Miami

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Our grand return to the United States!

In which we spend a week hanging with the fam in Miami. We are just in time to celebrate our two-year anniversary, J’s (belated) birthday, and Father’s Day.

Celebrating with Martha and the Prietos.

We also meet new family, J’s new half-sister Camille!

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It’s a fantastic visit, and as always, the week goes by too fast in a whirlwind of parties and other get-togethers. We clean the gutters, swim in the pool, make some ceramic sculptures, go out on Charlie’s boat, and eat all the Cuban food we can handle.

A few more photos:

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Proud Papa.

 

 

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Rock climbing with cousin Alianne.

 

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Out for Father’s Day drinks.

 

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Girls Night Out to see Wonder Woman with the Prietos!

Flying east, we layover in San Francisco and spend a day with Washington DC friends Lindsay and Jess! We haven’t been to San Francisco since our road trip across the country in 2014, but our experience there is remarkably similar, and mostly entails lounging in parks in beautiful weather, eating delectable asian food, and drinking craft beer:

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We now find ourselves on the big island of Hawaii for the last leg of our adventures! We are working on a small coffee farm near Captain Cook, snorkeling, beaching, adventuring, and are already sunburnt.

Lots of love!

C & J

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5 Months in South America

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Huaraz, Peru

Friends! We have now completed the South America portion of our adventures, maybe more aptly titled the Andes portion, as we only traveled up the western coast, and only through four countries.

 

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Valparaiso, Chile

After our last stint travelling (2 years in Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the United States, 2012-2014), many people asked me the financial details of our trip. How we managed to save, how much we spent, how many times J lost her pocketknife. Our first trip was self-financed with some supplementation along the way:

  • Generous help from family and friends who offered us free accommodations and meals around the world,
  • Volunteering for a couple of stints in exchange for room and board via Helpx.net,
  • And in Australia, we got work-holiday visas and were able to get real jobs for real pay.

 

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Sucre, Bolivia

This trip was a little different – we financed a bulk of it from our Honeymoon Fund, full of generous gifts from friends and family for our wedding, added to our own savings. A huge thank you to everyone who contributed! This trip would not have been possible without you. While we have aged out of the work-holiday visa option, we again volunteered for room and board via Helpx and Workaway.

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Collon, Peru

In total, we spent 3 months in Chile and Argentina (most of which was spent in Patagonia, with only 2 weeks in central and northern Chile), and one month each in Bolivia and Peru.

 

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Bariloche, Argentina

By the numbers, this is what it takes for two people to travel in South America for 5 months:

  • Total spent: $9,857.10 ($4,928.55 each)
    • This number is inclusive of all airfare/travel, initial expenses like travel vaccines, travel expenses, and souvenirs/gifts. It is not inclusive of bills like health insurance.

 

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Ancud, Chile

  • Average spent per day: $50.11 ($25.06 each)
    • Our estimated budget was $35/day, but this number averages in expensive days like land travel and visiting sites like Machu Picchu.
    • This number also fluctuated, with us spending much more daily in Chile and Argentina and much less in Bolivia and Peru.

 

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Grey Glacier, Chile

  • Cheapest night of paid accommodation: $3.75, in Copacabana, Bolivia.
  • Most Expensive night of paid accommodation: $46, in Chillan, Chile.
  • Total nights spent on overnight buses: 6
  • Total nights spent in our tent, the Turtle: 28
  • Highest elevation reached: 5,047 m / 16,558 ft, Urus Pass, Peru.
  • Total number of knives J cycled through: 4

 

 

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Machu Picchu, Peru

These numbers will continue to grow as we still have a month left in our travels, but our budget and travel style is quite different for this segment of the journey. We’ll spend a week in Miami visiting the fam, then three weeks in Hawaii.

Tallyho!

