Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Good to be home

We are finally here in Oregon--actually got here Sunday afternoon, but now finally catching up with time.  It's been nice to be home :)  It feels a little weird since I haven't been here in over 2 years, but it's good.  We've been enjoying the slower pace and eating up all my Dad's delicious cooking.

My parents picked me up a new smartphone and that is all sorts of confusing.  I really need to read the manual so I can figure out all it's capable of.  It's a cool phone and really simple to figure out the basics, but I want to see what all I can do :)

Anyway, after 2 years and 3 months in Nicaragua, then about a month of travel after, covering Panama & Peru, I'm ready to move on to the next chapter of my life.  I have to finish my master's program at Gonzaga and plan a wedding.  I'm thinking things are gonna get super busy!  That's why I'm soaking up the slow pace of being home and not trying to plan too many things just yet.

We decorated the Christmas tree last night and made a Costco trip today.  Everything is coming together :)

Well, since I finished PC and I'm back in the US for good, this is the end of my blog.  I'm planning on doing another one, but for now, this is it.  I gotta try to find a way to print out my blog in the form of a book now.  I'll make sure to update you all on where my blogging takes me after this.

Paz y amor,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 Hour "delay"

Well, we're currently in Lima right now.  We were supposed to be in Ica, visiting a desert oasis, but unfortunately, Taca airlines had other plans for us.

We left our hotel in Puno (near Lake Titicaca) yesterday morning around 8:30am and arrived at the airport at  about 10am for our 11:45am flight.  No problems with our bags, got through security fine, and even found a couple seats at the gate.  Everything seemed dandy.  However, we ended up waiting about 3 hours while watching airline employees conduct inspections on our plane just outside the large glass windows.  Not very comforting.  During these stressful 3 hours, some employees brought out drinks and snacks to the angry awaiting passengers.  Finally, they told us that we would not be leaving on that plane (I was thankful for that since obviously 3 hours wasn't enough to figure out the issues).  We had to go out and get our bags and then return to the ticket agent to be put on another flight.  I went straight to the desk while Frank waited for the bags, since it was a full flight and I knew not everybody would be getting on the next flight out. We had tickets for a bus leaving Lima at 6pm, but it was already too late for those :(

I patiently waited, as the stress seeped into my lower back and the others around me got increasingly angry.  Finally I got up to the desk and the guy made us reservations for a flight the next morning, and they were in the process of making hotel reservations for us.  When all of a sudden another guy came out to make an announcement.  We had the option, initially, to take a flight the next morning or wait and see about a late night flight that night.  Well, they changed that (after giving tickets to some people) and said that they "rescheduled" our flight for 12:30am, meaning we no longer had any choice and had to wait in the airport until then...bummer!

After a bit of arguing and "fighting" for our rights, we didn't get far, but eventually Frank's pity story saved us.  I was beyond upset about the whole situation and sick of being crammed between people arguing with the employees, so Frank took over and argued a bit and told the guy about our bus tickets, our hotel reservations, and that it wasn't fair to make us arrive to the airport at 1:30am without any hotel reservations or anything and that we would have to sleep on the floor.  Not cool.  Well, the guy certainly did take pity on us and reserved us a room at the airport hotel in Lima.  We were unsure as to the validity of this, but we were hopeful.

Even though the airline told us food would be coming for us all, we still bought something in the airport restaurant (the only one there) because we were hungry and we didn't know if this would also fall through.  We chatted with others, played cards, and got a little stir crazy, but we finally went back through security and found some seats at the gate (deja vu!).  We started getting a little worried when we saw the same plane sitting outside with no lights on and no airline employee around.  As others started to get a little antsy, an employee came and said we would be leaving shortly.  It all seemed strange since n.  othing changed outside, but a little bit later, we heard a loud sound and the new plane landed outside.  Everybody cheered, and I definitely had a sigh of relief since we would be using a completely different plane.  I hope they trash that other one or something--it worries me a bit.

