Sunday, December 27, 2009

"The Mountain that Eats Men"

Our trip to Potosí may have been my most serious/though-provoking experience so far in Bolivia. We read about it in school, occasionally hear about it in the news (maybe), and are told by all other travelers to go, but being there is another world!
Potosí is considered the highest city in the world (1,400 feet) and was at one point the richest city in the world (but very obviously not anymore).

So, here's the story:
In the 1540s Conquistadores discovered for themselves the silver in Cerro Rico, the hill looming above the city of Potosí. They wasted no time in the mining process or the exploitation of indigenous and African-slaves, nor did they waste time in sending the riches back to Europe. Very little of the estimated 137 million pounds of silver extracted from the Cerro remained in Bolivia; and it is also estimated that in 300 years, 8 million workers died in the mines. In the 1800s the depleting silver resources led to mining for inexpensive tin and minerals, and to the decline of Potosí.
The nickname, “The Mountain that Eats Men” leaves little room for interpretation of the current working conditions. The tour we took is considered to be very non-touristy and more of the real deal, and our guides were former miners. We first saw a small plant where they extract some of the metals, using techniques and materials that made all of us cringe. Then we headed up the Cerro to the functioning Candelaria Mine in our boots, headlamps, bandannas, and other gear, to start out several-hour journey in the mines. There are still about 8,000 miners working today, ranging from 10 to 70 years old, and all with a life expectancy of about 40 years. If they don't die from silicosis, accidents are still very common... The workers say in the mine for up to 24-hour shifts, and seem to live almost exclusively on coca leaves (we took them gifts of drinks, coca, and dynamite- but not alcohol or cigarettes!).
About five minutes into the mine we were told to turn around and run, and then jumped up to a niche in the side, to avoid a cart (without brakes) coming out on the tracks. From there we continued on, meeting workers along the way and seeing the different steps of the process. It's hard to describe exactly what the inside of the mine is like, so imagine that everything is much worse than I explain it to be: we went up and down spinning ladders, steep and slippery vertical tunnels, and very narrow passages, avoided touching any of the pipes that were said to be “dangerous”-although we didn't know why, sweated and froze depending on where we were in the mine, and always left our bandannas on to avoid breathing in the thick dust.
It was an incredible experience, and one I don't really desire to re-live, although I want to meet more of the miners, as some of them were incredible people. I do partly credit our survival to the “Tio.” “Tio” is literally “the devil,” and each mine has one. He is believed to be responsible for accidents, etc. in the mine and offerings of coca, alcohol, and cigarettes are made to ask him for protection.

Please take the time to watch this documentary and take a look for yourself (the mine we went to is very similar to this one):


I love La Paz!!!
Witches Market- Dried llama fetuses, candles, jars full of good-luck charms and unrecognizable organic materials, ceramic figures, and all sorts of offerings to Pacha Mama (mother earth).
Black Market- Endless blocks of literally anything you could possibly need to buy, we got to know the fish women and the hardware/plumbing streets pretty well (more on that later).
NáMasté- Possibly the best veggie restaurant I've been to this year!
El Alto- Technically another city that borders (and towers high above) La Paz. It has incredible views of La Paz and a never-ending market.
Museums- Highlights being a poster exhibition dedicated to an incredible Japanese artist and the mask section of the folklore museum (I tried to take pictures of myself imitating the masks- scary!).
Coca Museum- Coca isn't a novelty down here folks, it's a prominent and important part of daily life!
Robots- The “Fancy Dress Party” was more than a good excuse to spend about 20 hours (not in a row) working on ROBOT costumes! An Aussie friend and I went to the hardware/plumbing section of the market for supplies, and got to work. Lots of laughing throughout the process and a great time at the party! Plus we won Best Costumes!

Misery for the Lactose-Intolerant

Cajamarca, Perú, land of cheese and other natural wonders.

Only had a grand total of about 72 hours here, but loved every minute of it.
People were incredibly friendly, there were amazing views of the city, wonderful traditional clothing (including cowboy-style hats only worn by women, who are dwarfed by their size), and heaps of good day-trips. Although there were lots of tourists, it didn't really feel like it because they're all Peruvian. My first day trip went to a dairy farm and cheese factory and then to the ruins of Ventanillas de Otuzco. They're small funerary niches carved into the face of an enormous rock wall, which were used to hold the bones of members of the higher social classes.
The next day I went to Baños del Inca, which are partly natural, partly constructed thermal baths- so relaxing! The rest of my day was a trip to Cumbe Mayo, which our tour guide kept calling “formaciones caprichosas,” and I didn't know what caprichoso meant, nor could anyone explain the word to me, haha. Anyway, it's a natural rock formation, that also has pre-Inca constructed water-systems and petroglyphs.
And as if things couldn't get any better, I ran into Paco & Katie, Méxican/American friends I worked with on Village Farm, in Belize! So glad to run into each other and the perfect surprise before heading to Bolivia...

Friday, December 11, 2009


Yeah, you read that right- I went to the motha uckin Galapgaos!!!
Not a place I had ever planed to visit in my life, but that´s just how things work, isn´t it...
So, part of the reason I went was to visit a friend who lives and works out there. You may remember her as my roomate and friend at the Divertigranja farm I worked on in Oaxaca (and she´s even from the Fort!). I took a bus to Guayaquil from Lima and then flew out to the islands for a 10 day adventure. Since sailing was out of the question I just stayed with Kirsten and did day trips from Santa Cruz island. And to make things even better, I had Nana´s (my grandma´s) journal of her and Papi´s trip there in 1987 to compare things to!!!

Here are the highlights (so now I´m basically going to explain absolutely everything I did, minus people trowing up on the boats... haha):
Bay Tour- The first time I ever swam with sea lions! They rocket straight toward your face at record speed and then take a 90° turn at the last second. It´s incredible to be in the water with all the small females and the huge male just hanging around in the background and sweeping throught every once in a while to check things out. We also saw over a dozen white-tipped sharks. Blue Lips- The water is cold!!!
Floreana- Aside from the rough ride out it was a great trip! When we first got to the island we went up to the highlands to see tortoises, pirate caves, and the "homes" of the first inhabitants on the Galapagos. Shortly after that I was attacked by one of Darwin´s lovely finches- so sweet. Then the first place we snorkeled we saw several penguins, but at the second site we saw four sea lion pups! They were so teeny and fluffy and hardly knew how to walk, although one was practiging in a little pool on the beach. It was one of those "Aaaaaawww" moments.
That night for dinner we were invited up to the neighbor´s house for a lobster fiesta(which only makes sense seeing as how Titi is a fisherman and the yard was full of lobsters that morning-literally a few dozen lobsters on the grass outside when we woke up) The lobsters were cut in half, stuffed with garlic and grilled- insanely delcious!
A Day on the Island with Kirsten- We took a shared taxi out to one of the hundred billion lava tunnels on the island to explore. The landscape up there was beautfiul and we just wandered for a while. Although balckberries are just about the worst invasive species on the island they´re a delicious snack all along the pathways. As we were enjoying the views and the berries we saw a few tortoises and finally started counting, the day´s grand totaly was more than 40- and all in the wild! The lava tunnels weren´t super deep, but we did see something incredible- an owl. It flew down and looked straight at me for 5 solid minutes and then did the same with Kirsten. We were both completely blown away!
Bartolomé- Far and away the most beautiful island in terms of landscape! The lava has a gradation of color because of the iron oxidizing over time, the sand is almost perfectly white and makes another impressive gradation of the blue-green water up the beach. The island is sort of the shape of a bean and from the high point you can see down around the whole thing. There´s also a crater under the surface of the water and you can see turtles and sea lions swimming in it. Snorkeling was pretty good but the sea lions were really putting on a show on te beach. Then we saw blue-footed boobies, lava herons, iguanas, lizards, penguins and lions resting together. From the boat we could also see incredible Galapagos sharks swimming underneath. On the boat ride out and back we was tons of eagle rays jumping out of the water, flipping around, and then slapping back down onto the surface. It´s beautiful to see their shiny diamond-shaped dody flip form black to light grey.
Isabela- This was a "3-day" tour involving a bit much time on the boat- I can´t believe I wasn´t half as sick as everyone else. Anyway, in the afternoon we saw flamingos, walked the beach, had dinner, and enjoyed the company of everyone in our group. The next day we rode horses up to the top of Cerro Negro volcano which has amazing lava formations we walked around for hours. That afternoon we watched the marine iguanas "sneeze," which is actually them filtering the salt out of their bodies. Then we snorkeled with sea turtles, I swam with one for at least 5 minutes and it was incredible, we also saw tons of beautiful sea-stars, rays, and the biggest sea cucumber I´ve ever seen.
Seymour- This is an island that people really go to to see birds- and boy howdy did we (plus some land iguanas, which are beautiful colors). I was several friggots with the red balloon on their next all puffed up for mating, which was my goal fo the day. We also saw tons of baby friggots in nests and some boobies as well. The strange thing though were all of the mummified birds sprawled around the island- sort of an eerie feeling...

The Galapagos were not at all what I had expected, especially in terms of the poeple. Thousands and thousands of people live there, the majority of whom are from Ecuador- I though it would be all extranjeros running tour compaines. So I had fun meeting people, speaking spanish, and seeing such indredible and important wildlife!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Perú & my Mama!
Okay, we did about a hundred billion fun things and I couldn´t be more grateful that she came to visit and travel with me (and I´m sorry that I was a poo-head daughter sometimes!) so I´ll try to sum things up the best I can!

Lima- We cracked ourselves up doing the cheesey Mirabus- one of those double-decker city tour busses that points out the obvious, and then went for Bubble Tea! Yep, they have delicious "té burbuja" in Lima, along with a large Asian population, which fortunately means Barrio Chino (aka: China Town)!!! We also went to a fancy-schmancy restaurant one night and had an amazing Malbec from Mendoza and and insane seafood dish.

