Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Catching up

We are Thankful.

We decided that we would take a ship through the fjords of Southern Chile in the Patagonia region. The ship is a freighter that has been augmented to accomodate passengers as well. We met wonderful people and had a very good time. The weather was fair, but it was fun watching the ship navigate the narrow channels as we sailed south. That is until the last night. At about 3 AM Andy and I were awakened by a very loud crunch, not once but twice. We had a couple of glassses on the desk which crashed to the floor as well as our suitcases and anything that wasn't nailed down. Over the loud speaker we were requested to come to the top deck warmly dressed with our life vests. I got hung-up on the warmly dressed and took too long a time but fortunately we did not have to abandon ship. We were informed the next morning that the ship hit an island.
How? We will never know but we suspect that someone was asleep at the wheel or not at the wheel. Later we heard things like "if we hit 2 feet higher it would have been a disaster." We also heard that there were 60,000 lbs of plastic explosives on board. We don't know if those things are true but as I said earlier, we are thankful!

Friday, February 11, 2011

We're in Punta Arenas Chile

We're in Punta Arenas, Chile. It's at the bottom of the South American continent at a latitude of 53° 10'. That's as far south as Edmonton, Alb Canada is north. (Sacramento is 38° 35'.) We came from Puerto Natales  to look at penguins and yesterday we found a colony of about 60,000 pairs. There's so cute.

All is well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We're in Mendoza

It's wine country.

All is well.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays

To our friends and family at home and our new friends that we have met along the way, Andy and I want to wish you and yours the happiest of holidays and a joy-filled, love-filled New Year. May your blessings be many and your trials be few in the coming year. Your support of our journey means the world to us. Be well! We love you!

Patricia and Andy
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Monday, November 22, 2010

We're in Argentina

We've been looking forward to Argentine the beef and wine as a highlight of the trip. We're here now in the northern part of the country. This is one of the Argentina's best wine producing regions, specifically the area of Cafayate. Of course we went. The wine was good and the scenery en route was spectacular. We drove through some amazing twisted rock formations to get there. There are 19 pictures at the link below. (You may need to copy and paste it into the address bar of your browser.)

All is well.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We´re in Bolivia and have been to the meat markets.

We´ve been in Bolivia for the month of Oct. We started at Lake Titicaca on the Peru-Bolivia border, we to La Paz, the highest capital city, then have been in Sucre since the middle of Oct. We have spent a lot of time at the markets, especially the meat section. We gawk at the pig and cattle hooves...

and the cattle tails...

 the brains...

the butcher and his hacksaw ...

and the cattle tongues

Trust us, nothing is wasted. You can find every part imaginable (and unimaginable).

Cheers for now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We're in Peru

We arrived in Peru from Ecuador at the beginning of Sept. We flew through Lima on to Cuzco and made arrangements to see Machu Picchu and the other sights in and near the Sacrad Valley. It was all amazing but there wasn't enough time. We hope to write more about it but for now we're still on the playing field. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Earthquake - we're fine

Patricia and I were sleeping this morning when we felt a noise and vibration that might be caused by someone walking heavily across the wooden floor on the 3rd story of the house where we're staying. But it didn't make sense that the other student in the house would be walking and making that noise. I heard Patricia mumble something about an earthquake then the house shook back and forth. I realized Patricia in her early morning slumber had figured it out.

Turns out the epicenter of the 6.9 quake was about 170 miles northeast of Cuenca. It was about 115 miles underground and occured in the amazon jungle region of the country - are area that is not heavily populated.

We're fine.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We are now in a city called Cuenca, which is in southern Ecuador. Cuenca is considered, by many, the cultural capital of Ecuador. It is a small city, much cleaner, quieter and safer than Quito. The central part of the city is old with beautiful cobblestone streets and of course many churches. The river Tomebamba divides the city between old and new. We are continuing our Spanish studies here. We have taken a couple of side trips including one to Parque Nacional Cajas (Cajas National Park). This park is 45 minutes from Cuenca. The highest point is over 14,700 feet. It is filled with many lakes and incredible flowers and vegetation, most of which we have never seen. It was raining the day we went, which it does most of the time, but nonetheless we had a great day walking through the mud on a fabulous trail.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Food for Thought

We have had a few interesting food experiences. (VEGETARIANS BEWARE - you might want to skip this paragraph.) One of the first was while we were in Mindo (earlier post). We were sitting at a restaurant outside on a street corner. They had a big charcoal-fueled grill loaded with chicken, pork and plantains, among other things. It was a very relaxed and casual place. We noticed they were grilling these things that were long and round to we asked what they were and the owner, we assumed, gave us a taste. They were pig intestines. Save yourself the experience. It is not worth it. Kind of what you would expect, too chewy and a little astringent. No, I did not swallow, just delicately removed it from my mouth and said thank you for the experience.

