Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Patagonia here I come!

Wilderness adventure number two begins today. I'm heading into Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia for five days and four nights. This will not be with a guided group but rather I'm taking it on solo and hoping to meet some people along the way. From all reports I've heard there are lots of other folks since it's high time so I should have no problems. There will be no camping this time - I'll be staying in refugios along the way for the four nights - I assume it will be a slight step up sleeping and shower wise from my Inca Trail camping but then again I am not going to have porters carrying my stuff!

I'll be taking the 'W' route in the park covering about 70 kilometers. Hoping that the weather holds up and the views of the Torres are great and that I see some glaciers as well. On a map it looks something like this:

The kick off point is in a town called Puerto Natales where I'll get a bus into the park and let the fun begin. From Buenos Aires I took a three hour flight and a five hour bus ride yesterday to get here - it was all surprisingly smooth going! I thought the bus would be packed from El Calafate in Argentina to Puerto Natales but there were only like 10 of us. Bizarre given it's the high season but perfectly fine by me. As it so happens a friend from Google and San Francisco was in Puerto Natales when I arrived having just finished the trek herself. Hadas and I caught up last night and this morning on her experience and traded thoughts on Santiago and Buenos Aires. Pretty great to almost be at the bottom of the world and see a friend :) 

Heading out to pick up my bus ticket now, get a few last minute items and kill some time until 2:30 when I head out. No wifi in the park so I'll give a full report with hopefully lots of pictures upon my return!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lomito y piernas - Santiago eating & drinking

There were a few things on my list to do yesterday - attempt a run, eat a massive sandwich, checkout what this talk about cafe con piernas was, and head to one of the Santiago city parks.

I got myself up and out of the apartment for a run with no problem. However, running for the first time in about three weeks in already serious heat at 9AM was a little rougher than I anticipated. Anyway, I survived and was proud of my 4.5mile jog. However, I got back to the apartment ready for a nice shower and what do you know, the water was out! I wondered why I'd seen multiple people in the elevators with water jugs to fill up. I just assumed that that's what people did on Saturday mornings :) My previous excitement a few days ago about showers and not worrying about toilets was crushed! I had no other choice but to bring back out the face and baby wipes and 'shower' that way. The small bottle of water that I'd bought on the way back from the run came in handy too.

I cleaned up, messaged my AirBnB host, and continued on with my day. I would later hear from her that apparently the water was expected to be back on around 3. I certainly hoped so because I was really going to need a shower by then.

Next on the agenda was food! Destination Fuente Alemana - a Santiago institution for like 50 years and home of apparently delicious massive Chilean sandwiches. Yumm!

I read up on when to go and what to order before hand so I was well prepared upon arrival! I went early so it was more of a brunch but sat myself at a counter bar stool and promptly ordered a Lomito Italiano (marinated port tenderloin, tomatoes, globs of mayo and tons of smashed avocado) y un shoppe (beer). Can't have a massive sandwich without a beer right??

The sandwich did not disappoint! It was delicious and I devoured it - with a knife and fork of course. The pork and roll were both ridiculously tasty. I normally do not like mayo or avocado on sandwiches and avoid it at all costs but in this case I went for it and was pleasantly surprised. As I sat at the counter I watched as a lovely ladies made sandwich after sandwich as well as the occasional hot dog piled just as high!


Next on the list was Cafe con Piernas - or coffee with legs. What is this you ask? Kinda like if hooters were serving coffee. There are various coffee shops around downtown where the waitresses are wearing skimpy dresses and serving up delicious coffee. While I don't drink coffee I figured I needed to check this out. I walked in to a quite nice coffee shop with outdoor and indoor bar tops and immediately noticed two things first, it was pretty much all men and second, the waitresses were wearing florescent green mini dresses - lots of leg to be seen. It was all very casual and normal, just a cup of coffee with some eye candy :)  I should have done it on Thursday or Friday afternoon/evening because I think the sight of the ladies might have been better but I got the point. 

