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Diary

August 30th, 2013 Expectations Fufilled? Costa Rica and Beyond…  thesistas


The last ten days of our 5-month long adventure landed us in Costa Rica. My parents, my best friend Steven from Los Angeles, my sister who lives in Virginia, and Dan’s brother and his girlfriend who live in California all flew out to vacation with us!


It has was a whirlwind of fun nights, relaxing hotel rooms, and ziplining through the jungle! It was an awesome way to finish out our journey with Followthesong. We did a home exchange for the first time too! That allowed us to stay for free in Monte Verde while another family stayed in our home in New Smyrna for the week! A pretty sweet exchange because you get all the amenities of a house (kitchen, wash, dry, etc) and the family you are exchanging with provides you with information on the area and people you can talk too. Plus it’s free! If you have a home in a nice location I definitely suggest you look into doing a home exchange! My parents have already had offers all over the world including Ireland, Australia, and Morocco!


guardparrots Instead of bragging to you about how we stayed in a home guarded by two parrots, about how we tredged through the jungle up to volcanic lakes, and how we white-water rafted down a beautiful river in La Fortuna, I will just say this:

 


We had a wonderful, stress-free family vacation, in which Dan and I did not make any decisions, we even spent some time apart! Dan and Steven began camera wars, and my favorite part was a tour through a coffee and sugar plantation where we learned how coffee and sugar is made from the ground up. We even got to taste the beans and sugar cane at all different stages of production! Our first guided tour in 5 months, and it was extremely pleasant and informative.  So I’m not tooootally biast to touristy stuff! Some things can be well worth it!

BUT FOR NOW…

We want to share some of the things about our journey that we DIDN’T tell you about on the blog! (Mainly so our parents wouldn’t fear for us while we were gone!)

 

THINGS WE “FORGOT “ to mention:


1. On our FIRST night in Rio, Dan came very close to getting hit by a giant tourist bus. While walking across an intersection, a huge bus came FLYING around the corner, they played chicken, then Dan fell to the side of the road (with his giant backpack on) as the bus whizzed closely by him. A scary experience for the both of us, and possibly a “close-call” scenario sent to us from above.

2. We had terrible gas the ENTIRE trip. Like the kind that makes you embarrassed to ride in cars with people or share hostel rooms because you will stink up the joint. Pretty much for 4.5 months straight. Like lethal. For some reason after we passed into Panama it went away.

3. Dan lost his passport in Buenos Aires. While getting our bags out of the bottom of the bus, it slipped from his pocket, never to be found again. Some lucky Argentinian might be changing the photo right now to get over the border. Luckily this wasn’t as big a deal as everybody had made it out to be. LUCKILY, the US embassy was IN Buenos Aires. We couldn’t really get much luckier. So we got a replacement, valid for a year, for $160.

4. We lost our cellphone on the bus from Lake Titicaca. Unfortunately it was a bus that drove up onto a ramp, went over to the lake by ferry, and then rode back across the lake. Some lucky Bolivian got hooked up.  So after Bolivia we were phoneless.

Also we want to share with you our realizations about expectations we had about our South American adventure…

Things we THOUGHT would happen that DIDN’T:

1. Getting mugged. Before we left for Brazil, a lot of our friends and random strangers warned us about being robbed, kidnapped, raped, sold to the FARC, etc. I was only scared for my life one time and that was in the middle of the mountains, and because we had no more water. We only were robbed by other travelers in hostels and only in Rio, and only because we left our shorts and shoes hanging out to dry for hours..

2. Becoming fluent in Spanish. We are better, and can get around, but by no means are we fluent. We spent much of our brain -energy on thinking about the next song and therefore we left no room to completely immerse ourselves in language learning. We generally try to do too much at one time, and then feel guilty for not being able to do it after. Workin on that…

3. Having a bunch of travelers follow our blog along the way. Turns out that the travelers we met in South America were on their own journey, with not much internet access, and no time to read our stories. We realized we needed to market this blog to a totally different group than we thought.

4. Working on organic farms, or sustainable building projects. The helpx that we went to to build adobe houses turned out to be totally wack (read blog about Tigre River). After that we volunteered at a few helpx hosts that were mainly on the way, who had music or lots of free time and internet access for us to update our blog. If we went too far into the middle of no where in between treks, there would be no time or space to continue the blog.

5. Stay with Servas hosts. The US Servas is an organization we joined when we realized we would be out of the country for so long. As a traveler in the organization, you are given host lists that have the names, numbers, and addresses of families all over the world that want to host foreigners. The point is to have a cultural exchange and to meet to people from all over the world. However, none of the hosts we wrote replied back to us. After Peru we basically gave up on Servas and realized that we would not be able to stay with families. This made our trip much more costly than expected, and we stayed at many more hostels than we thought we would. However, Servas has renewed our membership for next year for free because of our difficulties in the South. I believe there were not many responses because the hosts were older, less tech savy, or had changed their minds about wanting to host backpackers.

6. Lose weight. Dan and I both thought we would come home skinnier. How could we not if we were trekking all over 9 countries, hiking, and spending as little money as possible. However… turns out that the less money you have the cheaper you must eat, and the cheaper the food, the more fried, greasy, cheesy, and beefy it is. When water, beer, and coca cola all cost the same amount, what do you get? Lots of french fries, rice, pizza and cookies were part of our daily diet. Luckily, we both came home at the exact weight we left.

Things that DID happen that we did NOT expect:

(Honestly, there are too many things that should be in this category. I could never have expected or thought about much of what we experienced on this trip.) But here’s a few…

1. Donations. We did not expect such a generous flow of donations into our inbox. We were so happy and grateful to all of the people who gave us money along the way because we truly could not have done it with our budget. We made over $1500 in donations which allowed us to get all the way up to Costa Rica to fly home. If we did not have the help of a listening audience, friends, and family, we would have had to fly home before our designated departure. So thank you.

2. Phone Bill. When we were stuck in Mendoza on Argentina, we used our phone to call hostels, camping grounds, and hotels everywhere in the city. Everything was booked. When we got the phone bill we had used up over half of the money we saved for phone costs during our trip away. For every call under a minute, even if there was no answer, we were charged for one minute. This threw us for a loop and maybe it was better that we lost the phone in the end.

3.Dogs. We could never have imagined that A: We both would miss Dixie so much while we were gone. We couldn’t even look at pictures or bring up the subject because it would make us too sad. And B: That we had so many dog friends to play with on our trip. Every hike, every journey there was a new stray dog at our feet to give us love and friendship.

4.Elevation. I did not know that elevation change was such a serious issue. I did not truly understand what elevation can do to the body and now I do. Dan never had too much difficulty but it makes you sleepy, your muscles can go to jello, you have difficulty breathing, head aches, etc. These are all side-effects of high elevations. And we were at high elevations most of the time, especially on the Huayhash trek in Peru. (Which I also didn’t expect to do! 🙂

 Every day here in New Smyrna we realize more and more about who we are and what we want when we think back over the last 5 months…LIVE YOUR DREAMS!

arenalvolcanoe

FOR MORE PHOTOS OF COSTA RICA….CLICK HERE

 

August 13th, 2013 From Lobitos, Peru to San Jose, Costa Rica!thefamouslacasonamansion

Wow! How the time flies! Dan and I made it safely back to New Smyrna Beach! No diseases, no injuries, no muggings!

But before I talk about the shock of being home, I would like to tell you about our journey from the hostel in Peru all the way to  where we met my family in Costa Rica.

It was a fast ascent from Peru to Costa Rica, and as we passed through these more tropical countries, we smacked ourselves for staying so long in the cold ones, and leaving ourselves no time or money for the others!

First we finished up our work at La Casona (the surf hostel) and bid goodbye to Favinio and the crew. We hauled our backpacks up once again to onto our shoulders and took the town’s “collectivo” (taxi) to head out of the desert.

From the next city over we took a long 18 hour bus ride to get to Guayaquil, Ecuador and then on to Quito, Ecuador. We booked a hostel and had a good night’s sleep. The next morning, we decided to check out the historical city in Quito with a girl we met at the hostel. Unfortunately, she was in love with Dan, and throwing herself at him. That put me in a annoyed mood, especially since she was planning on going to Cali, Columbia that night, the same plan as us! And it’s kinda hard to ditch someone when you are all staying in the same hostel and traveling to the same place on the same night. I was not looking forward to a 10 hour bus ride to Cali with an overly flirtatious Swedish girl who was newly single, and looking to mingle…with my boyfriend.

lostinquito

 

I don’t know if you would call this luck or not BUT Dan and I ended up staying the night at the bus station. When the three of us arrived at the station, there was only 1 seat left to Cali, and we told her to take it. TAKE IT! We unrolled our sleeping pads, and asked the police if the bus station closed down fully during the night. He said that he would be there all night, so we booked a 5am bus ticket, cuddled into our sleeping bags and went to bed right there under the electric lights. So long Swedish girl!        sleepinginthebusstation

When we arrived in Cali, Columbia we decided to stay one night and one day because we heard that the largest zoo in Columbia was right near our hostel! We were in great spirits as we took off for the zoo early in the morning. A five minute taxi ride later and we were good old tourists exploring the zoo with cameras, packed lunches, and a hidden bottle of vodka in our purse just for fun. (I was scared they would search our purse and make us throw it away, but Dan assured me that this was South America and they don’t have rules like we do.) He was right and we went right through the gate into the zoo without any further questions. We walked for hours making sure to see all of the animals, and spending most of our time watching the monkeys play. They are such little humans it’s mind blowing! This day was one I remember as being pretty perfect.

On to Medellin, Columbia we went. Another 10 hour bus ride brought us to another early morning arrival into the second largest city in Columbia (Bogota being the first). After googling Medellin, we had found that the cable cars were the best-rated, and free-est activity to do in Medellin for the day. First we made sure to by our bus tickets for that night to Turbo (The first city on our way to Panama). After leaving our backpacks in the holding-stall at the bus station, we ventured off for the cable cars. Now, these cars are pretty sweet because they are not only an awesome tourist attraction, but they are also the locals’ daily public transportation.  The cable cars take you up and over the city, giving you great views of the poorer parts of Medellin, the local shops opening up in the morning, school children playing in the playground, stray dogs roaming, and an overall view of the entire city once you reach the top. The stop we chose, the city’s park, was the last stop. Unfortunately, when we got off, they told us it didn’t open for another hour. Feeling drowsy from the bus ride, and full from breakfast, we chose to hop back on the cars, and ride them up and down over the city until it opened. We managed to take a pretty sweet nap too!  ridingthemetrocable

Once the park opened we got out and sprawled out on the grass to figure out our day. When your traveling, a lot of the time you are doing nothing. Our legs were feeling like jello and we wanted to be active on this day. We walked a few of the trails and then got reallllly lucky! This park had apparently just opened and they had free biking stations set up all over the trails for public use! We each got our own bike, basket, and helmet, and were able to zoom down Colombia’s finest paved roads in the park, where we dropped off the bikes at the bottom and took the bus back up. Genius!