A major specialty in Ecuador is Cuy, which is guinea pig. (Sorry to our friends’ children who have them as pets.) They get the name from the sound they make when they are alive. With much nerve and help from our friend Chris we endeavored to have the experience of eating one. When they are on the rotisserie they are much bigger than you would imagine and have a much pointier nose than you would expect. It wasn’t bad (says PF), the skin was nice and crispy and the meat, while not a lot of it, was dark and moist. No, it did not taste like chicken, much too gamey to be compared with our little hen friends. I would eat it again but Andy would not.

My (PF) very favorite food so far is also a very popular dish. On the lines of street food, it is called Chancho al Horno - roasted pig. The meat is delicate and succulent with a wonderful roasted flavor. It is sooooo good. It is usually served with what are called llapingachos, which are potato cakes. No, not the kind that are served with sour cream and applesauce on Chanukah but these are thick and fluffy and absolutely out of this world.

I (PF) am beginning to think that the Andean people invented carbo-loading. Every meal, except breakfast is served with at least a double starch. Rice and potatoes mostly, sometimes with corn as well. I was told that this dates back to the time, when to get anywhere the Andean people had to walk so they loaded up on carbs before they made the trek. Sometimes we will even get rice with our pasta, too.

Here are a couple pictures of cuy on the rotisserie and chanco al horno.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Zip lines and butterflies

We took a weekend trip to a small town called Mindo, a couple of hours north of Quito. The town is in a cloud forest, an area where the land is frequently blanketed by low hanging clouds. We did what is called ”a canopy” a.k.a. zip lining in the US. OMG it was amazing! The first two runs were more than a "little" scary. We zipped high above the trees along a ten line course. I (Patricia), did not look down, but the view across the trees was spectacular. How do they build these things I wonder??? That was 1½ hours of fun for $10. (You can watch me zipping in the link below.)

Also in Mindo, we went to a place that breeds butterflies. They were beautiful (link below). I fed them with a little mashed banana. One stayed on my hand for approximately fifteen minutes. The guide said the normal time people spend there is twenty minutes. We were there for over an hour and only left so we could catch our bus.

We stayed in a lovely hostel with good food and accommodation. Also, we discovered some yummy chocolate that is made only in Mindo. We didn’t buy enough.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Galapagos - Floreana Island

The visit to Floreana Island was short but the Sally Lightfoot crabs stole the show because of their color and sideways movement across the rocks. In one spot we saw dozens resting on a rock. A big wave crashed into it and over the crabs. We thought they'd be gone and were amazed to see them still there. How do they grip the rocks to keep from washing away?

When I read there is a “greenish” beach on Floreana I was skeptical and thought the guide book was exaggerating the real appearance. But when we landed on the island that morning I could clearly see large sections of green sand. Patricia sifted through the grains and found crystals of the mineral olivine that give it a green hue. (She has a few in her hand in the last picture (link below)).
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Galapagos - Española Island

One of the most amazing things about the animals on all of the islands was that they didn't scurry off as approached or walked near them. Most didn’t move at all. Our guide said we had to keep 6 feet between us and the animals. The pictures of the iguanas (link below) show we had to get off the path to keep our distance. We had to change our path to walk around sea lions, various nesting birds, turtles (and their eggs) and many of the other animals we saw. One day Patricia once started walking toward a sea lion thinking it would be a comfortable log to sit on. But as she got close she was surprised to see it had whiskers and moved.