Anyway, we got to Lima around 1:30am, grabbed our bags, and were escorted to the Ramada Inn at the airport, as in across the little walkway, basically attached to the airport.  We checked in and I glanced over to the price sheet which noted that a double room, which we were given, was priced at $329.00 a night!  Yikes!  It was a nice hotel with tons of security, but I don't think it was necessarily worth $330!  Oh well, it was just fine for us haha  The beds, sheets, blankets, and pillows were heavenly soft, and the bathroom amenities were from an aromatherapy collection.  Maybe that's where they came up with the room price!  The buffet breakfast in the morning wasn't too shabby either--they had 4 different types of milk for cereal, yogurts, juices, bacon, sausage, breads, and even quiche! I could certainly get used to all that--did you hear that Dad?? ;)

After our 10 hours of luxury were over (yes, we stayed until the noon checkout so we could soak up every minute of the nice hotel), we took a tax over to Carolina's condo.  She has quite a nice place here and we just relaxed a bit today.  We are bummed that our other trip didn't work out, but it's nice to be here in Lima (only a taxi ride away from the airport) where we can relax a bit.  Only a couple more days til we're stateside...

Inca Trail

Yes, we are still alive...can't believe it's been so long since I blogged, but since the Inca Trail adventure, we've been pretty busy and I haven't had much down time to get online and blog.  Anyway, we had a really great trekking experience, even though it was difficult at times.  The company we used was awesome & we stayed the night at their private camp at Km.82 the night before we started hiking and this really set the tone for the rest of the trip. 

It all began with a briefing at the Ecoinka office in Cusco the night before we left for the private camp.  We met our guide, and found out we were the only two people in our group (we signed up for a group rate), but that was okay with us.  Our guide, Richar, was very kind and informative, and spoke Quechua (local dialect, Inca language), Spanish, and English.  He was really cool and we ended up speaking Spanglish with him throughout the trek--very fun!

We were picked up from our hotel in Cusco, transported in a van to their private camp (about 2 hours from Cusco), and then were given tea and snacks as we were welcomed to the camp.  The camp has hot showers, a sauna, clean bathrooms, a kitchen, eating area, and a camping area (tents under reed-type coverings).  We didn't bring our towels though and since we were camping, it just didn't feel right taking a hot shower and going to the sauna, so we skipped those...

We were served a delicious dinner at camp that night and met our porters & and cook for the trek.  They were all very sweet and quick to serve us.  They served us a large and delicious breakfast the next morning (after bringing us hot tea to our tent in the morning).  We headed out shortly after, leaving the porters to organize the equipment.  We also paid for an extra porter to carry our things (1 porter for the both of us) and it was totally worth it!! 

Richar guided us along the trail and taught us about the Incas and the surrounding area.  He always checked in with us that everything was okay (pace, backpack weight, etc.).  I also had a bit of a head cold and he reminded us to take our time and checked in with me to make sure my breathing was fine--very caring!

Each day, bowls of hot water were brought to our tent to wash up a bit, and cups of hot tea too.  The meals were always so filling and excellent.  We were served breakfast, given a snack (piece of fruit, chocolate, granola bar) to take with us hiking, then served lunch after hiking, tea time (tea, coffee, crackers, cookies, sometimes popcorn) about 2 hours before dinner, then a big dinner at camp.  I can't say enough about how great and fresh the food was!  We were amazed at every meal.  Lunch & dinner usually consisted of a soup (with bread) and then a main dish.  It was almost surreal sitting in among the mountains in the middle of nowhere, eating at a table with dishes, silverware, and real food, not just camp food, made from our private chef.  Frank said he felt like an old explorer in Africa because we had our little dining tent set up for all our meals with a table and such.  This was really nice considering the long, hard days of hiking.

We usually didn't stay up too late since we got up early to hike, but one night we stayed up a little past dinner playing cards and telling stories with our guide.  It was a really neat experience.  He knows English, but still has some issues, so we talked a lot about languages and then shared our experience in Nicaragua with him.  I still had some pictures on my camera from Nicaragua and he was really excited to see those too.

On the last day, we woke up at 3:30am to get to the checkpoint to wait in line.  Not so much fun waiting in line for an hour, but everybody has to do it and if you want to make it to the Sun Gate to see the sunrise and see Machu Picchu not filled with thousands of people, it's totally worth it.  We still had a big breakfast that morning (french toast!) and made it to near the front of the line around 4:30am and waited for the gate to open at 5:30am.  

I somehow had a ton of energy and practically hit the trail running--I think it was adrenaline and the excitement of knowing that it was our last day of hiking and we would finally see Machu Picchu.  rank wasn't feeling too hot, but was still able to keep up--this was the first time on the trail that I was going faster than him.  

