Archive for June, 2011

the beach at huanchaco

¡Buendía a todos!

Once way back in the beginning of this trip, we were riding a city bus back from somewhere in Buenos Aires, and this ridiculous 80’s song came on in the bus, and the lyrics were basically “vamos a la playa…oh-oooh-oh-oh…”. Repeat for 3 minutes. We found it hilarious.  It’s been stuck in our head ever since, approximately 9 months later.  It didn’t help that the 80’s comeback hit Argentina hard, and that we kept hearing this song throughout the trip.  Even in Bolivia, and Peru, for some reason every morning when we’d head out for our trek with a guide, they would all shout “¡Vamos a la playa!” and laugh a little and then we’d leave.  Well, now we’re finally at a real playa.

We spent 2 brief days at Huanchaco, a small town just outside Trujillo in the north of Peru.  There’s not much to do there besides visit some adobe ruins, which we weren’t in the mood for, and take surfing lessons, which we also weren’t up for at the time.  But, we were content to sample ceviche and other seafood at incredibly cheap prices, and spend a lot of time just relaxing by the beach.  It was lovely – life moves so slow and is so relaxed at the beach, it’s like we finally have time to think about all we’ve done, and what we’re going to do next (Go home??!!).

Currently we’re in Máncora, a sort of resort(ish) town way up north in Peru, less than an hour from the border with Ecuador.  There’s more going on in this place than Huanchaco, and it’s warmer as well (I’m hoping the water is actually warm enough to swim in here!). I might even take a surfing lesson since it’s so cheap here. And, we’ve managed to already find sushi and Mexican restaurants, so I think we’ll do alright . We found a good deal at a really neat eco-lodge sort of place, and our room is pretty sweet.  We’re not on the beach, but we can just barely see it from our balcony, and we can hear it constantly. It’s fantastic. We have a hammock on our balcony, found an ice chest in the kitchen, and are getting ready to set up our own little bar and watch a movie out there as the sun sets. We don’t have many plans for while we’re here other than explore the beach and relax for a few days before we cross into Ecuador.  Supposedly there’s some sort of nature reserves nearby, as well as zip-lining, and a string of other beach towns along the coast. We’re looking forward to relaxing for a bit, and I personally am looking forward to correcting all the awkward tan-lines I’ve gotten on this trip. Should be fun!

In the meantime, there’s a few photos posted HERE with more to come later.

Also, for those of you curious, here’s that pesky song that’s been stuck in our heads!


Sharon and Tyler


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at long last, SUSHI!

Hello All!

Just a quick update to let y’all know that we made it safely to Lima a  few days ago, and seeing as it’s pretty lame here (the people are nice though), we’re already moving on tonight, waiting for our 11 p.m. bus to whisk us away to the (hopefully sunny) beach by mid-morning tomorrow.  We’ve had 2 rather uneventful nights here, the highlights being food-related: chinese food, tried an alright Peruvian wine, ceviche, pisco sours, lemon desserts, and sushi. The other highlights? That new penguin movie with Jim Carrey and the number of cats in the parks by our hostel.

For those of you interested, there’s photos from our last few days of Cusco, and all our time in Lima (get ready for lots of cat pictures) HERE.

And, in case I haven’t posted these, here’s pictures of the trek we did outside Cusco, and the famous Machu Picchu – HERE.

Tomorrow we’ll be just outside of the northern coastal town of Trujillo for a few days, then we’ll be moving up to the beaches around Mancora, near the border with Ecuador for another few days before crossing over.  More to come from under the sun!

Love, Sharon

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pisaq, outside cusco, peru

Just a quick update the let y’all know that we just posted the first round of photos from our latest place, Cusco, Peru, HERE.

So far, Cusco has been mostly good to us.  We have a great deal at a hotel: we have our own room, cable TV, wifi, our own bathroom, a balcony, and breakfast for 40 soles a night (less than US$15). The deal? For some reason the water shuts off at around 8 p.m. every night and doesn’t start back up again until about 6 a.m.  So, no showers before bed!  We’ve also had some good times getting juice and sandwiches at Yaju’u near the main square, getting amazing hot sandwiches, chicha morada (corn beer), and fries with curry mayo at Juanito’s in San Blas, buying far too many things in the markets and stores, watched the NBA finals at an Irish bar, where we ended up sharing a tiny table with a delightful family from Indiana, and then, unfortunately, we were robbed walking home.