Now that I'd had a massive sandwich and seen my cafe con piernas it was time for a walk! I headed back over the river to the Bella Vista neighborhood to check out the park over there with a Virgin Mary statue at the top of the hill. Totally unprepared for the walk I was about to embark on I started up the hill. Next thing I know I'm following other people and end up essentially on a dirt trail that's pretty steep. I had not worn the best footwear for this - my Tiek flats - but I made due and really hoped that the water was working at the apartment. I saw people wearing worse shoes than me! I eventually made it to the top and there were quite nice views across Santiago in every direction as well as a large Mary statue and actual sanctuary where they appear to do services. I guess if you're going to go to mass that's not a bad place!

Panoramic from the top

My dirty dirty feet!
Desperate for a shower and a snack I wandered back down the hill, through Bella Vista, stopped for some ice cream, and made my way home. After the much needed shower, some laundry, a rest, and prepping my packing, I headed back out in this neighborhood of Bellas Artes for some wine an a bit of food around 9. I popped into a cafe that I eyed earlier picked a sidewalk table, had a nice little meal, people watched, wrote a few post cards, and read up on Buenos Aires.  

All in all a successful few days in Santiago. While I did a lot of walking around it was nice and relaxing which was what I was looking for between the Inca Trail and upcoming Patagonia trek. 

Today I head to Buenos Aires just for the night and then to Puerto Natales (back in Chile) via El Calafate, Argentina. Looking forward to catching a glimpse of Buenos Aires tonight and then seeing what southern Chile is all about! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hola Santiago y Valparaiso

From Cusco I flew to Santiago, Chile for a few days of down time before I head to Patagonia for another adventure in wilderness wandering. Thanks to Eduardo and my AirBnB host Jessica I have quite a few tips for things to do around the city.

The best part about Santiago is that it's definitely summer here and I love it! It's in the 80s and warm all day long. The sun also sets incredibly late so it's not dark until well after 9PM. Definitely throwing me off considering that on the Inca Trail I was going to bed at like 830!

The city itself is pretty much just like any other city. There are quite a few parks and different neighborhoods to wander through. As expected there's lots of churches, old government buildings, and museums. Pablo Neruda's house and the Bella Vista neighborhood were highlights thus far.

Check out the pictures from the first few days here. For the adventures read below :)

The first evening after arriving I successfully navigated the grocery store and picked up a few things to have in the apartment. The ATM that I wanted to use wasn't open that evening so I had to wait until the next day to use it and get any cash. First error of Thursday was not reading closely enough on the ATM and mixing up dots and commas - I ended up with a lot more cash than I anticipated! I figure I'll just use as much as I can now and then I can also use it in again when I'm in Patagonia. When the exchange rate is like 625 Chilean Pesos to 1 US Dollar the conversion in my head is a little slow :) It also feels odd to have a slew of 10,000 denomination notes in my hand, just seems too much!

In addition to cash the other agenda item on my list was to figure out how to get coins so I could use the laundry machines in the apartment building. Starting with 10,000 notes and needing coins of 100 or 500 I was struggling! Once I got some smaller bills I found a vending machine. In lieu of an actual change machine I started buying gum and granola bars at about 250 each to break my 1000 bills. I was very proud of myself! I think people standing buy waiting in line to buy metro tickets thought I was crazy.

With detergent and coins in hand I headed down to the laundry room ready to get the Machu Picchu and Inca Trail stank out of my clothes. Little did I realize that there are two different sizes of 100 CLP coins. What the heck?!? Seriously? I hoped that the machine would just accept both, but of course not. Luckily I had enough to do the actual washing part; however, I'm not convinced that the detergent I bought actually worked so the clothes might just have been in water sloshing around for 30 minutes. Fail number two of the day, good thing it's hot and dry here!

With my clothes dry this morning I headed off to try and find the bus station (I'd failed yesterday due to thinking it was at at different Metro stop than it was - oops - I'll spare you the details on that one) and hop on a bus out to Valparaiso. Mission accomplished. I caught a bus shortly after 9 and about ~90 minutes later I was off in Valparaiso. I should have done a bit more research into where exactly to go once I got there, but alas I didn't. I walked off the bus, out of the bus terminal, and on to the street smack into a market selling every type of produce/meat imaginable. Not bad but I really had no idea where I was going and I didn't have a specific destination so I couldn't tell a cabbie where to take me. So I looked at the map and started walking. I had read before hand that it was about a 20-30 minute walk into the heart of it all from the bus station but it was a bit grimey at the start. Boy was that description correct!

