Archive for July, 2011

Well, here I am, sitting back in the exact same place I was about 10 months (thanks again for giving us your bedroom you-know-who), feeling very different than those days leading up to our departure.  Unfortunately, I’m still incredibly stressed, though the reasons couldn’t be more different.  It’s funny to think how apprehensive and unsure of the whole trip I was back then.  Now, my worries revolve around jobs, apartments, and trying to relocate to Portland. But, more on thoughts about home later.

plaza central, otavalo, ecuador

First, to fill you in on the rest of our trip.  We did go to Otavalo on Saturday, and the market was indeed quite extensive, though I wouldn’t say impressive. While you could find every souvenir you wanted, and even some new ones, at much better prices than anywhere else I’d seen, I’m not sure it was worth the 2-hour each way bus trip for the day.  However, the surroundings looked absolutely gorgeous and if we had had more time, I hear there is some amazing hiking nearby. Instead we spent every last non-US US dollar we had on llama paraphernalia, and even had time to have a late lunch at a seafood restaurant, savoring every last bite of ceviche and arroz con camarones. We still had time to spare and ended up back in Quito earlier than planned, not that I minded the extra time to pack.  I even got a special seat on my final South American bus ride: up-front, next to the driver, right next to the door.  What an honor. 😉 Meanwhile, Tyler was in the very back making friends with families.

Once back in Quito we had planned to eat at a particular restaurant, Mama Clorinda’s, and I had virtually planned out the entire menu in anticipation.  Unfortunately, Tyler got carried away with WoW and the restaurant was closed when we got to it (in his defense, it did close early – 9 pm – for restaurants in the area, on a Saturday).  Devastated, we found another Ecuadorian restaurant, more on the gourmet end of things, and had a nice meal.  Highlight include coconut-encrusted fish and canelazos (a drink with passion fruit juice, cane sugar liquor, and cinnamon).  And since we were late, I did get to see and hear the disappointment of Argentina being eliminated from the Copa America, as well as thoroughly pack, get rid of lots of things, and get ready for the early day to come.

Our flights home went fairly smoothly – we made it to the airport on time, and even got a good rate on the cab on the way there, not that we cared the slightest by this point.  We checked into our flight just fine, and even though the first leg of our flight was only 1 hour to Lima, LAN served us a real meal, including glass glasses and real silverware! I didn’t even know that still existed.  Our next flight from Lima to LAX was equally enjoyable: we each had individual TVs we could control and had a ridiculously huge variety of movies, TV shows, documentaries, music, and even games to play. Highlights include Tetris and the 30Rock pilot.  The only downside, towards the end of the flight our stewards got confused and we almost missed our 2nd meal (yes, our secondmeal – craziness), they forgot Tyler’s drink order (free wine! free beer! free drinks!) once, and we never got our bon-o-bon’s, which were my favorite chocolate treat in South America.  But, we also didn’t pay a single checked baggage fee, even for our connection from LA to Portland, so I’m trying not to hold it against them. In LAX we went through customs smoothly – there weren’t even that many lines and we hardly had to carry our big bags at all! We also finally got our hands on some real craft beer, yummy pizza from California Pizza Kitchen, and before we knew it we were off to Portland, so surreal.

red trolley ale to welcome us back at LAX. not as good as a northwest IPA, but what could we except, it's LA

We spent the first few days staying in the always lovely Rose City with friends, catching up on the year of cultural events we missed (that Friday, Friday, Friday song mainly) and trying to realize we were back in reality.  Much to my joy, I didn’t get any serious migraines (just a few headaches) nor did I get sick! I think all the sleeping in, free tap water, delicious food and drinks, and kitten snuggles really helped, not to mention incredibly welcoming friends that we’re lucky to have. We had the opportunity to go to a Timber’s game, as well as look at a few possible apartments in the area, and cook dinner for everyone.  I even baked a coffee cake because I was so overjoyed to see an oven I could use.  And we got a free case of hummus and box of pita chips from anonymous sources.  Good times.

There’s a few pictures from the last days in Otavalo and Quito HERE at the end of the album, as well as some pictures from Portland HERE.

Now we’re back in Salem, taking over the Wheeler household once again.  Today we went to EZ Orchards for strawberry shortcake, and I spent ages looking at everything on every aisle; there’s actually pretty and interesting things on the shelves again!  It hurts my brain to comprehend it all.  I found a recycled cutting board, that the company will pick up from you when you’re done with it and re-recycle it.  Its still crazy to me that things like that exist after coming back from living in the developing world for so long.  Great idea; just seems frivolous after peeling yucca and potatoes by hand with no cutting board for 100 people every day, twice a day, for 2 months in the jungle, and it worked just fine.

