America the Beautiful

Well well, lots to update y’all on. I believe I left off as we were about to embark on our national parks excursions through the northern US…which we did! …after a visit from the kidney infection fairy and a quick trip to the urgent care. Not to worry, Delaney made a full recovery after spending a week dying in the bed in the back of the van, ambulance style. Okay so, boxes checked, right? The van had broken down and we had had our obligatory trip to the hospital. We crossed our fingers and hoped that that was the end of our road trip bad luck. Despite the setbacks, we saw everything we had hoped to see in our streak of national parks. I’ll give you the lowdown on each, with pictures to vet. 

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Yellowstone was just as breathtaking as I had anticipated it to be based on the years of hype emitted from family and friends. We only had one afternoon and evening in the park, which we spent driving the main road through the center of the park and exploring the lower falls of the Yellowstone. This was our first of many parks and therefore did not know what to expect in terms of activities available, etc. We later found out that Yellowstone is often described as a wild life museum; visitors often spend the day driving down the center of Yellowstone slowly, to admire the diverse abundance of wildlife in the park. Last summer, Delaney and I were very upset that we did not see a single Bison driving through South Dakota, but this trip to Yellowstone made up for that factor ten fold. There were Bison as far as the eye could see—some even occupied the middle of the road, making drivers nervous as they slowly passed the wildlife with as far of a distance between the car and them that they could muster. We visited the lower falls (a highly recommended sight at Yellowstone for those who only have one day to explore the park) and caught the sunset on drive back to the west entrance of the park. Because we didn’t arrive early enough to find a camping spot in the park and because there isn’t much BLM land close to the park itself, we spent the night for the first time in a Walmart parking lot. Thank goodness the 3 of us like each other because there was a lot of blanket stealing and knees in backs as we crammed sardine style onto the already-too-short van bed.


Glacier was one of my two favorite national parks that we visited. The variety of views that were so different from anywhere else I had ever been was absolutely mesmerizing. Again, with only one day to explore the park, we arrived early enough to find a camping spot near the east entrance of the park and decided to spend the day driving along the main road and finding areas to pull over to take photos and hike. The main road through Glacier is called the “Going to the Sun” road and its namesake became more and more apparent as we drove up the mountain through narrow passages and hairpin turns, all the while going closer to the sun. Glacier National Park is known for its crystal clear lakes, vast meadows, mountain goats, and of course, the glaciers that call this park their home year round. It was startling to see snow still on the peaks off in the distance. We made our way up the mountain, and on the way down was the first time that our brakes were truly put to the test. About halfway down the mountain, the smell of burning brakes filled the car and the uneven wear on the brakes was creating a lovely back and forth motion in the van as we braked so as not to hit the tiny hatch backs in front of us. We decided to take the highway passage that took us around the park, rather than back through, to get to our campsite. It was this one night in glacier that fate decided that we needed to take a trip to the nearby urgent care. While the dire situation that Delaney was currently in was absolutely not surrounded by any type of humor, the situation that Meredith and I found ourselves in to get poor Del to the urgent care, was absolutely hilarious. There was no internet connection in the park, but there was cell service. After making some calls to friends in other area of the country who could google for us, we were told where the closest urgent care was, and we were off. Meredith and I visited the nearby Costco to fill the gas tank and eat frozen yogurt as we waited while Delaney got a shot of heavily dosed antibiotics to kick off her treatment of a pretty gnarly kidney infection. Glacier National Park will always be associated with the kidney infection prompted makeshift ambulance ride and the hilarity that story presents will stick with us for a long time, without a doubt.


Walking through the Redwood Forest was like being an ant in Jurassic park. There were trees that are easily 10 feet in diameter and the height of sky scrapers. For some, the Redwood Forest is a place of spiritual connection and awakening and this became very apparent when we rounded a corner to find a man laying on his back, face to the sun, with both feet bare and touching the base of one of the largest trees in this area of the park. Little kids were straining their necks to try to see the tops of the trees that created sunbeams on their faces. We followed Coastal Route 1 out of the park and were equally pleased by the oceanfront views right outside of the park. The sun was hitting golden hour and reflecting the prettiest yellows off of the oceans surface on the horizon. That night, we camped in a tiny mountain town known as Willow Creek. We met a woman the next morning at the local coffee shop who said that she had come to Northern California on her travels and fell and love and decided to stay. Her Volkswagen bus had taken her all around the country and she sold it in Utah before making the trek to California where she would spend her following years. She, among so many other travelers we have met on our journeys this year, is the reason that I know, with confidence, that what I am currently doing with my life is the exact thing I should be pursuing. 


Yosemite, I had high expectations for. Ansel Adams set a high bar for me during my freshman year in the UA photography program, and I refused to be disappointed. While Yosemite was indeed magical, it surprised me with the unexpected: it was far smaller than I had anticipated. We drove past El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls in one fell swoop and parked to hike into Yosemite Valley. This drive was the first one of this trip that was uncomfortably hot, due to our lack of AC in the van. As we drove through the valley, we could feel the tension increase before the sun started to set and alleviate our overworked sweat glands (haha ew gross— but it’s true). Little did we know, the next month would be fraught with hot days like this. We weren’t even to Southern California yet.


The Grand Canyon is the prized jewel of my home state, yet despite having lived in Arizona for 17 years of my life, this was my first trip to the jaw dropping hole in the ground. I say the latter with only a tinge of sarcasm, as the Grand Canyon is literally just a giant, beautiful, hole in the high desert of Arizona. The day prior, we had been at the creek in Sedona, Arizona, where I had stubbed my pinky toe so badly that I thought it was broken. I had spent the past 24 hours on crutches and decided it was time to simply hobble around the sights of the Grand Canyon, free of metal hinderances. In theory, a great idea. In actuality, the mile and a half round trip to Horseshoe Bend earlier that day was the hardest distance I’ve ever had to walk, and in 100 degree heat with overhead sun as well. Needless to say, I didn’t do a whole lot of hiking at the Grand Canyon, thus, my endearing nickname of “giant beautiful hole” reigns supreme. 


Zion National Park was absolutely breathtaking, and most definitely a landmark that I will come back to when I am able to actually participate in the hikes offered in this extensive national park. I spent our trip to Zion riding the shuttle that stops at several popular hiking and camping parks and then promptly returning to the hot car where I napped and let my fever to break because, as luck would have it, I was also fighting a cold in addition to my sprained toe. Something worthy to note about our trip to this particular national park, however, is that I was unable to take as many photos, and boy did I feel guilty about it. I know that most, if not all, photographer’s fall prey to this trap. We find ourselves in this amazing place, and maybe we forgot our camera, our camera runs out of battery, or we’re not mobile enough to get the shots we want and it is one of the most frustrating things that a photographer can go through. I am here to shout to the roof tops and remind you, as well as myself, that IT’S OKAY IF YOU DON’T TAKE PHOTOS. In any case scenario. Sure, if you are receiving payment to shoot a wedding, or fulfill an assignment, then yes, you need to take photos. However, photographers sometimes have a very hard time separating work from passion and we are stuck at this fork in the road that has signs everywhere expressing guilt and self berating notions of “I am failing as a photographer because I forgot my camera and can’t take a photo of this beautiful moment right now.” If you find yourself in this scenario, I repeat, it is okay. Just because you decided to leave your camera at home does not mean that you are failing at the thing you pride yourself at being best at. Stop, and enjoy the roses, without having to take photos of them. (And I fall guilty to this all of the time. I’m trying).


