Archive for the ‘Wine’ 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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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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Hello All!

So, a few things: first, we are doing fine nd well in Sucre, Bolivia, and we’ll be here for a few more days.  We’ve had spotty internet for the past few weeks, which is why we couldn’t update this much.  I’ve just posted something I actually thought I had posted weeks ago about our first impressions in Santiago. Today I’m going to work on posting what I’ve written as sort of an electronic travel journal over the past few weeks, starting with these ones from Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile.

Enjoy, and sorry to post so much at once!

Oh yes, and more pictures of Santiago can be found HERE, and pictures from Valparaiso can be found HERE.  I still have to add captions later today so you know more what’s going on, but for the love of God I just need to start getting something up for everyone!

Love you all,



Santiago, March 2nd to March 7th

As soon as we get off the bus, even though is dark out, 6 a.m., and we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing, I can tell I love Santiago.  We decide to hang around the bus terminal until it’s at least light outside, and hope the tourist office will be open soon.  After waiting awhile, and seeing the tourist office doesn’t open until 10 a.m., we decide to ask a taxi driver to take us somewhere we there’s a concentration of hostels so we can walk around and make our choice. The taxi driver doesn’t quite believe us, and ends up taking us to a hotel (we wanted a cheap hostel) but we’re too tired to keep protesting, and, there’s a baby kitten there!  The hotel is empty, the building is decrepit, the staff…strange.  But it’s right downtown, so after a nap and a shower, we set off to wander around the downtown sights: Plaza de Armas (the main plaza), Palacio de Moneda, the cathedral, parks, etc.  Immediately I love the way the city looks and feels.  We have lunch in the Mercado Central, amazing, but expensive.  We have centolla, spiny crab, which is fantastic, and ceviche.  The city is beautiful: clean, plenty of open spaces, parks, palm trees, interesting architecture, friendly people.

The next day after breakfast with a kitten in my lap, we decide to move on to a cheaper hostel.  After some online research we decide to stay at a newer hostel.  It ends up having great prices, wifi, breakfast, and everything is sparkling clean and new, and in an amazing old building, close to downtown.  We love it immediately; our dorm room has a balcony. We go out exploring again, at some point, that day or the next, we head up Cerro San Cristobal, one of the tallest hills in the city.  You take a funicular up to the top, where there’s a Cristo Rendedor statue, a sort of outdoor sanctuary, and parks overlooking the city.   On our way back we wander through the Bellavista neighborhood, colorful and artsy with tasteful graffiti covering most of the buildings and walls.  We walk through Parque Forestal, stop off for amazing ice cream at Emporio de Rosa, then head to hostel recommended Kyo’s sandwiches, which are absolutely amazing.  We cook dinner that night, and decide to add on another day since there’s so much to do in lovely Santiago.

We like Santiago so much, we keep adding on day after day.  Our hostel is fantastic, the people are great, and it’s just such a nice place to be.  We go to the grocery store and once again decide to make some comfort food, aka Mexican food.  We’re also looking to use up the last of our brown rice.  We make Mexican rice, which doesn’t work so well with brown rice, and tortillas. We make a ton, so we have leftovers for lunch the next day.  That night we go out with the hostel to La Piojera, a “typical working class Chilean bar.”  The common drink, a “terremoto” literally, an earthquake. It’s cheap white wine, fernet, and brandy topped with pineapple ice cream.  Tyler ends up having three, and I have two.  It’s more than enough, and to make a long story short, we spend most of the next day sleeping and putting around online, organizing photos.  In the afternoon I walk to Cerro Santa Lucia, a beautiful park nearby.  That night I cook Tyler pasta for dinner, and we have a lazy night.

The next day we sleep in, and decide to go to the Museo de la Memoría y Derechos Humanos, after eating sandwiches at Kyo’s again, of course.  We decide to walk there, through the Barrio Brasil neighborhood on through to Quinta Normal, stopping on the way for sopaipillas at a food cart – a sort of fried corn dough served with a spicy salsa called pebre. The museum is great and interesting, although, sadly, we don’t get back in time to go to Neruda’s house, La Chascona.  I email the Neruda house and set up a tour for the next day, and surprisingly get a quick response.   That night we made plans to go out with our Chilean friends that we met in Punta Arenas, which ends up being a lot of fun.

