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Steffi & Chris


34 Blog Entries
1 Trip
483 Photos

Trips:

212 days

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The worlds most dangerous road

La Paz, Bolivia


We came back to La Paz the same way we had left and flew, now more convinced than ever that the bus was not worth it!
As soon as we came back we got our bags back but the hostel we had stayed in had no rooms and before we left we had found ladies underwear between the sheets, and not the small sexy kind but the big washed out Grey kind. To say the least we didn't really feel like spending more nights there. So instead we had to go hunting for a new hostel.
Our time in La paz we spent doing not much at all. We went shopping and bought a Llama fetus for my sister. And also we did a tour to go on bike down the worlds most dangerous road!
We went with a tour operator called B-side adventure and the only thing that was bad was that unfortunately the pictures they took was of really really bad quality. I have seen some bad pictures but here literally half the pictures had to be taken away because you couldn't see what was on them.

Other than that everything was perfect. Excellent safety and nice and friendly guides.
We started the tour early in the morning and they drove us in a van up to 5700m above sea level and from there we were going to go down 3600m over 65km of road.
We got our nice full suspension bikes and 15-20 minutes to try them out.
It was freezing that high up and I could feel my hands getting really stiff which worried me a little bit about the going down part.
But as soon as we started going it felt really good. The first section is paved and a fast downhill section with beautiful scenery. We did a couple of stops on the way and then we came down to a police checkpoint were we had to pay the entrance tax to go down the Death road.
The road is not used anymore because they have built a new better and safer road so although the road is still open there is hardly any traffic at all on it.
As soon as we had started to go down you could feel the climate getting hotter, during the descent we were going to pass through 4 different kinds of climate zones from highland Puna to subtropical rain forest.
The death road is a dirt road and when you see it its hard to believe it was actually a heavily used road just 3 years ago.
But keeping that in mind its easy to understand how 15 people a month died in road accidents.

On the decent we went for maybe 20 minutes and then the guide stopped gave us some new information about the section to come and then we went on. This we kept doing all the way down, and all along the sides we kept seeing crosses after people who had died there.
Also the guide told us stories about tourist and guides who had lost control or have had accidents even after the traffic has gone away.
After the decent which was filled with adrenaline and beautiful views we came to the town were the downhill ended so we got back in the car and drove up to a hotel were we got to swim in the swimming pool take a shower and after that an amazing lunch!
This was the whole tour and after 12h we were back in La Paz and ready to go to Rio De Janeiro to meet Steffi's brother and father and also of course experience the carnival!

Cheers!

Chris!



permalink written by  Steffi & Chris on February 9, 2010 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: 212 days
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The Amazon

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia


As soon as we arrived in La Paz in Bolivia we started looking for a tour to the Pampas to experience the Amazon.

We quickly found a good one and bought a package with flights there and back (since the roads are horrible here) and a three day Pampas-tour including two nights at a lodge in the jungle.

I have never in my life set foot in such a small plane. Even I had to duck down to enter it and there were only room for 18 passengers. I felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie when we landed in the middle of the jungle in the wilderness without any visible landing spot. Some people crossed their hearts and didn't find it at all exciting while Chris and I had a really good time.

From the coldness in La Paz caused by the high altitude we were now at sea level and the weather was tropical.

We were picked up by our tour agent and went to the agency where the other people of the tour were waiting. There were in total 8 people including Chris and I and all of us were couples in almost the same age. One couple was from Holland, one from England and another from Argentina so it was a nice mix.

We went inside a dirty old 4x4 and were told we had a 3 hour drive in front of us. We have seen many scary roads on our trip but Bolivia is the worst. It was to say the least a bumpy ride. We had to drive through a lake of mud and the car almost flipped. We were driving on two wheels but the driver did some car magic and we somehow landed on four wheels again. The other couples who had gone by bus from La Paz to Rurrenabaque told us that this was the same as the road they took but the only difference was that then you had a hell of a drop off on one side of the bus since it was up on the mountains so none of the women could sleep but the men slept like babies since they had the aisle seats...

When we arrived we switched from car to boat. On the way we saw some Elvis looking birds, tucans, monkeys and turtles. Our guide was about to turn the boat to go back and look for a big monkey when we suddenly bumped into a huge bush full of Pippi Longstocking monkeys. There were about fifteen of them and each one was staring at us. One had a baby monkey on her back and another one was chewing on a big insect he just caught and they were right in front our faces. Even the guys were like "AAAAW".

After two hours we arrived at our lodge where we soon had a delicious dinner. Our guide then introduced us to his friend who was lying in the water just a few meters from where we were eating. Pedro, A fully grown caiman.

Next day we saw some new animals such as capybaras and pink dolphins. The pink dolphins were literally everywhere. Our guide told us to jump into the water to swim with them. The rain was pouring down and the water was as black as coal. The guys and I got in. The rest of the girls stayed inside the boat. It was a strange feeling swimming in the Amazon. To summarize it, it was like swimming in a pool of compost. Except there were pink dolphins around.