It was overcast when I arrived so that didn't help my situation. I had on a dress and luckily I'd brought with me a towel (thanks Caz!) that quickly turned into an over the shoulder/scarf type thing. Quite fashionable. As I made my way towards where I thought there was stuff worth seeing I was not impressed at all and thought I'd wasted my time coming out here. I first ended up at the port/dock which was really nothing to see so I started to make my way into the Concepcion area which is deemed a UNESCO world heritage site. There's got to be something to see here, right?? I started heading up the hills and stairs and began to realize why I was here.

There are various hills across the Valparaiso area, lots of stairs, and also acensores or essentially cable car/ski lift type elevators that take you up the sides of the hills. They're really old and pretty awesome. I took a ride in one and it was slightly terrifying; it went a lot faster than I thought it would. As I made my way towards the top of the hills I started to get into the vibe of the area. Very bohemian with lots of cafes, restaurants, hostels, craft shops, colorful buildings, and street art. A little bit Mission/Haight SF, South Street Phila, and Melbourne. The artwork splattered across the walls was everything from graffiti to beautiful images and even actual paper origami birds. Once I found the good spots and the sun started to come out the day turned around. From various points you can look across the hillsides and see all of the colorful buildings, really was quite pretty. Also, if I'd have been hungry I would have loved to stop into a cafe and sit out in the garden or on the sidewalk but I grabbed an empanada while down in the grimey section earlier so I was full on that! Most of the photos from today are of buildings, art, and a few shots of the ocean.

Before heading back to the bus station I was determined to see the ocean up close. I'd been hopeful that there might be a near by beach to wander on but that didn't seem to be the case (another town up the coast would have been better for that). However, I wasn't going to leave until I got at least a bit closer to it. I walked through some construction zones and found my way to a walkway along the water. I walked for a bit and called it a day. I made my way to the bus station, inquired about when the next bus back to Santiago was and it was in six minutes - perfect!

Had delicious ice cream on my way back home at a place recommended by my AirBnB host (Emporio La Rosa) and a wander through part of the neighborhood I didn't see yesterday. Lots of cafes that I want to try out. I think tomorrow I may attempt to go for a run (which I haven't done in like 3 weeks, yikes!), check out one of the city parks, and do a lot of eating. I have Chilean sandwiches and cafe con pierdas on my list!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Trekking the Inca Trail

Bucket list item checked off and first major adventure of this trip completed! The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu have been conquered. I flew to Santiago, Chile this morning so I write this with my first bottle of Chilean wine (randomly selected from the supermarket and it was the equivalent of about $4.00) opened and pretty happy to be indoors with electricity and a real bathroom! Serious luxury.

The full day by day details are below but in short the Inca Trail was awesome and highly recommended. But... you've got to be physically and probably more than anything mentally prepared. The trek I did was four days and three nights at altitudes well over 10,000 feet with 13,000+ being the highest point reached and 45 kilometers traveled. It is definitely recommended to get to Cusco at least two days before you start to get as adjusted to the altitude as possible. The mountains, views, and Inca ruins along the way are spectacular and getting to Machu Picchu on the last day is quite special. We didn't even have a perfect blue sky day when we were in Machu Picchu but it was still awesome. I'd prepared myself that it would be cold and rainy everyday thinking the worse given that it is the rainy season here - well luck would have it that we never had any prolonged rain while walking during the day. It would rain at night and then stop by morning. Each night I'd lay in my tent with it pounding down just praying that it wouldn't still be when wake up call came. And sure enough we were in the clear; I think I only wore my rain coat twice.

Keep reading for the full details or if you want to just cut to the pictures you can find some of them here. I'm trying to get the rest of the pictures and a few videos to upload but I'm having some serious issues at the moment. Not sure they do it justice but worth a shot. You really should see it for yourself in person :)

Each day 500 people are allowed to start the Inca Trail (from March through January). This includes trekkers like me, guides, and porters. In our group there were 14 trekkers (4 Americans, 2 Dutch, 1 British, and 7 Aussies), three guides and 18 porters. The porters included a chef, assistant chef, waiter, organizer, and basic porters. These guys are amazing - they carry all of the stuff, including sleeping tents, tents for us to eat our meals in and for them to do the cooking in, table, stools, food, and not to mention most of our stuff. The regulation is that they're not supposed to carry more than 25kilos (55lbs) each - years back they would carry up to 50kilos apparently. I hired a porter to carry 9kilos of stuff for me which included sleeping bag and mat, clothes, and toiletries. I only carried a day pack with layers, water, and my cameras each day. That was a $70 well spent!

