Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Long time coming..

Dear Friends,
Although we may have promised frequent updates outlining our adventures and detailing cultural activities we have participated in I hope that you can understand that due to sheer laziness we have failed to update this blog since February.
Wayyyy too many fabulous things have happened since that fateful February date so I will just outline what we´ve done in point form:

-After leaving Mendoza Argentina we took a bus across the Andes ( scary hair pin turns on double decker bus, not enjoyable) and met Pablo and Gabriela in Santiago Chile. We stayed with this lovely couple for a week, enjoying becoming apart of their little family, swimming and relaxing by their pool and touring Santiago in fashion. Their friends kindly invited us to stay in their abode in Vina del Mar, a city by the sea and we enjoyed several days touring Vina as well as Valapariso ( a neighbouring harbour city) Food poisoning made for Sarah made the visit a little less enjoyable but who doesnt enjoy a good night with their head in the toilet?
- Onwards and upwards we spent a few nights in La Serena, then in the Elqui valley where we enjoyed star gazing and a horseback ride though the gorgeous dry sand mountains, vineyards and a picnic by a lovely stream.
- After a ridiculous amount of time on busses and in terminals we arrived in the oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama where we had an absolute ball swimming...well, floating in the salt lakes, sinking in the fresh water pools, posing on the salt flats and chatting with our tour group members. We also hiked to nearby ruins (we forgot to wear sunscreen...) and rode bikes to the Valley of Death, a fabulous ride and stunning views.
- We arrived in Tacna Peru, spent the day watching movies and walking around town then caught our flight to arrive in Cusco!!!! Here we met Jason and enjoyed a fabulous six days touring the city, hiking in ruins, playing card games ( five different nationalities represented means five different sets of rules!) and browsing in the multiple artisan markets.
- Kaya and I left the big city by local bus and arrived in Urubamba a small town in the Sacred Valley where we met Stelly´s highschool from Victoria and began our two week volunteer stint. Now, there is way too much to say about this absolutely AMAZING experience so I will say just that, it was AMAZING. Well, maybe a bit more. We helped the group of 18 grade 12 students and four awesome teachers construct a primary school as well as build clean air stoves in local communities. We went on treks, spent time in the local town square, enjoyed cultural activites, a weekend in Cusco - once last visit with Jason before he headed home - and much much more.
- Saddened by the end of our time in Urubamba we spent a few more days in Cusco before bussing towards Lake Titicaca where we spent a night on an island with a local family, visited a colony of floating islands made of reeds, dressed in local attire and swam in the freezing lake! The boat rides in between islands was very enjoyable and my personal favorite moment from the boat was when Kaya and I sat on the very front of the boat with the sun pouring down on us as we giggled and basked in the beauty of the surrounding water.
- Moving on to Bolivia we spent another night on the lake this time on the Island of the Sun. It poured rain. But we were able to enjoy a beautiful walk before the heavens opened.
- La Paz and a wild hostel made for a fun few days, we biked down Death Road and had an absolute BLAST! We made friends with Tam, Pao, Pedro, Alice, Adam and Vix and enjoyed several days of exploring and fun.

I have to go watch some Cholita wrestling now so Ill continue later!!!!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Funny Photo

An update from abroad!

A week and a half at spanish school reminded us how hard it is to learn a second language! Although we may have struggled to conjugate verbs we easily made friends with the other students. Ryan, Jenny, Ryan, Jennifer (apparently in the U.S. everyone has the same name…) Karen, Bob, Robert, Felipe, Andres and Guilherme became a fabulous group to spend time with on our ‘recess’, lunch breaks and after school.

While in Montevideo we visited historical sights, walked along the famous Rambla, ate enough gelato to sink a boat and viewed two amazing movies at the cinema. Sherlock Holmes blew our minds with its intricate details and suspensful plot line. Invictus was in a league of its own, our hearts were touched as we watched Nelson Mandela inspire his country and we left the theatre dreaming of better days –playing rugby professionally in South Africa.

On three different occasions we were lucky enough to have local guides show us their city. Alicia, Leo and Leo jr welcomed us into their home and were eager to share stories about Montevideo and memories of when Sarah’s family lived next door. It was exciting to see the former Gray household and visit the Hospital Italia where Sarah was born.

