Saturday, April 12, 2008

Familiar and Foreign

Home-sweet-home. I open my eyes to morning light, but know I must not be awake. Blinking, squeezing my eyes shut. Time to wake up....I see oak trees outside the window: racking my mind, what country am I in? My mentality is a long time in coming home.

Our last few days abroad were spent in the wonderful bohemian area of Lima, known as the Barranco district. Situated on the coast, just South of the Miaflores, was our comfortable home away from home called One Hostel. Here, I met Melissa. A well-to-do Peruvian beauty with excellent English. We spent a night together out on the town at the new Water show attraction in the center park. Immersed in a gathering of Isreal-ly chicos, eating cinnamon rolls, and luxuriating in the wonderful jibberish of a language I understand nothing.

Mauel and I caught a cab to the aeropuerta at nine in the noche and faltered around paying $60 airport taxes, and using the last of our soles for bakers chocolate, and a tremendous credit purchase of my own. Designer alpacha is worth the expense.

We had a connecting flight to Sacramento from Houstin, Texas and I wandered about the airport blubbering Spanish with a dollar bill concealed tightly in my palm. I needed change to call my Mother. Habits die hard, and it was shocking to hear a nice couple reply that they didnt have change for a dollar, but they may have two quarters. No- nobody wanted to rob me of my 100 centavo bill. I continued in my search at a nearby coffee stand. "Permisso..." I began. Ingoring the blank stare, for I didnt comprehend what it was for "....Tienes cambio para un dolar?" A little laughter from behind the register.

We arrived into Sacramento at 12:40 midday. A scurry for our luggage and brief reunion with my mother, then a shocking catapult into Auburn at 70 MPH along cuatro laned I80, and then a perfect little cafe, Marie Belles. There I was served my fantasy of French toast, scrambled eggs, and bacon. Something that can not be ordered in Latin America: "Desayuno Dulce, porfavor, con tocino y huevos revueltos" blank stares, then "Quieres omellet?"

Our return to Nevada County, California was on a warm spring day. The trees cast their oak, pine, madrone shadows over the winding country roads and Manuel's Incan-beatles cover Cd played over the stereo. Daffodils took lingering dry refuge along the freeway, and the air smelled Oh So Good. It smelled of my life, of my memories, and the shocking reality of familiarity all around me.

Later in the evening, I decided to head into town and see what everyone was up to. I was hassled by bratty teenage girls, "No hablo espaniol," I said to their snickers and confusion of my foreign tongue. I was delighted to find that I could order my tea just the way I wanted it, with my superb comprehension of the native English language. Katie, behind the counter, was very obliging and interested in my knowledge of properly brewed tea at an adequate temperature. I sat a table in the midst of a familiar place, crawling with highs schoolers and older classmates of my own. My nerves were whacked. My heart thumping loud in my chest, my mind reeling with all the understandable conversations nearby. The presence of so much clutter, chaos of American consumption, silly superficial slurs wheeling around me. My hands shook as I tried to drink of my cup. I ran back into the night air, regained possession of Morgain (my blue green Honda Accord) and sped through the night air with fondness for control of the wheel, and deer munching late night snacks at the edge of headlight.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Rounding the pinacle

Machu Picchu. Land most recently inhabited by gringos worldwide. Formerly one of the last standings of Inca culture. A peoples, it turns out, who are not so far removed from my own spiritual awareness inherited of the cascading Yuba River and her granite bedrocks. Each of these pre columbian ruins are built primarily of granite. Wall of endless wall, staircase, castle- massive constrctions of this magestic stone. So unimpressed was I, at first.

We began our trek from the town Aguas Calientes, on a rainy morning, and spent two hours climbing above the beautiful River Urubamba upon stair after stair of ancient purpose. The journey was constantly interrupted by buses zooming past on the road, which cuts through the Andean jungle in dusty switchbacks of exhaust fumes. No wonder the sweet Quechua woman, Sabrina, at our Hospedaje Wayana Picchu, insited we should leave out at 4 am rain or shine. I wish I had taken her advice.

As we succeeded the final flight of stairs, we stumbled into a shopping haven of tourists, parking buses, jewelry store and front entrance to the park. Closing my mind to the dispicable circumstance of clashing our steep jungle journey to this lazier, privelaged class, I stampeded to check in. The ruins were overwraught with brightly clad touristas of every nationality. Pulsating tour groups sat at every wall, and the entire middle day was spent in frenzy of annoyingly loud people with a lot of bug spray and little known intelligence. Tour groups edged up on us just as I was about to compose an angelic shot of photography. Tour guides made an example of me by firmly instrcting to stay off the walls. What good is it to visit a ruin if you can not climb around on it? We saught refuge in an area of the park where they only allow 400 people per day. I was number 243 at about 9:45 AM.

We took a short trail past steep mountainside and found some unrecconstructed ruins. Laying there in the sun too long, mariposas floundering around us, birds dipping through the sky below us, and We, scanning the adjacent mountain peak, for lack of people, before we continued on to the temple of the Moon. After a hearty snack of crackers and avocado, we climed downwards, only to walk back up the steep main trail of exhasted touristas, decending out of breath and wantan with exhaustion. The spiraling staircase ascended far above the Macchu Picchu ruinas, high above the Mountain of our midday feast, and into the clouds. At the top a sign stated well over 2,000 meters, and it very well could have been that distance, since we left the Rio Urbamba earlier in the day.

Sweat dripped from our brows, dousing all vertigo veiws of the swirling valley below. One rock after another, small springs of water welling forth out of the earth, plants both familiar and new bursting from the craggs with bright colors of life and floral smells. At last, the familiar outlines of squared mountainside signified agricultural turf, and I flung my heavyily exhausted body onto the green grass, which far below made yummy meals for the llama and alpacha herds.

We trotted along crumbling cliff banks, snapping photographs with what remained of my batteries lifeline. Then I ran out of memory, so gave up the endeavor of charging batteries in our armpits, as we so often have to do. There were a couple of equally scraggly looking, most often blundering, and protrusely sweating males, who had paralleled our jounery uphill. With a bit of a visit before the final small ascent over large boulders to the cave shrine of La Luna, we discoverd that fates had crossed us far from our territories. These two tired, hard core travelers such as ourselves lived nowhere else but humble Humboldt County.

