The Little Green Bus
A Diary of Larry and Loralee Brown's Driving Adventure to the tip of South America
Loralee and Larry flew from Belem Brazil, to Manaus Brazil, to Miami Florida, to Los Angeles today. The van is in a cargo container in Belem waiting for a boat to Houston and a train to Los Angeles.
Our faithful family and friends,
It is hard to believe it but this is the final chapter of our saga. We have had such a wonderful trip in so many respects, we will treasure our memories!
The car was ready one day after promised, we left Petrolina with high hopes that it would make it for the two-and-a-half day drive to Belem. Well, guess what, it did!
We said Chile was long, and Argentina was huge. Well, Brazil is gigotious! We know this from personal experience because we decided to drive straight up the middle of it from Petrolina to Belem. The scenery was much the same for most of the way, brushy, arid tundra of sorts. As we neared Belem, it began to green up, and of course the humidity took another giant leap upwards. Amazingly enough, there are no bugs here. I guess they are all hanging out a little ways up the Amazon.
We are sorry we wonīt get to do the trip up the river, but we are so ready to come home, we didnīt want to face the 600 km dirt road from Manaus into Venezuela.
Driving in the states will no doubt be boring after this trip.
We donīt know why the chickens cross the road, we only know they do, along with dogs, goats, pigs, burros,cows, Brahma bulls, horses, and iguanas. We probably wonīt have to worry near so much about people passing us on the right, and we may have to slow way down for the stop signs.
We arrived in Belem on Monday afternoon, only to find out that Monday was a holiday. But even so, by this afternoon, (Wed) we managed to get Piolín into a container, and buy our airline tickets for tomorrow evening. This was all possible because we found our way to the office of the shipping company we used before, and they sent us to a wonderful miracle worker named Erika who worked her magic getting all the details to come together.
We plan to hold an open house as soon as we can after arriving home. Provided the smoke clears by then, of course. For our long distance friends, why not come see us for a few days, a weekend or whatever. We have lots of cool stuff we sent home with friends and kids who visited us, and pictures galore. We do love company, so why not! Meanwhile, we still have to get to Phoenix to see Scott and Jennie and their new home, and go to Seattle to get our cats.
Thanks for all your words of encouragement along the way, they kept us connected with home which allowed us to endure the long time span of our travels.
Signing off!!! Loralee and Larry
Hi there all,
Well, the good news is that we arenīt in Bolivia. The bad news is, we are still in Petrolina, Brazil.
We need to back up a bit and fill in some information left out in our previous e-mail. We knew it had been a while since we e-mailed and didn-t want folks to worry. We were traveling though back country and simply didnīt encounter internet places.
We were so stunned by the latest developments with the car. We have been sailing along with only minor little things to deal with where the car is concerned and man, we had very little warning about this one!
Lets go back to Iguasu Falls. We really didnīt do that justice. The falls were truly magnificent. The volume of water that goes over the falls is actually less than Niagra, but the area of the rim is amazing. If you took Niagra Rim, curved it into a horseshoe and then stood on a platform right in the middle, you might come close to imaginging what it was like. The spray was so thick, we had to be careful with the camera but we are hoping the shots we did get turn out well. We didnīt want to leave!
From Iguasu, we headed for Brasilia. That was an interesting place. It is a planned city. It was built in the 50īs to relocate the capitol of Brazil to the interior of Brazil from Rio. It was designed for 500,000 inhabitants though shanty towns on the outskirts were the inevitible results of over crowding.
Though most of the architecture wasnīt exactly our style, we had to admit the city had a very unique look. We did some driving around to see the buildings, the presidents palace etc. and then promptly left, more testimony to the fact that we are anxious to get home.
The next plan was to head north and then east on BR 020. We traveled along for days it seemed with the same roads, (ok in some parts and full of very big chuck holes in others), the same scenery and only very small towns to break the routine. Somewhere along the way, we just said "ENOUGH" and changed the plan. We decided not to continue east to the Atlantic coast and then north to Forteleza, but instead to head due north on BR407 through Juazeiro,THROUGH Petrolina and on toward Teresina. This route would eventually take us directly to Belem. About 2 hours out of Petrolina, as you now know, we were soon heading back.
We were very lucky, as we have been all along, in that people stopped to help us and we avoided being stranded by the roadside. Some of you are wondering why we stick with this poor unfortunate car, the truth is it is so wonderful as a camper, our source of independence that allows us to go just about anywhere, (when it is running) and also, we have a bond posted in the form of a Carnet that requires we bring it back into the states. Some countries wonīt let you in without this.
As we sit around cooling our heels, we have decided to come home in the most expedient way. We really are ready. We plan to drive to Belem, only 2 or 3 days away from here, and see if shipping for the car is available. If so, we will spend a few days there arranging matters and then fly home. If not, we will put the car on a ferry or barge up the Amazon to Manuas which was our original plan and the next best alternative should shipping not be available in Belem.
One experience I left out warrents a line or two here. The last car repairs before the "BIG SEIZE" were in the town of Londrina. There we had an oil seal replaced which, of course, requires dropping the engine for the sixth time. When we pulled into the shop, everyone came out of the woodwork to see the car. We had at least 20 people standing around speaking portuguese. Larry had gone off with the service guy to try and communicate what the problem was. As I sat, feeling a bit conspicuous, I finally decided to get out and open the car up so these folks could really see inside. That was amazing. Language barrier or not, we were all chatting away, some Spanish and some Portuguese. Some time later, when we were settled in our hotel, the phone rang. It was Alessandra, a sweet little girl, about 18 years old, who spoke a little English. She was wanting us to come back to the agency for an interview with the Press! The VW folks, came to the hotel to get us and we proceeded to the "interview". We were there over an hour, with at least 20 or 30 pictures taken. The article was to appear in the next dayīs paper but it did not. They took so long with the interview, they missed the deadline so it was to be a day later. We were on our way again by that time so Alessandra promised to mail a copy.
We may be able to get some news on the car by Tuesday, Monday is a holiday here, and maybe be out of here by the end of the week. Weīll let you know!
Thanks to you for your E-mails, we do love getting them!
Love, L and L
It has been way too long and we should probably keep this short. Time will allow us to send a longer message in the next day or two.
When we last wrote, we had just decided that we were not able to see the zoo and we had been noised out of the national park in Argentina.
Since then, we have visited the wonderful Iguazu Falls from both Argentina and Brazil. We also visited Brasilia and Goias Velho for brief one day stopovers. More detail on that later.
The big news is that our car is in the shop again!!! Actually it is for the second visit to a VW dealer in Brazil. What is it with Brazil? We thought they liked VWs here.
Anyway, we developed an oil leak and had it corrected in Londrina, before we got to Brasilia. Then today we were headed north at a great rate and the engine got noisy--you know, the expensive kinds of noise. We checked the oil and added a half quart, but it was still noisy. That is it was still knocking and it wasnīt opportunity! We limped back to a small town, where a mechanic directed us back to Petrolina, but the car didnīt make it all the way. The noise got progressively worse and finally things seized up--whoops!
A great truck driver towed us into the outskirts of Petrolina where his friend called the VW agency and also set up a tow truck for us. We have had some challenges with not speaking a lot of Portuguese (like none). But, as we discovered everywhere that we have gone on this trip, the people, the real people that you meet on a one-to-one basis, are so friendly and very helpful.
We are holed up in a nice hotel in Petrolina while we wait for the prognosis on the motor. Worst case, we are here for a week--hence the references to more detail on our travels in a day or two.
We are sorry that we have not communicated to you sooner, but we have been looking for internet cafes and where we have traveled in central Brazil, there just havenīt been any. We are on the hotelīs computer right now.
We are alive and well, although struggling to put this latest mechanical setback in perspective. Just part of the adventure, right? Well, it sounds good when you say it fast.
More later. Love to all,
Larry and Loralee
Wow, Chile was long, Argentina is HUGE!. And we haven't even got to Brazil yet!
