Category Archives: Sherri Jo Wilkins

To Bolivia, mysterious Tiwanaku and Back again

KTM’s on the loose!  Petar and I have two different objectives.  He wants to continue his South American adventure by traveling through Bolivia.  I don’t want to go back to Bolivia for anything, however it was the shortest distance for me to travel to renew my Peruvian visa.  Petar worked long and hard to convince me to travel with him to Bolivia, I can tell you!  I really really don’t want to go back to that country. (I would have gone East to Brazil instead) He enticed me with some mysterious ruins called Tiwanaku, north of La Paz.  Okay then, I will only go that far into Bolivia, then I’m turning around and riding right back out!  Agreed.

We left Cusco at 7 AM knowing we could get across the border and into Copacabana, Bolivia by dinner: 528 km including a border crossing.  The sun goes down around 5:30 pm at this time of year.

Roadside stop at Lake Titicaca

Lots of grass for 4 little legs sticking out.  The highway for donkey’s along the highway..

Fast track to the Peru/Bolivia border at Lake Titicaca.

I liked these guys.  One of those super easy border crossings, the kind we always wish for.

The cops outside were always flirting with me while Petar was inside doing his paperwork.  I diverted their attention by getting them to pose with Petar instead when he came out.  Smart thinking Sherri Jo! 😉

A very short road from the border in to Copacabana.  After 2 or 3 stops checking hostels and not finding what we wanted either due to price or lack of safe parking, we chose to have dinner on the lake while the sun went down and sort out a place to stay after.  Fresh Trucha (trout!)  Very fresh and very good….

These guys were wanting us to move our bikes.. They feel they have a space reserved for one of their friends.. Hmpfh! No worries, there is plenty of room and they are drunk.  Easier to just move..

We had found a place to tuck the bikes into for the night. It included a standard stale piece of bread with margarine (yuck) for breakfast, and a very weak cup of tea.

We set off for the day..One last photo of Copacabana..

As we travel, I learn that Lake Titicaca, which was on my left, is on my right as well.  I did not know this before, but there is a north and south section of the lake and we will be crossing over by ferry.

I look at the lake and it’s hard to remember just how high we are.  Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3812 meters (12,506 ft).

This was funny.  Which ferry boat do we pick?  A couple guys wave Petar down to board the ferry with the bus.. Makes sense.

I waited and watched.  He got on, and they said, “No, No!”  They want us on another boat.  I could tell Petar was frustrated.

OK.. this one will work, we didn’t have to change again..

From the ferry I took a photo of my favorite Cocaina (oops I mean Coka Quina) drink… love it!

Our piece of stale bread isn’t holding up.. So we pull over quickly for a snack.  Petar really wants a Snickers bar, and well, it’s sort of a favorite of mine as well.

The lady here swears she has Snickers in her shop!  Now, where did she put them??

The lady also lives in this shop. Her little baby couldn’t take her eyes off us.

Whew! The Snickers bar did the trick, we are off and running!  Once we got away from the lake, it was a little bit boring, so we were on a mission and whizzing past the vans.

Petar is out of cash and wants to go to La Paz for the ATM (Cajero Automatica).  I plead with him.. Please! Don’t go there! The traffic in that city is mental!  If we go in, it will take hours to get out just to get some money.  Surely there is a another village with money before La Paz.  (Nope).. Okay then, take my money! I’d rather give money away than ride into La Paz.. seriously!!

I lost the battle.  Petar was in front riding fast and before we knew it we were on the outskirts of La Paz.  I was angry in my helmet, he knew it and started asking locals straight way where he’d find an ATM.  They directed us to the first big cross road.  Good news!  There were 3 banks on this corner, saving us from riding all the way into the big city!  Thank the Lord… Hallelujah!

OK, I’m happy again.. don’t those Andes Mountains look great in the distance!?! 😉 We pulled over on the road going north again toward the Tiwanaku Ruins.  I was on this road just a few weeks ago with Barton and Dean and we flew right past the ruins, didn’t even know they were here.

Tiwanaku, (Spanish: Tiahuanaco and Tiahuanacu) is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia. Tiwanaku is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire, flourishing as the ritual and administrative capital of a major state power for approximately five hundred years. The ruins of the ancient city state are near the south-eastern shore of Lake Titicaca about 72 km (45 mi) west of La Paz.  Wikipedia.

Sit the chairs right in the middle of the train tracks.. why not?  Anything they can do for some excitement for when the train comes through Tiwanaku Bolivia…

And the boys below, I loved watching.  One of them has found a mirror and was completely entertained by the sharp hot point he could paint on the house wall.

Petar and I made a big mistake.  We drove past the ruins and decided to check into a hostel we found online early, so that our gear can be locked up while we explore.  Then, we were really really hungry.  We thought we would get a quick sandwich before wandering the ruins for the next 2 or 3 hours.  There was nowhere to eat in this town!  We asked and asked, until we came across this one lonely restaurant.  Or is it??

It seems a bit odd and we are not sure to follow the wall into somebodies back yard.  But sure enough, that is where we found a little room to sit and order a meal!  We ordered chicken and chips (french fries).  The only other option was trucha (trout), but we had that last night.

I’m fairly sure we heard the chicken take the ax… and once our meal came out of the hut below, I can tell you it was VERY good!  We waited a fair while for it, but it didn’t matter once we were eating.

Now the mistake that we made was that we missed seeing the ruins.  Once we wandered back to the entrance around 4:45, the guards explained that we can not enter because they close at 5 PM. Bugger!

