Monday, May 2, 2016

Tudo Esta Bem

After our jaunt in the big city we headed north along the coast to the colonial town of Paraty. The old cobblestone streets are closed off in the center and at night people fill the streets- cake vendors out of carts, horses, live music, artists and restaurants in the street. We visited nearby beaches and took a surf lesson for a day. Our next stop was Ilha Grande, the huge island just off the coast. We took the local ferry there and did a day boat trip of the various bays and beaches on the island. The weather was chilly and rainy but we still managed to enjoy the beauty around us. Eventually we returned to the mainland and made one last journey north- to Rio. The city was much more pleasant than its southern neighbor, São Paulo. As we arrived, Joe tapped my shoulder and pointed up at the Christ the redeemer statue atop the mountain. We had finally made it to Rio, our final destination, and a bittersweet feeling slowly sank in.
We spent our time visiting more art museums, walking through parks and seeing other tourist destinations, like the mosaic stairs and sugarloaf mountain. We walked along the shores of the famous Copacabana beach and had a night out in the Lapa district. 
Brazil has been wonderful to us. Being a Portugese speaking country, it has given me an appreciation for communication. The past months I've been in Spanish speaking countries and although I'm not completely fluent, my ability has been sufficient to get me from place to place without a problem. Portugese is somewhat similar to Spanish but entirely different at the same time. Our ability to communicate was extremely limited and it forced me to think about what my trip would have been like had I not been able to speak the language. There were so many scenarios that I would have missed out on had I lacked the skill of communication. 
Our last day was a sunny one. We sat on the beach and watched all the people. Brazilian swimsuits, groups of people playing beach games, guys selling sunglasses and improvised bars made of styrofoam coolers. 

Tudo esta bem (All is well)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Truth About Traveling

I feel like so often travel is a glorified concept. Undeniably, it's my passion and I love my life of travel but there are definitely times when travel is hard. There are times, like right now, where we've been waiting around for the past eight hours and it's a blazing 90 degrees outside. There are times when I feel so alone and times when I miss my friends and my family more than anything. And then, there are times when the lack of peanut butter in this continent takes over my thoughts completely and I lie awake just thinking about Adam's crunchy peanut butter.
This is something I put together to honor all the moments of traveling (the good and the bad) and to encompass every aspect as a whole.

travel is talking with strangers on bus rides
travel is walking in pouring rain for days
travel is sleeping in hostels with scorpions
travel is tasting exotic foods
travel is eating buckets of rice and potatoes
travel is trying to cross the road in rush hour
travel is riding a bike in the blazing sun
travel is waiting for hours on end
travel is playing cards all day in the tent
travel is being lost
travel is trusting strangers
travel is getting your things stolen
travel is receiving random acts of kindness
travel is reflecting on what you want to do
travel is falling in love with new places
travel is making lifelong friends
travel is finding a home wherever you are
travel is promoting tolerance
travel is challenging your fears
travel is learning by experience
travel is finding faith in humanity
travel is inspiring yourself to do great
travel is hard
travel is exhausting
travel is intimidating
travel is life changing

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Brazil Bound

After a long and tedious process of applying for our visas last minute at the Brazilian consulate in Iguazu, we finally got the little sticker in our passports we've been waiting for! The old grumpy Portuguese man didn't make the process easy on us- he made us take several runs to the print shop to print and re-print our documents. Our middle names weren't on one so of course, we had to re-do that one too.
Brazil is a HUGE country, the fifth largest in the world to be precise. Getting on a bus to São Paulo with no expectations. All we know are the following things:
1) the currency is called Reals
2) São Paulo has more than 27 million people
3) a smidge of Portuguese- practicing on the handy duo lingo app, I can now confidently say "the cat drinks milk" and "I like pineapple and beer." Duo Lingo likes to announce at the end of each round that I'm 2% fluent in the target language.
Bags packed again, sunscreen in hand- we're ready for the beaches!!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Iguazu Falls


Iguazu falls sits at the junction between Paraguy, Brazil and Argentina. It is the fourth widest waterfall in the world and the second most popular attraction in Brazil, according to trip advisor.

