Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Quandary Peak....1st 14er of the summer!

Yesterday, Lucy (my mom's golden retriever) and I tackled Quandary Peak, which is a 14er near Breckenridge. It is one of the easier 14ers in Colorado, and also the first one I've climbed solo (except for Lucy). We had perfect weather, Lucy made friends with every other person on the mountain, and we escaped 99 degree heat in the Denver area for a few hours. I used my old (non-digital) camera so no pics yet (I found this one online!)....but the new digital one is en route!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Camping pictures

Last weekend we went camping at a lake called Jumbo Lake, or as Toni calls it, the Puddle on the Plains. This is a big get-together his family has every summer, and everyone brings their toys. Here are some pics!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Go on down for some pics from the Inca Trail and Islas Ballestas! Not the normal quality as they're from a disposable camera, but enjoy!

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Well, I made it home safely and, fortunately, uneventfully! I even landed in Denver early, of all things! Although both flights were quite turbulent, I was able to get some sleep.

Now I'm enjoying being home, sleeping in my own bed, hanging out with Toni, and playing poker! But, it's not time to pack away the sleeping bag just yet, this weekend Toni & I are going camping at some lake in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of his cousins, which they do every summer, which should be fun. More sleeping in a tent on the ground, but at least I don't have to carry everything in!

When I get my photos developed I am going to get CDs too so I can post pics online, so check back in for Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, and Islas Ballestas pictures added to the posts!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Things I will miss, things I will not

I think this is a killing-time blog entry as I have a couple hours before my bus leaves, but had to check out of my hotel room already.

Things I'll miss about Peru/travelling:
  • Every meal being an adventure
  • Every time I go somewhere, it's new
  • Cusqueña beer and cheap Chilean wine
  • The cost of living here!
  • The colors
  • The people-locals and other travelers
  • the weirdness of looking around me and realizing, I've never even seen a single one of the plants, trees, or animals before in my life
  • fresh seafood

Things I won't miss:

  • poverty, and little little kids begging in the streets and selling things
  • every meal being an adventure
  • the water, unsafe to drink
  • roosters (so much for sleeping in)
  • instant coffee
  • getting lost
  • rice
  • stinky clothes, wearing the same pants for 7 straight days, washing said clothes in hotel sinks
  • unheated rooms
  • camping (at least for awhile)
  • standing out as an obvious tourist due to blonde hair and blue eyes

And finally, what I miss about home, and am looking forward to:

  • my bed
  • my washing machine
  • ice
  • good coffee
  • okay, okay, my friends and family

Okay, I have a long day and night of traveling to look forward (?) to.....hasta luego!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

From mountains to desert and sea...

I meant to update my blog last night but the computer at my hotel was occupied, and I accidentally fell asleep at 830! But today was my tour to the Islas Ballestas and Paracas Reserve. It was great! (I admit, sometimes organized tours where someone else does all the planning can be nice).

First, I had a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands. Dad, I think I now have some birds on my "life list" (if I had one) that you don't. From the boat, I saw two kinds of cormorants, Peruvian seagulls (which looked like every other seagull I have ever seen), and boobies, which really is a bird name. But even better, I saw Humboldt Penguins, sea lions, and flamingos! I never would have imagined ever seeing any of these animals in the wild, so it was pretty neat. Also saw a mysterious etching in a cliff wall, no one knows if it was made by pre-Inca cultures such as the Nazca or paracas cultures, or by pirates. A stone structure called the Catedral, lots of ocean views, and a red beach.

The strangest thing is that this ocean (well, the Pacific ocean, specifically) is bordered by desert. The driest desert in the world, the Atacama-maximum of 2mm of rain a YEAR (see, I learned something today!). It is such a strange juxtaposition, having the ocean there but nothing but sand and rock as far as the eye can see. Interesting.

Tomorrow I have another ride on my double decker bus, and if I survive the trip through Lima, fly home!
Pictures: 1. the candelabra or whatever etched into the ground 2. note the sea lion on the right of the rock 3. pacific coast

Travel hell...

In a 24 hour period from Friday to Saturday afternoon, I took a train, a moto-taxi (motorcycle pulling a tiny 2-person cart behind it), a combi (small local bus), 4 separate taxis, (one had 8 or 9 people in it at one point), an airplane, and a double-decker bus.

Travel can be exhausting. Especially the travelling part!

Most of these rides were planned, as I had to get from Aguas Calientes, to Cusco, to Lima, to Pisco, SOMEHOW, but not all of them. You see, when I got off of the bus from Aguas Calientes, there was SUPPOSED to be a bus waiting for me, and a person with my name. There wasn't. I waited and waited, and talked to a couple from CA, and waited some more. Finally decided I'd have to get back on my own. That is where the moto taxi, combi, and taxi full of people came in. Because the train pretty much drops you off in the middle of nowhere. I was exhausted when I got to Cusco, only to find that my reservation at the hotel room had been cancelled by my travel agency, who were the ones that didn{t pick me up, and the hotel was full! Fortunately they have an extra room in the quarters of the owners that they let me sleep in. This is good because I had to get up at 430 the next morning for my flight to Lima, which was, of course, delayed, but only a little bit.

