December 26, 2010

Chile: Christmas in Pucon, ¡Feliz Navidad!

{ Our Christmas photo in front of the tree }
{ Laura, Glenn and Kristy }
{ Christmas potluck }
{ Etnico family (minus Tomas, the other dog) }
Last night everyone at Etnico Eco Hostel got together to celebrate Christmas. We had a huge potluck in the backyard with about 20 of our Entico guests. People cooked everything from sushi to black beans to no bake cookies (specialty of Laura, Kristy and me). It´s light out til about 9 or 9:30 and we were lucky with sunny weather all day!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!!

Chile: Days at Etnico Eco Hostel

{ Laura and I are trying to master making pedre }
{ Asado in the backyard }
{ We spend a lot of time lounging in the backyard }
{ Picking cherries and drinking wine by the pool }

December 24, 2010

Chile: Adventure time




Last week Kristy and Glen, our Etnico Eco Hostel friends, rented a car and invited Laura and I to come along for an adventure drive (it's what we are calling it) to some waterfalls outside of Pucon. It was a great day, off-roading in a two door car stopping at waterfalls and seeing the country side. Kristy and Glenn are both raft guides back in the US. They are down in South America for a couple of weeks rafting... can you call it a vacation when you are doing your job?

Yesterday, Laura, Kristy, Glenn and I went to Huerquehue National Park. We went on a 8 mile hike up to some lakes in the hills. What a beautiful sunny day but next I should remember to not wear jean shorts.

December 16, 2010

Chile: Hidrospeed


Hidrospeeding is the most dangerous/scariest thing I have ever done. With that said, I felt kind of safe some of the time because our guide was very strict on safety and following behind him in a line. Hidrospeeding is basically going down a class 3+ river on a bogey board. You are personally in the rapid so it´s a huge adrenaline rush. Every time you would hit a huge wave it would knock the wind out of you but you had to recover quickly because there was another wave coming fast. Also the whole time down the river my mind was thinking about my shoulder which I felt could have dislocated at any time. On the mother of all rapids I had to take one for my shoulder and get in the safety raft. I love river rafting. Hidrospeeding was exciting, but I never need to do it again.


Here is the youtube link -
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE1fSEITcw8

December 12, 2010

Chile: Simple living


The other day at Etnico Eco Hostel we had a special guest. His name is Gregor Seibock and he is from Austria. Last Friday he gave a talk about his movement towards simple living and his three year walk from Austria to Japan to promote his believes. He is now set off to walk Patagonia, again, with another Austrian women. He is supported (sponsored) by Patagonia.

He has written a book called The World Wanderer, however, at this time it is only in German.

Here is the link to his website... www.globalchange.at

Here is the link to his friends website, Margit Atzler... www.margitatzler.at
(Also Margit filmed Laura and I talking to Gregor about his walk/thoughts on life so look for us in the theaters!)

Enjoy!

December 9, 2010

Chile: Hola, Etnico




Laura and I have decided to settle down in Pucon, Chile for a month and work at Etnico Eco Hostel (www.etnicohostel.com). Pucon, so far, is amazing. It is a small, green town with mountains everywhere and a huge lake on the south end of town.

Yesterday was my first day of work, which, consisted of me laying in the backyard reading my book in the sun. It was a slow morning so I got to relax. Laura and I will be doing reception work until January 8th. We do have to work a lot more here, 6 days a week, but it is a bit more laid back then working behind the bar at Loki. But a great bonus is that we get to do the activities for free! Hopefully the month will be full of adventures!

December 3, 2010

Bolivia: Salar de Uyuni

{ bus stop on the way to Uyuni }
Where to begin?

Laura and I arrived in Uyuni after a very bumpy drive from Potosi. Uyuni is the jump off point to the salt flats which are the largest in the world.

We were nervous about booking a tour with a random company because we have heard horrible stories about people dying from their drivers being drunk. The first place we stopped at claimed to be recommended by Loki Hostel (travel mistake, lesson learned) so we decided to go with them and asked our first question.... how much do your drivers drink? They confirmed that all will be okay. The next morning at 10am we arrived at the office and loaded up our two Land Cruisers. There were going to be twelve of us on the tour. The first car had problems starting. We saw this as a bad sign since we were about to go on a three day tour into the middle of nowhere. The guides and drivers did not.

