Friday, June 09, 2006
Once we were back in Ollantaytambo, we hit the KB Restaurant for the largest breakfast either of had seen in ages. We had french toast and pancakes with honey. We also got a large mug of Chocolate con Leche (Hot chocolate with Milk) and some juice. It was awesome. We then hunted down a guide to go for a horseback ride of the valley. We were quickly on our way with Mario to see the Puramaca ruins. The ruins were a combination of the Incas and the people conquered by the Incas.
The horse ride was absolutely wonderful. It was Kevin's first time on horse back and I told him he would never get a ride like that in the States. YOu'd have to sign your life away for such an incredible ride. We rode up the mountain sides, sometimes in some pretty sketchy areas. I tried not to look down. Kevin's horse was always testing him as he tried to eat grass most of the way up. I had to constantly heel my horse and smack him on his rump to get him to keep up. Once we reached the ruins, Mario gave us the low down on the rooms uses (or what their speculated use is!).
Mario's dog, Negra, was not the dog you want to have in a huge stone ruin from the Incas. She LOVES to play with rocks, large rocks. SHe kept trying to pull the rocks out of the stone walls. Negra was a sweet dog and would have loved to play with ASpen. She was so comical, playing with the rocks and barking at them if they didn't move the way she wanted to. She also ran all over the mountain side chasing the birds and calves.
Before heading back to town. Mario told us to tell the caretaker that we didn't have any money. Apparently, he has a bad habit of asking for money as a "fee" to see the ruins. There really isn't a fee, he just tries to sucker tourists into paying him. Sillly man. The ride down was pretty nice. ONce we got back to the road, we trotted-galloped most of the way down. I have NEVER been on a ride in the States where they actually let you run your horse. WE had so much fun. The horse I was on often times had to lead in order to get the other horses to run. It was grand!
We ended the day by having a wonderful meal at the same restaurant we had breakfast. Two glasses of wine, two meals, two great brownies, and great garlic bread for a whopping $15!
I had a wonderful birthday, thanks to Kevin! :)
We spent a wonderful week in the town of Ollantaytambo which is one of the last stops before you HAVE to take a train to see Machu Pichu. It is a wonderful little town and we were even fortunate enough to be there during their Señor de Choquekillca celebration. Señor de Choquekillca looks suspicially like Jesus, but isn't. They spend four days, essentially day and night, dancing, playing music, and drinking. This year there were fifteen different dance groups, each wearing a different costume. At one point, Kevin wasn't at my side and three masked men started to shake my hand, kiss my hand, sit down next to me and kiss my cheek. I told Kevin they almost took me away with them! I found one website that had some old pictures from the 2003 (scroll down to Sacred Valley) festival, http://www.csufresno.edu/perutour/peru99b.htm. I, unfortunately, wasn't as picture happy. The masks and costumes were incredible!
On Monday, we tried our luck by using expired tourist tickets to see the inca ruins of Ollantaytambo. I think Kevin's good looks charmed the wonderful peruvian lady to let us pass. The ruins were, as usual, absolutely amazing. It is awe inspiring how this mountain people built up their communities on the side of steep sloped mountains. The rocks weren't tiny stones either.
Tuesday, we tried out some rental bikes from a guy from Minnesota. He came down here three years ago, loved the biking, and decided to open up his own adventure shop. It was nice to have someone give us tourist information in english.. rather than having to decipher what is being said to us! We were happily on our way up the valley and enjoying the warm day. Kevin shouted, watch out, and last thing I knew, I was swerving around his pedal. He managed to put the pedal back on with a rock, but the screw was definately gone. Should have had them check out that squeeky noise a bit more before we started. After about another 20 minutes, his seat was trying to come undone. He fixed that with my trusty army knife, too bad about five minutes later the seat was loose again and the pedal fell off. All of that uphill riding and we had to go back down. We had them switch out bikes and started off again. After about two hours riding up the valley, we took a break before heading back down. I think I should have just stayed on the bike rather than having to re-numb my butt all over again. It was a rough ride down. Kevin was just screaming down the valley as I continued to test my brakes the whole way. It was a great way to pass the time. On Tuesday evening, we headed up to Aguas Calientes via night train. We saw the Machu Pichu ruins on Wednesday and then got the extremely early train back to Ollantaytambo on Thursday.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
We did get to see some of the famous Andean Condors which are a major attraction in the area:
The tour was quite cheap through an agency so we decided to go that way partly to avoid another Misti experience. The first day was spent seeing some of the sights on the way to the canyon. Second day we hiked down and through and the last day we got up at 3am to hike straight up for 3 hours and then took the bus back to Arequipa. The bus ride back was amusing. We took a public bus at 7am from Cabanoconde and arrived at the bus minutes before expected departure. It took us 15 minutes to cram 8 more people onto the bus – it was full of local people who were bringing their handicrafts to the Cruz Del Condor to sell to tourists. Despite having reserved seats we remained standing for the half an hour ride to Cruz Del Condor and became somewhat intimate with some of the locals. When we reached Chevy (approximately 3.5 hours from Arequipa) many more people got on, and quite a few remained standing throughout the entire trip.
We took an uneventful night bus back to Cusco on Friday. Actually, we did get to watch V For Vendetta which had clearly been videotaped off of a movie screen and transferred to DVD. It’s difficult to find original media down here.
Today (Sunday) we’d hoped to buy either a bus or train ticket into the Sacred Valley:
but almost everything is closed because of election day. Everyone in Peru is required by law to vote and will be fined $120 if they do not. Today they have the choice between a crook who was president once before and destroyed the economy and a man who wants to legalize cocaine, start war with Chili, and do a little ethnic cleansing. He actually wants to get rid of people who have too little indigenous blood which is backwards considering the history the of Americas. A local man joked with us in Spanish that today was the “bandito” election.
On our way to the local bus station we walked along some crowded sidewalks. Everything was fine until I felt some water splash across the back of my neck. Surprised, I looked back. The locals on the sidewalk (many were women) crowded in around me and pointed upwards to indicate the water came from above. I was confused momentarily, but my hackles were raised. People were pressed up against me. I quickly moved my hands to my zippered pocket on my pants to find the zipper mostly open and then without thinking shoved the man who was closest to that pocket. He gave me an innocent look and showed me his hands. The others backed away after my aggressive action and we walked quickly away. About a half block later a passenger in one of the taxis stopped at the light indicated to me that I was being watched. That was enough fun for today. We got some sandwich fixings at a touristy supermarket and then headed back to the hostel to wait out election day. Will try to keep to the touristy venues for the rest of the week.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Okay, picture this:
You and a friend are in
You purchase bus tickets (approximately U$A20 apiece) to make the 10 hour trip from
Three days later you wake up early to get in the 4 by 4 that will take you to the mountain and find that the digestive complications that had seemed to subside were back in full force and your throat is sore. Your friend is still fighting congestion and the start of a cough. Despite this, you are tired of sitting around in a hotel room fighting Spanish cable TV, and you want to get started. Bring it on.
The highly acclaimed guidebook you purchased in
The two of you bravely exit the tent the next morning as the sun comes out. You cheer each other up. Today’s climb will finish at base camp, so you only need to drag along day packs. Besides, most of yesterday’s difficulty was because you weren’t used to carrying packs that heavy. Yesterday you did 900m with 50 pound packs and today you climb 1000m (3,281 feet) with maybe 10 pounds. The guidebook claims the ascent will take 4 to 5.5 hours. Why should it take that long? Look at the numbers.