We have been traveling through very nice countryside, its just that there is so much of it. I guess Piolín is a little barn sour. As we head north, everyday gets alittle warmer, the vegetation gets a little thicker, and the animal and bird populations get a little more varied. The most spectacular so far have been the birds. We have seen parrots, flying in flocks, and many varieties of raptors that we have not seen before. Flamingos are quite plentiful, and their color is very vibrant. We have also seen lots of storks, but surprisingly enough, they aren't carrying any baby bundles! They are however, quite magnificent when they fly! There have been so many water fowl, too numerous to mention.
Guinea Pigs are wild here and we have seen whole colonies along the road side. We saw a rodent type looking thing, we haven't been able to name, but it looks like a rat, only about 3 feet long! It was about the size of a German Shepherd, maybe larger. Fortunately he was deceased, we would hate to meet one face to face!
Our stay in Buenos Aires was most pleasant. Mostly because we found a campground, right in the city. Well, in a neighboring suburb anyway. We had seen the entry in our travel book and so as we entered the metropolitan area, we were trying to locate ourselves. We got well into the busy traffic, and found the street we were following blocked off by a demonstration of some sort. (That seems to happen often around here.) As we started to detour around, we spotted a bus with the route number 540. Hooray, that is the bus line recommened by the travel book to get to the campground. We followed the bus for a good half hour, (fortunately it stopped frequently or we would never have been able to keep up with it),lost it a couple of times, (fortunately it was bright red so we could spot it up ahead), and ultimately, it led us right to the campground. We were quite busy congratulating each other for quite a while on our good fortune. We managed to figure out how to take the bus into the city center, it took two transfers to do it, but we located the hotel where friends were staying. We were surprised to find the city a bit run down looking. People had told us it was such a beautiful city. Our friend Pam, who lived there 30 years ago, was also amazed at its decline. Argentina's economy has been sliding downhill for a long time and it shows.
Food prices are amazing. We shopped at a little produce stand the other day. We bought 2 carrots, 2 lemons, l onion, 2 apples, 2 tomatoes, 2 small heads of lettuce, l red bell pepper and 2 bananas. The total came to 1 peso and 40 centavos. That is equal to about 50cents, U.S.
Outside the center, there is so much poverty and filth, it is hard to enjoy the place. Our friends Pam and husband Kim came out to see us. They tried one day to make the trip and got quite lost. The next day, they hired a driver who knew the city, and were able to find us. They took us out to a nice breakfast and great conversation before droping us back at the campground. After that, we were on the road north again.
Northern Argentina is more "Latin" and less "European" than Buenos Aires. We are again seeing horse carts, herds of animals along the roadway, being tended by someone, often kids, to keep them off the roadway. The climate is warming up and the humidity is rising.
Yesterday, we left our route north to take a side trip to see a National Park and a zoo that is supposed to be pretty great. The National Park was pretty, but not much there, except a group of students celebrating the end of the term. The music was loud, and lasted until the rooster started crowing or the rain started, we aren't sure which.
We left early this morning to get out before the dirt road turned to a sea of mud, and headed on down the road to the town with the zoo. Much to our dismay, the zoo closes when it rains and boy is it raining. We are trying to decide if it is worth waiting until tomorrow to see it. Hard to know if the rain will stop!
From here we head toward Iguazú to see the magnificent falls. Keep tuned in, more to follow!
Love to all, L and L
When we last wrote to brag about making our destination of the end of the earth, we finished our e-mailing and walked back to the car. That would be the car with the lights left on. Dead car! We stood a few minutes scratching our heads and suddenly appeared a real nice guy who offered to help push to get it started. We pushed and pushed and a few more guys came along to help but it wouldn't start. Next the nice guy hooked up a tow line to his truck and towed us up and down the parking lot. Still wouldn't start, so next he found someone else with jumper cables. That worked and we were on our way, North, for the first time in a while!
Patagonia is a regional name for the area of Tierra Del Fuego and alot of southern Argentina. This region is treeless desert and goes for miles. We began to tire of straight roads and bunch grass but soon began to see lots of sheep and eventually oil wells. Still tired of the straight roads, we started playing number games with the odometer. There aren't any billboards for the alphabet game and not enough cars for the license plate game! We started looking for palendromes (numbers that read the same forwards and backwards) with the odometer and eventually added the kilometer markers beside the road and then the clock. We are now hooked on the process and are trying to break the habit. We have however, renamed the odometer to palendrometer!
Someone we met advised us not to take the direct route to Buenos Aires, as it would involve another 2000 km of TREELESS DESERT. So we instead crossed the entire country of Argentina twice to take a route to Bariloche on the Chilean border and back across toward Buenos Aires. We were rewarded for our trouble by beautiful scenery, as beautiful as Yosemite perhaps, by warmer weather, (yea) and the car ran the whole way. We did have some minor work done, like tune-up, valve adjustment and oil change. It continues to reward us with splendid performance!
On our second crossing, we came through very beautiful farm country. Mostly cattle ranches of vast proportion, modest houses and lots of pasture land. We have seen so many different species of birds. We have even seen flamingos on the many lakes formed by melted snow. Our little detour also allowed us to visit a petrified forest with 65 million year old logs and chips.
A day or two later we actually visited the house that Butch Cassidy, Sundance and Etta lived in when they were in South America about a hundred years ago. It doesn't look like much now. The owner of the property lets his cattle inside the house. Oh well. It is just a mountain cabin, although it looks like there were several rooms and it would have been ample for the three of them, certainly. Because it is part of an active cattle ranch, we had several fences to cross to get into the house. We untwisted and retwisted the wire that was holding the gates in place and made our way carefully across the pasture. The cows were curious about our intentions but they left us alone, once they realized we weren't there to feed them.
We are now in Balcarce, the birthplace of Juan Manuel Fangio, Argentina's famous five-time world champėon race car driver. There is an amazing museum devoted to his career and we just spent two hours oggling the race cars and other memorabilia of his amazing career. He was one of Larry's heros growing up. As you must know, Larry is a race fan of long standing and was in seventh heaven in the museum.
From here, we will try to find a place to camp near Buenos Aires. We will be meeting friends there next week and would like to scope the city out a little bit. The weather is definitely warming up, but so far we have not found many campgrounds open. We have been hanging out at truck stop-style service stations and spending the night with the big rigs.
Yesterday we had kind of reached the point of no return without showers. Lo and behold! We came upon a toll gate, paid our three pesos and Voila! There was a nice restroom facility at the toll gate and there were showers! Hot water and everything! All right, now we can go for how many days again?
Where are we going from here, you are asking? Well, after Buenos Aires we head northerly to the Iguazú Falls that also border Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. Then on into Brazil. We have several options there--well, way more if you look at the size of the place. We may meet with friends in Sao Paulo and/or Rio. Then again, if we don't connect with our friends, we may blow the whole big city thing off and head inland to Brasilia, the capital. We then will head up to the northeast of Brazil to Forteleza, where we have friends whom we met in Peru. To conclude our epic journey we will continue around the Brazilian coast to Belén, where we will drive aboard a ferry for a week-long trip up the Amazon to Manaus. From there it is due north (well, almost) to Caracas, Venezuela. Caracas is where we will ship the car and fly home in time for Christmas (!).
You have no doubt heard about the struggling Argentine economy. At one time Argentina was among the top ten economies in the world! They have huge natural resources and a very well educated population. Unfortunately, they suffered some reverses and they are now in a recession that has lasted several years. It is hard to get a reading on whether things are improving at this time. Perhaps when we have the perspective of the international press to help us, we will know more.
One example, of many, was a young man who waited on our table when we lunched in Ushuaia (while the lights were draining the car battery!). He is from the northern part of Argentina, but moved to Ushuaia to find work. He earns 650 pesos a month and pays 500 pesos a month in rent. It doesn't leave much to raise his four teen-aged kids. He asked us about Costa Rica and we were unable to answer his questions. He was thinking that it might be easier for him to emigrate there to work, than elsewhere. Since we have friends in San Jose, Costa Rica we shared their email address with Marcelo. (Sorry about that, Caro.)
