Wednesday, June 30, 1999

Travels with SG: Santiago

Hello Selected Group,
We are in Santiago, Chile...and as usual, we arrived on a Holiday (yesterday was St. Peter and St. Pauls day, and nothing open except the mall, were we had some yummy :( fast food)...for some strange reason, we usually arrive into new citied on a holiday or a sunday when everything is closed...but no matter, had a great day strolling the city without the crowds!!! Chile is wonderful!!! Very much like home, but with at home prices...A fantastic metro system, great food, nice friendly people, and a very nice and clean city! Today we dropped our laundry off...can you say stinky sock???? Socks that have not been washed in God knows how long??? I actually purchased 2 pair of undies a couple days ago, because we were hurting for a laundromat...After throwing our smelly laundry at the woman...we took the metro to Lacsa Airlines and purchased our tickets to Miami (OUCH!!! $543.20 way...)
Today we will research the SKI scene and tours into the wine country... ...we leave Chile on Monday the 5th and get into Miami late that same evening!!! Most likely we will spend the 6th on the beach...Will be home on the 7th...MRA into Oakland, and me into San Jose!!!
all for now, luv, SG

Sunday, June 20, 1999

Travels with SG: Bolivia

Hi Girls!!!

While my parents are in hot, sweaty, MA, having lobster, shrimp and scallops, at my cousins wedding...
Michael and I are freezing our asses off Potosi, Bolivia!
So Cold, the pipes froze last night! Like I said, we are in FREEZING cold Potosi, Bolivia-elevation 4200meters...after a 3hour ride from La Paz to Oruro, yesterday, where we excellent bbq, I must say that it had to be one of the best meals that we have had in Bolivia...
We hung out from 12noon in Oruro, (we had to decide were we were off to next...something one would never consider doing in the US) and decided on Potosi to see the silver mines...we hung out till our bus left at 8pm...
our bus from Oruro to Potosi took 8 ½ hours, and should have taken at least 10!!! Our driver was really good...but the roads were for shit!!!
The roads in Bolivia are much worse that CR, if you can believe it...most are dirt with major sleep on the bus...We got to Potosi at 4:30am and had the pleasure of finding a hotel, and a nice someone to let us into their hotel, in the freezing cold! We are in a very nice hotel (10$), but no heat.
I don't think anyone has heat in S. America! However, we do have beautiful hardwood floors which don't help the heat factor!
Electric showers again...M took one this am and froze his butt off...I'm not going to shower till we get somewhere that is HOT, which won't be till CA, as we are heading south to Chile to do some skiing :) and hopefully some wine tasting!
I'm on strike, it's way too cold to shower without a hairdryer!!! I am currently wearing my long-johns, wool socks, long sleeve shirt, wool sweater, REI windproof vest, jacket, scarf, gloves, and wool matter, it is still F'ing COLD!!!
Today we are going to the Silver mines...we get to get dressed up in 'outfits' to keep our clothes clean, and wear little helmets with lights on them!!
YIPEE!!!...M is really looking forward to, I have a touch of bronchitis and started the antibiotics last night...hope they don’t take us too deep into the mine, I don't think I will care for it, but we'll see...

Tomorrow we hop on a bus at 11am to Uyuni (anywhere from 4 1/2 to 6 hours...shit, why don’t they just throw a dart a board to guestimate???) There, we will investigate tours to the salt flats (3-4 day jeep tours...still in the frigging cold!), then down to Chile

All for now,

Greetings from Potosi Bolivia!

