Sunday, November 30, 2008

Machu Picchu

For years, I have wanted to visit Machu Picchu. A forgotten city that was never found and therefore, never destoyed by the Spanish. A lost city of the Incas that was re-discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Today, a city that is a major archeological site that stands at 2400m and has stood since the early 1400´s.

For me personally, my day at Machu Picchu was amazing and very memorable. To beat the crowds, I got there early so I could get inside when the gates opened at 6:00 a.m. Surreal is the word that came to mind as I stood in the ancient city in the early morning mist, surrounded by Peruvian mountains with few signs of civilization. Throughout the day, as the sun rose and the people came, I spent a lot of time wandering the ruins, then a little time climbing to the top of Waynu Picchu (limited to 400 people per day) and finally, a nice, relaxing time sharing a good bottle of wine in the shade of a nearby rock.

The train ride from Cusco to Aguas Calientes

A view of Machu Picchu from the top of the very steep, Waynu Picchu

A local Incan Alpaca

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Trekking in Peru

For the past 4 days, I have had the awesome opportunity to walk through the Cordillera Blanca region of Peru and camp near mountains and in a spectacular valley. I was joined on this adventure by a guide/cook, a donkey tender, an Italian couple, a Frenchman, a man from Brasil and Adam. The trek took us over a pass at 4750 meters (the highest I think I´ve been) and past some beautiful scenery and many grazing animals. The pictures below will say more than any words I could write. Thanks again to Gil for recommending this wonderful Peruvian destination.

Huascaran, the highest peak in Peru at 6,768 meters

Trekking past a mountainside home

Our donkeys and their tender

Day 2: A super tough climb up over a pass and a very rainy day

One of our many scenic campsites

My new, curious friend

The valley that we descended to after the pass for our final night and 2 days of trekking

Friday, November 14, 2008

Exit the Island, Re-Enter the City

Most travelers only go to Ilha Grande for a few days at most. I feel lucky to have visited there for two weeks. Of course, I could have visited other towns and seen other sights during that time, but my wandering soul craved a rest. Plus, I am always a big fan of the chance to get to know a place intimately versus just on the surface.

Now, though, it is to time to move on. I recently returned to Sao Paulo and am again staying with my amazing host, Andrea. Upon arrival, it was nice to be in a familiar city...none of my usual floundering. I knew exactly where to go from the bus station and which way to ride the metro to her apartment. My past two days in Sao Paulo have been spent going to the markets (when did eople start hanging Christmas decorations?), mailing things at the post office, making phone calls and enjoying free internet.

Tomorrow, I leave Brasil (luckily before my visa expires) and go to Peru!

Walking the crowded streets to the market

My last night in Sao Paulo after a yummy sushi dinner. Thanks Andrea, I'll miss you!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Island Life

It took a little bit of time for me to settle into my new quiet life after so much time in the big city. It didn't help either that when I arrived here, I was recovering from a small bout of food poisoning and then soon after, I got 10+ mosquito bites on my feet (which, believe me, can make for some uncomfortable walking). Through it all, though, I've managed to recover and stay quite active...hiking in the jungle, swimming in the ocean, kayaking and getting my PADI scuba diving certification.

The charming seaside pousada I'm staying in has also enhanced my overall sense of well-being in this idyllic setting. Owned by an older French couple who don't speak English, our conversations are generally "Good Morning", "Thank you" and recently, "Obama" followed by a thumbs-up sign. My room has a balcony with a hammock that I've developed a small addiction for, hummingbirds flitt in and out looking for nectar in the nearby flowers and breakfast always comes with a fresh blended fruit drink.

On an island with no cars, this is the main method used to transport vegetables from the boat to the mercado.

A funny monkey

Kayaking around

The old aqueduct built in the late 1800's