An Open Apology

I meant to write a post four days ago (December 20, 2013). I really did. I wanted to point out that we’ve been home a whopping six months. I wanted to remember how a year ago we thought we were tough because we’d passed the halfway mark. I wanted to say how good it is to have a real, 12-foot Noble fir Christmas tree instead of a plastic tree my height.

But I didn’t. And I’m sorry. So I’ll do one now.

We’re at home, not in Cape Town. The view out our dining room window is of our dying grass instead of the promenade and the Atlantic Ocean. We have large presents under (beside, rather) our tree in place of the very small ones last Christmas. The best difference of all, though, is that my grandparents are going to spend Christmas with us.

In the last year, we touched thirteen countries on four continents. In the last six months, we’ve adjusted to “normal” life and lost our tans (that was a big tragedy). We didn’t go camping in the summer (silent rejoicing) but Ethan and I did go to camp. We may not have used our canoe at all but we hiked to multiple lakes.

Cupcakes and gelato have become dietary staples, and pizza drowned in vinegar has become the norm (at least for me).


The second half of the trip was probably more stressful for us, between worrying about jobs and cars and school when we returned, to the Amazon trip, Morocco, and our house in Semur-en-Auxois being flooded.

But who’s to say it wasn’t the better half?


Cast Off

Mom is relieved to announce that her cast is finally off.

It turned into a four-country trauma (Argentina, Chile, Peru, Morocco) but finally ended this morning at a clinic. After the cast was removed, her PT (Physical Torture) began. She now has to go the clinic three times a week for the next three weeks for PT.

We’re all glad that she can use her right arm– now she can wash dishes again!

Sleep? What Is That?

LIMA, Peru-

March 21, 2013, 01:16- Eryn is startled from her sleep by the sound of her parents packing and showering

01:33- Eryn and Ethan are forced out of their beds and into their traveling clothes, packing quickly

02:05- The van is packed and ready to head to Lima’s international airport

02:31- Four people, four suitcases, four backpacks, and two hats are unloaded onto the curb at the airport

02:49- Checking in is complete: everything that is needed to get to Casablanca of Humphrey Bogart fame is in the hands of the foursome

03:18- Earbuds are bought so that Eryn can more easily listen to One Direction

04:31- Boarding for our Copa Airlines flight to Panama City begins

04:34- Family is on the aircraft and settled in for flight

05:01- The little Boeing 737-700 takes off


March 21, 2013, 08:34- Touchdown in Panama City. First time north of the equator in three months (last time was in Dubai, UAE)

08:52- At Gate 23. American-style security checkpoint is viewed from afar

09:08- The security checkpoint is cleared, no problem. First time being in a rather large group of Americans for the family (rather uncomfortable)

09:35- Boarding begins

10:05- Plane (once again Boeing 737-700) takes off


March 21, 2013, 16:27- The Boeing (on which was shown Silver Linings Playbook with [most] curse words removed) lands with Manhattan skyline in distance

16:43- Family has successfully cleared one hurdle. Now the luggage must come

17:19- Three suitcases have been recovered by Ethan, and the last one—the father’s—is just around the bend

17:32- Now officially in the U.S.

17:54- Supper is sought in food court after Star Alliance lounge fails to meet expectations

18:03- “The last meal for two days” (pasta, salad, garlic bread, and side) is eaten, along with two heaping bowls of chocolate ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s (the bowls were for all four, not two per person)

19:13- The bookstore is perused. A Lonely Planet USA guide book is scorned: “The only way you can write a USA guide book is by making it 1,200 pages long.” (It contained 1,198 pages.) The book even mentioned the family’s hometown, Eugene, OR—even though the city was barely discussed and was summarized as a hippie town (it is)

19:46- The Boeing 757-200 is boarded. It’s a much nicer plane: the family is in Economy Plus, meaning more leg room and personal screens. The only major problem is that the seats of the younger three members of the family (children and mother) do not lean back because they are directly in front of the emergency exit row

20:15- Take-off. Ethan watches Skyfall while Eryn enjoys the only episode of House available. After drinking doxy, it’s off to bed. Eryn listens to all thirty One Direction songs on the plane (thirteen from Up All Night and seventeen from Take Me Home) as well as “Rolling in the Deep” and “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele

LISBON, Portugal-

March 22, 2013, 07:11- The pilot makes another loop instead of landing. Reason unknown

07:18- Landed

07:44- Inside the Lisbon airport is the family, and the United Airlines agent is searched for

08:17- The decision to head to the lounge on the other side of customs and immigration is made. So begins the long trek

