Saturday, December 13, 2008


Rapa Nui to the Natives‘, Isla de Pascua to the Chileans’ or Easter Island as we know it, is located 2,237 miles off the west coast of Chile in the Pacific Ocean. The island itself is only 63 square miles and home to the famous Moai or stone statutes. The nearly 900 statutes preside over the coasts and countryside leaving many questions as to why a civilization carved so many statues and what caused the sudden halt of their production, with numerous statues partially carved or in transit to their alter sites and final resting places. The water surrounding the island is said to be the clearest in the world with up to 200 feet of visibility. While scuba diving, we enjoyed the incredible coral, underwater Moai and marine life. We relaxed, hiked, ate amazing tuna caught by local fishermen, and took photos galore!
Felices Fiestas!

Jen, Ryan and Joe
Here are our photos:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The Inca civilization dominated South America from the 1430’s to the 1530’s. The Inca empire stretched from the present day border of Ecuador and Columbia to the deserts of northern Chile. During their 100 year rein, this society built amazing temples and citadels, including Machu Picchu. When the Spanish conquered the Incas in the 1530’s the Spanish destroyed or modified many of the Inca temples. Fortunately, Machu Picchu’s existence remained unknown (apart from indigenous people in the area) until it was re-discovered in 1911. This time the city was not destroyed, but preserved.

Lucky for us, Ryan’s Dad (Rick), Step-Mom (Cynde) and friends (Bill and Janine) let us “crash” their lodge to lodge trek to Machu Picchu on the Salkantay trail! The Salkantay Trail is an “alternative trail” to Machu Picchu that includes trekking approximately 30 miles over 6 days including ascending and descending 2,600 vertical feet on the most difficult day . We hiked between two glacier covered mountain peaks (Salkantay and Humantay), crossed a 15,300 foot mountain pass, and descended through the Elfin Forest (where everything grows smaller because of the lack of oxygen) and the Cloud Forest.

If you are ever going to hike to Machu Picchu, this is the way to do it! Muddy boots left at the door step are found clean and shiny near the fire the next morning. Chocolate truffles placed near the turned down sheets and a hot water bottle welcome you into bed each night. Views of twenty thousand foot snow covered mountain peaks that flash pink at sunset are relished from the hot tub. Greetings with hot coca tea or fresh elderberry juice in hand at the end of a long day‘s hike. Culinary delights carried on the backs of men over mountain passes to our isolated lodges with nary a person in sight. No wonder National Geographic featured the lodges and trekking company in one of their issues! This was truly luxurious (other than the hiking part)!

Amazingly, the strike we mentioned in the last blog continued and affected the train service near Machu Picchu. However, this time the strike worked in our favor and, as a result, we spent two days in Machu Picchu instead of the one day that was planned! On the first day we stayed until closing time and took pictures with no other tourists in them. On the second day we split up and hiked within Machu Picchu itself (Huayna Picchu and the Sun Gate). Machu Picchu more than lived up to our expectations and words cannot possibly describe it! Everyone should experience Machu Picchu for themselves.

We also traveled around Cusco together, visited the Sacred Valley, Saqsaywaman, and the Qorikancha (Sun Temple) and sampled various pisco (grape brandy) drinks!
Jen, Ryan and Joe
View our pictures at:

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Water. Wars will be fought over it in the future. For now, we are left with burning bridges.

Cusco, Peru
We arrived in Cusco with grand plans of traveling in a large circle to Puno (city on Lake Titicaca), Ariquipa/Colca Canyon (the deepest canyon in the world), Nazca (famous for the mysterious desert drawings) and returning to Cusco to trek to Machu Picchu. As we set out for Puno, farmers began striking over water. We were told three versions as to why but since we are unsure which version is true, we’ll just stick with water. In protest, the farmers blocked the road between Cusco and Puno and our bus could not travel. We were assured that strikes never last long (no problema!) and we could take the bus the following day. When the strike continued, we frantically decided to reverse our trip circle and jumped on the next plane back to Lima. Once again, we were assured the strike would definitely be over before we needed to return to Cusco - “Strikes never last a week!“

After a traditional (Crazy! Loud! What are lanes?) taxi ride through Lima, we took an 8 hour bus through the Peruvian Desert to Nazca. The desert lines were incredible when viewed from our little Cessna plane. The near-by Pre-Inca tombs in the middle of the desert were eerie and reminiscent of a Stephen King novel. At one point our guide bent over, scratched away a little dirt from the main path, and revealed human hair remnants and teeth. It turns out the tombs were raided by grave-robbers who uncaringly scattered human remains all over the desert.

