Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sept 24 - 28: Lima and Cuzco

Lima was pretty much as expected -- a large overwhelming capital city. Since we had only a day there, we stuck to the outskirts. Ate some delicious ceviche and won $12 playing slots at the local casino (damn, if we'd only started with $300 on the line instead of $3.....)

From there it was up to Cuzco where we've been hanging out / acclimatizing for the past 4 days. Sitting at 11,000 feet, Cuzco is the jumping off point for anyone trekking and/or heading to Manchu Pichu. Despite being 100% fueled by tourists, the town still has a fair amount of charm. The neighorhood we're staying in (San Blas) is decidely more enjoyable and chill than the rest of the city if you're planning a visit.

With so many tourists, everyone's looking for a slice of the action which has resulted in steep competition amongst the many restaurants in town. It's sad to see so many empty tables and the quick deals they'll give you -- $3 for a three course meal with cocktail. We made a point to try the local specialties -- alpaca/llama (really good) and guinea pig (not that good, and it didn't help that Nader was taunting Allison with the claws and teeth as she tried to bolster the courage to try a bite).

Yesterday we hiked around some of the ruins in town, including Sacsayhuaman (pronounced sexy woman).... Along the way we saw lots of llamas, donkeys and an unidentifable animal which appears to be a mix of the two that we've dubbed a "donkama".

This morning we headed to the town of Pisac (about an hour away from Cuzco) for their weekly market. Despite having become a popular tourist activity, the market still did have a significant local draw. Watching a marriage procession leave the church nearby was a highlight of the trip.

Tomorrow we head off on our trek through the Lares Valley and then onto Manchu Picchu.... Hopefully our time chilling in Cuzco has us ready for the 15,000 ft pass we're heading for!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sept 16 - 23: London and Barcelona

On the night of our second wedding anniversary we flew to London where our official "Around the World" plane ticket began. (For anyone considering taking this adventure, the cheapest tickets start from London. So for us, even though we´re travelling west, it made sense to buy a flight to London and start there.) Plus, it gave us the chance to visit friends in London and check out a city - Barcelona - that neither of us had been to.

It was great to catch up with Kevin, Andrea, Vanessa, John and Delia in London. A huge thanks to Ned for lending us his flat (although we were sad to miss him!). We lucked into some beautiful Fall weather for our visit so days were spent mostly wandering the neighborhoods.

Allison tried to visit Barcelona three separate times when studying in France during college and was blocked by train strikes on all three occasions... So it was great to finally make it there! The city lived up to it´s reputation - beautiful architecture and lots of fun. Sadly, Barca didn't have a home game while we were there. But we watched an away game at a local pub with university students so Nader still had somewhat of a chance to soak in the energy. Late night dinners fit perfectly into our plan to not get too comfortable with European time zones since we were only coming back west in a few days -

We arrived in Lima last night after a marathon 14 hour flight. Our brief trip to UK/Europe was fun but our budget for the year is very happy to have finally reached cheaper South America!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Aug 22 - Sept 16: Whirlwind of a month

After we crossed back into the Lower 48 it was all about getting back to the Bay Area as we had finally hit a wall with driving. We still made time to drive through the gorgeous prairie land of Central Oregon, sleep at the top of a volcano at National Volcano Monument and gaze into the impossibly blue waters of Crater Lake.

Since then it's been all about catching up with family, friends and weddings.

Some stats from our five week road trip:

Distance Driven: 9,200 miles (14,800 km)
Average Distance Driven Each Day: 280 miles (450 km)
Oil Changes: 2
Most Expensive Gas: $1.65/Liter ($6.60/Gallon) Remote Lodge in the Yukon Territory
Nights We Paid For Lodging: 3
Coldest Temperature: 25° F (-4° C) - morning of last day, waking up to an ice covered tent in Volcano National Monument
Hottest Temperature: 104° F (40° C) - afternoon of last day, driving through Northern California
Accidents: 0
Speeding Tickets: 0
Parking Tickets: 1 ($10 in Ashland, OR)
Bears seen from road: 9 (8 brown bears, 1 grizzly)
Bears encountered hiking/camping: 0
Weddings in the last 3 weeks: 3 (Kate & Andy in Madison, WI, Pippa & Mark in Norwich, VT, and Jess & Rishi, in Washington, DC. Congrats again guys!)

Apologies for the delay in posting, we should be back to our regular pace going forward. Next stop, London...