At night we did a boat tour in the dark under a starry sky. It was pitch black and we only had three flash lights. Every now and then our guide turned off the engine and you were surrounded by the sounds from all the different animals. It was really cool and a bit scary. Then he turned it back on again and somehow he found a little caiman baby with the help of the reflection of his eyes. He didn't look at all intimidating.

Last day we went looking for anacondas. We were back in the boat and this time we were going with the boat through grass. We searched for land for over an hour but everywhere it was just water. As soon as we hit land we got out of the boat and started walking. My rubber boots were not tall enough so they filled up quickly with water. The mosquitoes were everywhere and I gave up really quickly with the searching. Chris on the other hand though was the last one to leave the island but was covered in mosquito bites. I counted the ones on his forehead and neck but stopped after 30. We didn't find any anacondas at all that day and no piranhas either but it was a really cool day nonetheless.

Steffi



permalink written by  Steffi & Chris on February 5, 2010 from Rurrenabaque, Bolivia
from the travel blog: 212 days
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Isla del Sol

Isla del Sol, Bolivia


After an easy border crossing we arrived in Copacabana, Bolivia. We bought a ticket to Isla del Sol but didn´t know it was a boat from the Stone Age that took 2 hours. We really had time to enjoy the view though.

When we stepped ashore on Isla del Sol kids were running up towards us asking if we wanted to stay at their hostel or home. We said no, no, no. I really hate seeing children who have to work...

Geographically, the terrain on Isla del Sol is harsh; it is a rocky, hilly island. There are no motor vehicles or paved roads on the island. The sun was burning this day and our backpacks were heavier than ever (Chris 20 kg and mine 15 kg). In front of us were hundreds of steep steps and it was the only way to go. No donkeys to carry us or elevators. Half an hour later we arrive at the top of the steps. We began our search for a hostel and found one 15 minutes later. We got a really nice room with a beautiful view for a good price. We dropped off the backpacks and started our hike around the island.

First we went to see the Temple of the sun. The hike there was beautiful but the altitude made it a little more than a walk in the park. We could see the magnificent Cordillera Real in the backdrop and continued further to climb a big hill that we had found. The view was incredible. Suddenly alpaccas came running together with a nice little old man behind them who kindly let us take a picture of him.

As soon as they left we were totally alone or so we thought. Two little girls with their backs heavy of things to sell came up to us. They had big smiles and I asked them how old they were (6 yrs) and if the bags weren´t heavy. I got a happy "no". Then I asked what they were doing here in the middle of nowhere. Selling was their answer and I looked around and couldn´t see another soul.

We went down the hill and found two other kids who wanted money... We said we didn´t have any but played with them instead. They got a bit unpleasant and started to take off my gloves and trying to find things to get. Nail polish too for some reason. It was really sad to see and almost every child we met was begging for money not because they were poor but because they have gotten used to tourists giving them money.

We had a nice dinner at sunset and had a dark unlit walk back to the hostel.

Next day we were off to La Paz.

Steffi



permalink written by  Steffi & Chris on February 2, 2010 from Isla del Sol, Bolivia
from the travel blog: 212 days
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Lake Titicaca

Puno, Peru


We arrived in Puno in the morning and were able to go directly on a tour to Lake Titicaca.

Lake Titicaca is the world highest navigable lake and according to legend, this lake gave birth to the Inca civilization. Thus it is regarded as a very sacred place.

Soon, after the minibus ride from the hostel to the port, we were sitting in the tour boat heading out to the floating islands. We were amazed of the beauty of the lake but it was a little annoying having to listen to the non stop talking guide saying everything in both spanish and english so you heard everything twice. An Argentinian guy let his cup of Mate tea go around to everybody in the boat and two japanese girls sat there and didn´t understand either spanish nor english...

After a while we arrived at one of the floating islands, also called the Uros, named after the Indians who inhabited them. Legend has it the Uro Indians had black blood that helped them survive the cold nights.

On the island, the president, yes the president, explained the way of life around this island and how the islets are made of totora reeds which grow in the lake. They also eat the totora reeds which are also used to help ease hangovers from drinking too much. After the talk we could walk around the island and visit the houses and wear some traditional clothes. We looked... great. Before we left, we had to guess the depth of the lake from where we stood. I won and received a nice uro-made necklace. When we were about to leave the uro-women started singing one of their traditional songs. It was really beautiful at first when they were singing in this-quechua-language-none-of-us-understands but then they started singing in english, spanish, french, german, even in japanese. Suddenly, the whole mystic feeling about the lake disappeared for awhile. Unfortunately, they are too dependant on the tourists which keep on exploiting the local people.

We left the island on the best boat though, a Mercedes Benz, instead of the tour boat. You really notice the tranquillity around the lake when you are on a motorless boat. We visited another floating island where they sold uro-made stuff. After that we got back on the tour boat. We found out they have a separate island to go to the bathroom (número dos). Imagine what that island must look like… we didn’t get the privelage to go there though.