Here’s a photo of the ruins I took through the fence!  I do like that stone work! 😉

Now what’s worse, is that they don’t have internet here.  We can’t explore the ruins.. We’ve already eaten.. what can we possible do in this town????

Have a look around, what else!

Wow.. this is it.. Rush hour in Tiwanaku…

If that is Jesus in the center piece window of the Catholic church, he’s not having a good day. And.. I’m not feelin’ the love!

The next morning we were the first ones to walk in the gate of the ruins.  Once we were inside, this man wants to sell us his souvenirs on the outside of the fence.  I appreciated that man, because he doesn’t just sit and wait for you to walk out of the place and browse his crafts along with 10 other groups with the same crafts.. He goes and GETS his business!

First we walk toward this ancient mud pyramid.  Mud can only last so long so there’s not much left of it.

Akapana Pyramid, Tiwanaku

What they did better was build even greater structures with stone.

Gate to the Sun, Tiwanaku

Much of the architecture of the site is in a poor state of preservation, having been subjected to looting and amateur excavations attempting to locate valuables since shortly after Tiwanaku’s fall. This destruction continued during the Spanish conquest and colonial period. During the 19th century and early 20th century, destruction included quarrying stone for building and railroad construction and target practice by military personnel. Wikipedia.

This old piece not only had graffiti carved into it from a Japanese tourist, but was deteriorating from the wildlife.  I suppose if you want to see these interesting ruins, you better get here quick!

There is still a lot of mystery about Tiwanku, so Petar and I speculate at every stop.  My theory sticks with the aliens.  I reckon the ruins in the photo below is of a petrified spaceship…..the proof is in the windows! 😉

Gate to the Moon, Tiwanku

The post below appears to be important.  With a closer look, there are seem to be some important carvings on it.  However, they are letting it erode instead.  I think if they could at least put a roof over it, it might last longer, but maybe they don’t think it’s worth it?

Temple Kalasasaya – Political and Spiritual Center

Lots of head figures in the plaza.  Must be from the dignitaries that ruled here so long ago.

Tiwanaku sculpture is comprised typically of blocky column-like figures with huge, flat square eyes, and detailed with shallow relief carving. They are often holding ritual objects. Some have been found holding severed heads. These images suggest ritual human beheading, which correlate with the discovery of headless skeletons found under the Akapana pyramid. Wikipedia.

I have to admit, I’m glad I came to Bolivia and saw Tiwanaku ruins. They are VERY different to the many sites I’ve visited in Peru or anywhere else in the world.  It’s mind-boggling to imagine how these civilizations lived at this high elevation.  To carry or drag or whatever they did to move those large stones into place in a region that is hard enough to just breathe.

I said my goodbye’s to Petar and I’m on my own once again.  With a late start, I’ll cross the border and stay the night in Puno. Then carry on home to Cusco the day after.

I did take one small diversion after Puno to a place called Sillustani.  It’s supposed to be an impressive complex of funerary tombs! This is something I’ve not seen in any other of the sites visited lately. (You can see them on the hill in the photo below)

They were built by both the Kolla and Inca cultures, which developed in the Sillustani region during the time of the Inca’s.

These cultures had peculiar burial customs for their nobles: chiefs and priests were buried in funeral towers called ‘Chullpa’ which means tomb.  According to historical sources, the body was first mummified and then placed in the tomb in a fetal position.  Additionally the women most dear to them, their servants, and favorite animals were sacrificed and buried with them. Geez! How much would that suck!? Also placed in the tomb were their most valuable possessions for example gold and silver objects, ceramic utensils and food.  This strange burial custom can be explained by the cultures belief that the dead pass on to another life. I’m just wondering if anyone in that culture ever noticed that the spoons and gold never did move on to another life?

It was a long walk from town to wander around the tombs.  I was quite honestly not interested in paying the entrance fee and wandering around even more ruins.  It’s sad really, but this happened to me in Turkey.. I swore if I saw another ancient Greek amphitheater I’d scream!  The same is happening here. I’m guilty of being a bit spoiled for travel and all the great things I get to see. I know now lucky I am, but not today.  I took a couple photos from the road, and then loved my surroundings even more.

The funeraries are on the hill behind my bike.

The communities out here are unique.  I really like them, they look comfortable.

From what I can tell, under each gate is four homes. You can see the double bulls on the roof’s to ward off the evil spirits.

That’s not what I think it is up ahead, is it?

Yep, the live sheep are tied to the roof.  It’s very sad, and I told this sheep “sorry” when I passed by and hoped it wouldn’t be too much longer before they let him and the others down.

Guess what.. I’m back in Peru.  How do I know?  They are dancing in the street.. well, the highway this time!  Peru is just one big party.. all the time.  That is what I’ve learned of my time here..! 😉

The good news?  I get to take that little track between the poles for Motocicletas.. and avoid the toll.. I love the countries that do this.  Paying a small toll is never fast or easy on the bike.

And through the lovely and bustling town of Juliaca..

My fuel stop today.  This lady was so nice, I enjoyed talking to her.

Here is a serious example of not to believe road signs.  Well into Peru, it says the Cusco is 1366 km from here.. What??  It’s only 640 km if I rode all the way from La Paz Bolivia.. How did I gain that many KM’s?  I didn’t.. my gps is more correct for once.  But this was worth a photo.  Always best to double check distances to prepare for fuel, but gee whiz, this one was far too far out of whack.

Nearly back to Cusco.  The road is always full of dogs along the way.  They don’t seem to be hungry, and I can only think they lay along the road for the heat of the pavement.