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Ninu Mayu, Bolivia

Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca

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Nevado Chakraraju (6,108 m / 20,039 ft)

 

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Huaraz is a small city 8 hours north of Lima, which sits at 3,100 m. It is completely surrounded by picturesque snow-capped peaks and rocky cliffs, and is basically an adventure wonderland. Our hostel, directly across the street from the central market, is an old building with colonial Spanish architecture, and we discover that it is one of the few buildings that survived the “great earthquake of 1970” which leveled most of the city.

We come for a few days and stay for almost two weeks of rock climbing and hiking through the Andes, including a fabulous 3-day venture on the Akilpo-Ishinka trek. Some photos:

 

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Day 1: Blue skies in the Rio Akilpo valley. We set off with a pep in our step, thoroughly enjoying the fact that we don’t see a single other hiker in the whole valley.

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We crisscross the river on a series of bridges made of logs laid across the stream and covered with dirt and rocks. They are a bit unnerving because they look and feel solid, but sometimes have holes where someone clearly fell through.

The weather is changing rapidly, with big, dark clouds rolling in and out.

 

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After a couple of detours due to encounters with cows and a longer and slower day than expected due to high altitude, we decide to camp at the head of the valley, below our desired campsite at the lake. Exhausted, we find a delightful, cozy spot for the turtle sheltered behind a large rock which protects us from the night’s violent gusting winds.

 

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Wait, but why is it snowing?? The next morning, off-trail hiking towards Akilpo Lake.

 

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And then, the weather cleared! C glacier stomping at Akilpo Lake (4,700 m). From here, the established trail ended and we took off up the slope on a social trail towards the pass. The views grew more and more spectacular as we rose, surrounded by no less than six peaks 6,000 m or higher.

 

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At Urus Pass (5,047 m / 16,558 ft), we encounter snow that all of our prior trip research told us should be melted by now. This made route-finding a bit more difficult, and our progress a little slower. This photo taken just beyond the pass. We spent about 27 seconds at the actual pass, since the wind made it difficult to stand upright and pelted us horrible ice-bullets.

 

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Descending into the Ishinka Valley.

 

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3 1/2 hours of steep, difficult, off-trail stumbling later, we arrive at Ishinka Base Camp. Our egos are slightly soothed when we chat with a local guide embarking on an 8-day glacial trek, and he is impressed when we tell him our route.

The next day, we hike an easy, sloping 16 km back out the Ishinka Valley, and, back in civilization, catch two collectivos back to Huaraz.

 

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A truly awesome trek.

Other photos from our time in Huaraz:

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C, taking a chilly dip on a day hike to Laguna 69.

 

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J, taking her beers for a chilling dip in Laguna 69.

 

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Rock climbing for J’s birthday with a view over Huaraz.

 

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We spend a couple of awesome days rock climbing. Since it’s difficult/dangerous to take photos while belaying, this was the only action shot taken (C safely at a bolt). We tackle mostly 6a and 6b climbs, and C takes her second major leader fall, which J expertly catches.

 

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In between all this activity, we spent some delightful down time in Huaraz, as illustrated by this photo of J making breakfast in our hostel room. We thoroughly enjoy the market and have our go-to ladies for vegetables, bread, and fruit. We discover a couple of nice locals restaurants and an awesome brewery with a delicious IPA. It’s a great place to spend our last days in South America.

36 hours of travelling later, we now find ourselves stateside in Miami!!

Next post: South America summary, and Miami with family and friends.

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Lots of love,

C & J

8 Days in the Sacred Valley

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The Sacred Valley was the heart of the Incan empire – it is a stunningly lush and beautiful stretch of the best agr noicultural land in the region. The valley was not actually a part of the empire, but was owned personally by the emperor himself. We spent 8 days exploring the valley, including a visit to it’s most famous site, Machu Picchu. We find a ridiculous number of awe-inspiring places.

*Author’s note: Cuzco, described in the last post, is also technically in the Sacred Valley.

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Martha, Charlie, J and I start with a quick visit to the town of Pisaq, where we stop in at the Sunday market. Above, a market stall selling traditional skirts. The traditional clothing here is similar to what we saw in Bolivia, but with a much heavier emphasis on handmade fabrics and embroidery, beautiful weaving patterns, and bright colors.