In the meantime, my head has been swirling with the dozens of minute and macro tasks that need to get done: car insurance, registering the car in Oregon, opening 10 months of mail, opening the boxes we sent home (like Christmas! except the havanettes went bad, so sad!), Easter baskets, opening actual Christmas presents (I knew it!), activating credit cards, updating account info, cell phones, not to mention applying for jobs and looking for apartments, and trying to see friends, and family, all while bouncing around between 3 cities for who knows how long into the unforeseeable future.  Tomorrow we go back to Portland to play with our grown-up friends on their days off; Sunday we’re back in Salem, Monday we’re running more errands (wash the car, change the oil, license plates, new glasses…), hopefully early next week I’ll have a job interview in Portland at an Immigration Services law firm downtown, and by the end of the week we’ll be in Seattle, hopefully getting Tyler a job back at J Crew, and perhaps taking all of our things and cat home if we can sort out alternative housing before then.  Its funny relocating: to get a job you need  a local address; to get an apartment you need a job…hopefully we can sort it all out soon.

being silly at a Timber's game in Portland

This is not to mention all the oddities and strains of re-adjusting to American life.  A lot has changed since we left: new music, friends with new jobs in new apartments, our niece can walk and talk and is pretty rad to hang out with now, its supposedly summer, its light past 6 p.m.  Not to mention I keep wanting to throw my toilet paper into the trash bin and find it odd to buckle my seat-belt and use a cell phone. Tyler has fully immersed himself in WoW with the recent re-acquisition of his beloved laptop and high speed internet.  We can call people now instead of emailing or Facebooking them.  I still find an odd desire to photograph and document everything we do, then write about it, like we’re still traveling. There’s a lot of changes we want to make since being on our trip, and a lot we’ve learned we’ve yet to discover how to express and share.

I’ll probably keep the blog going…so feel free to unsubscribe if you’re not interested in hearing about our day-to-day life, or what recipe’s we’ve cooked lately, or our thoughts on the latest sermon at church. I’ll probably go through and change the format as well.  Before that there will probably be a few more posts about processing being back in the States, as well as updates on our progress about relocating to Portland.

Until then, I hope this finds you all happy and healthy!


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Mindo Lindo

Hey Guys,

So, we’ve added a lot of new photos to the Quito album, which you can find HERE.   I also decided that I had had enough of sitting around our hostel room in the rain in Quito, and decided we might as well go check out the nearby town of Mindo, in the cloudforest, even though I heard mixed opinions about it.  It turned out to be a wonderful little trip (wish we had more time there) and photos from it can be found HERE.

Also, I took a short video whilst on the zipline (or canopy tour) in Mindo, which can be found HERE!

Mindo is an interesting place – a tiny town, but well known to tourists.  Since we missed our bus back to Quito (more on that later) we ended up taking a “taxi” (read: man with pickup truck) to the main highway to flag down a bus to Quito.  On the way the driver was commenting to a family about Mindo’s history.  The people in Mindo didn’t care much about the environment, and as such destroyed quite a bit of the forest to buildings, crops, etc.  Even so, Mindo was still known to bird fanatics, since over 400 different species of birds have been documented here.  But, the fact was: a beautiful thing was being destroyed.  So, some young people ended up going to the US and Europe and learned about environmental education, and decided to convince the people of Mindo that they could (and needed to) restore the forest around them.  How? They had no money.  The people said, tourists will come to see the trees, and we can use their money to reforest our land.  No one believed them, yet here we were (paying a few bucks around every corner to do something)! The driver was saying that the reforestation project in Mindo (which took place over 20 years) is held up as an example in Ecuador for other regions in the country.  But what do you think – using tourism money for reforestation? Is it worth the carbon emissions we spend getting there? And what about all the damage to the environment that tourism inevitable brings (trash, pollution, plant damage)? Is eco-tourism a viable solution?  Just some thoughts I had as we stood in the raining, watching no less than 4 buses pass us, refusing to stop…As a side note, we also heard stories from a hostel-owner that radiation rain, produced after the earthquake in Japan, has caused quite a bit of damage to trees here.  True? Not sure, but even so, the interconnectedness of the world is astonishing (in both good and bad ways…).