Two and a half hours later we went ashore on a "normal" island on the lake and there we saw a real closed community, which have really different clothing compared to the rest of Peru. Here they don´t use rings to show if there married. Here they wear different colored hats to signify their marital status. A solid red colored hat signifies that you’re married. A white and red colored hat signifies that you are single… and depending on how your hat falls could mean that you’re “looking for” or “not interested” in having a relationship.

On this island, if a boy likes a girl, he throws a pebble (or rock) at her (real old-school Stone age way of doing it) to attract her attention. If she responds with a smile or good gesture then it's a "go". If she frowns or throws a rock back at the guy, well then it's probably not gonna happen.

Before getting married, they move in with his family for 5 years. Within this time she must produce some children, if no children are born, the man doesn´t have to marry the poor woman. If they do marry she is bound to forever walk 2 meters behind him! Progress apparently - as 10 years ago it was 5 meters!

Another thing is that once the bride and groom get married, the bride will cut all of her hair and give it to the groom. The groom then wears the hair on his head for the rest of his life.

They also live by 3 ancient rules - do not steal, don't be idle and do not lie. Having these rules means there is not need for police on the island.

It was surely like stepping into another world. Next stop, Bolivia!

Steffi


permalink written by  Steffi & Chris on February 1, 2010 from Puno, Peru
from the travel blog: 212 days
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Machu Picchu, NOT!

Cusco, Peru


This post will be allot shorter than usual because we are now in Argentina and a little bit behind on the blogging. =)

We came to Cusco after a 20h bus journey that took us over the andes from Lima, and on the way all our fellow travelers where sniffing Alcohol, like the kind you clean wounds with to help with the motion sickness and such.
what more was that during the night our neighbors had brought an opened bottle of red wine on the bus and all of it leaked out on the floor and soaking our stuff, including our Guidebook we tried yelling at them and complaining to the staff working on the buss but we barley got a "I'm sorry."
We did give them the evil eye for a long time though. =)

When we arrived we first walked around in the rain looking for hostels and after much work we found one that was cheap enough and had what we needed (like warm water and thick blankets.)
After that we spent the first two days getting used to the altitude and booking a tour to see Machu Picchu.
Then we had everything sorted out and we were scheduled to leave on the 27:th.
But first there was my birthday, Steffi woke me up and had hid presents in the room.

So i found a alpaca sweater in a drawer together with a nice little flute. and a sticker for my coming motorbike saying "i Love boobies" and a picture of a blue footed Boobie from Galapagos.
after that we had breakfast in bed and then we spent the day walking around town and getting a massage.
Also we moved to a new hostel that was fantastic! owned by a South African lady and called Casa de la Gringa.
and thanks to this hostel we ended up staying allot longer in Cuzco than we had planed for.
Also we got a free night! but thats a long story ;)
All the room are individual and most of them have a beautiful view over the city!
During my birthday it rained allot though and also during the night so the next day we went to check our tour and they told us to come back that same night to tell us if we could go or not.
Because all the rain had caused massive landslides so allot of roads and houses around Cuzco was damaged. That night we also found out that they had closed Machu Picchu and all the roads to Aguas Calientes were destroyed leaving thousands of people trapped and than the next week our so they were helicoptering people out and carrying supplies in.
So the next days we spent trekking around Cusco and especially around The temple of the moon with is a truly beautiful place! when we saw that Steffis reaction was. " Fuck Machu Picchu!".

Thats all we did i Cuzco next we went to Puno and Lake titicaca but thats another story!

Ciao
Chris!

permalink written by  Steffi & Chris on January 25, 2010 from Cusco, Peru
from the travel blog: 212 days
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Minimalistic in Lima

Lima, Peru


After a long bus trip we arrived in Lima. We went to the apartment where the guys who would host us lived. When we stood outside their door there was a window in the door open and through it we could see two guys in their underwear lying passed out on two mattresses on the floor. I came to think about the movie Trainspotting. Chris and I looked at each other “Really?” but since both of us were extremely tired after the bus trip we rang the bell. The guys woke up and after their red eyes had adjusted to the light they opened the door. Happy but hungover and oozing booze they let us in and it turned out neither of them were our hosts. Apparently they were just two couchsurfers like us. We got a little tour around the apartment and in another room on another mattress we finally found one of our hosts. We laughed a lot since the whole thing was very comic. It turned out they used their apartment as a free hostel for backpackers. People came and went every day. The record of people staying there at the same time was 13. Imagine that! The only difference between their apartment and a hostel was the simple thing that a hostel has furniture. Their apartment would be the picture in a dictionary showing the definition of minimalistic. Everything inside was gifts. The only thing they had paid for with their own money was their blender but the blender was broken.

A different and special place in other words. We met some fun people and one night they had a small party in the apartment where we really got to practice our spanish.

Unfortunately, Chris got food poisoned almost instantly after we arrived and the day after I as well and we ended up staying three nights in Lima before going further.

Next stop was Cusco but since there was a bus strike we had problems finding a bus. Luckily we heard about one company going so we bought tickets and later that day we were off.

