Peru, Chile, Argentina ·
65 Days ·
149 Moments ·
13 December 2017
For the final stretch we hiked up the moraine to see the glacier and the lake at the base. It was very windy and dust was blowing all over but the view was incredible, and the blue shining in the sun made the dust in the eyes worth it. From there it was just around the corner to the campsite. There was no Refugio at the site, just a dome for our meals cooked by Cubano. He prepared some afternoon tea for us with hot chocolate and real coffee and then we hung out in the dome (since it was raining outside) until dinner. There were appetizers with meats, cheeses and Pringles. May seem strange but they tasted delicious. For dinner we got soup and then a chorizo and lentil dish and a creme caramel for dessert. The porters came in and ate after us so we stayed and chatted with them for a bit before retiring to the tent for the night.
I didn't sleep too well last night due to roaring winds but at least we only had 14kms to go today over gentle rolling hills so I had a cup of coffee with breakfast and got ready for the day. We started with a hill rising up above Dickson looking back on the lake and the glacier. It was spitting a bit giving a cool misty view. We hiked through mostly forest crossing over lots of creeks. For lunch we stopped by a creek and got eaten alive by bugs again. The sun started to come out and we got even better views including a canyon with a roaring river. We continued through the forest until the Perros glacier came into view. Our group had split into 2 different groups so at a view point we waited for the others and Chris set up his workout equipment on the trees to do pull ups.
12 December 2017
We had another hot dinner, similar to yesterday but with a brownie! After dinner we had another stretching session lead my Christina to keep the muscles loose for rest of the trek. Then we played some cards with some of the other hikers staying at the Refugio Dickson. Tonight it's almost dark when I'm going to bed. The days are just so long down here right now!
We walked along the lake, crossing over creeks going in and out of forest until we reached a campsite to stop for lunch with nice picnic tables. It was a nice break but the bugs were eating us alive so we didn't hang around too long. We kept walking and made our way through a field of daisies- of course stopping to frolic a bit. We had a river crossing that we had to take the boots off for but it felt so refreshing on a hot day and the water didn't feel quite as cold as home. Soon the Dickson glacier came into view, our destination for the night. We walked through a swampy area on logs and boardwalks testing our balance to not fall into the mud. Then after climbing up the last hill we got an incredible view of camp with the lake and glacier behind. It was nice arriving in the sun and easily getting all set up. With the remaining afternoon sun we walked down to the beach with a beer and just relaxed in what I would consider paradise.
I woke up to a bright sunshine after having slept so well last night and ready to tackle the 18km day. We had breakfast with fresh bread, oatmeal and eggs and then packed up the tent. I was ready early so I enjoyed walking around the camp a bit as I wasn't able to explore when we arrived since it was raining. Eventually all the group members were ready and we were on our way through the wildflowers following the valley which we couldn't even see yesterday. We walked along the rolling hills with the river on our side and taller peaks on the other side. We started to slowly gain elevation and a beautiful green lake came into view and then we kept going up to reach the pass. It was amazing how amazing it felt to be hiking in a completely blue sky. When we reached the pass the much bigger mountains came into view, all snow capped with striking features. To no surprise, the pass was very windy so we didn't stop for long before continuing to the other side along a lake.
11 December 2017
There was many more creek crossings afterwards but there were always logs of sorts to use so my feet stayed dry the whole time! The final stretch was through a flat meadow for what felt like forever in the pouring rain. We finally reached Camp Seron soaking wet and it was so nice to see shelter. The campsites always have a main building for the meals and hanging out so we aren't forced into our tents when it's raining. I would definitely consider it glamping on this trip. The tents were already set up and we just had to roll out our sleeping bags and relax. Not long after the sun started to come out and I layer everything out to dry. We hung out in the dining room until dinner and then enjoyed a nice hot meal with ice cream for dessert! After dinner, with nothing else to do, I went to bed even though it was still light out but I fell asleep no problem.
This morning we got to have a leisurely morning as we didn't have a huge day ahead of us, only 12kms with little elevation gain. It was so hot in the tent last night so I was excited to get out for some fresh air and the bright sun that woke me up way before the alarm. We got a huge breakfast and then we drove back to where we had started yesterday. We met our porters and then headed out on a different trail to start the trek around Paine Massif. It started slowly uphill with views of the green valley with lakes in the distance. We stopped lots along the way at viewpoints to take in all the wildflowers and sunshine. We stopped in the forest for our lunch and the sun quickly disappeared and we had to get all of our rain gear out. With the raining coming down we picked up our pace quite a bit. It was so socked in that we couldn't see anything anyways. We have a large river crossing in which I manage to stay with a couple huge steps across rocks but most of the group just walked through.
10 December 2017
We crossed over creeks where we could fill our water bottles as the water is all fresh and then eventually hit tree line and got back into the wind. Sand was blowing all over the place as we had our final steep climb to the top. It was incredible to reach the base of the towers with the lake in front. I had seen this view so many times before and I finally got to see it in person. We took pictures while trying not to get blown into the lake. As we could see a storm blowing in, we descended quickly to chileano. It started to rain so we got all of our gear on for the final stretch down to where we had started the day. Suddenly the view of the towers was completely gone, we got so lucky with timing! We got back to the bus and then drove just outside the park to the G adventure camp for the night. We had a huge dinner with appies, salads, soup and main course and crepes with pisco sours and wine around a big table getting to know each other. After stretching out in the dome it was bedtime.
This morning we had to wake up early to have some breakfast and then load up the bus to drive 3 hours to Torres del Paine National Park. We met Chacho our assistant guide and then we headed for the mountains. Along the way we saw wild Guanacas and passed by vibrantly blue lakes. We got our first view of the towers and I started to get super antsy to hit the trail. At the trailhead we got our bagged lunches, had one last chance for nice bathrooms and then we were on our way at first walking along a road and then we veered off onto the trail for 18kms with 800gain. It was very windy but not raining so I was happy but there were some daunting clouds coming in fast. We started gaining elevation quick up a valley with a river of glacier run off. We arrived at the Refugio Chileano and got to escape the wind a bit and eat our lunches inside. The sandwich was huge and then we had lots of tasty snacks as well! After lunch the trail started to whined through the forest as we continued going up.
9 December 2017
After the meeting Christina, Juliana and I walked around town to find some last minutes gear- I was hoping to find a poncho but no luck. It's a pretty small town but has lots of outdoorsy stores and a nice big main square. The home team had just won a football game so all the locals were in the square celebrating. Once all of the shops had closed we walked around trying to find a restaurant that had space. Eventually we ended up at an Italian restaurant and I got a big bowl of lasagna with a local beer. A nice and hearty meal to get ready for the trek. After we went back to the hotel and got all packed and ready for the trek and unfortunately didn't get to bed as early as I would have liked but sure is nice to have a bed at least!
I was actually able to get some sleep last night surprisingly and after washing my face and brushing my teeth I felt refreshed and ready for the day. I got all checked in and then got a coffee to have with the avocado bunwich I made myself. The flight to Punta Arenas was fairly turbulent but only a few hours. After landing I headed to the bus station and was able to get on an earlier bus than I'd booked to Puerto Natales! I was a bit surprised by how flat it was along the way and the lack of mountain views. I arrived to the bus station and had a very wet walk to the hotel where I could hear Christina the second I walked in. She had already met a couple of our group members and they were hanging out so I joined in. Shortly after we had our welcome meeting and met our guide Chris. We walked to a coffee shop by the water for the meeting. He went over everything we needed to know for the trek and then we got our duffle bags to fill for the porters.
8 December 2017
Yesterday I realized that nothing really opened until 10 so I didn't see any point scrambling out of bed. I got up and enjoyed my nice breakfast and a couple coffees to get ready for the journey ahead. I had to get my bags all ready for flying again and then I went to the store for some food for the next couple of days. The store was crazy busy but I got some fruit and bread and such and waited in line forever to pay. I got an empanadas to have then and then went and got my bags and headed to the bus stop. Everything appeared closed, even the bus place, but it had a sign saying the airport shuttle was still running. I have since found our that it's a catholic holiday today which probably also explains the transportation issues. Bus came and I was on my way to the tiny but busy Balmeceda airport. There was lots of nice farms along the way and everything was so green. The flight was quick and then in Puerto Montt I found a nice and comfy spot to await my flight tomorrow morning.
7 December 2017
I never really intended to be in Coyhaique so I didn't really know what to do but I found a nice walk around the perimeter, along the river with nice views of the outskirts. I enjoyed the walk but some weather seemed to be blowing in so I went back to my hostel to cozy up by the fire. It really was a cute rustic hostel owned by a Dutch family so it was nice to hang out there and look through all their mountain photography books. I was still so full from my lunch that instead of finding dinner I went for a berry ice cream sundae! I have the dorm room to myself tonight which is a nice surprise!
This morning firstly I needed to determine my transportation to Puerto Natales as I had be hearing different information from everybody. I got a lovely breakfast at my hostel with fresh homemade bread, and then I was off. Coyhaique is the provincial capital so I hub for transportation in the area- thus why I came here. After running around to all the different bus companies it became clear that there weren't any buses until next week. New plan is to fly, but obviously I can't fly direct because that would be too easy. I'll have to some crazy backtracking all over Patagonia but I will make it. Once I got it all sorted I needed a break so I went to the restaurant Ricardo recommended for pizza and an in house craft beer! I then walked around the centre square, actually pentagon, and browsed the market. It's a very nice town and good for people watching. It's seems everyone is busy doing their Christmas shopping from all over the region.
6 December 2017
This morning I got all packed up and ready for my long trip down to Puerto Natales. Ricardo came over to say bye and then Erica and Pipi came and picked me up to take me the bus stop. I was a bit sad to be leaving Futa as I felt at home there with everyone and I was having so much fun. Then it was the long bus ride to Coyhaique on the Carrera Austral. It wasn't the best road but the scenery more than made up for it. In some ways the drive reminded me of 93 to radium with the glacial river running along side the road but then was huge lakes and waterfalls all over the place. I was very content looking out the window and I dosed off a few times throughout the 10hr ride. We had to take a ferry at one point and it wasn't very big so we had to wait awhile. The bus stopped a few times for food and bathrooms and gave a chance to stretch the legs. It felt like an excursion in its own but I was glad to reach Coyhaique, find my hostel and go to bed.
5 December 2017
It felt good to be on solid ground again and we had a picnic of homemade empanadas,fruit and beer which helped me feel a bit better. We then drove back to town and I had the afternoon to myself. I decided to go check out the artisanal shops around town to see what I could find. There didn't turn out to be many, or least not many open, and those that I went in didn't have much and it was all extremely expensive. So I just went back to my cabin and relaxed on the deck. For my final night in Futaleufu Erika and Ricardo hosted an Asado (lamb BBQ) with Pelluka cooking a lamb from his farm. Everybody I had met over the week was there and it was awesome to hang out with everyone one last time and reflect on the awesome. I really felt like they welcomed me into the Bochinche family and they gave me the real futa experience. The group gave me a nice knitted toque and socks as a parting gift and with one last salud the week was over.
This morning I slept in and then got a big English breakfast. I was supposed to have a full day rafting today but the water level was double the usual and dangerous for rafting. So instead they are taking me to the Rio Azul with a ducky (inflatable kayak). It was a half hour drive to reach the Rio Azul and at this point the getting dressed into river gear is becoming routine. Then it was straight to the water to start the descent. The rapids were big and strong with lots of rocks and I felt as if it was possibly a bit too much white water for me to be controlling my own boat down. I was managing as the boat was fairly big and stable but as very hard to control since it was so big. On the biggest rapid I fell in and got thrown around a bit but was able to get back on the boat to finish the rapids and then we stopped so I could catch my breath. I wasn't really a fan of this because I felt it was too far out of my comfort zone but the views were nice as the river cut through the canyon.
4 December 2017
Hernan picked me up and we went to Pedro's farm to go horseback riding. I was given Simarone to ride up to the Piedra de Aiguilla for a viewpoint of the Noroeste valley. The ride was on an old dirt road slowly climbing. After yesterday's hike I was kinda glad to be lazy and take the horse up and give my legs a rest. My horse kept wanting to stop and eat so I had to keep pulling him along but eventually we made it to the farm at the base of the Aiguilla. We then hiked up the final stretch and I scrambled the rock to get a photo. We were hanging out enjoying the view and then noticed a para-sailer getting ready to take off so we stayed and watched. As we rode back the sun started to set and I started to realize how hungry I was. Hernan cooked a delicious traditional dinner of Humita with a huge salad and some beers. It was another full day today but an awesome one!
