went to a curry house that has something called the vindaloo challenge and the deal is that if you can finish the vindaloo, you get a free t-shirt. Naturally, I took up the challenge and have been regretting it ever since. The curry is almost all pepper seeds and they give you about twice the portion.... I finished it but it took me two and a half hours and I lost my dinner soon after. I´m not really sure why I thought it was a good idea.
We spent yesterday biking. But it wasn´t just any biking day, it was biking something called the Death Road. Not only is it an extremely steep and rocky ride, but one side is a cliff that masures anywhere from 300-900 meters. (Mom, there´s a reason why I didn´t tell you about it before I went) But don´t worry! We were fully geared up and had excellent bikes and the journey was great. And I got another tshirt that says ¨I survived the most dangerous road.¨
And lastly, our group has now lost four of its members, and my closest friend Richard left yesterday. I am a sad panda. But Erin and JC join us in less than two weeks!!!!! And then its only about a week and a half before I am home again.
I love you all, you know I do

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chuchaque en la manana-REMIX

(hangover in the morning)
It was one of the girls birthdays last night, so I´m going to keep this short so that I can go hunt for some water and a coffee.
The last week has been excellent. We took a three day jeep journey across the salt flats of Bolivia. The salt flats are unlike anything I´ve ever seen, filled with lagoons and strange lakes, potassium deposits that look like snow, and beautiful flamingos that live off of the salty shrimp in the shallow waters of the desert. We visited an area properly named the Salvador Dali Desert, as it was a garden of oddly shaped rocks we got to climb all over. Each night we stayed in a local lodge sitting on the edge of a beautiful lagoon and had plenty of time to watch the sun set. I woke up early each morning and climbed the nearest hill to watch the sun rise, as well. The sky is so big here, like Texas, and it makes me a little bit homesick. After that we visited a hotel made enitrely of salt (I licked the wall!) and an island in the middle of the salt flats covered in cacti. One thing about the salt flats is that it is vast expanses of white where you can take a number of exciting pictures, looking as if you´re climbing out of your hat or being crushed by your sunglasses. As a group, we spelled out tranquilo (which means calm and is the theme of our trip) and I still haven´t heard the end of my sad life as a ¨U¨. I never knew my arms were so short!

After the salt flats, we traveled through a number of small towns in the desert. One of which had a train graveyard- a perfect version of an adult playground. We spent hours climbing all over trains and reading the grafiti, one of which said ¨We need a good mechanic urgently¨in spanish. After that, we made our way to a mining town called Potosi. There we toured the mines- outfitted in full miner suits with bandanas over our mouths. We climbed down in to the mines with our guide and met many of the miners and brought them gifts of dynamite, soda and coca leaves. I´ve never been to a mine before, but the treatment of the workers and the pay is hideous. Apparently, though, there is one miner in Potosi who makes over 5000 US dollars a month and owns a mansion and ¨changes cars and girlfriends like he changes socks¨. Otherwise the average wage is 1000 bolivianos a month (which is the equivilant of about thirty dollars) and it takes more than five years to be promoted. At the end of the tour we had some extra dynamite.... so you can imagine the explosions. As it turns out, I like dynamite. Its nice and destructive.
At the moment we´re in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia. Its a big city, almost all black market, and we´re about to hit the town to visit the Coca Museum and a few churches.
Tonight we start preparation for our trek into the jungle- machetes! We leave officialy on Sunday and return a little over a week later. We have three days of trekking, three days in a jungle lodge (with a swimming pool!), a safari, and a few days in a small jungle town. Yay.
All for now.
Love and Bugs
and soda


Saturday, April 4, 2009

I must admit its getting better, getting better all the time

Where to start?? I guess I last left you with a pretty miserable blog and a pretty miserable me. But things have gotten better. MUCH better.

After spending a few days recovering in Huaraz we headed for the big city of Lima. I really loved Lima. Though its overwhelming at first, it is full of incredible architecture, great museums and coffee shops (my favorite), and an abundance of things to do. We spent most of our time wandering through the city, looking in book stores and sitting at the only starbucks in South America. I had a mocha latte. Oh my.

After choosing from a number of museums in the area we decided our first should be one that is most well known for having the best collection of pottery in South America. The collection itself is one of the most impressive things Ive ever seen. Not only are the ceramics extremely advanced for their time but our guide was excellent and was passionate about every single piece. Let me talk about the restaraunt, though. You can imagine that after sleeping in a storage shed and eating rice, vegetables, and soup for two weeks anywhere would seem like paradise. But this really was. The restaraunt had an outdoor patio with ivy falling down from the ceiling sitting in a garden bursting with beautiful flowers. I have been so happy. I ate well that day and smile for about three days afterwards. My favorite part of the museum, though, was a room full of ancient textiles. It houses everything from the world record holder for the most threads per square centimeter to tapestries woven entirely from colored feathers. It was my dream world. Next to the textiles was a room of ancient jewelry- everything from large nose rings to full head dresses made of beaten copper. (lyndsey I took about 20 pictures for you- I know youll be inspired!)

We visited a number of other museums in Lima and a beautiful cathedral with a series of catacombs that has over thirty thousand bodies buried in it. Its pretty creepy down there, actually.

Our next stop was a small seaside town called Paracas. It was a lovely town, though we only stayed for a night. Right as we arrived, though, the owner of the hostel took a bunch of us out to play soccer and with in about twenty minutes of play we had another six people ready to face us. I hate to admit it but we lost horribly and owed the other team a six pack. The following day we took a boat tour of the Ballestos islands. The entire island is full of sea lions, penguins, and blue footed boobies (the coolest birds in the world).

Next up is Nazca, known for its the mysterious lines that can only be seen from the sky. We stayed in a lovely hostel with a pool and the next day took a ride in a five seater airplane to view the lines. Can I tell you how sick I was? Thank god it only lasted half an hour.

Ill have to fill you in later on with the details on this next story but let me just give you a quick recap of that night. Long story short, some people got angry with us in a restaraunt Richard was head butted in the face, John jumped off the balcony to catch the guy and in turn was stopped by the waiter. I had to hold John off while Richard ran back to the hostal to stop his nose bleed and I had to file a police report. In spanish!

Anywho, next up is a twenty four hour busy journey that I dont really need to fill you in on except to say that I got quite attached to our cab driver who took us across the border into Chile (his name was Raul) and tipped him quite well.

At the moment I am in Chile, though in about twelve hours were headed into Bolivia. The last few days have been excellent, I watched the sun set from the Lunar valley and toured the area. Yesterday I spent about eight hours on a bike and sandboarded out in the dunes. So much fun but i got a mouth full of sand and a tiny sunburn. Today we got up at 3am to meet a tour bus outside our hostal to take us to a famous field of geysers and some thermal pools. It was an amazing day, but driving up into the mountians of Chile the temperature drops by about thirty degrees and I had on jeans and a thin sweater. The geysers were incredible, though, and seeing them at sunrise was almost ethereal.

Anyway, as I said tomorrow we head into Bolivia and we start out three day jeep journey across the salt flats. I hope all is well. I love you all.