Cusco- Took a plane from Lima and got there in a bit of rain, and found a fine place to stay with a llama outside the front door. That night we hung out in a cozy little pizzeria owned by a man with a bomb moustache, where we had alpaca pizza-Yum, seriously! After quite an ordeal at the ticket-station we took a fun train-ride the next day to Aguas Calientes, which is the town nearest to Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu- As soon as we got settled into our hostel we headed up the railroad tracks, to where a trail starts... haha, this is where Mom and I start laughing about the word "trail." More specifically it was a series of never-ending wooden ladders between whihch you climbed up super steep dirt and rocks. But the view from the tops was phenomenal- you can see the whole side of Machu Picchu and the zig-zag road that leads up to it.
The next morning we headed out about 5 and joined the masses-tons of people waiting for the busses up, and then waiting to get into the actual ruins (which you apperently buy tickets for in advance, haha). Took "the picture," you know the famous view, and then hiked around to the Inka bridge where they´re wasn´t a single other person.From there we explored the main complex, and took a nap at the bottom of Wayna Picchu- where the the llamas harassed us and then eachother... The Sun Gate was our hiking option instead of Wayna Picchu and had an amazing view- I still cané beleieve I went to Machu Picchu!!!

Ollantaytambo- Ollantaytambo has to be the greatest town int the Sacred Valley! We took the train there from Aguas Calientes and ended up staying an extra day. Our first dinner at KB was ají de gallina (a chicken dish prepared with ají chilies and a nutty sauce) , chicken kabobs, and a real salad! Bought a couple hats from a sweet man there, on his way to sell stuff in Cusco, and stayed at the Chaska Wasi hostel.
The next morning we woke up to the neighbor´s donkey, then headed out to the market. We had a banana bread snack before catching a colectivo to Urubamba and from there another to desvío for Maras. From there we got a shared taxi to visit the Moray ruins-circular terraces used for agricultural reasearch, and salinas/salineras- a massive hillside divided into rectangles where locals harvest salt. It´s visually stunning with all the shades of shining white broken into little squares and piles of drying salt scatteres around. On the was back we played with the giant, sweet pop-corn I´m obsessed with and took silly pictures in the taxi.
When we got back we climbed up the unrestored ruins opposite the Ollantaytambo ruins in the valley and ready about them from that side. It was chilly, so we headed down the hill and found a house with a red, platic flags to advertise that they had chicha (the chewed, fermented corn beer). I stuck my head into the doorto make sure that they had it, and sure enough they did and insitsted on us coming in to drink. So Mama and I went in and visited for at least half an hour. There was a sweet wife, half-deaf husband, two older sisters, a little boy, and they all spoke spanish in addition to Quechua. There were tons of guinnea pigs basically running wild in the house (the chair didn´t do much to keep them caged in), and when I told the woman I had had on as a pet she couldn´t believe we didn´t eat it. She proceeded to tell the man how funny she thought that was. We talked about travel, the US, languages, education, food, everything, payed our 50 cents or so, said thank you´s, and went on our way. So much fun, and dinner again at KB- build your own massive burritos this time.

Lake Titicaca- From Ollantaytambo we took buses toCusco and then a tourist bus to Puno, on lake Titicaca. The bus stopped at the "Sistine Chapel of the Andes", the town where they make the ceramic, good-luck bulls, a beautiful mirador for the snow-caped peaks, and passed pink flamingos in the shallow river. On the lake we visited the floating islands of Uros, they are constructed completely from layer upon layer of reeds, but now exist more or less for tourism. On Amantaní we stayed with a family, whose adorable son played his little recorder/flute int eh fiels with the sheep, and went to a "dance" loaded up in our traditional dress for the evening. With the family we mostly ate quinoa soup, half a dozen typed of potato, and once we even had fried cheese. The views to the mountains on the Bolivian side were beautiful!

Cusco (again)- People said it was horrible touristy, and there are heaps of tourists, but its still a nice city to explore! We took pictures with (and got yelled at for touching) the 12-sided stone, did some shopping for hand-made llama and alpaca scarves and hats, wrote post-cards in cafés, made multiple trips to the Bolivian Consulate to get my visa (he had run out of them from Nort Americans- of course, haha!), got really good massages, and walked around a ton and visited the markets. This is also where we tried cuy (guinnea pig) for the first time- they brought it out whole for us to take pictures with and then brought it back again all chopped up. Oh man, we were laughing so hard! Oh yeah, we named him "Freddy." We also had pisco sours a couple of times at the fancy Inka Grill right on the plaza a couple of times, and me some really nice travelers there.
Speaking of the incredible Pisco Sour:
2 oz pisco brandy
1 oz line juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 egg white
1 dash Angostura Bitters
-Shake ingredients vigorously with ice. Strain into a champagne flute, and add the bitters as an aromatic garnish.

Huaraz- In Huaraz we did a 5 day trek called Santa Cruz, which was one of my top things to do in Perú. Even though the fact that rainy season clouded a number of out views and we woke up wet some nights, we had a great time. I loved being out and hiking, especially with Mama, who kicked ass! Our group had people from Holland, Germany, South Korea, and Denmark, plus our awesome guide Orlando. Some of the translations and explanations of cultural differences were hilarious, and we had some good laughs in the kitchen tent.

Thanks Mama!!! TQM


One of my dreams came true in Bogota!
I got to play in "Silver Clouds!"
It´s a way-too-entertaining Andy Warhol instalation piece, consisting of huge, rectangular, silver helium-filled balloons- and you actually get to go in and play with them!

Safety First...

Southern Colombia-
Few tourists, beautiful landscapes, and unbelieveably nice people- amazing combo!!!
Let me start by saying that I know I did things that I wasn´t "supposed" to do, but I always went with my gut and came out safe and sound (except for when I thought I was going to get attacked by a rabbid dog-beast...).
So anyway, from Popayan went to Puracé National Park to attempt the ascent of the volcano, which I am not embarrased to say that I did not complete- it was barely above freezing, pouring rain, and the wind coming in at 90 degrees and strong enough to knock me over. So yeah, after I recovered from my hypothermia I went out to see 3 enormous condors flying in one of the nearby valleys. The national park also had hot springs surrounded by rainbow-colored grass, beautiful plants that onle grow 1cm/year, incredible landscapes, and wonderful people. I hitched rides everywhere (I know that some of you are rolling your eyes), sometimes on motorcycle, and unfortunately always on roads that are more pot-hole that road. It was fun and I never even got attacked by Guerrilas or FARC members!
After Puracé I hitched a ride in a potato truck to some really nice hot springs in a nearby valley (walking in the fields there is where I almst got attacked by the dog.)
Then I took a real bus to Tierradenro (which had a lunch-stop in a tiny reataurant at the top of one of the enormous valleys and would fry whichever of the varried dried meats you picked from the selections hanging on strings from the roof), some very underrated ruins that consist mainly of enormous, painted, underground tombs. I did tons of hiking there and climbed down into most of the tombs, they would put bons of elite community members in ceramic containers in the tombs as their second burrial, with belingings and natural paintings on the walls around them. There are usually sprial-style stairs down into the tomb and then a half-moon/horseshoe shape room with a few columns. The town intself may have been the bets part, though! I stayed with an older couple, and the wife was adorable and always craking me up. She made me drink coffee every morning and would go on and on about how much better panela is than sugar-which it is. Panela is a caramel-colored dried block of sugar-cane juice used to sweeten almost anything. One afternoon on my way into town I started talking to a tiny little old lady on the path and she ended up introducing me to all her friends in town, and the next day I helped her pick oranges and she made me lunch. One of the ladies she introduced me to in town tought me how to make Gelatina de Pata- yes friends, that means "foot gelatin." You boil the hooves in water for forever and then on the mix it together with a panela syrup. The mixing sounds easier than it is though- a wooden plank with a pole sticking out of it is tied to a pole (or lightpost if you´re in the city) and you have to beat the whole enormous glob of gelatin on it until it fills with tons and tons of air- it´s heavy though and you can´t let it fall!
That sums up Southern Colombia, from where I went back up North to do some
-caving- there were parts where you had to float on your back and sort of kiss the top of the passage, cause there was only 1" for breathing.
-hiking- between beautiful teracotta tiled villages that sold goat milk, cheese, and yogurt, caliming that it´s better than Viagra.
-bumper cars- yeah, thats right, bumper cars!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


If you could called what I had when I arrived in Colombia a "plan," you could now consider it completely thrown to the wind. I've just been going off of sugestions (even more so than ususal) and traveling fairly easily with grat people I've met along the way. Anyway, that's how I ended up in stunning Popayán. The city is know for it's whitewashed facades, but I've found more color here than in a number of other cities combined.
The market was like a dream come true (I've joked with people that I wouldn't mind going back to school to study Anthropology, specifically markets). There were fruits I had never heard of before, guanabanas much larger than the size of my head, over a dozen varieties of potato including knobby finger sized neon-purple ones, the most delicious blackberries, strawberries, and sweetplumbs of my life, bags of layered diced veggies, and pyramid stacks of tomato. The woman with the enormous guanabana was more than happy to tell us the story about when they had brought her a 22-pounder, the lady preparing potato and cabbage salads wanted to know about where we're from, the butchers were posing for photos without us even asking, and my favorite, amazigly sweet blackberry lady got two visits from me.
As if that morning wasn't wonderful enough, we happened to arrive in town just in time for the Feria de Cometas, the kite festival. It was on a hill just ouside of town and every time the wind picked up dozens of kites went up from the tops of the hills. Between gusts, most of the kids entertained themselves by sliding down the hills on sheets of cardboard. We finally walked back to town after most of the rain had passed, and ended up being accompanied most of the way by a group of school-age boys. They were genuinely curious about us, wanted to hear us speak english, take pictures and show them, and whatnot. It suprised me how well-behaved and sweet they were, not to mention the fact that they weren't embarrased to talk with us at all (which has generally happened when I talk to local kids), and approached us in the first place.
Soon you'll all hear about my attempt at climbing a 15er during Colombian winter...