The final rapid was around a bend with a huge wave/hole on the outside. I was able to cut inside and make it past but then among the excitement I caught a boil and I flipped. At first I tried to flip back over the way I had practiced earlier but then I remembered that I don't actually know how to roll without help so I pulled my skirt off and went for a swim. I was able to flip my boat right side up and grab my paddle to help Andrea and he took care of the rest. It was a bi of a tough spot to get back in my boat but we made it work for the final stretch to the take out. I was really happy with my progression today and I think I got pushed the right amount to run the 2+ rapids. Hopefully I don't forget everything before next summer! We headed back to town and I had a bit of a break to relax on the deck before I got picked up for horseback riding.
This morning Andrea came to my cabin to make breakfast and then we were off to the Espolon river. I got all dressed and then we did a bit of ground work before hitting the water. We went over my stroke a bit since it had been so long since I had been in a kayak and there's so much to remember. I practiced a few eddy turns and at a huge deep eddy I flipped over a couple of times to get used to the sensation. The water was chilly but I don't think it was as cold as in Canada. Then the rapids started and they kept coming so I got a lot of practice with the waves and picking lines as the river slowly increased in roughness. We stopped at a beach for a picnic lunch and to enjoy the scenery since I had been so focused on the kayaking and was forgetting to look around. After lunch we scouted out the next rapid so I could see where I needed to be to avoid the massive hole and it helped because I cruised past the hole! This was the same section on the riverbug so I knew what was coming after.
3 December 2017
We drove back to town and had a patio beer before I collapsed for a nap before dinner. After getting all cleaned up I headed to Erika and Ricardo's house for dinner. It was raining when I arrived so I sat inside and tried to help prepare dinner but they wouldn't let me and then when the sun came out we moved to the backyard and some others joined. For dinner we had homemade pizza, kebabs, buns and salads- all absolutely delicious! We all sat outside enjoying the evening and company until the sun started to set and my eyes lids started feeling heavy. Luckily tomorrow I get to sleep in a bit.
It was a lot of work picking my way through the trees and I was really starting to wonder what we were doing. But I also knew we weren't coming down the same way so I just had to get through the once and eventually we popped out, higher than I was expecting, and then it was just a short distance up some scree to the top. It wasn't the true summit of Sierra Teta but a minor peak (the true summit had too much snow). The view at the top was incredible! I saw lakes, the town, rivers and valleys and all the way to Argentina. We enjoyed the summit for awhile and walked around a bit for a better view of the lakes then we started the descent. At the beginning we got to 'ski' down a snow patch and then it was a matter of picking our way through all the creeks from all the melt. It's always so crazy how fast you descend after taking so much time and energy to go up. We got back on the trail and then cruised to the bottom with a few breaks to enjoy the views along the way.
This morning I had to wake up early to try and get up the mountain before the sun got too hot. Hernan picked me up and we drove just outside town to a farm at the trailhead. There were dogs at the farm and one ended up doing the whole hike with us. The hike started with a steep section to gain a nice view quick and for me to get my hiking legs back. I've been doing tons of hiking down here but mostly covering distance, not summiting the largest mountain in the area so it took a bit for my legs to get back into the steep climbing. We kept a good pace and were able to gain the ridge in reasonable time so we took a break for a snack. Continuing on, the trail became less existent and we had to do some bushwhacking. We made it up to the next ridge where there was a bunch of snow so we walked along that instead of picking through the trees. The clearing ended and the bushwhacking started again, well this time I'd say it was more tree whacking, as it was big branches and a lot of them.
2 December 2017
It was a huge waterfall through a canyon and at the viewpoint there was also views of the surrounding valley. We had a snack while taking it all in and then headed down to reach the farm in time for lunch. We returned to the farm to another warm welcome by grandma and Annabelle who had been busy cooking a delicious feast. We had homemade bread, traditional salads, rice and roasted lamb and she just kept filling our plates until I was exploding. For dessert we had fruit from her trees that had been preserved. There was no way I was hopping back on a bike after the feast, so we went down to the river to fish for a bit. We had no bites, possibly because it was so hot in the peak of the day but it was nice to cool off with my feet in the water and relax a bit. After we said our goodbyes and started the bike back to town. It was a huge uphill and then a dicey downhill on big gravel but then we were rewarded with a swim in the river to wash off the sweat. What a day, full of lots activity!
This morning Caitlyn picked me up early for a full day of biking and exploring. We started by biking past the lake and towards las escales national reserve and right away we descended a big hill so I knew we'd have lots of climbing ahead. The skies were clear, the sun was already hot and the views were stunning. We made our way along the rolling gravel road with glimpses of views of the Futaleufu river. We got to a point where we got do a short walk up to a viewpoint to see the canyon de inferno, some class 4 rapids. We then continued on until we reached the national reserve. Caitlyn had heard that there was a waterfall a short hike up but never found the viewpoint. We cut through the field jumping a couple of farmers fences and tried to find a trail. There was a girl outside at one of the farms that pointed us in the right direction and then we just used instinct whenever the trail forked. We found it, and it was so worth the hike up which turned out to be more than expecting.
1 December 2017
The boat was vertical on a number of occasions but somehow we never flipped and no one fell out. We worked our way down the puente a puente section under Daniels instruction and at the end we got to do a small cliff jump of about 3m into an eddy. At the take out we got to sit in the sun to dry off next to the river with a snack enjoying the mountain scape. We drove back to town and then I enjoyed a beer on the deck of my cabin. Caitlyn and I made tacos for dinner and then went to check out the local fundraiser that was going on. There were kids singing and dancing to traditional music with costumes. The local dance was very upbeat and cheery with the boys dressed as cowboys and the girls in dresses. It was a cool way to end a very jam packed day!
After breakfast we got a tour around the farm including stops to see the vegetable garden, the cookhouse (for parties), the machine to make cider, machine to make flour and Pelluka's horse. We then to a walk down to the river to the foot bridge to try and spot salmon and trout swimming by, tomorrow we might try to catch one for dinner! Next we drove back to town to get some lunch before getting organized for rafting. It was another gravel road to reach the put in for the rafting with spectacular scenery of lakes, mountains with snow and tons of wildflowers. We got our safety talk and instructions as they got all the boats ready. There was 1 raft with 1 guide and 4 rafters and then 2 safety kayaks, a safety cata-raft and another cata-raft with 2 guys practicing. The rafting was insane! It was on a entirely different level from what I've done before, huge waves. It was a lot of work paddling down through the rapids and also trying to stay inside the boat.
This morning was early wake up to head to the farm for a cultural rural experience. We drove a winding curvy narrow gravel road through Las Escales to reach the beautiful farm of Ricardo's grandmother. She greeted us and welcomed us into her home to sit around the fire and drink mate. After passing the mate around a few times we moved outside to milk the cow. Pelluka does most of the farm work but the grandma is still in incredible shape for her age and helps out where she can. I struggled a bit to milk the cow but got a bit of a stream flowing eventually. Next we watched Pelluka shear a sheep using scissors while wrestling the sheep. Then he cut a tail off a young one and castrated a young male using his mouth. I had to look away a bit because it was a lot to take but it was clear he knew what he was doing and did it well. We then went in for breakfast and coffee made with the milk we had just gotten. We also had homemade bread with jam and scrambled eggs.
30 November 2017
We made crepes for dinner with a variety of toppings, first savoury and then sweet and they were delicious. Caitlyn brought a local rose jam for me to try and it went with the berries nicely. For the evening I took it easy as I was tired from a full day and I know I have many more days of exciting activity!
After my break I got picked up for river bugging! We drove to Rio Espolon and then I got a lesson on how it works and a safety talk (yes Spenser I got the question about the number 1 river rule right!). The river bug is like a 1 person raft that you sit on like a chair wearing flippers and hand flippers to paddle. At first the river was relatively flat and it just felt like a lazy river but the second half had a lot more rapids up to class 3 and I had to been very actively paddling with my hands and feet. I hit one rapid straight on (even though I was trying to go around it) and landed in the hole and went for a swim. The boat continued to surf the wave so I had to swim hard to grab it but I was able to self-rescue. We kept making our way down until the Espolon merged with the Futaleufu river and then we got off the river. We laid in the sun and waited for our ride surrounded by mountains and wildflowers. Once back in town I sat on the deck with a beer and the beaming sun to warm up.
This morning I woke up to a shining sun and excited to start my adventures. Caitlyn came over to make breakfast and then she took me on a tour around town. She showed me the best coffee shops, artisanal shops and everything else I might need and then we headed up to a viewpoint above the town. On the way up we passed the water treatment centre and I was delighted to learn that the tap water here is potable! From the view point I got a nice perspective of the town, nestled among the mountains next to a small lake and got an idea of where all my activities will take place. We made our way day and completed our circuit around town at a cafe for some hot chocolate. Walking around Caitlyn introduced me to what felt like half the town so I think I should get a nice local tour of the area. We came back and made a nice stir fry for lunch with the traditional salad (tomato, onion, chile pepper, garlic and lime juice). I then had a break to sit out on the terrace enjoying the views.
29 November 2017
They have me in a little cabin for the week with a kitchen, seating area and bedroom. I settled in for a bit and then Caitlyn (a Canadian guide) came by to talk about the plan for the week. I'm excited for all of the activities they have planned for me and it sounds like I'll be treated very well with them cooking everything for me. I was hungry afterwards so I went for a walk around town to find some dinner. It's a small town that's very quiet, partly because I'm about 2 weeks early for peak season but it gives off a Canmore vibe to me which was very comforting as I was feeling a bit homesick today. I found a pub to get some food and beer and watch some kayaking on the TVs. This is a whitewater crazy town, every car on the street seems to have a boat and the tvs all play kayaking videos instead of your usual sports. I enjoyed the evening around town and made my way back to find that my fridge had been filled while I was gone with snacks and drinks. I think it should be a good week!
This morning we woke up early so we could go for a nice breakfast before my flight. At Oui Oui, a cute little French bistro, I was able to get eggs benny! What a treat! We enjoyed our last meal together in South America but couldn't help but be a little sad to part ways. Spenser's flight out wasn't till late night so he came to the airport with me. After traveling together for a month it felt so weird for me to be continuing on while he is going home. Now I'm back on my own for a bit until Christina arrives. I flew to Esquel and was warmly welcomed by Andreanas and Erika from the rafting company I'll be with for the next week. The scenery around Esquel was very dry and then as we drove towards Chile there was more and more vegetation and lots of wildflowers since it's spring here. Just after the border crossing we had some car trouble so Ricardo, the owner of the company, came to the rescue and I made it to my home for the next week.
28 November 2017
As we were walking in the neighbourhood after afterwards we came across a brewery so naturally we stopped so I could try a flight. It was so good to drink craft beer as pilsner seems to be the only beer I can find down here. From there we had a quick stop for ice cream since it was such a nice day and then made our way back to the apartment. I spent some time reorganizing my bag and figuring out what I could send home with Spenser and getting ready for Patagonia. Once organized, we hit the streets again and walked a ways to find a recommended Indian restaurant. It was a fantastic change to have some ethnic food with so much flavour. After walking off the feast we fell asleep watching to oilers game.
Today was our last day in Buenos Aires so we just wanted to enjoy the city for what it is, a place full of parks, nice cafes and beautiful streets to walk. We started the day walking to the Recoleta neighbourhood and with a coffee in hand I really enjoy the walk. There were lots of French colonial buildings with lots of trees and purple flowers. We went straight for a cafe to have their famous steak sandwich which was so juicy and tasty. It wasn't your typical steak sandwich, it was literally a steak between 2 pieces of bread with some veggies. With satisfied stomachs we moved to the Recoleta cemetery since Mel had recommended it to us. Everything was above ground in small buildings made out of marble with windows to see the memorials. It was interesting to walk around a bit and see the different styles and how some were preserved much better than others.
27 November 2017
I fell asleep for most of ferry ride back from a long day in the sun and when we arrived in Buenos Aires I was quite hungry. We went to a cute little restaurant for dinner where I had a nice trout with pumpkin and trout; a full meal with no carbs! That's a first down here and it was so nice. I finished with a delicious molten dulce de leche and ice cream before we walked back to the apartment for an early night.
Today we took a day trip to Uruguay! It was just an hour ferry ride across the bay to reach the small town of Colonial del Sacramento to a nice beach for some sun and relaxation. Clearing customs was quick and then we were off exploring the old town a bit while it warmed up. We climbed up the old light house for a view of the town, the water and to scope out a nice beach. We then walked down the Main Street to reach the closest beach as we didn't have too long to spend at the beach and it was a bit of a walk already. The beach was nice, a white sand but with a number of rocks and twigs. The water wasn't clear Caribbean waters, but brown with dirt as it was river opening out the the Atlantic so it was fresh water. It was hot though and relaxing and to lay on the beach for awhile. When the time came, we walked back to the ferry, picked up some snacks, cleared customs and then we were on our way back to Argentina.