Arches National Park was tied for first place on my list of favorite national parks. I can only best describe it as nature’s playground disguised as Sedona or Red Rocks on crack. Being a desert rat at heart, I often feel claustrophobic when surrounded by mass amounts of trees, often found in forests or jungles. I feel most free when confronted with vast, open landscapes where you can see for miles without trees or other landmarks getting in your way. Free was exactly how I felt when exploring this landscape. At this point, my foot was feeling a little bit better and I was no longer feverish, so I made the walk to the double arch, one of the many famous arches in this national park. As you scaled the red rocks and approach the window of the arch, you are confronted with the most beautiful and surreal landscapes, filled with towering red rock spires and beautiful mountains miles in the distance. Arches, I see you, and you are beautiful— I’ll be back. 


And just like that, we had seen 7 of the most beautiful and most famous national parks in the United States. After reflecting on all that we had seen during our road trip, the verdict is in: our time spent in the National Parks and camping in surrounding areas was some of my favorite during this summer. It slapped me in the face and made me realize that I need to spend more time outside. We don’t deserve the beauty that is inherent to the natural parks, but I hope to bask in it and treat it with kindness for as long as Mother Nature will have us. 

Till next time,

Miranda

2 Month Road Trip B2B 2 Festivals

Helloooo from the road! (to be specific- the middle of Montana)

Last year, around this exact same time, Delaney and I were on first cross country road trip, traversing the vast (barren) landscapes between Arizona and Maine. We sampled what the states in that area had to offer, and ended our 3 week excursion by attending Electric Forest Music Festival. A year later, we’ve seem to have forgotten the exhaustion, lengthy planning and preparing, and hard work that goes into a cross country road trip because here we are, doing it again!!! This time, joined by the other third of our trio, Meredith. 

When the three of us started planning the road trip this spring, Delaney and I knew that we wanted to attend not one, but two, music festivals, and promptly added Bonnaroo to our itinerary before returning to the Forest in Rothbury, Michigan. 

Delaney and I left with Marcy, the ‘96 Chevy conversion van, who had recently undergone a paint job by yours truly(s), and hit the road three days before the start of Bonnaroo. Fresh faced and ready to take on two and a half months on the road, we spent our first night in the van on the streets of South Philly. The look on both of our faces as we said goodnight was that of “this will be a funny story to tell our kids years from now, right?” We woke up drenched in sweat, and Marcy’s AC became the first item on the laundry list of repairs that she’d have to undergo in the next month. As the early morning work goers marveled at the tooth paste being spit out of the windows of our van the next morning, we couldn’t help but laugh at our ridiculous demeanors as we stumbled out of the van for a much needed cafe breakfast in up and coming neighborhood of South Philly. Needless to say, I think our Philadelphia experience set the tone for our entire road trip to follow. 

We made it to Bonnaroo and spent the weekend dancing, exploring the Farm (the name of the Bonnaroo festival grounds), and not sleeping. On Sunday night of festival weekend, we waited an hour in the line to get out of the festival, and pinched each other to stay awake enough to make it safely to Nashville, where we’d stay with a Couch Surfing host, who somehow did not mind that we were covered in dirt and glitter and hadn’t showered in 5 days. 

Our next stop was Jackson, Tennessee, where I got to meet December, the best friend of one of my best friends, who also happens to be a kickass photographer. I may or may not have been drooling over her work for the past four years. Regardless...! Our stay with her was absolutely amazing. Southern hospitality is very much a real and beautiful thing, and December and her partner took us in as one of their own. And, drum roll please, December and I got to shoot together...HERE ARE THE PHOTOS. (All photos of me by December Rain Conceptual Photography)

Chicago was our next stop before Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Delaney and I had the best tour guide. Cedar’s cousin, Conner, lives in Lincoln Park and spent his free time telling and showing us about all of the must sees in the city. Delaney and I spent our one full day in Chicago walking around downtown, catching the city panorama from 95 floors up, and sipping our way through eclectic bars and lounges, only after we met up with Ellie (yay Tucson fam) for lunch. I’d like to say we felt like adults, but the description of “drunk toddlers” would better fit the bill. On our way out of town, we caught the beginning of the Chicago Pride Weekend festivities and made our way to Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

We were received in Grand Rapids with the open arms of Delaney’s aunt and her family and were able to completely offload the van before making our way to Electric Forest (HAPPY FOREST). After waiting in a four hour line to gain early access into the forest and finding Jonas, our fellow camp mate, the weekend flew by in a whirlwind. The magic of the forest is something that I will never underestimate, and we were blessed with so much good music and so many good people. By Sunday night, Delaney and I found ourselves surrounded by a group of 20+ people from 5 different groups that we had met throughout the weekend, some of whom, we’d see again only days later in Chicago.

After driving through Sunday night in order to drop the van off to be serviced by Monday morning, we greeted the sun as we fell asleep only to wake up at 4pm Monday afternoon. The utter exhaustion that gripped both of our souls (you think I’m being dramatic, and okay yes maybe I am, but we were really freaking tired) still very much lingers with us but we signed ourselves up for a cross country road trip after two back to back festivals, so who are the real silly ones here? 

Meredith arrived in Grand Rapids the next day and on Wednesday morning, we were off to seize the day in the name of adventure, etc etc. 

Back two paragraphs or so, I mentioned our friend from Forest who lives in Chicago. Yes… his name? Also Delaney. Also named Delaney after Jimmy Buffett’s daughter. If you think that we made “Delaney Squared” or “The Delaneys” jokes all weekend, you are absolutely right. We spent the 4th of July rompin around Chicago beaches and pent houses with Delaney and all of his friends, only to miss the fireworks by 5 minutes because we didn’t sprint across the highway and through tunnels fast enough. But don’t worry, there were firework shows going all. night. long, so we experienced the full firework sound bath experience from inside of Ellie’s apartment. 

The morning of the 5th came abruptly and the 13 hour drive ahead of us laughed in our faces. But we were up early, making good time, and we were hopeful that we’d make it to a hotel parking lot in Minot, ND, where the thought of sneaky and free continental breakfast got us through the morning. 

We drove through the day, in rain and shine, and had just finished marveling on how well Marcy was handling the trip, when the transmission buckled under itself, and power steering and acceleration became obsolete. We were an hour west of the largest town in North Dakota, still 3 hours away from Minot, and the sun was setting quickly. 