The porters have to essentially run ahead of the walkers from campsite to lunch spot to campsite to setup and prepare everything. I'd often hear quick little footsteps behind me and realize I needed to get over to the side to let one or more porters fly by me on the trail. We'd get to lunch or our campsite for the night and all the tents would be setup and the porters were cooking away preparing our next meal. Every day we had breakfast, lunch, tea time (before dinner), and then dinner. The food was absolutely amazing - seriously, a feast of really delicious food every time. Lunch and dinner for example always started with a soup then main course, sides (many sides), and dessert. The catered to special dietary needs too which was pretty amazing - no gluten, dairy, or vegetarian no problem. Special food made each time. Totally crazy!

Here's the day by day - I made some notes each day as we went so some of this is that and some is my reflection now.

Day 1

The first day started with a 6AM departure from Cusco to head by bus to our launching point at what's known as Kilometer 82. This bus ride was quite entertaining down narrow roads trying to pass other buses, trucks, and cars. Our driver was very skilled and got through some ridiculously tight spots - he drove the 30 person bus like a tiny little car. We stopped at a small town in an area called the Sacred Valley for a light breakfast and then we kept going. We reached the starting point and met up with our porters as they packed up all our stuff. I got my day pack ready and we finally began hiking around 1130. We went through the first of four checkpoints along the trail, took a group photo, and were on our way.

In all I think we did about 14 Km of walking - it was nothing too difficult but you can definitely feel the altitude. Saw the first of the Inca ruins we'd see along the way, the grey stone against the green background is beautiful. It started to rain just as we were approaching the campsite for the night, whew! There was a great rainbow over the mountains that I snapped a few pictures of. As the sun set we could also see some of the highest peaks covered with snow and glaciers, absolutely beautiful with the light hitting them.

When we arrived at our first camp site to find all of the tents set up, our bags carried by the porters laid out, a tent to dinner set up, and the chef cooking away.  Our first meals by the chef and crew was amazing - we were all in shock. The evening meal started with tea time - hot water for tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cookies, and popcorn as a snack. Then dinner came out and oh my god we were blown away. Soup, mains and sides were all served in front of us to dig in to. It was delicious, more than I could have ever expected. After dinner it was pretty much straight to bed around 830. I took a nyquil and knocked myself out. My biggest fear was having to wake up in the middle of the night and need to pee! I did not want to have to get out of my tent and deal with that. This place had a sort of functioning toilet, it would be one of the better ones along the way! Given that I'm not really a tent or sleeping bag kinda gal I did quite well for my first night's sleep. By the end of the trip I became increasingly obsessed with the sleeping bag liner (thanks JesseB for the tip and Stokes for my Christmas gift)!

Day 2

This is advertised as the most difficult day and I'd say it was pretty accurate. It's mostly because it's a massive uphill and elevation gain to what's known as Dead Woman's Pass and then down a crap ton of stairs to the campsite for the night. I did come to learn that it's not called Dead Woman's Pass because that's where people died or they sacrificed women :) but rather that from a distance the area of the mountains looks a bit like a woman laying on her back.

We started the day with a fantastic breakfast - who knew quinoa porridge was so delicious. And they made pancakes too!  Lunch and dinner again were great too. At breakfast we did introductions to all of the porters - they said in Spanish or their native Quechua language where they were from, age, and family in (wife, kids, etc). We then introduced ourselves. It was a nice thing to do considering they were lugging our crap and making sure everything was set up and that we had great meals for the trip.