Zona Cafetera, The Horse Story, & Clombian Bowling

The Zona Cafetera is exactly what it sounds like, the coffee-producing area of Colombia. I took a bus out from Medellín to Salento and stayed at a great, British-owned hostel called the Plantation House. Spent the rainy afternoon walking around the sleepy town, climbing the huge staircase to get a view of the central plaza, sampling the local arequipe (delicious dulce de leche, or caramel), and reading in my cozy bed.
In the early morning a few of us from the hostel headed out to the central park to get a jeep ride bound for the Valle de Cocora. It's a beautiful trail that climbs up through cloud forrest, passes a reserve with more humming birds than I've ever seen before, and would have great views except that it's generally so socked-in. The most impressive part of the hike though, are the begining and the end, where you walk throught the famous wax palms. They're up to 70m tall, perfectly straight palms with a small tufts of fronds at the top, and they stick straight up out of very short bright green grass all throughout the valley and along the ridges. When the sun breaks thought the clouds, it casts amazing shadows of the palms down the hills and silhouettes the ones on the ridges.
But, I need to detour and tell the "Horse Story," so here goes:
Okay, at one point we needed to go 1k back down the trail we had come up to meet up to the trail for La Montaña, and ran into a group of ten pack-horses along the way. Most of thr group slid down a very speet, very muddy hill to pass the horses, but three of us were high enough up that it was just easier to wait and let them pass there where there was room. But one of the men with the horses told us just to walk through them, so we did. At least we tried; two of us got totally stuck in the mess of them. The path was about wide enought for two horses (plus all the supplies they were loaded down with) and then there was a 6m drop off the edge. So, I yelled a the guy that we were stuck and he made his little clicky noise to get the horses moving. Unfortunately, they were really moving and smashed me so hard I couldn't breathe. They kept pushing so hard that they knocked one of the horses off the edge, and I was convinced I was going down with the next horse! The few people who could see from the bottom said that it landed on it's head, got back up looking confused, and then the second man came over hitting it with a stick to get it back into line. Wow, after all that, the men tried to arange the horses to pass and it took a good ten more minutes for that to happen. The best part-the man just smiled as he passed. Errrgh!
I had been hanging out with a guy from Ireland, one from Scotland, and another from England, who had taken to calling me "Zibby Fox" on accound of my handwriting, and the nick-name had turned into quite the joke. By the end of the day I was "Zibby Fox-Horse Puncher," and they all claimed that I had pushed the horse off the edge. Haha, it was like ebing with three little brothers. Anyway, after a huge group dinner and some anise flavored aguardiente, we went to play what I like to call olombian Bowling. Also known as Tejo. There was a huge group of us there playing and it turned into a rowdy, good time. It's a large dirt-floored room with a metal roof and some plastic sheets for walls, with three long courts/lanes. The point of the game is to throw a weight underhand from one end to the other, where there is a flat filled with clay propped up at an angle. You get a certain number of points fr just landing in the clay, more for landing in the bull's eye, and even more it you hit one of the packets of explosives on the metal ring that indicated the bull's eye. It really is the COlombian equivalent of bowling.
My last morning in Salento I went for a long, beautiful walk out of town in a direction I hadn´t visited before. The hills are a collage of banana trees, perfectly gridded coffee plants, small gardens, and trails worn into the grass by grazing cattle. The sun was coming up and lighting each hill differently, there was a river on the side of one ridge, and beautiful flowers along the road. A beautiful way to wrap up my tme in Salento!

Solid Land, Big Cities

After getting off the boat, Julia (from Austria) and I spent a few days messing around in Cartagena. We were staying in the beautiful old town and loved walking alond the wall that cuts that part of the city off from the ocean and the rest of the city, browsing around jewelry stores we could never afford, drinnking coconut water, eating baby-doll shaped candies, and going out to the "Dragon de Oro" for dinner with everyone from the boat.
We made a hilarious day trip out to "Volcan de Lodo," a.k.a. The Mud Volcano. It's literally a 10m hill of mud that they've built a wooden frame at the top of to keep the mud in. You slide into the warm, dark grey sludge and immediately realize that it's completely impossible to sink. They say it's good for your skin, but I think it's just best for a good laugh. We were all kind of flailing around like beetles stuck on their backs that couldn't roll over.
After a few hot and stucky, but fun days in Cartagena we braved the 12 hour, ice-box air-conditioned ride to Medellín. Although the city used to be well-know for it's crime, it's seriously been cleaned up and feels very metropolotian. The entire city seems to be constructed of red bricks and shaded with teracotta roof tiles, creating a butiful mosaic over the surface of the hills and valleys the city covers. The metro runs along the main part of the city, in the valley, but is lifted above the road, so you get a great view of the city. One of the most beautiful views we saw was when we took the Metro almost to the end of the track and then went the three flights up the gondola-like Metrocable. From there we could see almost the entire city. And riding up in the cable there is only one window open, which funnels in the sounds like a speaker playing a backround track of barking dogs, children playing, trucks straining on the hills, and all the other life of the city.
Most of the rest of our time in the city was spent walking from park to park and museum to museum. My favorite area was Parque Berrío, which is full of enormous bronze Botero statues. We posed for pictures with them for a while and I went back later to look throught the impressive Museo de Antioquia, which is filled with Botero's work, some of his private collection, and pieces by a printmaker I absolutely fell in love with(Jose Antonio Suarez). That evening we trated ourselves to quite the night out: beer, pizza, and gelatto-that's right, we went to Crepes & Waffles, the big fancy chain.
South American cities took quite the adjustment, after having become so used to Central America. People go on jogs with their iPods, walk their groomed dogs, have for fancy brunches, and attend business meetings at swanky bars. Strange...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


There will never be a blog entry written that can do the 'ole girl justice!
The Stahlratte is a 106 year old, 30m, 2-mast-schooner with a home port of Bremerhaven, Germany;and the 8 (turned 9) day sailing trip I took on her was one of the best and most unexpected journeys of my entire trip! We went from Cartí, Panama through Coco Bandero, San Ignacio Tupile, Isla Grande and other islands of San Blas, the Scottish "New Edinburgh," Supzurro, Playa Blanca, and a few other fabulous locations to Cartagena, Colombia. The sailing trips from Panama to Colmbia normally take only 4 days or so, 2 of which are out on open water, but we went a new route. We stayed along the cost the whole way, which means the water was much calmer and we got to see tons more beaches!
There were 6 crew members and 10 clients on the ship and everyone took turns with kitchen duty, night watch, the sails, and everything else! The bunks downstairs were super comfortable, the kitchen upstairs was pretty well equipt to be out at sea, the toilet was hand-pumped to flush, most showers were taken on to deck, and all meals were eaten upstairs at the huge wooden table. The boat was more comfortable than I could have imagined, and the whole crew felt like family (German and Spanish).
We would have breakfast at 8ish, then usually go snorkeling to see starfish, coral, and swim out to visit the beaches we anchored by. Then a lunch break at noon, and more messing around in the afternoon. The rope swing was a favorite of everyone-you climbed up onto the net at the helm of the boat and were handed the rope that´s connected to the front mast (I still don´t know all the sailing vocabulary, in part beacuse everything was labeled in German), and flung yourself out into the sea. It was an absoltue blast, and there were some seriously entertaining wipe-outs. Two nights we sailed the whole night through, and it felt amazing to wake up and not be able to see any land around us. Other days we would sail for a bit in the morning to hang out by ourselves on s beach somewhere and spend the night anchored there.
A few times dolphins came and played at the front of the ship and we would all run to climb into the net and watch from above. They were beautiful with dust blue backs and white bellies with silver freckles, and would flip over and under eachother. We also saw aligators and amazing plastic-looking fuscia jelly fish. We also managed to catch a few barracuda, and bought shrimp, calamari, langostinos, and lobsters from fishermen who would row up to the ship in their little wood-carved canoes. Speaking of, the food was delicious! Crepes for breakfast one day, Roli´s "ragout kompli" for dinner the next, tons of fresh seafood, el capitan´s delicious tiramisu, and other deliciousness! The best part was that it was always like a huge Italian family dinner with everyone reaching, passing, laughing telling jokes, drinking wine, plus we had the sea breeze and start as the backdrop.
I just have too many great things to say about the ship and hope to travel on it again some day!!!

Panama, Schmanama

I was in Panama for exactly 2 weeks, and while it was not my favorite country by any means, I did have a good time and meet some fun people!
  • David- The first city I stayed in Panama, which provided absolutely nothing to do, which was just fine by me. I stayed at the Purple House Hostel, where literally everything was purple-walls, furniture, dishes, soap, lights, nail polish, everything! One other thing I did learn from David was the joy of Panamanian Fried Food!
  • Boquete- What I like to call the Estes Park of Panama, a pretty expensive touristy highland town, but with some nice walks and hiking around. There were tons of rainbows, and I read Like Water for Chocolate on the big comfy couch while it drizzled outside for on whole day.
  • Lost & Found- A lodge off the carretera between David and Bocas del Torro (which, no I did not go to, and do not regret one bit, I´m more for the mountains than the beach). The bus drops you off in pretty much the middle of nowhere on the side of the highway and it´s a seriously steep 25 minute hike up the hill with all your stuff to the lodge. It´s actually a hostel with a 3-level-bunkbed dorm, kitchen, stunning views, and tons of trails (and your 3rd night in the dorm is free, yay!). I did a 5 hour loop hike my first day with a kid from California, spent the second day trying to survive the rain and cold, and the third day on a wholly entertaining scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt took us to an enormous tree we had to climb around to find the clue, across a beautiful river with a rope to help, into the "hermit woman´s" cave (she did actually live in there until her 90s or something crazy), and all around. Turns out we missed a clue somewhere along the way, but still got a beer for the prize. That evening I headed to David to the cold cold overnight bus ride to Panama City.
  • Panama City- Oh, Panama City, you done me wrong. So, everyone warns that it can be a dangerous city and I believed it but generally felt safe. That is, until the 50 people in my hostel were tied up in two of the dorm rooms with zip-ties and 4 young guys with guns robbed everything they had on their person and then went throught the luggage in every rooms of the hostel, and also stole all the computers and money from the hostel itself. They woke everyone up, took they keys to all the rooms and everything, and I was one of the 3 they didn´t wake up or rob! They looked through my backpack at the head of my bed, but left me there sleeping-Amazing and lucky! But, hey enough about that.
  • Panama Canal & Caso Viejo- The Canal was nice and touristy, but I´m glad I went. The biggest suprise was how small it was. And Casco Viejo is the old part of town we spent a while wandering around, looking at churches, plazas, wooden balconies, and the ships waiting outside of the Canal.