The climb happens to be up a loose scree slope. Translated: take one step lose half a step. The two of you move like sloths. Even at a slow pace your heart is beating in your ears trying to move oxygenated blood through your body as quickly as possible. You force yourself to take calm slow breaths. Five hours later both of you have astounding headaches. Your previous pace is making you dizzy and going slower doesn’t seem to be helping. The optimistic attitude disappears along with your sanity as you gaze up towards the top of Misti. Your friend’s GPS suggests that you are still about 200m from the top, putting you somewhere over 18,400 feet. Your friend calmly reminds you that altitude sickness can be fatal. You may be dumb. Okay, okay. You may be really dumb, but you aren’t stupid. You head down the mountain. It only takes an hour to get back to your 15,748 foot base camp.
You are glad to be back at base camp, but things get a little annoying. Three Americans (two from
Sleep that night is almost unattainable. Despite the best intentions of the 30SPF sunscreen your sun-burned, wind-chapped, sand-blasted face is giving off a pretty good fever. Any respected dermatologist would go into epileptic seizures at the sight. Dinner settles uneasily - a witches brew made of Ramon noodles and a spicy “potato stew” packet not legally sold in other countries.
The final day drops you 1900m to a small town called Chiguata. Morale is still good: we are going home, we aren’t carrying very much water weight, it’s almost all downhill, etc. For some reason you are still relying on the guidebook. The first part of the trail is supposed to be ill-defined…it turns out to be well-defined. The main geographic feature you are looking for is a saddle beside which you should find a broad sandy trail. You find two broad sandy trails. Neither of them are correct and the second eventually disappears leaving you to cross a large ravine that you eventually backtrack around.
Tired of guessing what the book says the two of you decide to head downhill trying to avoid the major ravines (minor canyons) that you may or may not be able to cross. Eventually you find a cattle trail which leads you to the bottom of one of the ravines where miners are working. You ask a man where Chiguata is and he wags his finger indicating that Chiguata is not in the direction you hoped and definitely not as close. He suggests following the ravine, which you do, and eventually leads you to a paved road. Local farm workers estimate that Chiquata is 40 minutes away.
As you approach Chiguata, the 4WD that dropped you off finds you and takes you back to
Wow, thanks for sharing in the pain. Kristine just came to check on me. I told her that this is getting quite long. She was very understanding because those were three very long days. There are some funny stories to tell and should get some nice pictures out of it, but I have more than just a few suggestions on how it could have been done differently! We are currently recuperating and planning for the next adventure. Keep posted.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Since we were up all of Friday night, we relaxed at their home most of Saturday afternoon. Once we slept a bit, Adriany & Antonio took us on a small tour of their city. We also went up to the City park which had excellent views of Rio and the bay. We could see SugarLoaf Mountain and the Christ Redeemer statue.
Sunday, we joined the family for church services in Barra (south of Rio and about an hour from Niteroi). Antonio preached and his wife translated the sermon to us. It was nice to understand what the sermon was about. Sometimes they have so many people attend church that people will sit outside and listen to the sermon through the loudspeakers. In the afternoon, we dropped the boys off so they could do some body surfing. Adriany took us up to another look out point which was also the jumping off point for paragliders and hangliders. It was pretty incredible to watch them go. One gal was about to chicken out of the hanglide jump, but they managed to push her off and away they flew! Kevin really wanted to try it out, but we didn't get a chance the rest of our visit to try it.
MOnday, we spent about half the day at one of the beaches in Niteroi (pictured), Niterói Itacoatiara Beach. It was fantastic becuase the beach was practically empty, the waves were huge, and we felt like we had our own little spot to ourselves. We also tried a little running on the beach. In the afternoon, we joined part of the family and their relatives to see Mission Impossible III. What a great time! AFter the movie, Adriany wanted to buy me a gift, so I now own a cute red dress, compliments of Adriany.
It was absolutely amazing to us how this family could not only bring complete strangers into their home, but also bought gifts and food for us. They even invited us back to visit their beach house during the summer months so we can learn to surf!
I don't think Kevin & I will ever be able to repay all of our guests for their wonderful generosity and incredible hospitality. We both agree that Brazilians are wonderful, hospitable and friendly people. We can't thank them enough for all the wonderful things they have done for us.
Apparently, they have had problems with this particular bull in the past. There is a soccer field in the village and they have soccer games quite a lot. During one of the games, the bull was on a rage and charged the field and then charged the fans. The whole village started screaming and running to get out of the way of the bull. Can you imagine! By the way, ALL of their animals roam free (except the Pig).
When we visited the village, they still had a lot of green grass that they could walk on. But, it was quickly disappearing as the rainy season was reaching its peak. The water had already raised about 7 meters from the dry season river channel. So, they had to put their pig on a floating raft. Once the water raises to the point that they have no grass, they will build another boat to hold all of their cows (well.. they would build it before it's too late!). They will also have to visit their neighbors by hopping in their canoes. They were wonderful people and were really happy to have us visit them.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
After our wonderful trip to the Amazon, we were back in Manaus. We crashed at a hotel near the Teatros Amazonas (the best thing going for Manaus). We joined forces for the evening with a gentleman, Bryan (from Seattle), that we met while at the Uakari lodge. We were able to haggle a good taxi price to the hotel and we all chowed down an enormous pizza.
The following morning, we took a tour of the Teatros Amazonas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Theatre). It was absolutely beautiful and was built during the rubber boom during the late 1800's. Many of the europeans living in Manaus at the time wanted a place to be entertained therefore, they built the theater. Everything used to construct the theater, except for the wood, was imported from Europe. Even though the wood was actually from the Amazon, it was exported to Europe for carving and cutting and then shipped back for construction. Crazy!! We were also fortunate enough to take a tour while they were practicing an Opera. It was fun to see the rehearsal. Once a year, they sponser an Opera festival. Unfortunately, we weren't in town when they performed.
We hit the port area and docks in the afternoon. It was pretty nice to watch the people getting on and off the river boats. The docks we saw are able to change up to 14 meters with the change of the water level between the wet and dry seasons.
We then headed out to the National Institute of Amazonian Research. It was founded to hel research the Amazonian Region and it's ecology, zoology, and botany. We thought it would be a little more interesting, instead, it appeared it was under some major reconstruction work. We did get to see some manatees, a river otter, a bunch of turtles, and some caimen. We were even provided a tour guide. She was about ten years old and recited everything off about the exhibits. She did very well, and spoke it all in Portugeuse. So, really, we have no idea what she said, but we nodded our heads a lot.
That evening, we headed back to the airport to sleep and await our 3:00 a.m. departure. I have never seen and airport so busy between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m. I didn't sleep at all. Kevin pulled out his pad, once again, and slept just a bit more than I did. OUr plane was about an hour late by the time we left. Which, was a problem since we only had 40 minutes to catch our connecting flight. We were assured that the plane would wait for us in Brasilia. Sure enough, it waited for us, even though we arrived at the time our second plane was supposed to depart. Somehow, we made it to Rio, ON TIME. We're really not sure how that happened, but were very glad that we didn't make Adriany (our Rio hostess) have to wait for us!
Sunday, May 14, 2006
We left São Paulo last Sunday evening and arrived in Manaus after midnight. We crashed in the airport because we had to leave on another flight in the morning for Tefé (west of Manaus). Kevin was pretty excited to pull out his bright orange mattress pad so he could sleep on the floor. I was the paranoid one and half slept while sitting in the very uncomfortable airport chairs (at least they had some padding). Turns out, there were two other Americans camped out in the same area awaiting the same plane. This airport was incredibly busy between midnight and 3:30 a.m. Neither of us could believe how many flights there were so late at night. Needless to say, the very loud announcements didn't help our sleeping situation either.
Morning finally arrived and the airport was dead. Normally, you would think that it was after midnight becuase it was so dead. In just about every other airport, it would start to be very busy by 7:00 a.m.! But then again, I've decided Manaus is just strange anyway. Kevin & I decided to go to the second airport in Manaus in order to catch our flight. Many cities we have visited so far have two airports (national and international airport), so we weren't too surprised to find out that we had to go to another airport and figured it was across town somewhere. So, we got into a taxi (we were told it should cost about $5) to get to the second airport. We quickly discovered that the "second airport" was just around the corner. We could have walked! It was the 2nd Terminal of the Eduardo airport and it was called Eduardino.. hmm... little Eduardo?