Only a small 5 day diversion to update my visa. But it was nice. I really enjoy traveling with Petar and I got to see more things I hadn’t seen the first time through.  Petar carried on to Uyuni where he visited Kevin’s memorial, which was nice to see the photos he passed on to me.  Now I’m really looking forward to being on the road again soon full time when I start my way to Brazil and the Amazon.  Ciao!


Cusco, Moray and Chinchero Peru

I really needed to find a place to stay in Cusco where I could have my motorcycle with me.  Too many sleepless nights in the other place worrying about whether my bike survived another night 2 blocks away.  So after scouring the entire town, I found a place where the owner (who hit and damaged my bike pannier.. and then fixed it no worries) was so kind to give me a super great deal for long term stay.  And on top of that I gained a much more peaceful place with a view!

Four days before I moved here, I got the dreaded Inca Bug.  You can see by the lack of hygiene practices here with food how easy that would be.  I did my best to avoid it.. but it got me bad. I have never been so sick in my life. I could not eat a thing. Even so I was up all day and all night throwing up.  And during this time I needed to move to the new place.  I made the most awful mistake.

On these small streets you can not stop any vehicle for more than a second before every single car behind you is blaring their horns.  Come on! Give me a chance to shut the door!  When the taxi dropped me off with all my gear, I paid him with all the horns blaring behind me, and barely able to move from being so horribly sick, I crawled out of the taxi and left my helmet in the seat next to me (where I purposely placed it to protect the visor).

It was hours before I realized I did this.  Staying in the same place was a friend, Scott Hughes and his son Owen.  Scott has been traveling South America on his Kawasaki KLR and introduced himself to me in Chile a couple months ago.

Today is my birthday and they invited me to a mad game of Rummy.  As much as I’d like to just lay in my bed, I haven’t had anybody to talk to in English for days.

Anyway, while playing cards, a thought just popped up in my head.. “Where is my helmet?”  I have many other things, back pack, camera, gloves, riding boots, etc etc.  Why the heck I got this thought without even thinking about my gear I have no idea.

I ran up to my room and sure enough, it’s not here!  I ran to the staff.. did I leave my helmet here at ‘Recepcion’?  “No, Senorita Sherri. No hay cazco aqui”  Shi….  Only then did I realize what I’ve done.  Lord have Mercy, how could I be so dumb.

The days following I looked at every single moto on the streets of Cusco to see if they were wearing a black helmet that says “Sherri Jo” on the back.  Nada. The staff took me to the thieves market on Saturday morning where you can likely recover your stolen phone, camera or backpack.. Nada.  This is something I can’t play around with.  If I don’t have a helmet, I can’t leave.  A supersize policeman put me on the back of his very small 100cc motorcycle with a shonky oversized helmet and took me to “motorcycle street”.. where you can find any moto related shops.  They had one sort-of decent helmet, but all were made very cheaply in China.  When I researched this brand, it was not recommended for safety.  My only choice came down to ordering a new one from the United States with higher safety standards.. this was important to me.  What a bummer, and a whole lot of money I didn’t want to spend. Happy Birthday Sherri Jo….

Another friend came to town, Petar Rikic from Croatia.  I met him in Quito Ecuador while traveling with Kevin. From all the time alone in Cusco, it’s so good to have friends around now.  We had so much fun and went NIGHTLY to our favorite local hangout for beers. And young Petar won’t let you off until you play pool with him at Norton Rats on the plaza.

Jeff, the owner, rode here from USA on his Norton many years ago and decided to stay. He has kept a book here for Moto-Adventurers to sign over 12 years. Not only was it an honor to sign it myself, (I made it to the very last page in a book with some of the greatest well known riders of the world), but it’s such a great record of history from many whom I’ve met personally.  I even found Kevin’s signature from when he was here in March while I was in Chile. That brought a tear.. It’s a fascinating book to look through while having a beer (or two).

Petar and I set out for the markets.. I have been many times, but this is his first to this particular market (San Pedro) in Cusco.  Part of what gives me the thrill of traveling the world is seeing how other people live and what they eat. This market has a great “gasp” factor.  If you don’t like photos of dead things, you might pass on the following photos.

 Little tiny frogs for sale.

Cheese!

 Cow noses?  I asked twice.. it’s for making soup!

Those are the worst I will show you.  There are other animal pieces and parts that I’d rather not include…

The good luck clay bulls.. Usually you see them placed on the roof of houses to ward off bad spirits. Not selling too well today??

Some fairly disturbing mannequins to help sell childrens clothes.

As I walk around town, I still can’t help but to scan every person on a motorcycle for my helmet. I’m completely prepared for when I encounter them.  Traffic is slow enough I can stop them with a karate chop!  Whack!  Then I’m pulling that helmet off while they’re on the ground.  Let them call the police over. it’s mine and I can prove it! (I’d never actually do this, I’d be too scared, but these are the thoughts that went through my mind.. 😉

The streets around the plaza are closed again today, this time for protests.. And one that I agree with!  They are marching with their dogs for the protection of animals.. Hallelujah!!

Petar is super keen to get out on the bikes and explore the dirt roads around here.  He is so young (22) and super persuasive!  “Come, on.. let’s ride! Let’s ride! Come on….please please please???”  I was reluctant because I am missing an important component.. the helmet! But, I have to admit, I could really use some time away on the bike.  So! With the thinking cap on I went the next morning to ask the moto shops that rent bikes if I can borrow a helmet.  That was easy!  Got the helmet, told Petar, and he was over on his bike in a flash.  “Are you ready yet? Are you ready yet?!”  Yes, Petar.. I’ve been waiting on you!!  Ha!