08:28- No lines, no waiting! The family is in the TAP Portugal lounge eating cake, sandwiches, and vegetables

10:28- Packed up and left the lounge to head back to the international part of the terminal (most other European nations don’t count as “international” due to the EU)

11:43- Boarding begins after some annoying Brits bad-mouth One Direction


March 22, 2013, 14:02- The twelve-seater lands on Moroccan tarmac

14:48- Into the “normal” part of the airport

15:57- Family arrives at suite which originally had two beds. With four it’s quite cramped

17:58- The quest for a supper restaurant begins

18:30- Dinner is ordered

18:57- Dinner (three chicken meals, including kebabs, and one vegetarian meal) arrives

19:46- The bill is paid. “Gracias”—before realization that Moroccans speak French and Arabic hits (this is about the zillionth instance of speaking Spanish instead of French). “Merci!”



South American Summary

After more-or-less three months in South America, we started to get the hang of Spanish and customs. We could go into a heladeria and order ‘dos bolas de chocolate y fresa,’ or go to the supermercado and buy huevos, leche, pizza, lechuga, choclo, chocolate, y pan. When Mr. Gooey in Arequipa told us a bunch of things about Arequipa and Peru in general (such as food, customs, etc.), we found that we already knew a lot of what he was saying.


We started off South America in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after a ridiculously long set of flights from Dubai, UAE. We spent two weeks there, idling in the sun and our apartment. We also enjoyed the new types of ice cream flavors: lemon mousse, raspberry, and chocolate Suizo. In El Bolsón, we devoured ice cream at the rate of kilogram a day in between bites of super-cheesy pizza. Ethan and I befriended Juan, Paz, and the rest of their family, and we spent the evening with them when Mom broke her arm.

After a night in Bariloche, chocolate heaven, we rode a bus for eight hours to Chile and arrived in Valdivia, home of the largest-ever earthquake, at ten p.m. that night. Dad and Ethan got some Chilean pesos in exchange for some American dollars at a Chinese restaurant, and we used those pesos to pay for a taxi to take us to our hostel. The highlight of our time in Valdivia was the fresh-foods market, where you could buy all sorts of wonderful things. Because we didn’t have an apartment or kitchen, we only bought raspberries and blueberries.

Two things stand out for Valparaiso: having to walk up and down our hill multiple times each day to get to and from our flat, and the really good ice cream whose name I can’t remember. It tasted like cinnamon, and it was really good with the cappuccino flavor that was mainly marshmallow fluff.

In San Pedro de Atacama, we went on multiple tours up into the surrounding Andes and Altiplano before heading down to Arica, where, after an insanely long bus ride, we celebrated Ethan’s 12th birthday with a cupcake and presents. The next day we went up to Putre. During our time there, we went on two tours with Barbara, the Alaskan woman, and went up to about 5,000 meters above sea level—the highest point on our trip while standing on the ground. We also got to see some really cute vizcachas, which are related to chinchillas.

Back in Arica, we went to a mummy museum and then arrived about an hour too early at the airport two days later. We landed abruptly on Arequipa’s runway late in the morning, and Mr. Gooey was waiting for us. That weekend was spent enjoying crepes from Crepissimo and touring Mr. Gooey’s workplace. On Monday, we flew to Cusco. When we first landed, I thought, This is an ugly city.

We didn’t stay in the “ugly city” long, though—soon we were on our way to Ollantaytambo. After a night there, we were off to Machu Picchu. Somehow we made it up and down Wayna Picchu, the picturesque mountain in the background of just about every Machu Picchu photo.

After a few nights in Cusco, we were off to the Amazon Basin with Reve (the English-speaking guide), Paltacha (the cook), and a ton of stuff. It was hot and humid and we didn’t see any tapirs, despite going to the tapir clay lick two nights in a row.

On our last night back in Cusco, disaster struck. It began with the shower drain gurgling but ended with the floor of our hostel covered in 2-6 inches of brown stuff from the sewers.

We slept in a different hotel.

The next day we caught a flight to Lima Bean. That was yesterday. Tonight will be very short: our taxi to the airport leaves at 2:05 in the morning.



Lima Bean

We got to Lima at around three in the afternoon after a short flight. We spent last night at another hostel in Cusco. When Dad and I went back to Pantastico to get our laundry, the owner said that our laundry would be ready by this evening. We pointed out that we were leaving Cusco at one in the afternoon, and she handed us our two bags.