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Further exemplifying the love of color, in Ollantaytambo, we happen upon a festival conclusion and the four of us line a second-story balcony and squee over all the dance troops lined up in the main square in their full finery for an awards ceremony. There were some fantastic hats and masks in attendance, as well as a lot of sequins and color.

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Visiting the ruins above Ollantaytambo. This beautiful town is famously the site where the Incans fled after the Spanish took Cuzco. Much of  the town is laid out with it’s original Incan stone streets and buildings.

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The main attraction: Machu Picchu! J and I decide to skip the tourist bus and hike up to the ruins, then continue right on up to Machu Picchu Montaña. At the summit, we are almost 2,000 ft above the Machu Picchu ruins. The valley spreads out below us like folding green velvet and the views are spectacular.

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After descending back down to Machu Picchu itself, we spend all day exploring the ruins with our excellent tour guides, Martha and Charlie, before bussing down and taking the evening train back to Ollantaytambo.

We feel a bit contradictory about our visit to Machu Picchu. On the one hand, it is ridiculously touristed. And as a result, the site and nearby village have both evolved into strict, inhospitable places with inflated prices and lots of rules. For example, the one-way pathways on the site are rigidly enforced, and sitting is discouraged. In order to use the bathroom or eat, one has to descend all the way to the bottom of the hill to exit the site, then wait in line to re-enter again, which can only be done three times. Usually, we would avoid a place like this like the plague.

On the other hand, this place is magical. Looking down at the ruins from above, it makes sense to me that the Incans chose this site for an important temple – the mountains circle Machu Picchu in a way that feels religious. Once exploring the ruins up close, they are fantastically built and fantastically well-preserved. While I may not recommend a visit to every traveller, I’m glad we had the opportunity to experience this place (and even got away with a clandestine picnic, complete with surprise wine Martha pulled out of her backpack after a full day of walking around!).

Other sites:

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Incan agricultural lab at Moray. This particularly steep series of descending terraces allowed for experimentation with planting crop varieties at different elevations and climates. The findings here informed planting across the region.

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Maras Salineras. A salty spring here has been harvested for thousands of years, and the terraced pools date to pre-Incan civilizations. The stream is funneled into carefully worked pools, where the water evaporates, allowing for harvest of the salt crystals. The pools and the entire operation is completely owned by Maras residents. If someone is unable or unwilling to continue the (highly labor-intensive) upkeep on their pool, it is taken back by the community and reallocated. In a country like Peru with a lot of internationally owned or financed operations, it is refreshing to see an example of a local operation continuing in it’s traditional methods while adapting to tourism opportunities and thriving.

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We return to Cuzco to bid farewell to Martha and Charlie – we had a great time travelling with them and living it up for a couple of weeks! They head off to the Amazon and we head back to Pisaq for a little rest and relaxation. . . Where we meet up with Cantor-side Aunt and Uncle Susan and Jim!

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We home base in Pisaq for four days and do a number of great hikes. After travelling around the valley so much by bus and car, it’s wonderful to be able to get a little closer and see it on foot.

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Hiking to the Pisaq ruins, high above the town.

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Susan and J, hiking champs. Our theme for these few days seemed to be that we consistently picked a place on the map and decided to get there – how hard could it be? And then quickly discovered that it was in fact, very hard. Despite the high elevation, steep, difficult terrain, and lack of good maps and information, we had a whale of a time.

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J, hiking to the Marway Lakes. This hike took us to the high 4,000-low 5,000 meter elevation range (to our infinite surprise).

 

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On our fourth day, tired of all the hiking, we rented bikes and took off along the river for what we hoped would be a relaxing, flat jaunt to a nearby town. A wrong turn, several cornfields, and a stubborn bull later, we yet again realized our foolishness.

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Jim and Susan, under J’s power-posing tutelage. A fantastic few days of adventuring – just the way we like it!

Next up: Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca!

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Lots of love!!

C and J