Everything started fine. We went to the salt mines and learned more about salt then we ever need to know.  We then stopped at abounded train and hopped from one to the next.

We then went to the salt flats where we took a hundred photos and had a really great lunch, llama meat!


After this wonderful morning things seemed to go down hill rather quickly. Both our Land Cruisers were breaking down, just when one would start working the other wouldn't.

{ Up and over the train tracks }
That night for dinner at the salt hotel we had the worst lasagna I have ever had, it actually made me gauge when I put a piece in my mouth.
{ Salt Hotel }
The next day was not any better. Our Land Cruisers broke down even more, lunch was disgusting, and we had a dozen too many stops to see a dozen too many lakes and flamingos. Flamingos are cool but as the saying goes when you have seen one flamingo...
{ broken down, again } 
{ Rock tree }

{ Red Lake }
On our second night, after another meal I could not eat, we were approached by our toothless guide who told us that we could sleep in tomorrow morning until 6am because our drivers were going to go to a fiesta to drink and party all night long. As you can imagine this went over very poorly. That night at the hotel it was freezing and we went to bed wearing everything warm we brought.


{ We did wake up to a beautiful sunrise }
The next day our drivers were on their A game and we drove off to the geysers and the Bolivia Chilean boarder crossing.

 
{ Laguna Verde }
{ border crossing - Bolivia to Chile }
To sum up, our guide was a liar, our Land Cruisers were always breaking down and the food was awful. At least we got some cool photos out of these three miserable days.

We have arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile! So far this first world country is treating us well.

(P.S. Just got an email from Loki confirming that our tour was a total scam and that other people have had a horrible experiences as well.)

November 30, 2010

Bolivia: Sucre

{ Sucre, Bolivia }
On the bus Laura and I met Eveline and Claire (Amsterdam) who we had seen at all the other Loki's and the four us spent the next few days together in Sucre. Sucre was gorgeous and there was so much to explore and see. Wish I could study aboard here or teach English. This town deserves a few more months.


{ Tarabaco, Sunday market outside of Sucre }

November 27, 2010

Bolivia: Death Road and San Pedro Prison

{ La Paz, Bolivia }
Death Road
On my birthday Laura and I mountain biked down Death Road, known as the world´s most dangerous road. It is a road that is very skinny and use to be the only road connecting La Paz to other towns. There were a number of deaths every year by trucks driving off the edge. Now a new road has been built and Death Road has become a must for tourists in La Paz. I almost did not go because I was terrified of riding off the edge. I actually had nightmares the night before, but at the end of the day I just couldn't miss out, FOMO. Turns out it wasn't as bad as I had expected and before I knew it I was cruising down the road. The scariest part was when you had to break going around a corner, hoping you did not slide off the cliff.

It was a great way to spend a birthday and a very memorable one! That night the whole bar at Loki sang me Happy Birthday.



San Pedro Prison
The day after Thanksgiving Laura and I went to the front door of San Pedro Prison. We had both just finished reading Marching Powder so we had to go see the prison for ourselves. San Pedro is located right in the middle of La Paz. It is a prison for mostly drug traffickers. Each prisoner has to buy their own cell and because of this it is common for the entire family to live in one cell. This keeps the family together and is the only affordable way for most prisoners. So there are wives and children within the prison as well and they are able to leave whenever they please, for example, to go to school or to the market to buy produce. The cells can range from small apartments to cement holes depending on your wealth. Inside the prison there are restaurants, pharmacies, stores... everything one could need. The prisoners who have apartments have kitchens and cook their own meals. In the basements of the prison there is a laboratory for making cocaine. The purest cocaine comes from within San Pedro. Anything goes with in the prison as the police never come inside. This is also another La Paz tourist attraction- the prisoners give tours of the prison for a high price.

November 24, 2010

Peru and Bolivia: Puno to Copacabana


Sunday afternoon Laura and I arrived in Puno, the boarder town before Bolivia. Puno is located on Lake Titicaca and has tours to the Floating Islands where the indigenous people live. As we arrived in Puno we heard, from Oli who owns a number of different bars and hostels in Peru and Bolivia, that the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca was much better. So we decided to skip Puno and head to Copacabana, Bolivia.

