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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Goodbye to Terry

Life is fragile. This is why we decided to quit working and try to enjoy it, even if we went broke doing it. No one knows when the show will end. Once I took a 10 foot fall off the deck of our boat onto payment while it was in dry dock. The only thought that flashed through my head was I can't be paralyzed because I haven't done anything yet. All the work and preparation to enjoy sailing seemed to flush through my brain as a painful tragedy.

Fortunately I can walk. Fortunately Sherrell survived cancer. Fortunately we try to remind ourselves how fleeting life is.

Sometimes the reminders come in other forms. We met Terry Bingham and Tammy Woodmansee both sailors on a boat Secret-o-Life in the middle of a dusty field of Mexico. They were working on their boat trying to get it back in the water. Since then we bumped into them several times and they tried to catch up to us while we were touring Peru. In retrospect we are sad we never could seem to be in the same place at the same time.

While they were traveling Terry had stomach pains, which led to hospitalization in La Paz, Boliva. They then found he had a bad case of pancreatitis and a blood infection. He fought hard and was improving, but a sudden cardiac attack took him from us -- a shock to everyone.

Terry will be missed by all and our hearts go out to Tammy.

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
--Emily Dickinson

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Photos from Peruuuu

What happens when you don't have fiberglass, but you still want to surf? These guys built little reed boats in Huachacho to fish from and surf the waves.

In Lima we toured the downtown and the underground catacombs. Here's the presidents house where they do the changing of the guard ceremony (ala Britain) at noon.

In Arequipa we toured a massive convent that was its own city.

Lake Titicaca was a world within itself. These people created new food sources, they built their own floating islands and constructed their houses with entirely new materials and methods. They did this to escape the Inkas and other hostile crowds. While the area was touristy, it was incredible to see how they built themselves a new world. And I was transfixed by the puma boats.

Of course we had to take the classic Machu Picchu photo from the guardhouse. That peak in the background is called Wyana Picchu and we climbed up that too. All in all we took about 200 photos and saw miles and miles of Peru. While the trip was really expensive (for our budget) we had a great time and Sherrell's mom was able to see how the people on the bottom half of the world live.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu

Since I last wrote, we've ridden a lot of buses, seen a lot of sites and lost a fair bit of sleep. We did the whirl-wind tour of Arequipa which had some spectacular views around the city and an huge Monastery.

At Lake Titicaca I got to fulfill my biggest wish -- riding in a reed boat that had a large puma head fashioned on the bow. Now who wouldn't be obsessed and travel 80+ hours on a bus to do something like that? The world that these people have built out of reeds is something that cannot be described. And the computer I'm typing on doesn't have a USB port so I can't upload any photos yet...sorry.

In Cusco we found the only Indian restaurant in Peru and we've eaten there twice already. We also toured a lot of places that were outside of the overpriced multi-site tourist ticket. This tourist ticket is like Disneyland, buy the pricey ticket and go on any ride you want, even if you just want to ride the rollercoaster. So needless to say we don't have the time to make this tourist ticket worthwhile and I don't think it would be anything like riding a rollercoaster. We made the most of what we could see and avoided the sites requiring the tourist ticket.

But let's get to the reason we came this far: Puma Shaped Reed Boats. Oops no, I mean Machu Picchu. What makes Machu Picchu special is not so much the stone work (you can't spit without hitting a stone ruin in Peru), but the location of the ruins. Deep inside a cloud forest canyon, hidden among 1000+ foot vertical peaks is Machu Picchu. Just taking a photo here is overwhelming because you are submersed 360 degrees in extreme beauty. I wish I was making this up and could tell you that the $120 we spent per person on the train, bus and ticket to get in wasn't worth it. But it was. To top it off the ruins are impressive. Compared to Kuelap (see the earlier post) Machu Picchu is bigger and more finely constructed but much newer. The Inkas (not usually spelled with a "c" down here) took extreme care in building all the structures at Machu Picchu

We took the standard Machu Picchu photos from the guardhouse and we'll post photos soon. We were also among the day's select 400 people allowed to climb Wayna Picchu a spire that towers 1100 feet over Machu Piccu Getting permission meant boarding a bus at 5:30 am and racing through Machu Picchu to be among the first 400. We were there at 6:40 am and were about number 340...phew!

Today we travel to Nasca to see the spooky lines mentioned in the latest Indiana Jones movie, for those of you whose knowledge of pop culture exceeds that of archeology.

Then on to Lima and back to Ecuador and our poor lonely kitties!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sleeping it off in Chachapoyas

After about 31 hours of bus travel from Ecuador we reached Chachapoyas. This town is deep in the Northern Peruvian Andes and is the center of a relatively unknown set of ruins. There are about 18 sites around the area and the 3rd highest waterfalls in the world.

So you´d think we´d be in heaven, hiking and seeing these sites, but no. The diseases bred on the buses overcame us and we spent about 3 days sleeping and trying to get well. We did pry ourselves out of the room enough to see some bits of the town and to visit Kuelap.

Kuelap is one of the biggest and oldest lost cities anywhere. After seeing it and the work that went into building it, I´m surprised it is not as popular as Machu Picchu. It must be the hard bus rides that stop the tourists, or just the lack of education. Check out some basics and photos of Kuelap for yourself Here´s a photo of one of the three entrance passages into the city.

Now we are in Lima and Sherrell's mom arrived late last night. We are still a little sick, but feeling better. The additional 27 hours of buses to get here didn´t help. There are a lot more tourists in this part of the country, often dubbed the Gringo Trail. Not a lot of Americans though. I assume they are still suffering from disillusions of a falling economy. The international crowd is filled with Dutch, French, English and of course German. We´ve met a few Mexicans which is always fun and several other people from around S. America.

Because of all the tourists, it has been challenging finding places to stay so we´ve had to actually start planning ahead and booking things -- something that is difficult for us to do. Not the planning, but booking ahead. We prefer to stay in places that are super cheap but not nasty. When you book ahead you can get cheap rooms, but sometimes it is hard to avoid nasty. We´ll just roll the dice and see how things work out.

First on the list is Arequipa where we will hang out and do a couple of tours before moving on to Puno where we will tour lake titicaca. After that its on to Cusco which is a high city up in the sky -- and oh so cold! We´ll probably try to book a tour package from Cusco through the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well and we return to Lima in time for Sherrell´s mom´s flight!