We finally flew to Tefé where our hosts for the Uakari Lodge and Mamiruau Reserve awaited our arrival. They quickly whisked us off to the docks (after we paid of course) to board the speed boat that would take us to the Uakari Lodge. We were both a bit skeptible about our mode of transportation. The boat motor kept quitting. I should have felt just like I was at home because it was a common occurence with my Dad's boat when I was growing up! Anyways, we finally made the 1 1/2 hour trip to the Lodge and stayed fairly dry despite the downpour on the way there.
The Lodges were absolutely wonderful. So far, they have surpassed any of the hostels we have stayed at yet... and there were even little cockroaches in the lodge. The cockroaches are really quite common in the Amazon and is definitely not a sign of a dirty place. They did an excellent job of keeping things clean and tidy (they take great pride in good hospitality). Apparently, they live in the straw roofs and sometimes come out at night. Kevin only had to capture two of the buggers before we went to bed. We also had some bats hanging out underneath the eaves. We both liked to see that, the more bats, the less mosquitoes!
We decided to visit the Mamiruau Reserve and stay at the Uakari Lodge becuase it is an EcoTourism destination. The reserve was set up to help save the natural habitat for the Uakari Monkey (only found in this part of the Amazon) and to help the inhabitants learn how to live sustainably within the reserve. All of the money for the trip goes to the reserve and they only hire employees that live within the reserve. So, it all goes to a good cause.
We went on several canoe trips through the flooded forest. We were both surprised to see that we were in a jungle that was completely flooded. The Lodges were all floating and several villages had homes built on stilts so they wouldn't get flooded during the rainy season. During the dry season, the channels narrow and there is more dry land. Apparently, one can experience a completely different set of wildlife during the dry and rainy season. For example, right now, all of the fish and inhabitants of the water are spread out all over becuase everything is flooded and all of the land creatures are concentrated in the little pieces of land. We were supposed to go on a night hike on one of the small exposed pieces of land. We didn't becuase earlier in the week, the guides saw three poisonous snakes within 100 meters. I was so grateful they wouldn't let us on the trail.. Kevin was severely disappointed.
We saw several different kinds of monkeys (including the rarely seen Uakari Monkey), hundreds of birds, caimens (a type of alligator/crocodile), a rarely seen river otter (some of the guides haven't even seen those!), and so much more. It was breathless. The only bad part about the whole trip was one morning we spent five hours in a canoe, no where for a potty break, and no snacks. My stomach started to make noises just like the loud howler monkeys we heard all day.
One of the highlights, was our opportunity to fish for Piranhas. Our fishing was quite successful! Kevin caught several and I caught a few. We were able to take two back with us to eat the next day. Our guide also speared, yes speared, and Oscar. It was the coolest thing watching him spear the fish! We got to eat the Oscar and the Piranhas the next day. They were both quite delicious!
We were both sad to see the trip end on our third morning. It was so wonderful to be in nature and enjoying God's wonderful creations. The people and our guides were so kind and hospitable too! We both highly recommend this experience to anyone interested in seeing the Amazon.
Mamiruau Reserve: http://www.mamiraua.org.br/ecoturismo/ing_index.htm
Animals in the Flooded Forest: http://floodedforest.com/ff-photogallery
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Highlights: I think our two favorite days were our visits to the Botanical Garden and to the Butanta Snake Farm. O.K. that was Kevin's exciting adventure this week. He tried to get me to say that one snake was pretty, I told him all he was getting out of me was that I liked it's color. I think there were about 70 different species of snakes, lizards and spiders. Butanta is the largest research center i Latin America for vaccinations (e.g. yellow fever, dengue (we think world wide too). They also had a microbiology museum that was explained some interesting things (e.g.cells, blood, micro-organisms, diseases, viruses). The Botanical Garden was a great escape to nature in a huge city. We enjoyed the outdoors and talked a lot while watching nature. We even saw and heard some more monkeys.
CD Shopping!: We went on quite the shopping spree trying to find some Brazilian music. Ana, Marina's niece, is a no fear shopper asking all sorts of questions at each of the dozen or so CD shops we visited. The shop owners knew there stuff. Kevin was refreshed to go into a CD shop and have the owner know the music and be able to suggest something. We finally found one shop that opened up the CDs (even brand new) and let us listen to them. We came away with a Brazilian hip hop CD and two Brazilian electronica albums. I still thing he's got a permagrin on his face! It was pretty much consensus among the rock music stores that Brazilian rock music doesn't hold a candle to international rock.
Movies: At the beginning of this week, I told Kevin I was tired of traveling. I have since been revitalized and am ready to keep going. I think part of my revitalization came from the two movies we saw.. in English!! All the movies are shown in English with subtitles in Portuguese. So, we felt like were back in the States for a few hours.. popcorn included! And boy.. do they know how to make butter popcorn. They coat all the popcorn with butter, not just the top!
Tomorrow we head to the Amazon! Those little piranhas better start swimming up river.. because we're on our way to catch them!
Water: All homes we have been in, only have cold running water. In order to get a “hot” shower (o.k. warm, maybe, sometimes cold) their is an electrical showerhead that seems to heat the water as it runs up the pipes and out the shower head. Marina told me that some folks wear flip flops in the shower to prevent electrocution. I can see why!
Gas: While most homes in the States are connected to an underground gas line, not the case in pretty much all the homes here in Brazil. Each house hooks their gas stove up to a gas container just like our gas grills. Marina made a comment to me that it seems silly to have gas lines running underground because they could burst, or be broken, etc. Good point, don’t you think? While in Sao Paulo, there is a truck that passes through all of the streets, every morning, that plays music indicating that if you want to buy your gas, you should run out to the street RIGHT NOW! The music is a bit annoying when you’re trying sleep in!
Heat: Most of the homes in Brazil are not heated by a central heating system. Even though the temperatures may be pretty mild during the winter months (compared to some of the places in the States), it makes a huge difference if you can’t heat your whole home at night. At Floyd & Marina’s home, Marina uses her wood oven/ stove most of the winter, therefore, they are able to heat their home a little bit. There isn’t much to insulate it though!
Sanitation: Many of the homes in Brazil (Argentina & Chile too) do not have extensive sanitation systems. Therefore, in many homes and businesses, you throw your used toilet paper into a wastebasket next to the toilet. (The apartment complex we stayed in Brasilia handled toilet paper in the water just fine.) Not all places have their own sanitation plant as they do in the States. Therefore the water isn’t being cleaned as well (or at all) before it is put back where it came from. Now, to some this may seem unsanitary in of itself, but to me.. it beats the sanitation system of Thailand by a landslide. Bangkok itself smelled like a huge sewer to me.
Safety: Michael Moore needs to get out of North America to see what real fear is. Some of the stories we’ve heard about safety has sent chills down my spine. Fortunately, we haven’t had any problems. So many homes are locked up very tight and people don’t roam the streets at night if they don’t have too. This is partially a problem becuase of the HUGE gap between the thouands (millions?) of extremely poor and the extremely rich (not much of a middle class).
Friday, April 28, 2006
To help us not feel so lazy, we have been climbing the stairs of their apartment building (12 stories). They live on the tenth floor and have a great view of the city surrounding them. There is an insane amount of buildings going up for new apartments. I have no idea where the people are coming from. I have never seen new developments so crazy.