The day grew late, and we were forced to spiral back dowwards. A spiritual feast of high veiwed wonders below. Immense concentration on the steep staircase created a indelible sense of the hardships won on course to the top. Now a most tranquil, fleeting existence of facing habitual fear of height and dangerous circumstance of falling off the side a mountain, sustained in my mind. Then, I realised the true importance of this most significant site of interest. Machu Picchu was not solely an attraction to be gazed after, and speculated about ancient cultural daily habits. It was a living, mountain sized tribute to tierra spirits, and evidence of the earthly understanding of a Pre Christian peoples, who still connected and associated themseles with Mother Earth. This Mountain is an overlooked ancient altar. It was not demolished, for how could the Spaniards understand the significance of this place, without first comprehending the importance of natural ways of life. With all sacrifices, offerings, and pictorial- superficial characteristics unintact, this was an overlooked spiritual quest, and power source left behind. For anyone willing to look, Wayana Picchu holds secret to the most balanced and true form of living existance, the understanding of the trials of mortality and a tribute to the evolutionary circle of life.

I spent the remaining hours wandering among the village ruins, which were much more vacant now that the tour groups had bussed back to town. There were pikas, birds, lizards, moths and butterflies scurrying under, and over toppled rocks. As I, myself, climbed over a boulder, I found my foot unexpectedly and comfortably placed upon a ledge. Swinging my other foot over so that I was in sitting position, I realised this was one of many carved piedras, put to the double use of road cornerstone and resting place. In my mind I felt the smells, sounds, animation of a culture long past. It seemed playful, harmonious, creative, and furtile. The Incas, who possesed a most expansive knowledge of beauty and artistic forms were master carvers of the powerful granite, which was querried far below in the valley. It is unknown as to how strength was found to lift such bolders. Though, I suspect it had something to do with force of will, and ingeniuty of the labor force of creative minds.

Too soon did the park guards begin blowing their whistles. My palm lay flat against a large boulder which a wall had been built around, as I tried to close my mind to the coming evacuation. I stumbled to one side, then another. Whistles were blown at me in all directions. Disoriented- I didnt know my way out- I trodded along the maze of stone houses, peaceful animals, boulder piles-and peaked though windows. I was one of the last people out, and as the night was coming in cold to my fatigued body, we caught the last bus to town with the Humboldt boys and found ourselves an excellent tipica dinner, with salad bar and crazy adventure stories to share.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Incan roads

We set out for Machu Picchu by trail from a set of ruins just above Cusco. The walk to Qe ´npo was straight forward and short, and as we moved towards the fourth set of ruins our bags began feeling heavier. It was after we meandered away from these that we found ourselves content to be beating the tourist buses, and to rest whilst overlooking a vast landscape of hillsides, farmland, creek and ruins. ´Where are you going?´I asked Manuel. Then, I pointed towards some mossy piles of rocks in the distance. ´What does that look like to you?´Could be an Incan road he agreed. So, I picked up a stone for good luck, and we headed down the hillside, taking note of every surrounding in case we had to turn back- we didnt want to get lost from civilization forever.

It wasnt long before we came upon another set of ruins, large enough to be encouraging, and also some Quechua woman washing in the creek. They apparently didnt speak any Spanish, and after I had tried to make our intrusion to their territory known in as peaceful a way as possible (by sitting on the hillside above and yelping, ¨buenas tardes...¨with a smile) they scamperd up the bank with the jibberish of their own tongue.

We continued up the next hillside for another hour, enjoying the remote scenery and subtly decomposing ruins at our sides. Then, there was no more trail, except we could see trails stretching farther on over other several other hillsides. Barley able to make out the buses on the road in the distance (about 6 to 8 km away) we made note of the direction by position of the sun, a line of Eucalyptus trees bordering the road to Pisac, and the cleft between hills of the tallest Mountains in sight. Crossing a the creek again, overstepping huge salt rocks, then mounting our chosen cerro, we took separate directions to scout each side of the hill for signs of the Incan road we had been faithfully following. I, unfotunately, didnt get the side with a trail, but stumbled into many ruins covered with various form of thorny flora (which Manuel had a great veiw of from his trail on the other side of the Mountain). Following our separation was a series of shouting back and forth to one another, ¨Ive got a wall here, and trail¨ ¨Im in some thorny briars!¨ ¨There might be a trail to your left!?¨ ¨No, that is a cliff¨

Eventually, I made it back to Manuel´s side, and as we scaled the cliffside towards the Incan trail, I was quite out of breath due to the extreme elevation.

The road was long, and we were happily encouraged by a solitary set of ghost footprints that had formed in a recent rain. The prints advised us from ruin to ruin, whenever we were in doubt of our direction, then eventually we found ourselves in a small little peublo. The locals were friendly, smiled with curiosity, and a particular gentleman pointed us the right way when we professed ¨Pukapukara¨

More kilometers of farmland, many fiending dogs at our ankles, a Eucalyptus forest, a terriotorial bull, and a few more hills later we found ourselves at the ruins with only a barrier wall to discourage us.

We spent that night in Pisac after catching a combi from our 7th set of ruins just across the street and up another hill form Pukapukara.

Exhausted, we discovereed the Pisac ruinas the following morning, early, before other touristas had gotten their breakfasts. These ruins were mightily tall, with steep staircases, archways, cascadas, a maze of buildings overlooking the Urubamba river, and an abundance of pretty flowers. Upon returning to the busy market center of Pisac, we decided to rest another night before continuing on to Ollantaytamba today. There was a showing of A Clockwork Orange in a nearby cafe, Mullu, that I can only describe all its artwork, ambiance and menu as ´posh´.

Ollantaytambo would be a wonderful village. That is, if it wasn´t infested by tourism buses, groups, dingy people uninterested in culture, travelers at my every side, gift shops on every block, and pricy hostels on every other.

These steets here are all Incan, as well as the foundation of each and every building, a good four feet of ancient stone masonary as well. The most unique tribute to this town, however, is that they still use the Incan irrigation system positioned amidst the central roadways. The ruins tower above central square in the surrounding mountains, and I look forward to rising with the sun tomorrow, to seek the past once again.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Turning Northwards

Chile proved to be a fantastic land of surreal desert ripped from Dali s imagination. We took a bus from Arica to the Peublo of Putre, higher in the Mountains and inland towards Bolivia. A dusty town, with lots of sun and bordering snow-capped mountains- just beyond the dry yellow, grey and red hills on the horizen. We hired a guide to take us to Parque Lauca (not having a guidebook, internet, or a better comprehension of the Spanish languge it was neccessary, as we could figure no other transport into the Parque Nacional). Fancisco was pleasant enough for a stranger, and we had him all to ourselves, so we didnt have to aim the camera shots away form other touristos profiles, and he bent to our every whim. We spent the day in the hilly mountain plains only 2 km from the Bolivian frontera (what torture! As we hadnt prepared ourselves with $150 visas ahead of time). I saw the object of my first animal report at age 6, the Pika (kind of like a large mouse-rabbit). There were also four types of camiliads who grazed along the roadway 11, and moved high into the hills by late morning. There were shades of flamingos, many other varieties of birds, and endlessly amazing reflections against the still pools of Northern Chile´s desert.