26 November 2017
The San Telmo market was even bigger and overflowed from the square into all the streets around. In the main square it was mainly antiques that were cool to look at but ultimately worthless and then as we walked down the street it became a variety of jewelry, clothing, Knicks-knacks and more. I was really excited to find a vintage poster for tango in buenos aires to add to my collection. We walked all the way till the end to Plaza de Mayo where there was some kind of demonstration going on. After a short break to do some people watching, we continued walking all the way back to the apartment. We stopped for some groceries as we decided to make the brunch we never had for dinner. We made French toast with maple syrup, whipped cream and fruit and it was delicious! Paired with some nice Argentinian wine it made for a lovely evening after a long day in the sun.
This morning we slept in after a late night at the soccer game. I was hoping to find a place to have a brunch but everywhere decent seemed far away. We walked down the street a bit trying to find something but most things seemed closed so we grabbed a cab and headed for the Matadores Market. It's a weekly market filled with artisanal crafts, food, antiques and everything else locals wanted to sell. Some sections felt a bit like a community garage sale but the main market had nice vendors with quality crafts. There was a stage with some dancing and live music going throughout the day. We got lunch at a nearby restaurant with asado (BBQ). They brought out a mini grill to the table filled with a variety of different meats. We got the single portion to share and it was huge! I found it quite fatty and greasy though so I got a chorizo bunwiche to have. Once we had covered the market we made our way back downtown to San Telmo for another Sunday market.
25 November 2017
The girls (who won!) played first and then the men. This game was a derby meaning they were playing their biggest rival, another BA team and their stadiums were literally right next to each other. The stadium was exploding with spirit and all the fans screaming chants. It was so cool to be a part of the atmosphere and see what South American football was all about. There was no drinking, not much food, and it was just all about the game. And I must say I actually got really into it even though I've never really been a fan of soccer. Unfortunately the men lost in the end so we quietly hustled out of the stadium as there were a lot of upset fans. We caught a cab back to the apartment and got some food since we had planned to eat at the game but then there wasn't much available.
This morning we headed to the Rose garden to enjoy the sun in the park with beautiful flowers. Since it's Saturday, all the locals were out and about and enjoying the sunny day as well. We walked around the park for awhile and then we walked all the way to the top rated pizza place in the city. It took about an hour and half but we were rewarded with some delicious pizza at a cool ma and pop joint. We took a cab back to the main square downtown where there was some demonstrations going on. We made our way back to the apartment shopping along the way. We needed to find some apparel for the football game. Spenser got a jersey and I got a t-shirt from this man that was so excited that there were racing club fans from Canada. We didn't tell him it was just the only game while we were here. Then after a short rest we made our way to the stadium.
24 November 2017
We tried to walk down to the water, and we were able to find a boardwalk, but it seems there isn't really a water front here. This was a bit surprising to us but we still had a nice walk and weaved our way to the bar to meet Leandro and Mel. The address he gave me appeared to be a flower shop and we were really confused and thinking he played a joke on us. Turns out you go through a freezer looking door and downstairs to a very trendy bar. The drinks were all very original and the one I had you drank with a mate straw. It was very busy so we just had a drink and then took a cab to the Palermo district for dinner. We went to Italian restaurant and I had some homemade fusilli with some nice red wine. It was really fun to catch up with Leandro and Mel and exchange adventure stories from our travels.
We next saw the clock tower that was gifted from the English that they have officially changed the name of because of the battle of the falcon islands. The Argentinians all still very much believe that they are theirs. We then saw the changing of the guards at the memorial for of those that died in the falcon war. We kept on through the park and learned about tango and how originally it was danced by 2 men and it was women prostitutes that first learned it and started dancing with the men and thus the most riskay traditional costumes for the women. We finished the tour seeing some of the mansions from back when the government was practically giving away land. After the tour we went for a big steak lunch as we'd been in Argentina too long without haven't tried some of the famous beef. The meal was very delicious, though I was missing the vegetables. It's just steak and potatoes always. We took a bit of a break to relax for a bit and make some plans for the week.
This morning I woke up feeling much better and ready to finally get start exploring Buenos Aires. We started with a free walking tour starting at the teatro colon. The opera house is recognized on an international level of having the best acoustic and they host performers from all over the world. The style is a mix between Italian and French because the architect changed half way through construction. Moving on we saw the countries first synagogue which had the Star Trek "live long and prosper" symbol above the main entrance. In the Jewish religion the symbol is used to mean almighty. We kept walking and reached the big park we had visited last night. Our guide explained the main statue which was of Jose San Martin and how he liberated Argentina as well as Peru, Chile and Bolivia from the Spanish. He did care for power, he just cared about the good of the people and thus refused to join the politics of the government.
23 November 2017
I was still very much not feeling well today and so I spent a lot of the day in bed. I was still struggling to keep food down and felt worse whenever I stood. Spenser did convince me to get up and go for a couple walks to get some fresh. Though it didn't feel good at the time, I think it helped a lot. In the evening we went to a huge park, similar to Central Park filled with flowers and trees. The sunset from the park was beautiful and it gave me a bit of energy to walk around. But then it was straight back to bed as I'm hoping one more nights sleep will get me over this bug.
22 November 2017
Our second flight was less eventful and we arrived in Buenos Aires first thing in the morning. There was a long line to clear customs but eventually we were on our way downtown to our airbnb. BA seems like a very vibrant city with purple flowers everywhere and a European vibe. The apartment is excellent and Jamila was very welcoming and from the states so she speaks English! First of all showers were necessary because it was difficult to shower in San Pedro with the cold water with no pressure. Then we wanted to get some laundry in and I'm hoping this is the last time I have to do laundry. We grabbed some hot dogs and then since our flights were overnight we were tired and had a nap. I started to feel sick and then it turned into me with the bucket for the rest of the evening. No more hot dogs for me. A lot of the food down here has been very unhealthy and I think that was the last straw for my stomach. I had made plans to hang out with Leandro tonight but I'll be going to bed instead.
21 November 2017
This morning we woke up and got all packed and organized to depart San Pedro. We then went for a final walk around town and for some lunch. Spenser was still not feeling well so we were taking it pretty easy and trying to avoid too much sun. I had a local menu lunch with a beer and then we went back to the house to relax in the hammocks. It was then time to catch the bus to Calama to the airport. I ended up frantically running around for food at the bus station even though we should've had lots of time. I ended up with a delicious empanadas though and fresh fruit juice. We got to the airport with lots of time and awaited our flight to Santiago. There was a bit of action on the plane when Spenser decided the conscience life was no longer for him and he fainted in the aisle. A couple of kind doctors from Spain took good care of him and he got a lot of free snacks. We arrived in Santiago, got a couple donuts and hot chocolate and then found a place to rest for a bit before our next flight
20 November 2017
The guide turned out to not speak English even though we were promised one but a girl on the tour was kind enough to translate for us. There were 7 different pools but you can only swim in 2 for preservation. The guide took us all the way to last one to swim and then we got free time to enjoy and make our way back. The pools were beautiful, an incredible blue from the salt and other minerals and surprisingly cold even though they're sitting in the hot sun all day. We floated around for a bit, the minerals give a lot of buoyancy so we floated really well. Then we made our way to the other pool for another float and then we had to shower off the salt before getting back on the bus to drive to a viewpoint for the sunset. We got snacks and pisco sour to watch the sunset over the moon valley as the sky lite up to a bright red. Spenser wasn't feeling very well this evening so once we got back he went straight back and I found a quick burger for dinner and then we had an early night.
This morning we hopped on the bikes and headed to the moon valley. It was a nice ride there on a paved road going slightly downhill. Once we arrived we had to put on safety vests and pay entrance and then we continued on biking- now on a gravel road. The first stop was at the caves where we got to explore the tight space through and then pop out at a high point for a good view of the valley. It was then a big hill up on the bikes to reach the great sand dune. We went for a short hike around here to see all of the different rock formations and salt flats in the distance. Then we biked all the way back to San Pedro to return the bikes and get a bite to eat before our Lagunas tour. At first it seemed like we were the only ones on the tour but then people kept getting in till it was a full bus. We then had about an hours drive down a gravel road to the Lagunas.
19 November 2017
They were musicians and playing at one of the restaurants tonight so after dinner we decided to check them out while we waited for the stars to come out. She played some really nice classical guitar while he had a tambourine. They played some covers and some traditional music while we took advantage of the restaurants good wifi. We then biked about 5kms out of town for star gazing and photography. It's the highest desert in the world so it's supposed to be one of the best places to see stars and there's never any clouds. Spenser took a bunch of photos while I just laid there with a beer. Then we tried some pictures spelling things out with a headlamp. It was fun but quite chilly so I was happy to get back on the bikes and head to bed.
This morning we went sandboarding in Death Valley. This time we got proper snowboards that fit with hiking boots and I got to try it standing up. The hill wasn't as big as where I went in Peru but it gave me a chance to practice without too much speed. The sand had a lot more friction than snow so I didn't pick up as much speed and it wasn't as easy to catch an edge. We got to do lots of runs and really got our workout in hiking up each time. I had a lot of fun sandboarding but that doesn't mean I'll be taking up snowboarding now. Once back in town we made lunch outside and had our afternoon siesta. We then headed for our Laguna tour just to find out it had been cancelled due to the election. We were fairly annoyed but decided to rebook for tomorrow and make the most of the evening. Our new plan was to rent the bikes today and ride out of town to see the stars. We made a pasta stir fry for dinner and chatted with the Argentinians staying at the house.
18 November 2017
We pedalled back to town as got some groceries to make sandwiches for lunch and some guacamole with a cold beer. As he sun was getting hotter and hotter it was time for the afternoon siesta,the whole town closes down for the afternoon, we might as well too. After our break we headed to the Main Street to sort out tours for tomorrow; we decided on sandboarding and some Lagunas. Then we tried to have a drink on a rooftop but after not receiving any service we decided to just get some drinks to take to our place. The sunset over the town while walking around was beautiful as the tips of the volcanos lite up. We made some pasta for dinner and enjoyed our drinks sitting outside for the evening.
This morning we got an early start to beat the sun and rented bikes to ride to the Quebrada del Diablo (devils throat). On our way out of town a couple of dogs started to run along side us so we had extra company for the day. It was a gravel road so not ideal for biking but at least in the desert everything is flat. We made our way crossing creeks and getting closer to the rock formations. The canyon we biked up had narrow sections we weaved around, a few big steps we had to lift our bikes out and nobody else on the trail. We stopped for a break and hiked up through a narrow path to try and find some shade from the burning sky. As we approached the top the walls started widen and shorten and at the top it appeared to be a reservoir (empty of course). Then came the fun descent zipping around all the bends and even catching some air! We stopped for a snack in a cave and then before we knew it we were at the bottom seeing tons of people starting the canyon. Glad we eat the crowds!
17 November 2017
We found our typical Atacama house for the next few days not far from the main area. It's nice, we have a big room and then there's a kitchen separated that we share with the family and their other guests and then there's a huge yard with many sitting areas and hammocks. We got settled in and then headed out to explore the town. We found that it was afternoon siesta time and understood why, it was hot! We walked around a couple of markets that were mostly closed and then decided we might as well siesta as well. We figured out some logistics and then went to the grocery store so we could cook our own food the next few days. We decided to keep it easy tonight with burgers and vegetables. The sun had completely drained me today so I was exhausted and ready for bed after dinner.
We found our typical Atacama house for the next few days not far from the main area. It's nice, we have a big room and then there's a kitchen separated that we share with the family and their other guests and then there's a huge yard with many sitting areas and hammocks. We got settled in and then headed out to explore the town. We found that it was afternoon siesta time and understood why, it was hot! We walked around a couple of markets that were mostly closed and then decided we might as well siesta as well. We figured out some logistics and then went to the grocery store so we could cook our own food the next few days. We decided to keep it easy tonight with burgers and vegetables. The sun had completely drained me today so I was exhausted and ready for bed after dinner.
We woke up early to a nice pancake breakfast and then got the trucks all packed up. We started with the Salvador Dali Desert which got its name because the landscape is just like the surrealist deserts painted by Salvador Dali. Then we moved forward to the Green Lake, which wasn't that green because it wasn't windy. It's like the red lagoon except it gets the green colour from copper mixing into the water. It was at the foot of volcano Licancabur (6000m). We then said farewell to half the group and those of us continuing on to Chile headed for the border. First we stopped on the Bolivia side to pay our exit fee and then the bus picked us up and took as to San Pedro de Atacama! Once in town we had to go straight to customs (again really strange system) and then we got dropped off on the Main Street. We found a pizza place with wifi to have some lunch and figure out where our Airbnb was.