In Lima, we got in a taxi and rode for half an hour to our lodgings. After a short while there, we dropped off laundry and went grocery shopping. We decided to eat in our apartment, so we bought ravioli, tomato sauce, green beans, salad, and chocolate ice cream. Dad and I prepared supper, and Ethan eventually washed the dishes. Our salad had lettuce, beet, radish, carrot, tomato, and lots of corn—but no beans, so unfortunately we can’t say we’ve had Lima beans.


Sitting in a Cesspool

We had breakfast this morning at The Meeting Place, where all of us had waffles. Ethan and I had fruit (cantaloupe, pineapple, and banana) waffles while Mom and Dad selected Monkey Business Waffles, which had chocolate sauce and bananas. We were there to drop off our Spot, which kept track of us in the Amazon (just in case of emergencies). We had gotten it from Mr. Gooey back in Arequipa, so we’ve been carrying it around for two weeks or so.

Ethan and I played Scrabble and, even with my wonderful word “queleas” (which are birds we saw in Namibia), I lost. We had a conversation about homeschooling with the owner (Steve). We also petted the friendly cat, Mz. Socks, who doesn’t purr—she just meows.

We returned to the hostel, where we did schoolwork and such for a while. Then we left to get ice cream. Mom and Ethan each had one scoop, but then we went to the bakery associated with the hostel because there was no chocolate ice cream. There, we ordered a grand total of two brownies, one cookie, a slice of apple pie, and a vegetarian empanada. We ate in the plaza, where a woman tried to sell her wares to us.

Back in the hostel, Dad deleted more pictures before we went out to supper at the place where we had supper our first night in Cusco about a week-and-a-half ago. Mom and I shared a bowl of chicken soup and curry with couscous while Dad chose tomato soup and Ethan ordered vegetarian risotto. Ethan was excited to go to the restaurant because he wanted to have his virgin strawberry daiquiri again.

The lights flickered a few times, but we still left after enjoying our complimentary chocolate ice cream (wow, we’ve had a lot of carbs and calories today!). There was thunder—not very loud, but very often. The lightning came quickly, too, and we hurried to get home to avoid the downpour.

It was not to be.

By the time we got to the hostel, my jeans and pants were soaked. Thankfully I had decided to wear my rain jacket to dinner, so my shirt was dry. I grabbed my long john pants and towel after kicking off my shoes. I slipped into the bathroom, slowly dragging the heavy door closed. The shower drain gurgled.

Wow, we must have got a lot of rain. That’s odd. Wait—why is there more sound? Oh, well—it is sleeting outside.

I had just started to get changed when water started coming out of the toilet.

Um, okay. What is going on?!?!?!

I hastily pulled my pants back on and flung the door open.

“Ethan! Ethan! Get your stuff out and up! The toilet is overflowing!”


“Look at that!”

The drain in the bathroom floor, as well as the toilet and shower, was overflowing with brown stuff. I was horrified. We pulled our stuff up onto our beds. It was sickening, but the smell was only overwhelming when you faced the bathroom. Every room on the bottom floor of the hostel was overflowing with brown stuff. It was gross (understatement of all time).

If we had gotten back to the hostel five minutes later, our stuff would have been ruined. If we stay here, we’re going to be sleeping in a cesspool. Right now, we’re standing and sitting in a cesspool. There are at least six inches of water in the common room of this place.

On that cheery note,


The Three Cs

We’re back to cell phone service, chocolate ice cream, and Cusco!


We started out our day at Reve’s dad’s lodge at five in the morning. We loaded up the boat and left at 5:30. At around seven, we had breakfast (kiwi, papaya, and cantaloupe with muesli and strawberry yogurt). Using the tea bag wrappers, Reve taught Ethan and me how to make origami tea-shirts and swans. I was not very good at it.

In about an hour, we arrived at Colorado, where there were five bars of 3G—that’s very good service for being in the middle of nowhere! Reve found us two vans, and all our stuff, Paltacha (the cook. His nickname means avocado), the boat helper (Jonathan), Reve, and the four of us went in them. Down we went down a muddy, bumpy road to another river, where all the stuff came out, into a boat, and across the river. Once across, we met our van driver from last week. He had come with his five-year-old son.

The ride back to Cusco took about seven-and-a-half hours. The highest point was 4,725 meters above sea level. I listened to One Direction pretty much the whole time, except when we stopped for lunch and, as Reve called them, pee-pee breaks.