Since mining is the number one industry in Peru we visited a gold processing plant - but not one of the plants run by large, multi-national corporation. We visited a “plant” used by the locals to process the ore they extract, transport, and process by very primitive means - basically by hand. We were amazed to see men standing barefoot for hours in water mixed with mercury. Where is OSHA when you need them?

Colca Canyon was beautiful but we didn‘t see any of the condors that also make the place famous - apparently mating season kept them in their nests and out of the skies. We visited the Hanging Tombs where people were mummified and placed into cone-shaped rock structures high on the cliff side. And, we were dumbfounded by the street celebration that took place at 6:00 am in the city square - seriously!

Puno and Lake Titicaca (or Titicala as the locals prefer - for the obvious reason) was interesting with its floating islands made completely of reeds. Sadly, after visiting Puno one of our full camera memory cards disappeared into thin air. All pictures after the Galapagos, gone. Luckily, Joe took pictures, too, and could help fill the gap!

Now it was time to return to Cusco and (Surprise! Surprise!) the farmers were still striking and were still blocking the main, paved road from Puno to Cusco. Fortunately, there was an “alternate route” only passable by small vehicles that would take 6-8 hours (compared to the normal ~4). We hired a small van with two Norwegian ladies and two drivers (not sure why they provided two drivers?!) and headed out at 7:30 a.m. Three hours later we were only 1-1/2 hours from Cusco, pleasantly surprised by the ease of the trip, and thought we‘d be in Cusco in no time.

About that time, the driver hit the brakes and turned onto a barely identifiable dirt road that headed straight up a 14,280 foot Andean Mountain. The road was a tight single lane dirt road that dropped off on one side with plenty of washboard to make you crazy. After five hours of jiggling, jerking, sliding around corners, and holding our breath through low-water crossings, we found ourselves less than an hour outside of Cusco. Yipee! It was almost over. As we rounded a corner, we came to a dead stop behind 6 other vehicles perched on the mountain side. All of the vehicles’ passengers were standing on the side of the road peering down the cliff side. What was that in the distance? You got it! A burning bridge. The very bridge that we needed to cross to get to Cusco.
Shaking his head, our driver returned to our van and informed us there was another road to Cusco, but it would take another 6 hours and he did not have enough money for gas. We all looked at each other and asked, “Is there a place to buy gas?” The driver said that there was, so we offered to pay for the gas if he could get us to Cusco. With a quick U-turn, we were headed even further into the depths of the Andes. To make a long, bumpy, dusty, and nauseating story shorter, our driver knew there was A ROAD to get us to Cusco - but he didn’t know THE ROAD to get to Cusco. So, with a little luck, periodic looks at a topographic map provided by one of the Norwegians, going right instead of left when the road forked (why right?), and asking the nice people (who looked as if they had never seen tourists) in the tiny villages we passed through, “which way to Cusco?”, we made it! Never could we have imagined that we would be so happy to spend the next week trekking in the Andes to Machu Picchu with nary a van in site!


After our Machu Picchu trek (those pictures/blog to come soon), the three of us spent a few days in Lima, Peru. The title best explains our time there (and describes a real situation we encountered) - Lima felt a little strange. We did attend a bull fight after Jennifer agreed to go “for the cultural experience.” Needless to say, she will never attend another one. Overall, Lima was enjoyable but we were glad when we boarded the plane for Santiago, Chile.
View our pictures at:

Hasta pronto!

Monday, October 27, 2008


I was walking down the rocky path when I stumbled over a gregarious sea lion. Lying on the ground, trying to collect myself, I was startled when an iguana fell upon my head and two blue footed boobies began whistling their cry of distress for others to come to my aid. Am I dreaming, I wondered? Then, when I saw a sea lion trying to climb a light pole, I pinched myself and asked the waiter what he put into my cerveza. “Senora,” he said, “welcome to the Galapagos Islands.”