This morning, our tour was of a very very poor neighborhood. They have a small church, about the size of a living room, that serves 30 members. The church is trying to build a new church (rather than using an old garage) but they can't seem to come to a consensus on where to build it. They neighborhood is one where you don't leave your home after 5:30 and ifyou do, get somebody to walk with you. On the way to this church, we also sall "Favelas" along the way. Favelas are essentially homes for the poorest of poor and are made out of cardboard.
There is a drastic difference between the population in Brazil. There is the very wealthy class, a very small upper middle-class, and then the poor, dirt poor, and poorest of poor. The mode of transportation for most people is probably walking becuase a car is too expensive for most people. Some families (three or four) may combine all of their money to buy a car to use between all of them. Many folks use the deadly motorcycle (not kidding.. one of THE highest causes for death in Brazi and if you saw how they drove, you'd think that motorcycles in the States was child play) becuase they get better gas mileage and cost less. WE have seen many horse and buggies and several FAMILIES all riding on ONE bicycle (three people on one bicycle, I think they could get more people and I just haven't seen it yet). Brazil definitely has it's work cut out for them in order to improve the livings for many people. Unfortunately, there is still a bit of corruption and the wealthiest seem to get the best treatment from the government.
Brasilia is the National capital of Brazil. We could definitely tell on our flight to Brasilia that we were going to the land of politicians. It was built completely from scratch about 46 years ago. There isn't any manufacturing near the city, so EVERYTHING has to be imported from other parts of Brazil. Needless to say, the cost of living is the highest in the Nation. There isn't much to do here other than work. The climate is a bit dryer and the temps a bit warmer. I guess that is one draw, otherwise, Kevin & I have yet to figure out why people WANT to live here.
We will be heading to Sao Paulo on Sunday. It sounds like we'll have our own personal tour guides while there too. Marina has already sent a list of places we want to see to her Niece. We are looking forward to seeing another city.
Love and God Bless,
Kristine (and Kevin)
p.s. Kevin has been severly beaten for posting that horrible picture of me. Even if he thinks it was funny, it's a good thing I love him so much!
Monday, April 24, 2006
Marina and her helper, Donna Maria,working on lunch and the dishes. Not once did Donna Maria allow me to wash the dishes. I could dry, but she wasn't about to let me wash, even if the dishes were dirtied by only Kevin & I. You rarely see Marina out of the kitchen and if she is, she's gone to town to get some vegetables for her next creation. Marina makes cheese to sell with the help of Iraci. It's almost an art and the efficienty these two have in the kitchen is amazing. Mom - you thought I was bad at making lots of dirty dishes, you haven't seen anything yet until you've met Marina! She is really good at it!
Every morning and evening, just as any good farmer does, Iluir and Chebie milk Floyd & Marina's cows. The milk the cows without any machinery. Floyd & Marina's motto is sustainablity. They milk the cows to sell the milk to a few people andfor their own use. The milk's primary purpose is to be made into cheese, yogurt, ricotta, etc. They don't use machinery becuase it costs to much and also requires more maintenance. Many people in Brazil cannot afford expensive machinery and they (Floyd & marina) are showing how to farm and make money in a sustainable fashion.
Chebie is training these two oxen to take back to his own farm this fall. He and his family has spent the last three years working to raise money for use on their own farm. They use these oxen to plow the fields, etc.
A calf tied with it's mother in waiting to be milked.
Dulci, Terazinia and I after our last day of Yoga together. Dulci (in pink) is the instructor. EVery class, Marina and I prayed that she wouldn't start pulling on us to get us into the position. She makes sure you get the position, even if it required something going out of place later. She was a fun instructor and we had a nice time. I now know some brazilian yoga words! Every Monday & Thursday morning for a month, I joined these ladies to help strengthen my body and stretch me out!
Kevin & I enjoyed spending our month with such wonderful people. We have both come away with some great ideas as to how we want to change how we live in order to be good stewards of the earth, good stewards to friends and family, and good christians.
-Kristine (and Kevin)
Saturday, April 22, 2006
The first week Kristine and I were at the farm, Reverend Floyd Grady mentioned that he wanted to remodel his porch. One of the farm workers, Iluir (pr. eelueer), came by to offer his advice...
He said the job could be done in 3-4 days, which pleased the Reverend's ears, so deconstruction commenced immediately. Iluir, his brother, Idonir, and I dismantled everything in a couple of hours.
Pastor Floyd and I went to town the next day to price building materials. The Reverend wanted to keep things inexpensive, but also wanted to have the job done right. So, from the get go it was clear that expectations were set too high. A day later we called Ismael, a constructor and member of a local church, to see if he'd like to oversee the work. I think this was partly due to indecision on what building materials needed to be bought (and how much), and partly to give some work to Ismael. He came to the farm to have dinner, decide what building materials were needed, and to give cost and time estimates. The cost estimate must have fit the budget because Ismael was hired to oversee what he said would be a five-day job.
I'll let the pictures give you an idea of how the porch was constructed. I mainly mixed and hauled a lot of concrete...
We were able to pour and brick the foundation, put the roof on, lay the initial concrete slab (the tile was placed in a second slab on the first), and put up the brick for the walls in 5 days. Kristine and I headed out that Sunday for Foz do Iquaçu, and Ismael was supposed to come back the next week to finish the job up in 1 or 2 days. Well...we got back the next Saturday to find them still working. Just yesterday Ismael came back again to plaster the outside walls:
I completed my portion of the job by doing a good share of the painting:
A nice (but not perfect) little room that took about 17 days to build. Ismael (from northeastern Brasil) noted that something like this is more than a lot of people have. The climate in this part of the region gets below freezing for about 1.5 months out of the year, yet 99% of homes are not heated. Something to think about the next time you are arguing about the temperature on the thermastat.
Kristine lent her handiwork to whatever Marina would have her do (mostly helping in the kitchen, and a variety of other chores). She wasn't as eager to pose for the camera I was, but I managed to steal the camera when nobody was looking:
That'll probably get me banned from writing blogs again for a while. Look forward to news from Kristine!
Thursday, April 20, 2006
And jump for all you're worth!"
"Oh, don't forget the flotation devices. They're the only thing that'll keep you from sinking.
This site is dedicated to those folks that know the world really has gone crazy and are looking for help floating. Life is too serious and some days it sneaks up on us and steals our enthusiasm. Hey, don't believe me - just read the headlines tomorrow morning or watch the evening news. But let's not dwell on that stuff because this site is not about doom and gloom.
Following my suggestions will lead to un-tolded riches - herds of friends - a physique that Arnold Schwarzenegger will envy - and special savings coupons at your local McDonalds. Ok, maybe not, but it will help you deal with the issues you're facing daily that just suck you dry of energy, enthusiasm, and motivation."
He also has pages entitled "My Funny Stuff" and "Crack Me Up". I have also attached the link to the left side of our blogsite. Hope you enjoy it! I'm sure he would love to hear about your enjoyment too. You can find his email address in the website.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
It's hard to believe that two months of our trip have essentially passed by! We are getting geard up for the last half of our travels. I'm almost certain the remainder of the trip will fly by because we'll be changing directions so much!
- 25-Apr: Stay with Irene & Michael in Brasilia, Brazil.
- 30-Apr: Stay with Marina's sister in São Paulo, Brazil.
- 7-May: Fly to Manaus, Brazil, the gateway to the Amazon.
- 8-May: Fly to Tefe, Brazil, and on to the Mamiraua Sustainable Development Reserve
- 11-May: Fly back to Manaus, Brazil
- 13-May: Fly to Rio, Brazil (Hit the beach for at least one day, Kevin says a half day).
- 17-May: Fly to Cusco, Peru... if Varig Airlines is still in business!
- While in Peru: Trek the Choqueuirao Trail and either the Salcantay Trek up to Machu Picchu or the Ausagante Trek at insane elevations!! :) We may just take the train up to Machu Picchu and save the trekking for some of the cooler hikes in the area.