The Best Part of Panama was that it was the begining of my sailing trip to Colombia!

Long time, No blog

So, firts I´ll sum up Nicaragua and the month of July. (and forgive me that fact that I have no spell check, or natural ability to spell...)
For my birthday I took a 3-day trip to climb Cosigüina with a Quetzaltrekkers group. It started on the 13th with a delicious pacake breakfast at the QT house and then a camioneta to the terminal where we took a chicken bus to Chinandega, another camioneta to the other terminal, and another chicken bus to the end of the road... literally. We arrived in the town at the base of Cosigüina after hours and hours on the buses. First thing we did when we got off the bus was walk through town, which consists of one dirt road with 2-room cement homes on either side and more farm animals than people, to take a swim on the beach. It was by far the nicest beach I had seen up to that point on the trip and we were absolutely the only people there! It´s called the Golfo de Fonseca and we could see Honduras and El Salvador from the beach. We had a big meal of sandwitches with everything from beans and cheese to veggies and weird meat from the market. About a dozen local kids had gathered around watching, and we made them all sandwitches, which they had no clue how to eat, which was thuroughly entertaining!
We had a big fire on the beach that night and set up our tents right there (while we were eating, my new little friend Jennifer brought us delicious cuajada cheese and fresh tortillas). Between the bugs and heat there wasn´t a lot of sleeping, but waking up to a sunrise as the backdrop to dolphins flipping by was more than worth it. That morning our "guide" met up with us and we started off towards to the volcano. Although it used to be the highest volcano in the country, it is now hardly anything to see from the base. It´s a pretty easy walk out to the base and then a short way uphill, and the view is amazing! Behind you is the Golfo and in front is the enormous crater. The water is a crystaly blue-green, and suprisingly shallow for how deep that crater is. The beach was totaly chaos that night as every child from town seemed to have come out to play with us, but we had a blast. The game they taught me could be most accurately describes as an innocent version of spin the bottle, with a rhyme and having to give a kiss on the cheek to whoever you land on (they all wanted to kiss me of course, haha) . And their absolute favorite thing is posing for pictures and then looking at them on the screens of the digital cameras. And that night we had paid a local woman in town to fry up some fish for us, which was amazing! It was another hot night, but we had some Flor de Caña by the fire (which we only made for the smoke to keep the bugs away) to celebrate birthdays-mone and Shannon from San Fran... Oh yeah, that evening I had also hitched a ride from a guy in town back out to the beach (I didn´t want to walk to the whole 7 minutes it would have taken, because I didn´t have shoes). The catch is that it was on a horse!
Took all the buses back the next morning and gad lunch at "The BG" in León. It was delicious and I headed back home to Colibrí, my base hostel. 3 friends from the hike ended up staying there and we had a blast, and headed for Granada in the morning.
Granada was almost as wonderful the second time as the first! It was great to be back at Amigo´s B&B, which is actually cheaper than all the other hostels and has the best included breakfast ever! My first full day back I took a bus out to Masay, where you can buy terrible souvenirs and handicrafts. My goal was to buy wooden fruit, but the fact that it was going to be more ecpensive to send it home than buy it in the first place changed my mind. I ended up walking around for a good chunk of time, and finding the taxidermy man in the market. If only I had had an easy wat to ge a $20 stuffed rooster home!
On the 20th I took the 15 hour ferry across lago de Nicaragua to the Río San Juan. It was quite the ride, and didn´t involve a whole lot of sleep, but the sunset was beautiful. When I got off the ferry I took a boat out to Boca de Sábalos where I enjoyed a super nice hotel right on the water. I read, took naps, watched the boats go by, and listened to birds and monkeys for a day. The off on another boat to El Castillo where I saw "El Castillo Inmaculada Concepción," what used to be a fort to protect against pirates. The town is built right at it´s base along the river and is small and comfortable - aside from the twitching pig being slaughtered on someone´s front portch on the main path (there are no roads). One thing i appreciate more than all the others is that it´s just El Castillo and not the "Nicaragua Canal;" they almost put the canal in there instead of Panama.
After that I took a short 23 hours or so to get through Costa Rica (which has changed more than I could have imagined in the 4 years since I was last there-not for the better!), and on to Panama. Now, here´s a little story about Immigration: It probably took about an hour, several trips between window #1 and window #2, getting ripped off by the money changer, and ultimately having my passport cut ahead of everyone in line and being stamped because some guy told me he could help me but his friend in charge may want a "gift" for it (which turned out to be $15). So, there´s the condensed version, and the beginning of Panama...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Oh, León

I have a bit of bad news to start this post: my red journal has been stolen. Why someone would want my journal I do not know, but alas, it is no longer with me. I´m heartbroken, but doing my best to re-write as much as possible.

And on to more positive news; I have been keeping myself plenty busy this past week in León with Canada Day parties, Michael Jackson dance parties, new friends, momones, chocolate milk in bags, movies at the cinema, fritangas, comedores, making no-bake cookies, getting to know the market, spanish lessons, the art museum, the Ruben Darío museum, la liberación del fortín, gambling and much more (including hanging out at my wonderful hostel, Colibrí).

Here are the details:
-Canada Day Parties- I´ve done a few hikes with the Quetzaltrekker kids now and have made pretty good friends with them. One night we had a "party" for Canada Day, which mostly means we drank Toña and sang "Oh, Canada" a few too many times in the kitchen of their house.
-Michael Jackson Dance Parties- Since finding out about his death on the telivision in a Managua hostel I have yet to go more than about 30 minutes outside of my room without hearing one of his songs being played (Black or White seems to be the most popular song), and it frequently turns into a dance party-especially when Quetzaltrekkers are involved
-New Friends- I´m not sure if I´m really allowed to say anything about this, but I met a guy who writes for one of the guide book companies, and we had a really good time hanging out in the city together. We watched live music at La Olla Quemada where we also did some serious people watching, went gambling (which you´ll hear more about later), and ate tons of watermelon.
-Momones- For those of you who love lychee fruits, you should be jealous of these! They´re round fruits just smaller than a ping pong ball with a slightly rough, hard, green skin. After you break the skin off there is a slimy, milky colored flesh around a huge white pit. You just pop the in your mouth and do your best to chew the meat of the fruit off. They have a fruit sorbet sort of flavor and a huge bag of them, still on the stems costs $10 córdoba, or 50 cents US.
-Chocolate Milk in Bags- You can get basically any drink in a bag here, but cacao may be my favorite. The drink is made from a mixture of milk and water, tons of sugar, and a paste of rice, cacao, and cinnamon. It´s a but sludgy or grainy and delicious!
-Movies at the Cinema- I´ve seen Up (una aventura en altura) and Era de Hielo 3 (Ice Age) at the movie theater here for about $2.50US each. I loved the movie Up, and am not ashamed to admit that I cried a time or two. And Ice Age was super entertaining because of the crowd. I saw it just a couple days after it had come out and on a sunday, so needless to say, the theater was packed. It was hilarious to hear everyone ooohh and aaahh; and the little boy behing me was crying because he was terrified of the dinosaur, but an older boy (still only about 6) was tring to explain that everyone was going to be okay and the dinosaur wouldn´t hurt him.
-Fritangas- I don´t know if I´ve explained what these are yet, so here goes... They´re huge grills and tables of food that get set up in the evening and run pretty late into the night. They grill chicken and beef and have tons of other food prepared that they heat up when you order it (like taquitos, papas rellenas-fried balls of chunky mashed potatoes with cheese inside, fried bananas, fried cheese, other fried things, gallo pinto) and of course everything served with the typical cabbage salad if you want. My favorite fritanga in town is behing the cathedral and that´s what we call it, Cathedral. The women who work it call absolutely everyone niña or niño. I love it!
-Comedores- A comedor is kind of like a latin cafeteria. The huge metal warming tray things on wheeles, full of amazing Nica dishes! Yu just go down the line and ask for whatever looks good, pick up your drink and silverware, and pay. My favorite comedor here is "El Buen Gusto" where the beans & rice, steamed chicken (with a sauce that i´m pretty sure is just like condensed cram of something soup with hot chilies) avocado/egg salad, refresco de guava rock my world!
-Making No-Bake Cookies- Being the budget traveler I am, I was too cheap to tip the Quetzaltrekkers, but wanted to thank them somehow. And seeing as how hostels in this part of the world don´t let guests use ovens because of the high cost of gas I went in search of suprisingly easy no-bake cookies. They pretty much consist of sugar, butter, milk, and quick-oats. I did one batch with bananas & rasins, and the others were chocolate (I just mixed that paste they use for the cacao drink into the liquid part of the cookie when it was on the stove). They went over pretty well
-Getting to Know the Market- Best market story: I went to buy the little shampoo packets I always use, and found a little stall that had the kinds I like, but couldn´t get the guys attention. He was talking to his buddy and when he finally realized I was there, he knocked some stuff over and almost tripped. His friend told me that I had suprised him and he was just nervous to be talking to a pretty girl. Basically, he just kept knocking stuff over and whatnot the whole time he was getting stuff for me and the friend kept laughing at hime and tellimg me how nervous I made him. Too funny! I also love the cheese stalls at the market and always get samples before I buy it (partly just because I can), and the fruits and veggies are set up in beautiful displays.
-Spanish Lessons- Iliam is my teacher and she´s kicking my ass! I take 2 hours of private lessons every day, and we´re doing tons of subjunctive and discurso indirecto. For homework I have fill-in-the-blank sroties, verb conjugations, I write childern´s stories and prepare little presentations for her, and tons of other things. I really enjoy her company, and am so glad I decided to study.
-The Art Museum- Probably the best selection of artwork I have seen in one place on this trip (minus the print studios in Oaxaca). And the buildings themselves are absolutely beautiful. There are 2 buildings across the street from eachother, each with huge patio courtyards with tons of green grass, flowers, and fountains, big rooms, hugh doorways with enormous wood-beam frames, and dark red shudders on all the windows.
-The Ruben Darío Museum- The kind of museum with chairs and lamps that say "Ruben Darío sat in this char and used this lamp"...
-La Liberación del Fortín- This was a big parade to celebrate the 30 year aniversary of the Liberación del Fortín, when an old fort that had been occupied and abandoned many times was taken back over with the Sandanista Revolution. There were tons of people marching with music, red and black flags, and way too much that I didn´t understand.
-Gambling- We went to "Salón Estrella" to play the slot machines, and do it just to say that we did it. We were laughing about betting $10 córdobas, which is a nickel. But we agreed that at home we would have really been doing penny slots, so we were big-spenders. We made just enough money to keep going for about 45 minutes, but the best part was the swinging doors, anilal hides and skulls on the walls.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