We’re going to miss Reve. It was good we had someone who spoke English well enough to make us mind our manners. His favorite sayings were “Don’t kill yourself—let the caiman do it for you!” and “Laha muy, Paltacha! Laha muy!” (I’m guessing on the spelling, but “laha muy” means, roughly, ‘Your food is bad but we’ll take it anyway.’ It was a sort of inside joke.) Not in the van were two other important members of our trek: the capitan and his son, who was called Segundo, or the second (he has the same name as his dad, but we don’t know what it is).

So to them we say,


Terrible Tapirs

We woke up early this morning to see the macaws at their clay lick. Usually there is a path to the hide from Rio Madre de Dios, but it was under about six feet of water. So instead we took Amazon Trals Peru through the “little stream.” At least, Reve called it a “little stream.” However, since this is the wet season, the “little stream” was forty feet wide and ten feet deep.

We arrived at the hide at around six in the morning. After several hours, during which we ate pancakes with honey and butter, the forty to fifty macaws finally appeared. Only two macaws ever made to the actual lick. The rest just watched in the trees and eventually flew away when the vulture appeared.

After Ethan didn’t catch any piranhas in the brown Rio Blanco, we had lunch at the lodge, which was made up of: mushroom soup, deep-fried pepper, boiled plantain, cauliflower, beet, carrot, beans, watermelon, and a drink that tasted like cinnamon. A few hours later, we were eating still-warm spaghetti with mushrooms in the hide at the tapir lick, where we had gone against Dad’s best judgment. It was raining, the light was dimming, and we had no chance of seeing tapirs, since they don’t go out in the rain.

So, after only three hours, we slogged back to the lodge in single file: Reve lead, with his high power torch. Next came Ethan, who cared Reve’s umbrella. I came next, trying not to think because it would give me a headache. A pace behind walked Mom, trying to keep her cast dry under her rain jacket. Dad took up the rear, always right behind Mom, sometimes even stepping on her ankles.

We made it home and are, more or less, ready to wake up at five in the morning.


Bugger Them Bugs

The mosquitoes here may seem bad, but we’ve seen worse at lakes, such as Indigo Lake, in the Oregon Cascades. However, we have lost memories of those and complain to all hours about the bugs here.

Besides mosquitoes (which are big and slow here, and not as determined), there are bot flies, which are parasites attached to mosquitoes. We’ll know if we got any bot flies in us in two or three weeks, which is when the itching/pain appears.

There are also “teeny-tiny” bugs which leave red bumps with scabs on the top. Thankfully, these don’t itch, but the sand flies’ bite-spots do. The most common cause of itchy bites here would probably be the sand flies since they’re too small to get. (Also, just waving them away doesn’t work as it does with the mozzies.)

Unfortunately, the DEET lotion we brought with us is, while effective, greasy, sticky, and very, very strong-smelling (it’s not a good smell).


Not Feather Boas

Reve is a good storyteller, despite his first language not being English. Tonight at the supper table (supper, by the way, being eggplant, tomatoes, potato, pumpkin soup, star fruit juice, and not-so-good chocolate flan), he regaled us with stories about jaguars and pumas.

We ate at eight (and I am being alliterate-ish). The reason for the late hour of supper was that we walked to the tapir clay lick at around three in the afternoon, got there at four, and eventually left at seven.

No tapirs appeared.

We did, however, see two small boas (the largest was 1.5 meters), a poison dart frog (black with green stripes), a small, harmless frog, a swimming spider, three bats, and two tailless whip scorpions.

At the tapir clay lick hide, the four of us laid on mattresses while Reve watched and our gum boots dried. They weren’t wet on the inside (thankfully) since the water on the trail wasn’t that deep, and by the time we started the return trip, the water from today’s rain was already a few inches lower.


Monkey Steamed, Monkey Stewed

We saw three kinds of monkeys today: wooly, spider, and squirrel.

The first type—wooly—was next to a troop of squirrel monkeys. We only saw one or two woolies. Reve told us that they (woolies) are the type that throw poop at people (kind of like baboons do. These monkeys also pee on people). We’ve seen four types of Latin American monkeys before (Capuchin, spider, squirrel, and howler—all in Costa Rica). Now we can say we’ve seen five.

Reve told us that people used to hunt the monkeys, but they’re safe in Parque Nacional Manu. The people hunted the monkeys for food—monkey steamed and monkey stewed.

We also saw the squirrel monkeys on our first hike, which was just along the edge of the river. On our second hike, we went to the second lake. There we saw mosquitoes, mosquitoes, and more mosquitoes as we climbed a tower and looked down on the oxbow lake below. It seemed so hot today. There was only a memory of a breeze on the top of the tower, and below it was a very distant memory.