Then, painfully, we headed back to the Peruvian nightmare border. We hitched a ride with our guide as the bus was not due until the following afternoon. Train tickets sold out, we decided to find a bus to Tacna, as this border is vast and uncrossable on foot. The station was a nightmare of untrustworthery persons who wanted our passports in their charge, so we hiked it back to where we thought there was the PanAmerican. We waited, tapped our feet, counted our meager amount of remaining Pesos, disdained the coming darkness, and saw hope in TACNA ARICA buses heading our way- in the wrong direction, yet we it ws a good sign we were on the right route. A bus coming the right way, too fast to read its sign clearly, was flagged easily enough. I popped my head inside, ¨Queremos viajar frontera...¨I explained. The driver motioned to hop in, ¨Frontera,¨I confirmed. Yeah- tough luck. He took us into the slums, away from the parallel line to the ocean. I jumped off the bus with matter- of -fact protest to not paying his fare.

We were lost.

The dark was flying overhead.

Cars rushing.

No guidebook. A small map of the city center from information in the happy- safe- bright- beautiful-joyful part of Arica.

We werent on the map.

$8 by Taxi to the border. Sigh of releif- but no. The windows are not marked salida or entre. There is frenzy in the air. Taxi drivers are waving papers in our faces, telling the immigration staff who knows what. We breeze faltingly around from window to window until one man makes a motion to give us an exit stamp. We are famished- tired and hungry. No he says- we need proof of transport first. A bus rolls into veiw, and a kind woman mentions no more than 800 Pesos in passing. GREAT. Thats all we got left.

Then- people are trying to rip our passports out of our hands, the immigration officer stops me from buying a ticket. I insist I have my passport. At last it is stamped, yet the bus driver has unsurprisingly raised his fare to 1500 Pesos each. Tears involuntarily stream from my eyes, Im trying to handle this, trying to hold it together and bargain him down. Somehow pity is given, and we are on the bus, fighting with the bus attendant in resist to his claiming our passports for entrance stamps. I WILL not give it to him. He is flaming mad, gripping the seat, yelling, other people are worried, chiming in- yelling at us, one woman (I tihnk the one who gave us the tip earlier) tells him its Our passport- leave us alone. We get it stamped ourselves, and then wait for the rest of the bus to reclaim their belongings. This is an impracticle thing. Chaos rules the immigrations- woman are clutching at their purses as they exit the scanner belt, officials are litterally ripping them from their hands, throwing it aside. Straps are tearing, people are wailing, suitcases are falling open upon each other into a massive lumpy pile, and then the citizens are released to sort through it all and find their belongings- hurridly stuffing it back together and panting. Our items roll through the conveyer belt and I hear, ¨No. Esta touristas,¨and it is thaknfully handed over peacefully.

Tacna, again. Why didnt we check back into our old hotel?

Then, 7 30 AM bus to Puno. It takes 12 hours ot reach the shores of Lake Titicaca. This is the hightest navigable lake in the world. We are tired, and unimpressed. We leave the following morning to the dock. A wait. W wait for a very slow boat to leave port, eventually, at noon. We are gliding over the dark, deep waters. We pass the floating islands of the Uros culture. I watch the duckings paddle through the watery reeds. Quechua woman sit indside performing their immaculate weavings in their full skirts and woven wraps. Dark, long hair with black alpacha tassles bulking at the ends.

The boat is having trouble. Actually, it stops. I look towards the penninsula. At least, where I think the penninsula is, and try to gage where Llachon is. I know I can swim it ( I remember swimming out in to the heavy waves of Carribean ocean. Everyone else turns back, and I am one of three people to make it to the San Blas island), but it is very cold, and deep- and I cant bring my belongings.

Eventually the engine is restarted, and after three hours in the open water we are ashore, wandering through the prettiest peublo in all of Peru. We are accompanied by Kuan who brings us home with him and his new door, which is lifted above his head. His beautfiul Quechua wife feeds us well, and we are warm, confortable, serene, and immersed in the beauty of a fully self sustained cultured with no need for money or the outside world aside from general curiosity. We spend a long time that evening chatting, laughing, learning some Quechua lingo, and I sleep well for the first night in a long time.

Now- we are in Cusco. The journey was long but forgivable as we had the help of Kuan and blessings of the nearby spirits. The city is built on Incan ruins, and they line the streetways. Our hostel is high up in footpaths and cobbled stairways. Everything is expensive, and I am looking forward to beginning our independent journey to Macchu Picchu in the morning. First stop, Pisac.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chile! Pais numero 8

Chile! We thought not to make it this far, but- oh! yes we have. It is a glorious place (all 15 km I have so far explored). With a lot of trouble, we took a rickety old, wooden train from Tacna, Peru to Arica, Chile last night. The locals were mighty hesitant to let us aboard and tried many distractions as reasons for us not to purchase our tarjetas. However, after much persistance, hours, help from the local tourist agency, and depression (since we had traveled hundreds of miles and spent much money for this purpose) we finally succeeded in our 7th form of crossing borders.

Among these methods are: by plane to Guatemala (not very original), by shuttle into Honduras (not reccomended), by bus through Nicaragua and into Costa Rica (mediocre), by sail boat to Cartegena, Colombia (eventful), by foot into Ecuador (surprisingly easy), and by Riverboat into Peru (exceptional).

In the hustle of tourism in Miaflores I felt constantly flustered, confused, and lost. Manuel was sick with the after effects of bad food and dehydration, and the only thing I remotely enjoyed was the small freedom of roaming a foreign city on my own for the first time. I chatted with many artesan merchants, bought a few things I didnt really want (urgh), and was constantly romanced by Peruvian men. After four nights of this, and with the completion of St. Patrick´s day festivities, we had a plan. To take a bus to Pisco (South, on the coast of the Pan American highway) and then hop another bus to Santa Ines, half way East towards Ayacucho. From there we wanted to take the back roads South-East towards Cuzco, and hopefully bipass the Santa Semana maddness. Turns out, we were shit outta luck.

Pisco has had a devestating Earthquake. It is littered with refuges and rubble. Everything in it has tumbled down. And there are no morning buses towards Ayacucho. And we got food poisening, again.