El Hoyo (aka: The Hole)

Let´s start this blog post with a fun-filled after noon of cock fights and horse races, shall we? The cock fights are a traditional weekend event which mainly the local men enjoy (there were probably about 75 men when I went and 5 local women). The fights themselves were actually much less disturbing and much more organized than I had imagined. There are strict rules (weight groups, time limits, etc.), the men are very proud of their cocks (haha, seriously, how can I not make at least one joke!) and treat them well considering, nobody gets fall-down drunk, and everyone goes home by dusk. It´s kind of like sunday night football in the states... but not. I have to admit that the worts art if when the birds get all bloody and the men are cleaning them off-if the cock gets blood all over it´s face, the man will suck if it´s face to get the blood out of it´s nose so it can breathe-Yuck!

Anyway, the annual horse races were actually more interesting for me than the fighting. They took place on a dirt road in the same neighborhood as the cock fights, and there were tons of people out to watch. There were young boys particiating in speed races between the main relay races in which the older boys/men competes. In these races there is a dead duck hung from it´s feet by a rope across the street. As the men race by on their horses the objective is to tear the duck´s head off. The funny part is that that seems to be impossible, so they just end up pulling the duck really hard and catipulting if up into the trees above when they let go. The streets were packed, with little boys climbing the trees for a better look, and everyone eating plantain chips and raspados (snowcones with condensed milk and fruit syrup).

The next morning i went to the Quetzaltrekker office at 4am to prepare for our hike. I´m sure I already talked about QT in Guatemala, but just to remind you all, they are a volunteer-run non-profit trekking company that raises money for programs to help street kids. So, we packed, ate breakast, and headed out to Cerro Negro on a chicken bus. We hike about two hours throught peanut fields and the ¨black desert¨ avoiding the cattle all around us, and then dropped oof out pack to climb Cerro Negro. It´s the sam volcano I boarded down, but this time we simply ran, which may have actually been more fun. And this time we weren´t attacked by a swarm of african bees at the top of the crater. After running down, we started up ¨las pilas,¨ a steep ridge behind the ranger´s station with our packs. At the top we had burritos and pbj on tortillas while avoiding the gnats (which grossly enough were attracted to all ou bloody scrapes from falling all over the rocks on cerro negro). From there it was a nice walk/hike throught lush green foliage in thick fog to the ridge at the capsite below ¨El Hoyo¨. Our campsite is in a glowing green bowl below ¨the hole¨ with the crater of the volcano further above that and beautiful views all in front of us. When we first ade it to the to we were socked in by clouds and couldn´t see the view of el hoyo at first. But when everything creared I was totally blown away!

We hikde up to a serious fumerol on the side of the volcano with tons of sulfure steam billowing out, then up to the edge of the crater which was much larger and greener than I had imagined, and then along the side and bottom of el hoyo. The hole is on the slope of the volcano, just down from the vrater and is perfectly round with deep red stone sides. The theories on how it was formed include that it may have been a fumerol at some point, a collapsed lava tunnel, or a dinosaur nest. We watched sunset from the ridge and walked back down for a delicious lentil, garbanzo, pasta dinner, and the mallow roasting on the fire.

It poured most of the night, but we woke up to one of the most beautiful mornings I have ever seem. To the left was the sun coming up throught the steam of the fumerol, in front of us volcanes Momotombo, and Momotombito with lake Managua stretching out around and behind them, further to the right was laguna Asososca next to la tigre, and starting above la tigre and arching up and around behing us was a beautiful double rainbow! I don´t think that my description or my photos will be able to do it justice! The we hiked four hours down throught the beautiful jungle to laguna Asososca for lunch and swimming. Looking down at the lake from el hoyo it seemed pretty close because we didn´t know how big it was, but looking back up at el hoyo from the lake it was pretty impressive to see how far we had come! Hiking out of the lake and out to the road was the easiest part, because all 9L of my water were gone and we had finally eaten the day 2 lunch I had been carying. Bus rides back, and then 12 hours in bed! I still can´t get over how beautiful the trip was!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

When In Rome... Do like the Nicaraguans do...

Nicaragua is nothing short of Incredible!
After Miraflor I went to Matagalpa to visit the chocolate factory (Yum!), and hike around Selva Negra, a beautiful reserve that produces tons of shade-grown coffee. I saw beautiful birds and bugs, and huge howler monkeys that were a bit close for comfort.

Then I spent a few days in Leon, eating street food at fritangas (not that I don´t do that in absolutely every city I visit), touring the rooftop of the largest cathedral in central america, climbing volcanos, and boarding down them. I went to volcan Cerro Negro where we climbed 45 minutes to the top, around the back and through the crater full of sulfur clouds and bright red, white, and yellow rocks contrasting against the slopes of teeney black volcanic rocks. The boarding was not terribly fast, nor easy, but it was a blast. The closest I´ve been to snowboarding for a long time, and with a wonderful view. The funniest part of the day though, may have easiy been when we all had to lay down on the top of the volcano as a swarm of ¨african killer bees¨ flew over.

The other volcano I climbed was Telica, which is active as well and has e much more impressive crater. We left at 6 in the morning and took a chicken bus to a small dirt road that we followed ofr a couple hours to the base of the volcano. Because of regular wear and rainy season the path is heavily eroded and sometimes you´re walking in a row with the walls reaching up about 15 feet on each side. We collected some firewood about half way up the volcano, and then made it to the ridge where we left out packs to go check out the crater. It was much more impressive than I had imagined with perfect plumes of sulfur clouds, perfect cliffs at the craters edge, and beautiful colors. Sometimes the smoke would clear a bit so we ould see more of the inside of the crater, but when you threw a rock in and waited to hear it hit you knew that we were nowhere near seeing the bottom! We camped at the old crater which is now beautiful and full of green grass, and has pasta dinner and banana boats (you know what I´m talking about if you ever went to girlscout camp). The next morning we climbed down to the hervideros, mudpits like the ones at yellowstone.

Then I headed to Granada to met up with some friends from Montana. That ciry was beautiful and we enjoyed bonbons (some with coconut, chilies, peanut, orange, sesame, orange, etc. God bless the chocolate in this country!), refrescos in bags (like chocolate milk, tamarind, and some fruits I had never tried or even heard of before), eating telepizza (I officially do not like anchovies), looking for somwhere to hang out when the whole city seems to loose power, singing karaoke (that´s right-All Star, by Smash Mouth), snooping around the school´s printmaking studio, and generally enjoying a beautifu city. We also went out to the Masaya Volcano and took a tour of the caves where we saw little bats.

From Granada we took the ferry ride to Altagracia on Isla de Ometepe in Lago de Nicaragua. I knew that the island would be beautiful, but I still had no idea! The island consists of two connected volcanos coming out of an enormous lake with freshwater sharks. We actually stayed at Zopilote, which is a beautiful eco lodge a bit up Volcan Maderas from the town of Balgüe. The mirador has a beautiful view, the dorms are super comfortable, there are more butterflies than I´ve ever seen before in my life, and they make organic whole sheat bread, maremelades, yogurt, pasta sauce, pizza, and flavored liquers, and we could order delicious pizza! One day we rode bikes to the beach and hung out skipping rocks and doing kartwheels, then walking the bike back, if your tire went flat like mine. Another we only left the lodge once, to go to a delicious dinner where we had to wait a while while they killed and prepared the chicken for us-Yum! And, of course, we climbed Volcan Maderas, which was worth every enourmous step through the peanut butter mud dripping with sewat. When you get to the top you see the huge crater lake and enjoy the cool air, and if you plan ahead like Andrew and I you get to have leftover pizza for lunch. On the way down we stoped at a mirador and had an amazing view of Volcan Concepción on the other side of the island. Our last morning there I mad french toast, and we caught the bus to Moyogalpa where we ate ice cream for lunch and walked out to Punto de Jesus Maria for the best view of the island I could imagine. We swam, collected lake shells, and took tons of pictures.