The Countdown Begins

99 days to go til home, sweet home!


In other news, today we wore our gum boots to go riding in a catamaran around a lake and look for caimans. This was after we’d ridden in the boat for five hours, getting to our current lodge.

“I was with some tourist on a night walk,” is how a story that Reve likes to tell begins. “I was wearing my gum boots. We were looking—ooh, aah, things like that—when the tourists say, ‘Look! Look!’ And there was a fer-de-lance between my feet.” He says that’s because the venomous snakes can sense heat, and the gum boots kept his heat in.


At the pond, we saw plenty of caimans. We got very close to one to take its picture, and it only swam away when it decided we were too close for comfort. That was one of two lakes that are near this lodge. The lodge is taken care by native people—one family comes in a month. Besides the natives, we (along with our cook, guide, captain, captain’s son) are the only people in this five million-acre UNESCO World Heritage site.


Sweet Lemons and Soaked Clothes

The thunder kept me awake last night for an hour. It was probably the loudest thunder I’d heard in thirteen years.

We got to sleep in a little bit and left Bambu Lodge at 8 in the morning. We stopped at a town and dropped off two people. Reve also picked up some D batteries for his flashlight, and we got our permit for Manu Park.

We stopped at an orchid garden where we saw some orchids and Reve and Ethan picked some “sweet lemons,” which smelled sour but tasted like nothing. (We think they weren’t ripe yet.)

Down in the town of Atalaya, we waited for a while for our boat. It eventually arrived, and we piled in with all our equipment. Instead of our van driver, we have the boat driver, his son, and the “boat helper.”

About half an hour in, we stopped to switch motors. Reve told us that all boats have to travel with two motors—just in case. Twenty minutes after lunch (fried vegetables and a boiled egg), the rain started coming down. I pulled on my rain coat and was fine, but in another ten minutes Ethan and I had to grab the cushion of the bench in front of us and put it over our knees, while Mom and Dad huddled under a tarp.

We finally got to Hummingbird Lodge, and we went on a walk through the forest, getting attacked by mosquitoes and seeing puma and tapir footprints (but no animals). Reve showed us two big trees (a mahogany and a fig). For supper, we had soup, vegetables, a scoop of potato, and eggplant steak. That was when Reve told us that he owns Hummingbird Lodge with a Californian girl. He paid for 15%, she paid for the other 85%. He’s losing land to Rio Madre de Dios at a rate of about 150 feet a year, so in the off season he’s planning on moving the buildings back.

He took us looking for tarantulas, and we saw four: a female and her baby, a smaller of the same kind, and a small brown one.


Cocaine and Cuy

“Here, we aren’t addicted to cocaine. As children we are told, ‘People who make bombs don’t blow up—they sell bombs. People who make guns don’t shoot themselves—they sell guns. Here, we make cocaine and we sell it.’”

Reve, our English, Spanish, Dutch, and Quechua speaking guide, was explaining uses of coca to us. We were standing in the field of coca at our lodge for the night. The other three uses of coca were to chew, to make tea, and to offer to gods.


We finally arrived at our lodge after eleven hours on the road: from five a.m. to six in the evening. We descended over 2,000 meters, passing waterfalls and mudslides in the little van that could. We had two meals—breakfast and lunch—and a snack of fruit and doxy. Dad saw a feral guinea pig, our only mammal of the day. We saw lots of butterflies, everyone else saw a non-venomous snake, and we all saw a “cock of the rock,” which is the national bird of Peru. Actually, we saw several of these red and black birds, but only one or two were picture-worthy.


Sweet to Be Swiss

We got to make our own chocolate today!

Dad didn’t, but he still gets to enjoy the results, which were 12 little pyramids, 11 Reese’s Pieces-style chocolates, and six chocolate bars. We could choose from twenty-two flavors to stick in our creations at ChocoMuseo, but I only used thirteen: pink marshmallows, sprinkles, coffee beans, Oreos, Peanut M&Ms, nibs (bits of cacao bean), mint, cloves and cinnamon, chili, sea salt, coconut, and quinoa. I could have used coca but decided not to. Some of the women who worked there were making “experimental” chocolate bars: white chocolate bars with coffee beans, coca, chili, or coconut. The museum doesn’t actually sell full-sized white chocolate bars, so they were definitely experimental.

At the beginning of our “lesson,” Manuel took us upstairs (us being Mom, Ethan and I—we were thankfully a small group) and asked us which country was the leading producer of cacao.

“Peru,” someone guessed.


“Ivory Coast,” I said. (I was right, of course.)