But, Mindo is a nice (lindo) place. Tiny, and the town itself is not so pretty.  But, there are great places to stay outside of town, and some fun stuff to do in the forest.  We stayed in a wonderful cabin (Los Cedros: take the dirt road to the left by the school and pass the cemetery. Great directions, I know!) where we fell asleep listening to dozens of frogs serenade us, and rain falling on the metal roof.  In the morning we woke up to what seemed like hundreds of birds singing, and looked out our many windows at the colorful plants and vegetation that surrounded us.  It was a fantastic respite from the noise and pollution and people of Quito.  We also went on some zip-lines (hey, why not? something to do and only $1 per cable!) and got to see the forest from some very unique angles! We also went on a “chocolate tour” at a small store in town (run in part by an Oregonian family (Silverton nonetheless!), where we learned an awful lot about making chocolate.  There’s more comments on that in the photos in the link above, but I just have to reiterate that they try to get all their ingredients within 2 hours of town, and that they buy all their cacao and coffee beans directly from the farmers, often paying above fair trade prices, and try to reinvest into the community as much as possible.  It’s a great little place, called ChocalArte.

Our second and last day our wonderful hostess made us a great breakfast, even though it was after 11 a.m., and we spent an hour running around to try to see as many waterfalls as we could (3) and rode a cable car to get to the trails – a beautiful day (until the routine afternoon downpour!).   Here is where we had to rush to catch the 3 p.m. bus, the last one for the day.  We would have made it, had we not given our key back to the owner of Los Cedros, who was at the grocery store when we rushed back to get our bags and run to the bus. But, it worked out, as now we had time to buy some coffee beans from the store where we did the chocolate tour (they also roast their own beans), and ended up catching a van back to town for the same price as a bus, and faster.

Now, we’re back in Quito, back the New Bask Hostel in new town.  Tomorrow we’re planning on heading to Otavalo, a few hours away, to check out a large indigenous market that’s there on Saturdays, before we do our final load of laundry and pack to go home on Sunday. I’m warming up to Ecuador little by little.  We’ve seen some beautiful places, despite terrible weather, and we’ve finally found some local food we enjoy: cuy (guinea pig), corvina (sea bass), shrimp empanadas, ceviche with a tomato sauce, tomate d’arbol (sweet tomato), fried plantains, another dessert similar to funnel cake, and we’ve seen signs of street food at last in smaller towns. Tomorrow night we’re heading to a great Ecuadorian restaurant (Mama Clorinda’s) for a second round of treats – hopefully minestras (a bean dish), seco (chicken or beef stew), a dessert humita, and the Ecuadorian version of tamales.  People  we’ve run into have generally been incredibly friendly to us, and proud to share their country with us, even if they were just bitterly eliminated from the Copa America by Brazil. I’m glad we’re enjoying it more here, because I’m trying really hard to finish off our trip strong!!

quito from the bellavista neighborhood

On that note, its a strange thing, saying things like “I’ll take care of that on Monday” (oops, had to cancel a credit card when it was stolen, and now we’re late on our storage unit payment!) and finally being invited to plans we can actually make.  How will we live without dropping off our dirty clothes and having it come back clean and folded? Or without cheap carbonated mineral water? And with being late to everything acceptable, and a people that are willing to help each other and get to know one another easily? How many times will we start conversations in Spanish before we realize everyone speaks English again? But then again, how have we lived without IPA’s for 10 months? Without phad thai and good coffee?  Without high speed internet and dear friends and family?  All in all, I think we both have a lot to think about, are trying to prepare ourselves for the inevitable culture shock, and hopefully I’ll have time to share some of those thoughts tomorrow night before we head home.

Until then, enjoy your Saturday.  See you soon!

Sharon and Tyler

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Just a another quick update (I always say that, don’t I?) on what we’ve been up to since Riobamba.

manto de la novia, baños, ecuador

We spent a few days in Baños, Ecuador – it’s a lovely little town in the highlands known for waterfalls and hotsprings, mainly.  Pictures HERE. On my birthday we went on bike-ride down the valley to Machay, passing probably a dozen waterfalls along the way, surrounded by vibrant green hillsides, and getting soaked in the pouring rain. And sadly, a 5k hike to see 7 more falls was foiled by high waters making a crossing above a waterfall to continue the trail too dangerous. Still a great day though – we also got to ride tiny little cable cars, or tarabitas across the river gorge to get a close-up look at some of the falls. And, we finished the day with a soak in one of the town’s famous hotsprings, and fondue at a Swiss bistro. 

