Hello again fine and dandies,
I trust that everyone back home and beyond is healthy and happy and grabbing life by the huevos, guiding it to meet all your earthly and spiritual needs. Cus we sure are! Except, of course, for the little mishap we had on our bus to Quito, where a group of professional thieves crawled under the seats in front of us, ever so delicately slashed our bags open, and made off with our cameras and my cell phone which was actually just our alarm clock. Thus we now fear sleeping in for something important. The loss of the cameras is small beans, Jocelyn has already replaced her analogue SLR and we still have all of the film she shot (which is AMAZING- we are so thankful they left that in her bag). But it is the little digital camera, Cameratito (aka Tito), that we mourn daily. We had nothing backed up, and lost a memory card full of super fun photos and video clips we had big plans of editing down into a short film. We miss Tito everyday, and I would like to share some of our favorite moments on him now:
- A video of Jocelyn doing a MAJOR wipeout while we were sandboarding in Huccachina. She seriusly rolled down the hill.
- A photo of me lounging next to a sea lion, and we are in the exact same pose. Kindred spirits.
- A video of Jocelyn playing with a baby sea lion in the ocean. It was so cute, he kept swimming up to her face, then diving back under to try make her chase him.
- A video of quinoa dancing to Rihanna in a club (a pot of boiling water). Just one in a series of personifed food dramas as we cooked dinner.
- A stop motion animation of a little car that came out of my Easter egg driving around our ceviche table.
- Miniature Machu Picchu photos.
- Photos and videos of a really intense game of darts in Cusco. Jocelyn is a natural.
- A great video of Jocelyn running into the surf in Mancora.
- Many photos of us jumping in front of things and sunsets. And clouds.
Dear Tito, we miss you and the thousands of photos and videos you hold captive. We like to think you are in a better place, and that the money earned in selling you went to feed a starving baby and not to gambling. We will always see your halo.
Ok, back to the good stuff. And I hope you are feeling up for a long read since I can’t fall back on the photos like usual. We did get a bunch of Jocelyn’s film developed, and took a few pictures of them on the webcam so we can show you SOMETHING. Consider it a little taste of what you’ll see when we get home… in webcam quality.
We spent our Easter weekend in Cusco, Peru, a city designed by the Incas that was torn down and rebuilt by the Spanish, and is now crawling with tourists heading to and from Machu Picchu. We did manage to find parts of the city that gave off a more authentic Peruvian feel than the center, which is full of Starbucks’ and KFCs. The markets are packed full of used electrical cords, artisanal crafts, people eating $1 lunches, and is where a woman made me buy a cute pair of black shoes for $4. Because it was Easter weekend we spent most of our time eating and drinking pop, and one festive night of too much beer and darts. Just some preparation for our trek up to Mach Picchu.
If one is organized, you can book a year in advance and hike the Inca Trail. And if one is less organized, you can opt for the last minute Jungle trail, which gets you there all the same, is just as scenic, and only a fraction of the cost but still crazy expensive. But if one spent far too much time in Colombia and Bolivia respectively, there is a one day power-trek that eats up the week´s budget. We obviously did the latter, waking up at 4am to catch a train to Aguas Calientes where a bus drove us right to the entrance. It is no 4-day hike like we had originally wanted, but time is impatient and we are on a schedule. Machu Picchu is stunning, and I wish you didn’t have to wait until we get home to see the photos Jocelyn took on film. We hiked around the mountain of Mach Picchu, visiting the Inca Bridge which you are not allowed to walk accross anymore and it looked like for good reason. We found it a little difficult to revel in all the beauty, as we were constantly surrounded by tourists (like ourselves). You can still walk around most of the ancient city, and getting a photo without a bunch of other people in it was impossible. Plus a coffee was like $3! But suddenly, and what I can only think of as an act of the heavens, the clouds crashed together and poured, chasing everyone away, and then abruptly clearing and leaving us virtually alone running around the ruins, taking photos and videos, and drinking the fresh mountain water that still runs through the irrigation systems that the Incas set up. The Inca knack for city planning is amazing. All the important buildings are built with stones carved to fit perfectly like puzzle pieces and without cement (perfect for withstanding earthquakes). They have all these large stone contraptions which are used for telling the date and controlling the harvest, as well as a huge sports field complete with fan stands.
My favorite new Inca fact: They loved their dead ones like they were alive. Everyone gets mummified and pulled out of their tombs for parties and holidays. If you have to move towns, you simply take your dead with you. So although there are many graves at Machu Picchu, the town was abandoned during the Spanish conquests and everyone took their gold and dead with them. Imagine the baggage!