The streets are really narrow here, so cars are always driving past about a foot away.  Literally steps from our hostel I heard a car pull up behind us, and as I started to move away an arm stuck out the back window and grabbed my backpack.  We tried to chase after them but to no avail, and as we didn’t remember the license plate number there was no point filing a police report.  Luckily, we weren’t hurt, and most of the stuff in the bag I was going to replace at some point in the near future anyway (granted, after we had jobs to pay for the things).  We did have to cancel a debit card but we have others, but, our camera full of pictures of the day tour we had just taken from the Sacred Valley were in there, and that was the hardest to take.  Especially since we were so close to home, and are so careful about our things.  But, after a day of shopping to replace the most important items, which are mostly better than the originals (I now have my dream backpack and a bright green Nikon Coolpix camera!), and a little retail therapy to boot, we feel fine, though I am a little nervous about walking down our street now.  We also spent today re-doing the tour so we could re-take the photos we lost as best we could.  We actually enjoyed the tour a  lot better the second time around, so it all pretty much worked out! Now just to replace my designer prescription glasses…hmmm…luckily my very wise mother-in-law recommended we bring our old glasses as spares, so I can manage with that for a few more weeks! Despite that awful event, we both still like Cusco somehow (even though I did just want to go home the night it happened).

Tomorrow we get up dark and early (4:30 a.m.) to do the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu.  We’ll spend 4 long days hiking about 44 miles through the mountains and jungle until we get to the town closest to Machu Picchu, the most famous Inca ruins of all.  After we hit the hot springs we’ll have yet another early morning to hike up the ruins before sunrise, and spend the day exploring and picture-taking.  Then we get to ride the sweet tourist train halfway back, and get a bus back to Cusco where we’ll spend probably 2 more days sightseeing a bit more.

So, that’s it for the next few days, we’ll be back late Sunday night and will be posting lots more pictures shortly thereafter!


Sharon and Tyler

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Faith My Eyes

south american hay bales

The other night after a long day, we came back to our hotel room and weren’t sure what to do.  We had purchased some “Sony” headphones (less than $3 each – what a deal!) and I wanted to see if they actually worked so I started playing a few songs on the computer.  Tyler did the same.  We weren’t sure if we were going to watch a movie, go to bed, etc, and it turned into just listening to music while I read books in bed.  And Tyler, being the genius that he is, played this song, which I think expresses a lot of feelings we’ve had lately.  I’ll let it speak for itself.

As I survey the ground for ants
Looking for a place to sit and read
I’m reminded of the streets of my hometown
How they’re much like this concrete that’s warm beneath my feet

And how I’m all wrapped up in my mother’s face
With a touch of my father just up around the eyes
And the sound of my brother’s laugh
But more wrapped up in what binds our ever distant lives

But if I must go
Things I trust will be better off without me
But I don’t want to know
Life is better off a mystery

So keep’em coming these lines on the road
And keep me responsible be it a light or heavy load
And keep me guessing with these blessings in disguise
And I’ll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes

Hometown weather is on TV
I imagine the lives of the people living there
And I’m curious if they imagine me
Cause they just wanna leave; I wish that I could stay

And to visit places from my past
But only for an hour or so
Which is long enough to smell the air
To tell the tale and find the door

But I get turned around
I mistake some happiness for blessing
But I’m blessed as the poor
Still I judge success by how I’m dressing

So I’ll sing a song of my hometown
I’ll breathe the air and walk the streets
Maybe find a place to sit and read
And the ants are welcome company

And I’ll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes
And I’ll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes

— “Faith My Eyes”,  Caedman’s Call, 40 Acres

*Still a great band!!

For those of you that want a listen check this YouTube version here: Faith My Eyes.

Another song I was listening to on the bus from Copacabana to Cusco (where we are now) by Caedmon’s Call was “Table for Two” and a few of those lyrics stuck out to me as well. Always lots of time for reflection on a 12 hour bus ride when you can’t sleep. 🙂

Danny and I
Spent anther late night over pancakes
Talkin’ ’bout soccer
And how every man’s just the same.
We made speculation
On the who’s and the when’s of our futures
And how everyone’s lonely
But still we just couldn’t complain.

And how we just hate being alone.
Could I have missed my only chance,
And now I’m just wasting my time
By lookin’ around

But ya know I know better,
I’m not gonna worry ’bout nothin’.
Cause if the birds and the flowers survive,
Then I’ll make it okay.
I’m given a chance and a rock;
see which one breaks a window.
See which one keeps me up all night and into the day.

Because I’m so scared of being alone
That I forget what house i live in.
But it’s not my job to wait by the phone
For her to call.

Well this day’s been crazy
But everything’s happened on schedule,
from the rain and the cold
To the drink that I spilled on my shirt.
‘Cause You knew how You’d save me
before I fell dead in the garden,
And You knew this day
long before You made me out of dirt.

And You know the plans that You have for me
And You can’t plan the end and not plan the means
And so I suppose I just need some peace,
Just to get me to sleep

Also, there’s some recent pictures of Copacabana and Isal del Sol HERE.


Sharon and Tyler

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la paz and mt. illimani from el alto
Hi Everyone!