The next day we had wanted to do a small hike, but since the weather was bad and we weren’t feeling that great, we opted to get massages instead – very cheap, and very available in Baños (about $60 for both of us to each get a 1+ hour massage, and me to get a facial, manicure, and pedicure!).  We started out the day with our hostel’s “daily morning health bath” somewhat of a torturous, very regimented Turkish bath experience. After lazing around and eating lunch, we were off to relax some more, and set out for the capital the next day.

from la basílica del voto nacional, quito, ecuador

We’re currently in QuitoPhotos HERE (more to come later!). So far we haven’t done much other than explore the old part of the city and cook some great meals (ironically, now that we’re nearing home suddenly all kinds of food from home is available, like bagels!).  This brings us to the next big announcement, we bought plane tickets to come home from Quito, arriving in Portland on July 18th.

Until that date, we’ll be hanging around Quito, mostly.  There’s plenty to do around here and we have most of our days planned: going to the actual equator at Mitad del Mundo a few hours away, doing some day-hikes at Cotopaxi, and perhaps Ecuador’s version of Crater Lake, Quilotoa, visiting the cloudforest at Mindo, where we’ll do some zip-lining and hike to see more waterfalls, and exploring more of the city.  Since we have so much time (to fly on the 17th was much cheaper than any other date), we may also decide to take another brief trip further away to the northern beaches. Still haven’t decided though as I’m still recovering from my sunburn on our last day at Máncora, and it may prove too stressful to fit in another side-trip right before our flight. Vamos a ver.

Until then, we’ll keep adding photos and thoughts!

¡Nos vemos pronto!

Sharon and Tyler

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Happy 4th of July!!

Just a quick post to link up some pictures we took around Riobamba and of the “Devil’s Nose” train ride HERE.

As I’m waiting for my shower to heat up (it’s already been at least 30 minutes, I’m starting to loose hope. Sad.), I thought I might as well share a few more thoughts on Riobamba.

Mainly,  a warning for anyone who cares: don’t bother coming here!  It’s an alright city, but overall it’s boring and uninteresting.  If you are really dead-set on the train, like I was, you can avoid coming here for more than to change a bus as well.  Here’s what I wish we had done: gone from Peru to Cuenca, a colonial city a few hours south of here. From Cuenca, we could have taken a bus directly to Alausi, stayed there (maybe not as nice as some options in Riobamba, but I bet you’d have about the same experience), and rode the train.  After the train ride (the whole thing takes only a few hours), we could have taken a bus to Riobamba, and transferred to a different bus on to Baños. Conversely, we could have stayed at the wonderful beach in Máncora one more day, to arrive in Riobamba on Saturday, ridden the train Sunday, and been on our way (the train only runs on Fridays, Sundays, and Wednesdays I believe).  That’s my advice.

Meanwhile, in Riobamba, we’ve done a lot of sleeping and movie watching.  Tyler’s been sick and can’t stray too far from a bathroom, and frankly, there’s not much else to do.  I wanted to go to Chimborazo (a nearby volcano) but the weather hasn’t been that great and its a bit pricy even just for transportation out there to hike around. Plus, well, I was so sunburned I was hobbling along, and again, Tyler and the bathroom. We did find a really good pizza place, and several nice plazas and churches and things like that. But, that just makes for a nice walk for a few hours.  We were excited to see that Chinese food is popular here, but then, it was not nearly as good as in Lima.  The noodles were, and this is not a joke, spaghetti noodles. And the people running the restaurant were Chinese (we could here them speaking), and there’s real noodles in Peru, so how hard can it possibly be to get them? Strange. And then there’s Ecuadorian food…why can’t we find anything good?  All we’ve seen is tons of pig face/various parts of roasted pork, and unappetizing looking starches.  Over, my impression is just sort of “blah.” Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed ourselves, it was just mainly in ways we could have enjoyed ourselves in any town anywhere; it’s just not a great travel destination, or even stop-over.  But, as a side-note, our second hotel, El Tren Dorado,was totally awesome and has an amazing breakfast!  I’m hoping, really hoping, it’s just this place and when we move on to the more popular town of Baños, and then to Quito, all things will improve.