The actual hiking itself was tough but taken relatively slowly so it was manageable. Getting up to Dead Woman's Pass at 4200 meters (an additional 1000 from where we started the day) was quite a climb. This is where it was definitely mental toughness to get yourself through it. We had some folks in the group struggling and needing support from the guides throughout the day - everything from encouragement to carrying their bags to providing oxygen. The altitude was affecting them quite seriously. Most people in the group were chomping away on the Coca leaves which are supposed to help and a lot of them had some type of prescribed medication for adjusting to the altitude. I didn't take anything and I'm thankful that I was never more than anything short of breath and probably a slight headache due to dehydration - fear of having to pee at an inopportune time limited my water intake :) I did discover though that using an eco-toilet (aka just peeing in the woods somewhere) was often a much better option to the nasty (and i mean make you gag) smelling bathrooms with squat toilets along the way. Enough about the toilets since that could have it's own blog... I made it up to the top of the pass with no problem. Because folks in the group were moving quite a bit slower myself and some others had to wait forever and it became very cold. The fog and clouds were rolling in and out so I was eager to get moving down the backside. Shortly after the last two arrived at the top we were allowed to begin the descent down. At this point I was really cold and my hands were freezing. This was my only moment during the four days of being cold and unhappy and it only lasted about 30 minutes so it wasn't all that bad! I booked it down the hill (mostly stairs) as fast as I could to warm up and get to the next campsite.

This was the highest elevation campsite so it was quite chilly. I layered up while we at dinner and then made myself like a mummy in my sleeping bag liner and sleeping bag. I was eventually too hot in the night which was quite a surprise. It poured over night but as would turn out to be the case each night it stopped by the morning and we were all nice and dry.

Day 3

This was the longest day distance wise but it wasn't too bad. I think we covered 16 Km. There was lots of downhill which made my quads pretty tired and just took a lot of focus to not slip on my ass. The trekking poles really came in handy. This day made me wonder just how many stairs are along the trail - there were definitely too many for me to count! We saw three, maybe actually four, different ruins throughout the day - I came to realize that while they were interesting to look at up close it's really the view from a distance that makes them even more impressive. From above or across you get a better vantage of the shapes and layout. Most of what we saw along the way were resting spots, like a hotel essentially, for Inca travelers along the trail. Some were for farming which are the terraces along a hillside that look like steps. Late in the day we got to a vantage point where we got our first glimpse of Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu mountains in the distance. The Machu Picchu village sits between them and is of course our final destination. The plants were noticeably different along this portion of the trail. As we came down in altitude we were into the jungle so it was more ferns and lush green with lots of tiny little bright flowers. I stopped multiple times along the way to take photos.

When we arrived at our final camp we went to see one ruin that totally blew me away. This one was called Winaywayna and is known as the little Machu Picchu. A group of us got to this location just past our campsite shortly after 5 and we had it to ourselves. The views across the mountains, waterfalls, and just silence of the place was beautiful. There was something about walking around this place that I really enjoyed - perhaps even more so than Machu Picchu.

Our final campsite was incredibly luxurious - there was an inside area and a real flushing toilet that had a sink, mirror, and some soap. By this point having these things felt amazing! We got to eat dinner inside and when we were waiting around forever on the 4th morning I felt lucky to have shelter. For our final night's dinner the chef made a cake - totally ridiculous. The meal was delicious as always and then out came a cake with frosting and 'Welcome to Machu Picchu' written in it with caramel sauce.

After dinner we thanked the porters for everything over the few days (with tips and thanks) and headed to bed. The wake up call for the next day was at 330!

Day 4

It poured rain all night - I mean came down! I woke up about 2, knowing we had to be up at 330, and it was raining and I thought for sure we were going to have to spend some time getting soaked. However, by 330 it had pretty much stopped. We had to get up super early so that we could eat and the porters could get everything packed up and they could be off to catch a train down to outside Machu Picchu (the porters are not actually allowed in). We ate a pretty sparse breakfast which was surprising, not sure if they just didn't have much left or that was purposeful to get out of there more quickly. But I was starving not too long after and our lunch wasn't until 2PM. Luckily I had one last little bar and they gave us a snack around 11.

Despite being up at 330, eating breakfast at 4, we didn't actually start walking until just before 530 to get to the final checkpoint when it opened and wait in line with the other groups. This was the start of a fair amount of waiting around we'd do on this day - not ideal. Having the inside space here made a huge difference, I'm not sure what we would have done for over an hour sitting outside!