At the end of our two weeks we skipped a few days of classes and travelled up the coast to Paradise. Cabo Polonio is a small village owned by the Government, the approximately 60 permanent residents lease their small abodes. No further development is allowed to preserve the rustic feel of the village. Our hostel had only solar power electricity and a rain water and grey water system. The beach began at our bedroom door and continued on for miles becoming sand dunes in the distance. Our two days in heaven were spent exploring the rocky shores and sand beaches, searching for shells and watching sea lions. We explored the 129 year old light house and summited several sand dunes. On our first night we watched as the sun set on the west beach as the full moon rose over the east beach. Accompanying us on this amazing adventure were three Brasilian boys whom we had become friends with at the school. We had a fantastic time hanging out with Andres, Guilherme and the handsome Felipe, and look forward to visiting them in San Paulo.

On our way back to Buenos Aires we visited the old fashioned town of Colonia del Sacremento on the coast of Uruguay then traveled by boat across the river to the port in BA. Elena, a girl we had met back in Puerto Iguazu happily agreed to spend a day with us and we had a fabulous time. Walking around parts of the city we had previously missed, we visited Recoleta (a famous graveyard) and the surrounding neighbourhoods. For lunch we ate empenada’s at a secret little cafĂ© that her friend Patricia recommended and were caught in the rain on our walk in the park. Back at her apartment we enjoyed visiting with her family, preparing a homecooked meal and sharing the evening with new friends.

Twenty Four hour clocks still seem to prove difficult for us and we missed our bus by an hour or so. Fortunatly, they agreed to let us pay the full price for a new seat and we settled down into SUPER CAMA. Probably the most comfortable way to travel. Our seats reclined into full beds and although the dinner menu reminded us of that song about spam…it wasn’t spam at all, it was ham. Ham and cheese sandwiches, a bun with a side of ham and cheese, a quiche filled with ham and cheese and some rice with chunks of ham.

Our bus dropped us off the next morning in Mendoza. This is one of the largest cities in Argentina. Many people go to Mendoza to taste the wines for it is surrounded in vineyards. Others go there on their way to trek up Mount Aconcagua: the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas. For us, it was a 2 night stop over on our way to Santiago. On our full day we decided to splurge and take a guided tour to some beautiful sights in the Andes. It was spectacular driving out of the flat dry lands to the jagged peaks of the Andes for they are beautiful. Our first stop on the tour was at the dam that provides water for Mendoza, it was a huge blue expanse quite like most lakes in Canada. Our next stop was at Punta Del Inca, a natural bridge across the river where hotsprings bubble. There is so much sulphurus sediment in the water of the springs that over time has built up to become an incredible sight. Yellows, greens and golds made up the cascading rock formations. It’s really hard to describe it. We were probably the most excited people on the bus when we found out we got to do a hour long hike next. Our hike took us to veiw points where we could see the back slope of Aconcagua. The fresh mountain air and beautiful views were delicious to gulp in and us reminded us of home! A few more stops along the way and we eventually returned to our hostel tired and happy after the days adventure.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

BSE - 25 - UR - SS

Before our departure we had heard many times that we had to eat steak as much as possible while in Argentina. We had tried to seek out such the perfect steak and failed in BA. Puerto Iguazu turned out to be the place to go. After a relaxing day we joined a group of fellow travellers and steak lovers to hunt for the perfect steak. Eric, a new friend had experienced one at an asian fusion place down the road - our first stop. Unforuntatly the chef was sick that day so we continued on to a few different places(all of which were overpriced and crowded) before giving up in dismay. Our second choice for dinner; cheap pizza. The front patio of the restuarant we chose was crowded so we asked if we could sit in the back - the man quickly agreed and set up a table for us. Wine was poured and we chose to try the steak special - what could we lose? To our surprise the appetizer and salad's were decadently garnished and delicious. As the "asado" was placed infront of us we drew in our breath in anticipation of what was to come... Grilled to perfection, a layer of salt and pepper glazing the surface our first bite melted in our mouths. Conversation ceased as our senses exploded in satisfaction. THE BEST STEAK EVER.

Our next destination: Montevideo Uruguay. In order to get there (from Puertu Iguazu) we hopped on another bus (semi cama-a lower class of seating than last time) it was like a plane ride where the turbulance never stopped. Unfortunatly, turbulant rides mean upset stomachs and the little boy sitting next to Sarah retched through the night. 14 hours and our entire ipod playlists later we were dropped off by the side of the highway. Two taxis sat awaiting potential customers and along with a Swedish woman we rode across the border to URUGUAY! At the bus station/ mall we waiting another three hours before commencing on the final stretch of our journey. What turned out to be a 7 hour ride finally came to an end in the hot and humid capitol city Montevideo.

Our first few days were spent settling into our hostel, getting to know fellow Canadians and spending time with Leo and Alicia (the old neighbours of the Gray family - when we lived here). They drove us around all afternoon showing us the countryside. A picnic lunch by the river, a view from a fort of the city and a visit to our old house. It was exciting for Jason and Sarah to see where they had lived and Alicia and Leo shared memories and were happy to visit with us once again.