There in the forest we recorded my vocals for “submerged dream” and then headed back to the bus station. Our day in Medellin was over, and “We must get to Panama!” we thought.     carolynrecordingwoods

Columbia to Panama… ::::sigh:::: Such. A. Bitch.

Because of the Darian Gap (The land connecting Colombia and Panama, the thickest jungle in the world, and all of it controlled by the FARC and drug traffickers), there is no way to go by land to Panama. Because flights are expensive, boats were our only option. However, when we got back to the bus station that night to take our bus to Turbo (where the first boats leave for Panama) we were informed that there were strikes going on and there were no buses leaving from Medellin at all! Ughhhhhh! We had spent the whole day wandering around the city, without a hostel, in order to take this night bus to save money! Now what were we supposed to do?! We have got to stay here! It wasn’t worth the money to get a hostel for 8 hours, and we were hoping that the buses would go out again in the morning. We found a sweet spot to lay down but we were scolded by the police to stay seated. The police wouldn’t even let me lay down on the waiting chairs, you had to remain SEATED ALL NIGHT. Terrible, terrible, long, night. Dan and I dozed on and off all night, constantly checking out the strike situation. By 5am it still wasn’t looking any better.

On my next trip to the bathroom (which costs a quarter each time), I went back to the counter for Turbo. We were on! The bus was leaving in 10 minutes and it was the only bus for the whole day that would leave via backroads! I ran over to where Dan was fast asleep, and we began to pack up and rush out, half asleep. We managed to get on the bus and on to Turbo just in time to get the last seats on the bus, of course the ones that don’t recline.

From Turbo we waited in line for a few hours for the “lancha” (a small boat) to take us to Cupurgana (the bordertown of Colombia and Panama). This was a cute little beach town where we ate the most delicious meal. We asked a local where we could find the cheapest lunch. He took us to the back of the town in a small house where a big black woman was cooking for a few other locals. We ordered “dos almuerzos” (two of the pre-decided menus for the day). First she brought us a tasty fish soup, topped with fresh cilantro. Then a plate of coconut rice, plaintains, and fried fish. MMMMMmmmmmmm! We asked her how she made it all and she gave us the “recipe” of a few very fresh ingredients, and laughed at us for asking.   boardingthelancha

The next boat ride took us to the dingiest, crappiest, town yet. Puerto Obaldia. We were met by a ring of harsh Panamanian army guys (in US army gear) who proceeded to make us take out every single thing in our backpacks and search us.

Next we asked around to see if we could get tickets to Carti (the city in the San Blas Islands where we could get a taxi to Panama City). The next boat didn’t leave until 7 in the morning, so we were forced to stay in a bug infested, rat poop infested room with no AC or fan and only one pillow. There was literally a bee hive in the corner of the ceiling! The only blessing of this night was a humungous thunderstorm that hit around 1am. The thunder shook the town, our room cooled off, and we could see the whole beach light up through a large glass window in our room. It made the shower I took with a hose that night worth it!    lanchapassengers

We met the captain and his brother at the dock at 7am. On to Puerto Obaldia! Well…not quite yet. The captain (A 17 year old Panamanian guy with a big ol’ frown) forgot the list of people on the boat and we had to turn back for it (45 minutes into the ride). Eight of us were packed tightly into the small lancha, and we rode on the motorboat, unshaded from the sun for 5 hours, stopping only once for gas at another island. On this island we asked for the bathroom and a man pointed to a stall hovered over the ocean. When I walked in the stall I looked straight through the toilet seat into a crystal clear coral reef. We were supposed to GO here?! Right into this beautiful water! Oh my goodness…

A storm hit while on the boat but we simply tucked into our jackets and kept on truckin’. No word of the storm was spoken of from the captain and so we too kept our mouths shut hoping to just get there as fast as possible.

And we did.  $100 per passenger was the fee, and we handed it over to him with a big smile full of hidden financial anxieties.bigpacks

Then one rainy but relaxing week in Bocas Del Toro, Panama with my highschool friend Alex. He was extremely generous in letting us stay at his hostel and hang out all week long. We made pancakes every morning, went swimming in the warm water, and took a long bike ride over rocks and dunes to a cute restaurant with amazing spring rolls and skewers.

And then finally one long bus ride to San Jose, Costa Rica and we had made it all the way to the airport to meet my BEST FRIEND STEVEN WILLIAMS as he got of the plane!!! Steven and I both grew up in Virginia, both worked at the same theater, and lived in LA together for a few years, sharing a bed, in an apartment with four other girls. He’s the bomb!

Next up… a week in Costa Rica with my parents, my best friend, my sister, Dan’s brother, and Dan’s brother’s new girlfriend!!!! The last week of our trip…

July 22nd, 2013 Living in the moment…    hosteluego

So here I sit in on the second floor of my good friend Alex Grave´s hostel here in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Hammocks swaying in the wind, rain pouring down hard, spiked with coffee and beer from this morning, I write.  Alex is a friend I’ve known since middle school, and after I found out he owned a hostel in Panama, we started communicating via facebook for me to come visit. He´s awesomely letting us stay for free, and the hostel is clean, creative, wi’fied and full of swinging chairs to relax in!

To backtrack a little, after we left the Huayhuash trail in Peru, we planned to head straight to Ecuador. But, we were running out of money and needed to make sure we went straight to a volunteer location. The ones we liked in Ecuador were a few yoga centers, but you had to contribute $50 for food every week, $100 for the both of us. So instead, we went straight to Lobitos, Peru where we were welcomed to volunteer in a surf-hostel right on the beach, in exchange for a room and dinner.

A few long bus rides later and we arrived in the middle of nowhere. A desert town filled with washed up broken boats, shacks piled on top one of each other, chickens and dogs breeding in the streets. Our taxi to the hostel took us one hour over tragically beaten up roads to ¨La Casona.¨From the front it looked like a big abandoned house. We cautiously walked up to the house and went around the back.

BAM! Beautiful waters, world-class waves, a wrap-around front porch filled with tanned surfers in wetsuits and tiny kittens running all over the place. We had arrived!

The next 10 days consisted of us waking up with an Argentinian couple (who we shared a room with) and walking out to the porch to meet the bread man on his bicycle who had been incessantly honking his horn. After buying freshly baked bread, we met with the manager of the hostel who told us what we were to do that morning. Usually the boys went around to all of the bathrooms filling big barrels with water (the water pump hadn´t been working for some weeks, a fact we weren´t told about until we arrived, also a fact that I believe got me sick with water poisoning from brushing my teeth with this water) and the girls swept inside and out, and cleaned the kitchen. The work was easy and the other volunteers were really great, so we enjoyed our time there. Reading, writing, recording, eating community meals, basking in the sun, and collecting sea shells.

One morning, I heard there were seals on the beach, and I sprinted down, excited to be so close to one of my favorite animals! However, it turned out to be a lone seal on the beach with people gathered around him staring and taking pictures. As I got closer, just a few feet away, I realized that this seal was badly hurt, and desperate for help. In fumbling Spanish I tried to ask the others what happened and if we could help him! The seal was writhing in pain, turning and twisting on the sand, a long pinkish chord dangling from his side. I thought that he had been stabbed with something tied to a rope, or a hook  and I tried to ask the others if we could PLEASE remove the object and HELP HIM! Desperately I motioned to the locals around me that we needed to pull the rope out, get the knife out! ¨Necesitamos Ayuda! Puedemos Ayuda?! Por favor!¨ Then a man walked over to me and told me that the chord thrashing about from his side was his stomach and that he was beyond any help. I stood in shock as the seal fought his final battle against death. His pain was so real, so human, that I felt this strong urge to run over to him and place my hands on his back and tell him that it would ok, that the pain would be over soon. But people motioned to me that the seal was dangerous and could bite. I tried to see if anyone could shoot him or make him die faster, but everyone, including all the big, strong, men seemed to just stand and watch.deadseal

Then an Austrailian guy from our hostel, a big burly man with lots of grit came to the scene. I thought for sure he could do something and indeed he did. He ran back to the hostel to grab a knife, and the plan was to cut the seals throat. When he returned, knife in hand, the seal threw his head back, baring his neck for a frozen amount of time as if crying to be cut. Chris placed the kitchen knife to the neck, but it would not cut. A seal´s blubber is thicker than we can imagine, and only a long spear or a gun could have ended his life.

I stood with the seal and sent prayer and healing energy to him to take away his pain. The waves dragged the seal relentlessly with the tides. The man who informed me of the  stomach then introduced himself formally and held out his hand for a handshake. As I shook his hand and stated my name I couldn´t believe something so ordinary just happened in the presence of something so tragic. Would we have just shaken hands formally in the presence of a dying baby?! It was too much, and although I wanted to be near the seal when he died so that he was not alone, I could not bear it any longer and it could have possibly gone on for hours, although I prayed it did not.

Later that night, Dan told me as he walked back from surfing that he witnessed the seal´s final breaths.

The next morning, from the front porch, we had the unfortunate view of the seal lying dead on the beach as seagulls ate at him, eyeballs first. I guess this is the way of the world, the nature of life, the food chain, etc, but I was heartbroken that we could not at the very least take away any of the seal´s pain that morning.

From Lobitos to Ecuador, to Columbia, and here to this hostel my travels find me. More soon…

July 10th, 2013 He Told me Jesus was the Only Way…

As the days passed Dan and I got into a quaint routine. We would wake up with the sun, make quinioa oatmeal and coffee on our little camping stove, and then begin to pack up our things from inside the tent to hold on to our last bit of warmth.

As we went over the passes (slow and steady) each day, I grew more confident that each new pass would come and go as the ones before. By singing songs inside my head to the beat of my step, time didn’t tick as harshly.