16 November 2017
Next we got to play around the desert of Siloli at 4550m (highest and driest in the world) climbing the different rocks. We saw the Rock tree, alava cooled rock formation here. Next was the amazing Red Lagoon to see some pink flamingos and the redness of the water from the wind mixing the iron into the water. It was extremely windy. Afterwards the truck took us to the top of Sol de Mañana volcano at 5000m where we got in to the crater and saw the fumaroles and boiling mud pots (volcanic activity 100 Cº). We then drove downhill to our shelter for the night to relax for tea time followed by dinner. After dinner we went down to the hot springs that were approx 35oC to enjoy an incredible starry night. There were so many stars with no clouds or light pollution and I even saw a couple shooting stars. At the springs a sing off started between the different groups with lots of classic rock, pop and Disney that was a lot of fun. Once I started to overheat it was off to bed.
We started the day visiting the desert of Chiguana on the south side of Uyuni salt flat. This desert is surrounded by volcanoes (dormant, extinct and one Semi active called Ollague (5840 high) which we saw from the lookout and watch the steam that still comes out from the top of it. Our guide explained some of the geology and how some rock sculptures have been left behind. Afterwards we got to the Andean lagoons where tons of flamingos were hanging around including 3 different species. We walked through a lot of flamingo poop to try and get closer to the birds. From here we drove to a nice spot for a picnic lunch in the middle of nowhere sitting on some rocks with views of the desert. The ride got a bit more exciting after lunch as we raced the other trucks through the desert finishing with a climb up a hill. Our car won by a long shot! We ended at the white lagoon where my mission was simply to find a big enough rock. Not many hiding spots around the desert!
15 November 2017
We continued further on the salt flat to a spot in the middle of nowhere in which we could see others in the distance because it was so flat but they were nothing but specs. We stopped to take pictures and videos playing around with perspective. I wasn't really into the goofy photos but we took a few and then I looked around because it was really cool scenery like nothing I'd ever seen before. We moved to the central point of the salt at Inca Wasy Island (fish island) to see the giant cactus and coral rock formations. We walked around the island and up to the high point for the best view. It was weird looking out because it really felt like we were on an island but instead of water it was white salt. The sun started to go down and it started to cool off significantly as we drove to a good spot to watch the sunset. We had some wine as we watched and took lots of photos. From there we went to our salt hotel for the night and got an interesting dinner of ground beef, sausage and potatoes.
Our first stop was just outside town at the train graveyard to see the abandoned locomotives that the US and the UK had given to Bolivia to help transport resources from the mines for exportation. The miners abandoned the site when they protested the government and the trains were left to fall apart. Now it's kind of a playground as you can climb all over it. From there we went to the small village of Colchani which seemed like
a tourist town. We got a short tour of a salt factory with an explanations on how they extract it. They don't export any because they're are so many taxes but they use the salt for everything including building houses. We got served a delicious picnic lunch sitting at a salt table and then we had some free time to explore the village a bit. Then we went to the famous Salar de Uyuni- the great salt flats. We stopped at the only salt hotel built on the flats to check it out. It was also the location of a Dakar rally race so there was a salt sculpture for that.
We arrived in Uyuni bright and early at 5am to swarms of salesmen trying to get us to sign up for tours or try their restaurants. I wasn't full awake yet so when one of the guys said he had pancakes we went for it. He lead us a few blocks away to an empty cafe in the back of a building. It seemed weird that we were the only ones but again till I had some coffee I couldn't make any proper decisions. The coffee, pancakes and wifi all turned out to be excellent so we stayed there awhile until we needed to go check in with our tour. We walked across town to the Red Planet office to get organized and then since we still had a while before it actually started, we hung out in the office using their wifi. Eventually, we got all loaded up in our Lexus 4x4 with all our baggage strapped to the roof and we were on our way for our 3 day adventure!
14 November 2017
We got dropped off at the bus station with plenty of time before departure. We found some snacks, got into some warmer clothes and braced ourselves for another night bus, this time to Uyuni! We boarded the bus and it was very hot but the chairs were comfortable and reclined all the way back so I think it should be fine.
We had another safety briefing and then we were on our way! It took me a couple minutes to get used to the gravel but then I started to fly down and it was so fun. We stopped a number of times to regroup and our guide would sometimes tell us a story about the location. We rode the famous waterfall sections that we had seen on Top Gear, the main reason Spenser knew about the death road before. The road started to widen and before I knew it we were at the bottom at an animal refuge being served a beer. They let us use the showers the clean off the mud and sweat and then we got a pasta bar lunch. After relaxing for a bit we loaded the bus and started driving up the death road. Since there's a new road now there's no traffic on death road and it's safe to drive. It was completely different driving up because I was so focused while we were biking that I missed a lot of crosses from all those whom passed away driving the road. Once back on the highway I fell asleep till we reached La Paz.
We had to get up early today to meet for our death road mountain biking tour. I was pleased to find a coffee stand at the meeting spot with some of the best coffee I've had in a while. We waited around awhile while they got everyone organized and then we were back on the road to La Cumbre. Our guide passed out all the gear for the ride including pants, jackets, helmets, gloves and a buff. At the starting point we were given our bikes for the day, mine was called the rock. We started with 30kms of downhill pavement with gravity doing all the work. The views were beautiful but I felt like I had to pay too much attention to the highway we were riding on to fully enjoy them. When we reached the bottom, instead of biking uphill, we hopped in the van and they drove us up while we had a snack. We pulled up to the start of the most dangerous road on earth and then the real fun started. From the top we could see the road on the cliff wrapping its way down the mountain to the valley.
13 November 2017
This morning we slept in and had a bit of a lazy morning. There was a nice terrace to sit on to enjoy our breakfast and then the hammocks had our names written all over them. It was so nice to relax in the sun and let all the kinks in my back work themselves out. We then walked to the Main Street and caught a bus back to La Paz. We rode to the city centre and found the chorizo sandwich stand for lunch and a chocolate dipped donut before heading to the hostel to check in again. We turned our room into a bit of a drying rack from all the camping gear that was still wet. We then went to return the soaking rental equipment; we didn't care that it was still wet since the tent had leaked. We walked around the centre a bit, up and down the hills, and sorted up our bus to Uyuni. Spenser did some shopping around the market and then we found a pub and went for happy hour drinks. After we went for dinner at 1700 and got a full culinary experience complete with samples of liquor and fruits.
12 November 2017
The tipi was small but it had a big comfy bed and that's all I really cared about after spending a couple nights in a tent. There's was a nice wash house with maybe the best showers I've had all trip with lots of pressure and hot water - exactly what I needed after a couple of cold and wet days. We made our chicken and pasta dinner as we chatted with some of the others staying there while enjoying the view of the mountains and the valley. I'm still very tired from all the trekking so it's an early bedtime tonight.
The bus ride was fairly bumpy but I was tired and dosed in and out of sleep most of the way. We got dropped off on the edge of the city so we caught a cab back to our hostel. There we got to put on some fresh clothes and re-arrange our packing. We then went and got some groceries and then caught our first local city bus to go to the moon valley for the night. They're all just vans with a bunch of names on the window indicating where they're going and only cost about 25 cents. Our airbnb host for tonight gave excellent instructions on which bus to catch and where to get off so it went nice and smoothly. We were waiting for our second bus to come and nothing came for over a half hour so we got a quote from a cab and it was cheap enough that it wasn't worth waiting any longer. Bolivia sure is an easy place to save money. The drive to Calibri camping was pretty, through red rock with neat rock formations. We arrived and were given a tour of the area and then shown to our tipi for the night
The trail was quite nice with lots of switchbacks so it never got too steep or slippery. The rain wasn't as bad as yesterday but it still slacked through everything a bit but I was mostly able to dry before we finished. Before we knew it we were in the town of Chairo at the end of the trek getting one last glance at the valley we came from. We then caught a taxi to Chairaco so we could get the bus back to La Paz. The town of Chairaco was perched high on the hill and appeared to be somewhat of a resort town with lots of hotels, tourists and restaurants around the main square. We were tired and damp and ready to get back to the city and some fresh clothes. We got the bus tickets and then I went for a run around town to track down some lunch to take on the bus. And when I say bus, it's more like a mini van around here but cheap and gets you where you need to go. I was able to find a BBQ and got us some chicken, potatoes and rice which tasted so good after 3 days of trekking.
We stayed up a bit later than usually last night because the stars were so incredible- possibly the best night sky I've ever seen. So we let ourselves sleep in a bit, especially since we went so far yesterday, we had hardly any distance left. Unfortunately at some point during the night the perfectly clear sky clouded over and it started raining again and we got to find out the hard way the downside of a rental tent. Spenser got woken up at 5 to dripping on his head and so he put an extra tarp over the tent but we knew things weren't going to stay dry for long. So much for that sleep in. We had a simple breakfast or whatever we had left and avoided the oatmeal so we didn't have to try and light the stove in the rain and then we packed up camp trying to keep things dry the best we could. We donated the extra food, tarp and propane to the camp owner so we didn't have to carry it out. The rain kept on for about an hour as we made our way down to the valley.
11 November 2017
After the bridge we gained elevation up to the San Francisco camp. It was nice camp, but we decided to just have a snack and carry on to the next since we'd made such good time. There was a couple other groups taking a break there that were carrying on as well. We dropped back down to cross another creek that was small enough to walk across and then we started to climb steeply on some Inca steps. The sun finally came up strong for the climb making it that much more challenging in the heat. At the top of the hill we reached a camp that matched the description for where we were planning on staying but there was nobody around so we decided to continue to the next. Along the way we reached a second camp with a sign for the camp we were hoping for, but again nobody was around. So we decided to pick up the pace and try to reach the final camp. We got there much faster than expected and we're delighted to find the campsite on a Japanese garden. We made dinner with a beer watching the sunset.
By the time we reached Choro the rain had let up and we were able to see the surroundings. We stopped by the river and got rid of the wet layers and hung them on the packs to dry as we continued. The rain had made a huge difference to the river so Spenser was gawking at the lines he could take with a kayak. We crossed the river on a old wooden bridge and started climbing the mountain side for an impressive vista of the valley. The path started to flatten and we traversed across to the first campground we passed today. It had a beautiful terrace, lots of kittens and a clothes line to hang our stuff. We stopped for our lunch, once again some Mr. Noodles chicken soup. Moving forward we started to drop down to another river crossing passing by a cave, possibly an abandoned mine. At the river the bridge was in rough shape. With all the rain, crossing the river wasn't possible so we carefully crossed the bridge grasping the wire supports and not relaying on the wooden planks.
It was thundering during the night and still pouring heavily when we got up. With no sign that it would let up soon we got everything packed up and had some breakfast. Luckily our tent was under a shelter as well as the picnic table so it made it a lot easier to stay dry. We bought oatmeal to have for our breakfasts but it turned out to be a disgusting paste that I forced down so I'd have energy for the morning. To look on the bright side, I finally got to try my new rain pants but I still would've preferred not hiking in the rain. The rain pants work well but my upper body was drenched with minutes. We kept a fast pace in hopes that we'd find shelter for a break and eventually there was an over hanging rock to sit under for a snack. The trail had a lot of cobblestone and mud making for a slippery time in the rain but neither of us fell- though there were some close calls. We crossed over creeks that were flowing fast as we steeply descended towards the river and the town of Choro.
10 November 2017
We arrived at our camp for night, crossing an old suspension bridge. The family that lives here showed us where we could set up under a nice shelter and we were able to figure out the rental. After relaxing a bit from the long day we mustered up some energy to cook a pasta dinner and I was able to buy a local Bolivian beer- tastes like Kokanee. The campsite is beautiful, surrounded by mountains beside a river and filled with green space to lay on and picnic tables to eat at. A really cool experience compared to the campsites at home, we got to stay at a families home more or less. As the sun set I realized how tired I was so it'll be an early night so we're ready for another long day tomorrow.
The scenery at first was desert mountain with no vegetation and black rock. We slowly climbed to the highest point on the trek at 4850m from there it's mostly all down hill to the finish. The view at the top looking into the choro valley was cool as there were scattered clouds drifting through giving it a more ominous look. The downhill started gentle and then got steeper and steeper, my knees won't be happy but it's worth it. We were walking on the inca cobblestone with ruins all along the way. We stopped for lunch near some ruins and while cooking the llamas nearby kept coming closer but gave us some entertainment while we were eating. As we kept on we had to stop at a couple communities to sign in and it was cool to see how even in the middle of nowhere there's a good school with sport fields. The lower we descended the more vegetation started to appear and the climate started to turn jungle. It's much hotter than the start and there's a few more creepy crawlies.