Luckily, AAA works quickly ‘round those parts, and were scooped up by Dustin, the tow truck driver, who will later save the day in this same story. We pulled up to the “AmericInn”, tired and defeated, and were lucky enough to find a room because ya know, the big wedding in town that weekend really had most of the hotels in Valley City booked full. Our continental breakfast the next morning still happened, thank goodness, just not in the way we were expecting. We were waiting for news on our car, which never came, which is precisely when Dustin stepped in and offered to take a look at our car. After a 12 hour period of lamenting and stressing over what would become of our road trip if Marcy was irreparable, Dustin broke the news that it only needed a new crank position sensor, an apparently vital piece that allows the acceleration, power steering, and braking to work correctly. We heard the rev of the engine, jumped with excitement, and headed to the mechanic in Fargo before continuing on our very long way. 24 hours later, the mechanic handed us the faulty bolt that attempted to hold the crank position sensor in place, we all laugh-cried, took a deep breath, and got back on the road with only one day lost to stress and mechanical problems. It’s hard to remind ourselves to let shit go when you’re in the midst of a stressful situation, but humans are so funny when it comes to control and minuscule situations that will not make a difference in the long run. Life is just that— make of it what you will. We are headed to the national parks west of North Dakota, and I’m sure there will be a lot to share and tell in a few weeks’ time. 

Nama. 

Miranda 


 

The Colors of Coastal Colombia

We landed in Cartagena dazed and confused after having slept only a total of 5 very broken hours of sleep. Everything that happened after we landed was a direct result of sleep deprivation. First, we gave the taxi attendant the location of where we were headed (the transport terminal in south cartagena- about a 30 minute drive away), only to be dropped off at a tiny single bus company lot, a 10 minute drive away. We ended up overpaying by about 3 times for that taxi, and it didn’t end there. We bought our tiny teeny sketchy bus and my brain of mush allegedly could not do math and I overpaid for the tickets. Rather than receiving change, the ticket counter kept the extra cash and we went on our merry oblivious way. After a 5 hour mini bus ride, we arrived in Santa Marta. We walked into the historical district with the girls who were sitting in front of us on the bus. We were wearing black leggings and our scarves, and the 95 degree 90% humidity weather was not on our side. We arrived at our very non air-conditioned hostel and immediately turned around for the beach where vendors were adamantly trying to sell us airbrush tattoos, massages, headbands— you name it, they had it. We returned to the hostel for caipirinhas and “toasties” (grilled ham and cheese sandwiches) before attempting to sleep on sweat soaked sheets.

The next morning we did our researches on beaches away from the majority of tourists, and as luck would have it, there was a beach club attached to a resort where we could access vendor-free beaches and a pool. The resort was only a half hour walk away so after breakfast we braved the heat to make our way over to the promising future that included a pool. The walk over was less than pleasant; I have never been catcalled so much in a half hour period in my entire life. It took everything in me not to shout back in their faces when that is all I wanted to do so badly. We live in a world where women are afraid to yell back at catcallers for fear that something worse would ensue. I won’t make this a feminist agenda driven speech, but man, it sucks being a girl sometimes. 

We took a right on the road that would presumably lead us to this resort, only to find that we had dead ended into the entrance to a military base. Were we in the right place? Yup, we were. The name of the military base was also the name of the resort, so we must be in the right place. Maybe it was also open to the public? Ha ha nope. The heavily armed man in uniform walked over to us and asked if he could help us. I explained that we were hoping to go to the resort for the day, and he promptly explained that we couldn’t walk there, but we could take a taxi. Okay, seemed pretty normal. Surely, lay people must stay in that resort, right? Wrong. We showed up to a ghost town of a pool resort, and upon requesting entrance for the day, the woman at the front desk looked at me with an unmistakable look of confusion, and asked how we had heard of them. The internet, I told her. She laughed, Delaney and I laughed nervously, and we were granted wristbands for the day to a beach club that we shared with approximately 7 other people. Lunch was buffet style in the also very empty dining room, where we were confronted by the waiter about whether or not we knew someone in the military. Delaney and I looked at each other and laughed out loud. Leave it to us to accidentally spend the day on a military base, without even making the connection that the club we were at was specifically meant for members of the military and their families. Did we have fun? Yes. Would we do it again? Very unsure. It was like our tourist status had increased two fold. We were a tourist, and a nonaffiliated one, at that. 

We decided that our third and final day in Santa Marta would be dedicated for the neighboring national park that supposedly has some of the best beaches on that coast. We spent a solid hour looking for a bus the next morning because everyone was pointing us in a different direction. A local finally hailed an unmarked bus for us, and we were off to Tayrona National Natural Park. We arrived to the entrance of the park, and immediately understood why people prefer to do this excursion as a tour, led by a hostel. We ended up paying more doing this on our own, but Delaney and Miranda are stubborn enough not to need tours so… 120,000 pesos ($40) (in cash only that we frantically asked around for for 20 minutes) each later, we had bought entrance to the national park and had scheduled a boat ride back from the national park to the closest town to Santa Marta. We ended up booking the boat to give ourselves more time on the beach, otherwise our hike to the beach would have been just that. We would have had to turn back immediately after arriving to the beach in order to catch the bus back from the entrance of the park. 

After 2 hours of walking through beachside jungle, we arrived at the beach that everyone raves about, and we could see why. We went immediately to the crystal clear turquoise waters to enjoy an hour on the beach before needing to catch our boat. Well, as our luck would have it, that hour on the beach turned into 3 because there was no room for us on the first round of very overbooked boats. The remaining passengers were picked up by the last boat, just before sunset. We were instructed to fit 4 to a row where it is clearly numbered where 3 people should sit. As I sat down on my spot in the front row of a relatively small motorboat, I noticed a hole in the bottom of the boat. I promptly covered the hole with my foot and contemplated my fate during this hour long boat ride from one shore to the other. We pushed off from shore and there were oohs and ahhs as we rounded our first corner and saw a breathtakingly beautiful sunset. The pinks and oranges stretched across the sky and left the peninsula inlets silhouetted in different shades of grays. That moment was short lived and we hit our first huge wave that left our butts bruised and my person, completely soaked. I did not care about anything other than the wellbeing of my camera, which luckily, I had had the foresight to wrap in a towel in my backpack and put underneath my lifejacket. We were flying over and dodging waves— a very bumpy ride but we were making our way until… the engine all of the sudden slowed down and after we pulled into one of the inlets, died completely. Time for an impromptu maintenance session! The silence was deafening and I’d imagine we were all thinking the same thing: were we going to have to swim? Were they going to have to call another boat? Can they even contact anyone? and in the back of my head: If we swim I’m going to have to swim on my back so I can hold my camera out of the water. Priorities, right? After 10 minutes of maintenance, the engine sputtered to a start, and we were back on course! Until…10 minutes later, when we pulled into the next inlet, with a dead engine, in the dark, in a boat, with no lights. The silence was once again deafening until the french girl behind us started singing softly to herself and the feeling of impending doom set in. We waited for a solid 15 minutes in silence after many attempts to turn over the engine, all to no avail. Again, fight or flight thoughts started circulating again: will my camera be okay? What if it gets wet? I gave very little thought to the fear that would ensue if I had to swim a sizable distance to shore in the dark ocean, simply because I was more worried about my camera. Hindsight, it was nice to have that distraction. After what felt like an hour, we were back on the tumultuous ocean and were beyond excited to see city lights 15 minutes later. Wet, cold, and dirty, we trudged to shore and we shared a taxi to Santa Marta with two girls we had met just before our boat ride. Nothing like a good scare to really bond a group of people together. Upon arrival, we showed up to a Mexican restaurant next to our hostel looking worse for wear. This was one of those days that we had survived on minimal food (like, I had breakfast and then 6 oreos for lunch) so we looked like crazy people scarfing our burritos like our life depended on it. We had made it, and while all would have been okay regardless, it’s scary to be in the ocean in the dark in a boat that doesn’t work, let alone have working lights. 