Here comes the sun doot do do do, here comes the sun, I say, it’s alright, do dooten do do dooten do

One step at a time, one hope then another, who knows where this road may gooooo!

And of course the “If I can do this, I can do anything!” chant. image

This particular morning we woke up beneath a villager’s home, and we asked the family if we could buy some paltas and avena (avacados and oats). Not only did they let us buy them, a lot of them, for very cheap, but they gave us a ridiculously giant bag of sugar, and enough salt to last us a few months! I tried to tell her that we did not need that much but she insisted. (Fifteen minute down the trail we had to dump out most of what they gave us because it was so heavy.) As we ate, we heard the man singing loudly to the radio so we decided to give them our cd. We learned his name was Elvis, and the baby in his arms began to chew on our cd.

A few minutes later, to our surprise and JOY, Elvis walked out to give us a bowl of white rice, and two hot milk drinks with oats! We scarfed them down,hungry as tigers, and thanked him with all our best and broken Spanish we could find. We also looked to the sky and thanked God for giving us full bellies this morning!

As we made our way to the pass of the day, God seemed to be on our heels. We ran into hikers from North Carolina, who sprung up a conversation with us about the trek, and then about Jesus. The men were very nice, very easy to talk to, and they even brought up some fond memories of trails in North Carolina for us. They told us they were missionaries, spreading the word of Jesus to backpackers.

“I’ve traveled all over the world, and man, Jesus is just the only way,” he said. “You know, we all take different trails, and they don’t all go to the same place, right?” he asked.

Then he handed us a pamphlet that I folded up and put in my pocket. We gave him our music in exchange, maybe with the hopes of influencing them, as they hoped to do us, and we went on our way. My mind reeeled, “Only way?!?!?!”

“Hey!” he called out as we turned the corner, “That pass you are about to hit is about the most beautiful in the world guys! And I’ve been to the Himalayas!”

As we walked, Dan and I pondered over their mission, and I rambled about my problems with the term “only way.”

Now, to give you a little preface so that you might understand why this encounter was so uncomfortable for me, I used to be a devout Christian. I grew up in a Catholic church. I converted to being Methodist and asked Jesus into my heart at a youth group summer camp in 8th grade, and I meant every word. I sang in a praise band called Created. I have always loved God. I also love Jesus. But I do not believe there is only one way to God. 

(I one day will write a novel about this stuff, so I will not bore you with the entire story until it is finished in some ten years from now. 🙂 But since my passion for spiritual freedom causes little volcanoes of heat to rise and burst out of me sometimes, I will continue…)

As the years went on, I strayed from the religion. I had never bought that all non-christians were going to hell, and as a young girl, this one idea always turned me off. It finally brought me to a breaking point in college, as I sat in a campus crusades meeting while the leader raised talk of hellfire and saving everyone from damnation. My best friend was Jewish, and she was hell no going to hell.

I also never understood why “God gave his only son to die for us” was put up in such high esteem when women and men all over the world give their sons up to go to war and die for our country and our people?

 I never really believed that Jesus was the only son of God. I don’t think Jesus ever claimed himself to be the only son of God, and if you should point it out in the King James Bible to me, I might mention to you how butchered the translation is. In my opinion and in my heart we are all sons and daughters of God, and I think Jesus would have liked us to know that.

And lastly, (for now) I was tired of holding a heavy burden of guilt over my head at all times. Guilt for having sex, for believing other things, guilt for not wanting to worship and give glory all day to the man who died for my sins. And so I strayed.

Back on the trail, we stopped for lunch.image

While the water boiled for soup, we read the pamphlet the guy had given us. As I read, my blood began to boil. I had to breathe deep, read slow, and try as hard as I could not to make continuous judgements as I read. I wanted to give these nice missionaries an open heart to see what they were all about.  Becoming defensive and angry when thinking about God, is the opposite of what I want!  Maybe I was jealous of their clearcut confidence about THE way? I don’t know the way! But I KNOW there isn’t just one!? I softened my brow and took a deep breath. As I read on, I pitied more and more this young, strong, goodhearted man whose view of the world’s religions was so negative. (And later while writing this blog, that pity became gratitude for his making me explore my own views a little deeper.).

And now I will read to you this unfortunate pamphlet in hopes that my heat from this encounter and my commentaries on his writing may be turned into some good or some thought. And because I think that many people do think the same as him, it is important for me to fight for those who are struggling with religion, as I did as a young girl.

And so it reads:   image

Everyone is going somewhere, on a trail through life. Like all trails, each has a starting and ending point. As I’ve traveled and explored the globe, I’ve heard one common statement in regards to the spiritual paths we all follow. Most of the world’s backpackers tend to subscribe to this common understanding:
“All religious beliefs are the same, All paths lead to God.”
 Today as you are hiking, enjoying nature, adventure, and escape from the city, I would like to challenge you with these thoughts;
Are all beliefs the same? Do all paths really lead to God? Is that statement true?

Hmmm…I thought. Well written, directed right at us, backpackers on the trail enjoying nature. But I don’t think that all religious beliefs are the same…there are many awesome differences. I also don’t believe that if you take a path that involves killing and robbery, you will be led to God. No, not all paths lead to God…

As a hiker, I’m sure you can appreciate these questions. The path under your feet has a destination. Maybe it’s a lake, a mountain, a beautiful viewpoint. Where is your trail in life taking you? I would venture to say most people probably haven’t consulted a reliable map to find out what the final destination is for their beliefs. Wouldn’t it be foolish to set out on a trek and not know where the trail ended?

Yes maybe on a trek that would be stupid. You might die of thirst or hunger. But in a spiritual journey, why set a destination for my beliefs? Everyday they are changing and growing. And what is a more reliable map for them to consult than my consciousness and the love inside me guiding them to new understandings?

As such you have a mind that can think and reason, so read on, reason with me for a while, and be open to explore the truth.

The truth? Remaining calm and open, remaining calm and open. ..Why are you feeling so bitter Carolyn? Is it because he said “the truth” as if he knows it and you know you don’t know “the truth” yourself? Or because just like him, you think YOU know the truth!?

In the following pages we’ll take a look at the different belief systems of the world. We’ll see if all these “paths” truly lead to the same place, God, or if they are all actually leading to another place. So lace up your boots and let’s explore these paths together…

Where do the paths of the Eastern philosophies lead?
Much of what the typical backpacker believes today unknowingly comes from the Eastern religions. Hinduism and Buddhism are similar and based around karma which is a system whereby a person’s good and bad deeds are weighed in the balances. The outcome determines the destination in that person’s next life, hence reincarnation. What many people fail to understand is that reincarnation is actually considered a punishment or curse for not getting it right the first time. In the end Hinduism says many reincarnations will lead to an absorption into one’s already pre-existing god-self. Buddhism says the end is Nirvana which means “nothingness.” So to follow Buddha, to do good karma, and be reincarnated thousands of times, you still end up with nothing. If any of this sounds familiar it’s because modern Western culture has become infatuated with yoga, meditation, and inner peace that these religions proclaim.  In reality, the Eastern philosophies that Westerners find so captivating are nothing more than works based religions that have led millions of people to despair.

I don’t think there really are any “typical backpackers.” The backpackers that I have met are from all over the world, all ages, and different backgrounds.  Yes, a lot of them do enjoy a peaceful existence, love of nature, connection, maybe meditation? But this is not unknowingly from Eastern religion. Most know and choose. Just like Christianity, there are many types of Buddhists and Hindus, some do not believe in karma, nor in reincarnation (especially this reincarnation that he speaks of which is considered a “punishment” or curse).
When you classify a group of people or a religion you run into many problems. For one, simple words can cage our understanding of one another’s beliefs. The word “nothingness” might mean literally “nothing” to one, while to another it might mean “pureness” “peace” or “oneness.” “Karma” and “reincarnation” are also commonly mis-labeled. I know that when I lie or steal, I am instantly burdened with guilt and fear. This is one very small example of my multi-faceted belief in “karma.” “Reincarnation” to me is eternal life in the most simplest sense. Yes some do belief in a more literal translation of this term, and that is their choosing and their way, not to be judged or mocked.
I enjoy yoga and meditation. But I am not “infatuated” with them. Just like many other practicers, I am in love with yoga. This ancient practice has changed my body and my mind and has helped me form a closer relationship with God and a more loving one with myself. And in turn, a kinder one with others. I also enjoy them more joyously and freely because my teachers of these activities do not bad mouth other forms of exercise or prayer, they encourage me to be open and compassionate to all other ways.

Where does the path of Islam lead?
Islam began in the deserts of Saudi Arabia with the worship of the moon god Allah. Though it claims to be a religion of peace, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The path of Islam has always led to bloodshed and destruction of those it comes into contact with. The Koran talks about a paradise for those faithful to the teachings of Mohammad and hell for those who disobey. Unfortunately for many Muslims, Mohammed himself said he didn’t even know where he was going. How can he be trusted to lead others to paradise?

Whereas I doubt that he has read the Koran, I also don’t believe that any English translation gives him the power to decide for everyone else what the author of it was communicating. Language and writing is our man-made tool for communication and yet,misunderstood, it can be disastrous. There are many stories in the Bible that speak freely of blood and animal sacrfice, mistreatment of women, war, days of rest, days of work, ways to eat and drink. Religions now it seems,pick and choose what parts we are to take literally, and those that we do not. Inevitably we are evolving and some things that the Bible speaks of, are now irrelevant for today’s world. This is perfectly fine. However, this is not an activity (the activity of picking and choosing of the literal Bible) that is often talked about, and it should be.
When you read a good book or listen to your favorite song, don’t you interpret the lyrics in a way that connects you to something in your own life? I believe that this is exactly where the power of the Bible and the Koran, or any great text of the world lies. It’s power lies in it’s ability to reach every individual in their own personal way, therefore drawing all of those who read and feel connected into one beautiful feeling of shared understanding. When we do the interpreting for others, we are often severely mistaken. Whether you believe man or God, or both, wrote these ancient texts, the lessons learned and the way they are interpreted should be up to the reader. There is no one meaning, for we cannot ask the author. And even if we could, I dream he would say, it is up to for you to decide.
The Islamic religion has most definitely not “always” led to destruction, and I wish that terrible word away from any descriptions of religion. I blame most death and destruction on miscommunication and misunderstanding mixed with fear.image

Where does Atheism lead?
Many think it would be great if God wasn’t real, so they simply deny his existence. Without God and absolute truths to govern society by, people actually digress instead of progress. One recent example of following Atheism to its logical conclusion can be seen in Communism and Nazism. Both ideals are responsible for the death of countless millions of people. Without God, Atheists tend to make a “salad” religion for themselves containing a bit of everything. They end up creating just another works based religion no different than the others themselves at the center.