I guess the point is that while things seem somewhat better here in Argentina than in many of the Latin American countries that we have visited, the Argentines have experienced a decline in their standard of living--a big one. Unfortunately, they blame the whole thing on their government, so it may be a while before they are able to come out of this recession.
Thanks to all of you who have been sending emails to us. We do enjoy receiving them.
Love to all,
Larry and Loralee
Well, we made it to the most southerly City in the world, Usuaia, Argentina.
Tierra del Fuego is an island separated from the mainland by the straits of Magellan. It is divided in half between Chile and Argentina as a means of settling an old border dispute.
We crossed the flat lands with bunch grass and lots of sheep ranches. We crossed the straits of Magellan on a very powerful ferry, taking water over the bow through a two-foot chop in winds well over a full gale. After crossing into Argentina, mountains appeared on the horizon. Snowy mountains that we crossed today without benefit of tire chains (yikes!) It was a bit icy and dicey. But here we are.
We are planning to leave today, the same day we arrived. We have taken the obligatory photos and we are a week at least away from warmer climes, so we are outta here!
Saying it is cold is putting it mildly. We woke up this morning with ice on the ground, but also ice inside the car. The condensation on the windows was frozen and that wasn`t all. During the night I got up to use the porta potty. There evidently was a little spot of water on the counter, and somehow the end of the toilet paper managed to get into it, and froze there! What a surprise!
We are coming home. We are headed north. Today's the day!
Love to all,
Loralee and Larry
Hello Family and Friends,
It is c-c-c-cold down here.
We enjoyed our week with my mom. We traveled to the coast and stayed three days in a little resort town called Reņaca, adjacent to Valparaiso and Viņa Del Mar. We had a great little cottage and it was quiet and relaxing. We went down to the pier to view the ships etc. and then took an "ascensor" (lift) up to the top of a hill for a beautiful view of the city. Mom had fun shopping for souveniers (Sp?) and we enjoyed a FAST bus ride or two also.
We drove from the coast to the mountains, or at least the foot of them and found a place to stay in Los Andes. From there we drove to Portillo which is a ski resort at the border with Argentina. There is very little snow as it has been a dry winter. It was a scenic drive none the less.
We left mom off in Santiago for a 9:30 flight and headed on down the road. We had heard there was camping about an hour south and we weren't anxious to spend another night in Santiago. The camping didn't materialize, off season again! We ended up staying at a service station, between the freeway and the train track! We were tired enough to sleep well anyway.
We worked our way down the Pan Am highway in several days, enjoying beautiful scenery along the way. We kept taking loops off the highway to see this lake or that volcano and while the lakes were wonderful, we didn't see a single volcano, due to very cloudy, rainy weather. Twice we got into hail bursts but they didn't last long. We have been very cold driving, the "califaccion" (heater) is working but just isn't very powerful. We had planned to make Puerto Montt in a week from now but pushed on ahead to arrive in time for today's sailing of our ferry to Puerto Natales. For those of you who are interested, their website is www.navimag.com . We will spend 3 days on the ship and then resume our travels via VW. The car travels with us but we will be warm and cozy, (we hope) in a stateroom.
The trip south through Chile is amazing. We mentioned before how much central Chile reminded us of Sonoma County. Now we can report that as we traveled south, it began to remind us of areas further and further north in the US. First we kept seeing Oregon, and eventually, Minnesota. Here in Puerto Montt, it is springtime but very very cold. Reminds us of the wind off the snow when we were skiing in the Sierra. The roads have been lined with blooming Acacia and Scotch Broom. We have seen lots of California Poppies as well. A pretty place to say the least. We are promised very spectacular views from the ship as we travel through the fiords to Puerto Natales.
More from Tierra Del Fuego!
Love to all, L and L
Hello family and friends,
We have finally surfaced in Santiago area of Chile. We last wrote to you from Arequipa and were about to leave Peru I think.
We picked up the car at 4:30 in the afternoon and decided to stay one more night in Arequipa. Next day found us on our way. We crossed the border just south of Tacna and found the crossing to be fairly easy.
Our funniest experience of that journey was near Arica on the coast of Chile, about 2 hours from the border. We saw camping signs posted on the road and were truly amazed at this since we haven't seen such a thing since leaving Mexico. We followed the signs out to the coast where we found 20-30 private camping areas near the beach, and all boarded up and closed for the season. It seems that in the off season, no one is interested in camping, except us of course. It was getting dark and late, so we followed the directions to a motel in the area. The only motel in the area! The lights were on, and so we pulled up to the gate. The intercom at once began to chatter away, explaining the rates etc. We explained we were looking for parking for the van, to camp in it for the night and again, an explanation of rates was forth coming. It seems, the rates were l0,000 pesos for four hours and included 2 drinks and snacks. Hmmmm, not what we had in mind. Still, we were hoping to find secure parking and nothing more so finally the lady from the office decided to open the gate and let us in, where we could discuss the matter further. After more discussion, and more explanation that this was a "motel" we were offered parking next door in a fenced parking area. We were quite content there, no roosters, no churchbells, no barking dogs, and there didn't seem to be any four-hour customers either so no cars coming and going. We were pretty much the only "customers of the night" so to speak. Next morning saw us on our way again. We really had no idea what we had spent for the night's stay. We were charged 3000 pesos but were unable to decide what the exchange rate was. We were told by two different people that it was 700 pesos to the dollar and then that it was 270 per dollar. So, for the next few days, we kept trying to find out the exchange rate and eventually discovered it was 700. That meant we had spent alittle over $4. Ok, onward!
We "wild-camped" for several nights, twice on the beach and once on a hilltop in the desert. It is very safe here in Chile and we enjoyed the quiet tranquil spots. The desert turned out to be much less tedious than we expected. The area receives little or no rain fall, there are places where there has been no rain in recorded history! Not a weed or plant to be seen anywhere for several days. However, there are two active saltpeter mines and evidence of lots of mining activity of past years. We saw a museam of old mining trains and generally enjoyed the barren but interesting landscape.
We arrived in Santiago a couple of days ahead of my mother who flew in from SanFrancisco via Dallas. We found a place to stay, a parking area for the car, and proceeded to scope out the city for bus transportation, sights to see etc. Mom arrived one day late due to delays in Dallas, she actually slept on the airport floor for several hours. She's a tuff one!!We had a lovely time going to the airport over and over again until she finally did arrive on Thursday morning.
We have had a great time since her arrival. The first night we decided to go to a nice restaurant for dinner. We picked one out of the travel book, got a taxi and started out. Little did we know, the taxi driver didn't know where it was, and we didn't know it was miles and miles away. He eventually found the place, and the meter bill was about $15, an outrageous amount for the area. We truly did have a wonderful dinner, well worth the ride. After dinner, we discovered a bus route that would work to get us back to our downtown location so if you are ever in Santiago and want to eat at "Cuerovaca" just take the number 332 bus, its alot cheaper!
We left Santiago and headed for a little fishing village on the coast. Quintay by name, it was a quaint little place that offered fish dinners right on a little cove where fishing boats were tied up. Our search for a place to stay didn't yield anything acceptable so we headed on in to Valparaiso, Viņa Del Mar, and eventually to Reņaca just north of Viņa del Mar. We found a cute little cottage, complete with kitchen, heater, hot water, you name it! We hate to leave here but are headed for the mountains tomorrow. We will probably drive to the border with Argentina but will not cross. Then back to Santiago on Wed to deliver mom to the airport. We then start south to Puerto Montt.
We are finding Chile very different from other latin countries we have visited. The cities and highways are so very modern, they remind us of home. The latitude here is similar to home, and the vegetation similar. We find ourselves remarking constantly about modern ideas saying, "What a concept!" over and over again. Things like city limit signs, concrete mixing trucks, garbage cans beside the road, run-away truck ramps, and road-side rests and the list goes on.
We are hoping someone will let us know how the recall election goes in California, we probably wonīt receive our absentee ballots, so I guess we wonīt be voting for Arnie!
Keep up the Eīs, it keeps us smiling!
Love, L and L
You may remember that a while back we drove the van south from Quito to where we are now in Chile, just north of Valparaiso.