Just a day trip today.. my KTM looks so weird without the panniers on!

Petar and I decided to buy the 3 Ruins pass.. which includes entry into Ollantaytambo, Moray, and Chinchero.  On the ride, it didn’t take long for us to just pull over and enjoy the view of the mountains ahead.

An even nicer view into the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Oops, we’re not there yet.  We are spending more time enjoying views and taking photos outside before even getting to the ruins!

Aha.. here is Moray.. finally!

Moray is thought to be the site of agricultural experiments.  From Wikipedia: The purpose of these depressions is uncertain, but their depth and orientation with respect to wind and sun creates a temperature difference of as much as 15 °C (27 °F) between the top and bottom. This large temperature difference was possibly used by the Inca to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops. In other words, Moray was perhaps an Inca agricultural experiment station. As with many other Inca sites, it also has a sophisticated irrigation system.

Moray was one place I was really wanting to see, so check that one off the list.

One of my favorite photos of Petar as we are riding the dirt tracks away from Moray.  The markets have the gasp factor, but so do the roads around here.

On this dirt road when the sun poked out behind the clouds, a quick photo of a young girl and her lambs.

Through the village and back out on to the main road toward Cusco where we’ll make one last stop to Chinchero.

We had to park the bikes several streets away from the Chinchero ruins.  I feel bad that I cut Petar’s head off, but I remember this and wanted to include this old lady passing by.  As she marched by quickly, her stare just screamed.. “Damn foreigners..”  Ha!  In our riding gear, we do look like space aliens in comparison to their clothes.

In town there is a definite contrast to the Inca construction and what the Spanish built right on top.

Lots of art and souvenirs in this town as well.  I loved these dolls, nearly bought a couple, but as usual, refrained…. no space on the bike!

The Chinchero Inca ruins below, Catholic Spanish Church built on top.

It seems like this door might be a bit ‘drafty’…

As usual, crawling around on the ruins lets my imagination run wild.  What is this place that I’m sitting on.. Did they do sacrifices here? It’s quite disturbing that is where my mind goes.. I’ve seen too many movies.. ;-/

While on the ruins, I was wondering what those women are doing in the field.

They are working on potatoes!  From what I can tell, they are drying them. The barefoot lady is turning them with her feet.

Suns starting to get low.. we better start making our way back to the bikes.

Back in the village and I love seeing the locals in their traditional dress.  These clothes are really beautiful.  Each piece is hand died, hand woven and takes weeks to make just one piece.

I caught these two girls doing their homework and texting.  The quickly hid the mobile phone… gotcha!  I won’t tell your parents, don’t worry…

This lady is spinning that nice red wool.  I asked her how they get the deep red color and she told me from beetles.  Beetles!?!  I don’t know how that works, and I didn’t see any personally.. so maybe?

The kids are playing marbles near the bikes.  Marbles are great, and I think I’ve seen kids play with them in nearly every country except in the western world (where each child seems to have electronic toys instead from my observation).

While I was preparing to get on the bike with helmet and gloves, these gorgeous girls came up quietly and asked if I would be interested in their bracelets.  I just happened to be in the mood for a new bracelet.. so I bought two!  That is something that I can buy that won’t take up any space on the bike..

And there ya go!  A day out around Peru with Petar!

Back home again to Cusco…

Back to El Balcon, and Talo the owner peeks his head out the door to see who’s making noises in his parking space.  Sola yo, Talo, La Gringa!! 😉

Once I tucked my bike away, there was Young Petar still waiting at the door.  Let’s go on another ride, Please Please Please!!  Lord have Mercy, boy!  Look at that face!

I did have a lot of fun today… I’ve been in town too long and it felt really good to be riding and exploring again.  So I said… Yes!  Where’s next!?!  I know where he wants to go.. I’ll tell ya in the next post..


Riding to Machu Picchu, Peru!

The three of us ride our motorcycles into Cusco with no intentions of hanging around other than getting some super desperately needed laundry clean.  I will return to Cusco later. We are so close to one of the main reasons for being in this part of the world. Machu Picchu !!!!

We all have been trying to figure out for ages how to RIDE the motorcycles to Machu. Kevin and I have been looking for information online ever since we were in Colombia! Barton and Dean had the same results, the info they were getting wasn’t totally clear.  So, is it possible or not? The road that goes there is cut off on google maps as well.  We chose to ride to Ollantaytambo as we heard there is an American man who lives there and might give us more clear instructions.

Ollantaytambo, Peru

Ollantaytambo is only 67 km from Cusco, so we took our time getting here.  And what a beautiful ride it is!  Once we were here we met the guy and made a plan to stay the night in this gorgeous little town.  We want to leave the majority of our belongings behind and only carry a backpack of gear we will need for the next 2 or 3 days to Machu and back.

Barton travels on a small 8 litre fuel tank so Dean shares some of his gas and we take off after a nice big breakfast! (Recommendation:  Hearts Cafe, Ollantaytambo)

About half of the journey is on paved roads and the other half is dirt.  Even though the weather was great in “tambo”, it is cold and misty riding over the mountain pass. If you’re into switchbacks, you’ll get your fill of them here on this road.

I caught the last glimpse of a local woman in her traditional clothes walking up to her house.  I really love this about Peru.  So much of the world, no matter what corner you are in, have given in to western dress.  These clothes are natural, colorful and all hand made.