- 11-Jun: Return to Denver & await the arrival of Peanut (Adam & Annie's little one).
Kristine (and Kevin)
Monday, April 17, 2006
Easter Traditions. Marina and I had a great time showing the kids how to paint their eggs for egg hunting. They did a pretty good job. In Brazil, the eggs are emptied of their yolks before coloring. They then make candied peanuts (caramelized sugar coating) and put that inside the emptied and painted eggs. So, Brazilian children get more sugar besides just their Easter basket. The kids had a wonderful time trying to find the eggs. Before they painted the eggs (before easter) and found the eggs (on Easter) Floyd & Marina shared the story about Christ and why Easter is so special. The picture attached of the kids shows how well they listened to Pastor Floyd.
Kevin & I had a wonderful Easter Celebration with our family away from home. Kevin even played Canasta with the boys after dinner. I got to help with the clean up!!
Thursday, April 13, 2006
You may have thought that we dropped off the face of the earth for a couple of weeks, or maybe you just don't read the blogsite (shame on you). I am again priveleged to update you on the sensational events of the last couple of weeks.
Last update, you found out that we were in Foz do Iguaçu, a town near the border of Brasil, Argentina, and Paraguay. There are also towns across the border in the other cities...blah blah blah. You don't think this story sounds exciting? It's not knocking you off your seat, yet? Or are you just wondering why there is a little tail on my "c" in "Iguaçu?" OK, for those of you who want to have a quick rundown of the area with some pictures, see the almighty Wikipedia:
Now we can move onto more interesting things - mainly the story that goes with the headline.
Before embarking on this adventure to South America, I was warned by my Master's adviser, Dr. Weldon Lodwick, that the driving in Brasil would be crazy. In this way, my expectations were set rather high. I thought I'd get to see cars on the sidewalks and motorcycles driving up over the tops of cars, but so far nothing has satiated my thirst for crazy driving (probably created by hours in front of a Playstation playing Need For Speed or Road Rash or some other racing game) until...I got on the public bus system.
The pickups and dropoffs alone are enough to keep the weak from riding - bus drivers approach a stop at 15-20mph and will only stop if someone runs out to the curb frantically waving their arms. The driver will then reluctantly come to a screeching halt. If you are on the bus, then you must grab onto whatever you can to prevent yourself from being projected into the neighboring country. Alas, I'm only teasing you with the standard behaviors. What would one of these bus drivers do if he (don't think I'm being sexist here - it takes testosterone to drive this way) was really cutting loose? If he woke up that morning and was unconcerned about living another day? If he thought he was Rubens Barrichello or some other Brasilian Formula 1 racer?
We took a (public) bus from Foz do Iguaçu to Puerto Iguazu (read the link above if you get confused) to visit the Argentinan side of the falls. To do this we must pass through a Argentinan border station (remember the mangy dog story?). We approached the station on a two-lane road with a generous shoulder on either side and encountered a long line of cars waiting to get through to Argentina. The bus driver does not hesitate to pull into the shoulder and start driving past the row of cars. Again, this is just SOP; perhaps amusing the first time you see it, but is old hat after that. His plan was thwarted, however, as he was stopped by a brave tree that had grown into the path of the shoulder. Adjacent to the tree is a semi-truck waiting patiently in line. I watch the bus driver shut off the engine, get out of the bus, and run over to talk with the truck driver. "Old pals," I naively think. The bus driver comes jogging back to the bus as the semi-truck begins to pull into the shoulder (past the tree). Our bus then pulls into the space left by the truck. Now, I'm completely prepared for the bus driver to follow the semi down and continue along the shoulder of the road. What I wasn't prepared for, and what actually happened, was the bus driver turns into the lane of oncoming traffic and drives straight over to the shoulder on the other side of the road. We proceed along this shoulder until we get to the front of the line and then cut back through oncoming traffic, bully our way past the cars in the front of the line and pull up to the border station. I guess you just need to think outside of the box to drive like that...or be a user in the drug trade. I congratulated the driver as we got off the bus. He shrugged like it was nothing and I walked into the border station on shaky legs.
We got back to the farm safe and sound to find that the porch project had been extended from the original 5-day completion time to 14-days. So, my work has continued a bit, though we are all finished with concrete work. (Mainly, I've just been painting.) Now I'm a slacker because I took some time to write to you about this little story. I hope it was worth it! I'll let Kristine write the next blog so that you read some actual news.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Kristine's short term memory seems to have no solid recollection of some of the past humor-at-her-expense that may have been published by me on the blog site. That's an awkward sentence. Let's shorten that one up...um...: Kristine...forgave...me. There, much more readable and even the New York Times would probably let that one print.
First headline: American Almost Gets Brutally Beaten By Brazilian Riot Police. You might think the title is long, but is acceptable due to the clever alliteration that I was able to use. The scene is a Brazilian soccer game, which takes place between two top Porto Alegre teams (one of which is a national champion) who have not played each other in 70 years. We found out on our way out the door that the local police were "worried about the situation." We were told not to worry because we were being chaparoned by one of the farm workers who "is a good fighter" in the words of Reverand Floyd Grady. Our bodygard had joked a few days earlier that he wouldn't take us unless we rooted for Gremio, which had blue-colored jerseys. They were playing the Colorado (red colored jerseys). Once seated in the stands I concluded that he shouldn't have been joking at all. We were seated in one of the three Gremio sections. 99.9% of these fans wore not only blue, but the blue jerseys of their team. I'm pretty sure that if I'd been wearing red I would have been made into a human sacrifice. Hopefully I would have the common sense to just take off my shirt and light it on fire as if I was only joking. These fans chanted, sang, screamed for 3 hours straight. The first hour was before the game even began. Ticker tape (still rolled up) was thrown into the crowd so that it could be thrown out (preferably unrolling as it is thrown) sometime during the game. Also, many fans had sparklers, smoke fireworks, bang fireworks, etc. "Wait a minute," you say, "there was mass quantities of paper AND fire?" "Yes," I would reply. "Wouldn't the paper catch fire?," you ask. "Most probably," would be my modest response. Indeed the ticker tape that was thrown over the "moat" (as Kristine dubbed the hole that seperated the stands from the track and soccer field) some of which was set on fire before being thrown, and then creating a mini-bonfire for the amusement of everyone but the staff which were working feverishly to stamp out the rubber soles of their shoes. But, I stray from the original story. The game ended. Score: 0-0. No overtime, which I think was a wise decision given how worked up the fans had already become. As we left, the thought struck me that we probably should have coughed up a little more dinero to park outside of the Gremio section of the stands instead of down the street. Because, you see, in order to get back to the car we had to walk past the section of the Colorado team, who had amassed various objects to throw at anybody passing by that was wearing anything but red. We dodged the half full beer cups and who knows what else, and wove our way around fights that had broken out in the street, which the riot police were quickly trying to extinguish. We had just arrived back at the car when a crazy Gremio fan with face paint being chased by a cop with a knight stick ran straight into me. He bounced off of me, leaving me face to face with an angry cop who had his knight stick raised over his head as if he was going to hit the nearest thing that moved. He paused momentarily (my heart missed at least one beat) before he pushed me to gain momentum in the other direction. So, that's the story. We made it safely back. Plenty other things to say about the game, but there's the highlights.
Kristine and I are in Foz Do Iquacu. We visited the worlds largest hydroelectric power plant today and will visit waterfalls that are supposed to be more magnificent than Niagra tomorrow. Hope that spices up your day job! We'll keep you posted.
Friday, March 31, 2006
Kevin & I have been leading some pretty routine lives the past couple weeks. Kevin's working on the porch construction project. I'm helping with the house chores which includes collecting fruite, shelling nuts, making lunch & dinner, etc. I've also been running & going to yoga. The unroutine part is all of the creatures we seem to find or see. This morning, there were four monkeys and a couple of their babies in the Grady's gauva tree. I was fortunate enough to get a close up shot of them. Not soon after I walked down near them, they swung off.