The Galapagos Islands are incredible! Only 0.02% of the world’s population have visited these islands. What a privilege to be included in that number! We started our journey by flying from Quito onto the tiny island of Baltra. Isla Baltra or “The Rock” served as a US Military base in World War II. After taking a bus, ferry, and a bus, we arrived at Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) to board the Amigo Yacht, our home for the next 5 days. The Amigo is a 16 passenger, semi-dated, cruising vessel that took us safely to 5 islands.

As we set out to explore the Galapagos Islands, we were prepared to go on long walks and find the animals that make this place incredible. We have visited National Parks before, and know that if you are quiet and keep your eyes open you may see some wildlife. Before visiting the first island, our guide instructed us to stay 1-2 meters from the animals. We hoped to get that close! During our first walk on the island we realized that life is a little different here. In the Galapagos you have to step over the animals, and someone needs to tell the animals to stay at least 1-2 meters from the humans! When we arrived onto land from our panga (dingy boat), we had to step over a sea lion on the small foot path. Next, our guide put his arm out to the right and there were 15 land iguanas 5 feet from us. They did not budge and if anything a few of them came closer to see why we were there. Yep, this is different.

The “Blue Footed Bobbie” is a bird we could not wait to discover. Partly to put a face to the endless Boobie jokes and also because of their famed presence on the islands. We did not see any Blue Footed Boobies on the first day and thought that they must be hard to find. All we had to do was set foot on Espanola Island and before we knew it we were being charged by a pair of Blue Footed Boobies coming down the trail. We even had a few baby sea lions try to determine if we were their mothers‘. Wow! This is one reason why the Galapagos islands are special, you get to experience nature as a participant rather than spectator.

The Galapagos Islands are unforgettable and we hope that one day you too get to visit them!
Below is a link to our pictures and we have listed many of the species we observed by island location.

Galapagos Endemic Species viewed by location:

Santa Cruz IslandBold
Sea Lions
Marine Iguanas

South Plaza Island
Sea Lions
Galapagos Land Iguana
Hybrid Iguanas

Santa Fe Island
Bull Sharks (cancelled our snorkeling because they tend to be very aggressive)
Sea Turtles
Santa Fe Land Iguana
Lava Lizards
Sea Lions
Mocking Birds
Incense Tree

Espanola Island (Punta Suarez and Gardner Bay)
Blue Footed Boobies
Nazca Boobies
Swallowtail Gulls
Galapagos Hawk
Espanola Marine Iguanas
Sea Lion Babies frolicking
Darwin Finch

While snorkeling:
Star Fish
Trumpet Fish
Swimming Sea Lions

North Seymore Island
Blue Footed Boobies
Sea Lions
San Cristobal Island
Sea Lions

We are off to Peru! Wish us luck (Well, Jen at least) with the high altitude hiking at Machu Picchu!

Jen, Ryan and Joe

Saturday, October 11, 2008

De Cuy Con Amor

So it turns out that guinea pig (cuy) is a delicacy in Ecuador. I’m not talking about your cute little fuzzy household pet, but rather an industrial sized fuzzy version of the guinea pig. The guinea pig is “ranched” like cattle and they are advertised as being fed only alfalfa, making them a healthy meat alternative. So did we…….eat them?????? When in Rome, si! Our Spanish Profesoras took the three of us on a field trip to the best Cuy Restaurant in town. The restaurants proudly display their “cuy on a stick” on the grill in front. Cuy tastes more like duck than chicken. It was a lot of work for little meat and Joe keeps asking, “how did they get rid of all the hair - it isn‘t like plucking chickens?” Cheers to more culinary adventures!

Interesting Ecuadorian Foods:
Llapingachos: mashed potato pancakes with cheese and onion mixed in and is often served with a fried egg on top.

Choclo con queso: large kernel corn on the cob with cheese chunks on the side.

Humitas: the masa part of a tamale mixed with corn, cheese and butter.

Chulpi: toasted corn kernels with garlic, onion and salt. Samples may be available in Colorado at Christmas.

Ceviche de Camarones: Our Ecuadorian Madre made shrimp ceviche for us today. Not that different from what you get in the US.