South of Amabato Ecuador was our first night on the road south. We stayed in a 24 hour gasoline station and had a remarkable experience.
We met Segundo Aguagallo, a neighbor of the service station, and his wife and six(!) sons. Segundo is a college graduate. He is handsome and very well spoken. He and the family came by to visit when they noticed the car. We are used to that, we tend to attract a lot of attention at times. When we described our Peace Corps experience of thirty-odd years ago, he really perked up.
Segundo is the manager of a Savings and Credit Cooperative, or what we would call a credit union (at least that is the California term for it). One of the more interesting aspects of this cooperative is their name, "Desarrollo y Economia, Ltd." Which is to say that they are focused on the economic development of their members.
They are in the process of working together to better their situation in the world. One of the things that would really help them is technical training in a number of fields: agriculture, carpentry, business administration, and construction of housing. I told Segundo that we would pass the word to find out how to get them the technical assistance that they would like. They are looking for todayīs equivalent of Peace Corps volunteers. Does that still exist in Ecuador?
From long distance this is a little difficult, so I am going to impose on you, our long distance correspondents, for whatever help you can provide. What I have in mind is that those of you who are so motivated will forward this information to any agency that you are aware of that does this kind of thing--or send us the email address, so we can make the request ourselves.
When we were doing the Peace Corps thing in Ecuador thirty years ago, there were dozens of agencies working in the area doing all kinds of good works. CARE, Caritas (Catholic Relief), the UN, U.S. AID, etc., etc.
If you have the time and the inclination, please put on your thinking caps and see if there is some group out there who is willing to come in and help some folks that are trying to help themselves.
If you wish to contact Segundo directly here is his address:
Segundo Aguagallo, Gerente
Cooperativa de Ahorro y Credito
"Desarollo y Economia, Ltda."
Castillo 8-32 y 12 de Noviembre
Or, send us your ideas and email addresses directly to email@example.com
Thanks and a regular newsy group email will follow shortly.
Larry and Loralee
Dear Friends and Family,
We are ensconced in a familiar setting once again. It is the Hostal Las Mercedes in Arequipa where we park and camp next to the beautiful old hotel building at the foot of Volcan Misti. Even though it is winter here and Lima is very foggy, Arequipa enjoys sunny weather nearly all the year around. It is very nice to warm up here before we head south to colder climes.
We neglected to report on our visit to Ingapirca in our last group email. We visited Ingapirca when we were in Ecuador over thirty years ago. It has changed substantially since we were last there. Ingapirca is the most significant archeological site of the Inca period in Ecuador. It is located between Cuenca and Riobamba just off the Pan American Highway. When we were there in the 1970s the site had just been rediscovered. Since that time, significant archeological excavation and research have been done and the site is much more developed.
Unfortunately, the land reform which allowed Ingapirca to be rediscovered has also created a surge of residential development in the vicinity of the site. In fact, there is a brand new beautiful home that has been developed literally across the fence from the main ruin of Ingapirca. According to our guide, who spoke excellent English, the residential development in the neighborhood of the site is causing a political problem that is preventing the future investigation of the site, at least for now.
Which leads to another topic. Since the dolarisation of Ecuador, that is the conversion of the money to the US Dollar from the Sucre, there is an apparent economic boom happening in Ecuador. There are many new homes along the Pan American Highway. There are also many, many new cars in private ownership--many more than in Peru, for example. This appears to us to be fairly recent, because the cars are literally new as are the homes. The Indian culture also appears to be much less in evidence, unfortunately.
Hi, there. Larry has given you some of his impressions, I'll continue. Our route of travel since leaving Quito has taken us back through Cuenca. We specifically wanted to stop back by the laundry we used while staying there, to retieve Scott's jacket that didn't make it back to us. Not only was the jacket not there, but the laundry wasn't either. There was only an empty store front. We discovered they had moved the business down the street about 3 doors, but everything was locked up tight. Probably they were setting up at the new location. I guess we will never know if it was thievery or an oversight. Sorry about that Scott, but no way was Dad driving back into the center of town again!!
Next day saw us on our way back to the coast through Machala and to the border with Peru. The crossing this time was short and sweet, costing us less than $2 and about 15 minutes!! Well now, things are looking up in that department. Too bad they still aren't so good in the "crooked cop" department. Yep, this time a speeding situation. We were supposedly going 5 kph over the 80 kph limit. It cost us 100 Soles, ($35) this time, Yikes, we have to get out of PERU! We stayed only one night in our favorite spot in Lima, bidding farewell to the wonderful host family at the Hospedaje Atahualpa! We loaded up on water, groceries etc. and headed for Nasca. Two nights there gave us time to wash the car and generally rest up. We had been driving all day, every day for awhile. From Nasca to Arequipa where we took the van in once again, this time to see if we could get the heater working. We are headed for Patagonia after all! Long story short, have to wait till Monday for the correct parts. So, we spent today getting caught up on laundry and hope to head out tomorrow, crossing into Chile in a day or two.
Ok, a few statistics to liven up the reading! We have been traveling for 193 days. The car has traveled 14,000 miles, not necessarily on the same engine, and we remain in good health and still speaking to each other, well most of the time!
A couple of funny observations: people on the coast of Ecuador tend to drive little motor bikes a lot. When we were there before,people went out walking for entertainment. Now, they go out on these motorbikes. You see just about everything going down the street! We actually say a family of 4, 3 buckets and a broom, all on one bike. We also saw a floor lamp, complete with shade in the hand of a woman on the back of the bike her husband was driving. I mentioned the border crossing but forgot the funniest part. While Larry was off getting the right paperwork, copies and stamps, I stayed with the car. The driver's window was rolled down so along came an underwear salesman with his wares on a hanger. He thrust the selection of ladies underwear in the window for me to see and seemed a bit surprised that I didn't buy!
We're off tomorrow, provided the car is ready in time. More from Chile!
Love to all from L and L
Hi family and friends,
We have spent a whirlwind week in Ecuador. We spent only a very short over night in Guayaquil, checking out the improvements in the downtown area since we were last there 8 years ago. Then on to Babahoyo, our home for two years, a long time ago! Wow, did we ever get a surprise about how much the town has grown and changed. We stayed over night so we had alittle more time to stroll around and see the places we remembered. We stopped at the hardware store which our landlady of 30 some years ago still owns and operates! We had a nice little chat with her and then walked through town to the elementary school where Scott was a student. We went into the courtyard and to the office to ask permission to take some pictures and of course we were mobbed by curious students. After some explanation and alot of "Photo Ops" we managed to excape but not before talking to the teachers who came back from lunch in a group and found us there taking pictures of their students. I explained that I had taught there 30 years before and pointed out the classroom. They were so friendly and it was alot of fun!!! Scott and Larry were asked bunches of questions about who they were etc. and it was definitely a highlight of the day. The river looked about the same but the town, which had about 3 main streets in the old days, stretched for blocks and blocks in every direction. There are TWO pretty decent hotels in town, wow!
From there we headed to Cuenca. We stayed 2 nights there, spending the day browsing around the town. We went to visit a Panama Hat factory. It was a small business, family owned and operated. A young man explained the process by which the hats are made, and took us upstairs to their living area to show us a wonderful view of the city. Then of course, we had to shop for hats. Scott wanted to find a good hat and of course, there were lots to choose from. Panama Hats made in Ecuador! Of course, why not. Before we were through, the owner was chatting with us about our journey and decided to give us each a hat, with a promise that we would take photos here and there with the hats! Of course we thought that was a good idea. We have had so many fun contacts with people in that manner and are grateful for our ability to speak the language, making this possible. From there we went to a ceramic gallery, where the artist who created all the wonderful stuff was there to chat with everyone who came in. Of course, we had to BUY STUFF there too!!!
