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We are Familia FIG. We are a bi- lingual, blended family. Belalu was diagnosed at 9 months with hypochondroplasia.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Last post in South America

Today's a bittersweet day in Lima. We're heading out tonight- well, the flight leaves at 6 am tomorrow morning, so we're off to the airport at 2:30. The plan is to have dinner, go to Maria's house and then to a jazz club until 1:30 or so and then get our stuff at the hostel and jump in a van to the airport. Since about half of us were up until 3:30 last night, it shouldn't be too hard to stay awake.

Some of the surfing guys took us out on the town last night- eleven of us crammed into an old woodie and toured the city. Lima is a huge place, and the only local transport options are taxi or buses and vans called combis that are usually extremely crowded- we've had to sit on each others' laps at times to fit us all in with the rest of the riders. Therefore, it's hard to really get a feel for the city because you can't walk from one neighborhood to the next. So, it was great to have our own private tour van, even if it was as crowded as the public option. The guys were a lot of fun, too, and the students always appreciate the opportunity to meet the locals.

I love how Lima is on the coast, and even though the winters here are overcast, the temps have been decent. I spent the day checking out Barranco, the "Greenwich Village of Lima". I feel, however, that I have a lot more to explore here in terms of the neighborhoods and the food. It's been a great introduction, though, and certainly whet my appetite for more visits.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Surfing Update

The water wasn't as cold as I had been dreading, though it wasn't really warm either. The ocean was choppier than they had hoped today, so we got quite the initiation into the sport. But the most exciting part was our teacher: I forgot to mention this morning that our teacher was none other than the seven-time national surfing champion of Peru, Magoo de la Rosa, who also was 2007's ISA's World Masters Champion. We all feel like we have been battered by the ocean today, but most of us got up at least once, which left us with a good feeling. Laura, the only one of the group who had never been in any ocean ever actually had the winning wave-catch of the day- she looked like a total pro. It was a really fun, exhausting day. The students just prepared dinner, so I'm off to chow!

Lima, Peru

We've reached our final destination before heading back. At the moment we're waiting for a van to come pick us up and take us to the beach for surfing lessons. It's winter here, so while I am looking forward to the experience, not so much the cold water that surely awaits. The other day in Huacahina we got a sort-of pratice session with sandboarding in the dunes. There was a wild buggy ride, too. It's a cute little oasis town with some great food right next to Ica, another small town. The hostel had a pool, and the weather was actually hot and sunny, so we had a proper couple days of recuperation from the Machu Picchu hike.

Yesterday, Maria (Whose blog you can read at the right), a friend of Jen, our guide, took us to some private showrooms for local clothing designers- young girls who are just starting up here in Lima. We got some really cute stuff for super great prices, and it was a lot of fun to get in a little retail therapy. Last night we went to a salsa place with a live band, and I had a lot of fun watching all the really good dancers.

I really like Lima, and wish we were going to be here more time, but not if it meant going home later. I think everyone's ready to get back at this point. It's been a great trip with a really fun group.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back in Cusco

We all made it back from the 5-day trek to Machu Picchu. It was especially hard for a few people who were suffering from major stomach issues, but everyone made it through. (Even if they had to ride a mule at times). Thankfully, I´ve been feeling well and though it was a challenging few days, I´m glad I did it. The biggest surprise is after climbing the mountain to get to Machu Picchu and finding a huge line of people who had riden the bus up to the top, who come up to me but Christy Ortega, my friend and former co-worker from Cadiz two summers ago! It was crazy because I haven´t had internet, so I didn´t get her blog message that she was around, so it was a total shock for me, but it was great to see her and meet her guy, Elliot.

Machu Picchu was amazing, and the journey to get there made us appreciate it all the more. We arrived at the top in time to see the sun come up over the mountains. I´m still taking it all in, so I´ll leave it at that for the moment.

We´re back in Cusco for the day. We´ll be taking an overnight bus to Ica this evening and will be in Ica for a couple of days, where it should be warmer (and maybe have a hot shower? I haven´t had a decent one since Argentina). I don´t know if I´ll have internet there, but on the 19th we head to Lima, Peru, the last stop of the trip. I´m still having a great time, but I will also be happy to head back and see my husband on our anniversary. So, my next writing place will probably be in Lima. Have a great week until then!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cusco, Peru

Tomorrow we are up at 3:45 am to start our treck to Machu Picchu. We have to take a 3-hour bus ride, eat breakfast, and then the walking begins. The first night we´ll be camping at the base of a glacier mountain, and it will probably be a near-death experience for me, as it is supposed to be our coldest night of the trip. The next day is the hardest climbing-wise, as it is four hours straight up to 4,700 meters at the highest point. The following three days will be warmer and easier in comparison, so we just have to get through the first night and second day and things will be good. The plan is to be the first ones to Machu Picchu on the fifth day, which means getting up at 5 or so, I believe. I´m really excited for this!

Yesterday we did a 6-hour hike in the hills outside of Cusco to aclimate to the height and the physical exertion. It felt great to get out and walk all day, though the altitude knocks the wind out of you as soon as you start to go uphill.