Saturday we go to La Chascona, one of Pablo Neruda’s homes, a famous Chilean poet who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.  The house is amazing – colorful, unique, and inspiring, and in the artsy Bellavista neighborhood.  Afterwards we decide to stop off at Emporio de Rosa for ice cream, again. Still no Earl Grey flavor, but I opt for raspberry mint and rose this time. Tyler once again gets green tea with mango and raspberry mint.  That night one of our new friends at the hostel, Sergio, decides to host a BBQ for anyone who wants to join at the hostel.  It turns out to a lot of fun, though a late night. We grill corn, which everyone found strange, zucchini, and onion to make a salad, as well as chorizo.  We stay up late into the night, swapping stories, drinking wine, and sharing food.

The next day we get up painfully early to take a bike and wine tour through the nearby Maipo valley.  It’s a fantastic tour, beautiful, though the highlight I think was seeing kittens at the organic winery.  We take home one bottle, and eat lunch at a traditional countryside restaurant, where I finally get to eat cazuela, a stew, and Tyler has pastela de maíz, a sort-of stew surrounded by corn bread baked in clay dish in an oven.  Both were fantastic, and the next day, after one last late night hanging out with friends at the hostel, we finally left for Valparaíso.

Valparaíso, March 7th to March 9th

Day One: After a short bus ride west (1 ½ hours) we arrive in the port city of Valparaíso.  It’s known for being sort of quirky, with lots of street art, and lots of student energy.  We arrive and stay at La Casa Limón Verde, a beautiful old restored house in a great neighborhood. Everything is so colorful in this city…it’s mesmerizing.  Our first day after we drop off our bags, we walk around the nearby miradores in Cerros Alegre and Concepción, taking in the views and vibes of the city.  We walk through the dock area up Ascensór Artillería, which overlooks the entire city by the Pacific Ocean.  The city is somewhat like San Francisco, less gritty, nicer, and quieter, but vibrant.  We cross the city and walk through the Museo de Cielos Abiertos, an outdoor mural museum on top of a hill overlooking the city.  By the time we get back, we’re exhausted from all the walking, and opt for an easy dinner of an instant garbanzo bean dish and fresh pineapple.  We treat ourselves to cable TV before bed…Titanic is somehow better dubbed in Spanish than in English.

Day Two: We take a bus to Isla Negra, a town about 1 ½ away that is home to what is supposedly Neruda’s most outlandish house.  All his homes have nautical themes, but this one is particularly interesting and especially beautiful as it’s right on the sea.  After the well rehearsed Spanish tour (the tour of the other house in Santiago was in English, which they charge more for, but the guide was great; this one was in Spanish and we got a student discount, but the guides were really lifeless), we spent some time enjoying the beach before heading back.  We decided to make empanadas that night, after seeing a Chilean family make some in Punta Arenas.  After a long (at least an hour) search for masa to make the empanadas, and find green onions and shrimp, with a few street vendor snacks in between (sopaipillas with pebre and eggrolls) we finally make it back and make some pretty darn good empanadas, drink our wine from Maipo, and Tyler even makes it up on the trapeze at the hostel.

Last Day: Check-out is at noon, and our bus to San Pedro de Atacama doesn’t leave until 10 p.m.: we have 10 hours to kill. We made our own delicious breakfast: eggs and chorizo for Tyler, yogurt and fruit for Sharon and were allowed check out late.  We walked across town to La Sebastiana, Neruda’s third house, but just hang around in the garden looking at the views from the city and checking out the gift shop and free exhibits.  From there we follow Calle Aleman to take in some of the best miradores of the city.  The hillsides are covered in multi-colored houses overlooking the sea: enchanting.  We walk down Cerro Allegre, admiring the empty but beautiful churches.  We end up walking back and forth across town at least three times, trying to find something else to do, and taking in more street food.  Eventually we take naps in the park for about an hour, and head back to the hostel to get something out of our bags and use the bathroom.  After a chat with the hostel worker, we sit on the street and watch a group doing capreira in the Plaza de Sueños, a sort of Brazilian martial arts dance.  Then we finally ate chorilliana, a classic Chilean dish of French fries, grilled onions, steak, chorizo, chicken, and topped with a fried egg in a classic bar that is 115 years old, with live music.  The chorillana was delicious – so unhealthy, but so good – and the local beer typically so-so, and then it was finally time to catch our bus.