Today, Chebie (Floyd's employee) started on the lawn mowing. He did it the way my Dad used to; let the cows eat the grass. The only difference is that Chebie tied up the cows instead of letting them roam free.
Kevin has been keeping busy trying to keep our guest house clean, of creatures that is. So far, he has removed a moth as big as his fist, a spider the size of a half dollar that sprinted across the ceiling, and a frog that was able to jump from the ceiling to the floor and then climb his way back up the wall. Today, he unearthed a large poisonous spider from the bricks they were using on the construction project. I guess it was as big as a tarantula, but narrower. Marina quickly disposed of the nasty thing. I'm cringing the day that Kevin finds a snake in the guest house. I'm sure it won't happen, but I have an overactive imagination.
I haven't been nearly as lazy this week. I broke out my running shoes and have been running on the biggest hills I have ever seen. My first day out, I ran over the top of snake. Fortunately, it was dead, I think. It wasn't more than a 1/4 inch in diameter and was probably about one to 1 1/2 feet long. Kevin told me it was a coral snake that likes to play dead and then jumps at his pray. I told him if he keeps that kind of talk up, I won't be leaving the house. I asked Gail (Kevin's Mom) to send me two of her recipes to share with our hosts and their employees. I made Gail's cinnamon rolls on tuesday and her walnut (pecan in this case) spice cake on thursday. Both were huge hits and requests for a second batch have already been put in. The best part about making the cake and rolls was that I baked them in Marina's wood oven and didn't burn them! Kevin thought the icing for the cinnamon rolls was exceptional. I think because it was made from fresh milk and butter from their own cows.
The construction work that Kevin is helping with is coming along a little slower than expected. They are doing the construction a little differently than either of us would do, but it's getting done. Once the construction is done, we'll post the pictures. They are planning to work tomorrow, but Kevin will get a little break in the afternoon because we're heading out to watch a soccer game in Porto Alegre. We're both looking forward to it!
On Monday evening, we're catching a night bus (14 hour trip) to Foz do Igaucu Falls. There are 275 waterfalls at the borders of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. I guess it is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world and makes Niagara look like nothing.
Kevin's out with the boys this evening playing Canasta. It's a great card game (I promise to teach it to my cousins, they'll enjoy it)! Even though everyone speaks Portugese, they all seem to find a way to tease each other about the game just as if they all spoke the same language.
Well, better be hitting the sack.
Love, Kristine (and Kevin)
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Construction of Château Lacave commenced in 1968 and was completed in 1978. The Castle is the work of a Spaniard that wanted to construct a 6th Century Castle in the city limits of Caxias do Sul. The Castle is constructed of basalt stone, native to the region. The stones were cut and fitted together without the use of any type of cement in the construction. The original owner died in 1987, and the Castle has changed owners through the years. The Castle is currently owned by the Basso Family.Ingrega Säo Pelegrino (Church):
One of the main urban attractions of Caxias, the Church of Is Pelegrino is the artistic control point of the city. In the interior of the temple you can appreciate the magnificent afrescos of Aldo Locatelli: laterally, they are the fourteen stations of the Way Sacra. In the ceiling, the "Creation of the World", the "Creation of the Man", the "Expulsion of the Terrestrial Paradise" and the "Final Judgment". In the forecourt, the "Rejoinder of the Pietà" of Michelangelo, donated for the Pope is displayed Pablo VI for occasion of the Centenarian of Italian Immigration. The bronze doors, in high relief, reproduce the epic of the settling and had been created by the August artist Mürer. The temple possesses one ' This Mortuária ' of only characteristics in Brazil, idealized for Rows Gianella, that also idealized the clock of the flowers.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Happy to say that we're both still well and alive. Marina continues to spoil us, particularily Kevin. She's making pumpking pie for us this week. The pumpkin was not an ordinary U.S. pumpkin. It was about one and a half feet long and only about six inches in diameter. I can't wait to taste the end result.
Today, the hired contractor arrived at the Sitio P.P. farm. So, Kevin was out in the sun working hard all day. Four men put up the steel frame work for the wall and posts for the new porch. They had to cut all of the steel, bend all of it, and tie it all together. I lazed around all afternoon doing ever so important research on the internet. I did join Marina this morning for yoga, so I wasn't completely lazy. Tomorrow, I'll be trying out my new running shoes and running up the insane hill to get out to the road. So, I still won't be too lazy!
Last weekend, we traveled up to Caxias do Sul to visit some old friends of Floyd & Marina. We got to do a little shopping, visited the Sao Perigrino church with some very dark depictions of Jesus and his crucification, and went to a winery. We had a pretty good time. Sunday evening, we went to a chuch service in Porto Alegre for some of Floyd's mission field work. We endured two hours of loud music and a very long sermon.. non of which.. either of us understood. I certainly enjoy our daily bible studies after dinner much more than the church service.
I have attached a link to the kodakgallery that has some of our photos at the farm. If you have troubles looking at them, please let me know by emailing me. My email link is at the left of the blog site.
Kristine (and Kevin)
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Their farm is absolutely beautiful and the scenery, tree colors, and huge hills (mountains to some) remind me of the black forest in Germany. Marina has a digital camera, so we may be able to post some pictures while here.
We've been enjoying the fruits and labor of their farm: cheese (from their own cows made in their own kitchen), fresh bananas, gauva, blackberries, pears, oranges, lemons, pecans, mango, corn, etc. Marina is making sure that neither of us goes hungry. She even hunted down some peanuts (because their crop won't be ready until May) to make peanut butter for Kevin. Today, she, her employer, and I made some banana bread. Kevin & I shelled the pecans to put in the bread and she added some of her own molasses sugar and bananas from their yard. The bread is being cooked in their wood oven. They have a wonderful sustainable farm. Floyd and Marina are really opening up our eyes even more to how to become more environmentally friendly.
We are certainly enjoying ourselves. Kevin worked hard on the destruction of one of the porches. Next week, he´ll help rebuild it into an area used to process their own meat. I think he's really looking forward to seeing the Brazilian way to build things.
Wildlife & Animals: Yesterday, we saw a family of monkeys in their yard. We also hear the monkeys off in the woods. THe sound is so loud and a few kilometers away but they sound like a bunch of loud machinery. We hope to see some more. Floyd continues to tell stories about snakes on their property and from his several years of living in Brazil. Kevin is just eating the stuff up while I sit their and cringe. Ick. We saw a large non-poisonous tarantula while they torn the porch. That was quite interesting and freaked me out. Kevin is in heaven because there are three adult cats, one larger kitten, and four new kittens to playwith. I've never seen such a frenzy until they know food is on the way. The rooster things that one in the morning is sunrise.
All is well and fair in the country side of Dois Irmois!
Cheers, Kristine (and Kevin)
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Kevin: Turns out that the British guy stocked up on peanut butter in Puerto Natales, as well.
Kevin: Yeah, he said that there was a minimum 5-year sentence if you are caught with peanut butter in Argentina.
Kristine: (looking surprised and wide-eyed) Really?
Kevin: Yup, and if it's crunchy it's a minimum of 10-years.
This conversation probably had something to do with the comment she made to me the next day. Something about not caring if I keeled over dead and my carcas was scavenged by the Pumas. I try to be mature and look past these sorts of comments.
We managed to get the tent relatively dry before heading out to a campsite just below the Fitz Roy peak (also quite famous). On our way, we transitioned from the British Winter to a Colorado winter. Yep, snow, wind, and cold. Didn't snow much, but my toes just finally thawed out. Fitz Roy refused to come out of the clouds. It did tease me. As we packed everything up the next morning, there was just a whif covering the peak. So...