We hiked to the Sun Gate and the fogged cleared so we could see Machu Picchu from above--so gorgeous!  Of course we took tons of pictures, which will soon be appearing on the internet...  We finally got down to Machu Picchu around 8:30am and after a few minutes of rest, our guide gave us a very thorough tour of Machu Picchu (about 2 hours).  It was super cool to finally be there and see everything.  We walked around in amazement and took more pictures.  Unfortunately, there are a ton of stairs throughout the whole site.  Seriously Incas?!  ;)  

Our train wasn't leaving until the late afternoon, but we were so exhausted that we just decided to take the bus with our guide down to Aguas Calientes (where our bag was safely waiting for us in a restaurant with a connection to the company). He was just going to wait for us there while we had extra time to explore, but we were ready to just pass out. 

After getting down to Aguas Calientes, we strolled around a bit, but then decided to go hang out in the bus terminal since we didn't have anything else to do and didn't want to pay a million dollars (not really) at all the touristy restaurants.  We spent about 5 hour in the station, waiting for our train, but there was a nice long bench for us to stretch out on--Frank took a nap--and there were (free) clean bathrooms!  We played cards to kill time, and then finally got on our train, which was nicer than we expected, considering some of the other cheap trains that we saw and our tickets were included in our overall trek package.  Unfortunately though, our seats were not together.  Not sure how that happened, but that was kind of a bummer since the ride was 3 1/2 hours long...Oh well.

We got into Poroy, which is near Cusco--currently there is no station actually in Cusco--and we were picked up by our tour company and dropped off at our hotel.  Since we didn't get back til about 9:30pm, we pretty much went straight to bed.  I thought I would have wanted a shower after 4 days of sweaty mountain hiking, but sleep overruled that.  

Overall, it was an amazing experience and I was happy to use the company we chose (EcoInka/Aventours).  From the very beginning, the staff was very helpful with information about the trek, and we were able to pay securely though Paypal. 

One bummer: one of the sleeping pads we rented from the company wouldn't stay inflated (it had a few pinholes), but it didn't ruin our trip.  And, when I wrote to the company telling them about our awesome experience with the minor issue, they refunded me for the sleeping pad rental.  I was surprised that they just sent me a refund right away, but also impressed by their professionalism.

Anyway, we survived the Inca Trail!  It was one of the hardest things I've done, but I'm glad I did it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy December!

Wow, can´t believe it´s already December and we´ve been out of Nicaragua for 2 weeks!  It´s been a good trip so far and today we´ll be heading out to begin our Inca Trail adventure.  In about an hour, we´ll meet up with our guide and then it´s off to the first camp for tonight.  They say there are hot showers and a sauna at this camp to help us relax, but then after that, no civilization for 4 days... 

I picked up some trekking poles last night to help me with the hike.  I´ve never really used them before, but I think they will be helpful, especially for my knees, which I´ve had problems with in the past.  Anyway, I´m excited for the trek, but still a little nervous because it´s a high altitude and we haven´t really been exercising much besides walking around the towns, going up stairs, and lugging our suitcases around haha 

Just wanted to let you all know that we will be out of touch until Wednesday, Dec. 5 since we´ll be up in the mountains hiking the Inca Trail.  We return Wednesday late at night & I´m sure we´ll be heading straight to bed.  I can only imagine how exhausted we will be.

Please pray for our journey and we will take lots of pictures to share after :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Running around

So I haven't been able to blog as often as I would like, but we are having a great time traveling, so I guess it's ok :)  We finished up in Arequipa, including a trip to Colca Canyon, which is one of the deepest canyons in the world at approximately 13,650 ft (over double the depth of the Grand Canyon), and we saw a couple condors there--that's what the canyon is mostly famous for.  We also went to some hot springs which was nice because the town we were staying in for our tour was freezing!  Well, it was in the 50's, but that's definitely considered freezing when we've spent the last 2+ years of our lives living in 80-90+ degree weather with no big climate changes.  Anyway, although it was very cold, we were still able to enjoy everything and take lots of pictures, which will be finding their way to the internet soon enough...still trying to figure out how I wanna do that.

Well, today we're in Cusco after an early morning flight, and another altitude change (up to 11,152 ft now!).  We walked around the town a bit (insert heavy breathing here) and found it to be about the same temperature as Arequipa--warm during the day (mid 70's), but cooler in the morning and evening (about 60 degrees).  It's a neat place, but definitely more touristy than Arequipa, even though we saw lots of tourists there too.  This seems to have more foreign tourists, where Arequipa had more national tourists.  We quickly  realized our hostel was located in a more foreigner area where all the restaurants have more "gringo" food and prices, so after an expensive (but very filling) brunch, we decided we would be walking further down the road for future meals.  