This morning we woke up early to head out of La Paz to La Cumbre to the start of the El Choro trek. We decided to take a cab there, it wasn't the cheapest option but it was still a good price and so much easier than making sense of the local bus system. It took awhile to get out of the city, there is really many lights and the roads are mostly a free for all. As we started to leave the city and into the countryside I could tell this trek would have completely different scenery from my other hikes. Our taxi dropped us off on the side of the highway where all of the mountain bikers were getting ready for the death road so we knew we were in the right spot. We found the El Choro sign and map and after signing in the register we were hiking up hill. At first I was really feeling the extra weight compared to the last couple treks when I had mules carrying everything for me, but then I started to realize it was more my pack was just not designed for this and not as comfortable as my Osprey.
9 November 2017
We continued walking around downtown to the Bolivian parliament building. We sat in the square in front of it while the guides explained some history about their different presidents, some have made good progresses to the education system and others have lost land over a drunk poker game with Brazil's president. We finished the tour at a pub learning the local way of taking a shot. It was the same as Peru except with a twist. While in the main area we decided to check out the tour agencies for some activities around La Paz. We tried to find a place for the El Choro trek but everyone said that everyone does the trek on their own so we decided to rent gear and go trekking like we do at home. The gear wasn't exactly what we're used to but for 2 nights we figure we can make it work. So we went grocery shopping for the trip and got all organized to head out first thing in the morning. We read lots of different blogs and information sites on the trek and feel like we're ready!
We then walked to a local market to see and learn how the locals do their shopping and found out how rich most of the cholitas are even though they may not appear; you can tell from their gold teeth. The market was very colourful with produce and then there was stands with electronics and anything else you might need. Next we went to the witches market which had all the classic colourful gifts I'd seen all over Peru but then they also had a number of pachamama (Mother Earth) sacrifices. This included 98% alcohol, herbs, candies and baby alpaca carcasses. I was not a fan of seeing the bodies but after hearing stories that they used to use baby children, I was glad that that wasn't happening anymore at least. Carrying on we went to San Francisco church and the main square. The Spanish used it to try and convert the Bolivians to Catholicism. The guide then took us to a stand to get chorizo sandwiches. They had meat grilled vegetables and sauces to make the most delicious sandwich.
We slept in today to recover from the night bus and the trip to La Paz. I enjoyed a nice coffee while going through some pictures and then we got organized for the day. We started with a free walking tour of the downtown area. They started by telling us all about the San Pedro jail. It became famous among tourist when they used to give tours but the government has since shut that down for security reason. It's an interesting jail because the inmates can have their family live there with them and so even though there isn't a lot of security no one escapes because it's actually cheaper and better to live there. Everything on the inside is controlled by money; you can buy different levels of cells and other services provided on the inside. To earn money they clean or start small businesses such as a barber or there is also some drug dealing. The inmates used to run tours but the government shut it down once some tourists started getting stuck inside and having to pay to get out.
8 November 2017
Back on the bus we got popcorn and a movie for the drive into La Paz. It was cool to see the lights as we got close to the city, I'm looking forward to exploring the city spread over the rolling hills. We arrived in the centre and then BoliviaHop put us in a prepaid taxis to our accommodation. We had booked an airbnb which turned out to be a private room in a hostel. It was all very nice, just not what we were expecting. We headed out right away to find a pizza place for a quick dinner before we collapsed into bed. Already I'm realizing that I will be getting a good workout walking around here; everything is on a hill.
We drove just 15 minutes to reach Copacabana. It was a lot smaller than I was expecting; just a small tourist beach town. We had a chance to grab some food to go (for incredibly cheap) and then we hopped onto a boat to go to the Isle del Sol- the biggest island on the lake. The island reminded me of Taquile Island on the Peruvian side with similar landscape and vegetation but there was a much better view of the Bolivian Cordillera mountain range with snow capped peaks. We did a short walk around the island to see the sun temple before hopping back on the boat back. The sun was out strong so ice cream was necessary before beginning the final stretch to La Paz. I was trying to write but the view of the mountains, lake and sunset were too beautiful that I had to just stare out the window. We reached a point where we had to cross the lake. We went on a small boat and the bus was loaded on a barge, quite the process for so a short distance where a bridge could easily be built.
We arrived into Puno around 6am and I slept surprisingly well on the night bus since I was so tired from the trekking. It was still early though and I was in need of a coffee. Since I was already familiar with the city we headed off to the main area to try and find a café. As we walked we noticed that the city still asleep, which seemed strange because I recall being woken up quite early from street noise when I was staying in Puno. Anyways along the main pedestrian street nothing was opening till 7 unfortunately. We were able to find a fast food cafe and got a quick bite and coffee before heading back to the bus. Back on the bus we drove along the shore of lake Titicaca until we hit the border. First we had to get the exit stamp from Peru and then we walked across to the new Bolivia bus dropped off our stuff and then went to the Bolivia office to get stamped. It was a bit strange because we could've just gotten on the bus without clearing customs.
7 November 2017
The road at the beginning was very sketchy, just a narrow road on a cliff side -Peru's version of the death road I think. Once we hit the proper road I started to dose off a bit as I'd already seen the scenery along that road the first time I came into Cusco. We got dropped off at Eduardo's to get the bags we had left behind and he let us have a shower before we headed downtown to grab a bite before starting our bus journey to Bolivia. Peru has been incredible! I feel I experienced the culture, learned some of the history and saw the wide range of scenery the country has to offer and now I'm ready to see what Bolivia has to offer!
We were coming at it a back way, different from all of the day trippers and when I reached the summit (first!) I was delighted to see we had a while before we'd have to share the view. It was still mostly covered in snow but the sun was getting strong so we figured we could wait and it would melt at least on the half exposed to the sun. I was kinda happy about getting a half rainbow mountain because it's a way more rain view and it was neat to see the color coming through the white and I just love the look of mountains covered in snow. As the tourists whom rode horses up started to approach we took our final pictures and started the slippery, muddy descent. I took in all the views as we walked down through the alpacas to the van. After 4 days it was nice to see the road because I was exhausted and ready for some clean clothes. We drove up the road a bit to a nice spot for our final lunch in the beaming sun. We got to lay in the sun a bit but then we were on our way back to Cusco.
It was so warm under our hut that I had no idea it had snowed until we opened up the tent in the morning to at least 2" of snow. I immediately got excited, everything looked so different and fresh with the blanket of the white. We had a light breakfast before starting off with our headlamps. Between the snow and the moon it was so bright out that the lights weren't even really needed. I thoroughly enjoyed the sunrise over the mountains as we climbed up to the first pass; it was so peaceful with not another soul to be seen. We reached Womens pass in what Noah said was record time during the peak of the sunrise and we got our first glimpse of rainbow mountain but couldn't see the color as it was still covered in snow. With the sun coming up the snow was slowly starting to melt as we steeply descended down to a lagoon and the amazing views just kept coming. We made our way across the valley, stopping for snacks and to catch our breath as we slowly gained up towards rainbow mountain.
6 November 2017
After taking a ton of pictures we started running down the red sand and quickly reached the valley. From there it was a short traverse through more alpacas to reach our campsite. Tonight our tent was set up under a little straw hut as we are staying at 4700m and sometimes it snows. Flashpacker also has a small cookhouse at the site for shelter while eating. We were quite tired when we got to camp so after a quick lunch we fell asleep for awhile. While laying in the tent we could see sheep, alpacas and llamas all walking by making a variety of sounds. I found it quite entertaining to watch as it seemed like they all walked with their own style and swagger and they all seemed to have very distinct personalities. We didn't bother with afternoon tea today as we were still full from lunch but they still brought us a snack to our tent while we were playing some cards. We had an early dinner of pasta, quiche and stir fry and then to bed early to catch some sleep before a 3am wake up.
Once again it rained through the night but the tent kept us dry and when we woke up early in the morning there was hope that the clouds would clear to allow us to summit the red mountain. We had our big breakfast and then were on our way starting to climb right away. We walked up the valley along the Ausangate and past lots of alpacas as the clouds started to lift and the views of the lagoons and glaciers started to improve. We could see our objective and once we got close we started going straight up to the ridge. We were then able to see into the valley on the other side with more red mountains and green meadow valleys. Along the ridge the hike turned into more of a fun scramble as the air got thinner. The terrain was different than I'd ever hiked on before, with the red sand it felt like we were on mars. We summited the peak at 5130m with mostly clear skies- the clouds were rolling around a lot so sometimes the view was perfect and then seconds later we couldn't see anything.
5 November 2017
As we descended to the lagoons the rain picked up so we hid under a rock. The view with the rain was cool as it added more layers to the mountain scape. We were nearly at camp so we decided to keep going even though it was starting to hail. Along the way Noah was getting excited about all of the wild mushrooms and collecting them all- I guess they only get them this time of year. We had lunch once we got to camp and then played some cards as it rained. We then took a short nap until the rain let up and went exploring around the area. We could see the red mountain that we are planning on summiting tomorrow and the glaciers with lagoons at the base. The only souls around were the alpacas grazing the green meadows. The clouds were clearing and the glacier looked even more impressive with the blue sky and we even saw a couple of avalanches fall off the glacier. The sun started to go down and it was time for afternoon tea but we kept the shelter window open so we could still have a view.
This morning I woke up feeling way better and excited to get hiking. We got pancakes, oatmeal and fruit salad for breakfast. We said bye to the horsemans wife and then started climbing to the ridge for the best view of Ausangate. We were basically walking straight up so we took it slow, I didn't want my headache to come back. The view from the top was worth the climb. The clouds started to clear and we were able to see the lagoon at the base of the glacier. We walked along the top taking it all in and looking down at where we had camped as we continued along the trail. Once we turned a corner the scenery all completely changed and became more green meadow with red rock poking through and a bit muddy as it started to drizzle a bit. We reached our high pass for the day and stopped for a break. Continuing on we started wrapping around Ausungate to the other side which had more glaciers, lagoons and waterfalls. Noah kept taking us off trail a bit so we could get better views of the area.
4 November 2017
Before long we reached our camp for the night. We got to stay at our horseman's farm and were welcome by his dog. They also had a baby vicuña that they take care of which apparently can get a bit more violent so I kept my distance. All I wanted was to sleep when we arrived in hopes that it would help me feel better and since it was raining I didn't mind hiding in the tent. We got all settled in the tent and then lunch was ready so went to the house to eat. I didn't have much of an appetite but I tried to at least eat the soup and some rice before heading back to the tent to sleep. There were hot springs nearby the camp that I wanted to visit but I just didn't have the energy nor the desire to walk there and the rain turned to more of a hail so I dosed on and off all afternoon and my head started to feel a bit better. I tried to eat again at dinner but I still didn't eat much but I had tea and it was probably good to sit up for a bit before I headed to bed to try and sleep this off.
I woke up feeling much better and excited for the trek. Noah picked us up and we headed for the mountains- a different direction from the sacred valley though. We stopped in Tinki to pick up our chef and grab some breakfast. We got fresh fruit smoothies and cake. Back on the road we started to climb towards Upis and arrived at the trailhead with our horseman awaiting us. We started hiking right away with Noah while the others got everything packed on the horses. The start was along a road slowly gaining towards Mt. Asungate passing by many alpaca. Noah was able to help me finally get the difference between alpaca and llamas. He also pointed out where he grew up which was very nearby so he knows the area like his backyard, the perfect guide. The road turned into more of a trail as we reached some wetlands. The view of the glacier on Asungate was getting better and better but unfortunately I was starting to feel ill again and I couldn't fully appreciate it.
3 November 2017
The mountain biking got a more challenging as we biked down to lunch and was really fun but I walked a couple portions to be safe. Spenser was the all-star biker impressing the guide with his skills down some sections. We got a classic Peruvian lunch (soup, then chicken, rice and potatoes) at a restaurant with huge windows for a panoramic view of the mountains. Continuing on we rode down some switchbacks to Salineas salt flats. It started to rain so we took refuge under a shelter until it let up. We got to explore the salts flats, they reminded me of Pammukale, and then we were peddling to our finish in Urubamba. The day sure got my heart pumping, especially at altitude but I was the only one who didn't get off my bike to go up a hill (only down). The bus back to Cusco was busy and I had a building headache so I was really glad to arrive and get some fresh air. We returned our bikes and headed for our trek briefing. We got all organized and with my ongoing headache I crashed early.