Kevin: Hey! It looks like it might clear. Do you want to climb up to Laguna Los Tres (an 1.5 hour climb straight up the side of the hill, but with a great view of Fitz Roy).
We had a similar conversation about an hour and a half later when we passed by Laguna Capri on our way back to El Chalten:
Kevin: Hey! Do you want to go check out the lake?
And you'd think she was the one with the sleeping bag that lets out all the heat and keeps in all the moisture.
Quick update on the itinerary: tomorrow we rest and maybe go for a bike ride. The next day we bus to El Calafate. The next day we fly to Buenos Aires. The next day we (hopefully) fly to Porto Natales in order to arrive at the Grady's farm on the 18th. Lots of travelling, but most of it with a roof over our heads.
Hope everyone is doing well and thanks for reading the blogs!
Friday, March 10, 2006
Hopefully the good weather continues. We are planning on heading into the national park just outside of town in the morning. We plan to spend 2 nights in the tent at two different campgrounds. We lightened our packs a bit and the daily distances are relatively small compared to our last adventure. So...expect no communication for a few days. Hopefully we don't run out of film!
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Evening friends. Well, today was a spectacular viewing day of the Perito Moreno Glacier. It was also a wonderful day to see some mighty big woodpeckers in action. The day ended by news of the only airline in and out of El Calafate going on strike.
The Glacier was pretty amazing and watching the ice chunks fall off was pretty cool. I hope that the entire roll of film I used on it turns out alright. Kevin has calculated that at my rate of taking pictures, I´ll go through 42 rolls of film. I´m hoping that my picture taking lightens up once we hit Brazil and stay put for a while.
So the wonderful things about a woodpecker strike is that their fun to watch, have a cool sound ( we now really know where the woody woodpecker tune came from), magnificent colors (brilliant red heads), and inexpensive to see, hear, and enjoy. The wonderful things about the Aerolineas Argentina strike is... um.. oops.. there aren´t really any. It would mean, bussing it out of Southern Argentina for who knows how many days to get to Brazil, or bussing it to Chile, then fly up to Santiago and then fly to Brazil. Who knows!! What an exciting adventure we could be in for, which may be a wonderful thing? Kevin & I both hope that the strike will be over by the time we get back from our trekking El Chaltén. Wish us luck!
1. Chilean Milk: Doesn´t need to be refrigerated until you open it, expires about five months after you buy it, and you should drink it within 3 days after opening it.
2. Pharmacies: Can be a good experience. I had/have conjutivitus in one of my eyes as diagnosed by the doctor at the Pharmacy and by Kevin´s MOm. I was quite thankful they thought it was the same thing.. and that the doctor spoke english. I´m well on my way from recovery and my eye is no longer gluing itself shut at night!
3. Condiments, Yogurt, etc: All seem to come in plastic bags of sorts from the grocery store. You have to store it in your own containers once you open it at home. This makes it a little difficult to add to our sandwiches and to transport them.
4. When Kevin remembers it, we´ll add number four! :)
Love, Kristine & Kevin
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
We head to the Perito Moreno Glacier (see above picture) in the morning and can´t wait to see it because it should be quite awe inspiring. The following day we are headed to El Chaltén where we hope to do some day hiking. We orginally planned to backpack in, but Kevin´s knee is still aggregevated as all get out. We´re still going to play it by ear.
We are at a hostel that is supposed to have a kitchen... who ever heard of a kitchen that doesn´t have an oven? We didn´t know this before we bought all the fixin's for a pizza. Kevin ended up putting one stir fry bowl on the stove, placed a frying pan on top of that with the pizza in the frying pan, and finally placed another pan over the pizza as the lid. Fortunately, the crust was already baked, so it made things a little easier. It was one of the best meals we´ve had so far. Definitely beats the lamb mystery meat that Kevin had a couple weeks ago.
Looking forward to seeing the Glacier tomorrow and really can´t wait to see Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torro near El Chaltén (pictured above).
p.s. First misconception.. we haven´t seen any "Mexican" food since we´ve arrived. Kevin says it´ll probably be the first stop once we get back to the States.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Kevin & I survived the Grand Circuit through the National Park of Torres del "Pain" as Kevin said when we slogged ourselves out of the park. The trip was absolutely beautiful, extrodinary, and a little painful. We hiked for six days and camped five nights. This is a long synopsis of our days trekking, please enjoy!
Day 1: Laguna Amargo to Camp Seron
We started our trek from Laguna Amarga with partially cloudy skies and little droplets of rain (nothing serious). Because of some miscalculations on my part, we started in the wrong direction. Fortunately, we were able to cut trail across the grassy plains to reach the correct trail. Neither of us were too concerned because we had some pretty good landmarks to go off of, and we had a pretty clear view of the entire surrounding area. We ended up hiking about 4 1/2 hours for about 14.5 km (kilometers.. not miles). We had little bit of rain that didn´t do much damage but for the most part it was pretty sunny and a bit windy. Most of the hike was through some pretty arid grassland areas and it followed the Paine River all the way to camp. The river was a cloudy grey color that seemed to be colored by the grey soil and the glaciers. About four kilometers from the campsite we hit some marshlands that was a real treat to get through. We finally arrived at Camp Seron and pitched our tent with some others doing the "hardcore" grand circuit and not the shorter "W" Circuit. (Sidenote.. The "W" Circuit is a shorter trekking distance that gets you to the major points of view in the park and is the most popular trek in the park.) We quickly (or as quickly as my stove would cook with wind gusting through the campsite) cooked dinner, took hot showers and headed to bed. It actually got pretty chilly that evening, but we pulled through just fine.
Day 2: Camp Seron to Camp Dickson
The day didn´t start out the best for me becuase I ended up having a soar throat and ear ache of sorts. Kevin made me stay in the tent while he cooked oatmeal with honey & raisins (w/ seeds) and made sure I drank some Vitamin C. I thought it was wonderful of him to take care of me while I was feeling punky. But, the laziness quickly ended when we broke camp. This is when I found out that double bagging your food is a good thing. We had to throw out some food because the field mice thought it was pretty tasty too. I will learn proper backpacking ettiquite one of these days! We were actually quite stunned to find that our legs weren´t nearly as tired as we thought they would be. The first part of the trail followed the banks of the Paine River pretty well and it was quite level. It was a great warm up for the climb ahead. We climbed out of the river bed and over some of the big hills that aligned the river. We continued to follow the river on an up and down trail all the way to Camp Dickson. For the most part, the flora and fauna was pretty similar to the day before, but as we got closer to Camp Dickson, the grass got greener, the trees bigger (or just simply more trees), and the mosquitoes were horrible. At times we would walk into these little mini forests that reminded us from scenes of the forest from Lord of the Rings or the Fire Swamp from the Princess Bride. They were kind of creapy! After about 6 hours of hiking 20 km, we finally hit a ridge that gave us a great view of Camp DIckson. We also had great views of Lake Dickson, the glacier that dropped into the lake, the incredible mountain peaks surrounded us, and the clouds were playing over teh mountain tops. It was absolutely beautiful. We took a few pictures and then dropped into our camp site. The mosquitos were in full force making Kevin crazy. At this site, they had eleven horses that were just walking around. Kevin tried to chase a couple of them down to pet them, but they weren´t too fond of the idea. There was also an adorable pony running through camp. We checked out the shower situation at this site, too cold and definitely too windy to even attempt a shower that was pretty much outside. Did I mention that it was windy ALL DAY?