Esteffi


permalink written by  Steffi & Chris on January 20, 2010 from Lima, Peru
from the travel blog: 212 days
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Mountains

Huaraz, Peru


Huaraz is a city located in the middle of the Cordillera Blanca which means the white mountain range because there are several peaks over 6000m and loads of snow-covered peaks which makes it a really beautiful place for trekking and hiking, unfortunately right now is the rainy season so it’s not always possible to see all the wonderful scenery.

Huaraz lies at more than 3000m above sea level and we came there after a long bus ride.

We started from Guayaquil where there is a huge bus terminal combined with shopping centre. And from there we took a night bus across the border into Peru and Piura where we just changed buses and kept going to Piura were we stayed one night and the next night we took another night bus to take us all the way to Huaraz.
The first day we just spent sleeping and letting our bodies catch up a little bit. I was also feeling a little bit sick so it was good not to move around a lot. Also the altitude makes you really weak as well.

But the next day I was feeling a lot better so off we went to visit a glacier and with some help of mate de coca we were able to handle the height.
Pastoruri is located in the Cordillera Blanca at about 5000m above sea level. On the drive in we stopped at a natural spring that had carbonated water coming out and then we also stopped at another mineral spring but unfortunately we couldn’t really see the colors since there was an overcast sky.
And then finally we came to Pastoruri the bus dropped us of at the base of a trail that lead up to the glacier and we used the opportunity to ride up on horses it was about 1.5 dollars for the ride up and I think it was a really good idea since the height made it hard just to walk up some steps.
When the horses had dropped us of we still had a bit to go that we had to walk up and it was really weird to be walking close to the cloud base. Every now and then one of the clouds sunk a little bit and it got very foggy.
Then finally we made it all the way up to the glacier and it is not the biggest in the world nor the highest but it was still cool and I can only imagine what it must look like with a clear sky.

We stayed there a little while got to play with the snow and then we walked all the way back down again!
Then on the drive out the sky cleared up a little bit and we could see some of the high peaks and the valleys and it was a beautiful scenery. Although Steffi missed a lot of it since she was sleeping her way through it. On the way back to Huaraz the bus also stopped to get some lunch and after an extremely overpriced meal Steffi found a little sheep baby that she got to hold.

That was all we did that day and the next we went walking around town and since it was almost a clear sky we were able to get some good pictures of the mountains and the city.
Also Steffi stole a picture of a lady who had dressed up her lama and was walking around the main square with it.

Thank god for our good zoom =)
We also bought the tickets for the bus and that night we left for Lima and some couchsurfers who were waiting for us there.


Chris

permalink written by  Steffi & Chris on January 17, 2010 from Huaraz, Peru
from the travel blog: 212 days
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Galapagos!

Puerto Ayora, Ecuador


I’m back in business! I have been off the blog for some time now. It’s not because of that this blog entry more looks like a novel :) It’s because it’s Galapagos!

I had seen it on Animal Planet. I had read about it in National Geographic. It’s nothing like TV. It’s so unbelievably much better.

We thought we would have to plan the trip to Galapagos in every detail so we wouldn’t leave it broke. But somehow everything just sorted itself out for us and we got lucky, real lucky.

We arrived in Baltra, Galapagos, at noon on the 2nd of January. We started by checking out different hostels and found out that the oldest hostel was the cheapest. I have taught Chris well who haggled the price down to 15 dollars for a double room w/ bathroom per night. Very cheap considering it’s Galapagos.
That day we just wandered around the island, watching sea lions steal fish from the fishermen and checking out some dive shops for diving on the next day.

On the way to the dive spot the following day I was scared of getting sea sick. Unlike Chris I’m not used to the ocean.
We dove two times and got to see hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks, a turtle and lots of big schools of fish.
Before the first dive when the first group of divers was going in, the sea got extremely rough (which my stomach couldn’t handle) so I got a sea sickness tablet. It helped a lot although they also work as a sleeping pill so I slept like a baby the 1 hour ride back.

The following day it was time for our cruise. We met up with the group and went on a tour around the island of Santa Cruz having a sort of tortoise theme.

We saw several giant tortoises in the wild. There is now a healthy population of about 3000-4000 giant tortoises on Santa Cruz but it hasn’t always been like that. Before when the pirates and the whalers were the only ones using the islands they used to take the tortoises for food since they can go up to one year without food or water. One whaler could take up to 500 tortoises on board which they would put upside down to keep as food stock. A very slow and cruel death.

After that we went to the Charles Darwin Station where they keep old pets that they confiscated when the National Park was started. One of these pets is Lonesome George, the last remaining of his species.
One of the other tortoises at the Station was Diego, a tortoise which is the father of almost 2000 turtles. It was obvious he was tired of all the love making.