This morning Eduardo kindly had our breakfast ready earlier than normal with scrambled eggs, plantains, bread and peanut butter! It's the first time I've seen peanut butter on my trip. He then helped us with the laundry machine and offered to hang it all once finished. We caught a cab and headed to the main square to catch our mountain biking tour. The group was just us and a Cuban -traveling during shoulder season makes for nice and small groups! First we took a cab to pick up the bikes and then we rode to the local bus station. The bikes got thrown on the roof and we started on our way to the sacred valley. Public transportation was interesting, lots of stops and very crowded but a real local experience. We stopped at the side of the road, grabbed the bikes and started on our way. We started down a dirt road through farms with views of the green fields, a lagoon and the mountains. In the distance we could see a storm brewing but I was just thoroughly enjoying biking in the sun.
2 November 2017
I stopped for a coffee for a bit and then continued walking around. I found the G Adventures office to see if they had found my lost headlamp but no luck. I then went to try and find the best deal for going mountain biking tomorrow in the sacred valley. After I nailed down a deal I headed to the hotel I had stayed at before to pick up my big backpack- I was fairly excited to have all my things again. I met Spenser as he got dropped off from his Salkantay/Machu Picchu tour and we decided to go for Chifa for dinner in the main area before heading to our airbnb. The walk back felt a lot longer carrying the pack but we made it up to the top floor and I reorganized all of my stuff while Spenser shared some of the photos from his trek.
31 October 2017
Today turned into a transportation day and I think I needed it. All of the travel is catching up with me and I was ready to have a lazy day staring out a window and catching some extra sleep. We had our last meal at the lodge and then got all of our stuff packed up in the boat to return to Puerto Maldonado. There were no wildlife sittings this time but I don't think anyone was actively looking. At the port we caught the bus to the airport and flew back to Lima with a stopover in Cusco. I slept almost the entire flight. By the time we got to our hotel the sun was nearly setting. We went down by the sea for one last group dinner, I couldn't resist ordering the burger on the menu. After dinner we walked back to the Miraflores area and found a bar for some drinks and dancing. It was really cool to see the locals dance and listen to all of the different styles of Peruvian music. Felt like the perfect way to end the tour!
30 October 2017
Back at the lodge I went back to the swimming hole, which had cleared up a bit, to take a swim and cool off. It was colder than I expected but felt so good. The group once again met for a beer before dinner and one of the other guides did a presentation on caymans. After dinner, in the darkness, we got on the boat to go cayman spotting. It was really neat to be on the water at night, unfortunately it wasn't clear enough to see stars. Joseph was incredible at finding the cayman. He would spot them from over 200m away and then we'd zoom over to find the small reptile hiding among the weeds. We spotted quite a few, but sometimes they get away before we got a better look. The gentle waves on the boat started to make it very challenging for me to keep my eyes open. We had a long day in the heat and I was ready for bed.
On the boat ride back across the lake we got a snack of grenades (slimy fruit similar to pomegranate) and crackers. We threw the crackers in the water to the Puranas so we could see them better as they jumped up and fought for them. We walked back through the jungle and caught the boat back to the lodge to relax for a bit. I fell asleep almost immediately in the hammock. For lunch we got chicken, veggies and rice steamed in a jungle leaf and I ate way too much. They brought out the coconuts afterwards for us to drink the water and eat the flesh. I tried my hand with a machete to crack open the walnut fruit but all the nuts inside had gone bad. Next we took the boat to a nearby farm to learn more the areas agricultural industry. We got to try lots of fresh fruit such as bananas, papayas, limes and nonee ( as in no need to try it, it tasted like smelly feet). We walked around the farm more to see the plants and pulled a few more fruits off to try including the cashew fruit.
This morning I woke up early to the bright sun and the sounds of the jungle. We had a big breakfast and then made our way way by boat to our morning activity. Right away after we started the trail we spotted some howling monkeys high in the trees swinging around. The walk through the rainforest was beautiful with tall vibrant green vegetation and many bugs. Edwin found a tarantula hole and was able to lour the spider out before it quickly retreated to hiding. We came across a tree with roping attached so naturally I had to climb it to get a monkey perspective of the jungle. We reached Condemned Lake and took a catamaran like boat across. There we walked to two of the biggest trees around, we were able to go inside the one because the tree it had grown around had rotted away. I climbed a small tree here too to demonstrate how boys used to have to prove their strength to girls. Joseph then made red paint from a leaf with water to give me warrior face paint.
29 October 2017
Arriving at the lodge reminded me of arriving at a tropical resort. We were welcomed with a drink and then given an orientation. Next we got to get settled into our bungalows. I went straight for the hammock. A few of us decided to go exploring the area and find the swimming hole. It had rained a lot before we arrived so the water was quite dirty and need to settle before I'd go in. Along the trail we saw a bunch of creepy crawlies and some big frogs. From there we made our way to the bar for a happy hour beer before dinner. Dinner was fantastic! A big buffet with fresh fruit juice and creme caramel for dessert. Next we got all bugsprayed up and started on our night walk. We only walked 500m but it took us over an hour as we were stopping to check out all of the bugs coming out in the dark. At one point we all turned our lights off and it was still surprisingly bright from the moon. After a hot chocolate it was bedtime as the lodge turns it lights out at 10.
In the morning I got set to leave Cusco and leave behind my big backpack in storage until I returned. It'll be nice to travel ultra light for a bit. We got to the airport, had a less than enjoyable coffee and then we were on our way to Puerto Maldanaldo. The second we landed I felt the extreme heat and humidity. The scenery was like nothing I've seen on the trip so far. Our jungle guides, Edwin and Joseph, picked us up to take us to Tambopata Lodge. This involved an hour bus ride to the river and then we got on the boat for 3 hours. On the boat we were given adorable lunch boxes with a tin of chicken strips, rice, veggies and yuca (jungle potato) and some mini bananas. On the boat ride our guides were searching the shore for wildlife. We got to see Capaberra (worlds largest rodent), howling monkeys and parrots. It worked out really well for me because I was sitting behind Edwin so whenever he found something he'd give me his binoculars and take my camera to get photos for me.
28 October 2017
After the market we headed to the kitchen. It was on a rooftop with beautiful views of Cusco and the surrounding hills. To start we prepared a ginger pisco cocktail called a chilcano- I'll have to make it for you grandma, I bet you'll love it! Next, we did all of the chopping for the lomo saltado inside and then we moved to the outdoor kitchen to play with fire. Our guide had pre marinated the alpaca we'd be cooking in a vinegar soya sauce. We sautéed all of the ingredients and tried to do a flaming wok, I didn't really succeed with the fire but I did make a delicious lomo saltado. We enjoyed our meal with rice and our drink.
Even though I could've slept in today, I was up at the crack of dawn from fireworks and various other noises since the room was at street level downtown. I met Spenser and we walked around to make plans for when we return to Cusco. There was some sort of festival going on in the main square with music and dancers dressed in cultural costumes, we watched for a bit and snuck into the cathedral to check it out while it was free. We met Carmen back at my hotel to start our culinary experience. Our guide took us to a local market instead instead of the tourist one since it's Saturday and was open. It was really cool to see all the different sections (potato, grains, fruit, vegetables, meat, fish..) but he recommended we didn't eat anything there because our stomachs aren't used to it. We did get to try a few fruits though that had peels so it was safe. The spice section was neat because you can just tell the vendor what you are making and they will prepare a combination of spices.
27 October 2017
I grabbed a quick pizza in Aguas and then we were on the train back. We were reunited with our group members that had done the Inca trail and everyone was sharing their adventures with so much excitement. I once again thoroughly enjoyed the scenery on the train and I didn't want to leave the mountains. In Ollyantantambo we caught our bus back to Cusco. On the drive we caught a beautiful sunset over the mountains which felt like a perfect way to finish our time (for now) in the Andes. As we arrived in Cusco it started to rain, again what timing! As tired as I was from the full day I was very excited to arrive because just moments after arriving I got to run to the main square and find Spenser! It was awesome to see him and I'm so looking forward to our month of travel together. We grabbed a bite at fuego and got him his first pisco sour. I had a deliciously fresh salad and then we walked around the wonderfully lite up downtown area while sharing stories from the past 3 weeks.
We woke up very early to catch the bus up to Machu Picchu and at 5am there was already a crazy line! It moved quickly though and soon enough we were switch baking up the mountain into the clouds. The ruins were completely covered when we arrived so we walked up to the guards tower so we could watch as the clouds lifted. The clouds kept rolling over so we would see the ruins for a few minutes and then it would be covered again. I really enjoyed watching this with the anticipation that the clouds would eventually clear. Without any luck we started our guided tour. I really liked our guide as he explained a lot of the Inca science, for instance how the shape of their buildings could absorb seismic shock and also how their calendar worked in the sun temple. After the tour a few of us hustled up to the sun gate for a better view as the clouds cleared. It was worth it for the view but then we had to run through the ruins to the exit to get in line to catch the bus down.
26 October 2017
We took the bus to a picnic spot for a buffet lunch and a well deserved beer! We then said bye to all our porters and guides and headed for the train. We took the train to Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu where Lula welcomed us with lots of hugs. The train was fantastic! We got drinks, cake and the scenery along the river in the cloud valley was beautiful and completely different from what we saw on Lares. Walking through the town I was very glad we were staying there long. It was so clear that it was only there for tourists and as a result I found it very dirty and tacky. But it had so much potential to be beautiful with its location. We walked through the market and made our way to the hotel. It's always so nice having a shower after a few days camping but my shower was so disappointing I wished I hadn't had it, just a cold trickle to try and wash days of dirt and sweat. My dinner more than made up for it, I had alpaca tenderloin and quinoa risotto.
It rained most of the night but come morning it had cleared and we had beautiful hiking weather. We had a later start today but I still woke up early with the sun so I just walked around a bit taking it all in. For breakfast we got bagels, omelettes and then the chef surprised us by bringing out a cake that we had made in the tent! I can't imagine baking a cake while camping, but it sure was delicious! We started to make our way down the valley and stopped at the nearby community to see the inside of a local home. A whole family lived in this 1 room cabin. There was guinea pigs running around under the bed, many puppies to scare away unwanted wildlife and a small kitten. There was no windows and no light while the lady was making her lunch. A simple life for sure. Continuing on we reached some ruins that the Spanish had conquered. We got to explore a bit before dropping down to the valley along the creek to finish the trek. I personally wish we could've kept hiking!
25 October 2017
As we ate lunch it started to hail but by the time we finished the blue sky was back, what timing! After I fell asleep laying in the sun we started on our way again. The valley was very different from the other side. It was filled with lush green vegetation and a creek with waterfalls. We were mostly in the open so we had 360 views all the way down. We reached a small meadow area with the creek running through and our guide showed off his ability to jump over the creek. We continued on and the trees got denser but it eventually opened up and we could see where we'd come from, where the camp was and the biggest waterfall! We hung out at the waterfall for a bit watching a farmer herd sheep but also closely watching the dark clouds coming. It started raining again not long after reaching camp but we were in the shelter for afternoon tea. Today we got cheese and apple paquitos with popcorn and cookies. We played some monopoly deal and had our dinner of soup and a chicken pasta.
We continued the climb to the pass passing by many more lagoons and we began to see even more of the surroundings as we got higher. There were cairns all over the place indicating how the mountains are sacred. The group spread a part a bit here as everyone took their own pace to reach the pass of 4820m, a 1000m gain from where we had started the day. The air was definitely feeling thinner but I pushed to the top and reached it second right after the swede. I also love reaching a pass and seeing the other side, suddenly there's a whole other world on the other side. It was amazing! I did get a headache at the top though so I enjoyed it very much but didn't want to stay up too high. Once Suzie reached the summit, our final group member, we took a group photo and started to descend. Clouds were blowing in and it started to snow, as we got lower it quickly turned to rain. Luckily we weren't far from the lunch shelter with a hot bowl of soup, stuffed chicken and banana bread.
Waking up in the mountains was fabulous! The clouds were all sunken in the valley and just the peaks were visible. We got a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and caramel pancakes to prepare us for the big day ahead. The day started by walking through the rest of the village before we started our steady climb. The clouds started to lift and the views were spectacular; glacier straight ahead, some Inca ruins, a lush green valley and even a few alpacas. We took lots of breaks throughout to take photos and catch our breaths with a snack. As we started to reach more of a rocky alpine terrain some of the others started to feel the altitude more challenging. We came to a creek with some waterfalls and followed it up till we reached a lagoon. The lagoon was all glacier fed and it was gorgeous! We stopped a while there and had our packed snack with some juice and observed the double rainbow surrounding the sun. It was so peaceful laying on the grass with the fresh mountain air.