So we jumped a Southbound bus to Ica (thanks for the pills Debbie!), then another (running after it, then jumping, actually). Ended up in Nasca. Not such a bad town. Blistering hot, with dark rocks of desert, mountains, and the infamos Nasca lineos. We stayed at The Way Inn with pretty piscina, yummy frutas desayuno, and very friendly staff (whom I expect had a bit of desert spirit and magic in their blood). We bypassed the offers of flying over the desert with a tour guide, and instead opted to see the lines from the mirador built by a woman who dedicated her life to decocding the reason behind these massive works of art. As it was now the end of Semana Santa buses were becoming difficult to come by, and we ended up paying Colombia standard fees to 15 hour journey to Arequipa, the Southernmost large city of Peru.

The bus was not clean of course, and the service was not accountable for our outragesly priced tickets, but in a way it was fortunate to awake throughout the night as the full moon was reflecting along the coastal desert beach. Illuninating the crash of waves upon the red sand in the still and lonely looking night.

After a lengthy and loud dissagreement with the PERRA at Tambo Viejo hostel (NOT RECCOMMENDED), we found ourselves wandering cluster-fucked streets of Easter touristos in the heart of Arequipa. Then came upon the Hostal Regis, with friendly enough Peruvian host in a four story victorean house. It was prime spot to ignore our hell of being stuck in a city overrun with shoppers and religious fanatics. It was also a beautiful veiw of the nightly procession of Jesus on the cross, the local preist and accomplises, and the Virgen Mary and the whole town of morning locals and candles.

It was another six hour journey across the desert to Tacna, at the border of Chile, a pleasant enough town where we enjoyed our afternoon Easter feast of Chocolate cake and Pina Coladas to the waitress´s tsk tsk tsking. There is a nice Plaza de Armas, with fountains and vine covering canopies. And the 5 sole train museum is absolutly wonderful as I got to climb around on decomposing cabooses and box cars; Peek inside 1930´s dining cars; Open the coal gate to the steam engines; I even found a rotting cat (but I dont think that was part of the display).

Upon our entry into Chile, I immediately noticed the change in scenery. The rocks of the desert were bigger, the ocean flowed nearby, and the peublos bordering Arica are much more enchanting. Instead of the dusty, half- finished haze of concrete, and protruding-skyward steel rods, of Peruvian villages: there were grids of widely spaced picket fenses. The houses had rooftops, and there were gardens, channels of palm trees, eucalyptus, and and flourish of hibiscus flowers in every color!

The Peruvian woman across from me in the tiny passenger carriage, made me well aware of the nightmarish culture I was fleeing; With her disapproving sneer, and overly dramatic protest to my knee against her skirt, and refusal to awknowledge my existence with my initial attempt at ¨Hola¨. Immigration was done at the train stations, so everything went fairly smoothly (aside from Uely-s missing tourist card, found only a little late) and we were out on our first Chilean street before dark.

We marched across the highway a little apprehensive (since someone had stolen 100 soles from me amidst the chaos of the mornings train station attempt) and flagged a taxi driver. We have very little information on Chile (aside from my own hurried notes jotted down off other traveler´s blogs), let alone any understanding of the city Arica´s layout. The Cabbie was extremely kind (as has been every Chilean cabbie since), and when I pointed to my scrawled handwriting and simultaneaously pronouced , ¨Calle Maipu o Sotomayor, Por favor¨, he was kind enough to let us know that we needed no taxi and pointed us the 2 blocks in the right direction. We stomped along, hustling for fear of the darkness approaching, and found ourselves as audience to yet another kind Chilean. Upon our remark of ¨muy caro, neccesito 5 mil para noche¨to her US dolar priced establishment, she recommended us to a Hostel Americanas not half a block down the street. It is a colorful, fair priced, family-run establishment with cocina, television (yeah, starting to miss that stuff again), and hot water in a private bathroom. My reccomendations.

In our first hour of exploring Chile we had already encountered more friendly, helpful, and caring people than our full month stay in Peru (excluding the Jungle which is farther from civilisation and a different region from Peru in my mind). There is a wonderful balance of tipico style restaurantes and markets in Arica, juxtaposed by a full walking strip -free of cars- and lively with European style cafes, streep performers and and salads galore! It is such a shame that our return ticket is out of Lima, as we are down to 2 weeks remaining until departure, and not one tiny bone in my body wants to set foot back in Peru (despite having skipped the renouned Inca cities of Cuzco and Macchu Picchu).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chicha Morada Recipe

  1. Wash the corn and place it in a pot with the water, the clove, the cinnamon, the chopped quince, the pineapple shell and the chopped apples.
  2. Let the mixture boil until the grain of the corn bursts open, then remove it from the heat and strain it.
  3. Let it cool to room temperature and sweeten it with the sugar. Then add the mandarine juice.
  4. Serve it thoroughly chilled, with finely-chopped fruit.

Trails End

Only moments ago I stepped into the raucous of Lima, Peru. After adventuring in the jungle for nearly a month, being back on a bus for fifteen hours was tortuous. Ah! The crisp fresh air of a lancha at sunrise, and the beauty of lightning storms through plump la selva clouds. The monotony of hiking through mud ridden- mosquito infested forest, and coursing back and forth over flooder river terrain. We were paddled up stream though one of the longest rains of Lagunas ´reckoning. Seven straight hours the drops pelted out of the sky, natives conjecturing, ¨mucho lluga, mucho!¨and then smiling at me listfully with the pride of the forest in their forceps and mind.

We left Iquitos on a Thursday evening after spending the previous night on the town with my friend Nara (a local to Iquitos whom I met on the Rio Napo) walking the Plaza de Armas, admiring the fountains along the river, feigning some interest in street performers and Michael Jackson impersonations, and questing through the Artisans market for an old shaman with porcupine quills and Siete Reices. We feasted upon a tipica jungle chicken dinner, fire roasted and served with a multitude of sauces. Then, later a welcomed visit with her family. Sitting in the dirt on a noisy sidestreet in the warm late night air. Discussing English and Spanish phrases, a tearful goodbye amongst a friendly invite to return with full lodging and meals included. Then, spending Thursday fully stocking up for a pleasant boat trip downstream to the small village of Lagunas on the border of the Picaya-Samiria reserve.
We had Uely´s daybag stocked on rum, local beverages, pineapple juice, peanut butter, jam, knife, lighters, bowls, cups from Popayan, spoons, my mother´s spanish dictionary from college, our South American Handbook for inspiration, and his journal for memories sake. We lounged quite giddy and content, as this boat was a palace compared to the one on the Napo. It towered a full story higher, and another lancha longer. It had space enough for my stretching and dancing in the early mornings. The bathrooms were usuable and there were even shower heads.


IT WAS GONE. From right under our hammocks. Urgh. Rattas. Theifs. Everyone around us saw it happen, and no one said a thing. Shrugging their shoulders, laughing at my horrid gringa-speak as I inquired, ¨Rattas tomar nos bolsa- Por que no dices me?¨Not a friend in sight.