We planned to drive to Riobamba the next day but decided to stop in the little town of Alausi. What a cute little town. On to Quito the next day. I know we keep talking about how hard it is to drive in the big cities but here goes again. It took us an hour and a half to get through Quito from the south, to the north end where we wanted to stay. We had no map for getting into the city and had to sort of wander in until we could orient ourselves with the small city map we had. Of course just about all of the streets are one-way but which way is ofter a mystery. Cars park heading either direction so that is no clue. Sometimes there is an arrow painted on the side of a building at the intersection but not always. Signals are another challenge, sometimes they are on the right corner, sometimes in the middle of the street and sometimes in the middle of the divider between directions of a two-way street. Sheesh! The yellow lasts about half a second before red. So, with all of this we finally got within 2 blocks of the hostel we were looking for but couldn't turn left or whatever for another 15 minutes. OK, there it was, Turning right into the driveway, across what seemed to be a bus only lane, (red cones in the street, stopped busses at the curb) woops, not a bus only lane. A car darted around behind us to pass on the right, crunch, Oh no. Would you believe, it was a high-ranking officer of the police department, too high-ranking to be in uniform. Well let's see gringos vs police department, guess who pays! Larry had to go down to headquarters to straighten that out, I pulled the car around the block and into the driveway, this time from the not for busses only lane.
All said and done, we were very lucky. The damage to our car was minor, just a dent in the door post, nobody was hurt and the cop was a nice guy. Larry had to go back to headquarters the next day to go to the Chevy agency to get the damage report and then pay. Would you believe the cop took him out for breakfast after that!!
From Quito, we took a day trip to San Antonio de Ibarra where all the wood artesania comes from. We had a great time shopping there, Scott was really having a great spending spree and of course we had to keep up with him! From there we drove on a bit more to La Esperanza where the embroidery comes from. You have to ask around for where you can buy the goods, they are sold from the homes of the people who make the stuff. More shopping! We drove back to Quito in the dark but the road was good and by this time we knew how to get in and out of the city. Today we visited the "Middle of the World" monument located on the equator. Well close, GPS says its a little ways away but close enough!
Scott left tonight for Lima to connect with his flight to Phoenix via LA. He had a great time and so did we. We are sorry to see him go. It makes us sad which makes us homesick etc. Tomorrow we will head south again, retracing some of our route and will eventurally lead back to Lima and then south to Chile. We'll be on the road awhile so you will hear from us again when we come up for air.
Thanks as always for your notes and good wishes. It keeps us coming back for more where the e's are concerned.
Love to all, Loralee and Larry
Well, Hello from Ecuador,
After nearly 3 months of traveling in Peru, we actually crossed the border today and are now in Guayaquil, Ecuador! Not that it was easy to get here mind you, the driving in this country is worse than Peru. Even worse than LIMA!!! The border crossing went well and quickly. We only spent about $3 and 1 and 1/2 hours. The country side is just like we remembered it, and enjoyed seeing the cane houses up on stilts. It is hotter and much more humid here but not unbearable by any means. Driving into the center of Guayaquil was an experience to behold. Scott was driving, Larry was in the back seat trying to keep quiet, and I was in the suicide seat, gasping alot. We got into the city center with little difficulty but even with map in hand, we managed to get onto a street that was under construction and eventually even closed. We detoured around this block and that and finally arrived at the hotel we were looking for. Closed!! We actually found a parking spot of sorts while Larry went looking for another hotel, found one and came back to tell us about it. Even with parking, and at a cost of a mere $110 US. Ecuador uses dollars now and prices seem to be higher than when the Sucre reigned. We plan to leave the big city tomorrow and head for Babahoyo, the small town where we lived in l971-73. We are all looking forward to that, too bad that means driving OUT of this city!
The car, bless its little soul, is performing admirably. Could it be its fixed? We've actually spent more money on it than we paid for it originally. But, no oil is spraying out!!!
We made it down from Cusco, to Nasca where Scott was able to take the flight to see the Nasca Lines, and back to Lima. We stayed only one night in Lima but unfortunately, it was long enough for Larry to fall victim to a pick-pocket. We were strolling in the park to see an art show and we got seperated a bit. Fortunately, we only carry spending money in the pockets and so lost only about $20. It could have been alot worse. Credit cards etc were safe in a neck pouch!
Well, on to explore Ecuador tomorrow. We will spend a week getting to and enjoying Quito where we will put Scott on a plane back to Lima for his flight home. We will then head back through coastal Peru and to Santiago Chile where my mom will join us in late August.
Hoping to hear a line or two from friends at home, and hoping all is well with everyone.
Lots of Love from Larry and Loralee
Hi one and all,
We are starting to repeat ourselves if you know what I mean. We have spent the past week in Cusco, this time with daughter Jenna and friend Katie. We have had a great time, they departed this morning. We await the arrival of our son Scott, who arrives tomorrow A.M.
We took the trip to Machu Picchu again and enjoyed it even more. This time we hiked up the Inca trail from the city of Machu Picchu until we came to the first pass high above. It was really breath taking to say the least. Jenna and Katie hiked up Wayna Picchu, the pointy mountain always shown in pictures of the place. We had our lunch on the high pass, and then started our descent quickly as it started to rain. I personally was wishing for a helecopter to take me down but none showed up so we walked down. Lots of stairs, and steep cobbled path.
We spent the night in Aguas Calientes, the closest town to the city and the place where the train trip ends. It was a cute little city and of course, there was a celebration going on for one saint or another!
When Scott arrives, we will spend a couple of days in Cusco so he can get used to the altitude and then he and Larry will make the trip to Machu Picchu again. I have chosen to remain in Cusco this time and give the knees a rest! They are actually holding up well, but enough is enough! I'll spend the day getting the car ready, as we will depart on Friday morning. We will again make the three day trip back to Lima, spending one night there before starting north to Ecuador.
Speaking of the car, #@!!! I'm sure you have heard enough about car trouble, so I won't even tell you that the car has been in the shop again. You probably also don't want to hear that we have a new block and crank shaft. While in Mexico, we replaced just about everything else, so I guess you could say we have a whole new engine! Hopefully, this will get us to Tierra Del Fuego and home but we aren't betting the ranch!
We will check in later, hope this finds all of you in good spirits and health. We are looking forward to getting back on the road. We were in Ecuador 8 years ago but this time Scott will have his first chance to revisit since our Peace Corps days. I know he is anxious and so are we.
So long for now, Love from Loralee and Larry
It seems we have been traveling in circles. We have in fact, and are soon to do it again. Our daughter Jenna and her friend Katie arrive in a couple of days, and we'll be back on the road to Cusco again.
We left you last in Cusco. We moved the car DOWN to a lower garage to avoid the pushing problem!! We were in Cusco for the week of Inti Raymi which is an annual festival celebrating the June solstice. This is a big deal for the Inca decendants. There were parades, religious processions, bands, and various other groups, every day and all night for a solid week. The celebration up at the ruins above the city was something to behold. We didn't pay the $55 a person fee to see the "Folklore Show" but instead opted to browse around and people watch. When we looked up and saw a bunch of folks running around in "Inca Suits" and waving flags, we didn't realize it was the finale of the big show and that thousands, (really, say about 10,000)people would all be funneling down the path to the town at the same time. We got caught up in the crowd, and had to descend some very steep, ancient Incan stairs, with a crowd that was becoming impatient and beginning to push. It was scary to say the least. After we made it past the stairs, we were carried along with the crowd a ways, and decided to step out to the side and wait it out. We truly expected a tragedy of some sort to take place. We waited about an hour and a half. It was getting dark and cold, and finally the police put up a barrier to stop the flow while the lower part of the crowd had a chance to funnel through the narrow path. It was at this point that we joined the back of the crowd and came on down. Erik and Jason had split off from us and gone way around a whole mountain to come down a different way and they actually beat us back to the hotel by an hour. Wow, a bit too much of humanity!! One little, well short and wide, indian lady decided she was going by us and just started to push. Larry nearly fell over and this was while we were trying to stand at the sidelines and wait!
We took Erik and Jason to the plane in Cusco after a full week of shopping, celebrations and good food. We had a great time with them, seeing ruins etc., they made great traveling companions, enjoying the scenery and the culture. They took a ton of pictures. We will look forward to comparing notes again when we return to the states.