24 October 2017
After lunch the hike joined an Inca trail and we passed by some Inca ruins. We made our way up the valley along the creek with a glacier in sight and passed by farms with sheep and alpacas till we eventually reached the village we'd be staying in. The tents were all set up in a row on a terrace overlooking the valley and village. After layering up a bit with the setting sun, everyone hung out around camp getting to know the new group mates. Much to my surprise, the bathrooms at camp were actual proper toilets- I could get used to this type of camping! Right away we got afternoon tea of hot chocolate with crackers and jam in what appeared as an abandoned home. For dinner we got quinoa soup, chicken with a nice sauce, sweet potatoes and vegetables, it was delicious! After dinner it was getting quite chilly out so everyone retreated to their tents for the night.
Finally the day the trekking begins! We got picked up and met the others that would be joining us for Lares. First we drove to the town of Colca to pick up some bread for the children we met along the way and coca leaves for the adults. We were walking around the town a bit but all I wanted to do was hit the trail. We continued on driving and the scenery just kept getting better and better and I got very excited. The road was very winding along cliff sides through the mountains passing farms and glaciers. We stopped at a few lookouts along the way for pictures and eventually made it to Lares town. The hike started mostly along a gravel road as we headed up the valley. Before long we stopped for a snack break along side a creek nearby some farms. Afterwards we continued on a nice trail along the creek slowly gaining elevation under the warm sun to reach our lunch location. We had noodle soup to start and trout with rice and vegetables to refuel for the next lag.
23 October 2017
Once in Ollyantantambo, we headed for the Inca ruins site. Anywhere you look up in the town you can see ruins on the mountain sides. The main ruins are believed to be a temple to worship the sun. There pre Inca remains as well that the Incas incorporated into their structure. We saw the area where they would have kept their food because it was exposed to the wind to keep it cooler. After the tour we had some free time to explore so Matt and I found a small trail to take to climb the mountain for a better view. We didn't quite make it to the top because we didn't want to push daylight but we were close and found some more ruins. Once down we found a few others in a cafe for happy hour so I joined for a cusqueña!
We continued through the sacred valley to the Pisac Inca ruins. We got to explore the ruins and hike up to a nice viewpoint of the valley. There were large 'steps' that the Incas used for their agriculture. There was also a huge cemetery where numerous mummies have been recovered and taken to museums. Afterwards we made our way to the Parwa Community, a village supported by G for lunch to see how they are helping to create a sustainable future for the community. The lunch was delicious! We got fresh buns, salad, causa, corn rolls and quinoa soup to start; and then for the main it was quinoa and stuffed chile peppers. We finished with a fresh fruit jello. This meal was one of my favourites on the trip so far. After lunch it was siesta time for the 2 hour drive to Ollyantantambo.
I didn't sleep well last night so I wasn't thrilled for the early start, but once we hit the road I was so excited for the days ahead that I woke up a bit. We first stopped at the cross above the city to see some nearby Inca ruins as well as an amazing view of Cusco. I love how the city looks perched on the hills of the mountains surrounding. From there we made our way into the sacred valley as our guide Danny explained some history. Our first stop was at the women's weaving co-op in the small village of Ccaccaccollo. The women explained their culture and traditions and then she took as to their main weaving area. We learned how they got the wool from the llamas and alpaca and then how they clean it using natural ingredients. They are able to dye the wool many different colour using minerals, fruits and plants. She also showed us a few of the different potatoes and grains they grow for food. Their market was incredible and I got a 100% alpaca scarf to remember the experience.
22 October 2017
After getting settled into our hotel in Cusco we went for a short walking tour to get her our bearings. My first impression of Cusco is a good one, it's a beautiful vibrant city. Though it is very touristy, it has a very laid back vibe from the international travellers hanging out in one of the unique cafes. For dinner we went for Chifa, an Asian Peruvian fusion and I was delighted for the change in flavour. Afterwards we had to go to the G offices to get our trek briefing and all organized for the next lag of our trip. To finish the night, a few of us went to a trendy bar on a side street to enjoy some banana splits as we waited for our laundry to finish.
The bus ride from Puno to Cusco may have been long but I enjoyed every minute of it passing through the Andes. We drove through villages, passed farms of alpacas and weaved our way through the majestic mountains. The Andes are very different from the Rockies. They are mostly covered in bush with small sections of tall trees. There is lots of terracing and rows of agriculture with dark cliffs poking through the grass to add incredible definition to the mountains. The mountains also feel much taller with steeper slopes. It started to cloud over a bit and rain and I'm just crossing my fingers for good weather on the trek.
21 October 2017
I fell asleep for most of the boat ride back to Puno so decided to find a coffee shop once we hit solid ground and had some free time. I always thought South America was known for their coffee but I have been struggling to find good coffee. Today however I did! I relaxed in the coffee shop and caught up on a few things with the wifi. Then I headed to the market to pick up some snacks for the long bus ride tomorrow. On the main pedestrian street there was a huge parade with a marching band and dancers. The group met up for dinner we managed free pisco sours since we were such a big group buying meals. I had a veggie pizza as I just wanted anything but potatoes and everything comes with potatoes. A few ordered the famous Cuy (guinea pig) and Karmen gave me a leg to try because there was no way I was ever going to order the whole thing. It basically tasted like fried chicken.
Once it was time, Rosia and her granddaughter walked me down to the lake for kayaking. To start we had to paddle through the reeds until we emerged onto the lake. We paddled along the shore passing farms till we reached a beautiful white sand beach. We were trying to raft up to take a group photo at the beach but then waves started crashing over everyone's boats and I think the picture is just of everyone freaking out. I got quite wet during this ordeal but the sun was hot and the water didn't feel that cold, they said it was 9oC. I found it very relaxing kayaking along the cliff side enjoying views all the way into Bolivia. Once we returned, Jesus was waiting for me to walk me back home for lunch. We had quinoa soup to start then a variety of potatoes with carrots, beans, corn, fried cheese and corn juice. All tasty but I am so tired of potatoes and just want a fresh salad and some fruit. We then said our goodbyes, signed the guestbook and heading down to catch our boat.
This morning I woke up quite early to the sounds of chickens, cows and pigs. I went for a short walk around to see the animals until Rosia called me to the kitchen to help make bread. She had already made the dough so I was just making small patties with it and then she fried it. With a bit of jam it actually made for a nice breakfast with a boiled egg and some tea. Once again it was a quiet meal but their little grandson joined us and he was making faces the whole time so everyone was just laughing. After breakfast we were put to work planting seeds in the field. The sun was out strong and we had to carry the bags of seeds up and down the hills, we were definitely earning our keep.
20 October 2017
We arrived at Laquina peninsula and were welcomed by our families and a band. We paraded through town to the soccer field where we were formally introduced to our families. Carol and I met Jesus, our 'dad' for the night with a hug. The hosts then went off to get costumes and we played soccer with the local kids as the sun set over the lake. Jesus got us all dressed up in the traditional attire which had 3 layers of skirts. A few of the locals then demonstrated their carnival dance and we joined in and followed along. We then hiked up to the highest farm to our home for the night. We met Rosia, our 'mom', who was busy preparing dinner and then were shown to our room. It was a lot nicer than I was expecting with vibrant colour from art on the wall and the handmade blankets. Dinner was served right away. A couscous soup to start followed by rice and a potato and vegetable stew. There were a lot of awkward silences during dinner as we didn't speak Spanish but we made it work.
We arrived at Taquile islands with 2000 inhabitants and made our way up to the main square. The island was beautiful, the views extended all the way to the snow capped Bolivian Andes. We had a delicious grilled fish lunch on a terrace overlooking the farms and the lake. It almost felt like I was on the Mediterranean with the sea breeze in my hair. After lunch Jorge explained the island culture a bit. The men knit and have to prove their knitting skills before a women will agree to marry him. The women weave and after they are married they cut all their hair off and weave their new husband a belt with their hair. You can tell if someone is single by what they wear; the men have different styled hats for single or married and the women wear coloured skirts when single and black once married. To get a girls attention a boy with flash a mirror at the girl, if she is interested she will twirl her pompoms back at him. After checking out the market we meandered back to the boat.
We started our Lake Titicaca adventure by catching bike taxis to take us through the city and down to the pier. We hoped on the boat and headed for the Uros floating islands. On the island they explained how they make it using the reeds. They tie all the roots together so the roots grow together and secure the reeds together. Then they pile several layers of reeds on top. They have to add reeds once to 4 times a month depending on rainfall. The Uros people then showed us their homes and got us all dressed up in their traditional costumes. We then went for a ride through the reeds on their boat and got to sample the reeds. They are a main part of their diet but we could only try small pieces because our stomachs aren't used to it. Mostly tasted like celery. Their diet mainly includes fish, birds, reeds and eggs. We said bye and then carried on our way towards Taquile island. It was a long ride so our guide, Jorge, taught us a card game. I lost almost every time.
19 October 2017
Today was mostly a transportation day with a 6 hour bus ride from Chivey to Puno. The countryside scenery is beautiful and we stopped many times along the way so it flew by. The skies were much clearer so we stopped at the high pass again and to see the volcano erupting. Continuing on we saw more wildlife including the Peruvian marmot and we stopped at a lagoon with flamingos. At most of the road side stops there was always vendors selling the same knitted goods. For a snack I got some 'popcorn', it was more like oversized puffed wheat but still tasty. The views driving into Puno were amazing with the city perched on the hills along the shores of Lake Titicaca. On arrival we grabbed a bite to eat and then went for a short walking tour to see the 2 main plazas and the market. It's a very nice town but it's probably the most touristy place we've been. For dinner I splurge a bit on a menu with a squash soup, steak, mint crème brûlée and a glass of local wine. All delicious!
18 October 2017
For the evening we went to a place with dinner and a show. There was a traditional band playing a variety of different instruments that I didn't recognize but making some really nice music. There were also some dancers performing the traditional dances. During the first dance I got chosen to take to the dance floor for what was explained to me afterwards for the dance of love. I felt like I was just jumping around trying to follow the lead but it was lots of fun and I got lots of cheers from my group. Some of the dances were a bit strange including one where they were whipping each other. For the final dance everyone got up and danced in a circle. It was a really fun night and cool to experience their traditional music and dance.
Back in Chivey we went for a walk around the town and up a hill to a pre Inca cemetery with a view of the town and the surroundings. All the mummies found in the cemetery have been taken to museums so it was just stone domes remaining. We made our way back to town through the market and saw the numerous different potato varieties grown in the area. The rest of the afternoon was free time; I decided to go for a walk to explore the area. I walked to the end of our street and started walking the perimeter of the town until I found a nice side street to take to see the countryside. I got some nice views of the town and down the valley and I even found a waterfall. At the end of the road was the hydroelectric aqueduct system for the town. The gentleman running it invited me to see and he explained it to me - not that I could understand much because it was all in Spanish. His wife was sitting in the garden knitting some wool socks. I thought it was an awesome cultural experience!
We have an early start to the day to maximize the probability of seeing condors. It's the national bird with a wing span of 3m. I woke up to a the brilliant blue sky and I knew it was going to be a good day. We heading for colca canyon with stops along the way at the good view points. The terracing was all beautiful and the mountains surrounding the canyon stood over 1000m from the canyon bottom. Arriving at the main point of the canyon there was at least 6 condors resting and circling the area. They soared so gracefully through the sky riding the thermals. We went for a walk for a better view of the canyon and just how deep down it went. It is the worlds 2nd deepest canyon next to one in China. I could feel the altitude a bit when walking up hills but I think I'll be fine for the Lares trek. We stopped at a few more view points of the colca valley as we made our way back to Chivey.
17 October 2017
We arrived at the hotel which was really nice considering our remoteness and we swapped roommates around a bit so now I'm with the girl from Egypt. We got settled and grabbed our swimsuits to head to head to the natural hot springs. The community had built them up a bit but they still had a very natural feeling nestled right next to the colca river. They were extremely hot, one was quite literally bubbling it was so hot. It was drizzling a bit which was nice to avoid over heating. We've been so go go go lately that it was very nice to relax for a bit in the pools. It cooled off quite a bit now that we're in the mountains so for dinner we found a place for some hot soup and hot chocolate.
16 October 2017
After lunch we walked up to a beautiful lookout point to see the city and the nearby volcano that locals don't seem to be worried about. We found a street vendor selling Peruvian donuts with a honey sauce, super sweet and delicious! Next the group broke apart a bit and a few of us went to an alpaca factory where we learned the process of getting the wool and weaving the traditional patterns. There was a cusquenian there demonstrating the weaving. After stopping to see the alpacas and llamas we made our way back to the main plaza to find a cafe. The coffee I got was extremely strong but the view of the plaza made up for it. We were going to try and take a chocolate making class but were too late so instead we found a place with craft beer and a rooftop terrace to enjoy the sunset. I tried a quinoa beer, it was good but didn't taste very different from a wheat beer.