After the visit to the Station we went on board on our floating home for the next 5 days. Everything was polished, the staff was wearing suits and it was just top notch.
We were shown to our cabin and found two pieces of chocolate on our pillow. That if anything is luxury! Let me remind you that thanks to our last-minute-deal we paid less than a third of the price of what the other people paid on the boat.
We met the other people on the boat and to our surprise we found two other young adults. We were expecting nothing but retired Americans so it was definitely a happy surprise.
We were joined on the cruise by Amanda from Alaska (who by the way owns a really cool trailer called Shazam) and Andy from Switzerland who were the ones we hung out with the most.
We also had Betty, a cool lady from Canada, who was traveling alone and loved telling stories. There were a typical British couple, a German couple and one American couple and a very rich and conservative ex US-congressman with his wife.
After a while it was time for dinner and champagne. I started feeling a bit sick but unfortunately it wasn’t because of too much champagne. I went down to the cabin to get a seasickness pill and then spent the rest of the night with Chris, Amanda and Andy playing cards.

The next day in the morning we woke up at Plazas to the sound of barking sea lions (It sounds like they’re about to throw up). Plazas are two beautiful islands with colors of red, green, blue and black only inhabited by animals. We saw iguanas, marine iguanas and loads of sea lions. One of the first things we noticed was the smell of the sea lions and how totally handicapped but cute they look on land. All the rocks were dotted by hundreds of red Sally Lightfoot crabs. The marine iguanas are endemic to Galapagos and are the species that has changed the most through evolution of all the animals that once came to the islands.

We got back to the boat to eat some snacks and moved to our next stop, Santa Fe, where we did our first snorkeling at the Galapagos. We saw white-tip reef sharks, eagle rays and golden cow rays. Suddenly the water got really cold because of a current coming from the open sea.
I had no problem at all with that since there were about ten sea lions playing there. A young sea lion was playing with a feather and dropped it in front of me. I took it and two seconds later a huge sea lion swims past me staring me deeply into my eyes. I had met the Alpha male.
Totally amazed by the encounter, it was time to get back on the boat to go ashore on Santa Fe, an island which is close to Plazas but completely different. The colors were now brown, white, green and blue. As we were walking on the island a hawk was soaring by and we hoped it would get a better look. The hawk must have read our mind because the next second he landed right next to us.

When we came back to the boat we spotted a big school of eagle rays so Chris and I decided to join them. Three minutes later we’re swimming with 40 of them! We could even swim down having them all around us and they didn’t mind at all. The feeling was indescribable. They really look like creatures from a fable and somewhat like birds, therefore the name eagle rays.

The following day we had arrived at a new island called Espanola, an island that is basically uninhabitable for humans because there is no fresh water source.
We first walked along a beautiful long white beach where sea lions were busy sunbathing, talking and taking their silly morning walk. A completely sand covered sea lion ran up to me from nowhere and surprised me and even though you tried to keep the 2 meter distance to the animals which are the National Parks rules the animals kept breaking them. Not that we minded too much =)

Chris sat down on the beach to relax and shortly a little Espanola Mocking Bird appeared. The same species Charles Darwin had as a base when he created his theory of evolution. This bird has learned that tourists carry bottles and these bottles contain fresh water so as Chris was sitting down the bird had noticed his water bottle in his pocket. A moment later the mocking bird stood next to it trying to pry the lid open with its beak.
We also saw beautiful marine iguanas with red patterns and a bird with a really, I mean really, long red beak.
After that it was time to snorkel again. We spotted a hieroglyphic hawk fish which is endemic to the Galapagos, big schools of fish and also a sea lion which Chris and I played with for what felt like an eternity.
We went back ashore on Espanola but this time on the other side of the island. There we saw the famous blue-footed booby. The name “booby” comes from the Spanish term bobo, which means stupid/clown, since it’s very clumsy on land.
We also saw marine iguanas, nasca boobys, lizards and some more sea lions. This time another rule breaking sea lion pup tried to get into my lap.

We were lucky enough to see the albatrosses which come here to mate and nest.
The male always comes first to the island and although they only have one partner their whole life, the male always tries to find another female before his “precious” comes back. Therefore the males always get into fights with other males. This means that almost 25% of the offspring are bastards.
The albatross is a huge bird with a wingspan of about 2.3m and usually they need a long runway to takeoff either water or a clear field but because of Espanolas high vertical cliffs and the strong wind that come from the south east they are able to take off by just jumping of the cliff.

Next day we went ashore on Floreana which is best known for its mystical history. In the 1930's a German dentist and his mistress, a young family (the Wittmer family who still live on the island) and a self-styled BDSM inspired baroness with her three men came to settle in the island. Shortly after the baroness and her lovers arrived chaos began.
The baroness and her entourage terrorized the other inhabitants while planning to build a luxury hotel.
Eventually the baroness, two of her lovers and the dentist all turned up missing or dead. There has been much investigation searching for what really happened on Floreana, but there have never been any hard answers.
Floreana is also famous for its Post Office Barrel which British whalers established in 1793 to send letters to and from England. This tradition has continued over the years, and visitors may drop off and pick up letters, without stamps, to be carried to far destinations. We picked four postcards all addressed to Stockholm and left two. We’ll see if they arrive!