And, there’s the business of trying to figure out the cultural differences here.  People have been generally quite friendly to us.  It’s been rare that anyone speaks English (which I love). But, from our bus ride experiences, people are also quite impatient, and extremely vocal.  I mean, we watched a lady yell at a guy on the bus for ‘overcharging’ her (long story), block his way, had him call his manager where she snatched up the phone and yelled at him, meanwhile another passenger started filming the whole thing with a professional looking camera and when the lady noticed, started talking to the camera about how she’s being overcharged and it’s an abuse, blah blah blah. All over $1. And that’s just the worst example, but people always seem to be yelling at the bus drivers to hurry up and to leave already. It’s been very entertaining.

Also, things seem somewhat more developed here, and also more westernized in a way I can’t quite articulate.  It’s almost like, in Bolivia, the people didn’t expect anything. They didn’t expect the bus to be clean, or on time, or to get good service. But they were honest, and shy, and fiercely held onto their traditions. Because of that, I always felt extremely safe in Bolivia, and like I could easily trust the people; they might try to overcharge you a bit if you’re a tourist, but they’re not going to completely take advantage of you, and they’re more likely to stare at you in confusion than think to rob you.  In Peru, things were more divided. Since Cusco was still part of the strong Andean culture, it was much the same, except a few people had figured out that tourists don’t just look funny, they have money and expensive things you can take from them. In Lima, people were snobbier, more likely to be rude to waiters and taxi drivers, and more likely to complain about bad services (because they had come to expect things to be a certain way).  Here, you can still see that the indigenous culture is strong, but it doesn’t have the same vibrancy as in Peru or Bolivia.  People seem care more about image, and you can see a greater Western influence, but not in the same ways we’ve seen elsewhere.  Basically, what it comes down to is first impressions, and we still haven’t ‘figured it out’ yet. So, more on that later.

On that note, I’ve given up on my shower and it’s time to back and get ready to go to Baños! More to come later.


Sharon and Tyler

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howdy from riobamba, ecuador

Hi Everyone!