“What’s the second-largest producer?” Manuel asked.



“It’s in Africa,” he said.

“Ghana,” I answered. (Right again!)

It was also interesting to learn that, on average, a Swiss eats more than 11 kilograms of chocolate a year, while Americans (on average) eat only 5.3. I can’t wait to get to Switzerland!


Happy Flowers and Plenty of Capers

Sacsaywaman was our destination today (pronounced like “sexy woman”). Well, it was our goal. We didn’t actually make it in because it was 70 soles (about US$30) per person—that wasn’t gonna happen.

So we walked down the hill and up the hill to El Cristo Blanco, the white Christ. You can see the statue at night from Plaza de Armas since it’s lit up like the statue in Rio—it’s not as big, though.

Dad took a lot of pictures (of course) and then we walked down a loooong set of stairs and to our plaza, then on to Pan…tastico! (That’s the name of our B&B.)After a little while, we left for supper at Pachapapa. It was closed, as before, so instead we went to Sara, which is the Quechua word for corn.  All of us had pasta: Ethan had ravioli, Dad selected spaghetti, and Mom and I chose rigatoni. All four had different sauces. Mine was the most flavorful. It’s a good thing I like capers (a lot) because that sauce was very, very caper-y.

I decided not to have ice cream (since we’d already had waffles at The Meeting Place, where I also beat Ethan at Scrabble), but Dad and Ethan decided on chocolate. We ate by the puma fountain, which we’ve passed many, many times.

“There’s a wedding,” Ethan announced.


“A car with flowers on it drove by.”

“How do you know it wasn’t a funeral?”

“They were happy flowers.”


Casts and Couscous

The first half of our day was devoted to (a) learning more about our trip to the Amazon on Monday and (b) trying to get Mom’s cast off. Guess what? It didn’t come off! Instead the doctor told Mom to get it off in two weeks (when we’re in Morocco). While Mom and Dad were working on that, Ethan did schoolwork and I read Code Name Verity, which is an amazing book (I spent most of supper telling Ethan to read it).

Eventually (at around 5 p.m.) we went out for a walk, which ended up with us finding a place for supper called Greens Organic. Mom and I shared a bowl of pumpkin soup and chicken on couscous. It was delicious. So was the (free) dessert: the brownie to compare to all brownies.

On the way home, we stopped at Plaza de Armas to take in the atmosphere. Every Peruvian town/city has a Plaza de Armas—the main square. Dad and Ethan started being embarrassing, so I was relieved when we left the public eye.


The Rain in Peru Falls Mainly On You

“So what does Cusco do—mining? Farming? Manufacturing?”

Solo turistico,” Ronnie replied. We were within a five minute drive of our B&B (Bed & Bakery), and Mom was questioning our driver from Ollantaytambo.

In the morning, we’d been given a tour by Elvis, who met us at Apu Lodge at 8 a.m. He walked us around Ollantaytambo in the rain, telling us about how the Incas moved huge stones (by either having people pull the rocks that were on logs, by sending them down ramps, or by some other way), how you can tell from which town women are by their hats, and how messages were sent from Cusco to Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu to the coast (on foot in a relay). He also told us how Ollantaytambo got its name: Ollantay is the name of an Incan king, and tambo means lodge. Ollantay hid there from the Spanish, and once the Spanish captured him (and eventually killed him in Cusco), the Incas were defeated.

After our tour, we checked out the ice cream place, which unfortunately had no place to sit. So we took our ice cream to Corazones Café (Heart Café), where Mom and I shared a piece of cake and a bowl of soup and Ethan and Dad split a grilled cheese sandwich while Ethan indulged in a brownie and Dad enjoyed a huge cookie. Yes, it does sound like we went a little bit overboard in the sugar department, but Dad’s excuse is that we climbed Wayna Picchu and walked around in the rain for four hours.


Bird Poop

We made it up Wayna Picchu—and no one knows how.

We also made it down, and Mom thinks that’s more impressive.

Wayna Picchu is the picturesque mountain in all Machu Picchu pictures. It’s on basically every postcard in Aguas Calientes, and most in Peru. It is only about 240 meters higher than the starting point—and there are a lot of stairs. It wasn’t as “scary” as people had made it out to be. True, the steps were slippery and the ten-meter tunnel at the top damp, but even Mom didn’t slip. It was only when we were back on level ground in Machu Picchu that Mom and I tripped.