Our first sight of Iguazu was from the motor boat we took up the river. Joe and I both were in awe at its size, though we were well aware that it was going to be huge. The boat we were in took us right up the river, over the rapids, and to the base of the falls. From there, we knew we were going to get wet. A glorious shower awaited us. The driver took us right into the splashing water and we were instantly drenched. The crashing noises were the only thing we could hear. 
Sufficiently soaked and very pleased, we spent the rest of our day admiring the falls from the various board walks and view points. Entire arcs of rainbows filled the sky when conditions were right and the constant rumbling noise was peaceful and very energetic. Iguazu falls was unlike anything I've ever seen and it was a beautiful day spent in the national park. 
(I'll try to post a picture of it but if that doesn't work, I recommend googling it so you can have a glimpse of its beauty :)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Our time spent in the lively capital city was short but sweet. We passed our days wandering the old colonial streets and visiting the famous modern art museums in the bustling Palermo district. We saw a wide variety of art including a modern interactive installation and Frida Kahlo's self portrait with monkey and bird. 
In an attempt to adjust to the local Argentinian clocks (sleeping in until around 10, eating a late breakfast, a merienda afternoon snack, taking a siesta, and eating dinner no sooner then 11 because clubs don't open until 1) we ate and slept like the locals. We found a neat club on Saturday night with live music and were happy to be the only foreigners there. We called it quits early (3:30 am) and decided our "American inner clocks" had rendered us weak against the argentine crowd. 
Sunday morning was drizzling rain but perfect for the famous market in San Telmo. Wandering the street (the market was about 20 blocks) we quickly discovered that this was no normal farmers market. Small booths sold artisan crafts, handmade jewelry, and strange antique trinkets; as if all the elderly people decided to start selling the old things they found in their basement trunks. People played music on the street and sold empanadas out of baskets. 
To finish off our day of wandering, we headed to a place called Catedral for some famous Argentina tango lessons. In the seemingly abandoned warehouse, we learned to dance in sync with each other and with the music. After an hour of trying not to step on one another's feet and occasionally getting the right move, we watched the experienced people dance under the spotlights.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Our Journey South

Over the course of the past month, we've walked more than one hundred miles through the Patagonia backcountry with our packs on. The past weeks have been filled with several treks in some of the most beautiful mountain scenery I've ever seen. 
We started our journey in Bariloche, Argentina where we visited mountain refugios and climbed up and over countless ridge lines and through incredible valleys. Next we went to El Chalten where we trekked around the famous fitz Roy skyline, enjoying the view of glacial lakes, bright blue glaciers and the crisp face of Mount Fitz Roy. After this we headed south to Calafate, joining the tourist circuit as we watched the Perito Moreno Glacier for a day- listening to it creek and moan as the entire mass slowly crept it's way toward us. Next we crossed back into the Chilean side and went to Puerto Natales, a port city- and that's really all. We took a bus north to the famous national park Torres Del Paine where we slept in a magical forest and hiked up to the lake by the Torres ("towers") for sunrise. Along with the long line of headlamps hiking up in the early morning, we watched as the sun ignited the mountain; assaulting it with color.
To round off our big 100, we finished our journey south. We took a long bus to the city of Ushuaia, Argentina. To get there we had a long day of driving and at one point got onto a big ferry boat (bus and all) to cross the Magellan Straight. Ushsuaia is the southernmost city in the world, at almost 55 degrees south. It is an island where the beautiful park of Tierra Del Fuego is located. (The name, "land of fire" comes from the sailors who discovered the island. The indigenous people didn't wear many clothes, despite the freezing cold, so they had many huge fires constantly all over the island) Our final trek took us to a snowy lake where we explored an ice cave at the base of a glaciar. We spent a night on the thick, damp moss that covers every surface possible and another night on the bank of a river next to beaver dams, with a view of the valley just starting to change colors. This was the least touristic trek we had done yet and after the first day, we had the entire park to ourselves. We slept at a beautiful blue lake the last night and journeyed over a mountain pass and down a gradual, rocky valley the next day. We returned to the city with tired but extremely satisfied legs and treated ourselves to a feast of crab and cordero (Patagonian style fire grilled lamb) before we left the cold south. 
The feeling I get when I'm hiking through the mountains is indescribable and I absolutely loved a certain moment, hiking through the pass on our last day. Although I have definitely been in bigger mountains before, the gentle giants that surrounded us made me feel so small. Joe, walking way ahead of me, looked like a tiny ant compared to the gigantic masses rising up on both sides. Maybe, I thought, this is one of the reasons am so drawn to the  mountains. Do we come here to get small? There are plenty of other things that appeal to me but I loved this feeling. I loved where we were and have really enjoyed our time of hiking through beautiful, untouched wildernesses. 
Until next time Patagonia. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Perito Moreno

Though it is really the only thing to see in the town, a trip to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares was well worth it. We walked the boardwalk all day, admiring the different views of the unfathomable gigantic ice mass. 180 feet of vertical faces out of the bright blue lake, 14 km long and up to 500 feet of ice below the surface of the water- it was one BIG chunk of ice. 
As we walked, we listened to the constant cracking and moaning. The noises were loud and abrupt and somewhat resembled the sound of gunshots. Immediately our eyes would dart to the glacier, scouting the edge for a piece that was falling into the water. We watched a few huge chunks calve and were frozen by the sight of it. The waves rippled and crashed as the water enveloped the new piece of ice. 
Visiting the glacier was a great reminder how how powerful nature is. Though often glorified, Mother Nature can be harsh, destructive- unstoppable. The power and force from the glowing blue mass is almost too much to wrap my brain around. 
Sheer, absolute beauty.