We got on a 12pm bus to cartagena the next day, expecting to arrive just shy of 4pm. I don’t know why we still hold expectations that buses will be prompt, but we arrived just after 6pm and did not find a ticketing counter that sold bus cards until 30 minutes after that. We arrived to our hostel at 8pm after walking through the center of Cartagena and marveling at the city, even in the dark. We’d explore the next day but for right then, bed was a priority. 

Breakfast was included at this hostel and it was the best included breakfast we had had in a while, complete with eggs and fruit— novelty items. We spent the morning in the Mercado Bovedas, a Spanish style stuccoed building with little shops all lined along the long corridor, which was set apart by rounded arches painted a vibrant golden yellow. Delaney and I did some of our more last minute family souvenir shopping and eventually found our way into the old city, where we’d spend the afternoon. Surrounding the ruins of an old castle fortress, the old city is composed of vibrantly painted Spanish style buildings adorned with cascading floral vines and shrubbery. We wandered through the streets and naturally, found a gelato shop where we people watched for a bit before completing our large circle of the city and returning to our hostel to gather our things and find our way to our next destination. We arrived by taxi to a hostel closer to the airport, complete with a pool (and air-conditioning). We hung by the pool and spent the evening repacking our backpacks using the laws of physics and tetris in order to get everything to fit perfectly. We tried sacking out early, but the digital nomads were up until the late hours clickity clacking on their keyboard with bright blue light laptop screens flooding the rooms. All good, last night in a hostel.

We woke up early in order to catch our flight, which, we had just been notified, had been delayed by 2 hours. However, always better to be safe rather than sorry, so we arrived at the airport at our originally agreed upon time. 4. Hours. Later, we were finally boarding our plane. During these 4 hours, Delaney and I heard our name being called over the intercom. We went over to the ticketing counter to see what was going on, and we couldn’t quite believe what we were hearing when we were told that we had both been selected for random TSA searches, 15 minutes before our flight was scheduled to depart. Remember what I said about the laws of tetris and all of the rituals and ceremonial bag stuffing that we had to go through in order to get our bags packed? Yeah. Then you might be able to understand why seeing the TSA agent take every single article of clothing out of the bag of the man in front of us brought tears to our eyes. Luckily, our agent was as done with this day as we were, and barely glanced over our unzipped bags without causing too much damage. Our flight took off and we sent all the good vibes out into the ethers and hoped they were reciprocated when it came time to catch our connecting flights in Orlando. Upon arrival to the gate, Delaney and I each had 30 minutes during which to make it through immigration, go back through security, and board our flight. We stood up with our bags on while the plane was still taxiing and caused a chain reaction during which everyone else started standing and retrieving their luggage. Sorry, sheeple. After sprinting through all of the airport hallways, we ended up making it through immigration in 7 minutes, security in 5, and made it to our gates with 5 minutes to spare. Lucky, lucky ducks.

I sit here on my connecting flight to Tucson writing this and feeling exhausted, but oh so fulfilled from this past month. I have seen and experienced more than I could have hoped to in such a short period of time, and I cannot wait to go back. 

My heart is full, and I can’t wait to share reflections and logistics about this trip later.

Much love,

Miranda 

Buenos Aires Shenanigans

Our excitement was at an all time high as the plane coasted over Buenos Aires. For Delaney and I, this South American trip was done in a very haphazard, fly by the seat of our pants sort of manner and our limited research on each city before arrival left room for spontaneity and surprises. It was this feeling of the new and exciting that was surfacing as we looked out into the city that we had heard so much about, but hadn’t yet been able to put a face to the name. The combination of European and modern industrial architecture glowed in the setting sun and the entire city was bathed in gold. 

We were told to set aside 400 pesos for a taxi from the airport to our airbnb and we ended up paying about half of that- a win for our slowly depleting bank accounts. As we entered into the neighborhood we were staying in, we were greeted by more of the european-chic, if you will, architecture that we had first seen airborne. We found the entrance to our airbnb, a maroon wooden door with an old key hole tucked back from one of the main streets in Nunez, one of the three main residential neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. We grocery shopped for the week and regretted this upon checkout as we tried to shove 4 bottled of wine and fernet into our already stuffed backpacks. Wine and fernet…the essentials, yeah? Our airbnb host was the sweetest woman and apologized profusely for being late when in reality, Delaney had enjoyed our 20 minutes of people watching from our little stoop. We were given two set of toothpick keys that fit the key holes only after much finesse, and were brought up a set of narrow steps to our airbnb! (Pause- if you’ve stayed in hostels for an extended period of time and haven’t slept in the same bed for more then 3 nights in a row, you can understand our excitement upon arrival in our 2 bedroom airbnb.) Square paned windows lined the main wall from waist height to ceiling and the entire flat was donned in white furniture and accessories. We felt like two little kids staying in a hotel for the first time and we were pretty pumped.

Buenos Aires also happens to be the city where some of our Maui best friends are from. It was because we had met so many people with ties to South America (who had also helped us plan out this month- thank you!) that this trip became feasible for us. They met us at the airbnb that night and we were up until 6am that night sharing stories of the past few months and reminiscing on our time at the hostel in Maui. This was our second Maui related reunion of the trip, and I’ve said it before and will say it again, travelers know that distance is remedied by a plane ticket and getting to reconnect with our friends from previous travels was a vacation in and of itself.

We spent the next week striking a balance between playing tourist and just hanging out and catching our breath after what seemed like 2 weeks of nonstop moving. 

We spent our first full day touring Recoleta, a neighborhood smack in the middle of Buenos Aires. The 20 pesos 50 cents) a ride metro line that brought us to other areas of the city ran directly by our airbnb which made transporting ourselves around the city a breeze. We stumbled upon a coffee shop/book store and stopped in for a cortado to catch our bearings. We walked through the main shopping district of Recoleta as we reacclimated to the hustle and bustle of city life after a week of walking through quiet, lakeside Patagonian towns. We hopped on another metro and found ourselves at the ***oldest*** established cemetery in Buenos Aires, the resting place of many well known and famous figures in Argentina’s history. The cemetery is a walled off, cobblestoned paved plot that contains familial tombs. Each tomb is a small room containing an alter, as well as the coffin(s) of the family member(s), either below the ground in an area accessible by stairs or underneath the altar, visible to passers by. Walking through the cemetery and reflecting on how different cultures view death and the afterlife gave way to some interesting conversations between Delaney and I. In the Philippines, death is viewed as a celebration. It is considered the better alternative to allow life to take its natural course rather than trying to artificially prolong a life. Upon death, that person is celebrated in the life they lead, rather than grieved that their life wasn’t as long as others might have hoped. In the US death is often treated as a taboo subject. By and large, we prolong life to the greatest extent possible, and as soon as that person passes the conversations surrounding their passing is often of grief and encompassed by negative feelings. From what we could gather from the Recoleta Cemetery, death appears to be treated as a celebration, and is celebrated by adornments and a physical final resting place in the afterlife. This may also be a way to allow those who have passed on to continue to have a place in this physical world, much like Mexican culture and the celebration of Dia de Los Muertos. I couldn’t shake feeling unsettled and like this was an eerie place, but was that feeling simply a result of how I’ve been conditioned in our society to feel about death? Long tangent here, but TL;DR: the celebration of death through life is a very beautiful thing, and it is so important to remember that each culture handles it differently and all forms of celebration are worthy.