Hence, a grim, but adventurous journey to Lagunas, we spent our time trying not to sulk as we kept full guard over our remaining belongings and shared a melancholy mediocre book for distraction. And tried not to think about Uely´s irreplaceable journal and the Peurto Rico rum that walked away (it is a brilliant solution to killing whatever lives in the river water cuisine served on board). Also, we had positioned our hammocks on the top deck with only a tarp cover above us. The nightly storms raged at all angles, and we were glad to have our luggage wrapped in a heavy duty garbage bag with 15 liters of water on top for better keeping.

We found ourselves in Lagunas late Saturday night, and were immediately befriended by Clever, who happened to not only have been raised in an indigenous village in the surrounding jungle but was wise with medicinal knowledge carried on from his father. We hired him as our guide a very agreeable rate that is unheard of in Iquitos. He took us into the forest for three days and two nights. Which was more than enough time for me in the deep jungle. Mostly because I got another bout of food poisoning. Can you imagine the misery of my being sick on a tiny three person paddle boat for 6 hours? Yet, this was still an experience to remember the rest of my life.
The beauty of the small silent crevices penetrated by the slow dipping tempo of the wooden paddles. The bright jungle birds, large eagles, black vultures, soaring in the air. Plantain palms, huge Ceiba trees, root masses protruding out of vines and flourishing like chunks of snarled witch hair in the water current. The brown river growing steadily higher, the night sky overreaching our heads, the sky lighting up with thunder. The exotic smells and sounds of unhindered wilderness. Monkeys of their many sizes colors and shapes constantly darted through the treetops. Us- turning our heads at the sound of kerrrrpluunck! and crrrraack! to see them stuffing their faces in sublime satisfaction of lazy siesta haze. The constant threat of piranhas swimming in swarms below. The caimen, turtles, tarantulas, and oh yes- about fifty varieties of mosquitoes. There were the obstinately hungry ones, appearing like those in California, yet more vicious and desperate. Cunningly clever in their achievements on my flesh. Then in the heat of the afternoon they flew grandly about my face in hysteria. Larger, with bright blue and yellow coloring. The evenings were infiltrated by armies of these beasts in every shape and size. My legs are quite a pocked wonder.
Clever, I think, was sad to see us go, though his ego said otherwise to his friends and family. Small side gestures and laughing of ¨touristas¨¨gringos¨you´d think I would be used to it by now. However, Clever decided to join us at the docks with rum and mandarin treats. He saw us off like a true Father figure, helping with our bags, waving, and one last offering for aiuawska, which we have not partook in.

Uely had decided to splurge and surprised me with first class tickets to Yurimaguas. A whole new world with dinner served at a table with plates and cutlery, even tea cups. We decided it would be best to make headway for Lima as we are missing some futile supplies (try hiking through a hot, dusty foreign town slum with no address of where to go, and taxi drivers who cant understand your accent ¨hospedaje-hotel-hostel-residencia-resturante-catedral, por favor?¨). The journey to Lima was not uneventful. However, the only part I feel worth mentioning is the collectivo from Yurimaguas to Tarapoto.

The usual- being pulled by multiple persons in different directions before I have even climbed out of the tiny motortaxi. "Tarapoto!Tarapoto!Tarapoto!Tarapoto!" they exclaim. I give a tiny, discreet nod of my head, while glancing sideways to see what Uely makes of this. We had been headed for a bus station....Our bags are hoisted- flung- onto the top of a pile of other cargo. The usual chickens, parrots, cola, and square-plaid-waterproof bag covers. One man even carries baby turtles in his pockets, which he occasionally spits on for comfort. The children are gathered around him, guessing prices he might fetch for them at market in Tarapoto. The drive is somewhat paved to begin with, but our truck was not in such good condition. There was first a long wait for someone willing to pay twice as much for indoor seating before we could leave, then a flat tire, then another half hour wait for the construction of a toll booth. Then an hour and a half stop to replace the damaged tire in some small sleepy jungle town with an excellent restaurant that actually served us beans! All this in the first 60km.
On the road again- no more pavement now, though there is definite progress underway as the construction was so fresh the red dirt wasnt even a smidgen compacted on the ´roadway´.´We twisted and turned, I practicing patience, bending my knees to keep steady on the bumps and twists, reminding myself that I was about to embark on a series of bus journeys, so I should be ecstatic that I am doing pli`es in the back of a dusty Toyota pickup truck. The canyons stretch a good 100 feet below us in a flurry of green and red jungle abyss. Above was the other 200 feet of mountain about to crumble back down and heal her wounds. I could hear my Dad telling me no when I was five, ¨no, it isn't safe to ride in the back of a truck.¨ The beauty of tropical waterfalls falling through the roadways, under makeshift cement bridges, then cascading the rest of its way down the canyonside. All around, the rich red earth freshly exposed and breathing the misting sun spotted air. Out ahead, a long caravan of traffic; Many collectivo pickups, vans, freighter trucks with multiple cars too large for California laws; A flourishing rainbow of bananas, red jungle fruits, Peruvians, soda pop, and personal baggage in baskets, coffee sacks, and bamboo structures. If only I had my camera ready and also a third hand- to steady the jostle! Past every group of construction workers a large holler, whistle, ¨hey! Gringa!¨Uely got a ¨Buy a sombrero¨ for his T shades in harsh, vowel-laden, Peru-Inglais. I griped the unsteady rail so hard that I got blisters, yet found myself safe and bored in a dusty dry town called Tarapoto before two in the afternoon.

Two long bus rides overnight, and lot of waiting, and additional hassle having no guidebook for addresses to give cabbies, I now find myself in a gringo infested abode in the heart of Miaflores, Peru. Here is where there are DVDs, internet, traffic, and bitchy girls who give me smack for ordering a beer at one in the afternoon. As if I know what time it is after all that! Heh.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Clearing in the Bush

I left this saga last, in the jungle town of Coca, where we departed Ecuador on the Rio Napo to Puerto Rocafuerte. The speedboat was full with 70 people, a lot of bananas, oranges, eggs, a generator, and other thick bulsas of various cargo. It took 15 hours to reach our port, and we stumbled into a half organized mass of habitations with old broken lamp posts lining the few streets. We found ourselves lodged in a small, filthy room with a peruvian military immigration guard on leave, hammocks, mosquitos, rats, cochroaches and a chorus of dog fights all night long. Upon early rising the next day, and a fried fish and papas breakfast, we nearly emptied our pockets to pay for the gasoline to get us the hell out of Ecuador and into Pantoja where we could get a Peruvian entry stamp in our passports. This ride was brisk, and our driver Juan Carlos drove us purposfully into some river bushes numerous times to collect small fruits which look like green beans and taste like sugar water in cotton, mmm. As we were occupied in the bushes, with VERY big braches looming around our heads- so that we had to dodge under, over and around as the river current pulled us along- a storm rolled in and Chuzo (Juan Carlos) pushed the motor to the metal as we screeched into Pantoja around noon.