Once we were back in Machu Picchu, we had to hurry to catch our tour group before it left. We formed 25% of the group, which included three others from our B&B. The tour lasted two hours, and we visited all the highlights: botanical garden, guard house, Templo del Sol, and Templo del Condor. The Condor Temple was the most interesting, since the rocks were shaped like a condor, and we got to walk up through the “stomach” of the condor, making us bird poop.

We ate lunch (squished guacamole sandwiches) after the tour, and then we went back inside to look at the lodging for the nobles. Commoners were, apparently, not allowed at Machu Picchu. How can you tell if you’re a commoner or not? Nobles are born with no moles.


Eventually we rode the bus down the thirteen switchbacks to Aguas Calientes, where I mailed some postcards. At 6:30 p.m. we got on the train to Ollantaytambo, and that’s where we are now.


Escape the Eggs

We’re situated in Aguas Calientes, which is a twenty-five minute drive from Machu Picchu. We rode a train for about two hours this morning, talking to Elena and her husband, who live in Spokane, WA. Elena is from Mexico.

Mostly we talked about our trip, where we’re going, how long it is, what we’re doing for school, and all that stuff.

Everyone was excited to see the start of the Inca Trail, which is four days long and really high and I’m glad we’re not doing it!

In Aguas Calientes, we couldn’t find the man with a sign with our names on it, so we just walked to our hotel after finding it on a map. It was raining, of course, which made it Aguas Frios instead of Aguas Calientes.

After Dad had a lie-about, we walked around the town. Mom and I went into a jewelry shop, and when we exited, Ethan and Dad had disappeared down the Via de Escape alley. Eventually they came back and told us what they’d found: a platform that could hold four people in case of an emergency.

“What would you have to worry about here?” I asked.

“Tsunamis,” Dad replied.

“Yeah, it said something about ‘huevos,’” Ethan added.

“Huevos?” Mom asked. “Do you know what that means?”

“Um, waves?”

“Eggs, Ethan. Eggs.”


Save the Guinea Pigs!

Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no.

How could they hurt the innocent little guinea pigs at a—I shudder to think of it—cuyeria????? (In case you don’t know, cuy is guinea pig in Spanish, so a cuyeria is where you eat guinea pigs.) I knew that guinea pigs were on the Peruvian menu, but I wasn’t expecting to see “CUYERIA” in big, bold letters painted on the side of a building in blood red.

This was on our way out of Cusco. We arrived in Cusco after a short and uneventful flight from Arequipa. From there, Ronnie took us in his Yaris to Apu Lodge. It was about five minutes into this drive that I saw the dreadful word.


We are safe (unlike guinea pigs) in this lodge from the cold and wet of Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is a little village at about 8,000 feet above sea level that is, apparently, a popular American tourist destination, as we learned tonight at supper.

For supper, Dad ordered his usual agua con gas, and Mom, Ethan, and I chose agua sin gas. When our waters arrived, instead of three aguas sin gas and one agua con gas, there were three aguas con gas and one agua sin gas. Mom got lucky and selected the agua sin gas, and Ethan and I had to suffer through our 350 milliliters of nastiness.


A Very Down Day with One Momentous Event

Mr. Gooey left us all alone in Arequipa.

Well, he’s currently in the process of saying good-bye. He’s going home to California, but we still have three-and-a-half months before we can think about home. Anyway, we didn’t really do anything today. Mom, Mr. Gooey, and Ethan went shopping a few times, but I stayed home to do schoolwork while Dad deleted pictures. Eventually, we all left to get ice cream at the local mall, but that didn’t take much time.

An hour later, we left for supper. Mr. Gooey, Ethan, and I had sandwiches (mine was chicken, pineapple, and mayo and very good) and Mom and Dad had salads. Then we came home at 8 pm so Mr. Gooey can catch his flight in an hour or so.


Quakes Killing a Cathedral

Thankfully there were no earthquakes today [that were big and in Arequipa] because we went to Basilica Catedral de Arequipa. It’s famous for having the second floor of one of its two bell towers fall in the 2001 earthquake and cause a hole to be developed in the cathedral’s roof.

Basilica Catedral de Arequipa has been through more than its share of earthquakes. In January, 1583, an earthquake completely destroyed the sillar building. (Sillar is a type of white volcanic rock. It’s like pumice, but denser.) This was forty-three years after the location of the cathedral was decided. In 1590, plans for a second cathedral took shape, but in 1600 the eruption of the Huaynaputina stratovolcano destroyed part of the new brick building. Four years later, an earthquake demolished the remaining structure.

In 1621, assignments were made for the construction of a new cathedral. This was a mere twelve years after the idea had been suggested.