The city of Cusco is a good size- it reminds me a lot of Caceres, Spain and I recently found out why. Pizarro, who conquered the city from the Incas, had the main plaza built to look like the one in Trujillo, his home town and a hop skip and jump from Caceres. We visited the market today for some goodies to take home and then treated outsevles to a 1-hour massage for $7. I´m heading back to the hostel to pack and get some sleep. After feeling a bit under the weather yesterday, I´m back to feeling 100% and ready for this next undertaking!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Some photos from Argentina

I`ve had a minute to check out some blogs, and Gaby`s blog has a couple of photos of our afternoon in Villa Ocampo (Hadas y Flores- it`s on the right sidebar).

I`m almost up to an hour, so I have to close this session. A quick apology regarding all the mis-spellings and typos in these entries- time is short and I imagine you get the gist, even if things aren`t perfect.

I`ll write more about Peru later today or tomorrow.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


I´m back in civilization for a while! Whew! It´s been an eye-opening past couple of weeks. We eneded up spending three days in the desert, mostly in Bolivia, rather than Chile. The bus ride through the Andes from Argentina to Chile was amazing, and surprisingly not scary (I had visions of curvy dirt roads with steep drop offs- those came later, in Bolivia ;) I loved San PĂȘdro de Atacama, a tiny town in the middle of the desert with the best food EVER. I had Quinoa with sweet tomatoes and mushrooms, and most places were open-roofed with at least one or two fire pits scattered around the local. Everyone was wearing their llama hats and the ambiance was cozy. I´d love to go back there with Juan and just spend a week trying all the great restaurants and doing fun desert activities during the day, like sandboarding, geyser and salt flat visiting, bouldering, etc.

We then spent three days traveling via 4X4 jeep through the Bolivian desert. It was not what I had expected at all. First of all, it was soooo cold!! Although the sun was shining, the altitude was so high and the winds were just ferocious... But in spite of the cold, we all got into our siwmsuits and jumped into some natural hot springs one day while waiting for lunch to be prepared. I was quite proud of myself, considering how adverse I am to the cold... That first night, everyone but me had an awful headache from the altitude, and several people even got sick. I had started taking my altitude pills that day, and they obviously worked! Some other highlights of the desert: gorgeous lagoons in shades of green, blue, red, and white. (The colors are due to the mineral content). Contrasting with the color of the lagoons were the pink and white flamingoes that migrate there in winter from Chile. We also visted the Salt flats of Uyuni, which is an enormous white desert of salt that stretchs for miles. In the middle, there is a funky island full of cacti- a very surreal scene. The other unexpected aspect of desert travel was the constant shaking- rather than the fine, smooth sand you imagine in the Sahara, for example, it was rough and made for a very shaky ride. That, coupled with the worst bus ride ever from Uyuni to La Paz, really shook us all up- after four days of constant shaking and rocking in a vehicle, you felt like your brain had surely leaked out your ear.

While La Paz was some of the students´ favorite city we´ve visited, I was ready to get to the pampas, in the northeastern part of the country. However, things got a little complicated due to some local referendums that made traveling by plane (our original intention) impossible. So, it was back on a Bolivian bus for 18 hours through the Andes. Let me sumarize this experience by saying that there is no lighting, heat, or bathrooms on the bus, and stops are almost nonexistant. Add to this the fact that almost all the roads in Bolivia are not paved and you have constant shaking (not helping the no-bathroom situation). Oh, and the curvy road only wide enough for one vehicle, even though there is constant two-way traffic. So, every few feet the bus would have to stop as close to the edge as possible to let a truck or car by. And, no, there are not guardrails. I wasn´t super worried because the driver went really slowly, but I did breathe a sigh of relief when we arrived in one piece to Rurrenabanque, our jumping-off point for the pampas.

The pampas of Bolivia reminded me of the bayou outside of New Orleans my family visited a few years ago. After a three-hour jeep ride down yet another non-paved road, we got into a boat (finally! no more jostling around!) and saw tons of alligtors, crocodiles, caimans, a huge variety of birds and cranes, the largest rodent in the world, called the capavera, I believe, which I actually found quite cute. We spent a couple of nights in a camp by the side of the river and went anaconda hunting (we just observed, not to eat) and swam with the pink river dolphins (though most of us who went in were more proud of the fact that they were also croco-infested waters). We also fished for pirahanas and got the eat them for lunch. I caught three really small ones, so I threw them back, but there was still enough for everyone to have a fish at lunch. There wasn´t much meat on them, actually. The highlight for me was on the way back, down the dirt road again, we saw the strangest figure in the middle of the road- it looked from far away like a small man crawling slowly across the road, but it was a sloth!!!! We wanted the other jeep behind us to see it, so the guide picked it up so it wouldn´t crawl away, and a couple of us took turns holding it while we waited for the other group, who turned out to have a flat tire. It was the coolest experience ever- he looked like he was smiling the whole time and he just moved his arms around a bit, ever so slowly. It really hit home how vulnerable they are- he had no defense at all to protect himself against us, and luckily we weren´t out to hurt him.

The last stop in Bolivia was Lake Titicaca. By then, all the constant cold and rough travels had worn me out and I was exahusted. A couple of us had to take a day just to sleep- I literally had no energy left at all. I had lao spicked up an annoying cough i´m still trying to get rid of. But the next day I felt great, and we did a 6-hour hike around the Island of the Sun, believed to be the birthplace of the Inca civilization. It was my favorite part of Bolivia- I loved the island and the lake was just gorgeous. My foot was totally fine, by the way.

We arrived here in Cuzco, Peru at midnight last night. I´ll save that for another entry, though.