Pantoja has no streets. Being so far upstream on the Rio Napo, there are no vehicles, and villagers were working hard at carving their canoes on the shore. We hiked up a long hill to immigration as the rain came pouring down. We have more luggage now than ever because of all our ¨neccessaries¨ (primarily 20 liters of agua and crackers) which really arent all that neccessary for the jungle after all (rubber boots, mosquito nets, pots and pans, bowls, cups, towels). We found ourselves sleeping on the Lancha which had only just arrived a few minutes before us. This was lucky in some regards. Sometimes travelers wait weeks for a ride to Iquitos. Also, it was a free place to sleep. BUT the banos are in horrible condition, and by the time the Jeisawell set sail on Thurday morning, I was already sick of her. One day I awoke at first light to someone sweeping, only to realize in my groggy-headed haze that they were pushing blood maggots off the floor and overboard, sort of. Those nasty critters were EVERYWHERE, including my socks which I had lazily left on the floor the previous night.

As we sailed southwards, the lancha stopped at every jungle establishment for cargo. Cargo in the jungle means pigs, pigs, pigs, chickens, turtles, corn, bananas, pigs, pigs, Oxen, ducks, roosters, pigs, and pigs. The smell was overwhelming. The screams of the animals was horrifc. I tossed in the cold jungle air enlessly through every night. Hammocks were crammed one right next to other, I had not two, but four sleeping partners. A person on every side of me, spooning my head, shoulder, hips, and feet. Food was served in the gallows near the pigs, and right across from the mess of a bathroom. Fish guts and maggots littered the floor, and even local villagers made clear their protests by refusing to eat those meals cooked of river water on the worst lancha in the Amazon.

I spent my time drinking aguardiente mixed with an orange crush type soda or citrus tonic water. I would climb onto the roof (though it was speedily filling up with chickens in cages, and the metal was too hot on their feet to avoid their rampant rejections of squakings and cockadoodledoos). I took pictures, observed cargo loading methods (nothing like watching a village full of men, plus the ship crew, and captain haul an oxen across a small wooden plank suspended 4 feet in the air above the river from the grassy bank), talked with my friend Nara from Iquitos who is a biology major at University, crochet with llama yarn bought at the Latacunga, Ecuadorian market, read Mary Oliver, and then mixed another drink.

We evacuated the lancha on Saturday evening just aftersundown. It was a nice farewell. Nara and I sat on the roof, looking at the vast variety of stars in the southern hemisphere, and chatting together of Spanish and English phrases.

Santa Clotilda is another jungle town, smaller than Coca, and larger than Pantoja. There was a single motorcycle who navigated these streets among the scattered ramblers of the sidewalks of the evening town frollick. We stayed for free with our hammocks in the loft above a wonderful little family restaurant. They fed us well, and we spent a day taking pictures, exploring the networking pathways through palms, old fountains, covered bridges, along the river, and around a plaza in the hot hot sun. The evening held magic for me as I found some neighborhod children to play at dancing with, and then a friendly face from the lancha to meander a bit down the main strip with her three small children.

From Santa Clotilde we found ourselves disembarking on another speedboat, smaller than the rapido out of Coca, but much larger than the hand carved canoe from Nuevo Rocafuerte. This trip was 5 hours to Masan, and I sat next to a large spider.

Masan was an unintersting little town, hot, and covered with some kind of workforce who were singing near the docks. This is where I met Anderson. He is a driver of a mototaxi. A motorcyle with a trailer attached at the back for a seat. He took us on one of the funnest rides Ill ever have. It was winding sidewalks, poorly maintained with potholes and half paved with rocks and dust. The 20 minutes we held on to our bags in the back of his cab were spinning with banana trees, jungle ferns, thatched huts, and villagers, then a darker part of the forest, into sunlight, and around a bend to Indiana where I saw the Amazon river for the very first time, flowing strongly, and pushing huge masses like islands along in her current.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

So long! Coca, Ecuador

Our final goodbyes are to Ecuador this evening. This Sunday we spent in some relaxation amid the horrendous heat as we got most our supllies taken care of yesterday. We meandered across the river past military residencies, hospitals, spiritual alters, and other establishments. There was a breif moment (very breif) of solitude over a bridge of a Rio Napo tribuatry. Then we hopped on a bus conveniently rolling and bumping along. We hurried through afternoon market crowds and visited some monkeys who I am quite fond. They loiter in the treetops of the walk along the river. There are a variety of different species (five maybe), and they allow me to hold them, pet them, and play with their fingers. One monkey fell in love with me, grabed my breast one moment, and challenged Manuel or anyone else close-by with snarling teeth and monkey pounces.
We have grown accustomed to the places we inhabit here. After changing hotel yesterday, because our bed broke for no good reason, we find ourselves closer to the river and the places we enjoy eating out (as we have no kitchen argh!) There is a small bar with sidewalk stools, mirrors, fresh air, good tunes, and a gritty old sign up on top. We sip gin and tonics between meals, and eat at a restaurant with friendly owner for tipica breakfast and lunch. Our dinner spot has open fire grill, and manuel ate some kind of foot tonight. The pickins are slim, but my heart has grown a deep fondness for Coca despite.
We leave on a canoe for Puerto Rocafuerte early tommorrow morning, and will spend some time in the jungle away from civilization for a little while. Wish us luck!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Into the bush of Rio Napo

We are currently in Tena, Ecuador, hoping to get a bus for the wet and muddy journey to Coca. From there we are hiring lanchas (cargo boats) to cross the border into Peru and experience the Amazon Rio. There is little information on how to do this, and local touring companies (who charge about $400-$800 for 5 nights a little ways downstream) make it seem unfathomable. Not for danger reasons like the guerillas we avioded in Putamayo, Colombia, but simply becuase of transport unpredictability. We have yet to finish purchasing important supplies like rubber boots, hammicas, thick clothing to guard against insects, and drinking water, but hope to catch a Monday boat to Puerto Rocafuerte, the easiest leg of the journey. Wish us luck, and I look forwad to seeing you all again in the comforts of homeland and my beloved Yuba River.