After their departure, we stayed two more days in Cusco and then started to Lima. Same road, same car, same trouble spot. Well almost the same. We made it through Bumf--k, actually about 35Km further, and the engine quit. Just driving up a hill, no engine. We pulled off the road to a stop where we began to determine the source of the trouble. Picture Larry on hands and knees, head in the engine compartment and me, beside him with the book (How to Fix Your Volkswagen, a manual for the Complete Idiot by John Muir) in hand, reading the various parts regarding, "engine won't start". We thought the problem was the coil, so Larry took it out, bundled it up and flagged down the first car to pass in the 15 minutes we were there. I stayed behind to "guard the car" and waited. About 2 hours later, here he came with a couple of Mechanic types from nearby Puquio. The coil was fine, the problem was the points and Larry, (my hero) had a new set in his little bag of tricks. While the mechanics worked on the car and Larry ran back and forth to turn the key for them, a man, a woman, and a boy about 10 came up the road on foot. They stopped to chat with me, the only one not busy as the book was no longer in use, and called me Mamasita. Later, when greeting Larry, they called him Papa. Cute huh? So, back on the road again, unfortunately, dark again. We pulled into Nasca at 10pm wondering just what it is with that stretch of road?
We stayed in Nasca an extra day this time, and took the flight to see the famous lines. We were turned away before because of weather and decided to take it while the opportunity was right. It was truly worth it, the lines are amazing. Besides the various figures of animals and birds, there is a maze of geometry all over the desert.
While driving in Baja one time, awhile back, we chuckled about a road crew using a tin can with holes in the bottom and a bailing wire handle to sprinkle tar on the road. We have seen that here also, but the crew we saw this trip had that beat. They were using 2 liter plastic soda bottles filled with tar to squirt in the cracks. Now how long do you suppose it would take to fill those bottles with the 3/4" opening?
Driving back to Lima was uneventful until a nice man pulled up beside us and told us a rear tire was low. We continued on until we reached the next "grifo" (gas station) and it just happened to have a "llanteria"(tire shop). Tire fixed, 4 Soles. That is about $l.l5. Good grief, talk about lucky, I guess we are!
We have settled in at our comfortable spot in Miraflores to await the arrival of the girls. We'll see you down the road!!
Happy fourth of July!
Loralee and Larry
We are back in Cusco. What a town. I can't imagine how often or how long one would have to stay here to get tired of the place. We traveled from Lima and took the same 3 day trip from Lima to Nasca to Abancay to Cusco. The planned plane ride to see the Nasca lines unfortunately didn't materialize as the haze in the area had the airport closed down. Our friends are traveling on a very limited schedule so we couldn't stay over to wait for the haze to clear. Major disappointment for them but we will get another chance when Jenna and Katie come down. The day's drive from Nasca to Abancay is a grueling one as it can't be made in less than about 13 hours and there is nowhere inbetween to take it in 2 days. We drove 2 hours in darkness, with many upaved, unlined, rocks in the road, detours, animals and people in the road kind of stuff! We did have reservations waiting for us and the water was hot (yes) in the showers so all was well that ended well. Next day into Cusco was great and the scenery kept our guests gasping. We are getting used to it I guess, these mountains of Peru are something.
I think the funniest episode I can relay to you had to do with getting into our accomodations in Cusco. We scoped out the streets to take etc before but it is always a challenge to repeat the experience. We wound our way through the usual one-way, unnamed or at least unsigned streets to within about 2 blocks of our hotel and parking location. Remember that I described the one-lane, cobbled streets which are two-way? Well, we met a taxi coming down and had to come to a complete stop while the taxi backed up. The car almost doesn't run in this altitude so that was a major problem. On Larry's command of "Ok, everybody bail", Erik, Jason, and I all jumped out. As Larry started racing the engine and slipping the clutch, the three of us got behind and pushed and yes, it did make it up the rest of the hill. We were slightly out of breath, and laughing at least as hard as the small crowd gathered to watch.
We visited the famed Machu Picchu yesterday. It is truly magnificent and defies description. I will say that anyone adventerous enough could come here and enjoy the area without knowing Spanish. The accomodations and facilities are wonderful and there is enough to see and do around Cusco to stay at least a week. Lots of tourist facilities and lots of English spoken. Erik and Jason, our two guests from home, climed the highest peak in the area of the ruins while Larry and I contented ourselves with the tour of the city. It is not the largest of even the oldest of Inca ruins, but is most famous because of its breathtaking location high atop a mountain and because it was the most preserved. Most other cities were destroyed by the Spanish when they came. Machu Picchu was so remote that the Spanish never reached it. That and the fact that it was camoflaged by heavy growth of vegetation kept it hidden from discovery for so long. My knees held up well to the climbing up and down of many stairs, and we truly enjoyed the day. We went up and back from Cusco in one day. That involved a 3 and a half hour train ride,a bus trip up the side of the mountain, about 3 hours at the ruins and then the return. We are going back when Jenna and Katie arrive and hope to do the overnight stay so we can see the sunrise at the ruins and explore and hike before the crowds arrive.
Many thanks to all of you who have e-mailed us now and again. We do so look forward to hearing from home. We are finding the e-mail situation extremely easy and cheap to use and truly appreciate the connection to home that your news brings us.
Love to all, Loralee and Larry
Just a quick note to check in. We have been in Lima at our favorite Hospedaje for 2 weeks. It has been pretty uneventful, mostly we have been waiting for the car to be repaired AGAIN! The growling noise we complained about turned out to be the rear axle, it is now replaced along with the brake drum. We waited a few anxious days while they looked for parts for our ancient vehicle but find them they did! Our friends Erik and Jason arrive tomorrow, we are excited about that, both on seeing them and on getting back on the road again. We will be making the journey to Cusco again, this time we will visit the ruins of Machu Picchu.
We had a great father's day. We were invited to dinner with our host and hostess of the hospedaje and their family. It was most enjoyable.
Today is our 40th wedding anniversary. We are off to Murphy's. Yes, an irish pub right here in Miraflores. Then to dinner at a sidewalk restaurant along side of Kennedy Park. After dinner we plan to stroll through the park and buy Friendship Rings. We left our wedding rings at home for safe keeping and we kind of miss them. Hard to believe it has been 40 years, but we are feeling very lucky to be alive and together after all these years.
It may be a couple of weeks before you hear from us again so don't worry about us. We promise to check in soon.
Love to all,
Loralee and Larry
Our return from Cusco, the navel of the Inca world, was fraught with some minor difficulties. Under the best of circumstances in an ancient VW camper, it is a three day trip. First day is from Cusco to Abancay, about five or six hours. Second day is from Abancay to Nasca, about 10 or 11 hours--and you make the descent from way high in the Andes to nearly sea level in the last two or so of those hours!!! Then you buzz up the coast from Nasca to Lima, another six or so hours to our home away from home in Peru, Hospedaje Atahualpa.
Well, the last couple of hours into Abancay the car was beginning to shift harder and harder into second gear, especially from third. Those are exactly the symptoms we experienced in Mexico when it stopped shifting into anything but third and fourth!! Egads not this again!!!
Next day we eased out of Abancay, where we spent the night camped at an overlook park with a small zoo about ten minutes outside and above Abancay. The camping was great, but the car was still not doing well. About three hours out of Abancay, we were down to third and fourth again, although we were able to select reverse and back up--unlike our Mexican experience.
We stopped a couple of times looking for a mechanic, but the towns were too small until just after lunch. Finally we found a shop and it was just a linkage problem!! No internal work was necessary to the transmission at all! A minor miracle!! Of course, the rough road had cost us a muffler clamp, so we were making a lot of exhaust noise from one cylinder. Also the minor squeek that we heard occasionally from the rear end had turned into a dull roar at any speed over about 30 mph. But having all four gears made us brave again!! If we could reliably shift into second whenever we needed it, why who cares if the rear end is growling like a hungry puma? Not opening the transmission made a difference of light and dark, day and night--we could face anything!