The iguanas on Española were amazing. It was our first encounter with the blue-footed boobies. Now I know what all the fuss is about. We were there when they were nesting. It was spectacular to be able to witness the mating rituals and the nesting. (You many need to copy and paste the link.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Galapagos - Santa Fe Island

After our first day of sailing on the water we stopped at Santa Fe Island. I (Andy) had one of the best snorkeling experiences ever! Not long after I got in the water I found myself inside a sea lion play circle. They swam in front of, behind, over and under me. One bit on my flipper playfully. I lingered and watched them glide through the water, turn in one direction then in another direction with grace and efficiency. On land we saw sea lions, iguanas, cacti and crabs. (You may need to copy and paste the link to see the pictures.)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Galapagos - Santa Cruz Island

We found the first big animals at the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island. The turtles were amazing!!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Galapagos - The Fragata

We returned from the Galápagos at the beginning of July. There are 12 major and 12 minor islands in the archipelago. It is more than 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador so the most common way of getting there is by plane. We, like most tourists, visited the islands on a boat. Ours held 16 passengers and seven crew members. The biggest boat we passed carried 90 passengers. The islands are famous, in part, because of the type and variety of animals, their evolution in an isolated part of the world and Charles Darwin’s research there that he wrote about in the Origin of the Species. The park service that oversees the archipelago has very strict rules about the number of people who can visit the islands at any given time, when they can go, the islands they can visit and where they can walk. Here are pictures of the boat: The Fragata.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The currency

When I learned that Ecuador uses the US dollar as the official currency I thought the bills and coins would be the same as in the US. But realized they aren't when I gave a shop keeper a five dollar bill for a $2.30 purchase and only got a few coins for change. I reminded the clerk that I had given her $5.00 and she pointed to the coins I was holding, especially to the $1.00 coins. Do you remember when they were introduced in the US? They didn’t last very long did they? Many of them were exported to Ecuador.

In addition to the $1.00 coins there are nickels, dimes, quarters and $.50 pieces that are made by the Banco Central de Ecuador and differ from those minted in the US. Although they are the same value as in the US they don’t look the same. The language on the coins is Spanish, the people depicted are famous people in Ecuadorian history and the coins are lighter. Even though they only coins we’re continually surprised by what they can buy. For example:

Trolley ride (a double bus with a dedicated lane for about 20 stops) - $0.25
Shoe/boot shine $0.50
Water (1.3/gal) - $0.90
Call to the US $0.05/min
Internet - $0.80/hour
Breakfast at the local bread store (scrambled eggs with ham, croissant with cheese, juice and tea or coffee - $1.50
Various fresh juices <$1.00
Cappucino - $1.71
Haircut, beard trim, and hair wash - $3.00
Laundry 4.5/kilo - $5.40
Homestay with 3 meals/day, room and laundry 1 time / week - $18/person

In general, Quito has been inexpensive for the past month. Next we’ll travel to the Galapagos (5/28/10) then to Cuenca for another homestay and more Spanish classes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ultimate Frisbee

I´ve found an ultimate frisbee game on Tuesday nights about 5:30. The first week I played we ran non-stop. Once a team scored they retained possession of the disc and started playing toward the other end of the field. At 9,400 ft I was tired after 2 points. There weren´t any subs so I kept running. The 2nd week was a little easier. The frisbee games have been small with about 8 people total. Normally there are 7 people on each team. But, with fewer people we play on a smaller field.

The smaller field is OK because we play in a park that is full of games, mostly soccer. I imagine the players are inspired by the World Cup games. My Spanish teacher, Luis, and I enjoy taking a break from class to turn on the TV in our classroom to check the score. I have never enjoyed the World Cup as much as I am this year.

Cheers, may the best team win.

Andy and Patricia

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Otavalo and and nearby sites

Here are some pictures from our recent excursion to sites north of Quito. First are some pictures from a town named Calderon. We stopped there look at the figurines made from bread dough called masa. The KKK-looking figures are part of the Catholic tradition we learned.

Most of the pictures are from the market in Otavalo about 2 hours north of Quito (by car). It´s famous for its textiles, which are as varied as the nearby villages and towns. The food was fascinating as well.

There are photos from lake Cuicocha, a crater lake. We rode a boat about 15 minutes to see bubbles rising to the top from hot volcanic activity more than 600 feet below the surface.