Feeling cold, as we usually do in high altitudes, we decided that it was time to go to the coast again. We headed to a small oaisis town in the desert, just outside of Ica, called Huccachina. The population of 200 people surrounds a lagoon that sits amidst giant sand dunes. The thing to do here is go sandboarding, which is just like snowboarding but on sand. We got into a dunebuggy that flew over rolling sand hills, making me feel like we were going to flip over, and dropping us off at the tops of hills. We strapped ourselves onto boards and tumbled down the dunes with no grace or balance. The other option is to lie down on the board and use it like a taboggan. It was so fun and some of the hills were so crazy big that it was hard not to get to the bottom of the hill in hysterical giggles.
It was also in Huaccachina that we had our first drama. Not with each other, obviously. Tony, who worked at the hostel, invited us to the Pisco harvest festival. Pisco: a very strong alcohol made from grapes. We went to the party, drank a bunch of pisco, danced, and had fun until one of the other dudes that worked at the hostel told us why he and Tony are not friends. This made Tony into a very pouty baby, so we all left. In the cab he kept accusing us of believing his enemy, and I thought he might cry. Jocelyn tried to give him words of encouragement, but this resulted in Tony saying some very mean things about my friend Jocelyn, which resulted in me yelling and waving my hand in his face and screaming “NO HABLAR!” Details are fuzzy, but things blew over after about 10 minutes and we all decided to go out dancing some more. At da club Tony got handsy with Jocelyn, so she hid in the bathroom, where I found her and pretended she was being sick and we had to go home. Tony did not buy this, accused Jocelyn of hiding from him and then some terrible things again, so we stormed home in an angry fire with Tony on our heels yelling, then apologizing, then yelling, then crying then yelling. Sick of it! We wanted to go to bed, but Tony stood in our doorway, not letting us shut it in his face, not going away and saying very mean things. It was scary! I thought he was going to push his way into our room! SOOOOO I grabbed my knife and stood in the doorway talking as sternly as I could, ready to stab at any moment. I was totally ready. We did manage to use our words, and Jocelyn and I were safe in our room with the door locked where we cried ourselves to sleep. The next morning, as we began packing, Tony knocked on our door. He apologized to us with the offer of free breakfast. We accepted and tah dah- friends again. We are so easily bought. Apparently pisco can make you crazy.
We wanted drama, we got drama. But had enough, and set off for Lima. I wish I had more to tell you about Lima, but we were only there for 30 hours, and spent most of it eating. I now know that one can possibly eat too much ceviche (but it was soso good). Other than that, we had a giant plate of deep fried sea food, tuna fish sandwiches, and drank a bunch of juice. On to our next stop!
Mancora is everything one wants a beach town to be. Super cheap, full of hammocks, clear blue water, white sand, and hot hot sun. We spent two days tanning, swimming in the ocean and drinking beer on the beach. We had a close call with some animal danger as our toes were in the surf, Jocelyn flew her hands in the air to tell me how great the world is when a 5 foot long (at least) pelican flew by her. I’m not sure whether she almost took the bird out or it almost smacked her across the head, but we thankfully did not have to find out. Still, biggest bird I have ever seen!
From Mancora, we crossed into Ecuador and headed up to Guayaquil for a brief evening before our early flight to the Galapagos Islands. Going to the land that ispired evolution was a dream come true for both of us, and it was so much more than we could have imagined! We ignored all advice claiming we needed to book ourselves a tour on a cruise, and listened to the few rumours about being able to get day tours from the islands Santa Cruz and Isabella. Good thing those whispers were right! And according to one of our guides the boat cruises are doing a lot of damage to the underwater reserve. The noise scares away the animals and the gas from the engines pollutes thier water. Island hopping is the new sustainable way to travel in Galapagos, and they are hoping to cut the number of boats by half over the next few years.
Our first day trip was to Isla San Cristobal for a big day of snorkelling! The lack of predators in the Galapagos means that the animals have no fear of humans, and don’t really care when you enter their space (unless they have a baby with them cus they’ll snarl at you). Decked out in the latest gear, and with an underwater camera in hand, we walked backwards into a little bay where giant tortises love to hang. Swimming with them was an almost spiritual experience. Catching currents with the 400lbs creatures and swimming next to them we felt so included, they seemed perfectly happy to have us join them for a drift. And although Galapagos rules clearly forbid anyone from touching the animals, I clearly saw Jocelyn’s hand reach out and graze the back of one’s shell. I won’t tell if you don’t. A young sea lion pup took a particular liking to Jocelyn and a 6 year old girl on the tour with us, swimming around them in cirles, popping up out of the water to look them in their faces, and jumping back under to swim around them again. It was so cute watching them play together. Next, we went to Kicker rock, which is just a large rock that popped up in the middle of the ocean where sharks love to roam. We did not get to see any sharks because the visibility was unfortunately bad, but it did not interfere with the humbling experience of swimming in the middle of the ocean. It is so big and deep and scary looking down there, I would make a miserable diver. Our final stop brought us to the unoccupied island, Santa Fe. As Jocelyn and I were busy watching fish feed off some rocks, two sea lions jumped into the water and spiraled right towards us. They are such playful creatures in the water, the dogs of the sea, and I appreciate that they thought we looked playful too.