When I last wrote, we had just finished the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu and were headed for Lake Titicaca.
The way from Cusco to Titicaca is either to take a bus, or a train. The train comes in 3 classes; Inca at $33.00US, Pullman at $19.00US or Economico at S/30.00 The coaches are identical, the only difference being that they turn the heater (not needed) on in Inca Class and do not allow people in the isles on Pullman Class. We went with the S/33.00 Option (About $6.00US)
Well, we made it to Titicaca, and must say that we were not all that impressed; it's a gray slab stuck on a gray plain. Puno on the Peruvian side is a typical 3rd world shithole, and the only saving grace were the floating islands of the Ururu people. They originally fled Arymara aggression on the Altiplano only to find Quechua aggression on the Cordillera, so the hid out on Titicaca by building huge rafts of reeds where they still live. This as far as I know is unique.
From Puno, we beat a hasty retreat from (relatively) high Peruvian prices to cross into Bolivia and Copacabana.
Copacabana IS nicer than Puno, but there is literally nothing to do there except visit the birthplace of Mancu Inca, Isla del Sol. The only place in the world that Titicaca looks good from is Isla del Sol, and MAN DOES IT LOOK GORGEOUS FROM THERE!
To give you an idea just how boring Copacabana is, complete strangers (Hi Brett!) will approach you to see if you want dinner.
From Copacabana, we headed on into La Paz, the Worlds Highest ________ (You fill it in; as it's at 4000mtrs above sea level, it claims the highest ski run, capital city, movie theatre, railway, and on and on).
The first view of La Paz from the toll booth at El Alto is SUPERB!!! Jesus, the air was so clear that you could see for days across the Altiplano. The city itself is huge, and quaint at the same time. On every street corner you see bowler hatted women selling llama fetuses (purported to cure everything from hemorrhoids to hernias) and receive nightly tear gassings from the police (Yes Malin, here too!) We also ran into the Venezuelan-Canadian Luis that we had originally met on Isla Del Sol, and the Aussie named Brett that asked us to dinner in Copacabana here again.
Well, it's time to head into the Jungle, to The Beni! But first stop is the small town called Crioco at the end of the "Most Dangerous Road In The World" (It was pussy safe compared to the road to Batopilas), so we get up at the crack of dawn, and take a cab to the gas station that serves as a bust terminal, and after we get dropped off there, I finally get to use the Pepper spray that my mother gave me before leaving home.
It's 5:00 am, and we are loaded down to immobility with our packs; when this odd looking gentleman accosts SGK. She turns away and he advances on me with his hand held out in front, gripping something shiny and menacing. I yell at him in English and Spanish to go away, and he still comes on, so I show him my mace can and yell again, but now he's about 2 feet from my face, so I let go with the spray. What does he do? Sniffs once, shrugs, and WALKS AWAY!!! Does this stuff lose it's potency? Or was this guy just so out of his head that he really didn't notice?
After this, we take refuge in the only open shop on the street, run by a nice man who sells blankets. Who wanders into the shop? But Mac, the South African-Australian that we ran into in Vilcabamba. He too is going to Corioco, so we harass a local woman into selling us Tomatoes (She didn’t want to sell that early) and munched Tomato sandwiches for breakfast on the way down into the Jungle. When we arrive in Corioco, who do we see? Luis again! And Matt, the Swiss-German guy we met on the train from Cusco to Puno.
We stayed at El Cafetel, which was cheap (15Bs a night - about $2.60US) and probably has the best view from a toilet of anywhere I have ever had the pleasure of Shitting - You look out over the Beni Rainforest 2000meters more or less straight down. The owners we also amongst the RUDEST hosts in the known world, but hey, they’re French...
After a hike to the waterfall, and Skinny dipping thereupon, we decided to skip the 40 hour bus ride to the Jungle proper, in favor of going skiing in Chile, so we bailed on back to La Paz to catch Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Vinny, how could you let your name appear in the credits of this dog?) and head on up to The Silver mines of Potosi, The Salar of Uyuni, and thence on to Chile!!!!

Cheers! MRA

PS. Haven’t heard for Hans, Alice & Andy, Petra & Claire, Owen, or my Brother Doug or my Mom in a while!!!