The next morning we got a lancha back to the mainland where we had a bit of an adventure on the buses getting back to Granada where we picked up food and rum (side note-you can go to the National Police Store in the fire station and buy items they have confiscated from ladrones for super cheap-including rum) and splurged on a cab out to The Monkey Hut. The monkey hut is a beautiful hostel on Laguna de Apoyo-the clearest lake I have ever seen. We spent a couple of days eating mac´n´cheese, swimming, kayaking, floating in inner tubes, sipping on out fire-station-rum, and napping in hammocks. I could stay there for weeks on end! Then we headed to Managua for a night, and now I´m in Leon making plans to climb more volcanos and watch horse races. This morning I made myself scrambeled aggs with onion, garlic, and bell pepper, tortillas, smoked cheese, slices tomato, and half a papaya for breakfast and spent a wopping $27 cords (no worries, that´s only about $1.75 US), and I feel damn good!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fuente de Vida

Before getting out of Honduras, it had to trow me one more curve ball-the Earthquake. Luckily I left the two cities that were hardest hit hours before the earthquake, but it still woke me up that night in Tegucigalpa.
Then the trip from Tegucigalpa, Honduras to Esteli, Nicaragua, which could have been a long, frustrating day ended up being fun and easy. I met some great Nicaraguan kids on the first bus in Honduras and traveled almost all the way to Esteli with one of them. We had lunch with her dad at a comedor on the border, and visited and talked about Nicaragua for a bit. After the 5 chicken bus journey it took me to get to Esteli I stayed there for a few days looking for a volunteer job. Turns out that nowhere I went is looking for volunteers, so I went up to UCA Miraflor for a few days.
Miraflor is an enormous amount of land, run by 3 orcanic agriculture coops (one mens, one womens, and one mixed). The communities, farms, and coops have been around for years and years and have always been organic a generally sustainable-which is impressive, and uncommon in this part of the world. Tourism was later added, and has still not expanded much, keeping it a calm and ruraly destination. In the bus station on the way I met a girl from Spain and we ended up spending a couple of days there together. It was fun to travel with someone who was just as excited to be there as I was, and to practice so much spanish.
We stayed at the house of a wonderful family, with beautiful flower gardens, veggie gardens, citrus trees, cows, goats, and chickens, a comfortable house, a beautiful view of a little valley, chilly nights, and great day trips. In the morning we would get uo early and drink coffee, or milk in my case (fresh out of the cow, like a mug full of butter!) and watch as the clouds creared up for a sunny day. We walked around to different miradores (lookouts, or view points), looked at all the other fincas, climbed into a 250 year old tree, mooed at all the cows, made moustaches with spanish moss, visited waterfalls, and relaxed in the breeze! We only met one other tourist while we were up there together, and it was so nice to get away from the city!
The food was phenomenal, milk from the cow that morning, cheese made by Elim, tortillas from fresh ground maiz, organic free-range chicken fresh from the neighbor, juices from peaches in the yard, fried plaintains from the billions of plantain and banana trees around the area, and all fresh organic veggies from the yard! It is such a beautiful, sustainable community with equally beautiful people. I was at Finca Fuente de Vida in the community of Cebollal, in the zona alta, and in the next few weeks hope to visit other zonas to work with the local guides on a program to teach them some intermediate english, and about the tourism projects in their community. I loved being in the area and cant wait to get back!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kind of like the Poudre or Big T, but in Honduras...

Wow! Rafting, floating, jumping, and lounging, what a perfect couple of days at the Río Cangrejal! The river is absolutely beautiful, even though it´s just beginning rainy season and the water is low. I went out with a group yesterday, and we drove a ways up the river where we dropped off the rafts and started hiking upstream. We rand and jumped off of enormous rocks, swam across back and forth, and continued hiking. After a while, we just got in and floated back down tot he rafts, where we got in a for a fun ride. Nothing too crazy, class 3 and lower, but still really fun. I can´t get over how beautifully the rocks have been formed by the water, and it was so relaxing to lay around on the rocks and just jump right off when you got too hot.
This morning I got up early with a couple of other people and headed to the ranger station at the entrance to the Pico Bonito park. There we crossed the river on a wobbly bridge, and hiked to and hour and a half to a beautiful waterfall. There were two huge rainbows near the bottom of it and we just sat to enjoy the view for a while. On the hike we saw a green tree snake, tons of butterflies and dragonflies, and the tiniest frogs I´ve ever seen in my life (the size of my pinkie nail). Now for a sandwich with my favorite Honduran cheese, some yucca chips, and a nap with the fan as close to me as I can get it!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Carnival, Carribean, Chaos

Spent a few days in Utila, one of the bay islands in Honduras, and really enjoyed myself. I´ve loved working and volunteering so much throughout my travels, but it was nice to feel like I was really on a vacation. Took a ferry out from La Ceiba and stayed at the cheapest place on the island, which was suprisingly cleand and quiet-perfect. Spent a couple of days just hanging out walking around, eating delicious cinnamon rolls (we fell in love with a bakery that had amazing cinnamon rolls, piña cake, and banana bread), and meeting poeple. I ran into a Dutch friend from Guatemala, and a boy who played rugby with the guy my roomate in Guatemala dated-it´s a small world! Anyway, I hung out with some twins from Canada, one of whom took the diving PADI course, and we had fun meeting poeple from her school. Went to a huge BBQ one night at the school and had a blast, also went out to Tree Tanic a few times-a treehouse sort of bar that´s part of an enormous outdoor restraunt/bar area that´s all sculptures encrusted with mosaics, shells, glasswork, and all sorts of random stuff.
We also took a really nice day trip out to Pigeon Caye, where we swam out to Diamond Caye for snorkeling. It was beautiful and we saw tons of coral, sea fans, ¨donkey dung¨ sea cucumbers, balloon fish, damselfish, parrot fish, barracuda, queen angel fish, and a green moray eel. We also bought a huge barracuda fillet and cooked it up for lunch with a salad and homemade ice cream.
The nights were beautiful on the island as well, and there were so many start that we couldn´t even find constelations!
Came back to La Ceiba a couple of days ago for Carnival this weekend-which was totaly chaos. The parade was fun to watch, and all of the women´s costumes were super elaborate. We weren´t sure how we felt about the little girls dressed up to match, doing seriously raunchy dancing with the crowd going wild. There were tons of beads being thrown, lots of confetti and glitter in the air, and I even made my own mask to wear out-complete with feathers and glitter. After the parade there wasn´t a ton to do, but we walked around for hours (the twins, some friends from Xela, and the guys they were traveling with). Unfortunately, two nights ago several people were robbed in the hostel while everyone was sleeping, and then tons of people were robbed while we were out at the Carnival last night-many of the at gun point!
I´m not much of a fan of Honduras at this point and after whitewater rafting tomorrow, I plan to head down to Nicaragua. On the upside though, Honduras does have amazing ¨Baleadas.¨ They´re pretty simple, but somehow amazing-just a flour tortilla with butter, refired beans, cheese, cream, and then whatever fillings you want-my favorites are scrambled eggs and avocado.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Village Farm

Since it's been so long since I've written anything (there's just too much world to see to be sitting at a computer sometimes!), I'm just going to talk about the farm I most recently worked on. It was an organic mango, pineapple, cirtus, coconut, cocoplum, pepper, cacao, etc. farm on the coast of Belize, 8 miles north of Punta Gorda. Because it is so isolated you can only bet there by boat, and they live with no tv, no internet, one phone, a wood-burning stove (which was really fun to cook on and see bread made with), and generators that run when necesary. That part of the coast is actually a marine reserve, and I saw some fish and jellyfish, but no luck with manatees.

We entertained ourselves with reading (I read Barbara Kingsolver's Small Wonder, and The Bean Trees, and a book called Epitaph for a Peach), conversation, and as much time as possible out on the pier. There were a few huge thinder and lightning storms (I had no idea that there could literally be constant lightning for so many solid hours), and the sea was absolutely still aferwards. Normally though, the pier was the best place to escape the sanflies, who my friends describes as biting people into "itchy submission."

My main job on the farm was to search and destroy "God's Bush," which is a vine that is actually a parasite and smothers the cirtus and caco trees... Well, it smothers everything, but the citrus and cacao are what we're most concerned with. I have mad ladder skills from that. One morning was spent scrubbing the bottom of the boats and scraping the barnacles off, a nice excuse to squidge my feet around in the sea-sludge and enjoy the morning in the water. I also helped harvest citrus (lots of giant, orange limes), cocoplums, bilimbi (related to starfruit, so very tangy), some cacao, and tons of pepper. We spent an entire day harvesting pepper (2 big buckets worth, which is more than twice what the plants produced last year), and the next day was rainy, so we conveniently say "inside" (the cookhouse has a roof, but no walls, and a dirt floor with crab holes all over the place) cleaning the corns off of the stems. Then we spent the next few days putting it all out to dry.

And now to the most exciting part-eating, haha! First off, things like honey and brown rice come from within the toledo district, tofu and okara patties made in PG with soy from norther Honduras, and jams made on the farm. I helped harvest things for us to enjoy on the farm, many of which I never even knew existed. Bananas (which I obviously knew existed) surinam cherries, bread fruit, bread nuts. Bread fruit is basically a green fruit the size of a large cantaloupe, and is just a caarb/starch. We would boil it and sometimes eat it with salt, pepper, and slase, or add it to lentil soup, or when it was a little more ripe it was sweeter like a yam and I liked it plain. Breadnuts were the real experience though! The tree is very tall with huge leaves, and teh fruit hang all around. The fruits are a bumpy, breen ball about the sive of a small cantaloupe, and we have to wait until they fall from the tree to collect them. Then we would sit at the base of the tree and pick through their slime (slimier with more ants and maggots the older they are) to get the seeds out. They are brown seeds about the size of a fat thumb which need to be boiled and then shelled before eating. We had the largest harvest they had seen, and we cam up with some pretty creative ways to eat them (many of which, I would like to take credit for, thank you very much). We made porridge, where we mashed up the nuts with a bit of water and powdered milk, and added cinnamon, rasins, and honey. We also had them crispy with lots of spice, as a delicious curry with veggies, in a stir/fry with soy sauce and sesame seeds, in our soups, or just plain and delicious. (One other random note about food in belize/I love seaweed milkshakes!)

Now I'm in Honduras for some snorkeling, rafting, and maybe some "Carnival."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Holy cow, I just had the most amazing seafood meal!!!
Pretty much an enormous bowl packed with two crabs, a meduim fish, shrimp, conch, snails in the shell, and chunks of plantain all floating in a thick broth of coconut milk and delicious spices! It was absolutely amazing, and even sharing it with a friend we could not finish the whole bowl!