It was raining enough that I kept the camera tucked away.  Once we got to the lower elevation again, the rain stopped and the roads turned to dirt..

We wanted to keep the bikes light because we heard that the dirt roads would be quite tough.  So far they haven’t been, but we thought it smart to get the fuel in the one and only little place to get it (Santa Rosa) just to be sure we can get out again.

And look!  You can choose between 84 and 90 Octane, way out here!! 😉

It’s always a pleasure to fill the tanks from a bucket.. ha!

Just after Santa Rosa, you take a left turn.  There was a small sign, however the locals were funny in the way they all knew to point us in the right direction without even asking.

Hmm, I can take the road through the water, or catch on to the little bridge.  I vote bridge, and surprisingly so did the guys.  I would have bet money they’d prefer the harder way just to be boys!

The road just gets more and more amazing. I’m honestly not a fan of riding through the small cold mountain streams, they are so slippery.  But the road itself is my favorite type of riding.  Hard pack dirt with little gravel and a bit of beauty and challenge (especially when you have to pass somebody) to come with it.

We’ve now come to Santa Teresa.  There were two suggestions of how to handle the trip from here.  One is to find a hostel to sleep and park the bike for the night, then take a little bus with lots of backpackers to Hidroelectrica where you can either catch the train or hike the train tracks. (This is the most common way for backpackers as the train from Cusco is around $400 USD if I remember, and the same train from Ollantaytambo is around $200 USD).  Option two, is RIDE the bike to Hidroelectrica, and walk the train tracks (FREE!) so we can spend the night in Agua Calientes.  You have to come through Agua to visit the ruins, there is no other way.  And if we stay the night here, we can get an early start for Machu Picchu in the morning.  That’s what we picked.  The first option would be more secure parking for the bikes, but we’ve stripped most of our belongings and the rest comes with us in the backpacks. Other than the bikes themselves which we have triple locked together, there is nothing else to steal. So we chose option #2.

Which way do we go now?  Always a guess when we arrive a new town.

 Santa Teresa, Peru

Let me guess, we are getting close to Hidroelectrica??

Wow, I’ve never seen such forceful water pouring out of a hole in the rock like that before.

At the end of the road is the office and where you can board the train.  This is not an official way of doing it, but we asked the guards here if we could leave our bikes tucked behind the shed for a couple days.  They had no issue with it.  We’ve since given these instructions to other riders who also stored the bikes here and reported back with no dramas.  If they do happen to say no in the future, just go back and park at Santa Teresa as it’s not far by taxi or bus and keep it safely parked there instead.

Now we change clothes and hike along the railroad tracks to Agua Calientes.  There is a train to take us there, but the last one has already gone for the day.  And we’d really rather walk anyway, since it’s so beautiful here.

We hiked along the railroad tracks for 1 1/2 hours, before arriving Agua Calientes in the dark.  Once settled into a not-so-nice hostel in this very expensive only-for-tourists town, we went for a much deserved dinner.  I couldn’t help but to take a photo of the menu.  Translation is always funny and this one did not disappoint.  “Trout to the Male Thing” ?????

I didn’t go for Trout to the Male Thing.. I was a bit concerned what I’d get!  ;-/

Now, on to the main attraction, Machu Picchu.  To continue keeping it cheap, we chose to walk up to the entrance (about 45 minutes straight up) or you can pay 45 Soles (about $17 USD) for the bus.  I thought I’d rather hike, but it was a tough one!  However, check out the reward once arriving!!!!!

It is believed that Machu Picchu was built by the Inca Ruler, Pachacuti, as a royal retreat and religious sanctuary in 1460-70. They believe that because of the remote location, in high yet nearly impassable terrain above the Urubamba River, to be a place with ensured protection. The Incas were a regimented society. The scholars have their theories about Machu Picchu but little is known due to no written language ever being developed.  Archaeologists are still studying the site today.

I wandered around alone for a while and met a man, Edwin.  He keeps watch and his job to help rescue people, particularly when they fall off a cliff.  He tells me it happens more often than he’d like, particularly on the hike up to Wayna Picchu.

Anyway, I didn’t pay the big bucks for a guide. The entrance to Machu is 128 Peruvian Soles, which is around $50 USD!  I’m going to dob myself in here, but when I spend a lot on entrance like that, I get a bit sneaky when I want to hear a little history and I either stop or walk very slowly past the English speaking guides to other tour groups. (Not all the time, just occasionally.. promise!)  I was actually doing exactly that when Edwin introduced himself.. doh!

Then he just started talking a bit about the room we were in.

There is a small stone pool that was roped off, and he explained to me that this is how they did astronomy here.  They read the stars in the calm pool of water at night like a mirror.

Edwin sort of adopted me from here on (as much as his job would allow).  While chatting and looking down the mountain I can see the blue train and the track we walked last night to get here.  I had no idea at the time I was right below the ruins.

He took me into a tomb that was roped off and explained to me what they believe to be the history.  There is so much that is not understood at Machu Picchu. How much should I worry about following a strange man into a tomb at Machu Picchu?  I got along really well with him and gut instinct said he’s safe.  Until… he pulled out a snake!  Don’t take that the wrong way. 😉 He saw a snake scurry off into a crack in the wall and he grabbed the tale and pulled it back out.

He gave it to me and let me hold it.  I like snakes and this one is gorgeous and so friendly!

He/she (how can you tell??) wrapped itself around my wrist while Edwin kept telling me stories.  We walked out of the tomb and went to another little room where he explains where they do rituals and prayers.