Later that night, we went to a *** in Nunez for a dinner of Milanese, a traditional Argentinian dish consisting of thinly sliced breaded meat. We later returned to Recoleta for “casual weekday night drinks”, which apparently can last until 4am.  

The next day we explored the neighborhood we had yet to transverse- Palermo. But first… I can sniff out an art museum in any and every city, and we spent the morning walking through El Museo de las Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires’ fine arts museum. I was so excited, oh my goodness. There was a temporary exhibition on Roden and all of his sketches and many of his sculptures from his work based off of the Divine Comedy. I saw pieces by Picasso, Degas, and Van Gogh that I didn’t even know existed, as well as some amazing work from Argentina native painters and photographers from the past couple centuries. After 3 hours in the museum, we braved the pouring rain and crowded metros to make our way over to Hollywood and Soho, two smaller districts in Palermo. We stopped in at one of the few places that were open early enough for lunch- a pizza parlor tucked in the corner of Hollywood. After pizza and of course, dulce de leche ice cream, we walked through hollywood and made our way over to a mate shop in Soho. Delaney and I were first introduced to the concept of mate in argentina because the manager, also an Argentinian, had his own mate gourd. What is mate? It is a tea derived from *** leaves, and dare I say, it is more caffeinated than coffee. A mate gourde is a cup, often made out of wood, hollowed fruits, or ceramic, and paired with a filtered straw is the perfect vessel for drinking loose leaf mate. All. Day. Long. If you live in Argentina, you have a mate gourd, and take it with you everywhere. Delaney and I spent a total of a few hours cleaning up loose leaf mate after all of the times we accidentally knocked over the freaking mate gourd at the hostel. But now that we had been drinking mate since the altitude sickness kicked in in Cusco, we were sold and needed to go pick out our very own mate. We arrived at the store that was stacked floor to ceiling with different types of mate gourds, from wood to ceramic to cow hoof. We felt like a first year Hogwarts student at Olivander’s picking out our wands. After 30 solid minutes, we each had a mate and we were happy. Bring on everyone in the states’ giving us shit because yes, I will admit, we are extremely extra in this decision. 

Unsure as to whether we’d have plans that night we arrived back to the airbnb and promptly welcomed in our friends and several of their friends for drinks at the airbnb. What you may not know, and what we did not know until meeting people from Argentina, is that Argentinian spanish is unlike any other Spanish you will ever hear anywhere else. Not only do they speak the Castilian dialect, as a result of the direct influence from Spain, but they also have more slang language than I even knew it was possible to have in any given language. Listing to the 5 of them going back and forth in Spanish and trying to keep up was comical on our parts. Just when we thought we knew what they were saying, wrong. They said “egg” in a completely different sense just then, duh. Argentinian slang, fueled by humor and fernet. Speaking of fernet, the alcohol I have grown to know and love over my years at working at Espresso Art Cafe, is $5 a bottle in Argentina due to the fact that one of the two main distilleries is in Buenos Aires. I’ve been taking shots of it for years, but was laughed at when I told this crowd that I never drink it with coke. Thus, the introduction to fernet con cola was made. Glass with ice to the brim. 30% fernet. 70% coke. I don’t think I can give up shots quite yet, but the mix is a good alternative.

The next day Tom brought us to the oldest pizzeria in Buenos Aires, a little hole in the wall that has been serving traditional Argentinian pizza since ***. Because of its Italian influence, Buenos Aires is the home to an abundance of pizzerias, but this pizza is very different from Italian pizza, and has a crunchy bottom but deep dish on the top. After lunch, we went to an area just outside of Buenos Aires proper called “La Boca”, home to one of the many Argentinian futbol teams, *****. The *** are rivals to the *** and let me tell you, rivalries between futbol teams and futbol as a sport in general are taken very seriously in Argentina. Games are often dangerous and often ensue casualties because of the…team spirit (?) of the fans of each team. The intricacies of who supports which team is taken to the extreme that lands them the title of “cult”, but hey, so are some religions. Let bygones be bygones. The town of La Boca is most noticeably decked out in the *** team colors until you arrive to an area of La Boca called “Caminito”, which is exactly what it sounds like it is: a little walk. This area of town used to be where all of the wealthy people in that district lived, and their mansions have now been converted into little shops and restaurants, where it is not uncommon to find “asado”, the Argentinian version of a barbecue, as well as tango dancers. We went into a shop that had a booth selling alfajores and what was originally bought on a whim ended up being one of the best alfajores I’ve had during my time in South America. I wonder how easy it is to make homemade alfajores…dangerous. We made our way back into the city and sipped beers on ****, the newest part of the city, only 15 years old. After a dinner of empanadas and a power nap back at the apartment, the time we had all been waiting for was here: we were going out in Buenos Aires. We had heard stories of clubs that stay open until 6am and after parties that lasted until 10am, but had yet to experience the madness. The 5 of us made our way out of the apartment at an “early” 1:30am and went to a night club in Palermo SoHo where, no one worry, it was reggaton night. We quite literally danced the night away and made it back to the airbnb at 5:30am- which, the guys assured us, was early, but we had a flight to catch the next day. 

The 11am wakeup call came earlier than expected and to say the least, the morning was rough for me. For Delaney, the rough patch did not hit until the second we stepped foot into the Buenos Aires airport- perfect timing, right? We used our last pesos to buy the be-all, end-all cure: McDonald’s fries and dulce de leche mcflurry (no, I’m not kidding, that actually exists and I will miss it so much). After our 6 hour flight we made it to Bogota for a 9 hour layover spent attempting to sleep under airport chairs. We had decided we would go straight from the Cartagena to Santa Marta to spend a few days beach side before coming back to explore Cartagena. Strap in boys… we have a 30 hour travel day ahead of us. 

Miranda



It's Pretty Chile in Patagonia

ha ha ha…

Chile ended up being a lot. And for now, I will say nothing other than that- you’ll see why in a bit. We landed in Santiago de Chile at 11:30pm and prayed that we’d be able to find a reputable taxi, as the online travel forums (ha ha noobs) said that only one official line of taxis were considered safe. 

We pulled out our cash from an atm (which ended up being $235 USD worth $150,000 Chilean Pesos, not $150 USD worth of pesos- first mistake) and found the official taxi ticket counter just outside the terminal. 

