Monday, April 14, 2014

10,000 photos + Best on the Web

Ok, so here's what happened. I was moments away from publishing the original post I had prepared for this week. Everything was all set to go, but something didn't feel right. I fought and fought with it for hours over the course of last week. Turns out returning from a four month trip with about 10,000 photos can cause one (me!) to act like a kid in a candy store. I looked at photos from Punta Tombo, then switched and looked at Torres del Paine photos, then switched and looked at Iguazu Falls photos.

As hard as I tried to prepare what I wanted to show this week, I wasn't giving the experience the justice it deserved. So I went for a walk, a fast walk because I am building up to running again, sweat a lot, and came to the conclusion I am missing something from what I wanted to show. We have just returned from an amazing four month journey traveling thousands of miles around South America and I still have hundreds of pictures and videos I have not even watched yet.

Aside from being excited about our photos, I also found out the camping article I wrote got voted Best on the Web by Cosford Caravans, a UK caravan and camping website. (It's towards the bottom as you scroll down under the 'Tents and Camping' category.) So if you are looking to gear up for the upcoming camping season, make sure you check it out so you are in the know!

If you do start enjoying the pleasures of long term camping, here is a look at what our life and transition has looked like back into domestic life:

Cleaning. We spent a lot of time cleaning all our gear. 

My sister asked how long her porch was going to look like this. It only took about two days to get everything dry.

We ate and drank a lot of food - like these jars of fresh squeezed juice. 

We had coffee brewed a way we had never tried before at a local coffee shop called Cafe Stream in Lewisburg, PA.

It was called the siphon method.

After the water boils, it get's sucked up into the cylinder on top...

...and then goes back down to the pot.

Then we all got to enjoy a cup of coffee with a cookie.

We spent time feasting and celebrating with our friends who are about to open their own restaurant, FLX Wienery in Dundee, NY. It will feature really amazing (we know, we were sampling lots of menu items!) burgers, dogs, beers and wines. It's a totally unique twist to hot dog joint and I can't wait to see it all in action. 

We spent time getting together with family and dressing up my sister's dog Max.

And we came back to Vermont just in time for mud season.

We got in after dark and didn't realize how soft the mud was to the basement door. Luckily we didn't get stuck.

I had to put my sandals on to cross the spring river that formed to make it to the compost pile. 

I fell through the ice a few times.

But luckily it was such a beautiful day out today, it didn't matter and the compost made it to the bin.

So as I get back into Inn Keeper mode, I will continue sorting through our best pictures and reflecting on how thankful we are for the safe and amazing adventure this past winter because right now,
 I am still speechless.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Back in the USA

I knew I would be in trouble when, on our last day walking around Buenos Aires in 65 degree F weather I needed my sweater. In my defense there was a slight windchill and I was in the shade. Now back in Western New York I feel like the abominable snowman with all my layers. I'm finding I need to budget more time into my day for the hassle of putting all these layers on, taking them off again and tying shoes! What is this business and time consuming process of tying shoes? What a luxury to simply slip on sandals.

Us wearing sandals (or no shoes at all) at Esteros del Ibera, Argentina.

Now, don't get me wrong. We had some pretty cold times on this South American adventure and in fact, the majority of this trip we have been in pants and a long sleeve top layer. Futaleufu, Puerto Natales, Cusco were all cold and it was really chilly in the end of the world at Ushuaia. We had to buy another sleeping bag and I wore every layer I had to bed. (Which camping tip: if you think you are going to sleep cold, put your rain clothes on and pull the hood up. I slept warm all night bundled up like that.)

Me sitting on what might be the shortest bench in the world in chilly Ushuaia

Frosty nights aside, in terms of weather the trip could not have been any better. We started off warm in Lima, Peru, got cold in Cusco, enjoyed shorts again for New Years in Iquique and wore pants and fleeces for most of the trip till the very end. But now it all means nothing - no one can see my tanned arms and we are back to freezing. I know, I know, almost everyone in the Northeast of New England, United States had one of the harshest, coldest winters on record. I'm not complaining, I'm just wearing a lot of clothes now.

As long as I have my happy morning cookies, I would never complain.

If your one of the lucky ones that was able to escape some of this bone chilling North American winter, good on you. If you are looking for somewhere warm to go you can always come next winter to South America or head down under and check out this article I wrote about Australia - one of my ultimate favorite destinations to visit. I can't believe almost two years has passed since living in Australia and I still love writing about that country so much. And also just like two years passed so quickly, these four months of travel have flown by and I find myself back in North America and soon back to Vermont.

Us at the Rochester airport. I am at least wearing socks with my sandals to ward off the cold.

As my body hopefully readjusts to this temperature, I am looking forward to sorting through over a 100 gigs of photos and video we took on this trip. I plan to fire up my Breville Barista 870XL and pull some late nights and early mornings to see all these amazing places we have been so fortunate to visit. In the meantime, adios to all the wonderful people we met in South America, and for those of us now in North America, let's hope spring comes early!