Day 3: Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros
Everyone in camp folded up their things as quickly as possible just to keep the mosquitos at bay. We ate a granola mix on the trail just to help cut down the time spent in the site. It was cloudy and muggy all day and the mosquitos loved it. AFter about 45 minutes of hiking, they completely disappeared, it was wonderful. We had a short day of hiking today and we booked it. I didn´t even think I could hike that quickly with my pack, going uphill all day. We passed the three germans, the german couple, the italian couple, AND the british couple. Kevin gave me a high five each time we passed another group of folks. Today´s hike was in the forest the whole time and made me feel more like I was in the woods of Wisconsin. The biggest difference was the size of the leaves on the trees. The trees had tiny little leaves (about the size of a dime). We followed the Los Perros River which was apparently named after the herder`s dogs that drowned in the river. Fortunately, they put up bridges to cross the rivers and creeks. About a half hour from our site, I about died. I made it, but Kevin was trying to figure out what happened to my steam. I think the wind was pushing it out of me. We headed into camp with a full head wind that knocked you around like you were a feather. We got some more incredible views of the surrounding peaks, glaciers, and ice chunks in the mountain lakes. The campsite had cold showers, a cook shelter, and NO MOSQUITOES. We hung out in the cook shelter most of the afternoon talking with the british couple we passed. Turns out they started their travels last May in Anchorage. The bicycled from Anchorage to the tip of South America in the Tierra del Fuego. They just decided to do some hiking before ending the trip. The gentleman, Paul, was a great social guy and has hiked the Pacific Trail twice, Appalacian Trail twice, the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. He builds up a house for six months, sells it, and then travels the remaining six months. It was a real treat to talk with him and his friend Claire during our days of hiking.
Day 4: The BIG day.. Los Perros to Refugio Grey and over John Garnier Pass
Today was the longest day we had and it was a doozy. The funny part is that climbing up and over the pass was the easiest part of the entire day. Fortunately, the weather was on our side because the sun was out and the wind, for the most part, was pretty quiet. Before going over the pass, we went through about 1 1/2 hours of marshland. Kevin did an excellent job of navigating us through the marsh. Fortunately, we only dropped one foot each into the black muck. Once we got throught the marsh, we climbed over the pass through a bunch of rock scree. We ascended about 600 meters. The only thing I could say when we reached the top and saw the view on the other side was WOW!!! I cannot even express in words how incredibly impressive the view was. The pass overlooked the huge Glacier Grey (which is part of the third largest glacier network in the world, behind Anartica and Greenland) more mountain ranges, and mountain peaks. It was so stunningly beautiful. I cannot wait to have our pictures developed from this vantage point. AFter eating our lunch of rolls and ham pate, we started our 900 meter descent with NO switchbacks. Chileans do not know how to cut a trail. Every step downward was like putting our quads and knees through a minute wall sit. The descent is what did us both in. We finally hit the Camp Los Pasos which should have been our stopping point after about five hours. We sat for a while and decided to continue onward for another four hours of hiking to Refugio Grey. I´m not sure what we were thinking since we were already starting to hurt. This next segment was, I believe, the most gruesome part of the entire trip. We ended up dropping another 300 meters or so before hitting camp, but most of that was in the last hour because the first three hours were continousily up and down. The ascents and descents weren´t just a few feet either, we´re talking descents into ravines about 10 meters only to climb immediately out of them. The reason this part of the trail was so difficult for me is because I had about 2-3 considerable anxiety attacks along the way. We were hiking a couple hundred meters above the glacier with some pretty steep faces along the whole way with wind that liked to knock you around a bit. I kept envisioning the wind pushing me up, making me lose my balance, and fall a long ways only to hit a very hard glacier at the bottom. Then.. to top it off, two of the ravines we crossed were filled with torrents of water. To get to the supposed crossings, we either had to climb down or up wire and log ladders that were anywhere from 10 to 35 feet tall. One creek had a bridge and one didn´t. The one that didn´t we had to negotiate over a rock that dropped you to a stepping rock across the stream. Needless to say, was essentially on my but as I scootted across the rocks. Besides the rough trail and wind, the views of the glaciers and mountains continued and definitely made it all worth it. We even saw a fox way down below skirting it´s way across the glacier. We really didn´t see much other wildlife besides that. Kevin was very disaapointed that we didn´t see a Puma (cougar), I wasn´t! We were very happy to have hot showers once we ended our day at Refugio Grey. We hiked about 20 km and who knows how many meters of ascension and descension. The site was along Lake GRey which the Glacier dropped into. It was quite stunning to see the lake with the huge ice chunks in the water. I read that the ice chunks that fall of the glacier are as large as houses, I disagree, they are much much larger.
Day 5: Refugio Grey to Camp Italiano
Today, we awoke hearing large thunderous sounds that were the huge ice chunks falling off of the glacier and into the lake. It was quite impressive to hear, even though we didn´t get to see them. We started the day out very slowly becuase we were both in considerable pain from the day before. I was fortunate the whole trip because my knee didn´t bother me hardly at all. Kevin´s knee did get aggrevated pretty badly on the day before though. I, on the other hand, was still fighting my cold. My nose was so red, chapped, and stung so much it was horrible. The trail today wasn´t too bad because it was mostly just up and down with very small changes in elevation. The wind was the worst today and really pushed us around. Fortunately, we weren´t on too many steep exposed areas so my comfort level was a little better. We walked by a lake that was quite beautiful. It was actually a blue that you would see in the Colorado mounatain lakes or the lakes of Wisconsin (not grey or turquoise). The lake was perched by the rocks which seemed to just drop off a few feet on the opposite side down to Lake Grey. We eventually dropped into REfugio Pehoe and rested a while before heading on. The Lake from here, was a beautiful turquoise. It was really pretty. The last two hours of our trek the wind continued in full force as we hiked next to a different "windswept" lake. I kept praying to God that he would take away the wind. He finally did, the next day! We reached camp in the evening after crossing a suspension bridge. It was great to see some of the others we had hiked the back part of the circuit with at this camp site. Everyone was pretty sacked though and were busy just trying to eat and get to bed. Today we met an astonishing number of hikers and backpackers because we were now on the most popular part of the trail. Our egos were just slightly bruised when some of the fresh hikers passes us.. need I remind you of what we had already done, hurt knee, and fighting a cold the whole way!? :)
Day 6: Camp Italiano to Hosteria Torres
When I prayed for no wind, God came through for me. There wasn´t hardly an ounce of wind... but a whole lot of rain. We were supposed to hike up to the Valle del Frances, but it was completely socked in with clouds and there wasn´t any sign it would even change the next day. We missed one of the great sites of the park. I wasn´t too concerned because my cold had worsened, Kevin´s knee still didn´t like him, and I didn´t want to be in the rain for as long as I could stand it.. which ended up being all day. It was a great drizzle rain that you´d have in Seattle. We decided to hike out of the park today because you couldn´t see anything. Fortunately, we had seen the Torres on our first day in, so we didn´t feel we need to stick around in the rain another day in hopes to see it the next day. We ended up crossing a half dozen creeks along the way. Some of the creek crossings had you cross at the worst possible place with a couple pieces of wire as the "handrail" to help you across. It wasn´t the best day, but we were certainly happy to see the end in site. We met our friends at the Hosteria and we were all happy to be out of the rain and looking forward to the bus ride back to Puerto Natales. Once we arrived in Puerto Natales, we hiked it back to Hostel Patagonia only to find it was filled with 25 italians. We had arrived about 3 days earlier than they anticipated. So, Theresa, our Mom away from home, shipped us to another hostel for the night and told us to come back the next day and she´d feed us breakfast and take care of us.
We have been back in Puerto Natales for the last couple days trying to recuperate. My cold got even worse and I am now trying to recuperate. Kevin´s knee is on it´s way to recovery, but we´re rethinking what kind of backpacking or hiking we´ll be doing for the rest of our stay in Patagonia. In the mean time, we´re enjoying the lazy days.
I apologize for all the misspellings, I´m not sure how to do the spell check.
Cheers! Love Kristine & Kevin