We finally started walking for the final day and it was crowded and slow with everyone basically going at the same time. We arrived at the Sun Gate where you're supposed to be able to catch your first glimpse of Machu Picchu town - it was completely fogged in and we never saw it. The most I got were some foggy pictures as we waiting and thought it might lift. Eventually we heading on our way to finally get to Machu Picchu. We finally arrived and it was massive, bigger than I could have imagined! It really is amazing that the Spanish never actually found this place and it wasn't until 1912 when it was first discovered.

When we finally entered Machu Picchu it was still pretty foggy so our initial pictures aren't great. But whatever, we made it! There was a girl in another group in tears and we think it was because it was foggy not that she was so relived to have finished the trek. She was part of the questionably prepared group mentioned earlier so perhaps not surprising. The weird thing is that you have to go outside of the entrance gate and then come back in. So after a few initial pictures we exited, waited around for at least 30 minutes for who knows what, and then went back in. Our lead guide then gave us a tour of some of the grounds and then we had about two hours to do whatever we wanted. Some folks had paid to climb Wayna Picchu which I regret not doing, but I hadn't bought a ticket so I just wandered around a bit, sat on the grass almost falling asleep, took more photos, found llamas and observed the loads of tourists. From the vantage points that look down on the structures it doesn't seem that there are too many people but good lord in certain places it felt really crowded. In addition to those who come in via the Inca Trail every day there are over 2,000 who come via train/bus.

After I'd had enough, and almost fell asleep in the grass(!), I headed out to catch a bus down to the town of Aguas Callientes where we had lunch and then had a train back to Cusco. Aquas Callientes is essentially a little tourist town with hot springs, shops, restaurants, a few hostels and hotels. Lunch wasn't prepared by our porters so it was actually probably the worst meal that we'd had, but it was food and I was starving. With time to kill before the trail some folks went to check out the hot springs and I planned to wander into the market and just waste time but ended up getting a drink with three of the folks who I'd been hiking with. A beer and a pisco sour tasted pretty amazing at this point. We then sprinted to the train station to catch our ride back to Cusco. Due to the rainy season and potential landslides the normal four hour train ride was a two hour train and then almost two hour bus ride. The bus felt endless! We finally made it to Cusco just before 9PM, said our goodbyes, and I headed to the hotel for a shower, packing, and then a real bed. The shower and bed were so nice!

The trek was one for the record books and definitely a trip of a life time. It's amazing to me to realize that this was just the beginning. It was a fantastic way to kick off three weeks here in South America and these six months. I feel incredibly accomplished personally but also in awe of the work that goes in by the porters. Taking the bus and train to see Machu Picchu is definitely cheating! The nature was stunning - though I think what I'll see down in Torres del Paine in a week or so may surpass it. Being disconnected from everything and just engaging with the people around me and all of the sights was a great change of pace.

Now I'm looking forward to some down time and checking out Santiago and hopefully seeing beach and ocean! I'm glad not to have to think as much about rationing my toilet paper and tissues and wondering what the next toilet is going to be like :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cusco Wanderings

After three planes and five hours in the middle of the night at the Lima airport arrival into Cusco was a success. The only failure was that I didn't have a window seat for the short flight from Lima to Cusco. Flying past the mountains was spectacular and I wish I'd been able to take some photos. Will try to make it happen on the return.

Despite two naps and a still nagging cough I did quite a bit of wandering around on day one (yesterday) to get my bearings of the city. I did no research on what to do in Cusco since the Inca Trail trek is my main item for this leg so I was mostly trying to be outside so that I could stay awake! The weather is much nicer and warmer than I anticipated and the altitude (11,000 feet) isn't too bad, I just use it as an excuse to be out of breath at the top of the hill. Today after twelve hours of sleep I wandered up to Sacsayhuaman which was pretty spectacular both in the mind boggling 'how on earth did this get built so many years ago' and for it's fantastic views back over Cusco. I also checked out Convent Santo Domingo which is a 17th century church built on top of an Inca temple. Lots of photos are now up so check them out on the photos page or directly to the album here.

What I learned in Cusco...