Ok, Larry is leaving out a few of the juicy details so I quess I had better take over here! You see, I can always tell when things are getting bad because Larry starts to mutter. Things like, "What the bleep were we thinking, bringing an ancient piece of bleep down here!" That was followed by the best remark of all so far, "Surely it wasn't getting stuck way out here in Bumf--k Peru!" At that point, I got the giggles and offered to try and find it on the map.
We got a little ahead of the story. We have said before that leaving the city, any city, can be a bit of a trial. Leaving Cusco was no exception. We wanted to find the train station to make reservations for the trip to Machu Picchu when we return in a couple of weeks. The first thing we encountered was that the main street we chose to use was completely blocked with construction. We asked directions and started on a detour, abandoning the notion of the train station, happy with just getting out of town. The first thing we did was get on a one-way street, going the wrong way. Upon attempting to turn around, sitting crossways in a narrow street, traffic began to bore down on us, honking of course, and just about then the steering column began smoking. No, really, smoke was coming right out of it at the horn button that no longer works. We got turned around, pulled over, and it just stopped smoking, hasn't smoked since. Must have just healed up!!! Ok, so on we went. We were supposed to turn up a certain street, which we did. However, it was too steep for us so we rolled down and tried again, making a run for it. Now Larry already told you we were making a bit of noise, so anyone who hadn't stopped what they were doing to watch the gringos in the green van, now had done just that, so as we rolled back down for the second time, all eyes were definitely upon us!! Well, we did find another street and we did get out of Cusco, at 10:00 am.
Coming out of Abancay, we experienced the mother of all detours. We came upon extensive road work and a flagman at one spot in the road. He told us we couldn't get through. The big trucks were ok but not the little ones. He described the road we needed to go back to, of course not one sign marked it so as we bumped along on a single track dirt lane, we were wondering the whole way if we were on the right road. We came to several junctions of other dirt lanes, and not one sign to tell us which way to go. We saw a young girl of about 12 who was herding cows down the road and she assured us we could get through if we kept going. Glad we were of that, we were sure we couldn't get back up some of the road we had just come down! A couple more unmarked forks in the road and we made it to the main road again. At this point we weren't even sure which way to go on the main road so asked again for directions. PEOPLE, PEOPLE, PLEASE, HOW HARD CAN IT BE? Have you never heard of a magic marker? Ok, probably not, but just a little sign now and then could save us alot of trouble!
The rest of the trip to Nasca was uneventful, other than it was a very long way on a very dark mountainside. We tucked in behind a tour bus and followed him down the mountain. We enjoyed a 9 pm dinner at the hotel in Nasca where we were allowed to camp on the lawn.
Next day was an easy drive to Lima but the whole way we kept patting Piolin and talking nice to him in hopes that the growl in the rear end stayed there and didn't turn into parts on the highway. We are now safe and sound in Lima and the car is safe and sound at the Volkswagen repair shop!
We will stay here for 2 weeks, awaiting the arrival of Erik and Jason, friends who will join us for 10 days and another whirlwind trip to Cusco.
Love to all, Loralee and Larry
Dear family and friends,
We are doing well, and wanted to let you know since you have no doubt heard about the unrest in Peru. We experienced a strike of Transportistas when retrieving our car. About the same time a strike of the teachers throughout all of Peru started. It expanded to include the health workers and the farm workers. This strike began just a few days ago, the first we heard of it, was when we were about to leave Arequipa. The staff at the place we were staying told us all the roads were blocked so we stayed on another day, checking with the news. There were actually 35 road blocks through out the country. By the next day, the president declared a state of emergency and presto, the roads were open. We headed out and went as far as Puno, on lake Titicaca. We saw evidence of the roadblocks, but the journey was uneventful.
From Puno, we went to see the funeral towers built by the Incas and camped there at the site. The elevation there was about 15,000 feet and we did feel the lack of oxygen. It was a most interesting spot. We didn't much care for Puno, a very noisy dirty spot, the lake was polluted etc. and so we found our next stop very wonderful. Of course we had to buy a few trinkets while there, but the site was amazing and the people very friendly. We had a herd of sheep to keep us company while we camped. We even stayed warm in the cool nights of the high altitude. The towers, constructed by the Incas and some even before them, are made of carved stone, so perfectly fit, that scientists today can't figure out how they did it or how to reconstruct those that have been destroyed by earthquake and lightning.
Today, we are in Cusco, have found a wonderful hostel and a place to park the car. Mind you, it wasn't easy. Larry deserves a medal of driving, as we had to wind around the tiny one lane streets to find the garage. We found it on foot to begin with, driving there was clearly another matter. Of course the VW is complaining about the altitude, and also being a bit obstinate about going into first or second gear. This combined with hills too steep to climb with out making a run for it and ... we've headed to this cafe to have a beer or two, a pizza and a chance to let you know we are ok!
Oh yes, one more chance to bribe a cop. This time it was a signal! We got off a little cheaper, 50 Soles, about $17. Its a little game you see. First they catch you at something or at least make you believe they did. Then they tell you about the awful thing that will happen to you as a result. The first time it was impounding the car for 24 hours. This time, it was 350 Soles, and that of course "would inconvenience the Seņora," that would be me, and so maybe we could settle the problem right there. We conveniently had the 50 Soles bill ready and it worked just fine!!
The 30 day period declared by the president will give us a chance to plan our route etc. There really isn't any danger to us, just inconvenience.
Hello to everyone en Los Estados Unidos. We continue the saga. We are having the most unique and wonderful time in Peru. So far, we'd have to say it is our favorite country. We've been asked, "Do we speak mostly Spanish?" Oh yes, we actually find ourselves dreaming in Spanish! We run into a few travelers, mostly tour groups, a few individuals, mostly Europeans who speak English but that is it. Well we do talk to each other now and then.
We drove south from Lima to Ariquipa. We did the trip in three days, the first day to Lunahuana, a very little village off the beaten path, where we saw the first Inca ruin of the trip. A guide who spoke very rapidly, explained the history, of which we understood some. We drove on from there to Nasca, where the famous lines appear in the sand. We did not take the flight to see them from the air at this time because we plan to do that later when our visitors arrive. They are impressive even from the observation tower. They know very little about who made them or how they did it. The shapes and lines can only be appreciated from a great distance above, so how did they do that? These two days of driving and the one to follow were in very dry desert. The last day of driving was a long one as there was virtually nothing to see or stop for along the way. We arrived very late into Arequipa, it was dark and the center of the city was hard to find. Finally, finding the beautiful old square, we stopped to ask a policeman if he knew of a hotel where we could also park the car. He escorted us to a place of a friend, and lo and behold, it was wonderful. We were so tired and worried about the circumstances, that we were entirely grateful to pay the $35. That is the high end here for accomodations, but how much will two tired gringos pay for a hot shower!!!
The next day we started out to explore the city and find propane and laundry. We found the propane, but before we could find the laundry, a cop found us. That's right, we had to bribe our first cop of the trip. It cost us $20 but we are surprised it hasn't happened before now.
From Arequipa, we have taken a loop around to The Colca Canyon. We have spent 4 days doing it, all on very bad roads but the place is indescribable. Imagine the Swiss Alps with less snow, then glance down to a canyon which is said to be twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. From the rim, imagine Glacier Point in Yosemite with no railing. Then glance up and see a Condor soar over your head. Below the Condor, on the terraced slopes, crops are being harvested.
We sat in our campsite, next to a bull ring,used once a year, and wathced the burros, mules, llamas, horses and people carrying their crops to the town. They made many trips a day, bringing up the corn stalks. The animals were heavily loaded, they looked like cornstalks with four legs. Sometimes people themselves would be loaded in much the same manner. They dress in the same traditional way as their ancestors. We stayed over an extra day and just watched, we hope our picturesc can do this place justice, we hated to leave.