I am currently in Livingston, on the carribean coast of Guatemala where the Río Ducle flows into the ocean. The town is beautiful, colorful and has a wonderfully strong carribean flavor. I only planed to be here for two days and will end up here for nine all together, but considering the sea food, I will not be caught complaining. Yesterday I walked out to siete altares, what would be a series of seven pools fed by a small river that cascade down from on to the other. Seeing as how it is the end of dry season though, it´s really just one pool of water and no waterfalls'but beautiful nonetheless. I´ve spent most of my time so far laying in hammocs or on the beach reading, and get up once in a while to eat seafood. I may shake things up a bit in the next few days and have a coco-loco (a coconut cut open with rum poured in).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nebaj→Todos Santos

This past week was possibly the most amazing experience of my recent travels!
I took a 6-day trek from Nebaj to Todos Santos Guatemala with QuetzalTrekkers and a phenomenal group of 10 other people from around the world. All profits from the volunteer-run tour company go to an hogar (a home for homeless children) and a school for street kids. That´s all fine and dandy, but Henry, a 13 year-old kid from the hogar came with us and it really helped us all to realize that because of the volunteers and trekkers Henry has people from all over the world to raise him, provide for him, and support him (in every sense of the word). But here are the details of the trip:

Day One→Had pancakes and fruit salad at the QT office before heading to Minerva bus terminal to catch a chicken bus (on which I saw a girl with gold stars set into her two front teeth!) to Santa Crux del Quiche where we got a microbus to Nebaj. In Nebaj we went to the marke to pick up food for the trek, walked to the beautiful cemetery where the sheep were grazing, and hung out at Popi´s Hostel. We had a delicious spaghetti dinner and then bomb coconut cream pie and soy icecream! Don (the owner of Popi´s), who actually does phenomenal work in the community, also chan-smokes like nobody´s business and has a dark yellow stain in his moustache around his mouth.

Day Two→After a night of pouring rain at the hostel we woke up to no electricity (which was obviously not a big deal, because I didn´t even notice until I realized that the candle.lit breakfast was not for the romantic ambiance), and had another delicious pancake and fruit breakfast. Then we headed out of town throught beautiful farm land in the mist and a little drizzle of rain towards Acul, where we picked up cheese at a factory owned by an Italian couple. Acul is actually called a "model town" because during the civil war it was one of many villages that were burned to the ground, and when it was rebuilt it was done on a grid to look like a more "proper" town, which was used to house displaced families from all of the other ruined villages. It was used as a model to show other countries to try to prove that the civil war wasn´t as bad as people thought, and to show a good example-although, as we know that was total B.S. So... we had a really nice lunch next to a stream running through hilly farm land. Next we walked on through Xexucap to Xexucam, where we spent the night in a shelter. We had a temescal (a traditional sauna built of mud bricks, used to bathe in) and then dinner (rice and beans, with a hard-boiled egg) at a local family´s house.

Day Three→Up at 3:30 to make it up a very steep hill before breakfast with the sunrise. We ate delicious mosh and then continued upward (it was our day of highest altitude gain). At the top we really knew that we were in the highlands-it kind of looks like a Guatemalan Ireland-sheep, goats, stone walls, and huts that the locals live in. Chuatuj was up at the top and had a scary dog. Anyway, we headed on for a beautiful lunch under a huge tree in a high valley then to the tiny (tiny means a couple of families spread around) town of Chortiz where we had a trailmix break. We cam down a little ways off of the ridges we had been on to stay in Canton Primero. This town was an experience! We slept on the sidewalk thing around the school, which has broken windows and is full of trash-and currently in use. The the local men started showing up and staring at us (and we of course couldn´t understand what they were saying because they speak local mayan dialects), and after about 25 men were gathered near us two sheep walked in with bells on their necks, and we couldn´t help laughing at our situation. It turns out we came on the night of their town meeting-Awkward! Anyway, we had a nice spaghetti dinner and watched the full moon rise (which did include Juan mooning use as well as the actual moon).

Day Four→Waked the rest of the way down the hill Canton Primero is on to Río Pericón at the bottom of the valley for a mosh breakfast and stares from the local women. Then up the other side of the valley, where it flattened a bit, and then we went up another hill lovingly refered to as "the bitch." Beautiful views of the valley and families herding their sheep. We walked along the top of the ridge and were painfully serenaded by a man´s painful singing on the other side of the valley. The we went down into San Nicolás where we finally found a store to buy lunch supplies at, and climbed up a hill on the other side of town for lunch (this hall called "the hill of terror"). Delicious sandwitches-beans from a bag, the cheese from Acul, pica más, ranchera sauce, and tortrix-Guatemalan fritos!
After walking down the toeher side of the hill we caught a pick-up from La Capillanía to La Ventosa. Just imagine:11 gringos and their backpacks in the back of a Gutamenalan pick-up. We had been hpong for a dump truck, but no such luck-Oh well. In La Ventosa we stayed with Guillermo, who has terrifying stories about the civil war, but his famil was very generous. We had another wonderful temescal, then mashed potatoes and tortillas for dinner.

Day Five→Rice and beans for breakfast, and more in the backpack for lunch! We started that day off headed up to La Torre, the highest non-volcanic point in Central America, where Bobby read an awesome poem he had written about the trip, and we made hot drinks. Then we went down, down, down, through absolutely beautiful forrest with great fock formations and then down some more into farm land on the way to Todos Santos.
Todos Santos was absolutley beautiful! All of the men still wear their traditional clothing-amazing red-striped pants and woven collared shirts. We all walked around and enjoyed town and it´s genuinely nice poeple. Then a woman fed us an unbelieveable chicken dinner!!! Yum!

Day Six→Made the trip back to Quetzaltenango in a microbus-and got a flat tire of course. It really was an easy ride though, and then we all had choco-bananos (chocolate dipped frozen bananas with crushed peanuts) before relaxing for the rest of the day.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Sleep Tight, Don´t Let the Bed Bugs...

BITE! That´s right folks, bed bugs and the whole sha-bang. Oh well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

Ayway, I spent this weekend on a 2 day pack trip up Tajumulco, the highest point in Central America. It was absolutely beautiful!!! I went with QuetzalTrekkers, a non-profit, volunteer-run trekking group out of Quetzaltenango, who I highly recommend! A group of 17 of us, from all around the world, left Xela at 5 on Saturday morning. We got to Minerva in the back of a pick-up (Cold!) and then took 2 chicken buses to get to the trail-head. Then we hiked up to base camp which is in the saddle between the crater of the volcano and the point next to it. The guides (all about our ages) said that we were the fastest group they had ever had, which was nice because it meant that we got to take a nice long luinch and hang out at base camp in the afternoon. Lunch was really delicious veggie food, including a beet salad and guac. That evening we climbed "La Corona" to watch the sunset, which was amazing because of the clouds we had watched rolling in all day. Then down to base camp for dinner, and early to bed.

We got up at about 4:30 the next morning to make it to the summit of Tajumulco for sunrise. We al took up out pads and sleeping bags with us to relax and eat cookies and watch the sun come up. We also had views of tons of volcanoes around us and theoretically we could see the ocean. On of the smaller and very active volcanoes, Santiaguito, errupted while we were watching it from the summit! Then we walked around the rim of the crater and back down to camp for breakfast. The hike down was fast and we ate at a comedor (which put hot dogs on the veggie plates) before taking the 2 chicken buses back to Xela. One of the buses had 4 people in most seats and 3 in come, with all 17 of us plus some others standing in the aisles. Not the worst ride I´ve ever had, but the other passengers were probably not happy about how we smelled. The trip was beautiful and it felt good to be out of the city for a bit and do some nice hiking!

Last weekend we went to Fuentes Georginas, which is are really nice natural hot-springs, and spend a few hours there reading, sunning, and getting all pruney in the pools. On the drive there we went through some beautiful farm land around Zunil, which is know for it´s agricultural market, and all of the nasty chemicals it is dumping into the river running through town that they use for irrigation. A couple of days before Fuentes, we did a nice hike to Laguna Chicabal, which is a lake in the crater of an inactive volcano. It is said to be sacred for the Mayans, and when we went we saw some small altars and flowers as offerings on the beach of the lake. The view from the mirador above the lake was stunning and we could see two inactive and one active volcanoes from there.

We also had a pot-lich and birthday party, complete with cupcake decorating, this past week for my friends Amanda´s birthday. The food was delicious and we had a blast all evening. Things are going great here, and I will be sad to see poeple go this week and then leave myself, but I am so grateful for the experience I have had here!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Xela is proving to be a wonderful city!!! I have a little "family" at my hostel: we go to movies together,, take day-trips, make meals, and whatnot. I'm still loving the markets, and went to the biggest one in the city last week. All the food is so delicious (I got lentils, flax seed, and sesame seed, because we can't find those as easily at the market by the hostel). When we were there we tried some tamales and little animal-shaped waffle thingies. I've made all sorts of oatmeal creations, spinach and snow peas with a boiled egg, sweet bell pepper tomato sauce, temphe caluiflower snow pea curry, lentil soup (with my delicious sprouted lentils), cream-of-pumpkin soup, and Martin (one of the fam members) makes us delicious, usually veggie treats!

We also had a pastry-tasting one night, where we bought a bunch of different sweets from Xelapan, and cut them up so we could try them all. Then we giggled off our sugar high.

In the evenings I've seen some movies, including Australia (hilatious, with "hottie McTight-Shirt"), Milk (highly recommended), and Tropic Thunder. Also, some great documentaries about the Guatemalan Civil War and local conflict/struggle on the coffee and banana fincas. I also saw the Los Monologos de la Vagnia, which was wonderful! And I've been reading some good books, including "I, Rigoberta Menchu."

My volunteer job turned out to be nothing like I thought it would, but it's been a good experience! I'm teaching art at an after-school program for local gradeschool children. The school is about a 20 min walk out of town, and there are some really fun volunteers.

Last weekend we took a chicken bus to Momostenango for their market day. It was fun to see everything set up, and we had choco-mango and choco-banano, before sitting down to eat soup and tamalitos. On the way back, a preacher-man on the bus got mad at all of us white girls for not giving hime any money and we got a pretty nasty lecture about injustice and whatnot.