We had a lovely 30 minute taxi ride completely filled with chatter from the taxi driver in extremely fast Spanish about how the area we were staying in in Santiago was very unsafe, and also happened to be the deuce, essentially, of the center of Santiago. He even pointed out prostitutes to us as we passed them. Such a thoughtful guy. 

The next morning brought sunlight and a new perspective on the area we were staying in. Totally safe and secluded...during the day. Delaney and I had yet to do laundry for our 5 different outfits we brought in our tiny backpacks— gross— so our first venture of the day was the find a laundromat. 

After walking 15 minutes down a main street that had, I kid you not, at least 30 different optometrist offices and shops, we finally found a laundromat that was open, and cheap. In most countries in South America, it is customary for laundromats to do your laundry for you and have it ready for pickup within a few hours, much like dry cleaners. They must see some stuff, man. 

We killed our few hours and went and had lunch at a little tiny cafe/tea shop. Tea and pastry shops are everywhere in Chile. I’m not just talking about a shop with some muffins and espresso. I mean bakeries with cakes on pastries on ice cream, that also serve sandwiches and coffee. It’s wonderful and dangerous. To our chagrin, however, we quickly found out that Chilean prices are very comparable to those of the US. We paid for our $9 USD sandwiches and went to more of a work cafe closer to the laundromat to plan our next 9 days in Chile/Patagonia. 

After an hour and plenty of caffeine later, we had settled on the following dates and locations before we arrived in Buenos Aires:

Valparaíso 4/14

Valdivia de Paine 4/15

Temuco 4/16

Puerto Varas/Llanquihue 4/17

El Bolson 4/18

Bariloche 4/19-20

San Martin de los Andes 4/21

We remarked on what a fast paced itinerary we had, and knocked on wood as we hoped with all our might that everything would run smoothly... how naive of us.

We arrived in Valparaíso the next afternoon and found our hostel, which was nestled in the middle of the marketplace, about a stones throw from the bus stop. As most of you know about big cities, the areas around the bus stations are usually a little rough around the edges, and this area was no exception. We were told (granted, by our paranoid taxi driver) that Valparaíso was full of pickpockets. Another perks of having tiny backpacks- there’s not a whole lot hanging off of your person that you have to worry about. Our hostel, “The Muffin Hostel” was this adorable European influenced house tucked above the carneceria on the edge of the street market. We felt like we were walking into our long lost Grandma’s home and we felt a little more at ease about our location. We walked around our area of the city for a bit before check in and wondered about why so many people recommended this town...until our walking tour. 

We were brought through different areas surrounding the heart of valpairiso, about a 20 minute walk down the malicon from our hostel. Some fun facts about valpairiso for you:

  • Valparaíso was once home to the largest and most prosperous port in all of Chile. It became home to many European immigrants as they came to South America in search of a promising future that relied heavily on the booming oil industry in Chile. 

  • Fires were a regular occurrence in Chile. The first fire station was not built there until the 1850s, when the funds were donated by a wealthy businessman from the United States. Because this man left Chile before anyone was able to gather any information about him, they ended up naming the fire station after the place he was from- America. This started a chain reaction, and each country that had come to Chile built their own fire station as a way to stake claim on the land. The German, French, and Italian fire stations can all be found within a few blocks of each other to this day. 

  • Most of the residents of Valparaíso live up on the hill, accessible by stairs as well as funiculars, also known as lifts. 

  • Valparaíso outlawed graffiti as it was originally used to spread propaganda and political beliefs. Much like Bogota, however, if you are granted verbal permission from the owner of the building in question, you are allowed to paint on said building. 

  • The traditional dance of Chile, much like the salsa in Mexico or Tango in Argentina, involves the re-enactment of the mating call between a rooster, portrayed by the man, and a hen, portrayed by the woman. A little rough around the edges, most would say. 

  • Most buildings in the residential area are covered with corrugated sheet metal, a material that was brought over on the European ships as a way to weigh them down through choppy waters and torrential downpours. 

We were brought through the port, town square, and up into the residential area. As we got off the lifts on Cerro Conception, I immediately recognized why this town is one of the most recommended by those who have visited this area of Chile. Extremely colorful street art and graffiti covers almost every single surface in Chile. The building facades that are not adorned with street art, however, are painted solid, but equally vibrant, colors, originally painted with the cans of paint brought over by the European migrants that were used to paint their ships. 

We were brought to an older gentleman’s home, where he makes and sells empanadas and alfajores, cookies filled with dulce de leche and covered in chocolate. Dulce de leche is huuuuge in Chile and Argentina, and having grown up in a household with Hispanic roots, my inner child was ecstatic.

That night, we shared beers and stories with everyone staying in our hostel home. Most people were in disbelief when we told them how much of South America we were seeing in such a short time followed by slews of “you guys are nuts.” Yes. Yes, we are. 

After spending another morning and afternoon in the vibrant colors of the hills of Valparaíso, we caught our bus to Valdivia. We had looked Valdivia up on the map, and it looked like it was about a 2 hour drive from Valparaíso— probably about a 2.5-3 hour bus ride. We stopped through Santiago to pick more passengers, and Delaney and I connected to WiFi to give our Airbnb host a heads up on our arrival time. I plugged in the Airbnb address into my phone and it appeared as though we were but a mere 9 hour car ride away. But wait, Valdivia was only an hour away. So we asked the conductor what time this bus was scheduled to arrive... “Ocho y media,” he said. Delaney and I looked at each other and started laughing so hard we were crying. Not only had we booked our Airbnb in the Valdivia Lagos region, we were also on a 10 hour bus ride to that same area. For anyone who is curious, there are two Valdivias in Chile. The blankets and pillows being handed out on this bus ride immediately made sense. At least we knew where we were sleeping in lou of our Airbnb that night. 

We arrived to Valdivia at Ocho y Media, a bright and early 8:30am, and found the first coffee shop to have some breakfast and catch our bearings. Since we had already made it further south than our destination for that next night, we just decided to keep heading south to Puerto Varas, a lakeside town surrounded by two volcanos. We were so tired at that point that staying put in fewer places but for longer periods of time was going to be the better call. We caught the next bus to Puerto Varas and arrived that afternoon. 

After 17 hours on and off buses, we made it to our hostel, a conveniently located but absolutely horrendous tiny hostel. Like, cat litter and wood shavings on the carpet of the hallway and black mold in the showers. And we were there for two nights. Saddle up partners. 

Our first night was spent in an Irish pub, eating American cheeseburgers and Peruvian drinks. Not one of our finer moments, but nothing sounded better than a cheap cheeseburger after having sustained off of trail mix and PB&Js during our bus ventures. 

The next morning was spent walking the entirety of town and back in search of bus tickets going to San Carlos de Bariloche the next day. We visited 3 different bus stations and did not purchase a single ticket because there were none available that left from Puerto Varas. We decided we would wing it the next morning and take one of the smaller buses to the next town over where there was a larger bus station with more buses. Once that was decided, we braved the cold for a trail walk around the lake to see the volcanoes. Unfortunately, it had been cloudy during our stay in Puerto Varas, and we were only able to see the tiniest tops of the volcanoes. Patagonia is absolutely beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but I would imagine that it would be breathtaking during peak season, and not at the beginning of fall during rainy season. 