The last Atheist I spoke to in deep conversation about God, was one of the smartest and kindest men I have ever encountered. He does not think “it would be great if God wasn’t real.” He thinks it would be great if our world’s religions would stop-fighting one another. He thinks that it is great the elements have come together in such a miraculous way that he is provided a beautiful life on this earth. He is not “denying” “his” existence. He does not believe in “his” existence. He believes in science, and the dazzling infinite universe. And that is OK. And I believe that if he and I sat down and delved out our thoughts for a longer period of time, maybe even years, (since words are so limited) we would find that we weren’t saying the same thing all along but that we were living for and fighting for the same hope and love all along. Even if he thinks that when I die, I am gone forever and I think that he might become the tree giving me shade on a hot summer day. We will never know.

Where does the path of Christianity lead?
Most of what claims to be “Christianity” is merely another form of works based religion and should be called “Churchianity.” Catholicism and Mormonism for example all base their eternal salvation on good works, much like the other religions we’ve explored thus far. However, the New Testament itself says that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9.” So the path of these works based versions of Christianity will all lead to hell as the Bible says, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (hell).” Revelations 20:15

Like I said, I was a Christian, and I still am in many practices and maybe still at heart. Yes, there are many flaws in the Catholic and Mormon churhces. So what? We throw them out because they are flawed? Or do we hope for improvement and evolution? I am flawed, should no one listen to the messages in my music because I mess up sometimes? I interpret this Bible verse he quoted a bit different. “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” This to me means that we can be saved with an awareness of something greater than ourselves, we can be saved by the faith in this oneness with others and the oneness we have with the love and life that surrounds us and creates us. We should not boast of our works for nothing is truly “ours” it is God’s, it is each others, it is a gift to do be able to do good works, not a hardship or a pride.

Where does the path of Judaism lead?
We have Judaism to thank for many things such as law and justice, sanitation, education and basic human rights. God gave King David a promise that essentially said “The Messiah will come from your lineage” Jeremiah 23:5. The Messiah is clearly revealed throughout scripture to be God Himself, The Savior of Israel and the world. Many men through history have claimed to be the Messiah and modern Judaism thinks he is still to come. But a closer, honest look at the life of Jesus reveals that only he fulfilled all these prophecies and is he true Messiah.

Most Jewish people do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, and they do not proclaim the New Testament in their churches. Neither is the rejection of either of these things ever a central issue within their congregations. But because they do not accept Jesus as the Messiah, many churches take this as a challenge or an attack on their own truth. Jews have been persecuted from the beginning of time, and still are today. We need to change this. At the center of Judaism is the Torah, its commandments, the Tanakh, and ethical monotheism, all of which predated Jesus. I think that many people are jealous of Jewish people. Jealous of their successes, their wealth, their communities, the texts that name them the chosen people, and the fact that their religion is passed down through a bloodline. You can’t just say one day “I’m Jewish” as you can with Christianity or Buddhism. “A club that you can’t be a part of!” some people might feel. But we must change this way of thinking. And we must let religions evolve, as Judaism is. Now with studying and devotion, one can become Jewish much easier than before when this was not an option. We should respect the ancient traditions of others and learn from them. Let’s turn jealousy into flattery, and imitation is the best form. Make family style dinners for your community, help one another in your church to always have a home and a friend, get to know other like-minded people around you and create life-long activities and bonds! We are all chosen people, so do not worry long over words.

So do all paths lead to God? No. It’s obvious by looking at what the different religions say about themselves that they don’t. Only one will bring you forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. This path is the one that follows Jesus the Jewish Messiah, this is True Christianity. So what path are you walking on and where is it going? Years ago I discovered that my own path was taking me to hell in the end. Thankfully someone shared with me truth about Jesus and showed me how to follow him. Repent, turn from your sinful life, ask for forgiveness, and believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be

I hope you can see that these religions are not speaking for themselves, and if Buddha, Jesus, Allah, Mohammad, Pachamama, the Sun, or Ganesh could talk, I hope it might go something like this somewhere up in heaven:

Buddha: “Jesus, I really love you man, the way you devoted your life to service is inspiring, I can’t believe that we were across the world preaching the same thing at the same time and we didn’t even know it.”

Jesus: “Thanks Buddha, but I wish people hadn’t gotten so out of hand with idolizing me. That is not what I wanted or what I could have ever foreseen.”

Pachamama: “Well at least you are being idolized and not trashed. I wish humans would not be so reliant on words and text, and then maybe they would have listened to the trees cry for help, or listened to their breath as it became stifled with smog.”

Ganesh: “I love all of you.”

Sun: “And as I always will burn, I hope it shall be that all of your religions will forever burn bright with their ancient colors and foods and traditions that have made this world so beautiful for me to stare upon every day.”

Allah: “Yes, and that we can all remain unique.”

Mohammad: “Unique, BUT unified in love!”

Buddha: “Amen!”

Jesus: “Namaste!”

Back on the trail, my thoughts continued to spin about the world and why everyone is so bent on being right. I believe in the power of a missionary to bring Jesus to someone who might need him, to someone whose life can be saved with a bit of hope, friendliness, structure, and purpose. However, I do not advocate the telling of people that there is one right way. I myself have a “salad” religion. And although I am not completely satisfied with it yet, and although I am still searching for more truth and more confidence IN my truth every day, I am content to respect every one else’s beliefs. I am content to be a girl who was saved from religion and not by religion. And I hope that is ok with you.

Later that day we strayed to an alternate route to camp for the night. After the pass, we headed for a trail on our map that guided us to the base camp where the movie “Touching the Void” took place. It is a documentary about two mountain climbers who escaped death on the Sulla Grande . There we were able to see one of the most beautiful sights of our life, more beautiful in our opinion than the pass that day. A huge pristine glacier lake hidden behind a high moraine. And we were able to be alone with it in all of its immensity.image

No other tour groups took this route because it was small and difficult. No mules could have taken this trail and so no food or tents could be carried to camp.

The missionaries did not take this path.

We took different paths, and they did not lead to the same place.

But I’m sure the high alpine pass was just as beautiful to them, as the glacier lake was to us. We both drank the cool mountain air, basked in the warmth of the sun, and felt the pride of working hard and being in nature. No…I don’t believe there is just one way.

July 3rd,203 I hiked one mountain, everyday, for ten days…

I can’t believe it is July. Time is flying, and my sense of seasons is all over the place. July in New Smyrna beach means going out on the boat, drinking ice cold sweet tea, burning on the beach, heat heat heat. I have been high up in the mountains of Peru for the past few weeks, shaking off ice from our rain fly and swinging my toes to bring blood flow to the numbness.

For the past ten days I literally climbed a mountain everyday. I was above 12,000 feet the entire time, and ascended on average 3,000 feet a day. Now if your anything like me and numbers don’t do anything for you…I was so high that breathing became difficult because of lack of oxygen. We  walked uphill for about 3-4 hours everyday.

I also almost gave up twice.  tentview

BUT we conquered the Huayhuash and I am changed forever.

And the story begins…

Day 1 Giving Up

Bags packed with jerkey, cliff bars, energy gels, dehydrated soups, bread, and chocolate, we set off for our ten day journey trekking the Huayhuash circuit of Peru known for its stunning panoramas, glacial lakes, and high altitude passes. Our original plan was for Dan to do the hike by himself and I would hang out in Huarez in a hostel for ten days doing yoga or something else altogether. I didn’t take too well to the altitude of one of our previous treks and I didn’t want to hold Dan back. I also didn’t want to be that cold for that long.

Then we realized we couldn’t afford to buy separate food or to put me up in a hostel for ten days. So I convinced myself I could do it (Dan had been looking forward to this trek for years now) and we set off. I was stronger by now, and more acclimatized right?

The only bus from our small mountain town to the trailhead arrived at 10am that morning. That’s a late start for any hikers but definitely late for a 1000m ascent. The days plan was to climb up and over the pass and then descend to where we would camp at a lake later that night.

As the trail grew steeper, my bag grew heavier and the sun beat down on me. After about 2 hours uphill, I squinted up at Dan far ahead of me on the trail. I realized that there was no way I could do this for ten days. (The Huayhuash is a series of high passes, the routine everyday is to go up up up to a gorgeous summit and then down down down to camp.)

carolynpassbreak

I began to regret the Chinese food we had the night before. I started feeling nauseous, dizzy, and out of breath. All signs of altitude sickness. I called up to Dan and told him that I  wasn’t feeling good and that I didn’t think that I could do it. IT as in the trek. He came down to me and we started talking about options. Clearly his dreams were being crushed but he sweetly tried not to show it.

I wanted him to do it by himself and I would sit in a hostel and eat ramen noodles everyday if I had to. But we had everything packed for two people and we would have to waste a night getting me settled in, and he didn’t want to climb back down the mountain and then back up to begin again while worrying about me being alone in a city the whole time. We realized fast it was all or nothing, we do it together, or no one does it. After the break talking I was feeling a little better so I decided to try again, planning to head back down at 1pm if I couldn’t do it.

We climbed another 30 minutes or so before I felt sick again. I told Dan again that I didn’t think I could do it. I had to go to the bathroom too. So feeling desperate to feel better, I squatted right on the trail and got sick with diarrhea. Smack dab in the beautiful broad daylight of the 12’o clock sun.

“I don’t know why I thought we could do this,” Dan said. “You mean why I could do this,” I replied.

We rested and talked and with each breath of rest I grew a little healthier and a little more confident that I could keep going, even if it was just a little more, I COULD keep going. And that was all that mattered right?

Kind of.

Trekking, you have to keep on some sort of time schedule. You are constantly battling such things as finding flat ground before the sun sets, rationing your food so that you don’t run out before you get to a town, conserving water to drink, and cook, until you reach the next water source. We had reasons to keep a good pace, but also reasons to go slow (me). “If I could just go slow, I think I could do this! ” I thought. I knew I wasn’t dying and all things considered I was healthy and fit enough, I should just do this shit!