In case any of you forgot what grass, camping and nice weather are like, this green stuff is grass and I'm petting a very affectionate grey cat that adopted us for a few days. 

As Pat Coynroy said, "Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends... The mind can never break off from the journey." Indeed that is true. A big, big cheers and thanks for all of you who have followed along on this amazing journey, commented, enjoyed, shared our pictures and sent us private messages. We have read each and every one and sincerely thank you for your support. For us, the journey never stops, we simply transition to whatever is the next stage of life for us. Thank you so much for coming along.

Us at Machu Picchu, Peru.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Llama Legs in Chivay, Peru

We've spent a lot of time on buses in South America. And I love it. I love traveling by bus. Usually we get on a modern, long distance bus with cushy, reclining seats. We pack a bunch of snacks, healthy ones like fruit and nuts and sit back to enjoy the ride.

I love starring out the window, and to me, there is no tire of the passing scenery. So much of the southern part of South America is desert landscape and the space to me felt like an endless expanse ready to swallow me up and I was ready for it. Some travelers I talked to tired of the same passing landscape, yet I see an ever changing landscape, if even going from tiny scrub brush to bigger scrub brush. Similar to areas in Western Australia, we have always loved these big open spaces.

This was the drive to Chivay on our way to hike in the second biggest canyon in the world. Chivay may have been one of the cleanest, cutest little towns we went to and the drive there was indicative of the town vibe. If you ever get a chance to go, it's worth the effort. Here is what we saw...

The open road. 

With the vast landscapes, we could watch the snow capped mountains for hours. 

Mountains and mountains. 

Our bus would stop at a few select places so we could take photos. 

But it was cold! That is how we look when it's really cold outside. 

Yet, many people bear the cold to add a little rock to each of these cairns. 

But then we all run like these llamas back to the bus. 

Then within the same drive, we would end up in the hot desert again.

Here's Chris being entranced by the giant mountain of rock in front of him after hours of flat land. 

We stopped at a little cafe for a tea as the throat can get very dry traveling in these arid regions. 

Talk about fresh mint tea!

Then back on the bus to continue winding down to the town of Chivay.

What a nice welcome archway.

Chivay seemed to love cute archways and we had lunch under this one.

Look at that street! Not one piece of trash anywhere.

This just seemed like the happiest town ever.

Nice  statues.

A well constructed bridge we walked over... we could get a view of this tidy little town...until...

...we found a llama leg in the path.
We all laughed a little and didn't think too much about it.

We climbed this old lookout tower.

Then we started to wonder if this town could be like town from the comedy Hot Fuzz, where in this fictional movie every year the town of Sandford tries to uphold the perfect image of itself while competing for 'Village of the Year' but underneath there was a lot of shady business.

We got to check out these old huts.

We all kept walking around thinking of what a nice little town this was and then...

- we found another llama leg!

Could this be a coincidence or was there something else going on behind the scenes here?

We did find a body-less Jesus.

However crime did not seem to be too high as this was all a shop owner had to do to keep people from entering when they went on break.

As we observed town more, those folks seemed to simply look for logical solutions to problems. For instance instead of taking the time and energy to redo this entire light post that had shifted, they braced the bottom and put a rock under the pole. Presto viola!

Our conclusion finally amounted to this was nothing more than a town full of hard working people, growing crops like all these different varieties of potatoes.

We lined up for the bus.

Loaded up and headed off to Cabanaconde.

I had my head glued to the window to not miss a second of the passing scenery in Peru en route to Colca Canyon. The amount of land in Peru dotted with little herders shacks followed by small towns and every so often a bigger town is a sight to behold. If you find yourself in Peru going on some bus rides, lucky you. Sit back and enjoy the ride. 

* * *

If you go:

We only traveled a small bit of the map in Southern Peru and many time we asked around to find the 'tourist bus.' Often times we'd find a bus that was only a couple of soles more, would usually have a guide and the bus would make a few stops at some key places along the way. This was awesome because we had nice seats with windows (to enjoy all the sights!) and would have a chance to stop in a small little village, that otherwise we would never have a chance to visit without our own car. 

Some notable routes that we really enjoyed:

Cusco to Puno - We booked with and had one of our most favorite guides ever from the entire trip: Koko. He was a short, feisty and passionate Peruvian who spoke good English. We learned so much on that seven hour bus trip.  

Around Cusco, in general, there are a lot of tours you can book, which is just about the same price as taking the time to negotiate taxi fares to many of the surrounding ruins. Cusco is a place you can easily spend some time exploring the area. 

Puno to Chivay (photos in this post) we booked a 4M bus ($65 sole) directly through our Marlon's House Hostal and got picked up at the door.