Next we went ashore on the olive green beach where we got to see flamingos up close. The flamingos get their pink color from the shrimps which they in turn get from the alges. On the beach there were also turtles and small sting rays.
After that we went to snorkel at Devil’s Crown which is a collapsed volcanic crater. It was a lot of current which would normally attract a lot of sharks but we only saw one. I got to see my first turtle under water which was really cool.
We got back to the boat and it was time to prepare for a hasta la vista dinner since it was the last day. There were speeches and we thanked the crew. Then we had a really nice dinner together with wine.
We hanged out with everybody on the deck before going to sleep. Early the next day we went ashore on Bachas where we saw some more flamingos, turtles, crabs and marine iguanas.
On the way to our last destination we saw a huge and very polished ship cruising over the water with a black helicopter on it.
Then it was time to say good bye to everybody but Betty, who would also stay on the island for some more days.

We got back to our hostel and met up with Betty later for dinner. The following day it was time to dive again. We first dove at Gordon Rocks (hoping to see some more hammerheads) and then at North Seymore. I didn’t see any hammerhead this time (Chris did) but instead a beautiful enormous Manta ray with a wingspan of almost 4 meters which made my day and the dive worth every penny. He came really close and just cruised by.
We also saw turtles, spotted eagle rays, white-tip and black-tip reef sharks. The next dive we saw a huge hammerhead, a massive garden of garden eels and white-tips.
We met up with Betty again in the evening and went on a mega touristy bug train around town.

Next day we went diving at Cousin’s Rock and near Bartolome. This time we actually had the navigator of the huge boat (that I mentioned earlier) on our small boat and he told us that the boat was actually owned by ONE guy, a Russian billionaire, which he and his family used for holidays. The 29 year old navigator did almost exactly what Chris wants to study so he happily told us about his job. The children, 13 and 19 years old, didn’t look forward to go to the Galapagos at all since all kinds of water sports are strictly forbidden. They weren’t allowed to use the helicopter they had onboard either which they usually only used to bring the family from the airport to the ship after they had landed in their private jet. Amazing how different lives some people lead… Here’s the link to the boat
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_%28yacht%29

The first dive we saw a huge school of eagle rays, golden cow rays, tuna fish, hammerheads, white-tip sharks and sea lions playing in a cloud of fish. We ended up holding onto a ledge and just watching the show going on in front of us. Everybody loved it except a tiny black fish which kept on nibbling on my fingers.
Between the dives we got to snorkel and saw our first couple of penguins which Chris got to see swimming. I found a sea lion which I played with who stole my snorkel for more than a minute before he finally gave it back to me. Sea lions are in fact chubby comedians with whiskers.
The next dive we saw a beautiful little sea horse, sea lions, tuna, turtles, two white-tips that circled around us for 5 minutes, moray, puffer fish and lots more. The diversity of the marine life on Galapagos is as incredible as the life on the islands. I have never seen so many different animals in one single dive.
We went out to eat a goodbye dinner later that day with Betty since she was going to fly home the following day.
The next day was our last day at the Galapagos. It was cloudy and we were tired after an intense week so we decided to spend the last day on the beach doing nothing. A day that turned out to be a day we’ll never forget.

When we came to the beach there were no tourists only National Park personnel and Police men standing in the water with their clothes on. We asked one of them what was happening and he told us three dolphins had stranded.
They had been there since 6 am trying to save them but they just kept coming back. No one knew why they tried to commit suicide like this but probably because they were sick or old.
Now it was around 11 am and they had two dolphins left. We asked if they needed help and got a big YES. Chris and I were shown out to one of the dolphins which was then alone. The dolphin was about 3 m long and we held him until rescue came which was a small rubber boat.
The boat had a long rope made of sheets tied together and with that we tied it around the dolphin and towed it out into the deep water.
Now there were only one left but this one was in very rough water and when the boat came in to put the harness on it almost flipped because of the waves. Instead Chris and another volunteer dragged, pulled and swam with the dolphin to the calmer end of the beach 500 m away. When we got there the sea had gotten rough there as well and the boat was unable to come close enough.
The National Park decided that we would do one last try because sooner or later you just have to realize when to quit and let Nature have its way.
The last attempt was to carry the dolphin to a calm bay 100 m away. It took 15 strong and fully grown men to carry it. Not two as in the movie “Le Grande Bleu”.
On the way, the dolphin was really stressed and when we got to the bay you could feel its heartbeat really fast but it calmed down after a little while. The dolphin swam off and we didn’t see him again.
We thought we were done and started walking back but on the way we saw that one of the dolphins had returned and gotten stranded on some rocks. In one last effort, the National Park personnel decided that we should carry the bleeding dolphin to the calmer bay as well. In the end it swam off as well but it looked really weak and we don’t think he made it.

It was a rare experience both tragic and amazing. I never thought I would come that close to such a magnificent creature like a wild dolphin.

This was the BEST week of our lives!


