Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Check out this slideshow my Mom made from our time in Otavalo and Quito. Its nice.


Thursday, April 10, 2008


And now the one many of you have been waiting for...................................MACHU PICCHU PICTURES.

Quick summary. 38 hours on the bus from Quito to Lima. Two nights in Lima. Great city. Plane flight to Cuzco. Super touristy, but beautiful. 4 days and 4 nights backpacking in luxury (we had a table and chairs!). One full day at Machu Picchu. Train and bus back to Cuzco. Night at the clubs with my group. 30 minutes of sleep. 4 hour delay at the Cuzco airport. $100 voucher for next flight on TACA (I complained about the delay......in Spanish). Caught bus from Lima with 15 minutes to spare. 38 hours more on the bus to Quito. Got pulled over by the cops at midnight in Ecuador (see below). Arrived at my apartment at 4 am, March 30th. Classes started 7 am March 31st. All in all, an incredible trip!

This is the group at the top of the Salcantay pass, about 15,200 ft. There were 4 people from Buenos Aires, and then 4 (including me and Caroline) from the US. Great group. Great dynamic. We had a lot of fun and had a nice little English-Spanish mix (although mostly English by the end). The guy in the big red jacket was our guide. Super nice, good English, and he new a lot about the Quechua culture in the area (he is Quechua).

We booked our trip in Cuzco with some random agency (we took a gamble). We went on the Salcantay Tour. We began on Sunday from Cuzco, took a bus to a small town, and then began the trek.

Needless to say, we were hiking in style. Tables. Chairs. Horses to carry the bags. Two cooks to prepare dinner, snacks, and do the dishes. Food and drinks would be waiting for us when we arrived to camp. It was great!

Our first campsite.

Salcantay Mountain. Our backdrop for our first night.

Worshiping the Inca gods with three coca leaves. To do so, you blow on them as you wave them in a small circle (same as how a condor takes off), say the names of the mountains nearby as you look in their direction, and think the positive feelings you wish to receive. You don't ask for material goods but more abstract things: like health, safety for that day of work, etc.

We woke up at 4:30am so we could be at MP by 6:00 for the sunrise. Good thing we did. Isn't it beautiful?

Actually it turned out to be a gorgeous day with beautiful scattered clouds.

Waynu Picchu in the background.

On top of Waynu Picchu. You can kind of see MP down below. The shirt was off because it was drenched from the climb. Stairs straight up the mountain for maybe 2000 ft. Not an easy climb.

Some ruins built on the top of Waynu Picchu on the cliffs. Absolutely incredible that the Incas could do this. The top of the cliff in the picture continues all the way to the river valley floor, some 5000 feet below or so.

Incan stairs leading down from Waynu Picchu. They were so steep that you could hold onto stairs above you like a railing. And they were so skinny that my boot was wider than many of them. Treacherous. But awesome...from the safety of the bottom.

A video from the top of Waynu Picchu. Enjoy the scenery. Absolutely gorgeous.

Jumping off Waynu Picchu. It was a long way down.


Look at the cliffs Machu Picchu overlooks. That was one of the coolest parts for me.

Machu Picchu and Waynu Picchu from "La Puerta del Sol." This shot gives a good sense of the scenery surround MP.

A video of MP from the post card spot.

All in all, an incredible trip. It was way cooler than I expected, and well worth the money. The alternative treks are a lot cheaper and better on the environment (I think), but I hear the Inca Trail is really cool. Just a heads up, to do the main trail, you have to book anywhere from a few months to a year in advance, depending on the season. I highly recommend visiting Machu Picchu if you can. And do it soon. Apparently the side of the mountain is slipping 1 cm a month. There could be a catastrophic land slide soon, or they are going to greatly reduce the number of visitors. But again, I highly recommend it.

Puro Miedo

This one is a short one. I was returning from Machu Picchu on a night bus from Guayaquil to Quito. I sat next to a nice old lady and she started warning me about the night buses and how you shouldn't sleep on them. I was like, right right. I've done this before. I'll be careful. And then she warned me about how the police stop the buses at night sometimes to "check for weapons and robbers," and how they will steal stuff themselves sometimes. Sure enough, that night, we were pulled over by the cops and we had to get off. To add to my fear, I had heard of two extranjeros being pulled off a bus by the border a couple of months ago, robbed by the police at gunpoint, and then left in a field. So needless to say, I was crapping my pants. Nothing happened, but nevertheless, that is one of the darker sides of traveling in South America.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Ecuador's Amazon Rain Forest (El Oriente)

The Oriente was definitely the best place I visited with my parents. It had everything. A really good guide, beautiful scenery, perfect weather, cool animals (we saw 6 different types of monkeys), and complete relaxation. We were at the Napo Wildlife Reserve. While not cheap, definitely worth your money and a great place to visit.