Monday, June 14, 1999

Travels with SG: Peru to Bolivia

Hello everyone!!!
I’ve been reminded from some of you that it has been a while...
My last "groupie" email was from the amazing Nazca lines in Peru, where I got sick from the plane ride... That night we hopped on a bus to Ariquipa...the night bus is can catch some zzz´s and wakeup in another city...Well, we got on the CIVA bus line and two Peruvian men were in our seats who did not have tickets...Finally the bus assistant kicked them out of our seats, and one of the men said to me, "It’s all your fault"...What the hell was he talking about??? We booked our tickets 2 days prior, and this numbskull had no ticket, yet it was the Blond, Gringa’s fault because he did not buy a ticket!!! To top that off...We had parents with 3 kids sitting behind us...2 kids in the isle-sleeping and blocking the bathroom, and the other kid, about 2,throwing up and shitting the whole way to Ariquipa (about 10 hours)...The 2 year old should have been in the hospital she was so sick... But...there’s more...
The bus driver was INSANE!!! Driving way too fast on a very windy mountain roads...We were all yelling at him to slow down...finally, we stop in some God-forsaken town for 45minutes...The bus driver told all the passengers on the bus that we had a flat tire and to stay on the bus (should have been a hint)...
We finally make it to Ariquipa in one piece, only the next day to discover that Michael’s bag, (that was with all the other gringos bags) that was in the bus compartment(under the bus) had been broken into...It’s a good thing that he did not discover this when we got to the bus station, because he probably would have belted the bus driver and assistant...We do not think we had a flat, it just gave them time to case all the gringo’s bags...We were lucky only to have lost about $60, couple credit cards, money that we had saved from the countries we had been to...
Ariquipa-beautiful old city...gorgeous town square...We caught up on email, and movies-"You’ve got Mail" a cute Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie...and the horrible remake of Psycho....How can anyone presume to even come close to Hitchcock??? We took a 2 day trip into Colca Canyon where we saw tons of Llamas, Alpacas, and Vicuñas...gorgeous animals, that they make sweaters out of...A Vacuña sweater goes for 1000 US dollars!!! Can’t afford one this trip, perhaps when I hit the lottery!!!
The highlight of the trip had to bee the Condors!!! Seeing them in flight, 12 at a time, buzzing 8feet overhead was absolutely amazing!!! We have a few left in California, but seeing one would be like finding a needle in a haystack... From Ariquipa we headed to Cuzco, via train...Thank God!!! It was very nice for the first 10 hours, then we changed trains in Juliaca and another 10 hours...the last 10 hours felt like we were on a horse, driving over pot-holes in a Yugo, and on a sailboat in 20 feet seas all at the same time...the tracks were horrible, but was a refreshing change from all the SHITTY buses we have been on the last 5 months. We were lucky, we met some travelers who had been derailed and had to get out and help get the train back on track!!! We had lots of leg room, and a person coming to your seat to sell you food and drinks!!! Who could ask for more!!!
Cuzco is an absolutely beautiful city!!! Great eats, shops, internet :) and of course is the place where people investigate tour groups taking travelers on the 4 day trek to Machu Pichu!
The trek was amazing!!! The scenery breath-taking!!! One could spend 7days on this trek and not be bored with the views!!! It had to be one of the most difficult "journeys" of my entire life!!! Elevations up to just about14,000 feet!!! Talk about SKINNY air!!! We stayed in Cuzco 4 days after the trek, or Michael puts it the Machu Pichu you know what it’s like to have blisters upon blisters upon blisters??? I won’t go into the details, but they had to be cut open several times to drain...ok, maybe too much information, but you catch my drift..
We departed Cuzco, we hopped on the train to Puno (dumpy little town) to check out the floating islands on Lake Titicaca (very cool) People live on islands man-made out of reeds...if you stand in one place too long you sink into the water!!! Very interesting place, but would not want to live there!
The Peruvians believe they own 60% of Lake Titicaca, the Bolivian’s believe that they own 60%...perhaps this is why there is a Bolivian Navy in Copacabana...very odd, as Bolivia is a landlocked country!!! The crossing into Bolivia was very smooth and easy...No tear-gas this time...
Lake Titicaca covers over 8000 sq-km, and is one of the worlds highest lakes...not much to look at from Peru, as most of it is covered with Algae...but from Bolivia, is absolutely gorgeous, and very cold!!! From the Bolivian side we took a boat out to Isla del Sol and Isla del Luna...a must!!! We are not in La Paz, elevation about 12,000 feet...skinny air, but we are breathing ok!!!
All for now!!!
Would love to hear from you!

Saturday, June 5, 1999

Greetings from Cusco Peru!

When I last wrote y'all We were headed up Colca Canyon to see the Condors. They were spectacular! Dozens of them all soaring above the canyon. Wingspans of 9 feet! Huge birds of prey, but not as big as the California Condor.
The guide wanted to know why we came all the way to Peru to see these monsters when we have bigger ones at home; so I had to explain to her that while we have bigger Condors in CA, we only have 7 of them, so there is no chance of seeing them.
After Colca Canyon, we boarded the night train to Juliaca where you change trains to Cusco. There was a Frenchman on the train who refused to drink alone, so I had to help him finish off a couple bottles of Rum. The next day was not pretty. Ever have a hangover at 13000 feet? It hurts!!!
To compound it, I had to be on another train for 6 more hours!!!! And Peruvian trains give anything but a smooth ride.
Cusco is a beautiful city (if somewhat of a traveler's Ghetto) and the oldest continually inhabited city in South America - It was founded in the 12th Century! It is also the starting point for the infamous Inca Trail to Machu Pichu.
Last night we returned from Machu Pichu - After a grueling 4 day hike to the site over a 1000 year old trail with about 30,000 feet of vertical change (up and down and up and down and up and down, with the highest point at 14,000 ft above sea level - VERY skinny air). While grueling, the hike was one of the most spectacular things that I have ever done.
You could not ask for better scenery. The ruins themselves were also nothing to shake a stick at - probably the most impressive ones that I have ever seen! You certainly missed out Chris for not coming!
Well, we are off for Lake Titicaca and Copacabana in Bolivia!
Cheers! MRA

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