As I dug deep into why I was giving up, I realized that I hadn’t set an intention for all of this hard work. I love being outdoors, viewing the beautiful sights, everything that hiking is all about! But what was I doing this trek for? Because we didn’t have enough money for me not to?!

I hadn’t decided why I wanted to do this trek and my lack of heart or purpose for all of this climbing finally was causing me to collapse. As I dug deep into my psyche I realized that the only thing I had really thought about before this trek was that it would be sweet to get skinnier and look better after. Ewwww! I can’t believe that I didn’t have one more less-shallow goal than THAT before I began this trek! Did I really think that that one short-term goal would be enough to help me move mountains in the sleet and snow for ten days?! Well if I did think that, I learned very fast that my wanting-self, the one that wants to lose weight constantly, would not be the one to help me climb these mountains. I had to dig wayyyyy deeper than that if I was going to make it ten days. The few pounds I would lose, would be gained right back in the days after when we stuff ourselves from starvation anyway! My heart knew this, and it would not let me go one more step. I had no purpose and therefore no will to go on.

I had to finally ask myself why do you really want to hike?  Why do you trek? Why do you choose to suffer like this in torcherous weather and non-romantic living conditions? Why do you want to climb uphill for hours carrying that heavy backpack on your shoulders!?!? Why are you going to hike this Huayhuash circuit and do it damn good?!?! Why?!?!

And the answer came clear as day.

Because I can’t.

Because I’m going to want to give up when it is hard, but this time I’m not going to. Because if I can do this trek,where I will want to stop but I will choose to keep going, then maybe, just maybe, I will always choose to keep going.

Because if I can do this, I can do anything.

Anything!

Yes, I would like to lose weight, but I would also like to be a touring musician, I would like to publish a novel, and do great things for the world, and have a family, and tour the world with a band!

And if I can do THIS trek,  I can do any and ALL of those things.

And If I can hike slowly and steadily, then I can do all of those things slowly and steadily. Even if it takes me 15 days to finish this trek, I can finish it. Even if it takes me 15 years to write a novel, I CAN. Even if I do lose three pounds on this trek, it doesn’t matter because if I finish this trek, then I can lose whatever the hell I want, because I will know that I CAN!

We hiked up slow until I literally could not take another step. I told Dan I was ready to camp, and he graciously respected my desperation (at 2pm). We didn’t make it to the lake but I had at least decided that we were going to finish. We set up camp under an old thatch and stone building on the side of the mountain.We ate cliff bars and saved our water for the next day. We each took a sleeping pill and tried to recover a bit for the next day’s trial. I told Dan about my revelation, and he believed in me that I could do it, he always had.

Now this trek wasn’t about any temporary satisfaction, but I was working towards something that I knew would last forever, and my heart carried my body from there on out.

The next morning I made it over the pass and to the lake like a champ.. 🙂 We were a day behind but NOW we were really going to do this…

To be continued…

carolynpass1

Huayhuash photos!

June 14th, 2013 Missing…

So it’s been three months on the road… two more to go…

I miss being alone. Of course I love Dan and he knows it’s nothing personal. But I didn’t realize how much time I spend alone in the States. Driving in my little Suzuki, going to and from yoga, snuggling Dixie. I also realized that when I am in a bad mood I like to be alone. When I am in a bad mood and I am bringing someone else down (Dan) then I end up staying in a worse mood because I am then hating myself for spoiling his mood. I also feel closer to God in those times when I am alone. Is that bad?

I miss Dixie, our roomate Darbey’s dog that we have been taking care of this past year. I have dreams about her. I miss her more than any single thing back in the states. It’s the unconditional love and affection, the feeling of being a mother, being needed, and truly being able to give a life happiness is what I miss. I am now torn between getting a puppy when I get home or not getting one because I’m to scared to have something to hold me back from traveling when I want too. Grrr…

I miss girl time. I have no girlfriends over here and so it is hard to talk about stupid girly things that I want to ramble about that Dan doesn’t care about. Facetime and Skype are ok and my besties are doing a great job putting up with my non-accessible life for a while. I value my best friends more than anything while I am traveling. Having someone understannnnddddd meeeeeeeeee is such a blessing and the stability of friends every day I took for granted.

I miss peanut butter. I haven’t had peanut butter in three months. o.m.guhhh

I miss mascara. I don’t know what I look like anymore and maybe that is a good thing. But when I see girls walking down the street so beautiful with just the perfect amount of makeup on, the cutest styles, and the cleanest hair I am beginning to get envious. There are NO full length mirrors here so I don’t really have any perception of my body.I realize now that I spent too much time looking rather than feeling. I haven’t worn any makeup in three months and I miss being pretty for Dan even if it’s just for one day, one outfit! Sigh…

I miss chai lattes, toilet paper and hand soap in bathrooms, washing machines, mild weather, salads, smoothies, ice, real icecream, fast internet, cooking in a kitchen, jeans, wearing cute clothes, conversation in English, free public bathrooms, good hair conditioner, solid bowel movements, a flat mattress, drinking water from the faucet, and yoga.

And after all is said and done… I just have to throw out there that I am NOT complaining, just telling you what is in my heart and mind and what I can’t deny. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world I am lucky to be where I am.

May 29th,2013, BOLIVIAN STREET FOOD

saltenas-streetfood-lapaz

First off I’d like to say that I’ve never eaten so much meat, cheese, and bread in my life. But if you like those ingredients you will definitely like some of these tasty foods we’ve been eating off the street! After much trial and error our general rule is if it looks “normal” or “american” it probably sucks, and if looks different, or all the locals are crowded around eating it, its probably good. For example: Pizza=no, icecream=no, fried chicken= no, empanadas=yes Mainly woman sit on the streets with baskets filled with foods they made at home or they cook and fry using a cart and portable gas stove. Never more than 50 cents each.   

Morning:      

Huevo empanadas: A fried pastry filled with a whole boiled egg, and sliced potatoes and vegetables, top it off with sliced cucumbers, pickled carrots and beets, and or picante (fresh spicy salsa).  street-sweets-lapaz

Cheese Bread: A baked dough pocket filled with crumbled AND melted cheese then topped baked topped with shredded cheese.

Quinoa Milk or Rice Milk: Hot milk with cooked quinoa or rice, usually poured in a plastic baggie, stuck with a straw, and wrapped perfectly to go.

Peach Juice: A big barrel of whole peeled peaches and water. They scoop out one peach per glass and then fill it up with the juices from the water.

Smoothie Lady: Blended fruits and yogurts, with oats and whatever you want, (lots of fresh papaya and pineapple!)bread-woman-lapaz

(A TON of locals eat a fish soup in the morning but we haven’t dared to try it, we usually stick to the popular sandwiches of avacado, tomato, queso and salt)

Lunch: 

For a complete lunch woman also sit on the side of the road with three giant hot pots filled with a lunch they serve complete together. Generally you start with a soup of noodles or rice, then get a plate of rice or noodles with some sort of meat, lentils, or potatoes, or all three! These almuerzos are never more than $2. OR:

Saltenas: Bolivian empanadas filled with potatoes, spices, and either chicken, beef, or queso, or mixed. Always tons of choices of picantes, veggies, and mayo to go with them! It is not unlikely to chomp on a big bone either!

Papas Rellenas: Literally a fried ball of mashed potatoes or cooked rice with onions, oregano and ground beef in the very center. Delish!icecream-man-lapaz

Humintas: Served in the corn husk, not like mexico though. They usually are only filled with cheese and they are baked not boiled. They always have a sort of licourice (anise) flavor to them.

Dinner: 

Same thing as the complete lunch idea. You get a soup then a BIG plate of rice, potatoes, milenesa (thinly sliced, fried beef or chicken) with picante, maybe lentils, fried chicken, fried anchovies, broiled chicken, etc. (Also remember we are cheap as hell so we don’t know much about what really goes on in the Bolivian kitchens for dinner!)

Dessert:

Sweet cup: Red cherry jello at the bottom of a cup and then topped with whipped evaporated milk (texture of airy whip cream) that is whipped with fresh lime juice and sugar. Holy moly good!

 “The Trek to Heaven (and hell)”

As you might know Dan and I set out on our first big trek from Tilcara, Argentina to the Calilegua National Forest around Sunday last week. It is a 50 mile trek from the mountains to the desert to the jungle.   goat

We did not see any other trekkers (people that hike for fun) the entire week.

We also did not find any proof on the internet of people doing this trek solo (without mules and a guide.)

We did have GPS points from a man who did it with a guide a few years ago, and a brief blog itinerary of another man who did the same, saved on our ipad.

It was amazing… but at one point I also thought “I could potentially die.”

I will start from the beginning.

Day 1: Village Tilcara to Max altitude of hike

Morning: We set out with our giant backpacks, dehydrated soups, chocolate bars, peanuts, and sausage and cheese. Up up up up the mountain we went!

Yay first trekk! Omg so fun!”    tilcara_valley

Afternoon: Up Up Up. Altitude starting to affect breathing. Salta the dog (a stray husky) joins our hiking party.

“Holy shit this pack is heavy, I don’t think I can do this, Dan I can´t do this I need to drop weight.”

I drop my hand warmer packets, my book “Cold mountain”, two extra chapsticks, two extra little bottles of sunscreen, my red dress, dans jeans, my cool shirt I found on the Rio de Janeiro trail, a roll of medical tape, and I leave them on the side of the trail for someone else to enjoy. Step by slow step we make our way up the mountain to about 13,000 ft with a lot of doubtful thoughts if we will be able to do this trek. We stop to rest about every 30 feet no joke.

carolyn_and_salta

Night: We make it to the top of the mountain where there is a quaint little flat spot by a creek, we setup camp, crawl into the tent and eat sausage and cheese under the light of our headlamps (Salta, who has now hiked 8 hours with us sleeps under the rainfly)

“I think we can do this”
The stars pop out of the sky like fireflies and I hardly sleep a wink.

Day 2: Max altitude to Alto Pampas

Morning:  We don’t leave camp until 11am because we suck. Up up up and we reach maximum altitude of the hike in one hour!   donkeys

“Omg fuck yea now we only descend from here!”  (yea…no)

Afternoon: We walk through nice flat barren fields filled with wild donkeys, eat peanuts and dry cereal for lunch, and enjoy the easy walk immensely. Spirits are high.