Peruvians as well as Bolivians are really into their coca leaves and Edwin had a stash on him. (A reminder, they chew them and leave them in their mouths for energy).

Anyway Edwin gives me time to make my own silent prayer and offering, all the while, my snake friend is content on my wrist.

I will never remember the Quecha words he had me repeat (so I hope they meant good things) and I offered my 3 coca leaves (past, present and future).

Back out on the main path and he shows me a resident Chinchilla.  Cool!  I’ve never seen a Chinchilla in my life!  It’s up a bit too high to pet, but it sure looks soft. Chinchillas are on the endangered list in the wild because they’ve been hunted to near extinction for their fur.

Edwin is great, he is showing me so many places I don’t see any other tourists go.. how lucky is that!  There are many busloads of tourists here too!

These stairs take you to more of the famous agricultural terraces.

And this is a scary entrance to another tomb.  We didn’t go in this one.

Next up is a quartz wall.. Full of rose quartz. Edwin suggests I put my hands on the wall, feel the energy and make another wish.  My little snake friend is still wrapped around my wrist. I love this guy, I wish I could keep him! (I should clarity it’s the snake I’m talking about.. 😉

Edwin was fine with the snake, and even though he appears completely content, I’m not sure how you would know if a snake doesn’t want to ride around anymore!  So I asked Edwin to walk me back to where we found it.  We did and he went slithering into the crack he started before we pulled him out earlier.  Thanks little guy, it’s been fun having you around today.. 😉

I also said goodbye to Edwin.  He has been so kind and said there was no hurry to go, but he is paid to be there to help people and he’s spending all his time with me.  I think it was really special to meet him here today and I loved that I got a personal tour and learned so much!  I’m quite tired though and ready to climb back up the hill and just “sit” amongst the ruins alone.  Thanks again Edwin!!

Not long after I left Edwin, a mystic fog rolled in…

Shortly after the fog, a proper rain rolled in. Which was fantastic!  I didn’t take photos during the 30 minute rain, I just hung out under a rock and loved it.  But what was fantastic is the majority of the tourists up and left!  For real?  I wasn’t about to leave due to a little water, but they did.  Then I nearly had the place to myself.

Once the rain finished it was sunny skies again.  What fickle weather they have here!  But the tourists never came back.  This in itself made my experience at Machu even better.. So quiet and serene.

I’m just completely mesmerized by my surroundings and the resident llamas wander by.  Edwin had explained to me they keep 7 llamas on the property.  They are natural lawn mowers most importantly, but it also gives us tourists a closer look at these gorgeous animals.

The little baby gave me quite a flirty face, and I couldn’t help to take a photo.  I spent a fair amount of time with this little guy!

His parents/family are always nearby.

Up on the hill I sat and pondered and sat and pondered.  I really didn’t want to move. I normally don’t enjoy sitting still for very long, I get bored quite easy.  But not here, I was completely content to look at everything from my little perch.

With the sun setting, one last view before taking the same trail back down to Agua. I’ve really connected with this place.  I don’t want to leave.  I honestly feel like I just want to live here forever. If I ever have a recommendation of “must sees” in the world, this is it in A BIG WAY… 😉

After hiking back down the same trail to Agua for the night, I took the early train (6 AM) back to Hidroelectrica alone.  I appreciate so much being able to ride with Barton and Dean from Potosi Bolivia to here.  I really needed to not be alone on the motorcycle.  For whatever reason after what happened to Kevin I was fearful to ride solo again, at least for now.

So my day being nearly alone in Machu, I am ready to stay that way.  The boys are on a fast b-line to get north to Colombia and my goal is to stay around Cusco for a month or two to take a proper rest from the world, the bike, and the recent dramas to hopefully catch up on the blog.

Agua Calientes, Peru

I really enjoyed the short train ride and was well worth the $12 USD.

I met the same guards at the shack and they gave me my helmet and boots.  I geared up and was on my way back to Ollantaytambo in no time.  I have decided I would like to stay in “tambo” for an extra day or two.  I’ve got plenty of time now, and I got a good feel of the place when we were here earlier. There are lots of amazing ruins to climb around on too.

Love this road!!

My favorite, the fast cold water crossing.  Will I fall this morning!?  No!!!  I stayed dry this time, no worries…!!

Much better weather on the pass today.

 Peruvian highland life..

And back in Ollantaytambo for lunch and a wander.. Check out these walls in town.. I’m looking forward to calling it home for a couple days.

I’m glad to have the time to stop and hang out here for a bit. It’s been a super great trip to Machu Picchu. A life-long dream, more than worth waiting for!!

Hasta luego!


Potosi Bolivia Mine Experience

Around the Koala hostel in Potosi, Patrick and I met and talked to the owner of the place to see if he would know anybody who could help us build the memorial for Kevin.  The guys we found ourselves by asking in hardware shops really tried to put the screws to us.  Not only did the owner help us, he knew Kevin! What??  For real?  He said he remembered very well.  Kevin stayed here at the very same hostel in room #5. Neither Patrick or I knew that before.  The man told us Kevin was here alone, and said he had a big white helmet?  “Yes…” The owner knew we were talking about the same guy because the accident was a big story in the local news. He also said that Kevin was really quiet and seemed to be deep in thought a lot when he was here.  That made me even more sad.  I have stayed in a lot of hostels with Kevin and he is Mr. Sociable.  He is instant friends with everyone he meets and chats away. I wonder what he was thinking so much about. Interestingly, the last time we talked, we were making plans on meeting in Mendoza Argentina and I asked if he still wants to try to make it to Ushuaia when he gets here.  The season is getting late so he said “No, my only goal is to get to you.”  I thought that was very sweet, but I mention it here because he seemed very serious when he said it even though I didn’t think it was something to be concerned about then. His bike was not running well, which was ticking him off. So I know that could have concerned him, but I’m still surprised he was so quiet.