We have been looking forward to take spanish lessons and decided on Montevideo. Our spanish school began yesterday, and we have enjoyed the first two lessons. We made two friends from Boseman Montana who are in our class and a few other friends during 'recess'. Its weird to have homework again but we hope that the experience will pay off in the end and we will be able to feel more comfortable communicating in day to day life.

Chau! Chau!
Kayawazoo and Sarizzle.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Brick wall, waterfall Iguazu has it all!

In Buenos Aires we saw the sights and went on some walking adventures. Some of the highlights were going to a giant market in San Telmo, surviving an impromptu rainstorm, seeing the football stadium (on Jasons part) and the colorful houses of La Boca. Argentina is famous for its tango dancers and we had many opportunities to watch their graceful movements across the floor.
We made good friends at the hostel we stayed at and we were upset one day when we came back to find people in our beds. There had been a misunderstanding when we tried to book the hostel for another night - They booked us for the 11 and not the 10 - in the end it wasn't such a big problem because there was another hostel with space just half a block away.

On monday we bought bus tickets to Puerto Iguazu which is a town famous for its waterfalls on the border of Argentina and Brazil. It was a 17 hour ride to get there. We left BA at 2:15 on monday and arrived in Puerto Iguazu at 7:30 the next morning. It was probably the most comfortable ride we've ever had while traveling. The seats reclined to an almost horizontal position and there were leg rests (picture a lay-Z-boy chair). Don't get us wrong, it may have been comfortable, but the food was horrible and the chairs, though comfortable for napping weren't so good when trying to have a good nights sleep.
Off the bus at 7:30, checked into our hostel (the Marcopolo Inn) and finished breakfast by 9, and at the bus stand buying tickets to Iguazu Falls by 9:15.

Have you ever wondered what 275 waterfalls look like?Well, we can only suggest a visit to Iguazu or perhaps just a trip to google image will do. 85 peso's (the foreigner rate) gave us free rein for the day. There are several routes to look out points - all of which are wheel chair accessible - so dont get the wrong idea imagining us hiking through the jungle, mud up to our knees or anything. Wow. What an amazing experience. We were almost literally blown away (by the force of the wind and water). Oh by the way, it was pouring rain as well - so we were kind of wet by the end of the day. My(sarah) personal favourite moment was standing on this one look out point almost under the falls and just getting soaked by the mist raining down on us. The water was so powerful and loud.
We spent a good few hours trekking along amongst several hundred other tourists and enjoying the wildlife...well..the animals that hang around the park anyways. Jason made friends with a butterfly, Sarah' leg was licked by a Coati and Kaya watched an Iguana making its way.

For dinner we prepared pasta and sauce and fell asleep much earlier then the past several nights. Today, we are spending our time relaxing and wandering around Puerto Iguazu researching options for our next destinations.

Over and Out.
K-dizzle and S-money

Friday, January 8, 2010

Buenas Dias from Buenos Aires

After a seven hour layover in Houston Texas - the only highlight being making friends with two UVIC students, and meeting a store owner who was very sociable we proceeded on our way and survived a ten hour flight to arrive in Buenos Aires. Now, we had booked a free shuttle that would have taken us to our hostel but by the time we were past customs etc we realized we did not want to wait another 3 hours for it to arrive. No problem. We hopped on the local bus (along with our Victorian friends, a Finish Guy and an old German man) and for 2 peso's (compared to a 100 peso taxi which was the other choice) we surveyed the country side and chatted with our new friends. The organized for the bus driver to tell us when to get off, however this was obviously miscommunicated because after all the english speaking folks had gotten off, we were still waiting for his que. At one point he looked back at us and we thought it was time - we said "Palermo?" and about five other passengers said "no no no no!!!!" we had passed our stop a long time ago! Oops. A nice man helped us out and we were soon on a stuffy, hot subway and arrived at the hostel approximatly thirty minutes later.
We were met by Jason and honestly it was fabulous to see a familiar face. He laughed at our three hour plus adventure. It had taken him thirty minutes in a cab just a few days before. But hey- we had a better adventure!
We have settled into our hostel - visited with Jason on the sunny rooftop patio, walked around the neighbour hood, eaten dinner at a local cafe, practiced some practical phrases (and some not so practical) from our ancient phrase books and enjoyed a very deep sleep. K and I are sleeping in a six bedroom dorm and our four roomates enjoyed a night of clubbing - we were awoken at around five AM when they arrived home and talked loudly but other then that I feel well rested and ready for a day out and about.

P.S.Mom... I ate breakfast.
Love S and K