Archive for the ‘Communidad Inti Wari Yassi’ 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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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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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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