The hostel does one thing.. It sends young backpackers to the mine every day.  Like I said before, it is the only thing to “see” in Potosi if you don’t have the freedom to travel and explore by motorcycle like us.

The mountain in the photo below, is the mine.  Patrick had done it, everyone else are doing it, so I guess I should see it myself.

This small mountain called Cerro Rico has been mined full time since the 1500’s.  They’ve been able to pull heaps of silver out of it over the years, but it’s mostly dried up now.  I’m a bit nervous about going inside.  They tell me there are so many tunnels in the hill, that it’s like swiss cheese and could collapse in on itself.

However, I start the tour with other backpackers anyway. Our fist stop is to the miners shops. The one hill actually has several different syndicates, like miners unions.  They don’t get paid unless they pull something out.  Many miners work so hard for 12-15 hours per day, several days in a row without getting any bit of metal, silver or zinc!  AND, it’s up to them to have their own dynamite in order to find silver and make some money.

So the tour guide encourages us to buy dynamite as to give the miners as a gift.

 Tour guide and our purchase of dynamite stick and fuses

The miners are so poor and on top of the back-breaking work they do, they can not eat during all those hours while mining.  What goes in must come out.  The miners are so deep into the earth, they can’t come out for a toilet.  And they can’t keep a toilet inside the hill due to the methane gas it creates. So they survive on Coca leaves for energy.  We are also encouraged to buy them bags of leaves, a sweet drink and straight alcohol as gifts.

Then we’re led to the little opening in the rock to tour the mine.  I’m looking at that hole and already thinking that I really don’t want to go in there.

I have to admit, I have been so spoiled in my life.  I’ve been on some tours around the world, and they usually are full of annoying safety standards.. Now that I am faced with this quite possibly dangerous tour, I’m not real keen.  There is no path for viewing with safety ropes.  We have to walk amongst the miners, stop them and crawl through and over their carry carts while disrupting their work to get through.

Sheez, check out these conditions…

 

As we hunch and crawl through the tunnel, our guide hands out a bag of the coca leaves to the first man we see.

There are NO lights in this mine.  Any photo you see is only from of the flash of my camera.  We also carry a head torch, otherwise, it is pure black.  The dust is unreal, I don’t like breathing it in.  I’m wearing my bandana, but it’s not nice either.  The mine is really hot inside, breathing through the bandana and the heat with dust, I feel like I’m suffocating already.  I can NOT believe people come here and work 12-24 hours per day.  It’s SO cruel.

There was a young backpacker, an American college girl on our tour with her friends.  To her this was all a party.  She thought it was great.  I’m mentioning it because it annoyed me a fair bit.  We have our protective clothing on but she has her top open to her belly and her super size bra-less boobs hanging out as we walk through in a hunched over way, talking and laughing really loud.  Maybe the miners loved it, but I didn’t see the usual whistle and staring reaction.  Interestingly, these boys and men seemed dazed, no reaction to her or anyone else. The fact that they didn’t react to her flaunting her boobs is enough evidence to say the miners are in a bad way.

At around 20-30 minutes crawling through the dark dreadful mine, we stop at a large-ish hole in the rock for a break and some instruction that we are about to go down through another tunnel in the hill to a level where the temperature is around 40 degrees Celcius (104 F).  While listening to the guide, these young kids come through that tiny hole in the rock, dragging their large bags of heavy stone.  They looked about 13 years old.  I asked them if I could take a photo, and only this one said yes, the others did not want a photo.

I was so sad, and imagining if my own nephews the same age had to do work like this.  It was making me sick.  The young boys stopped in the same pocket that we were sitting, trying to clear their noses so they can breathe.  And a lot of coughing.  If I didn’t think it was cruel enough before, now I’ve had enough. I do not want or need to go down to the super hot level to see them work.  I’ve seen documentaries on t.v. about horrible lives, slaves, hardship, but to see it in my face is more than I can take.  I want out.  I’m happy to give them money and gifts to help them get through another day, but I don’t need to see any more.

An older man came out of that same hole a few minutes later and sat down next to me.  I asked him for a photo and he agreed.

It’s estimated that most miners life expectancy is 45-50 years old.  This man is 42, and he works alone.  Can you imagine being in a dark tunnel all day, all night alone.. ??  His jaw is full of coca leaves and his teeth are black.

A Swiss couple felt the same way I did and stopped with me.  While the 4 young Americans were thrilled to go further.

We crawled our way out and waited outside until their tour was over.

I didn’t like that at all, so being in the fresh air and sunlight made it easy to smile again.  Unfortunately for the miners, they have very little to smile about.  They don’t expect that hill to provide any more silver or income for the people of Potosi in less than 10 years.  After that, what will they do, where will they go.. will the town die off completely.

I asked our tour guide if there is another hill, or does the government have a plan at all.  He laughed and said No.  The only thing the government does is make sure they keep working on this hill.  It’s estimated since the mine started in 1545, around 8 million men have died inside this mine. 8 Million!!! So many lives for somebody else to get rich.

I diverted my attention to the super cute young puppy and then took the bus back to town for a lovely sunset.