Has it really been over two weeks since we last updated the blog?! Oops! This always seems to happen!

For those interested in the thrills first, there are yet more pictures from La Paz HERE.

Quick highlights of La Paz: it’s big, it’s crowded, it’s hectic, it’s a little dirty, there’s not enough oxygen in the air, and frankly, it’s shocking after being in the jungle for 2 months.  Yet somehow, we found ourselves hanging around for 2 weeks! What?! We had planned on going to the Amazon in Rurrenabaque, but holed up in La Paz instead, thanks largely to a nice enough, cheap room with wifi, a stream of friends from the park showing up, and my decision to try to climb some real mountains (the Andes!).

We spent many nights drinking pints of Judas beer (the only realish beer that exists in Bolivia – 7%) at Oliver’s Pub, an “English” bar with fantastic food.  We watched the final Champion’s League game with friends from the park and had a crazy night out in La Paz, which included a friend eating 11 street burgers (amazing)!  I went on a few hikes to acclimatize: La Muela del Diablo and a few around La Cumbre. Both involved adventurous use of public transportation, as well as some private-car hiring and hitchhiking with my good friend Grant from the park, and both were amazing: we were essentially the only ones there!  At La Muela we even got to do some bouldering and spotting some sport climbing routes I’d have loved to have done. We had pizza and ice cream a few times at Napoli in Plaza Murrilo, and spent plenty of time buying souvenirs in Gringo Alley (Tyler even caved and bought Israeli pants); even venturing into the beginning of the witch’s market.  We found the best empananads tucumanas ever, a plethora cheap, fresh squeezed orange, mandarin, and grapefruit juice, a favorite papa relleno stand and even a Mexican restaurant. Tyler also found the best coca leaves yet from an apparently very obese, yet very generous women which has started quite the obsession.

What didn’t we do? Go to San Pedro prison or bike the Death Rode – two of the most popular things in La Paz.  We also didn’t go to a single museum (not even the Museo de Coca! We kept wanting do, but didn’t have the energy), and only walked past a few churches and important buildings.  We did eat an awful lot of street food and spend a lot of time sleeping in, recovering from the jungle, and downloading new movies (the Hangover 2 – yeah!).

Now, for those that want to hear about the climbs.  First, I was semi-talked into climbing Huayna Potosi, a 6088 meter (that’s over 19,000 feet!) mountain outside La Paz.  Crazy, huh? It’s known as one of the most accessible mountains over 6,000 feet and dozens of people with no experience whatsoever climb it each day.  I originally wanted to climb something smaller, but thought, what the heck, it’s cheap enough, I have a friend that wants to go, why not give it a shot? (Keep in mind that La Paz is already at 3500 meters.)

Day One: We headed to base camp, which was around 4200 meters high.  It was nice, we got to stay in a refugio, sleep on mattresses, have food cooked for us, and have a couple of very brief hours teaching us how to walk with crampons on the glacier and do a bit of ice climbing.  It wasn’t nearly enough training in my opinion, but a nice way to sort of ease into the climb I guess and get to know the group.

Day Two: We hiked in the morning to high camp, 5200 meters.  The hike took about 2.5 hours and I was the last one up.  Not a good sign.  While thankfully we didn’t have to carry things like tents, sleeping pads, food or stoves up, we did have to carry an awful lot of other gear: crampons, ice axe, helmet, boots, and a lot of warm clothes! I felt fine at the top; it just took me longer than the rest. Once there we had some tea and cookies, lunch, took a nap, took some pictures, had an early dinner, and tried to go to sleep by 6 p.m. So early! And no one could sleep!

Day Three: We’re supposed to get up at 12:30 a.m. to get ready, have some tea and cookies, and set out for the mountain by 1:30 a.m. at the latest.  Actually, on the brochure we were supposed to leave by 1 a.m. In reality we didn’t set off for the summit until about 2 a.m., for whatever reason my team was the last to leave and were immediately ages behind the rest of the group.  The first hour was fine: climbing, climbing, climbing on the glacier, across and up, too dark to see how far down and how steep it was, trying to hard to breathe to think about falling when we had to scramble over narrow rocks.  After and hour and a half I was nauseated and exhausted.  Not good.  I pushed on but the pace was slow.  I was told I would have 6-7 hours to summit; that we would stop every 20 minutes; that I could keep going up even if I was puking and falling over.  So I wasn’t worried; I thought, well, we’ve taken 2 or 3 tiny breaks in 2 hours, so I must be doing alright. At 3:30 our guide, Carlos, started calculating time to the top, saying we needed to be there by 6; not 7 or so like they told us before.  My partner, Grant, was more experienced with high climbs and perfectly fine to keep going.  I tried to go a little further, constantly on the verge of vomiting, then eventually decided to stop being selfish and not let Grant miss his chance for the summit.  I thought that maybe after they caught him up to the next group, Carlos and I could continue on at my slower pace and see how far we got.   They raced off to catch the next group, which was much further along than expected. I waited alone on the mountainside for 45 at 5500 meters elevation. I looked close to the summit; in reality I was only a third of the walking distance up.  Carlos told me to go down, saying if I didn’t have much energy now I wouldn’t have enough to go all the way up and back.  I wanted to take soroche (altitude) pills and chew coca, but it was too cold to do either.  Reluctantly I stumbled back and crawled into bed.  Needless to say I was disappointed and upset with my guide, but what can you do? That’s the politics of climbing, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the top anyway (especially safely) and I can come back and do it another day.  I still had a good experience, got to see what I was getting myself into, got a great workout, and met some cool people, and saw some interesting scenery.  The rest is for another day.

