Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I can't begin to say how great it is to be back in Idaho! I had a great Christmas with Rebecca and Stephen and Sam and Lucy. Very low key and so great. We all stayed in our pj's all day and watched the snow fall. Just perfect!

I made it home from South America on the 23 and I must say it was the worst traveling experience of my life. It consisted of many tears and even more vomit. :) Alex and I left Lima about 7am after spending the night in the airport with no sleep. We were to catch our connecting flight in Panama. When we got to Panama we were at the ticket counter trying to figure out my tickets because they had gotten messed up in Lima and they refused to help us. While at the ticket counter we found out that our plane out of Panama was going to be four hours late. I started crying. Not a single tear, but many, many tears. I was certain I would be spending Christmas alone in an airport somewhere. The woman helping us was great and gave us a free meal, I am sure because of my crying. Note to self: crying gets you a free meal at the airport... I knew that by our plane being so late that we would miss all our connections and make it impossible to get home. So we finally make it onto our plane in Panama. About an hour before hand I was starting to not feel so hot. As soon as they closed the doors on the plane I jumped up and pushed people out of my way to run back to the bathroom where I puked more than I have puked before. This lead to a not so pleasant plane ride home. We made it to Huston where we were put up in a hotel for the night. In the morning our shuttle was late picking us up so we had an hour to check our bags, go through security and make it to our gate. A bit of sprinting was involved but we made it to San Fransciso finally. There I talked with a woman who kept looking at me saying she just didn't know what she could do for me. Not what I wanted to hear. The airport was a zoo with so many flights delayed due to the weather and so many people flying standby for every flight out of there I was certain of my fate... This woman put me on the standby list to Seattle and from there to Spokane. I didn't make it on that flight. I finally got to talk with someone who made me feel like I was the only one with this issue which was what I needed at that time. She put me on another list which wasn't standby, but was one step up from standby and I was the second to the last person who made it on the flight to Seattle with tons of people not making it on. I did have a sense of guilt being one of the ones on the plane. I was able to make it too from Seattle to Spokane that night by the grace of God. When I sat on the plane from Seattle to Spokane I told the man sitting next to me how I wanted to cry when I got my boarding pass for that flight. He looked at me as though I was a bit psycho but if he only knew...

So here I sit now, in Idaho with more snow outside than I have seen in years and with two babies that have grown up so much in the month that I was gone.

I feel like I am home.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Too Amazing!

The Inca Trail has been conquered! It was four days of intense hiking, sweating, swearing, gasping for air, stomach problems, amazing ruins, and just an incredible time. It was hard but worth every minute of it. My calves are still really hurting when I walk up stairs but it´s getting easier every day.

Our guide, Willy, was great. So knowledgeable about everything we encountered. The weather was great. It rained at night and one other day for a bit but it was ok for the most part. We had porters who carried the majority of our stuff and they were amazing. They carried 25kg of gear and would run past us in their sandals. They cooked us incredible food. All the ruins were amazing. The morning we reached Machu Picchu blew my mind. It is an amazing place. How in the world did the Incas build it??? I loved just walking around the ruins and was even chased by a llama up some stairs. I am way too tired to share stories right now but just wanted to say I made it and loved every grueling second of it.

We arrived in Puno today. Tomorrow we are taking a day tour on Lake Titicaka of islands that are made of reeds. Should be another great day. Saturday we are flying back to Lima to head home. I won´t get home until the 23rd after spending the night in two airports but that´s ok. I look forward to being back in Idaho for Christmas. So much snow there already!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Adjusting to altitude

We arrived in Cousco yesterday after a long, nauseating 21 hour bus ride. It was aweful. I wanted to puke for 21 hours. I think I will fly back to Lima after our hike instead of sitting through another 21 hours on a bus. To make it worse they had movies in Spanish with English sub titles and before you realize it you are reading on a really rocky bus after you already want to puke. Doesn´t make for a good combo. Watched Meet the Parents and then later Meet the Fockers. Now that is a good time.

It´s amazing how I can feel the change in altitude just sitting here. Today we will go on a short hike to try and get a little more acclimated to the altitude but I know the trail will still be tough as far as that goes. Last night we had our briefing from Willy, our guide for the trip. He seems like great guide. Turns out it will just be the four of us in our group with six porters, people to carry our gear...tents and food and who know what else. We will be taking off at 6:30 tomorrow morning.

Cousco is beautiful. The people are beautiful and the city is beautiful. Cobblestone streets and lots of old buildings. I look forward to exploring more today.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

20 hours in a bus? Who wouldn't be excited???

Just a quick post to let you all know that Madonna is in Chile and as much as we wanted to get tickets, we couldn't. Really, how great would that have been???

In about 15 minutes we are headed to the airport to fly back to Peru. We'll meet up with our other friend Brian at the airport then head to the train station where we'll sit for 20 hours to get to Cousco and start hiking the Inca Trail on the 12...Friday maybe...all my days run together now.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The hardest climb of my life!

Two days ago we arrived here in Pucon. It was about a six hour bus ride from Talca. The first day here we went white water rafting. Class four and five rapids and we had to portage around a class six. That was one crazy looking rapid. It was pretty much a crazy waterfall. Great time. We got to float in the water through some of it and I loved that the most. I realized I didn´t spend much time on a river last summer and I missed that.