“Omg I could do this forever! This is beautiful!”     alto-pampas

Night: Up up up we climb to Alto Pampas (which is literally just a name of a GPS point, we don’t realize what it is until we get there.) It turns out to be a big piece of flat land at the top of the mountains, totally covered in rolling clouds with a little stone hut and fire pit. Amazing!!!! We are on schedule with our mystery man’s itinerary! We drink some whiskey, fetch water, make soup, and passss outttt.

Day 3: Alto Pampas to Molulo Village

Morning: We hike up and up and up and up, past lone donkeys and wild horses, baaahing sheep and local Argentinians carrying fresh bloody sheepskins down the mountain to sell.

“I thought we were supposed to be descending from here on out. Thanks guy with the wrong itinerary description!”   ascent

Afternoon: We hike past “the home of the wind” which is a big house near a stream in the valley, no electricity, no wifi, no jersey shore for these folks. Then we continue to Molulo which is supposedly a small mountain community that has water for us.

“Where the fuck is Molulo? We should be here by now. It’s getting cold and cloudy and what the fuck!” I”m tired.”

Night: We end up taking a wrong turn at a cemetery and have to backtrack for about 40 minutes. The GPS says that we have passed Molulo but the fog is rolling in strong and the sun is going down. We hike to the right and to the left and up and down and then realize we won’t make it to the village to camp that night (even though we can hear dogs barking and people talking way off in the distance.)  We can’t see anything, and we don’t want to walk all over people’s land at night and scare them.   molulo-campsite
“I’ll camp anywhere except near the cemetery.”
Dan: “We have to camp near the cemetery tonight.”
“Anywhere but there, anywhere but there.”
Night falls. We camp there, the only flat area within our reach.

“Dear spirits of the mountain, I’m so sorry that we are camping near you. We will be out of here first thing in the morning, I promise. We respect you and love you and we mean no harm. Dear souls of the mountains, I promise we had no other choice but to stay here tonight. ” repeat

The wind eerily shakes the tent throughout  night, but we are safe.

Day 4: Molulo to Alto Potrero (camp)

Morning: We wake up and go down into the valley of Molulo and filter water from their cisterns with the help from a woman of the village. We are told that there will be no water from here until the town of San Lucas, which we are to arrive at tomorrow afternoon.

“Always gonna be another mountain, always gonna wanna make it move, always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes your gonna have to lose, not about how fast I get there, not about what’s waitin on the other siiiiiidddeeeee, it’s the cliiiimmmbbbb” repeat

Afternoon: We hike up down, up down. We follow bulls along the standing room only trail, bulls follow us.  oven

“Dear bulls, me mean no harm please do not charge, we will not hurt you.

Night: We find the Potrero camp which looks like the same pictures from the itinerary. It is a flat pasture so we setup camp. The bulls decide that that was where they would sleep too.

“Dear God, please keep us safe from the bulls.” Repeat

Day 5: Potrero to San Lucas (day from hell)

Morning: We wake up and make oatmeal. (water)  We get  off track of the GPS and have to backtrack about 60 minutes up a mountain through wild brush because we thought that our trail would meet up in the Valley with the GPS trail. Wrong. (water) trail
Afternoon:  We get lost again because the GPS points changed within two years of use. Now instead of following DOWN the valley to San Lucas we are supposed to hike up and around. AKA for us that means backtracking UP UP UP the  giant mountain we had just gone down, plus another mountain and then down to the valley. We knew for sure this was correct because we were on a woman’s land and she was very adament about sending us UP to San Lucas.

By then we only had three inches of water left (bc we thought we were going to get water in San Lucas about 3 hours ago.)

This is where I freak out. We begin the second backtrack ascent of the day and move very slow. Now we are no longer using our trusty GPS points but just our good old sense of direction. We take breaks in the shade because I remember that story of the two people who got lost hiking the grand canyon and the one person who over-worked herself in the sun without water DIED and the other one who crawled in a cave and waited until morning survived. SO we move slow and into as much shade as possible.

We took a sip of water each every hour.        tarantula

I start looking at mud and licking my dry lips.

Dan pees and I actually think about it.

Dan starts squeezing moss to see what he can get.

Here’s where I start flipping out and dropping everything from my pack.

Me yelling at Dan:
” I don’t give a fuck about our shit! It’s just shit! This is our fucking health, our lives! I’m not dying on this mountain!”
Dan: “Well I don’t plan on it either”
Me: “Then why aren’t you dropping weight!?”
I drop my other book (a rare Gabriel Garcia Marquez book, in ENGLISH)  both our small camping chairs, and one of our guitars and leave it on the side of the mountain.
Me: “AND DON’T YOU FUCKING PICK IT UP EITHER!”
He didn’t.
We walk 100 feet to another ascent.
This is fucking bullshit! We are carrying big ass backpacks up a mountain with no water in the sun.”
I hand Dan all of our followthesong business cards and he throws them off the mountain. I drop our face wash, face lotion, soap,  and our otter box for our ipad. Every ounce counts when every drop of sweat you lose is painful.

“Dear God please keep us safe. Dear God please help us find water and be safe. Dear God please keep us safe”

“Om nah mo guru dev namo” Repeat in time with each step.

Night: Around 4pm we begin to descend and I cry with relief, silently. 5’o clock we find water under a rock near the trees. Dan filters it and we take our last sip of our own water then chug two liters of water that tastes pleasantly like wet earth. day-5

We walk silently another half hour and come to a flat place near a stream. We camp.

“Dear God thank you.” Repeat

(I’m not sure if I actually thought I was going to die, but I definitely thought “I could potentially die, but like HELL am I going to let that happen!” Crazy how powerful you become in survivor mode.)

Day 6: San Lucas to San Francisco via Calilegua National Forest

Morning: We have newfound hope and joy. We walk about an hour and come to a house where a man and two young boys are sitting outside.  flower

We ask them the way to the river and they tell us. We ask them how long until we can find a place to buy food (we have only peanuts and two dehydrated soups left now.) He invites us inside to buy food from him. “Caballo,” he says.
We sit at a small table in his stone building and he brings us hot fresh fried bread which we devour. Then he brings us two plates of meat, tomatoes, onions, and lemon. “Caballo! “He says.     day-6

“Holy shit we get to eat horse!!!!” Dan and I both say to each other.

But it tastes fishy. We ask him via hand signals and yes it is indeed fish. We laugh and tell him what we thought (Caballo= horse and Caballa= Mackeral) ( I neigh to be clear.)  He laughs and walks away.
“Omg this is sooo good” we say to each other,”So fresh and tender!
The man comes back and places and open can of “Caballa” on our table. “Caballa!” he laughs.
Canned fish?!
Crazy what your mind will do when you are famished and tired. Ignorance is bliss.       truck

Night: We make it through the forest to the end of the trek. We hitch a ride to the town of San Francisco with a man and his wife  in the back of their pickup truck. As we climb in, a one-year-old and her 14 year old sister pop their heads up and eye us suspicously. We squeeze into the back of the truck along with the two girls, a dog and massive bags of cornflower. Yesssss. We stay in a little hospitality home and enjoy the tastes of civilization. ( Devouring for dinner a large pizza, 12 empanadas, 2 tamales, 3 bottles of coke, and a pack of oreos.)

I am skinny and smelly and even though on day 5 I vowed to never trek again, I will.

God is beautiful, and your health is your wealth. Water is life and prayer is vital.

Carolyn

THE TREK on VIDEO!

 More photos of the TREK! Click here!

 

May 2nd, 2013 -Teo      teo_the_dog

Since we left home we haven’t made many friends traveling. The language barrier makes everything social much more difficult. Also Dan and I are together all the time which makes us less approachable then someone traveling alone. I think people generally think we don’t need friends because we have each other, or maybe that we aren’t potential partners for them so we lose our appeal. Or maybe we haven’t tried hard enough? Either way it turns out that dogs have become the missing character piece in this story. Every single place we’ve gone to there has been a dog (or more) that loves us, needs us, and becomes our friend. Bus station strays, the 8 puppies on the delta, Siello, the german shepard Brandy, Ducky who ran away and now Teo.

Carolina had a dog, Teo, who was HUGE. He was as tall as me if he jumped up on my shoulders. He was black and brown and resembled Scar from The Lion King. The first day we got to Sonussana, we saw this giant animal come running from half a mile away through the fields over to us. I looked at Dan, nervous, and asked him if he thought it was gonna be ok. It was. He jumped and licked and whined and loved. (I have yet to meet an aggressive (to humans) dog here in South America.)

daniel_hunter_dog_carTeo stayed with us when we dug the electric wire, he slept outside our door at night, walked with us side by side and was always ready for love. Especially from Dan. He was a lonely dog and the expansive mountain land didn’t provide much social life for a big friendly giant like him.

When we left yesterday morning, Teo followed us down the long 3 mile road to the main road and we were pretty pissed at him because we were trying to hitch a ride to town and no one was going to pick up the two of us with giant backpacks and a giant dog!  We kept telling him to stop, to stay, to go, to leave, but he would only go to the other side of the road and follow along. I mean what could we really do? But we needed a ride! The town was 20km away! TEOOO! FUERA!

When we got to the main road Dan was harsh with Teo. Finally the giant dog layed down in the middle of the road while we walked on. A minute or so later a noisy white pickup truck

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stopped for us and we hopped in the back. Teo jumped up on the truck bed but the truck sped off without him. Teo raced beside the truck, full speed, until he was almost hit by a car coming up the other side of the road! The truck driver hit the pedal to the metal to lose Teo but Teo only got behind us and sprinted as fast as Simba into the jungle after his dad died in the stampede!

2013-04-18 17.26.30 It was pretty miraculous how fast that big dog was, how much he loved us after only a few weeks! The last miraculousl image I have of Teo is him galloping full speed in the middle of the wide open road, yards behind us as we sped away and eventually lost sight of him behind the mountains.

Bye Teo! We love you!

Carolyn

Listen to “Sonussana”                                      More photos of “Sonussana

Recomended music by Carolina Robertson

 

April 14th, 2013 – Wheels are turning   asado

So here I am complaining to Dan about how I’ve gained two pounds in one week eating all this amazing carne asado when a woman’s story at the dinner table puts my problems into perspective.