Our group for the four days we were in El Oriente. The guy in the front with the blue shirt was our guide. A very bright guy with perfect English. The two on the right were our native guide and extra paddler. We didn't have to paddle. What luxury.

Our lodge at sunrise (not sunset).

My parents enjoying the canoe ride up the river to the lodge.

This is a video of a parrot lick. Every day the parrots come to a place like this where they can eat the exposed chalk. The chalk is necessary for their digestive system.

This plant is very cool. When an insect eats the seeds, the plant takes over the nervous system. It then forces the insect to climb up a tree on to a branch where it can receive sunlight. Once there, the plant sprouts through the animals body and sets its roots down. Isn't that incredible?

A local shaman doing a healing ritual to eliminate bad energies. He used the branch to brush the lady off while making whooshing sounds and would periodically empty the leaves of the bad energy by shaking them at the wall. At the end, he did something where it looked like he was blowing something into the top of her head while making a gutteral sound. Pretty cool to watch. Apparently, in the past, if a shaman could not heal a patient, he would blame it on another shaman in a different tribe casting a curse, at which war would break out. Being a shaman is dangerous business.

Two Macaws that we saw at one of the Parrot Licks.


Look out for the Anaconda! Actually, we didn't see any. Too bad. But it is still a good picture of the jungle.

Paddling down the river. Did I mention that it was a relaxing trip?

The Galapagos Islands

With this entry, I'm going to try a different approach. More pictures and less words. Let's see how it goes.

With the rents enjoying the sun (obviously not in Quito) and the view. The islands were absolutely gorgeous.

You can see our ship the Santa Cruz on the left in the background. It was a large ship with 85 passengers. We think it was too large, but at least we didn't get sea sick.

Strutting its stuff.

Cool. It was hard not to feel like you were in a zoo.

Boobies!!!!!!!!!!!! And they have blue feet!

With some friends from the boat on the day of the turtles.

These guys are enormous. No one knows how long they actually live, but Darwin's turtle just died. That's right, the same Darwin who wrote about evolution sent an adult turtle back to England and then Australia (?). So at least 170 years old.

Our ship. Definitely NOT sexy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Peru and a 38 hr. bus ride

Machu Picchu. The Incan citadel in the Andes. My destination...Thursday.

But I shouldn´t get ahead of myself. Let me take a step back.

I´m in Perú. I left last Monday from Quito on a night bus to Guayaquil with a long-time friend of mine from home, Caroline Chalmers. Recently, she decided to travel through South America, and invited me along. Luckily, she´s a chill cookie. Our night bus to Guayaquil took 10 hours. And two hours after arriving, we boarded a 28 hour bus to Lima Peru. Surprisingly, the ride wasn´t too horrendous. I read "Into the Wild", slept 11 hours, watched the scenery, chatted with some tree-huggers, and ya, llegamos. We´ll see if I´m still singing to the same tune after repeating this trip in one week to get back to Quito in time for classes on the 31st of March.

We spent two nights in Lima, and loved it. I was surprised how clean the city was. The sidewalks didn´t have any holes, the buses didn´t billow out huge black clouds as they drove by, the the buildings weren´t falling apart. I was impressed. Also, we found a grocery store that screamed New Seasons (or Whole Foods for you non-Portland folk). I was in heaven. Quito has nothing of the sort.

Now I´m in Cusco. Tomorrow morning we are leaving on an alternative trek to Machu Picchu. We are taking the Salcantay Trail (o algo asi) at 4:30 am. Yikes! But I´m thrilled. I´m so excited to get out on the trail. 5 days, 4 nights. A 4600 meter (15,200 ft.) pass. Beautiful mountains. Hot springs. Machu Picchu. It should be awesome. We are agoing with an agency called Amadcus. It was pretty random how we chose it. Basically, we were walking down the street, walked in, they were leaving when we wanted to leave, the price was right, and they seemed legit. So...listo y Ojalá. Cuzco is pretty cool as well, but incredibly touristy. I haven´t enjoyed it as much as Lima or Quito. I just don´t do the crazy tourist scene well any more.

That´s it on the news. Next time I´ll have photos. Stay tuned. Chao.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Now I've Seen Everything

Well...not quite, actually a long shot from it. But today, I saw something completely new for me. Street dogs humping is a common sight in Latin America. But what I saw is in a whole new ballpark: Two male dogs having sex. It reminded me of the "Ignoble Awards" or something like that, which was won by a scientist that documented the first case of homosexuality in animals (ducks). But this was really interesting and it just goes to show that homosexuality is a natural condition in nature.