Check to see a map of our goal.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On the Zig Zag

We have been traveling along some zig zags for weeks now. I left off in Medellin, where we caught a bus towards Neiva, Colombia at the end of January. The journey took us through towns of Rio Negro, Manizales, Ibague, hitting the highways on either side like mirrors- we bounced back and forth. Twelve hours later, as the light of the day was fading, we found ourselves passing through a snall town with an enourmous head on the street. With the rising of daylight we caught the first Collectivo to San Augustin, where we spent 5 wonderful days riding horses in the ancient ruins along the green farmland hills of Colombia. Then we made our way to Popayan. The road was not long, but tortuous as it was unpaved, and made me realize the purpose behind those bra things I dont wear. The landscape was unlike any other I had ever imagined. We were climbing higher, and higher still, into the tall valleys of green rolling hills and granite creeks. Above us, were always more cerros with cascading waterfalls in all directions. The agricultural patterns were like surreal quilts, and I felt I had fallen into the mastery of some painter, and another time.
We rested in Popayan for three nights, and our residence Casa Familiar was also home to some Washington kids we had met in Medellin, and a man from Cornwall who had biked from Ecuador. It is a friendly colonial town, with white washed streets, and beautiful bridgeways. We did a daytrip to the village of Coconuco, where we hiked 5 km to some hot springs with a spirit guide perro, who we named Cascada.
We left Popayan, not ready to turn in direction of Bogota or Quito, and our wills pulling us towards more countryside.
We stayed a night in the Parque nacional Purace near the Volcan. At this point we were at unbeleivably high elevation (5000 meters) and though we aquired a bonita- unique cottage with fireplace (complete with work horse for neighbor, who galloped back and forth through the night), we were unable to find large enough branches for a decent fire, and huddled together throughout the night, leaving at first light for the long hike back down to the road, breath still showing like clouds in our faces. We waited at the edge of a family´s land who came out to spend some time with us in the sunlight. They had many puppies running amuck, and the mother´s name was Lise.

The bus picked us up at 10 am and we continued to La Plata, yet another Zig to add to the Zag of our journies. From La Plata, we found a collectivo to San Andreas de Pisimbala, which is no easy feat as the road from La Plata streches back towards Popayan, and the road to Tierradentro Parque goes nowhere but there. We found ourselves bobbing on the edge of a truckbed with dust like burningman on our skin, hair, clothes. The veiws were again amazing, and I kept thinking to myself, This is what I thought traveling would be!
We were quite happy in this small village. Staying four nights at Los Lagos as the only guests of a family run establishment. They kept many birds in Bambu cages, who did a remarkable effort of keeping the area mosquto free. There an enchanted granite river winding itself through the town, which we took upon ourselves to discover first hand, all its crevices and water falls. Contently rock hopping through the heat of the day, we celebrated Manuels 26th birthday on Saturday, over morning Pancakes, and a nice dinner with the family at La Posada, a beautiful family -crafted Bamboo restaurant. The musuems at the Tierradentro parque were wonderfully cared for, and they even let me touch many of the ceramic and woven artifacts! The trails for hiking in the surrounding hilsides numerous, so we treated ourselves to some locally produced Coca Vino as we hunted out ancient burial sites to visit the dark underground tombs.
We left Tierradentro early Sunday morning before first light. The road back to Poppyan was again full of stunning veiws, rich farmlands, and an overwhelming amount of Cascadas pouring forth from the top of valleysides and into wonderful little gurgling creeks that rambled through pasters and feilds.
We hit another Zag in Popayan that morning as we found a bus Southwards towards the Equater. Taking the Pan American highway until evening to the crummy little town of Pasto, where I again received another dose of horrid food poisening. Next morning we caught an early cab to the bus terminal in search of a collectivo. As we were getting ready to cross the border, we were trying to use what little pesos we had left so as to aviod lousy exchange rates like in the past.
The dieties were tailing us as we pulled into Ipiales, and fond a colectivo immediatly headed for Las Lajas. This was a Pueblo made of fairytales. Plaques covered the stone Mountain from pilgrimages to the site to celebrate and give thanks for miracles tribuated to the Virgin Mary who is said to live on site. There is a majestic castle (iglesia) built into the mountainside, complete with waterfalls, raging river, idigenous trails, flighty-dancing pigeons, altars, and llamas. We stayed the night at Louisa´s La Pastoral, an amazing grounds with onsite preist and church, aching hardwood floors, hot water, rose gardens, and spectacular veiws of the castle.
Next morning we crossed the border into Ecuador, twice. The cabby dropped us off on the other side, so we cleverly walked back to Colombia for our exit stamps before getting our official entry.

Upon arrival into the town of Tulcien Terminal, there was an eery emptiness. Buses were running around the block competely empty. None of the ticket offices were selling tickets. This was so dramatically different from the hayday of Colombia terminals where every movement of the eyes attracts someones attencion to shout a town or destination at you and pull you to their company. We dicided it was best to stay close to a smallish posse of Ecuadorians who where standing outside the terminal fense. Collectivos were all displaying the name of some town along a coastal unpaved road through supposed guerilla territories. We waited. And waited. Then waited. I talked to a few locals who also wanted to get to Quito. They were exasperated, saying Seis dolares! -the usual rate along the Pan American. The Collectivos wanted ten, for not even the direction of Quito. A destination where we would most assuredly have to walk through stormy hilsides at least 5 miles, and three of vehicles worth of fees. We found some surfers who thought the collectivos where headed a good way for them, closer to the coast. No comaraderi there. Then an Austrian fellow came by, having found a single bus that was destined for Quito through Putamayo territory in the Orient later in the afternoon. With only minimal hesitation we took this opportunity, and found ourselves in Quito at about five thirty this morning, after another unexpected 15 hours on the bus sitting immediately next to an ear peicing shreiking brat-child, over unpaved roads, beautiful countryside, along more zig and zags, up and down painful elevations, bus wheels slipping through at least 3 large creeks, constant hold ups for narrow roadways and large vehicles in either direction- and onwards, towards my current whereabouts. Apparently there is some striking happening with government employees. It is unclear whether all of the Pan American through Equador is closed, or if it was only that section.
I havent explored this city yet, but our hostel, LÁumberge, is promising, with 4 creaky flights of stairs leading to our lodging, small courtyard, hot hot water, kitchen, internet, restaurant, pool hall, and beautiful veiws from the shower.
A whole new country (except the intriguing Banos region, which has been evacuated due to a recent eruption this past week), and some lucky zig zags to boot. My love to all.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ciao, Medellin!