One other neat experience to relate, had to do with another night of late arrival. We stopped to ask at what we thought was a hotel. It turned out it was a restaurant but not a hotel, so the lady of the establishment came out, escorted me down the block, leaving Larry in the car to wonder what was going on. We chatted all the way over the two blocks to a hotel with parking, and on the way back, she asked if we would come to her restaurant for breakfast. We explained we were leaving very early, to see the Condors down the road a ways. No problem, they would serve us at 6 am. So at 6 am, we arrived. It turns out, (there were paint buckets on the floor the night before,) it was the first day of business, and we were the first customers. Larry went back to the car after we ate, and got a crisp dollar bill out of the car. We gave it to them, explaining the custom in the USA of framing the first dollar made. It was really fun, they were so sweet. We took pictures and there were hugs all around before we left.
The people of Peru, both the modern folks of the cities and the indians of the mountains, have treated us so well and are so curious and friendly, all except that one cop!!!
Yesterday, we drove again most of the day on bad gravel road. Not more than an hour into the day, we came across two young men who had had a wreck with their small delivery truck.
This had happened the day before, they had managed to right the truck after it had tipped over. However, it was stuck in the ditch. They wanted us to pull them out with Piolin but we declined, explaining that the engine was just too small. While Larry and the two kids, (early 20's) decided what to do, I made them some sandwiches, they hadn't eaten since the day before, and gave them bottles of water. We all pushed, I steered with one hand and pushed with the other, (heh, I am woman) and behold, we got the truck out of the ditch. We helped push it uphill !!!!!!! so they could start it on the downhill side. We hoped for the best and moved on!! Just one more of the many reasons we are NOT BORED on this trip.
We remain in high spirits and good health. From here it is on to Puno on Lake Titicaca and from there to Cusco. Much love to all and keep in touch, we do so love to hear from everyone, and we try to answer when we can.
Love from Loralee and Larry
yep, we managed to get our car out of the container and safely in the driveway at the nice hotel we are staying in. It has been interesting. Let's see, where to begin... first there was a strike of transportation workers--truck and bus drivers. That tied up the whole dock as far as unloading containers because the truck drivers take the containers from the dock to the warehousing area. So the strike held us up for a few days, but not badly.
I think we suffered more from the incompetence of our shipping line, P&O Nedlloyd. The Panama office of the company gave us the wrong address for the Lima office!! We lost a day just finding them--thank goodness for the yellow pages. Once we found them in their new offices, they sent us out to the port to begin dealing with a container that was still on the dock--not where we could get at it. So we spent most of Friday spinning our wheels between the shipping agent and the customs office--Loralee adds, "what wheels?"
Once we understood about the strike and that we probably weren't going to accomplish anything until Monday, we went back to our room and planned fun stuff for the week-end.
We lucked out with a really comfortable bed and breakfast that is a couple of blocks from the Lima office of South American Explorers Club. The SAE office was the first stop we made when we got into town and Leda and her staff of volunteers have made us feel very welcome. They have a whole beautiful house full of resources for the traveler and they speak English! A great group.
We settled into a Hostel the first night and then moved on to another the second. We have been very near the center of Miraflores, the upper end suburb of Lima that has everything that you could want and a very pleasant ambiance to boot. Weather has been very pleasant also after the steamy tropics of Panama.
Over the weekend we caught a couple of museums and the zoo and took it easy.
It took us until Tuesday to realize that the strike was over on Saturday and our container was waiting for us to come see it. Over the next two days we went to Customs and the shipping company and the shipping agent and another shipping agent several times. It was a hassle, but really only a two day hassle. We understand that it takes up to three weeks in some ports!! We would like to avoid that experience, if possible.
Wednesday we got our car out of the warehouse and drove across Lima during rush hour traffic in the dark! You all have been talking about adventure and that is a bag full good enough for several days, thanks. We made it and spent most of yesterday provisioning and taking care of lots of odds and ends.
A highlight of yesterday was a trip to Los Olivos to the Taverna San Roque. The owners are Oswaldo and Rosa Carpio, parents of our daughter's good friends, Ginny and Caroline. It was truly a joy to finally meet these wonderful people and now we understand why Ginny and Caro are the sweet caring people they are. Their parents couldn't have been nicer to us, especially since we just dropped in on them! We will be around Peru for a while, so we look forward to stopping by and spending more time with them.
Today we are moving out of our room and heading south along the coast of Peru to begin seeing some of the country outside of Lima. There are lots of things yet to do here in Lima, but we are saving some of them for when our guests arrive starting next month.
Hi, The experience of retrieving the car was monumental in my way of thinking. Yes, it only took 3 days once we got the strike behind us, but the frustration of being sent here, there, and back again seemed endless. The taxi rides were something else and I canīt really decide which is worse, trying to drive through these streets or sitting in the back seat while someone else does it! You see, there are no rules here. Well, there are, but no one cares. A stop sign means slow down and shift to second. A stop light means, stop if you see major traffic headed your way, or just hurry up and go through anyway, usually you will make it. A double yellow line means you have to squeeze a little harder to get 4 lanes of traffic into three, a cop standing on the corner tooting his whistle means absolutely nothing. A left turn lane, complete with arrow on the pavement means that you can, (though you might not) turn left and so will the next 3 lanes, though not necessarily. The right hand is for shifting, the left for tooting the horn continuously so steering can be a challange. This is the big city!!!
We will be a month in the mountains here and there. We'll E when we can, all the best to everyone. By the way, some of our newly acquired friends have asked for our newsletter. You can retrieve any of our past editions from our daughter Marni. Their family website has them all. www.blakelyhome.com
Love to all, Loralee and Larry
Hello family and friends,
We left you at the Panama Canal. After our last communication, we did indeed get to ride through Miraflores Locks. What a thrill. Thanks to Russell, our host, we had a once in a lifetime experience. We went through with three other boats, we were rafted to a workboat which kept us lined up correctly while the water went down. There are two locks there at Miraflores, and once through them, we proceeded under the Bridge of the Americas and out to Balboa Yacht Club. We disembarked to a water taxi and went ashore. Wow, we are still pinching ourselves.
Speaking of pinching ourselves, our next adventure was to fly from Panama City to Bocas Town on the island of Colon where we went by water taxi to a smaller island, Isla Carenero to find our little thatched cottage--the Honeymoon Suite--waiting for us. The small resort, run by an American couple was really quaint. We enjoyed an all day excursion by boat to various sites for snorkeling and viewing critters, ( we saw a little red frog and a sloth, we aren't sure how many toes he had). We also took a water taxi up a river the next day, to see the sights, it was mostly agricultural and very tropical. We flew back to Panama City thinking we really lucked out.
Then, next morning at 4:30 we prepared to depart from the same little airport for another flight, this time to the San Blas Islands. Wow, the air strip where we landed was the entire length of a very small island, the airport was a little cane shack with two benches for waiting. The wheels touched down about 6 inches from the edged of the water and we found out why, all the runway was needed for braking room. We were met by our host, Ausberto, a Kuna indian. He took us in his launch,(a hollowed log canoe) with a 10 hp Yamaha on the back. When we arrived, we discovered that this was a private island, in his family for at least 3 generations, and we were the only guests. We were shown to our Cabina, a cane hut on the beach with a table, two plastic chairs and two beds. No running water, no electricity. But, just outside our door, the most beautiful beach imaginable. We swam, sat under palm trees, and were served 3 meals a day, (fish, fish, and more fish)as we kept pinching ourselves again. The whole family was involved in making sure we were taken care of. We went out fishing the first day and watched two young boys spear fish. They threw one fish after the other into the boat, and then up came crab, langostino, and more fish. The second day we went to the village on a near by island. Very interesting people who live on 48 of 350 islands. The islands are very small, some only big enough for one house. We bought Molas from the wife of "our family" and she nearly cried and gave me a hug in gratitude. Life is simple and very tough for these people in many ways. However, this family was so much better off by having their own island than the people of the town who were all crammed together on their island with no room for expansion. The Panamanian Government has set aside the islands as a reservation for the Kuna people so no developers can come in and sell off the real estate.
We flew back to Panama City today. We came out to the yacht club to do laundry and internet and tomorrow we are off to Lima.
Thanks to everyone for the emails--keep those cards and letters coming!! More from Peru, Love, L and L