Just wanted to send out a quick update on where we are now.  We sadly pulled ourselves away from the beach paradise of Máncora, Peru and crossed into Ecuador.  It was an interesting experience.
First, we bought our tickets from a travel agent with a well-known company, CIFA International.  We got on the bus in Máncora and it was quite nice.  A few hours later we reached the border (I mistakenly thought it was less than an hour away, but it was actually more like 3 hours away).  We were stamped out of Peru with no problems and into Ecuador easily enough (besides an old man trying to cut me in line!).  But then things started to get strange.  For one, we were the only people going to Riobamba…no other traveler’s were going to this city.  Usually not a good sign.  Then we were told we would have to change buses – something never mentioned when we bought the tickets but whatever, its South America, they have different concepts of ‘organization’ and ‘customer service’ here. The did leave behind some really helpful staff to make sure we got to the right place.  Then, instead of a bus, we got into a taxi.  Mmmhmmm.
Then we arrived at the bus ‘station’ where we got on a considerably less-nice bus than the previous one, and it was some random company.  Great.  Originally we were told we would get to Riobamba by 4:30 a.m. Not ideal, but we figured with border crossings and South American timekeeping, that could easily stretch into 5:30 or 6.  We were wrong.  Again.  The same thing happened when we arrived in Máncora: terrible bus company, we were supposed to arrive at 7 a.m. but got there just before 6 a.m. instead. We should have learned, but seeing as we were more or less used to terrible buses and had never arrived anywhere early before, we didn’t think much of it.  We arrived in Riobamba at about 3:15 a.m. Not at a bus terminal where we could wait and get oriented either.  Just on the side of the road in front of the company’s office, just as we did in Máncora.  So not ideal.  We were also stopped at least four times, if not five, by police and national police who searched our bus for drugs, asked for our ID, asked to see our bags, shown their flashlights everywhere, etc, etc en route.  We also had the delight of watching Fast and the Furious…5.  But, they did give us a tiny, cold bottle of Sprite.  That helped a bit, I guess.
So, we get into what I was dearly hoping was a refutable taxi (how good can it get at 3 a.m.?) and I whip out my book to see what hostel I marked to go to. I hadn’t.  So, I picked one at random. I’m thinking in my head, we should probably have the taxi wait for us to make sure we get in OK, but it was too late.  The city did not look pleasant or nice or pretty, but few cities give a good impression at that hour with that type of bus ride, so I let it go.  It can’t be as bad as Temuco (it isn’t), I think.  Well, we buzz and buzz and buzz at the hotel and no one is answering. We knock on the the glass, shake the doors, buzz obnoxiously, all to no avail.  So, my book says there’s other hotels nearby, and we start walking around with our giant backpacks and “mug me now!” foreigner signs.  I do not like what I see in the street – weird food stalls with people sitting around, far too late in the night. But, we decide to start asking at hotels anyway, what else can we do?
As we’re sort of arguing and knocking on the door of a random hotel, two guys in a car get out and start talking to us, exactly what I want to happen.  Then they start telling us, ‘no, don’t stay there, I think that place is dangerous, in fact, you shouldn’t be out here walking at night, this area is really dangerous at night…what are you looking for? You should leave as soon as possible, it’s dangerous, take a taxi to a good hotel, we can pay for it, or we can take you, no, we’ll get you a taxi, c’mon, you should leave…it’s dangerous.’ In the meantime another guy walks up (we’re drawing a small crowd at this point, must’ve looked like real idiots) and starts saying basically the same thing and they get us a taxi and tell the driver a different hotel further away for us to stay at.  I’m thinking, well, this will probably work out alright, but it’ll probably end up being really expensive.  Oh well, what else can you do at 3 in the morning?  We pay $4 (strangely, they’re on the US dollar here after the financial crisis in 2001) for a 5 minute cab ride, and end up paying $46 for a night in a hotel, that while it’s nice enough, is definitely not worth it.  And, of course, we sleep through breakfast since we went to bed so late.
But, after that things started to look up. We ate burritos for lunch and the guy at the restaurant was really nice; he gave us all sorts of suggestions of stuff to do and where to look for cheaper hotels. Then we walked down to the hotel we tried to get into the night before. While the city still doesn’t look “nice” it’s not so bad either, and we still haven’t seen much.  We found the train station and buy tickets to ride the train on Sunday – “the Devil’s Nose.” It’s supposed to have gorgeous views of the countryside, and a slightly terrifying downhill bit at the end.  We find out our train tickets include lunch, entrance to a museum, and we don’t have to get up as early as we thought we would, nor do we have to ride the bus as long as we thought. Then we look at hotels and find out the one we originally wanted is in many ways nicer than the previous one, for only $26, full buffet breakfast and wifi included.  Still more than we’re used to paying, but I think we’re both too tired of traveling to care. We also looked at a dirt cheap place but decided it was too sketchy and we’d rather stay somewhere nicer since our trip is nearing an end.
Tomorrow we head to the old part of the city for a big Saturday market, and will hopefully get to do a little hike around Volcán Chimborazo (6300m), which, fun fact, is the farthest point from the center of the Earth due to the Equatorial Ridge!  No plans of climbing the beast, but I would like to see its pretty face from base camp. 🙂
By Sunday night or Monday morning we’re heading to the nearby, and hopefully more charming, town of Baños (famous for its hot springs, not its bathrooms) where we’ll do some relaxing and hiking and hopefully something ridiculously awesome for my birthday.  We should be in Quito in a week…and from Quito…HOME!
That’s right, we decided to try to come home from Quito, hopefully in mid-July.  We’ve shopped around online and are going to check with some travel agencies there to see if we can get something cheaper, but we’re pretty much dead-set on being home in July, the sooner the better.  We’re still going to be quite flexible with dates, and even where we fly from based on price, but we’ll pass along the details when we get them!
After Ambue Ari in Bolivia, I guess we both just lost our motivation to keep traveling (common thing).  We had a lot of fun in La Paz mainly because we were constantly hanging out with people from the park, and after that Cusco was quite exciting, but it was also our last big “thing” we wanted to do in South America.  I think the fact that I skipped the town of Huaraz, absolutely famous for mountaineering, trekking, and hiking (Touch the Void, anyone?) for relaxing on the beach speaks heaps about just how burned out I am (and Tyler more so).  So, while I also still kind of wanted to run through Columbia and take a boat to Panama, I think I’ll just have to save it for another trip.  I’d like to see a bit of Ecuador, straddle the equator and go to the hands-on science museum there, see some volcanoes, relax in some hot springs, maybe sneak in one more trip the beach, maybe zip-line through the jungle, and then go home and snuggle my kitten while drinking real Northwest beer and eating phad thai.  And even these stops in Ecuador and the last few in Peru feel strained, like I’m just snapping pictures to snap pictures, getting stamps to get stamps, and trying to stay motivated enough to finish our little marathon.  I’d say that means it’s just about time to come home.  We’re excited to see everyone in just a few short weeks.
Sharon and Tyler

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