Steffi


permalink written by  Steffi & Chris on January 11, 2010 from Puerto Ayora, Ecuador
from the travel blog: 212 days
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New Year

Quito, Ecuador


We came to Quito together with Berndt and Stefanie in the afternoon and the bus dropped us at the northern bus station, and from there it was about 30-40 minutes in to the city center. We had found a cheap hostel in our guide book and decided to check it out and as we came there we knew we were on the right street but couldn’t find the place. So we asked an old guy at the street and apparently he was the caretaker of the hostel and that was it right there so we went up but unfortunately they didn’t have any rooms with shared bathrooms available so we got one with a private bathroom and that was 8 dollars! For the two of us. And the caretaker promised us that the next day we would get one with a shared bath that was only 5 dollars for the room.
That night we had really big problems finding dinner since it was Sunday and we went out a little to late everything was closed. But luckily we found a mc Donald’s and got some quality food.
The next day we went exploring in the city and was walking around for some hours just sightseeing. We also went to a “newly” built cathedral that actually hasn’t been finished yet and they have been building on it since 1926. But most of it is finished and when you climb the highest tower you get a magnificent view all over Quito and if it is a clear day you can even se some snow clad peaks in the distance.

After that we shared a taxi to the new town to look for a hostel and also so Steffi and me could look around and plan our Galapagos trip.
We actually found a really good offer in the first shop that we visited but we still went around different shops trying to find one that could beat the first offer but that didn’t happened so we booked it 5 days 4 nights on a 1:st class cruise ship for 1035 dollars, and that was including the flight to and from the Galapagos.
It’s not that we looked for a 1:st class ship it just happened to be the cheapest option.

That same day we also found a hostel that seemed perfect to celebrate New Year’s at, since the old town where our current hostel was at is not too good with bars and to go out we wanted to move for new years, and of course we moved together with Berndt and Stefanie.
The next day on the 29:th we all went to the Equator together. It is about 45 minute bus ride out from town. But on our way to the bus we experienced the mustard incident.
All four of us were walking down the street when Stefanie (not my Steffi) says to Berndt, “You have something on your backpack.” And the whole backpack was full of mustard and also Steffi’s back had gotten sprayed. Almost directly after we had seen it a man who was walking in front of us comes up with napkins and offers to help clean it up. But we said no and everybody held one hand on their belongings.
After we had gotten cleaned up we went on to the middle of the world.
When we got there we found a small park with some restaurants and a huge monument showing the location of the middle of the world. Funny thing though is that this isn’t really the equator. When they calculated it they didn’t have GPS and so the real Equator is actually 500m away outside the official park and there is a smaller museum there that was a lot better and we got a guided tour and got to do some experiments on the equator, like the water going straight down and trying to balance and egg on a nail (Berndt was the only one who made it.) This museum was a lot better and it was not only the equator but also all of Ecuador and its different cultures.

The next day we didn’t do much at all we moved to our new hostel and Steffi and I fixed the last details for our Galapagos trip.

But then on the 31:st we went to a volcanic crater that was almost at the equator only 10 minutes more in bus and there we walked down into the crater that was actually the 6:th biggest in the world and it didn’t look anything like I had imagined. I thought it would be a huge mountain with a black crater on top and even some smoke coming out but instead we went up a small hill and all of a sudden there was a huge drop of about 200m and there was the crater. Inside it was full of fields and some of the indigenous people were cultivating the earth.
At the top of the crater we met a guide who told us that the actual volcano had collapsed some 3000 years ago and left was only the remains of the crater about the same thing that happened to Mt Helen in Yellowstone Park, only a lot bigger.
After this we went back to the hostel and started getting ready for the night.
We started the night with playing some drinking games at the hostel and after a couple of beers we were ready to hit the streets.
We were living right next to a huge avenue that was blocked off for cars especially for this night. The street was packed with people and there were artist singing, music playing and these huge figurines like satiric caricatures of different public events.


We went on just walking up and down the street eating the best hot dog ever with chips topping and drinking beers. At about 11.30 we started to notice that people were leaving the street. We tried to find out where everybody was going but apparently everyone went home to their families or friends to celebrate the New Year at home. Also some people said that it’s too dangerous to be in the streets after 12 and wondered why we weren’t going home? Still we found a tourist club that was owned by some Pakistani so we rang in the New Year watching a sort of dance of on the street and also some guy had brought one small box with fireworks so we got to see some of that as well.
Our last day in Quito we spent being hung-over and transferring pictures from Berndts camera to our computer. It actually took longer than what it sounds like. And then on the 2nd we went to the airport to go to Galapagos. When we got there first you have to get your bag x-rayed to check for foreign plants and animal products. But that’s another story.

Amor y Besos
Chris


permalink written by  Steffi & Chris on January 1, 2010 from Quito, Ecuador
from the travel blog: 212 days
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Christmas