After eating a delicious eggplant pasta (which I will give you the recipe for later) fresh Mendoza wine was poured and cigarettes were passed around.

“How is your mother?” Christina asks Kelly from Kentucky.

“Well her hip replacement went perfectly!”  (Kelly’s mom is 90 and just broke her hip yesterday.)

“She’s never been the weak type. Us kids would be playing on the roof and she’d say “Get off that roof your gonna mess up the shingles!”

Kelly goes on in her rough Kentucky draw, “We got into a big car accident when I was young. My mother was driving and my sister who was six years old died. I didn’t come to until after she was buried. I had broken my neck and was in a brace for over a year. And honey this wasn’t in the 90’s, this was when you had to wear a box attached to your chin to your ears to the top of your head and you couldn’t much move,”

My jaw drops and I think how far she has come to be traveling solo at 67. She is a wonderful worker and is always got pep in her step and a smile on her face!

While Christina translates to Sylvia at the table, Kelly continues.

“Mom sure is tough. My father died when I was only six days old. He was a pilot in WWII and when I was only six days old his plane went down. That’s why I’m Kelly. I never met my father, Kel.” She frowns.

“But after he died, mom went and got her pilot’s license. She wanted to know what he felt when he flew! She was only twenty somethin’. She wanted to understand how much he loved flying! And these weren’t no planes we’ve got today, oh no!”

Sylvia holds Kellys hand and sends her love. I tell her how brave and strong I think she is and how I am amazed at her mother, but words don’t really explain anything I’m feeling.

Chrstina (the rescue owner) tells Kelly that she lost her daughter last year. Her daughter was in acoma for one year after a bad spinal operation. When she died Christina flew to Switzerland to be with her family because she could not stop crying. (She has just arrived from her two month stay in Switzerland three days ago!)

I cryed to Dan that night because I felt the weight of all my judgements I had made about people here so far crushing me, turning me into dust. I gossip and I make assumptions about people and I need to stop. I was given such a blessed life for a reason, one without much death or pain. Who am I to have hardness or pettiness in my heart? Who am I to sit on a pedestal scrutinizing people’s faults?

brandy

Everyone has their own story and you’ll never know it cover to cover. My humble advice for now is that if you meet someone who is fighting an addiction, don’t laugh, get annoyed, fight back, or gossip about it. Have compassion for their internal battle and kill your own demons.

With a full heart,

Carolyn

 

April 10th, 2013- Animal Rescue, Mendozaimage

We buried a puppy the other morning. It was surreal to feel something so soft and warm with no pulse, no life. I’ve never seen or been around death at all in my life. I’ve never even seen a dead human body before, not even at a funeral.       image

Andre, another helper, lifted the stiff corpse of the puppy, wrapped it in a blanket, and we dug its grave into the dirt with a few shovels. I looked to the sky and said a prayer but it was more philosophical than spritual because I didn´t really feel anything. I hadn’t known the puppy yet and I had no attachments.

imageNow after being here at the dog rescue for a week I feel attached to a few of the dogs we take care of. We take care of over 50 dogs everyday and now I get why mothers with over 5 kids start to feel apathetic to the individual and either pick a favorite and stick with it or just feed the greater good, the bigger picture, calling no attention to a single one. I think I want three kids now instead of five.

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Rocky and Sylvestor

Anyways… it is quite lovely here if you don’t take into account the dead puppy of yesterday and the one that is lost tonight. A cute soul named Rocky is lost and it was unfortunately pouring tonight even though the sun was shining the rest of the week. I wonder where he is 🙁

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Our days here look like this, and despite what they might sound like, we are having a wonderful time.

8:30am – meet in the kitchen for breakfast of biscuits and coffee or tea, maybe a hard boiled egg

8:45am – feed the pups in the kitchen, the elder dogs in the room next door, and the 5 collies outside      image

9:00am- go across the river and feed the 50 dogs in their own individual food bowls, guard them from fighting each other for food, let them out into the sunshine, scoop up all the poop and dump it into holes we dug in the ground, hose off their cages and scrub the poo with bleach and water, squeegie the rooms to dry it, put the doggies back in their houses, and cuddle them if we want.

noon- work on music, take photos, drink tea, nap, walk to town

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cleanin shit literally

2pm-lunch is served! specailly cooked by Maribela

3-6:30pm- work on music, siestas, coffee, spoon, eat biscuits, whatevs

6:30pm- feed the dogs dinner, fight off the dogs who try to escape and bring all outside dogs back into cages (extremely difficult and kind of like a gauntlet bringing all the prisoners to their death)

8-10pm- free time

10:30pm-dinner is served! specially cooked by Sylvia, along with wine and conversation forced in Spanish

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Sielo

Its harder than we thought to try to communicate in Spanish and sometimes we feel like the losers or the uncool kids on the block. But… when we play music and they enjoy it we feel a part of the crowd again. I`ve fallen in love with a little brown and white pup named “Sielo” and he sleeps with us sometimes. Dan’s favorite was Rocky so lets hope we find him…

Love,

Carolyn

For more info on the dog rescue check out the songblog post!

March 27th,2013, Tigre River, Buenos Aires

To whom it may concern,

We made it to the volunteer place by showing the man on the ferry a picture off of facebook of the dock we needed to go to. “Oh Nicolas!” he says when he looks at the picture, and then drops us off at a small dock on the left handside of the river with a few people bbqing out front. I wave hopefully and someone waves back. Yes! Finally!image

Two different families and a few hippie helpers are all chowing down on meat off of the fire and drinking wine and beer. Dogs flock the yard along with 6 one-month-old puppies fleeing after their mama hoping to be nursed. The man Nicolas who owns the land did not know we were coming but welcomes us in anyway. ANDREA! WTF! The place has nothing to do with building for the native people, let alone any sort of adobe clay building! After speaking with two other helpers from Colorado who went through the same shock, we learn that we are basically helping a 45 year old stoner build his house on the river!Andrea was basically only truthful about one thing. No electricity, no running watr and no bathrooms.

Nicolas is a chill guy who doesn´t seem to even notice if we are there or not so we settup camp, desperate to stay in one plac for a bit. We had arrived on their “party day” so we just hung out with the crew until we were ready for bed.image

The next morning we woke up and began to work on the construction of his house. He doesn´t know how to delegate jobs so Dan and I pretty much stand around feeling useless. I do the dishes and Dan cleans up the firepit, then we wait some more. We machete trees, dig up soil, lay logs on top of one another, cut boards, recut boards differently, recut them back the same way, and try to make ourselves useful.

imageMeanwhile, Dan and I have both caught a horrendous cold. Not the flu where you have fever or feel nauseaus. But just a plain old COLD. Runny noses, sinus headache, and more RUNNY noses wit some sore throat mixed in. I kind of freak out about being sick in a place like this because no matter what I do I can´t seem to stay clean. Here we rinse the dishes with river water, everyone eats off of the same things, dogs are up and down and everywhere in the kitchen and begging for food, and there is a scarcity of tissues or napkins for me to stay dry. (And it downpoured during the night creating pits of mud everywhere.) I tell Dan I think I want to leave so I dont get really sick (And I´m kind of freaking out about the cleanliness thing), but we manage to gradually get a little better each day so we decide to stick it out a bit to save money. ( I make it my honorable duty to keep dishes rinsed, soaped, and then rinsed again at all times!)

imageWe stay there for three nights, two full days of work. The other helpers from Colorado, England, and Ireland were great and we had fun chatting about life, drinking cheap beer, and wondering about this whole helpexchange fraud, but when the ferry came the next morning, we were packed and ready to go.

The puppies were the highlight of the little delta house and watching the 6 little tan and black things follow their mama and papa around the forest always kept me smiling.

I miss dixiegirl 🙁

Love,

Carolyn

More photos of the puppies, buenos aires, and the delta! HERE!

March 26th, 2013, Rio Capitan, BA

Dear amigos,

We are working with a program called Help Exchange where you work a few hours a day and are given food and board for your stay. On the website you make a profile as a helper and then search the profiles of hosts to decide on what places you would like to work.

ANYWAYS… we had been e-mailing a woman named Andrea for a few weeks now. The helpx profile for her site was a “Construction of Natural Houses in the Forest of Tigre Delta” and she explained how volunteers would be building adobe clay homes for the natives who on the tigre delta without water, power, or knowledge of their abundant natural resources  (delta= a set of rivers that flows into the bay of Rio). We thought it would be cool to help out in a site where we would be cut off completely from any electricity, internet, running water, etc and to give back to the people. Back and forth we wrote about how excited we were to volunteer and we asked her for better directions to the site. Since she didnt reply to us in time when we were boarding the ferry we decided to go off the map that she had given us on the website.  image

Here we are headed out on the 6 o clock ferry to Rio Capitan (the river on her map where the site would be) and little did we know that it was the wrong river AND there were no more boats coming back to Tigre (the city where the ferrys take everyone out to homes on the Delta). Night has fallen and the ferry stops at the last dock on the river and tells us (In Spanish) to get out, get out! Last stop! Atilier! Hotel! We try to tell him that our site is further down the river but he said there are no more stops and we are shuffled off the ferry, our bags thrown to the dock where a confused young man comes out to greet us. We mumble jumble not understanding each other. We try to tell him the place we are looking for, showing him pictures and names and the map on our ipad. The ferry pulls away, and the man tells us we cannot camp here. Hotel! No camp! Mosquitos are swarming us at this point and we are feeling pathetically useless with our Spanish skills. He tries to help us call Andrea and she does not answer. Frusterated, desperate, and eaten alive, I tell him some fragmented version of “If she does not answer, we will stay here tonight,” and only then does he invite us into the hotel to sort things out. (As if he did not believe we had enough money to afford his place anyway). He runs to find his sister from the back (who speaks better English) and she kindly helps us to figure out our situation.image

We end up having to pay 800 pesos for one night at their hotel on the Tigre River. That is more than we spend in a week traveling and we try and think of any other way but we have no other choice. They wont let us camp and she tells us that it is 300 pesos to call a water taxi to take us back and 400 pesos for a hotel in tigre since there are no hostels in the small delta city. Since we already have our return tickets on the ferry we decide that either way we will be spending 800 pesos ( $160 USD). GEEEEEZZZ maggeeeeezzzz.