Medellin is a burst of enthusiasm hidden in its seams of contemporary architecture, progressive art, experimental theater, and high ambitions for the future. Actually, this city is so ambitious, it has mastered a form of time travel. The local guidebooks for tourists denotes places like a butterfly house, aquarium, interactive exhibit, theaters, gardens, and other things that do not exist yet! Yet, this has not stopped us from enjoying our time here greatly. We have been occupying our time with free shows at the Lido teatro in Parque Bolivar. Their revenue encompasses events from ballet to african to Colombian Antioquia folk dance (check for insight). There are also jazz, concerto, mambo, and salsa concerts. We even caught a French anime flick. The local Metro has taken us from the MAM (Museo Artiste Moderno) to the Cisneros parque with luminated pillars and a majestic biblioteca. We walked among Botero´s voluptuous sculptures, and smelled the paint of Diego Rivera. There was live mariachi music at our tiny Palm Tree Hostel, and dancing in the Lido to African Contemporary Spanish drumming and choreography. We climbed the Nutibara Hill whilst admiring the 1983 Modern art installations, then slid back down on marble slides. We have footed across the city to lounge in the Parque de los Pies Descalzos (barefoot park) with bamboo forests, zen sand garden, artistic and interactive water fountains, foot jacuzi, and high beches to swing you feet while you rest! I was even infected with some tonsil eating virus, and Manuel labored over my every need for six days. Now that I am back on my toes, grimacing at Bull fights, and drinking champagn we are getting our bags zipped up and our bums on the bus again. I´ve added more to my pictures, so look again. Ciao-

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Me amor Medellin, Colombia

Medellin is fantastic. It has much of the beauty found throughout San Fransico (various patterns of cobbled steets and wide walkways, streetside venues, transit, hustle and bustle), yet cleaner, and full of a people unique to the Colombian ways. Everyone here seems to eat the same thing. We havent found one restaurant in Colombia that serves anything gringo. Everywhere is horribly embellished sweet pastries, deep fried cheese balls and empanadas, Fresh Jugo is easily available, but the popular meat is chorizo (a mix of pollo and carne res leftovers), eggs are prepared icky, and tipica soup contents are mysterious but nourishing. I am living off fruit and beans. Had an alergic reaction to suscreen (its getting close to summer and hard to stay away from direct sun), even though I finally found some ´hypo allergenic´stuff. After a couple days of suffering I gave in and bought some antihistamine and hydrocortisone cream. My lips are cracked, swollen, but itching less and less. My spoken spanish is improving rapidly. Still having trouble understanding people. I think this is mostly due to moving from region to region so frequently that my ear hasnt had time to define regional dialects.
Our journey from Cartegena led us first to Teganga. A beach community near Parque de Tyrona (which we never visited due to over pricing and the crowd of tourists flocking that way). However, it was the fates which led us there, as our bus took three times as long as it should have out of Cartegena. We didnt arrive in Santa Marta until after dark and thought it best to just find a hotel close by. As I hailed a cab a friendly face obstructed my vision and said "Are you headed to Tenganga?" With a look at Manuel I agreed, and off we went with two odd Norweigen folk. The hostel they had "booked" for the night (no one in central or south america holds reservations, they only tell you they are holding a room, and if your lucky, it is still there when you arrive. Your best bet is to call the morning you need a room, and hope that if someone checks out that day, the establishment will keep you in mind) had no room, so we met up with a local boy who walked us a couple km from town through the dark dirt road neighborhood of the locals. Women crossed in front of us with red buckets piled high with fresh fish on their heads, and children danced in the street holding dead fish by their tails. Artists sold their jewelry on the sidewalk, and eventually we came to our lodging. It was a thatched roof hut complete iwth mouse, and lo n behold, our amigos from the Stahratte, plus one Colombian New Yorker, were sitting outside drinking vodka-soda mixes. We all went out to eat (after doing some macreme with Irena) and then dancing at a live reggea show. It was a full and laughable evening. I hope to meet up with more friends along the way. Having familiar people around boosts our spirits and livens our moods.
We arrived in Medellin after a days journey from Teganga in the Carribean coast on January 12th at about 5:30 AM. We waited in the bus station until almost seven for the sun to rise, then failed to find the Metro and caught a cab to the central area where we found Hostel Odeon, which isnt really a hostel, but doubles as an hourly hotel for the local nightlife. It is situated off Parque Bolivar within easy walking distance to various teatros and the ongoing festival of lights on Calle del Playa. Spent the day exploring parques and trying to find the metro. This transport system in invariably like the SF Bart, but cleaner, cheaper, more efficient, with more art in the terminales. You can ride over the city center and enjoy impressive veiws of Cathedrals and glorious brick/sculpture architecture.
This morning we went to San Antonio Parque, situated near the museum housing numerous works by Botero (Mom, remember the copy of one of his paintings I gave you?). Posted within the whole area are many huge sculptures of his. Included here is a photo of one that survived a bombing durring the revolution. Botero insisted on it remaining intact in its current state to remind the citizens of the devestating violence and cost of war. To emphasize this point futher, an second installation of this same peice is juxtaposed. Later we went to the theater and saw a free showing of a French anime sci fi flick in spanish. Then we halled our bulsas to the Metro and transferred succesfully to the Suramericana area of Medellin. Here, there is Palm Tree Hostel. We are thinking of spending some time here in Medellin. It is a very exciting city, with great transit, daily street cleanings, very little touristas, a lot of art and theater, and now we have a kitchen.

My love to you all. Stay in touch! Im curious who reads this.....Light and bliss---

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Land ho! Cartegena

It took five nights over seas to reach our destination, Cartegena, from San Blas, Panama aboard the Stahlratte 40´ sailboat. Everyone (crew and passengers) were sick. The crew implied it was the worst journey in over twenty years. They had trouble steering the ship with rocking back and forth. What a ride! It took a full day to abort the plagued ship, check in with immigration, find hotel with affordable accomodation, and then retreive our passports which had been witheld till that evening (why!?) It was Dia Del Torro so town was festive- and packed. There were wonderful native dancers in a nearby Parque in El Central (Old town). More filthy cobbled streets, old colonial architecture crumbling under car exhaust, Mambo music, central squares of respite but a whole new territory to cover through South America. Our Hotel Familia has kitchen, so we are pleased. Today we move Norte towards Parque Nacional Tyrona on the Carribean coast. Small fishing villages, jungle, desert, and beahes. Finnally found some pretty string at a little friendly shop and am going to make sea shell things for sale, hopefully. Maybe earn our air ticket to Buenas Aires that we cant afford!

Congratulations to Cynthia and Pedro on their new little Neva child!

And all my love to Grandpa- who passed on this January the the 28th at 10pm. I love you. I miss you. May you rest peacefully- and journey safely by my side. Adventure for adventure. Playing bones on the sands of distant seas--Your gonna love it!