Today we tried looking for a place that sold used clothes--not as common here as in Nicaragua, but we found the area.  Apparently, they don't just sell them anywhere, there is a specific area "under the bridge" as we were told, that sells used clothing. Well, the bridge didn't look too shady and it was midday with lot of people around so we decided to check it out.  We walked into a few different shops and they all seemed similar and their prices were way too high for used clothing.  I was shocked!  Although, most of the clothing wasn't priced and after giving me a price and I didn't look interested, they lowered the price a few times, but it was still expensive.  Frank & I were looking to see if we could find some sweaters and possibly some sweat pants/legging type things to layer for our hike to Machu Picchu.  And since we'll be camping, not staying in hotels along the trail (those don't exist), it will be fairly chilly.  Hope the sleeping bags are warm!  Anyway, we couldn't find anything decent--just a simple long sleeve shirt came with an $8.00 price tag.  Seriously?  A used shirt.  Anyway, no luck there.  I did find some new leggings this evening at a shop for about $10,then the lady offered me a lower price because I started to leave.  I was trying to go for cheap, but at this point I'm kind of desperate, so I might cave and buy some new leggings--at least I'd be able to use those in the US too.

After our clothing adventure, we came back to our hostel/hotel and hung out and relaxed to make sure we didn't over exert ourselves in this high altitude.  Speaking of that though, we've been doing fairly well.  Frank feels it more than me, which is strange because I've had to take Dramamine for buses before and I've passed out on a bus and come close a few other times.  We were thinking that I would definitely be taking altitude sickness pills, but so far I only took one on our first day in Arequipa because I was feeling miserable, but I think that was mostly because we spent the night in the airport and I was a little dehydrated.  Oh, the joys of traveling on a budget :)  Anyway, we've been drinking coca leaf tea, chewing the leaves, eating the hard candies, and munching on the cookies, which all promise to ward off altitude sickness, and I think it's working.  It also helps you digest things better, which I have noticed.  My body already feels better less than 2 weeks out of Nicaragua and still on the road--that's a good sign! haha

So far our post-Peace Corps travel has been good, just with a few small bumps along the way, but overall great.  We're really excited to continue our travels and hike the Inca trail this weekend.  I'm starting to feel a little nervous now that it's so close, but I'm also very excited!  This has been a dream of mine for quite some time and now I get to finally do it and Frank will be by my side :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Airport Sleepover

So we finally made it down here to Arequipa, which is in the southern part of Peru.  We left Trujillo late last night and caught a flight to Lima, where we stayed overnight in the airport, on the floor.  Good thing I swiped a blanket & pillow from the airplane ;)

Well,we're here now and it's a beautiful place.  The central park is really nice with flowers, a fountain, and awesome old architecture.  There are a lot of little cafes, restaurants, and shops.  It seems like quite a fun place and we wish we could spend more days here, but we will just soak up all we can while we're here :)

We hope that you all had a great Thanksgiving and we're planning on making a semi-Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow at our hostel--details later.

Also, regarding the pictures, I won't be able to upload anymore here on my blog :(  but I will be adding them to Facebook sometime soon.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Last night after wandering around downtown Trujillo again, we came back to the house and hung out with the family a bit.  We gave them some gifts from Nicaragua and then we all sat at the dining room table and they shared suggestions for our various travel destinations in Peru.  We asked where the best place was to try the national drink "Pisco Sour" and they told us a few places, but then they brought out their Pisco bottles and Carolina's parents went to the kitchen to mix us some drinks.  It was great!  We got to try some fresh Pisco Sours--they are a mix of Pisco (kind of like Brandy), lime juice, sugar, and ice.  I was a little hesistant to try them since I've heard some mixed reviews, but it was actually pretty tasty :)  I guess it depends on where you find them and who makes them.  Anyway, we had a couple of those and talked about Peru late into the night.  It was a great way to spend our last night here.  Today we're going to go exploring in another place, but we fly out late tonight for an overnight flight heading south of Lima.

Not sure if we'll be around internet to make phone calls today, but Happy Thanksgiving to all!  We did have a turkey sandwich last night :)