I also went to the Cultural museun in Xela with Megan and Jon, which is packed with tons of stuff and basically no information about any of it. The highlight, though, is the Taxidermy Room! That's right a room full of horrible taxidermy, fesuses (including human) in jars, dries "devils of the sea," two-headed cows, and a family of lions.

I'm loving this place, and the fam is going to make crepes tonight with our french friend, and then go to a documentary about Guatemalan fincas.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


I made it to the lake, which was absoluetly beautiful! Lago de Atitlan is situated between 4 volcanoes, and the scenery is amazing. I arrived in Panajachel and took a boat to Santa Cruz, where I would be working at Islaverde Hotel. I worked for a week, getting their compost cleared of plastic and cans, building beds with what I could find, and planting/transplanting some veggies and herbs. Unfortunately, all they really wanted me to do was yard-work (pruning, cutting grass, etc.)-it was a beautiful place to do yard work-but I had come to do organic gardening to produce for the kitchen/restaurant. Anyway, I knew that I wasn´t really needed there or doing much anything of significance (not to mention feeling uncomfortable with my somewhat high-strung anorexic boss), so I moved on after a week. My time there was not a total waste though-I learned a couple of things in the kitchen, helped the compost situation (which will unfortunately, probably go to heck again now that I have left), and took an amazing hike to San Marcos and back.

After leaving the lake, I headed to Xela (Quetzaltenango), which was going to be my next stop anyway. If I stick to my sort-of-tentative-schedule, I´ll be here for about another month. I applied for a volunteer position at an organic community garden directed toward local women who learn and work the land, and then get to take the veggies home. It seems very well done, with a great compost program, and I have a meeting on Monday to talk about what I will be doing, get to know people, etc. I also found a pretty good hostel to stay at, with a great group of people who are all staying for at least a month. One of the girls from Seattle and are I are going to be roomates for the month, and there is another girl from Fort Collins. I´m loving the feel of the city, some great cafés, veggie restaurants, and markets.

Currently, my favorite thing to do is go to the market and come up with different recipe ideas and experiment in the kitchen (the kitchen is one of the reasons I like my current hostel). I´ve tried a couple of fruits I had never seen before, and some of the staples are fresh, delicious, and cheap: carrots, beets, spinach,squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, banana, onion, etc. I have been making a very conscious effort not to buy anything packaged (some exceptions like oil, and rarely pasta or yogurt), and I always take my own bags to the markets and panaderías.

I arrived in Xela on ash Wednesday, and it seems that the party will not be stoping any time soon. Every Friday there is a huge "feria" outside of the cemetery and the church in front of it. It´s beautiful; with all the families, the church decorated and full of people and candles, tons of food stalls-mostly fried, delicious sweets-my favories are the macaroons and pumpkin seed discs, and some hilarious carnival games and rides. Tonight some of us from the hostel may go to a big football (soccer) game together.

And for everyone´s entertainment: I sometimes go to aerobics at a really ghetto gym by my hostel. I always stand in the back, but my head is a good foot above everyone else´s in the mirrors in front of us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

No wonder people love Antigua

I've spent the last few days in Antigua, Guatemala, which represents little of "real" Guatemala but is still a lovely, comfortable place to hang out. I've stayed at a really nice hostal with cute rooms, breakfast buffet, drinking water, internet, and solar power-a bit of a splurge ($7/night), but worth it. Town is full of brightyl painted architecture and cobbled streets, with several nice parks. The market here is huge and very different from those in Mexico. On the west side all of the chicken buses come to pick-up and drop-off. They are the most elaborately pained school buses I've ever seen, with flashing lights, painted characters, and entertaining drivers. I looked like a silly white girl walking around between them, just taking it all in. Most of the fruits and veggies are in the outdoor section of the market and the prices are even cheaper than in Mexico. I bought potatoes, carrots, garlic, onion, green beans, and avas (I don't know what they're called in english) and made a pretty tasty veggie soup. I aslo bought delicious hand-made blue corn tortillas, and found a wonderful panaderia-the best bread I've had so far (sorry, Casa del Pan).

Yesterday after breakfast,reading on the roof, and a walk around town I took a "tour" to Pacaya volcano, the only active volcano around Antigua. IThe tour was really just a ride and then a guy who walked in front of us on the path and didn't really talk. Thick clouds were all around the volcan and this "sunset tour" looked like it might turn out to be a bit disappointing. Anyway, it kind of felt like walking on the moon: weird grey rock, thick clouds sitting on the ground, and at one point we wet "skiing"-there is a section of the side of the volcano that is reallt loose rock and you just rin down it. Then we hiked further up to where you can actually see and touch the red lava-ther were people roasting marshmallows. On the hike back all the clouds magically cleared and we saw the red red sunset and all the other volcanoes around the town. It was beautiful!

When I got back I met up with some people from the hostel and went to see one of the members of Buena Vista Social Club play weith another group of musicians. They played a couple of my favorite songs and people were dancing some great salsa! It was a great last night in Antigua, and now I'm off to the lake.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pine Trees and Palm Trees

Quite a bit has happened since I left San Cristòbal,. This is a condensed version:
-traveled to Palenque where I slept on a "bed" which was a slab of cement in the shape of a bed coming out of the cement floor.
-visited the Palenque ruins, where I was convinced that the howler monkeys were going to attack.
-went to misol-ha and agua azul waterfalls in the pouring rain, which made the rivers and waterfalls look more like chocolate milk than anything else
-spent a night in a Lacandon village, where I didn`t understand a word of the mayan language.
-made the boat ride to the absolutely amazing mayan ruins of Yaxchilan and then across to the Guatemalan border.
-swam in the lake around Flores, Guatemala in the middle of the afternoon with the moon over head and the most beautiful clouds I have ever seen.
-snuck into the Tikal ruins where I painted and took a nap at the top of one of the temples overlooking the canopy with the tops of the other pyramids sticking out.
-ate watermelon in the rain on the roof of our hostel and listened to the awkward students practicing at the music school.
-saw all of the horrible deforestation due to cattle raising in Guatemala (and Mèxico).
-climbed a rope ladder down the Semuc Champey limestone bridge and crawled into the caves underneath (google this place for pictures-seriously!)
-ate cardamom chocolate, made from cocao and cardamom grown not 5 minutes from where it was made and then consumed... by me!

Who knows what´s next!?

Sunday, January 25, 2009


"Estiercol" has become a huge part of my life in the past two months. It`s also knwn as: caca de vaca, cow poop, or manure. A lot of my work on both the farm in Oaxaca and the garden in Chiapas has consisted of collecting cow poop-which is actually a fairly enjoyable job (except when it`s windy and the powdered cow poop gets in your eye or sticks to your sweaty face). Anywya, the food here at La Casa del Pan is delicious! It feels great to collect the cow poo to build the beds, where we plant, water, care for, and then harvest the veggies we serve at the restaurant. I work in the mornings and eat the lunch buffet around 3. Lately I have been spending my afternoons in the kitchen with the cocineras, who are helping me with spansh and teaching me a bit of how to make tortillas, yoghurt, flan, and tons of other delicious treats!

There is a ton of live music here in San Cris, and I love going to the bar just next door to listen for a while before I get into bed. There is an amazing fandango (traditional music from Veracruz) band that plays all over town, as well as a dub reggae ban that`s really fun to dance to. Last week some friends and I went to a big fandango at Casa Blues, and by the time I left around 11pm there were over a dozen people playing percussion and the famout tiny little guitars, with women doing the amazing fandango dancing.

My 1st day off I went to Chamula as I already wrote about, and my free days have gotten better since then. My 2nd, I walked out to the periferico (the road that runs arund town) and down to ther river. I was just going to walk up the river and have a picnic, but ended up finding "El Encuantro" Ecological Reserve. There was an interesting trail with a great view of the city, and I stumbeled my way around for a while. My next weekend I attempted to take my one-speed bike out to the village of Zinacanta. It`s a steep 12km trip, and there was a lot of walking with my bike by my side involved. But I made it and it was a great day (the 1st day of sun after a solid week of cold, cloudy, rainy days-which I thuroughly enjoyed as well). Zinacantan is know for it`s textiles and I saw tons of beautiful weavings and embroidery. I bought hilo (thread) at the market there and embroidered an owl on my sweatshirt, attempting to do it in their traditional style. This morning I got up and took a colectivo out of town, past the garden, and to Huitipec ecological reserve, where I had a really nice 3km hike. It`s beautiful, peacefull rain forrest and I was absolutely the only one there. I`m going to spend the afternoon hanging out with a friend, and probably get to bed early.

A couple more days here, and off to Palenque.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

La Huerta

After spending an uneventful New Year`s on a 12-hour over-nite bus ride from Oaxaca, Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas I am at La Casa del Pan (the restaurant whose garden I am working on). The garden is absolutely amazing-about 20 minutes out of town on a colectivo, and a minute walk up a hill- it`s a beautifully organized veggie garden overlooking the valley. We have every kind of lettuce I can imagine and tons of other delicious treats- snow peas, radishes, rhubarb, and more. Evey day after work at the garden (which consits of planting, harvesting, compost, digging, weeding, cleaning, and whatnot) we eat at La Casa del Pan. It`s an organic veggie buffet, home-made bread, a "plato fuerte," and dessert. The food is amazing, and the bread comes from our built-in bakery. We (a french guy and australian guy and myself) live in a room behind the restaurant/bakery, right next to an independent movie theater.

Leaving Oaxaca was hard (I almost rented a room in a friend`s house, and stayed to work a the print studio), but I love San Cristobal as well. Like I said, there is as independent movie theater in our "building" and there are tons more around town, the food is amazing everywhere-tons of international people, everyone is super friendly, there is a bit of art, the indigenous towns are really interesting, and the landscapes are impossible to explain-I love the weather here too!

Today we rode horses with one of the guys who works at La Casa del Pan to Chamula, a close-by indigenous town, to see their Sunday market and rituals in the church. Interesting, but a bit touristy now, so in the next weeks I`m going to visit at leas one of the other villages. Anyway, this place is beautiful!!!