Otavalo, Ecuador


We came to Otavalo after crossing the border early in the morning, we had heard allot of bad stuff about the border but it went without any problems what so ever. First we went to one hostel that was recommended in the guide book and it seemed nice but it didn’t have any good hangout areas so we weren’t really happy with it, so instead we went walking around town and the first thing Steffi did was buying a hammock for 8 dollars, I ended up buying one a little later and had to pay 50 cents more but after that we went looking for hostels and we found one that was really nice, about 4 dollars more expensive but they had a fire place and the rooms had a really nice and cozy feeling. So the next day we moved there instead.
This day we spent walking around town on our own fixing the Christmas presents to each other since we spend 24hours a day 7 days a week with each other it’s really hard to fix a present. So this day we had decided to just spend the whole day fixing stuff and we did, presents were bought packages were wrapped but even so the next day we were not quite done so also that day was spent on fixing stuff and wrapping the presents.
Finally the day had come Christmas Eve and instead of waiting until night we had decided to exchange gifts in the morning, also Steffi had a plan so the night before I had to take 2 mild sedatives so she would be sure of waking up before me and that I was going to sleep although she was fixing things in the room.
I woke up by Steffi pulling the blanket away of me, Christmas music started to play and at almost the same time Steffi shutting the door. So I was alone in the room and the first thing I saw was that in the window she had hung presents 3 of them to be precise and when I checked them one said “do not open until 6pm” and the other said “Open me now.”
So I opened it and my first present was a new string for my necklace, I thought this was it and that she would come back so I waited for a while, but no one came.
I went around looking at the hostel thinking maybe she had prepared breakfast but still nothing and so, as I got back I found that she had written “Merry Christmas” with candy cars (Ahlgrens bilar) on the nightstand and also a small note saying “ turn me around” and on the other side I found a small map leading me to the park and there I found Steffi sitting with another present (a small painting) and then also a clue to lead me back to the room and the final gift.
it was her moleskin (notebook) that she had taped up behind the mirror and in it I found drawings and a text that we would be doing a bungee jump together during the trip. It was the best Christmas present I have ever got and definitely a really unforgettable one. The bungee jumping is going to be a incredible experience!

For Steffi I had bought several gifts and then I had bought a bunch of Christmas tree balls and also table tennis balls that I painted and hung up in a bouquet of bougainvillea and so I made a small Christmas tree full of Christmas presents. It is quite hard to explain but it looked better than it sounds.

During the day Christmas Eve day that is we went bike riding together

with a woman from Hawaii but born in France named Sunni. With her we went to a beautiful waterfall that the Indians use for some of their rituals. It is located in a nice spot with some protected forest around it and then we also rode down to the San Pablo lake, the biggest lake in Ecuador and it is also really nicely located between some huge mountains and small villages crawling down the mountain sides to the edge of the lake.
We went down to the shoreline were we met some children, and like so many other children the first thing they asked for was a gift for Christmas, meaning money usually. But none of us likes to give money to beggars and especially not kids so instead we took them on our bikes and gave them a ride on the beach and after that we had a nice connection and we got to talking to their parents. They had a beautiful home right on the shore and the man was working as a farmer but he told us that he was planning to open a hostel in their home, and with that location I don’t think it could be much more than a success story.

We went on riding our bikes and saw some angry looking kids blocking the road with a rope made of grass begging for a “Christmas gift” or they wouldn’t let us pass. They let us go anyways. Since we already had stayed longer than the time we had rented the bikes for we took a different road back that wasn’t quite as steep but on the other hand a bit longer, we went around the “mountain” instead of over it but as I and Steffi had stopped to take some pictures of a piglet and some ducks Sunni had found a pick-up willing to give us a lift back into town so we got there a lot quicker.
After we got back we met up with Stefanie and Berndt, some other people at the hostel and together we went out and had a Christmas dinner together.
After dinner we went back to the hostel and at this time Sunni had already left since she had decided to start doing some volunteering in the morning at a school close to the village. But the rest of us went on and we built a fire in the fireplace at the hostel and there we shared a bottle of rum, some coke and nachos. It was almost a perfect Christmas day.
On Christmas day we didn’t do much, we had planned to do a lot, like shopping at the market but we all felt the day before and didn’t do much at all instead.
Until night when we once again built a fire and this time we had a little barbecue with some sausages shared 5 bottles of wine and had a great evening once again.

The next day was a Saturday and every Saturday in Otavalo there is a animal market in the morning that both me and Steffi, Berndt and Stefanie wanted to check out so we went but I think we came there a little too late (7 in the morning) because all the bigger animals were sold and they only had the chickens and guinea pigs left. So we tired quite quickly and instead we went to the huge arts and crafts market that spread all over Otavalo center on Saturdays, I bought a hat and some gloves made of alpaca and I think that’s all we bought.
That night Stefanie and Berndt had found out about a cock fight in Otavalo and since it is a big part of the culture in Ecuador we went to see it. And it actually is as horrible as you can think, the fights last for a long time and it is just like one long bloody beating and both the cocks walk away with bleeding heads and almost hacked to death.

On the Sunday all 4 of us went horse riding for 3 hours in the mountains and it was absolutely amazing. Fantastic scenery with huge mountains and big canyons little rives flowing past and everything else is green, really really deep green. We thought that the ride would take us to some crater lakes that are quite close by but apparently we had misunderstood the information. But as compensation the guide took us to some medicinal springs where we got to bathe and cool down for a bit before we went back to the ranch so all in all we were very happy with our excursion even though it didn’t really end as we had thought.

After the horses we just went to the bus station and caught the first bus to Quito.

Bye bye

Chris


permalink written by  Steffi & Chris on December 24, 2009 from Otavalo, Ecuador
from the travel blog: 212 days
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