Archive for the ‘Ambue Ari’ Category


People have asked us over and over again what our favorite part of our trip has been.  I’ll give you the answer, unanimously agreed-upon, without a shadow of a doubt: Parque Ambue Ari.  That lovely animal refuge in the middle of nowhere Bolivia, that we didn’t even plan on going to, weren’t even sure we wanted to go, where we ended up spending seven weeks and where we’d go back to in a heartbeat.  I can’t express to anyone how much that place means for us, which is why we keep bringing up numerous stories, silly, disgusting, and serious, that start with the phrase: “in the jungle…”.  So many of the thoughts I’ve post today and I my previous post were cemented at that park.  In fact, I’d say every single one of them stems from living there: learning to live simply, to be productive in the morning, that friendships are life, to create balance, especially with nature, to have patience, to have trust, understanding, to be selfless.  If the job search really turns up nil, we just might go back to the Amazon Basin to take over the treehouse and be back with our friends, both human and fuzzy, escape the reality of this life, and immerse ourselves in another.

Now, in terms of other favorites, I think I can say that the city we’d most likely try to live in is Santiago, Chile, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we turn up there in a few years, future job pending.  The city is beautiful, close to the mountains and the beach, the food is great, and the people are ridiculously friendly, if hard to understand. They have great wine, there’s a rock climbing gym, fantastic public transportation, and active politics.  It’s also close to Argentina, which maybe wasn’t my favorite place, but I did like it quite a bit, I do miss the rock-climbing community there, as well as its beautiful outdoors and wine, so it’d be nice to hop over for a visit every now and then.

santiago, chile, from cerro santa lucia

And people ask what the most beautiful place we went to was, and that is a really difficult question.  I realized not long after we started backpacking that we were drawn to the beauty in nature.  That’s where we and everyone we met wanted to go.  I think we are drawn to nature’s beauty because even the rocks and the hills and the mountains cry out to God’s glory, and often in nature we can find peace, serenity;  balance in simplicity.  So, we went a lot of great places.  But highlights off the top of my head include incredible beauty of Iguazu Falls in Argentina, the overwhelming power sensed at the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentine Patagonia, the Fitz Roy range nearby, the Bolivian highlands, the Salkantay Trek and Machu Picchu in Peru, and the beaches in northern Peru.

iguazu falls

And people ask: would we go back?  Where would we go?  The answer is, YES – if any opportunities present themselves I would leap on them.  However, I would like to take care of some things at home first (school, work experience) so that if we do go back it’d be in a sustainable way (i.e. permanent).   So, while we’re not exactly planning to go back (just the opposite, we’re planning on settling down and growing roots in Portland), its remaining an open possibility that I’ll work to keep that way, through school, work, and language skills.

As to where we would go, that depends on why we’re going.  I could work in Santiago and love it, but I could move to Bolivia or somewhere else as well, maybe focusing more on community development, and love that too.  I could own a vineyard and live in Argentina or Chile. 😉  But, we also really want to go to Central America sometime, starting in Columbia and working our way northward, ending with a long stint in Mexico – basically the second half of this trip we couldn’t accomplish this time around.   So, I guess our answer is, we’ll probably travel again sometime to any number of places, even ones we haven’t thought of yet, and in the meantime, we have a lot of great ideas for vacations. 🙂

So, I hope that helps to answer some of your questions.  Feel free to ask more, and we’d be happy to respond.


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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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This will be the briefest of posts just to let all our non-Facebook friends and family know that we’ve made it back safe from the park and are back once again in Santa Cruz.  We’ll be here for a few days while we get cleaned up and organized, before heading over to La Paz for a bit.  I would like to write more about our experiences in the park, but I need time to process and it’s just to soon, except to say that it was wonderful, beautiful, and rewarding. Pictures are HERE and HERE (new photos at the end of the second one), comments explain some of the details of what we did.

“The Plan”

I’ve had a lot of time to sit around and read the travel book while we take turns using the internet, so I’ll briefly share our rough plan of where we’re going next.  It’ll probably all change very quickly, but hey, why not?  Sorry there isn’t a map, but I’m sure you can Google all of these places if you’d like.