Day One
  • There are llamas everywhere - mostly baby ones for tourists to take photos with. I did see a woman with a llama on a leash wearing a diaper (the llama, not the lady!). Photo proof here
  • The central area is quite flat but the roads quickly narrow and start going uphill - fast!
  • Coca Tea tastes better than I thought but not sure it has any affect on me
  • Of course there's an Irish bar, and yes I went in to check it out (and had curry chips for you Irish out there)

A photo posted by jessie carr (@jycarr) on

Day two
  • There really are llamas everywhere. Lots of photos of them today
  • The Incas really were brilliant (and I haven't even been to Machu Picchu yet) - Cusco has numerous examples of structures and walls that they built using massive rocks, all cut perfectly straight, at right angles, and put together with nothing other than perfect fit (no mortar!). My dad would have loved it. 
  • Cusco has a White Christ statue but it's got nothing on Christ the Redeemer in Rio
  • There's no need for a selfie stick when you have a phone and a GoPro - I will be attempting to figure out how to attach the GoPro to my trekking poles tonight.
A photo posted by jessie carr (@jycarr) on

Heading off for four days on the Inca Trail tomorrow. Had a briefing with the tour group tonight - there will be 16 of us, three guides, and 20 porters. I took my last shower for four days tonight and savored every minute of it. It's going to be a lot of baby wipes from now til Tuesday. I am allowed 5kilos for my bag that a porter will carry, and it weighed in at 5 on the dot. Whew.

Will post again on the other side of this...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's all about the blog

Today is it! The beginning and the potential end of it all. Well at least the end of work for six months and I'm pretty dang excited about it. I've been thinking about this day for a while now - really about waking up tomorrow. I contemplate how I'm going to feel, what will the emotions be, will it set in that I'm now free from work and embarking on this journey for six months or will that not sink in until I get back from South America and get to be in San Francisco doing nothing while everyone else is working. Giving that my planning was perhaps not the greatest and I'm getting up for an 8:30AM flight tomorrow to Peru I think it will be the latter. The next three weeks will be like vacation, yet I get to for once remind myself that work is not waiting for me back here. Awesome!

People have asked me of course what I'm doing over the next few months (you're not having a baby right?!?) and then upon hearing about the travels and what not the ask to see pictures, hear stories, and just generally keep up with me. So here's my answer to that, a blog. I've always wanted to start a blog but just never had any ideas that I felt blog worthy. I can't say for sure that I'll have earth shattering things to say or comment on, but I can guarantee lots of photos and an attempt of humor along the way. When I really have some time I'll try to actually focus on getting a bit more fancy and high tech, for now it's the basics and I'm sticking with my trusty buddies at Blogger and Google. After being at Google since before Blogger even existed you'd think I might know how this tool worked but honestly this past weekend was the first time I'd ever gone to blogger.com to look at how to create one. Bad employee, I know! But that's exactly why I need to get my head out of my ass and look around, try out new things, discover the world around me - to quote one of my favorites Ferris Bueller: 'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.' 

As I thought about the name for this to-be created blog there've been a few different iterations and ideas but for now I've settled on 'D is for Discover'. I'm going to work with it for a while and see how I feel. I may be inspired by something else soon and that'd be great. 

The story behind the name is that I have a new necklace made by a fantastic guy Chris Pan with the word Discover on it. I selected the word for myself as part of the My Intent project. Chris and his friend Ingrid started this company called MyIntent.org making bracelets and necklaces for people with a simple word or phrase selected by the individual. It's meant to trigger conversation among people but I think also make you as the wearer think hard about what the right word for you right now is, and how are you going to live up to that word or be reminded by that word each day. I love my necklace and the idea of both the community and personal aspects. I told Chris that I selected Discover because I hope that in this time away from Google, away from the free food, shuttles, schedule, and cushy-ness of the company I've been in for 11.5 years I will discover life beyond Google and a direction, purpose, and drive that I've not had before. I'd been thinking about my word for a number of months and it was only in December that I finally felt a connection to Discover and felt that I had found a word of purpose. This necklace was the first piece of the puzzle that I'm going to put together and discover over the next six months. 

I recommend thinking about what your word is. What is it right now that drives you, that you want to be reminded of, that has a special meaning? If you want a necklace or bracelet so you can keep the conversation going check it out here at myintent.org.

One last shuttle ride sitting in traffic up 101 before it begins. I can guarantee that I will not miss the shuttle and commute part of my days!

If all goes well I'll be in Cusco bright and early Friday morning and the real fun will begin!

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