At 5:45am Monday morning I was woken up by our dormmates at Bothy Hostel packing and rushing out of the room to catch the 7:30am bus to Copacabana. At 8am Laura and I woke up to go to the Bolivian Consulate to get our visas (required for Americans only). We heard that at the consulate the visa was only $100 instead of $135 at the boarder. We arrived at the consulate and they said, "no it is the same at the boarder just go and pay money, no problem." After that unsuccessful attempt to save $35 we went to book our bus ticket. Turns out there are only two buses to Copacabana, one at 7:30am and one at 2:30pm. Dang it! We should have chased our early rising dormmates to the 7:30 am bus. So we had to waste an afternoon (not much to do in Puno) in Puno just floating around when we could have been enjoying Copacabana. After spending the afternoon at an Internet cafe uploading pictures we went to the bus station. At 2:19pm I realized I had left my iPod under my pillow on my dorm bed at Bothy Hostel. As I frantically ran around asking in my "fluent" Spanish if I had time to take a taxi back to Bothy the bus driver went back and forth between yes, we have time and no, no time. I even asked if the bus would stop at the hostel. That was a no. We drove away from Puno with only my memories of my pink iPod case and my iPod under my pillow.

Bolivia and the US are not friends. Americans (and only Americans) have to pay $135 dollars to get into the country. And yes the fee is only accepted in US dollars. We arrived at the boarder crossing where we had to fill out a very long visa form (we skipped the box that asked for our social security number). As we handed over our visa form and passport to the immigration officer he through it in a pile not even looking at it or our Yellow Fever Vaccination form. The immigration office did not even have computers to scan our passports. It was weird but we had made it to Bolivia and we can come back for the next five years for free.

We arrived in Copacabana shortly after the boarder crossing. Copacabana is on Lake Titicaca (the highest lake in the world) and there are islands off the shore that are suppose to be beautiful. As we arrived in Copacabana and hostel shopped we found out that there is only one ATM in town and it is inside a bank that is closed almost always. It is open for three hours a day in the afternoon. Great, we have no money but have just paid $135 dollars at the boarder, how ironic. Laura and I frantically started to look over our cash situation, we had $15 and about 40 soles ($10). We exchanged every sole we could find into Bolivianos and realized the Isla del Sol tour was out of the question. We had just enough money for our hostel room, a shared pizza for dinner, and our bus tickets to La Paz. So glad we missed the Floating Islands in Peru for the amazing islands on the Bolivia side. Traveling- what a day.

November 20, 2010

Peru: Arequipa, Flora Tristan and Colca Canyon

Wednesday night Laura and I took a Cruz del Sur night bus to Arequipa. Thursday we spent the day walking around town and signing ourselves up for Friday and Saturday activities. We have already been so much more production in Arequipa then we ever were in Cusco. Loki made us lazy.


Friday afternoon we volunteered with Traveler Not Tourist. We took the public bus to Flora Tristan to help with construction and teach English (our specialty) at a local school. The school is located right next to a gravel pit and the community is made up of the smallest rock houses with dry brown dirt every where. The first two hours at the school were spent sweeping the class rooms and doing some general cleaning. Every day the classrooms fill up with dust from the gravel pit. Sneeze. The kids arrived at 3:30pm and English class started. Since it was Friday, it was game day. The other permanent teachers pretty much sat back and let Laura and I play our English games that we learned in Vietnam. The last hour was spent outside while the girls played with chalk and the boys played soccer. An exhausting day and a day that only needed to happen once but the experience was well worth it.

{ The school }
{ The classroom }
{ Flora Tristan }
  
On Saturday we did a day tour of the Colca Canyon. This was the worst day Laura and I have had in South America. We spent five hours driving to Colca Canyon which we have decided is not a canyon, at least where we were. It is more like a mountain with a valley. We did see a condor which was cool for a second. We then spent a few hours driving to Chivay for lunch and then three more hours back to Arequipa. Ten hours total on a bus for a day tour... no thanks, never again. We did team up with a couple from Germany which made our complaining much more entertaining. I think if I were to do it again I would do the canyon trek, I hear that is much more fascinating.

{ Condor at Colca }
{ Lunch in Chivay with the Germans }