We were about to head to bed that night when another girl from New York was showed into our room and to the (broken) bed next to our bunk. We got to talking and she painted quite the vibrant picture as she told us of all her spontaneous and inspiring travels through South America over the past 5 months. She has hitchhiked through patagonia, slept hidden on the sides of roads, and worked in a surf town on the coast of Chile (to name a few of her adventures). She is the youngest of 5 and and enjoys darting past the parental question of when she’s coming home next. In short, she’s a badass. 

We woke up the next morning to catch our bus to catch another bus (so many buses) and as luck would have it, we got the last 2 seats on the bus that left promptly after we arrived at the bigger bus station. We arrived to San Carlos Bariloche after traversing through two border crossing check points, make our 4 hour ride a 7 hour ride. After walking through town, we checked into our hostel to eat a quick dinner of eggs and yogurt and fall fast asleep. 

The next morning we woke up and moved our belongings to our other hostel for the next two nights and went into town to explore. San Carlos de Bariloche is a Patagonia lake side town, and the view out onto the lake it absolutely incredible. And, as luck would have it, we happened to be in town for the annual chocolate festival. There are probably at least 30 different chocolate stores solely in the town square. I don’t think I have seen so many chocolate stores in my life...even in Europe. Granted, this area of Argentina is directly influenced by Germany, a direct result of the Europeans who settled in Argentina after World War II. Maybe they learned a thing or two from the Germans’ sweet tooth. 

We had decided after our irish pub burger adventure in Puerto Varas that we were going to try to cook in for the majority of our remaining meals in South America; while delicious, those burgers did not sit well. After sipping on fernet con coca (again- a major rejoice for Miranda, a “fernetera”— an actual word meaning fernet expert) we cooked a wonderful homemade meal. The same homemade meal made its way back up at 2:30am that night for both Delaney and I. Like clockwork, within 5 minutes of each other, delaney and I were in adjacent bathrooms vomiting up our guts for 3 hours. TMI? Moral of the story: be careful with Chilean snap peas.

We had plans the next day to go on a huge hike, but our stomach’s the night before had different things in mind for us. However, we ended up finding a chairlift that takes you to the top of one of the neighboring mountains with quite the breathtaking view of the lake bordering San Carlos de Bariloche. Once you’ve made the lift ride and a small trail trek, you get to take the toboggan slide down. We were more than satisfied.

The next morning was an early one, but apparently not early enough. We spent the last 20 minutes of our 45 minute walk sprinting, backpacks, scarves, jackets, and all, to catch our 9am bus to San Martin de los Andes, our next and final stop in Patagonia Argentina. Dripping in sweat, we thanked the bus driver for waiting for us as we purchased our tickets at the counter inside, and we were off!

The hostel we stayed in was the cutest cabin lodge nestled into the neighborhoods just off of the center of San Martin de los Andes. We spent the day strolling the town, exploring the farmers markets and chocolate shops (of course) and sharing a coke bottle half filled with fernet on the beach of the lake. At this point, we were thankful for the currency exchange. The US Dollar is worth 42 Argentinian Pesos, and we were living like royalty. That night, we were running to the grocery store when we met three traveling musicians from Argentina, who were selling bracelets as a way to continue to fund their travels. I’m a sucker for that shit. Its little reminders like those that go such a long way in my book when I have my moments of questioning whether what I’m doing is correct or not. Thank you artists and fellow travelers for helping to pave the way for each other. Y’all are important.

We left out of a teeny tiny airport the next morning, and had the EASIEST check in experience at the airport we had yet had. To all other airlines: take note. Our flight took of and we were jittery with excitement. We were going to Buenos Aires :)

Caio,

Miranda


I'm Sorry but You Threw Off the Emperor's Groove

♫ Cuscooo ♫ buh nah nuh ♫  

We got off the plane in Cusco to quite an amazing site. The city appeared to be built up all around us- the airport seeming to be in the center of the hustle and bustle of Cusco, a small but mighty town sitting at 11,000 ft above sea level. Walking out of the airport, the air felt thin, but nothing unmanageable (oh ho- just wait). After talking our taxi drivers down from 30 soles each to 10 soles total, we were on our way to our hostel. We stayed at the Loki Hostel which, we had just lamented, was in fact a party hostel. Kinda the last thing we wanted after the altitude sickness started to settle in but at that point, anywhere with a bed and mayybe running water would do. 

The taxi dropped us off at the edge of a street lined with a flight of stairs and pointed up. I made it up half of that flight of stairs and started to get tunnel vision. I quickly looked around to see if there was anything I could grab onto for balance and the only thing in my line of site was an alpaca. How very Peruvian. We made it to our hostel and I was trying very hard to maintain composure as we got checked in and showed around. 30 minutes later, my head had finally stopped spinning, so we made the 2-door-down trek to one of the many travel agencies in Cusco to figure out how the heck we were going to make it to Machu Picchu the next day. Our best option ended up being to take a “quick 7 hour” car ride, followed by a “quick 2 hour” (7 mile) hike through the jungle from Cusco to the tiny town of Aguascalientes at the base of Machu Picchu. We said what the hell, here’s to adventure, and went to go pay for our spot...with a Visa. The card machine was broken, and the nearest ATM was in the Plaza de Armas, a very easy walk down into town but not so much of an easy walk back. The locals in Cusco were the most welcoming out of anywhere we had been and as soon as a girl about my age saw me reading a map, she offered to walk me to the Plaza. I returned to the travel agency in all my splendor in a taxi, because why chance passing out on the same flight of steps?

We booked our spots and returned to the hostel for a quick dinner and showers before what turned out to be a sleepless night. From 3am to 6am was punctuated by drunkies knocking on our door because either they forgot their key or they thought we were reception. Loki is indeed a party hostel and I can’t wait to one day return there when I don’t have to be up with the sun. 

6:30am came too soon but the rush of excitement got us out of bed. We were going to Machu Picchu! After pounding down breakfast on the stoop of our hostel, we were collected by a boy no more than 15, who showed us to our van which was full of other travelers that wore the same look of slight confusion as us. ~Fast forward 7 hours of driving very sketchy back mountain roads through canyons and ravines~ and we made it to the point where our “quick no more than 2 hour walk” began. We followed the train tracks for 7 miles, and 2.5 hours later, we arrived in Aguascalientes. 

We checked into our hostel and by some miracle, we had our own room and bathroom! No bunk beds either. We were ecstatic. After a dinner of not so authentic nachos and “chicken in orange sauce” (but not orange chicken), we ran into the same problem involving a broken credit card machine. Off to find another ATM I went, only to find the guy we had met at the hostel in Cusco earlier that morning, who had announced that he was going on a 4 day jungle excursion. The surprise stood out on both of our faces as we remarked on the coincidence. We got to chatting and were able to hash out that Delaney and I needed cash, and he needed a hostel. Marques had cash, and we knew of a hostel. The perfect timing for a trade such as this one. We paid for dinner (and collected Delaney at the restaurant) and went over to our hostel where Marques was able to get a room. We exchanged our travel stories over picso and caipirinhas and once again had an early night in preparation for Machu Picchu the next morning. 