Jugo Fresca: Fresh fruit put in the blender with water and sugar. We are served this with every meal and have tried local fruits such as tomatillo de arbor (tree tomato…..tastes nothing like tomato).

Vino Hervida: warm spiced wine that keeps you warm on a cool night while over looking the city lights!

Favorite Spanish Phrase:
“La cama llama” = The bed calls

Otavalo, Ecuador:
Huge indigenous craft market. Our Christmas shopping is almost done!

Peguche, Ecuador:
Leisurely walk into a beautiful waterfall. People were repelling down the waterfall. A nice break in between shopping locations.

Cotacachi, Ecuador:
Famous for its leather markets and great shopping.

Volcan Pichincha:
The Teleferiqo, a mountain gondola, takes you part way up Volcano Pichincha to 4100 meters elevation. We hiked part way to the top and took in the spectacular views of Quito and the surrounding mountains. We also ran into a few mountain eating clouds.

For the past three weeks we have been living with Eulalia (Ecuadorian Mother), Amelia (Aunt) and Estella (Grandmother). They are wonderful and gracious people who have welcomed us into their home. Estella has 10 children and 6 of them live in Quito (including Eulalia and Amelia) and come by the house frequently to visit, play cards and eat lunch. Eulalia cooks us three meals per day and Amelia does our laundry. Joe and Ryan had a great time teaching them a dice game (Farkle) while only speaking their “own” version of Spanish. Many laughs were had by all!
Enjoy more pictures at:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Our World Adventures

Welcome to our Blog! We hope you enjoy it and laugh along with us. We are having a fabulous time!


Doesn’t everyone need a South American name? The nickname of people named Jose in Ecuador is “Pepito.” So, if Joe (Jose) can have such a cool name, shouldn’t we all get one? I’ve officially decided that all humans should be granted a South American name. Thus, Ryan will be called by Francisco’s nickname “Paquito.” Why Paquito you ask? Simply because I like it and it goes well with Pepito. Meet the South American Blues Brothers, “Pepito y Paquito!” Well, Jennifer isn’t a very South American name and I am, after all, traveling with Pepito y Paquito. Our Ecuadorian Grandmother (home stay) thought my name should be Juana Locquita (Juana a little crazy). And so it shall be. Let the adventures of the Latino Trio begin!

Quito, Ecuador
Elevation: ~9300 feet, the second highest capital in Latin America (behind La Paz, Bolivia).

Number one safety issue: Sidewalk/road hazards (random holes to the middle of the earth and if you don’t at all times watch where you walk, you will find yourself there).

Transportation issues: The local buses don’t actually stop for you to get on or off. You have to run and jump to get into the bus or hit the ground running to get off.

Best street vendor: One vendor sells gum, candy and replacement gaskets and blades for you blender.

Safety First: Crossing the street is a game of its own in Quito where the cars always try to beat you. The stray dogs have adapted best by using the crosswalks and looking both ways before crossing the streets (seriously)!

Funny Spanish Speaking Stories:
What was said…….What it means………Explanation……..(Guess who said them)!

”Hijo de Pooh” = Son of pooh . . . . (no explanation needed).

“Yo compre una pequeno chompa de cuero para mi hijo de dios. El hijo de Dios tiene dos y media anos.”= I bought a little leather jacket for my little baby Jesus doll. The baby Jesus doll is two and a half years old. . . . I bought a leather jacket for my godson (ahijado).

“No mas puntas!” = No more XXXXX! . . . . . No more points (while playing dice game…puntos).

“Me gusta mierda!” = I like shit. . . . I like dinner (merienda).

“Pasame la maquina por favor.” = Please pass the machine. . . . . Please pass the butter (mantequilla).

Mindo, Ecuador
Sixty kilometers northwest of Quito (2.5 hours by bus) with lush jungle-like vegetation. It was very hot and sweaty (as you can see in the pictures)….except when lying in a hammock :) We had two stray dogs that lead us on our 6 mile hike to Cascada Nambillo (waterfall). We named the dogs “La Guia” (the guide) and “Umberto.”

Other Places visted (more to come):
Otavalo, Ecuador
Peguche, Ecuador
Cotacachi, Ecuador

Next destination: The Galapagos Islands!

View our pictures!

Hugs to you all!

Jen, Ryan and Joe