Then there were the taxi rides in Lima. This was the most dangerous part of my trip yet, and i crossed a straw bridge remember! The first driver was very nice and talkative, which Lima taxi drivers are known for. He drove me to the bus station. I saw accidents, bus drivers reading the newspaper while driving, and people selling all manner of things (the regular food and newspaper, but also dartboards?? in the intersections. So I buy my bus ticket and am told the bus doesn{t leave from that station, but another station, which I will have to take another taxi to! Now how much sense does that make?? This driver was not as nice. He got out of the car and yelled at another car driver that was in his way. But somehow I made it to the second bus station with lots of time to spare. The bus was pretty swanky and roomy-Carl would be jealous, I think he's always wanted to ride a double decker bus. Anyway fortuitously there was a guy from my hotel at the bus station, which was really good because I had no idea where the hotel was and if I'd have to take yet another taxi. Happily, I did not.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Inca trail (revised)

Day 1
Although it was one of the easier days, it was a little harder than I thought-the guide and maps make it look level, but it isn't! We started around 10am, stopped for a big lunch, saw the ruins of Patallacta on the way, and camped at Wayllabamba. About 12 km (yes, the metric system again!)

Day 2
The second day was the hardest-dead womans pass-4000 vertical feet in 10 kilometers-that means a lot of stairs! The pass is 13,776 ft, the highest point of the trek. If that´s just a pass btwn mouintains you can imagine how high the mountains are here! Then we went back down 2000 feet in 3 km. We lose several hours of sunlight every day because the mountains are so high. It's light but cold until the sun comes over the mountains. Happily, we were done by 2 or 3:00 this day so we could rest for the rest of the day. I took a nap, tried to stretch my legs so they'd still work the next day, had tea at "coca tea time" around 5 and then we ate dinner around 7. It gets really cold when the sun sets so we were all eating with our gloves on! Also pretty dark by about 5, so my headlamp came in handy. That night was FREEZING-we were camping at 11,480 feet in Paqaymayu. Our water froze that night and I kept waking up-even with all my layers and my 20 degree sleeping bag I couldn't stay warm!

Day 3
The third day was long-16 km total and 2 passes, but neither was as hard. Ruins of Runkarakay, Pass #2 (12,792 ft), ruins of Sayaqmarka, lunch, third pass (11,972 ft) and ruins of Phuyupatamarka (seriously), and then DOWN. Going down was actually the most tiring because it was the end of the day, and it was stairs for about an hour, then steep switchbacks which had stairs thrown in. In addition to the ruins along the way, the scenery was amazing. The whole time, we could see high mountains in all directions. The mountain of Salkantay dominates the view, it is 6,200 meters high, however many feet that is! That night we camped at Winay Wayna, and it was returning to civilization. It has a lodge that sells BEER (about the best beer I've ever tasted in my life!) and things like candy bars. We ate indoors that night and the porters pulled out all the stops (coincidentally, that was also the night we tipped them) ;) Our whole group was exhausted and we went to our tents early, knowing our early start the next morning. This night I slept like a rock-we were down much lower (8,692 feet according to my map!) and it was warm enough that I slept with my sleeping bag unzipped, and only in regular pants instead of the fleece layer underneath! Too bad we had to get up so early!

Day 4

The last day was easiest and shortest, although there were some steep spots (like stairs where you use your hands to get up). It was only 6km and mostly downhill. We woke up at 4am in order to reach Machu Picchu by sunrise. It was quite crowded on the trail that day because they opened the gate at 5 or 5:30 and had to check everyone's pass, so everyone started at the same time and was in a hurry. When we passed through Inti Puntu (gate of the sun) we could see the ruins from far away. (My picture stinks because it was still pretty dark). We continued on to the ruins and the plans worked to be there by sunrise. We were really lucky-it was totally clear, although it's often socked in by clouds and fog. Watching the sun come up over the mountains and hit Wayna Picchu (the mtn in every picture of Machu Picchu) and then the ruins was amazing.

Machu Picchu was incredible, like walking through a postcard! we spent the day with our guide on a tour for a couple hours, then had some time to look around on our own. Then took the bus down to the town of Aguas Calientes for lunch. We said goodbye to our guide and each other there and Ifound my hotel. (Of course MP and the town are full of more STAIRS!!!)
The food the porters made us was pretty good, and there was always lots of it. The best part was they brought us coca tea in our tents when they woke us up in the mornings!

I was in a group of just 5, but we shared porters and a cook with anotehr couple, which means we ate our meals and camped with them. That is good because the other 4 inmy group were 3 french and 1 hungarian, and only 1 of them spoke english (no spanish either) so they mostly spoke french to each other (the hungarian was married to afrench guy and she spoke french too). They were 2 couples. Luckily, the other couple (fromthe other group) was from CA and they were really nice AND spoke English!

My hotel is like a 5 star resort after camping for 3 nights. Shower, bed, comfy pillow (seriously, most comfortable bed and pillow since I arrived in Peru),coffee, what more could I want? Unfortunately the town is small,touristy, and dull. Not sure how I´ll spend the next 2 days. I was planning on sleeping in but I went to bed at 430 pm yesterday and woke up at 6am to roosters this morning! There are hot springs, the towns namesake,but it is cold and dreary today and I don´tfeel like hiking UP MORE!

Then I have pretty bad news. I lost my camera (and a couple hundred pictures, including the tour with Qeswachaka bridge and the caves on Saturday, and several ruins I went to) the day before starting the Inca Trail, anddidin´t notice it until the morning of.I had a terrible terrible headache that saturday andwas pretty miserable and it must have fallen out of my bag or something. I´ve offered a reward andafriend has contacted the tour agency and they are looking into it, but who knows. I´m really bummed about it. :(

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I did it!

Yes,I survived the Inca Trail, and this morning, was at Machu Picchu when the sun came up. However, my hotel just informed me that my room is ready and I can´t WAIT to take a shower! More later!