Around La Paz we hope to do some hiking and mountain-y type things (Huayni Potosi maybe), then hopefully we’ll got up to Rurrenabaque to get a better taste of  the Amazon rainforest, then back to La Paz, on to Copacabana and Lago Titicaca, then cross over to Cusco. Then we’ll be super tourists at Machu Picchu, head over to Lima, up the coast to Trujillo and some beaches, cross into southern Ecuador for some hiking and volcanoes and whatnot, check out Quito and the equator, head to some more beaches in the north, and think about how to cross into Columbia, what we want to do there, and how much further we’ll keep going.  There’s been talk of taking a coconut boat from Columbia to Panama and going home from there, but we shall see.  We miss the kitten dearly and are getting tired of spending our savings.  That said, we’re told to be home for a certain someone’s wedding in late August, which I think we can manage, hopefully with time to spare.

We feel like we’ve been missing a lot back home (babies being born, weddings, people getting engaged, etc.) and its started to feel like we’ve been away a long time (it’ll be 9 months on the 29th).  We miss and love everyone dearly, and thanks for all the support for making this trip possibly for us.  It’s been an amazing experience.

Hopefully more to come later!


Sharon and Tyler

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Alright, we’ve made it 2 whole weeks without electricity, hot water, internet and ATMs!  And we’re still alive! Not surprisingly, we ran out of cash and had to take our day off a little early to sort things out before we start working with our cats later this week.  We’re currently in Trinidad, a town about 4 hours away from the park, near the Amazon basin.  Anyway, its not an interesting town, but we have bug-free beds, hot water, a fan, lights, plugs, and WIFI!  What more could we need?

To catch everyone up, when we last posted we were on our way to Ambue Ari, a nature reserve and animal sanctuary in the rural Bolivian jungle.  At first we planned to stay for a month, but then were told we had to wait a five or six days for cat as a huge group of volunteers had arrived just before us, which turned into waiting 2 weeks for a cat after several people decided to stay longer.  So, I believe we’ll officially be here through May 15th, which means, no regular communication until after then. There is a town about an hour away with internet, and we still have another full day off before our time is up, but I wouldn’t expect much as we’d usually rather be catching up on sleep, doing laundry, and finding real food with our spare time then waiting for 30 minutes for Gmail to load.

There’s a lot we could write about Ambue Ari, but as its late I think I’ll leave this short for now.  Daily life is a challenge – both physically and mentally. We get up at 6:30, work from 7-8, breakfast from 8-9, then work from 9:30-12/12:30, lunch/break from 12:30-2, then work from 2-5/6, with dinner at 6:30, and we’re usually in bed by 10:30 or 11 most nights.

Tyler has been doing a lot of construction, and I have worked with just about every animal in the park except the cats, which as you can imagine, is torturous for me. But it turns out monkeys and birds do exist that I actually like, who knew?! There’s between 70-75 volunteers and staff here (a full camp!) so we’re always around people, nice people and incredibly irritating ones.  The food is so-so, meager breakfasts, fantastic huge lunches, and a carbohydrate packed slop for dinner.  Saturdays we have half days which means we’re free to take naps, do laundry, and go to either the nearby town of Santa Maria, or further into Guarayos for food and internet.  And then, there’s the weather, either hot and humid, pouring rain, or pleasantly warm and breezy, but completely unpredictable.  And, the multitudes of mosquitoes, tarantulas (one lives in our room), other spiders, tiny bugs in the bed, straw mattresses, more bugs in general, cockroaches, muddy, wet trails, having to wear damp boots, dirty crazy looking clothes, and always itching and generally feeling dirty.  And cold showers.

But, there’s also the animals, the joy of working with the few people that have honest intentions to serve at the camp, and the reward of working hard a good cause.  Plus, the jungle, despite the fact that its always trying to kill you, is amazing and beautiful! It also feels nice to be settled for awhile, and be a part of something. We also have other nice little things, like a shop nearby that sells beer and candy among other things (enough to make an horrible day better), a generator we can use to charge electronics,and Friday-night party-night in Santa Maria.  It’s a struggle, but it’s worth it, especially once we start working with our cats on Thursday!

That being said, there’s photos of the first 2 weeks HERE, and more updates to come later as we have all day tomorrow to laze about our hotel room and relax, woohoo!!



p.s. Happy Easter to everyone, I hear its coming up soon!  We’ll be missing everyone! ❤

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