We had breakfast at the hostel, which included bread, cheese, bananas, and mate de coca- which is crack in tea form and helps exponentially with altitude sickness.

We took our bread and cheese filled selves to the bus station where we spent some time running back and forth between the line for the buses and the ticketing counter. After a 25 minute bus ride and some pretty damn amazing views, we pulled into the parking lot of the Machu Picchu summit where we were promptly greeted by at least 30 different tour guides, all shouting over each other as the competition of who was going to be whose tour guide ensued. 

We sidled in next to a group of 10 people and tried to blend in as we listened to how Machu Picchu came to be discovered after centuries of staying hidden in the mountains. Apparently, the Inkas did not want the conquistadors finding their sacred village so before fleeing, they severed all bridges and paths to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu was not rediscovered until 1910, and it was quite a while until strict regulations of the grounds were enforced. For example, university students in Peru were often found camping on the grounds of the ruins of Machu Picchu during the 60’s.  

We quickly ditched the tour, however, as our excitement ran wild and our legs followed suite. Machu Picchu was more vast and more incredible than I ever imagined it would be. The feelings that ensued while being on the edge of a mountain peering over into the remains of a great ancient civilization was overwhelming. We as individuals are but a speck in the timeline of history, but together we can accomplish and create so much. When you think about how many specks over time have helped create the world we are currently standing in, it is equally inspiring as it is abysmal. 

I think we ended up making it to every single “designated photography spot” and even ventured further into the jungle on a narrow path to see the still intact bridge used by the Inkas to travel along the side of the mountains over deathly ravines. We weren’t the only ones walking the path either. We heard fast clip clops in the distance, and before we had time to turn around to take in the entire scene, we were being pushed into the mountain side by alpacas bum rushing us as they ran through the mountain path. Alpacas aren’t to be messed with, man. I’m very surprised there haven’t been headlines yet of alpacas pushing tourists off the side of the mountain. 

After a couple hours on the grounds, we decided to head back into town and to figure out if we needed to make the 7 mile journey back on foot, or if we could take the train (fingers crossed). We decided that to get back to the center of Aguascalientes, we’d just take the stairs down. Haha. “Just”. 1,008 stone steps and 2,000ft in elevation later, we made it to the dirt path that would bring us back into town. Don’t get me wrong, jello legs are super fun, but we were all praying we hadn’t missed the last train back. 

“The last train for a couple hours is boarding right now” was relief to our sunburns and Charlie horses. Apparently we had missed the previous train that only cost 5 soles (less than $2) so lucky us, we got to pay $34 each. Sometimes pricing here makes no sense. 

We made it back to where the buses dropped us off, and a water bottle and snickers bar later, we got back onto the bus for another 6.5 hour car ride back to Cusco. 

Except it wasn’t an early night after all...high elevation is a risky but cheap game, and after a couple we were all very down to dance like goofballs at the Mama Africa salsa club until 2am, a perfect way to end what was one of the best days on this trip so far. 

We woke up the next morning ready to seize the day and catch up on all that Cusco had to offer, which on our list, included seeing the main plaza and getting ice cream. Luckily, Marques joined us and played tour guide for the day, so we ended up seeing more than we bargained for. When we got to the plaza, there was some sort of ceremonial festival going on and everyone was adorned in colorful costumes and masks that lined the streets and gave a new life to the center of Cusco. 

Marques told us of the cheapest place to buy all things Peruvian (dangerous) so we found ourselves shopping for all things alpaca cashmere and inka patterned. All that shopping (all 15 minutes) really helped us work up an appetite. The Peruvian fusion sushi restaurants weren’t yet opened, but the ice cream shop we had our eye on was so naturally, we did dessert before dinner, at one of the best ice cream and crepe places you’ll ever go to, called “Mama Cucharitas”. We then went across the street and had ceviche sushi, and as a sushi fanatic, I can say that it was absolutely all that it’s cracked up to be. 

We were about to go back to the hostel but we had a few minutes to spare before needing to hail our taxi to the airport. We walked to the other square in town where there was an open air market, which ended up being one of my favorite sites in Cusco. The plaza was lined with vendors selling everything from fruits, to books, to alpaca fur sweaters. The kids were running around and whispering giggles to each other while their parents fought their way through the crowds to find their next willing customers. One thing that I cannot emphasize enough about Cusco was the intense saturation of colors in one town, and this aspect of the city was even more prominent in this open air market. 

We got back to the hostel and shoved all of our purchases into our backpacks and got into a taxi to bring us to our next destination: Santiago de Chile.

(Chile has been a whirlwind of 6 days- fill you in later)

Miranda

To the Shores of Lima and Beyond

After a unexpected 9 hour travel day, we arrived in Lima, Peru from Bogota. I say unexpected because the actual flight length was only 3.5 hours. So naturally, when doing the math there was no inclination to even factor in an additional 5.5 hours. On this leg of the trip we flew Viva Air, and had to very quickly learn how to say “print” en español when the woman at the beginning of the very long line to the ticketing counter told us that we needed to print out our own boarding pass to avoid a $20 ticket printing charge. Luckily we had had the foresight to arrive at the airport 2 hours early because we ended up using every single one of those precious minutes to make it to our gate, which wasn’t listed on the monitors. Running through train stations and airports has become one of my talents in recent years and I seem to utilize this skill more often than I ever anticipated I would.

We arrived to our hostel (another Selina hostel) located in the center of Miraflores, the district with the highest tourist population and as luck would have it, people our age. We sacked out after a quick dinner at a little restaurant tucked away in the alleyway shared with the hostel and some other bars, with no agenda for the next day.

Okay, I lied. Delaney and Miranda having no agenda? Unheard of. However, our agenda just wasn’t quite as stacked our first day because the local beach was in walking distance of our hostel :-) after eating our breakfast of eggs, fruit, coffee, and the best coffee cake we’ve ever had, we made our way to Huaca Pucllana, the Inkan Ruins located in the center of Lima. As we asked for directions along the way from commuters and hotel attendants, we didn’t quite expect the presence of these ruins to be so obvious. We rounded the final corner and there they were, standing tall and proud amidst the apartment buildings and little markets that had found their homes nestled into the side of what once was the fortress town of a great ancient civilization. Some fun facts for you that we learned on our tour of the ruins:

⁃The name of these ruins, “Huaca Pucllana” means “a place of games or festivities. These “games” often included human and animal sacrifices. 

⁃The main pyramid in this town was made of a yellow mineral called (in Spanish) “limonite”. The color yellow was believed to represent and evoke the female divinities. 

⁃Babies were often sacrificed because they were believed to lead the recently deceased elders into their next lives. Oof. 

⁃When the people of this ancient civilization died, they were mummified and places in layers of dirt, grass, and rope, which created a sort of basket for them to rest in.

~the more you know~