The next day we had a two day trip scheduled for Isla Isabella. Our boat was set to leave at 2pm, so we decided to go to Tortuga Bay in the morning. And feeling out of shape, we decided to run there, which would have not been a bad idea had we picked a better hour to do it at. The 11am sun at the equator (equator-ecuador, get it?!) is crazy powerful, and our 25 minute run felt more like a 2 hour crawl across a desert. Our dip in the beautiful turquoise water felt very much deserved. Walking back took a lot longer and we were happy to find out that when you are late for your boat, everyone waits for you! When we got to Isabella we checked out some flamingos, walked along the beach and drank beer with our tour group- Nadine (France), Henry and Will (New Zealand), America (USA), and Mike (Toronto!)- who were all totally cool dudes. The next morning we hiked up Vòlacan Chico, where we again experienced the power of the hot equator noonday sun. It was no easy five hour hike, and my dear 6 year old hiking boots saw their last walk as they pretty much melted off my feet from the heat of the volcanic rock. But the view was amazing and being in a volcano is totally out of this world. It felt like we were walking on a moon where cactus grow. The day would not be complete without some snorkelling though, so we hopped in a boat and went to chill with some penguins. After dinner we all decided that such a long day cannot simply end there, and we must go out on the town (to the one bar) for some dancing. Despite our 5am boat we knew we had to catch in the morning, we were having too good of a time to stop, and at 3am we found ourselves skinny dippin’ in the ocean with our buddies. And the only thing better than skinny dippin’ late at night is doing it in the Galapagos. We were just lovin’ life so hard!
Totally completely and utterly exhusted, we spent our last day in the Galapagos on Tortuga Bay tanning and swimming. I wish we had more time to visit all the islands, and to stay a week on each. It was a true tropical paradise, and I doubt playing with the animals would ever get old. Alas, we are in the last month of our trip and there is just no more time for doddelling. We flew back to Guayaquil only to catch a bus to the town of Baños, know for its hot springs and spas. Fearing impetigo infection, I decided we were skipping the hot springs, and we agreed to go white water rafting down part of the Amazon basin instead. Suited up in helmets and life jackets, we joined two other tourists and two guides into a big blow up boat for our first rafting expreience. We spent two hours going down class 3 and 4 rapids, as our guide tried everything he could to make us fall in. I am happy to report that Jocelyn and I only fell in once each and there were no snakes in the water. Naturals!
From Baños, we wanted to head up to Otavalo which is not only next to the Colombian boarder, but also has the biggest and best Saturday market in South America. We wanted to skip Quito because everyone told us that everyone gets robbed in Quito, but there was no way around it, we had to go there to catch any bus north. We were only there 10 minutes before we got our bags slashed, so it is true, everyone gets robbed in Quito. We arrived at 7:30pm, and a ticket agency sold us a ticket for an 8pm bus that never showed up. When we went to inquire, the booth was closed, and we are pretty sure she swindled us for $4. So we got another ticket for 11:30pm and arrived in Otavalo at the convieniant hour of 3am. The market was amazing. It seemed to sprawl the whole city, selling everything you could think of except replacement cameras (or our cameras, as we secretly hoped). We had some good ‘ol fashioned shop therapy, and it kind of worked. What also helped ease our troubled hearts was the bottle of whiskey we bought, drinking and singing Beyonce songs in memory of Tito.
Crossing into Colombia again was like being greeted by an old friend. Once we got on a bus on the other side of the boarder, we made friends with a young girl, who wanted to chat and exchange stories. As women, we find it very easy to make friends with men in South America, although they often have another idea of what our friendship means, but other women never really want anything to do with Gringas. This is just not the case in Colombia, and it is so refreshing to talk and joke with people on a genuine level. And everyone is so sad about our cameras, but all happy we are safe. When we got to Popayan, we found a film camera almost exactly like the one Jocelyn lost. The owner of the shop sold it to us for a very resonable price, and when it didn’t work he took it to the repair shop. But when it still didn’t work, he went all over town hunting down a camera we could use. We are so grateful for his effort, he really wanted us to have a camera again. Colombia has captured our hearts, and the thought of leaving pains us. We’ll be coming back… again.
We still think of you all everyday, but we’ll be home before you know it. Less than a month! It feels insane just how fast the last four months have gone by, and although we are by no means ready to go home, the thought of seeing everyone we love and spending our summer together makes us smile from the heart. That is a photo of us thinking about you! Better be prepared, we have big plans for the island, parks and patios.
Love you all and miss you a million!
Hannah & jocelyn