Next updates from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile!

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cerro torre, el chalten, argentina

I just happened to catch the sign welcoming us to a new country as we crossed the border. I was too busy staring out the bus window, seeing bright pink flamingos wading in fields, spectacular mountains emerging over the rolling green-brown hills, and those oh-so familiar waters of the Pacific Ocean…is that a salt breeze I sense?

Before we realized it, it was what will probably be our last night in Argentina!

And, it somehow managed to be one of our best. After 5 spectacular, exhausting days in El Chaltén, spent hiking to downright astonishing views, trekking on glaciers, ice climbing, even a little bouldering (rock climbing without ropes, lower to the ground, you know, on boulders!), some surprisingly great meals, incredibly friendly locals, and a refreshing time without internet, we were back in El Calafate.

Pictures from El Chaltén can be found HERE and HERE!

It turns out we had to come back to make bus connections, and it also turns out it happened to be the towns 134th anniversary. This time we walked off the bus with no reservations in hand, walked to a nearby hostel I remembered seeing the last time we were there, and it all worked out great: cheaper, closer to the bus station, not up a steep, dusty hill on the other side of town…and the other travelers staying there were fantastic.  After a very long, much needed nap, Tyler very nicely made us dinner while I attempted (without success at first) to upload photos.  After a lovely, carbohydrate packed dinner of noodle soup with some potatoes and carrots thrown in, bread, and beer.  Somehow, and this has been fairly rare in our travels so far, we struck up conversations all around us: one other girl from Seattle that I swear I’ve met before, a Canadian that thought we had accents from Vancouver, and a Swiss German.  Somehow we ended up talking with our new friends for hours, even roping in the late-night hostel worker, who shared his Argentine wine with the Swiss guy, who had apparently needed it due to a lethal choice with boxed wine. Even our French-Canadian dorm-mate was super-nice! It was nice to just spend an evening conversing and chatting, talking about politics, culture, traveling, linguistics, and music late into the night before we parted ways.

After a short night of sleep (made up for later by bus-napping) we caught the morning bus to Puerto Natales, Chile.  There doesn’t seem to be much to this town, besides a beautiful harbor with great mountain views, and it happens to be the closest town to Torres del Paine, a famously gorgeous national park that we’ll be visiting tomorrow. Already we’re noticing the subtle differences in Argentine and Chilean culture; for one, the grocery store actually has more interesting food, and in wider varieties, even with some spice options, and strangely heavy German influence.   So far the people are nice, patient at least as our heads are swirling with new exchange rates – in Chile I believe the smallest bill is 1000 pesos and there’s even a 100 peso coin, so the numbers are a bit outrageous (not in an expensive way, but in a, what’s 10,300 divided by 470 way). But, we’re going to try our first bottle of Chilean wine tonight (first that we bought in Chile, anyway) – a Carménère that we think works out to be between US$4-5, recommended to us by a grocery store worker.  I love Carménère so I hope Chile doesn’t disappoint!

The idea for now is to take a cheesy tour to see how Torres del Paine looks tomorrow, as we’re too exhausted to do any of the serious hiking and backpacking the park really requires.  Maybe if its absolutely amazing we’ll make all the arrangements to spend some more time there.  If not, we should head out the day after next for Punto Arenas, even further south, close to Tierra del Fuego.  From there we’ll go see some penguins (since we didn’t go to any of Argentina’s famous penguin places).  After that the idea is to finally start working our way northward through Chile, but, I could still be convinced to head yet further south via ferry/bus to Ushuaia, but for now we’ve cut that out for budgetary reasons.  It should all be interesting, as we’ve finally left the realm of the almighty guidebook and the relative comfort/familiarity of Argentina.

And, as today is Valentine’s Day, I hope everyone’s day is filled with LOVE, in every sense of the word. I miss you all (and am especially missing the PNW as the weather and landscape is very similar here) and hope you’re all doing well.

Until next time!


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