But, I couldn’t give up; I said I would summit something, and I damn well better.  I have goals; I have plans.  I want to join the Mazama’s, I have to climb a glaciated peak.  So after a couple days of rest, I made plans to climb the peak I originally wanted, Pequeno Alpamayo. I wish I had just done that in the first place! The hike in is beautiful, the camp is beautiful, there’s less people, and the scenery is absolutely stunning.  I convinced Grant to come along; he was going on to climb something more difficult afterwards in the same valley (Cabeza del Condor).  We arrived at the village of Tuni, mules took everything but our daypacks, and we hiked in about 3 hours to base camp, next to a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. After an early dinner we went to bed, this time got up early at my request, and we heading off to the mountain by around 2 a.m. (if I remember correctly).  After about an hour’s walk on relatively flat ground, we reached the glacier, put on our gear, and started up.  It’s here that I realized I dropped my coca leaves (but I had taken soroche pills just to be sure) and wanted to cry.  But, up the glacier we went.  Up, and up, and up.  It always looked like we were almost there.  The first two hours I was energetic, hopeful, and great.  Then I started to decline, just like on Huayna Potosi.  At sunrise we finally made it to the top of the glacier, but still had to traverse it, climb Pico Tarija, descend that peak, and go up Pequeno Alpamayo. Our guide, Felix, was amazing.  He encouraged me just keep going, and before I knew it we were climbing the ridge of Pico Tarija.  It helped that there was extremely cold, strong winds, practically blowing me up (and off!) the mountain.  I loved the rush I got climbing the ridge; trying to stand, being blown over, my right leg falling through the soft snow off the steep edge, have to essentially crawl on all fours with my ice axe.  But, it was amazing to finally be on top of something; to know I had pushed through; to reach another personal life-long goal.  At the top of Pico Tarija we were exhausted, Grant was spooked by the summit ridge, and we noticed my crampon was broken which took ages to fix.  With Pequeno Alpamayo and it’s beautiful summit right in front of us, we decided to leave it for another day and go back to camp. After a very short nap and some lunch, I hiked out in 2 hours to make it back to La Paz, back to eat at Oliver’s, and collapsed into bed.

Finally after recovering from that, we left for Copacabana.  Unfortunately, the mayor of La Paz decided not to fufill some promises he made, and there were protests in El Alto, essentially the only way out of the city. Luckily, we found one bus that was sure he could get around this.  This let to some back road driving through country roads, with protesters literally putting stones to block the roads as we tried to go down them.  Our bus driver was literally asking people where what road went, but a faithful cholita was sure we could get through, and she was right!  What a funny adventure.  Then, it turns out we had to get off the bus and take a boat to keep going to Copacabana.  Except, the bus went on one boat, and we had to leave all our stuff and take a different boat!  Then the first boat was full, and the bus barely waited for the few of us on the second boat!  How scary to see all our stuff literally floating on without us!  But, it all worked out, as usual, and we’re here in beautiful Lago Titicaca, just spent the day hiking and exploring Incan ruins on the Isla del Sol, where the Incan god is believed to have created the sun and the moon, and we’re getting ready to head for Cusco, Peru tomorrow morning!

Keep us in mind, as Peru just went through some rather difficult elections and the Peruvian-Bolivian border has been closed for the past few weeks, and now is only open sporadically.  Apparently the old president of Peru decided to sell what were protected indigenous lands to a Canadian mining company and that didn’t go over so well, hence protests and the closing of borders.  But, word on the street is that the borders have been open, especially in the mornings, so we’re going to give it a go! Hopefully so, because we only have 3 more days left on our Bolivian visa!  If not, we just pay some small fines and spend more time relaxing on the beautiful (though slightly cold) lake!

Pics from Copacabana to come!

We love and miss you all, and are excited to get moving on with our trip again, so we can come home soon!


Sharon and Tyler

Hug the kitten for us. ❤


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