We arrived in Arequipa after a terrible night bus, nobody slept. The road was very bumpy, whindy and the driver was taking some of the yarns a little too fast. But we arrived and were able to check in right away and shower to wake up a bit. Lula, our guide, is from Arequipa so she knows the city very well and took us on a walking tour. Walking towards the downtown we saw a cathedral with a detailed facade and on the inside there were many classic biblical paintings but with a Peruvian twist. For instance the last supper had guiney pig as the feast. From there we went to the lively main plaza and tried the local cookies, 2 shortbread like cookies with caramel in the middle. We took a cab our of the centre to a nice neighbourhood for a traditional lunch. I had a stuffed red hot pepper and the house made corn beer.
15 October 2017
We got the opportunity to have a pottery demonstration from one of the few remaining potters in the area, Tobi. His dad had researched the ancient techniques from discovered remains. It was all done by hand with very few tools. To paint the finished pieces, paint was made from different minerals extracted from the nearby mountains. The paintbrushes were made using baby hair because it's the softest. The kiln was made with stones with stones where the pottery could be piled inside and then charcoal was thrown on top for several hours. After the pottery studio we went to a local chicken place for roasted chicken, Lula insisted we couldn't leave Peru without having some. They were pumping chickens out of the rotisserie like crazy and it was very juicy and tasty. There were a lot of local families there enjoying full chickens with massive plates of fries and salad. We tried a pitcher of fresh purple corn juice with our meal, very sweet but yummy!
As the hot sun started to cool we went for a tour of a recovered pre Inca cemetery. There were several mummies in the tombs along with their belongings. The mummies had very long heads free the surgery they used to do on the most important people. I was surprised by how well the mummies had been preserved because they were just sitting in the open tombs with no cover. The depth of the tomb was based on the status of the mummies; the more important you were, the deeper you got barrier. Our guide explained the different pre Inca tribes from the different regions of Peru and how the Inca came and over took them all. Each tribe had their speciality from pottery to surgery to weaving. The surroundings of the cemetery were beautiful and the sunset lite the sky on fire as we were walking around.
The afternoon in Nazca got very hot and we had some free time to explore. I walked around and found a beautiful plaza to sit and people watch for a bit. All of the locals were hanging out and enjoying each other's company. I found a couple of my group mates at a cafe and stopped for a fresh mango milkshake. It was very refreshing and delicious! For the rest of the afternoon I relaxed by the pool because it was just too hot, I can only imagine what it's going to be like in the Atacama desert in November.
I decided to go for the flight over the Nazca lines to get a better look at the ancient symbols and geometric lines. It was set up like a proper airport but instead of weighing our bags they weighed us so they could properly balance the small planes. There was 6 of us on the plane and 2 pilots and it was a tight fit. We flew over 12 different shapes including an astronaut, a monkey and a spider. The lines were very clear and hard to believe they had been there since pre Inca. We later found out that locals sweep the lines daily to ensure they stay clear. It was still spectacular to see and I really enjoyed the flight. The scenery we flew over was beautiful desert mountains with black and red rock and sections of vibrant agriculture and then the city of Nazca from above. The flight was surprisingly smooth considering the plane and the pilot down and around for the best views. That being said I was still happy to touchdown at the end!
14 October 2017
The drive to Nazca was beautiful weaving through desert mountains and into valley bottoms full of lush agriculture. We stopped at a tower for a good view of the end of the sunset and a first glimpse at the Nazca lines. They say the lines are untouched and stay clear always, but they looked too perfect in my opinion to have never been touched up a bit. After arriving in Nazca and having a much needed shower to get rid of all the sand, we went for a nice dinner. I had a nice fresh salad and it was probably my favourite meal yet with fresh avocados and pecans from the area. Afterwards a few of us went for drinks with our guide at a local bar. I had the Cusqueña Negro and it was very tasty.
My favourite part of today was going sand dooning and sand boarding at the Oasis of Huacachina. Only 4 of us and the guide decided to go and I think the others really missed out. The ride was exhilarating going up and down and all around the dunes and the views of the expanse of the Atacama desert were breathtaking. It was sad to see garbage on the ground and we stopped at an old oasis that had been abandoned and dried up completely. We stopped to try sand boarding on a couple pitches. I was originally planning on trying standing up like snowboarding but after he told me that many people break their collarbone that way I quickly decided to lay down. It was so fun sliding down but I sure did get sand everywhere and could taste it in my mouth. The ride finished with a beautiful view of the oasis from above.
From Paracas we drove to Ica to visit a small artisanal pisco winery. We got a tour of the production plant and the guide explained the traditional methods they used including stomping on the grapes while dancing to traditional music and the old clay pots they use for the fermentation. No new pots can be made now because of the material and there are no potters anymore so the pots are very important to the winery. They make a variety of beverages including traditional pisco, sweet red wine and pisco cream. We got to sample a variety of their products and learn the traditional "cheers!".
This morning we went on a boat tour to Ballestas Islands (mini Galapagos). Along the way we saw an ancient Inca marking in the sand. The boat was fairly small and the ride to the islands was very bumpy but I was sitting near the front so got shelter from the windshield; others finished the trip looking like they had jumped in. At the islands we saw lots of birds, some sea lions and penguins! We weaved around the islands finding different wildlife and seeing remains from past settlement and then heading back to Paracas. Now that we are in the desert the sun is intense and hot with not a cloud in the sky.
13 October 2017
We caught a very comfortable double decker bus to Paracas. Driving out of Lima we passed a number of very poor areas showing a different side of Peru. We drove along the ocean and into the desert past rolling sand dunes and some more very poor areas. Some of the homes we passed were small shacks that sometimes didn't even have a roof. There was also a lot of agriculture along the side of the road which gave the desert some nice colour! We arrived in Paracas, a very nice beach town and went for a walk along the boardwalk. We were able to catch the sunset light up the sky over the ocean. For dinner I ordered grilled fish but I found it really dry and flavourless. So far I really haven't been impressed by the food.
This morning a group of us decided to go check out the pyramid, Huaca Pucllana, during our free time in Lima. The guide explained the way the bricks were made and how they stood them on end instead of flat in order to better absorb the shock of earthquakes. There were some examples of the agriculture they would have grown during the Inca time to sustain the community including quinoa, avocados and many fruits. The pyramid was completely filled in and mostly used as a temple and a lookout to the highlands. Before the Incas abandoned the site they covered it up and the temple was not found until 1980. Everyone thought it was just a big hill and it was a popular spot for kids to ride their bikes. On the way back to the hotel we stopped for some street empanadas; everyone seems to love them but I'm not really a fan.
12 October 2017
I met the rest of my G Adventures group at the hotel during the welcome. We have a number of Germans, Brits and only 1 other Canadian. Our guide Lula went over some logistics and then we all went out to dinner in the main square area of Miraflores. I tried the traditional chicken Aij de Gallina and a beer that was made using coca leaves. It was green in colour but I found it tasted like a typical pilsner.
After the tour finished Carmen and I decided to stay together for the afternoon. We walked through Miraflores and down to the ocean to the Parque de Amor (love park). There was statues and colourful mosaics and lots of locals around hanging out with their dogs. From there we walked along the boardwalk to watch the waves crashing in and see the cliffs Lima is perched on. We made our way to Barranco, a colonial district with vibrantly coloured buildings and a huge city park. We were quite a distance from the hotel by this point so we had to hustle a bit to make it back in time for the welcome meeting.
The culinary tour started by visiting the market, it was only myself and one other, Carmen, that signed up for it. Our guide, Anna, explained some fruits and vegetables and once again I got to sample a gooseberry. She also gave us a fruit similar to a pomegranate but green with slimy looking seeds but they were quite good. Next we went to the meat section where they had literally every part of the animals hanging including some testicals. I was not a fan of seeing all the raw meat, it reminded me of that market in Barcelona. We stopped at a fish stand to try some fish soup. The broth is made from all the remaining parts of the fish free it has been filleted. The soup was served with limes, hot sauce, plantains and 'popcorn'.
From the market we walked to the restaurant for the cooking portion. To get started we learned to make pisco sours, very strong ones with 3oz of pisco in a small cup. We then put them aside so they could be had with the food we cook. First we prepared ceviche, a traditional Peruvian dish of raw fish cooked from the acidity of lime juice. We added a few simple ingredients to give it much re flavour and then plated it with sweet potatoes and corn. The fish was tasty but I wasn't a huge fan of the raw texture. Afterwards we made fish Causa; it was described to us as a dish similar to lasagna. It was layered with yellow potato, a fish salad, tomatoes, avocado and potato on top. We just put this one together using a mold and didn't actually get to do any cooking. I could mostly just taste the potato but they did have more flavour than the ones at home. In the end I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to do more cooking but I'm still glad I did it!
This morning I woke up early to another lovely breakfast and then after chatting with Marco a bit I caught a cab over to the fancy G Adventure hotel to wait to be picked up for my cooking class. After arriving at the new place, I'm really glad I spent the 2 nights at the other place. This area is so touristy and full of chain restaurants and shops whereas the Santiago de Surco area felt a lot more local. I hung in the lobby waiting for my guide to arrive.
11 October 2017
After the tour finished I meander my way back to my hostel. I hoped on the bus and took it to the tourist centre of Mirafores. I think it was rush hour so the bus was jam packed. From there I walked back to my hostel, stopping at what seemed like a Peruvian Walmart to pick up a few snacks, water and I even found a craft beer. The walk through the neighbourhood was very nice, everyone was out walking their dogs. Everyone has pooches here, mostly small dogs and they all wear doggy clothes. Once back, I enjoyed my beer on the rooftop terrace and figured out some logistics for trip. I had a fairly easy going night re-organizing my bags without my poles on the inside so they'd pack better. And once again I had the place to myself so it was a very peaceful night. But I am looking forward to getting on the tour and having people around.
The tour continued through the streets of Lima with varying architecture from all of the different influences. The Peruvians have always welcomed 'outsiders' as a gift from god (blonde hair soldiers on white stallions symbolically representing the sun) and thus the Spanish took over with little fight. Lima was actually originally named Rimca but a mispronunciation lead to the capital name of Lima. The tour finished with more pisco tasting. We tried it straight again (and learned the proper way to drink it) and then a traditional lime sour, a passionfruit sour and the pisco cream (like Baileys). They were all good but I still need to try a proper pisco sour.
The walking tour started at a bar that had a huge list of craft beers on tap. If it hadn't been 11am I may have gotten one. But no need, they gave free samples! The tour started with a local market filled with fresh produce and fish. He explained their local fruits a bit and we got to try some gooseberries. We then caught the 'metro' (it's actually a bus) to downtown Lima. We went to the two big main squares and our guide explained a bit how they've changed over the years. In Inca time there was 2 levels, one for people and a lower level to keep the llamas. We then went to the bar where the pisco sour was supposedly invited and we tried some pisco. I definitely wasn't anticipating talking shots on a free tour but glad I got to try the pisco- would've been nice to have something to follow it with though.
Breakfast was all set up nicely for me this morning with fresh orange juice, coffee, buns and an assortment of jams. There was also some sliced meat and cheese which I used on a bun for lunch. After breakfast Marco went over a number of different sites of Lima with me and suggested the free walking tour. It started right away so I had to hustle to make it there on time walking. The walk there was really nice though, the neighbourhood I'm in has lots of green space and big trees down the middle of the road.
The airport was surprisingly busy for 1am but it didn't take me too long to get through and find the taxi my hostel had recommended. The car ride was pretty crazy but I reached my hostel before I knew it. Marco greeted me at the door and showed me around. He was really nice and wanted to tell me all about Lima but I was tired and just wanted to go to bed. I had the room to myself and fell asleep right away.
10 October 2017
My trip started with a very early morning to catch my flight to Denver. Everything went smoothly and I slept the whole flight. I did wake up at one point to catch a beautiful sunrise from my window. In Denver I tried to catch an earlier flight to Houston but after no luck I got a coffee and scone and relaxed. For some reason the boarding in Denver turned a bit chaotic due to some language barriers and it took way longer than it should of. Luckily we were able to depart on time and even landed in Houston early. After sitting around all day I finally got to stretch my legs with a nice sprint through the Houston airport from the domestic to the international terminal. There was actually a number of us trying to make the tight connection and I think we all made it. The flight ended up leaving late as the pilot forgot his passport. I was starving since I hadn't eaten since Denver so I didn't mind the dinner they served and I watched Hairspray - I was close to singing along a couple