Yesterday was pretty amazing. One of the reasons people come here to Pucon is to climb its active volcano. We decided that since we were here we might as well do it too. We left at 0700 and met with our guides. They gave us gators, boots, snow gear, crampons and an ice axe. We got to the trail head at about eight and we were told it would take five hours to get up and two to get down. That´s exactly what it took. We were in a group of ten. It was hard. Really hard. A bunch of us really struggled but it still took the five hours like they said. Pretty steep in parts and tons of switchbacks up the volcano. I reached the top at about one. One of the guides gave me trekking poles which I think saved me. That reall made a huge difference. The view from the top was incredible. We spent about an hour up there and the longer we were there the more the clouds burned off so we could see the lake and surrounding area. The crater was huge. The sulfur made us cough a lot but it was amazing to be standing on top of a volcano. Coming down was an exciting time. We slid the whole way down on our butts. For a good part of it, it was like being in a louge. It was carved out from so many people. It was awesome to slide down it!!! The sunburn I have right now is probably worse than the pain in my muscles. I wore tons of sunscreen but the sun was crazy yesterday. I have to say it was a pretty amazing experience.

After the volcano we went to some hot springs to relax. Great way to end a painful, painful, exciting day!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Two posts in one day!!!

So here I am at the internet cafe...again...

I have to share this story. It just may be the highlight of my trip so far. After we left the internet cafe before, we set out in search of another vineyard. Along the way we found this place that looked like one so we went in. It was dark in there but there were lots of the large wooden vats to hold wine so we figured we were in the right place. This man comes up to us and starts speaking really fast in Spanish. No comprende, at all. Somehow he figured out we wanted to look around so he starts walking really fast and leads us up this crazy old staircase. He has us walk out onto the top of one of the vats. I was hoping that you could swim in wine because I was expecting the top to fall in with all of us up there. He pulled the cork out of the top and had us all stick our finger in to taste it. Kind of gross but that is wine in the process. The whole time he is with us he is talking comprende. We just smile and nod. Then he leads me out onto this crazy old board that is from one vat to another, pretty far up off the ground, so I could have a photo op. From this point on it was all about the photo op and he made sure we got it. We all took our turn on the crazy board that could have broken from the weight of a piece of baby corn and then finally down the crazy staircase. He then took a ladder, put it up against a vat and showed us how to pose for the best picture. This guy was so random it was great. We went back to the front desk and he gave us all a small bottle of red wine for free. He did not want any money for anything. He let us taste the white wine and it was pretty good. I bought a really large bottle of it for 1000 pesos, or about $1.50. Later we noticed a bug floating in it... protein. This guy made our day. It was such a random 20 minutes of our day. He did not understand a word of what we were saying and we had no clue what he was saying but it was great. I just had to share this. I hope you are all well and having lots of snow wherever you are. I have a pretty good sunburn going on...


Hola! Como esta? Gracias. So I think Alex may be getting a tad bit annoyed that I know how to say gracias. I say it a lot. When I don´t know what to say, I say gracias. At least people are thanked for their services. :)

We are back in Chile. In a little town called Talca. Today we are going on wine tours and wine tasting. I like wine. I like wine tastings. Had a wonderful late harvest wine this morning that was super sweet. Tonight we are taking a night bus to Pucon. We are all really looking forward to this. We´ll be there three nights. Pucon is on a lake with a perfect cone shaped volcano. We hope to climb the volcano, go white water rafting and visit the hot springs. Should be three full days of adventure.

Yesterday we got into Talca and had no clue where we were going. We went into a gas station and asked directions. There was a man there who offered to take us to where we needed to go. He seemed nice enough. He really was great. Jill and I sat in the back of his van, her on her pack and me on a rickety old lawn chair. We wondered if this guy was taking us for a ride, but he was really wonderful. He took us to our hostel and didn´t want any money. He spoke no English and he knew we didn´t speak much Spanish but he, like most people, when they find out we don´t know Spanish seem to speak faster and more. I like how they don´t give up but they speak expecting us to know what they are saying. They don´t speak to us like we are dumb, they just repeat it, or not, until we get it. Gracias. I say this a lot.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Abseling down a waterfall...what a way to spend a day!

Grettings all from Argentina! We arrived here yesterday and tonight we are taking a night bus back to Chile. The trip kind of got off to a rocky start but things are getting pulled together more now. When we first arrived in Peru, my pack was dropped in the ocean on the way here. I swear it must have been. Both Alex and I had soaking bags when we picked them up. All our clothes were soaked and now they have a sort of stench. Oh well...what are you going to do... Then my ATM stopped working. For about three days I couldn´t get money out. In all my traveling this never happened. Yesterday I finally heard that beautiful noise of money being dispensed from an ATM machine! I felt such joy in that moment! :) Yesterday we took the bus from Chile to here, Mendoza, Argentina. I sat next to this old man who was traveling with his cousin and a friend. They were hilarious. The spoke pretty good English which is great because my Spanish is awful. They just made me laugh the whole time. At one point they busted out in song--from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Dean Martin to who knows what else they were singing. It was great. The bus ride over the Andies was amazing! SO stinkin´ beautiful! Tonight when we leave we are taking the night bus so we can sleep and not spend one of our days traveling but I am so thankful we got to see it yesterday. Today was great. We went trekking with a guide then rapelling down a waterfall. Such a great time! It was extra great just being able to get out and be active. We have been trying to get as much exercise as we can in preparation for the end of our trip. I wish I could put pictures on here but the computers here are different and I am afraid of erasing all my pics so you will all just have to be patient. I am off to work on my Spanish since Jill and Alex are off on another hike. I am on my own now. I´m sure I will say something to offend someone...not on purpose but it is bound to happen!