Seven years later, the man assigned to the project—Andrés de Espinoza—died. However, in 1656, the 180-foot-long building was finished. It survived the earthquakes of 1666, 1668, 1687, and 1784 with minor damage.

In 1844, a fire broke out in the summer and destroyed many of the paintings, sculptures, and furniture. Reconstruction was started two weeks later.

Improvements were made to the cathedral between 1845 and 1868, which brought an earthquake that obliterated the two towers and façade arcs. Nothing major happened in the 20th century, and all was peaceful until 2001.

On August 15, 2002, exactly 462 years after the cathedral’s location was established, the finishing touches were put on the restored towers.


We walked on the roof and up to the towers. Ethan and I tried to ring the bells, but we weren’t willing to do it together, and our guide told us that it takes two people to be able to hit the 500-pound clapper against the 5-ton bell.


Food and Fifty Sensors

Mr. Gooey took Ethan and Dad away for most of this morning up to a volcano, where they removed a sensor. Mr. Gooey is in the process of taking down the program, which had about fifty sensors in Peru, from the coast to Lake Titicaca.

They returned at about one, five hours after their departure. Dad napped for a while Mom, Ethan, and Mr. Gooey talked. Eventually we left with Victor, one of Mr. Gooey’s colleagues, and headed to a flour mill on Rio Sabandia in the town of Sabandia. Dad, we believe, turned on one of the wheels. It was raining, and I hid under my umbrella, occasionally sharing. We also looked at the llama, alpacas, bull, chickens, and guinea pigs, which will sadly be food in a couple months (I’m sure). After that Victor drove us to Mr. Gooey’s main building, where a really, really big earthquake happened on the paper with the needle that carved lines into the paper instead of drawing. That was because Victor turned up the sensitivity. The three sheets of white paper with black ink went three different ways: one was for east-west movement, one wrote about up-down movement, and one recorded north-south movement. Each sheet of paper lasts for twenty-four hours. I guess someone will be there at midnight to change out a the three.

We returned to the apartment for a short while then headed out to a nice restaurant for dinner. All of us had chocolate soufflé for dessert and bruschetta and mushrooms for appetizers. For the main course, each of us chose something different. I chose pumpkin ravioli with caramelized walnuts, which was pretty good.


With Mr. Gooey

We’re now with our uncle, the Mr. Richard Gooey (at least that’s how his name is pronounced here, according to him). Mr. Gooey has been kind enough to let us stay in his apartment during our time in Arequipa.

We woke up way too early this morning. I’m actually being serious—we didn’t need to be up for at least an hour-and-a-half. Dad actually took Sky Airlines seriously when he read that you had to be at checked in three hours before an international flight. The counters didn’t even have people behind them until about an hour til we boarded. Ethan and I played Temple Run upstairs for a while, and we eventually made it past the police.

The ride was short but sweet, but had some turbulence and the plane tilted all the way over on its side as we neared Arequipa, which was startling.

We saw Mr. Gooey as we waited in line, but we didn’t actually get to talk to him until about an hour later. The line moved slower than some members of my family.

The apartment has a kitchen, bedroom (maid’s quarters), dining/living room, and bathroom downstairs and three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Mr. Gooey, the parents, and I have bedrooms upstairs. Ethan took the maid’s quarters and was thrilled.

We eventually left for crepes (lunch) after See’s Candy (breakfast) from California. I had the Indiana crepe, which was an Indian curry with pineapple and chicken folded up in a crepe. It was so good! While we were waiting, Ethan and I taught Mr. Gooey how to play Parcheesi. After helping Mr. Gooey finish his dessert, we finished the game. Ethan won, unfortunately.

Eventually it started raining. We were in Monasterio de Santa Catalina at the time. It was (and still is) a convent. However, in the past it was for rich, rich women who brought their servants (and sometimes children, if they were widows) with them. They usually each lived in four-room houses. At the its largest, the convent held 174 women in 80 rooms. The greatest number of people in a house was three. Well, the greatest number of rich women (usually family members). The servants didn’t count.

When we left, we walked around the area, getting Claro (cell phone chips) and looking at nativity scenes in a store, including one with an Eskimo family and a polar bear and her cub, a walrus, and a penguin. That could never happen. Polar bears don’t live in Antarctica, and penguins don’t go to the North Pole.

Because the brochure that Mom was using to cover her cast ripped, we splurged on a two-dollar bright yellow poncho for her and a five-dollar rickety umbrella for the rest of us (namely me). We went on to the grocery store, where we got essential staples such as strawberry jam and Special K.