In a dreamlike stammer we are shown to our private cabana out on the grassy lawn. A full bed, bathroom, tv, air conditioning?!! The whole thing is so comical that we cant help but enjoy every minute of it. I mean lets be real! We would have never spent money on something like this, its almost like a gift from someone else to us. So we enjoyed it like you enjoy your Starbucks giftcard at Christmas. We each take two showers. Luckily the deal includes dinner and breafast too. So we go to our four course dinner in our boots and breathable underarmor watching the only other couple staying at the hotel that night shoot us confused looks. We order a large beer and get down on some salad, papas fritas, steak, fish, ham and cheese with olives and pesto, fresh bread, and icecream with crepes for dessert.image

Full as the moon tonight we turn on James bond in Espanol and fall asleep in our clean sheets, determined to enjoy every second of our 800 pesos, and even more determined to find our volunteer site in the morning.

Love,

Carolyn

March 25th, 2013 Busride

Dear amigos,

I´m feeling a bit anxious to get to the mountains. But I would hate to be in Argentina and not go to the infamous Buenos Aires. So… we plan to spend a few days in the city and then head to the island off of tigre to volunteer! From Iguazu we took another 18 hour bus ride to Buenos Aires. This time though the bus ride was pretty epic. It was a double decker bus and we got front row seats at the top level! We were seated above the driver with two giant windows in front of us, giving us a show better than a movie. The busdriver wove in and out of traffic, passing cars on two way streets and tailgating motorcycles. The bus was completely empty except the people asleep in full beds downstairs, two bohemian musicians far behind us, and one german guy about our age, seated across the aisle from us also enjoying the show. We drove from sundown to sunup watching tiny towns at work with kids in jerseys playing futbol in every patch of grass they could find. The police checkpoints were funny because every single time they walked to the back of the bus and searched the dark skinned, smelly hippie boys, making them take out every SINGLE thing in their bags on them and down below the bus. Little did the police know that they had already been searched at all the previous checkpoints, and that they were harmless musicans carrying only a few drums and guitars. Around dinner time the busdriver got out at a small bakery and carried back a few trays of pastrys for those of us on the bus. The hippies threw us a rock on sign and dived into the food, as did we.

Love,

Carolyn

March 23rd, 2013 Iguazu Foz

Dear friends,

One 6 hour bus ride to Sao Paulo and another 18 hour bus ride later and BLAM we arrived all the way to Iguazu Falls in Argentina. FINALLY in Spanish speaking land! The Foz de Iguazu are a ginormous set of waterfalls (3x the size of Niagra falls!)  that lie on the border of Brazil and Argentina. Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipi who took off with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In rage, the god sliced the river in two, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall. :::Sigh::::  Love that!    image

We arrived early in the morning to the small town of Puerto Iguazu known for its red clay that stained our hands and our feet and anything it came into contact with. On the city bus Indian-looking women with long empty breasts nursed their babies and took no notice to their other children running around barefoot and stained. Stray dogs ran loose around the town searching for food and children in catholic uniforms took over the streets.

The hostel on the other hand was another story. It was saweeeet! It had a pool in front which we dove head first in, hoping to take off the first layer of our filth before we hit the showers (not thoughtful, I know, but definitely clever). Little did we know that our five fingers (water shoes) we layed outside our door to dry, would be stolen. Our record is not so good for the robberies we were warned about. Two out of three hostels ;( Dan and I just couldn´t imagine why anyone would want a pair of size 5 and a pair of size 12, HORRIDLY smelly toe shoes! Dan was going to make an announcement at the cafeteria breakfast that he would kill the fucker who took them but I talked him out of it.

We waited one day to go to the falls because the forecast was sunnier the next morning and we couldn´t bare to spend a buttload of park entry fees if it was going to be misty and gloomy all day long.

We did right!image

The next day was just a bit drizzly in the morning, and grew to perfection! The falls were aboslutely stunning. The phrase “take your breath away”  hit me smack in the face as we rounded the clearing to the sight of the enormous waterfalls and a view straight out of Jurassic Park or the Land Before Time! Braziliian Aardvarks ran wild all over the park, stealing food and posing for cameras. They are called “Coatis” and they are a mix of a racoon, anteater, and monkey. I couldn´t get enough of them! (Even though I hear now they are rampid with rabies!) Don´t worry we didn´t touch any of them! We saw a tarantula spinning a web beside the sidewalk, beautiful fluttering butterflies (say that 10 times fast) and tropical birds nesting in the trees.

Overall it was a great day with a bit of sunshine and a comical boat ride that smacked us (literally) into the depth of the falls.image

I couldn´t help but wondering what it would be like to be Pocahontas diving off of waterfalls and running through the forest all by myself, taking in the air and the mist without the flashing of cameras and hurried pushing of of the masses. Maybe in another life.

Love,

Carolyn                 More photos of the beautiful falls HERE!

March 22nd, 2013 Paraty, RJ

Picture

Dear friends,

It downpoured for the next two days we stayed in Paraty, RJ. Buuummmmer! We could not do our beloved hike “The Gold Road” that we had read so much about because we were afraid that the river crossings would be too high and we wouldn´t make it. We ended up hanging out at the hostel and making some new friends by breaking out our guitars. Luckily we instantly have something in common with everyone we meet (the love for travel!) and chatting comes easy. One brazilian girl made us all a brilliant dessert of condensed milk, fresh squeezed limes and vodka. (If you want to make it at home all you do is whip up the 3 ingredients in a bowl and then put it in the fridge to get cold! It tastes like key lime pie but you can get a nice buzz on too!)

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20130329-150429.jpgAll night we ate our key lime pudding and chatted with two girls, about our age, who each had a charming “british accent” that actually turned out to be Kenyan. One of the girls, (who probably could have been my best friend in another life or with a bit more serendipitous timing) lives on a wildlife preserve. She told us about her weekly interactions with lions, elephants and antelope that roam just beyond her front porch! She told us stories of black maned lions in her driveway as mosquitos buzzed around my head. Then she told me she hadn´t been bitten by one mosquito since arriving a few weeks ago. sldjfoisfdi!!!!L!JI!!!

Love,

Carolyn                              More photos of Paraty HERE!

March 20th, 2013 Rio De Janeiro

Dear friends and family,

I´ve had terrible diarrhea for the past 5 days. First we thought it was all the ham and cheese. Then we realized that it is just our bodies adapting to new water, new types of processed foods, new air, bugs, a NEW part of the world! I felt weak and unhungry most of the time with waves of naseua. BUT it seems to be getting better today so hallelujah. Definitely not a fun thing to have when everywhere here they put signs on the bathroom doors that say “Please throw toilet papers in bin, do not throw papers in toilet.¨Yuck!

Today I guess is my gross/rant entry.  So I´ll continue…

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Last night the hostel (and the entire town´s) water was turned off because it rained so much. When it rains, the amount of water clears gross stuff up in the pumps and so the city needs time to filter the water.

Also there was no AC at this hostel, and rarely is anywhere. They gave us a large white mosquito netting to place around our bed, but when you go under it its like a furnace. So we have to choose whether we want to stay awake because of the heat or wake up with pretty bumpy legs and hands. We choose sleep.

Yours truly,

Carolyn

March 15th, 2013 Rio, Brazil

Dear friends and family,

Arrived in Rio! Rio de Janeiro means the River of January. Hence the name of this poem I wrote yesterday. I knew I loved poetry ever since the moment my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Keel introduced me to Shel Silverstein and then forced us to keep a poetry journal (which I still have btw).

The River of Januray 

Pickpockets! Theives! Look out! Look out!

They’ll turn your pockets inside out!

Under the bridge the boys wait there,

to cut and sell your golden hair.

Do not smile, hide your teeth

from the shoeless man with the missing teeth.

He’ll pluck the things right out of there,

and sell them for some golden hair.

Now two men have your golden hair.

Your mouth is bloody, but your feet are not bare.

Go to the boys, they’re waiting for you.

Under the bridge, to buy your shoes.

One shoe gets you a Real or a dime.

The other will buy you a real nice time.

Both shoes you decide to spare

to get back all your golden hair.

Hide it underneath your dress.

Bald and happy, no one will guess

that a shoeless, toothless, women would dare,

to own a lock of golden hair.

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Anyway, our arrival here in Brasil has been beautiful and extremely overwhelming. It is too hard to write about it in any way structured way yet so here are a few of my observations:

FUN “FACTS” ABOUT RIO DE JANEIRO:     image_7

1.They weren’t joking about the beautiful brazilian women. The girls have perfect golden skin and they ALL have giant booties, whether they are the skinniest girl on the block, or not, you can count on a tiny waist and a nice round badunkadunk. (And I thought I had a big butt) Luckily there’s so many everywhere that Dan is immune now.

2.We have been eating ham and cheese every morning. It was given to us as our plane ride breakfast, hostel breakfast, and it is what we buy a lot as street food for breakfast. It’s cheap, filling, and pretty tasty! Crossiants, pizzas, paninis, you name it.

3.The rumors are true about the beef. You can buy nice juicy filet mignon for like 3 USD at the grocery store. We haven’t tried it yet but we are planning a mighty feast.    

4.We have felt very safe here. No craziness with the supposed mugging and robberies we were prepared to deal with. Although, we do keep everything on us, watch eachother´s back and lock up all our shit in the hostels. Actually, everyone has been very friendly and very helpful, going out of there way to give us directions or tell us what type of meat is in a pastry.     image_3

5. Driving is insane. Everyone is going 90 miles per hour. Motorcycles deliver everything, pizza, laundry, water, booze.

6. There is no ice anywhere. Everything is lukewarm. Eggs and meat aren’t really refridgerated ever. We craaavvee ice or even just coldness.

Yesterday we hopped through an open-aired market where young boys sliced and fed us strawberries in hopes that we would buy their fruit. We got full from of all the samples that were shoved down our throats! But we did buy food for dinner that night. Nice and cheap! Potatoes, green beans and chicken that they cut and butterfly before your eyes. We bought what we thought were tomatoes but they ended up being some weird soggy fruit. Yuck! Dan managed to cook us a brilliant dinner in the janky hostel kitchen and we went to bed in our bunk beds.  Fans blasted above us and the bass of some latino party music boomed down below.

Yours truly,

Carolyn

 MORE PHOTOS OF RIO DE JANERIO HERE!