Copy and paste the link:

Friday, June 11, 2010

Middle of the Earth

Yesterday we rode a public bus to the middle of the earth or Mitad del Mundo in Spanish. It´s the equator at latitude of 00º00'00". We first visited an outdoor museum and did several experiments to show the effects of gravity in the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere. Perhaps the most familiar experiment is the one with the toilet bowl. Which way does the water rotate when a toilet is flushed in the northern hemisphere? What about the southern hemisphere? To answer these questions our guide poured a bucket of water into a tub with a plug. Then she pulled the plug and we watched the water drain straight down when it was over the equator. Then when the tub was in the southern hemisphere it drained counter clockwise and then clockwise when it was in the northern hemisphere. In physics it´s know as the Coriolis effect (but suggests it´s a myth).

Patricia managed to stand a (raw) egg on top of the head of a nail directly over the equator. The neutral gravitational forces pulled it down evenly on all sides.

The museum was fun. But the $0.40 1-hour bus ride also deserves a couple lines. On the way there one guy who entered, gave a sales pitch and tried to sell key chains to the passengers. He didn´t have many takers. A little later a couple kids got on. One stood in the front and the other in the back and they sang. Sometimes together, sometimes only the one in front and other times only the one in the back. We gave them some coins. Then on the way back we had a couple comedians ride part way with us. With one if the front of the bus and the other in the back they got most everyone to smile at one of their jokes. We also gave them coins.

It was a fun day.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Spanish school and family stay

We´ve been in school for a couple weeks. We´re living with a 60 year-old woman to enhance the learning experience. We both like our teachers and usually like the food that our host mother prepares. The ¨rules¨ of the house make us chuckle. ¨When the lights go on in one room they go off in another, don´t eat on the beds, don´t put suitcases on the bed, dirty clothes get washed in a washer once every 8 days. (We hang it on the line.) Last week it took 4 days for them to dry because it was overcast and rainy. This week it only took 3 days. Next week we´ll go to a laundry mat that has a dryer. One of the other novelties of the house is that we have to ask her to turn on the water heater when we want a shower or to wash our face and it doesn´t stay on long after we´re done. We like her a lot. For 3 meals\day and laundry once a week it´s a good deal for $36\day.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The food

The food so far has been less than spectacular. In fact, it hasn't been very good. But today we had an exceptional meal - it was Lebanese.

Spanish school, homestay and volcano

Today we signed up for Spanish school.

Tomorrow we'll move from our very comfortable hotel to live with the Herrera family

Sunday we'll climb part of volcano Cotopaxi. It's about 1.5 hours south of Quito. Tungurahua volcano, the one that erupted on Fri (5/28) morning, is yet another 1.5 hours south of Cotopaxi.

All is well


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

We're grateful

Patricia and I are grateful to the handful of people who helped us pack our 4 bedroom home and the more than a dozen friends who helped us move boxes and furniture into a 10x25 storage unit with a special thanks to 4 year-old Julia who brought joy to the process. We're also grateful to the friends who fed, housed and transported us after our stuff had been stored.
We have arrived in Quito after 16 hours of travel and are very content to have time to rest. Tomorrow we'll explore the city more, visit Spanish schools and try to find a game of ultimate frisbee at over 10,000 ft.

Andy and Patricia

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kitty found a home and the home found a renter

Our cat, Mio is being fostered by a dear friend and our house is officially rented. Those were the two big things that we really wanted settled before we left and now they are. Now all we have to do is get our stuff into storage. Sat we'll move most of our belongings to a 10'x25' storage unit. We're curious to see how much space we'll have left over.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dinner with Matt, Susan, Isabella and Julia

A good time was had by all.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Kitty wants a home and our home wants a renter

One of the hardest things about preparing for this trip is saying goodbye to Mio, our cat and packing our house.

Mio We're looking for a foster family or for someone to adopt him. He's an 11-year old short- haired neutered male. He's a very lovable, affectionate indoor-outdoor cat. Email ( or call (916-541-4188) if you want to meet him or know of someone who might.

Our home is for rent: It's on craigslist at the link below
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Boxes everywhere

There's so much to do and so many boxes that it seems hard to believe we'll get it all done. Moving day is Saturday May 22nd. You're invited to come by at 9:30 and help for an hour or so.