I suppose it’s good to take the mine tour if you know your money and gifts can help the people.  I am ok with that and happy to help.  And it was good for opening my eyes to a world I never really knew existed. Of course I was aware it existed, but seeing and experiencing it first hand brought it to a new level, at least for me.  But I would not want to see it again.  I hope and pray no human being would ever have to work like that anywhere in world.  I am so sorry for them and wish there was something more I could do…


Galapagos Islands – Part 3

Good Galapagos Morning!  After a beautiful sleep in luxury, this is the first official full day on our boat tour.

It’s early disembark today and all days.  The way the Naturalist Guide has us scheduled each day is an early morning hike, and then back to boat mid day for lunch.  Return to shore either in the same location or another location for a snorkel with incredible sea creatures, kayak or another educational hike.  By law, each group on any hike in the Galapagos National Park is limited to 16 people. (Hence, most boats only carry 16 passengers, which is really nice!) This is a positive change from the big cruise ships that used to come here with thousands of passengers at a time destroying the place.

Our boat sailed over night to this location.  We take 2 dinghy’s with 8 people each.

Looks good!  But quite honestly, I am surprised to see buildings here?  I have this vision that all of the Galapagos is a national park.  It is mostly true, but there were communities here before and some of them remain.  Interesting story that we learned from our first day at the Charles Darwin center on San Cristobal.  This part of Ecuador was not highly regarded for most of it’s history.  It was too far from the mainland and the people couldn’t be bothered with it.  The people who did live here to fish and hunt were told they were no longer ALLOWED to once the area was protected. It was a major conflict to have strangers come in to tell the locals they can’t catch their own fish.  It is actually still a conflict today!  However, with the licenses they get and the small amount of fish they are able to catch, a fair amount of the locals have learned to make money off the tourists, therefore, taking them out on the fishing boats for a fee.  It helps I’m sure.  I can understand the locals frustration, but given the fate of Lonesome George, it’s obviously necessary.

We are visiting Santa Cruz Island this morning.  First we hop into a van for a drive to a super salty lagoon which is full of feeding flamingos.  Look, there goes one flying by now!

Birds of a feather..  3 different species of birds pairs in 1 shot!  For whatever reason and lack of research, I didn’t expect to see flamingos here (or anywhere outside the front yard of Florida residents… ha!)

Then they take us by van to another Charles Darwin research center, where they have a breeding project for the tortoises. The breeding plan is so we don’t have a repeat of Lonesome George‘s species.  Even with the amount of babies you see here, the species are still listed as ‘vulnerable’ today.

To me they look like a little army.

These little tortoises are several years old already.  It’s too bad that the biologists feel they need to have controlled breeding to ensure the species will survive.  There were originally 15 subspecies of tortoise in the Galapagos.  Since being exploited for meat and oil, plus the introduction of non-native rats and pigs, numbers declined dramatically with only 11 of the 15 subspecies surviving.  Since Lonesome George died, it’s now down to 10.  With this breeding program, there appears to be hope, for now anyway.

This one just got told he’s being released soon.. ;-)))

It’s fascinating to see the breeding center.  But Kevin is getting impatient.  He doesn’t want to see turtles in a cage.  We are in the wildest part of the world and he wants to see them in the wild!  I understand..

Back to the little village to board the dinghy and I’m fascinated watching the locals unload supplies.

Because the sea lions are on their boats watching too!

The sea lion in the photo below also reminds me of my dog.  Happy to sit and watch the world go by.

So that was the morning, very beautiful and interesting.  Returned to the boat for lunch, and along with a luxury boat comes luxury meals!  Yummm.  Not long after lunch we’re back to a different location on the island to explore again this afternoon.

Kevin, are those penguins!??  They are !!

Oooooo, big daddy penguin..

This is a tiny little dock, where we get off the dinghy.

They’ve certainly got quite the welcoming committee here.. Look!!  More penguins!!!!!!

I love penguins and don’t see them often enough.  I usually associate penguins with arctic climate, so I didn’t expect to see these guys here either!  (Ok, from the little bit of research I did on the Galapagos or from what I thought I knew, I expected the Boobies, Iguanas and Sea Lions.. that’s about it and anything on top is a bonus.  I am getting so many bonuses. 😉

The Galapagos Penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) is a penguin endemic to the Galapagos Islands. It is the only penguin that lives north of the equator in the wild; it can survive due to the cool temperatures resulting from the Humboldt Current and cool waters from great depths brought up by the Cromwell Current. The Galapagos Penguin is one of the banded penguins, the other species of which occur mostly on the coasts of mainland South America, and Africa. Wikipedia.

And then this sea lion was happy to see us too!

Somehow, I think this guy as NOT so happy to see us.. ;-(  I look at the eyes, and I see a prehistoric looking creature…and the evil grin.  Actually, maybe he is happy. 😉

What a unique landscape..

Don’t disturb me, I’m sun baking… Charles, I’ll take another Mai Tai.. ;-)))

One thing I would be surprised to see in my lifetime is the extinction of these marine iguanas.  They are everywhere.. in abundance!

Our group is well ahead of us as usual.  It was always tricky and my one little complaint.  I want to keep up with our naturalist guide to learn as much as possible.  He has a time frame to stick to and dinghy’s scheduled to pick us up. But we also didn’t want us to pass up anything too fast so we can watch and enjoy it better, more slowly, time for photos etc.

C’mon Kev! 😉

I shouldn’t tell you, but I have to tell you.  This happy guy is eating sea lion dung.

Looks to be quite a difficult task, but he seems happy!

Hmmm.. maybe this side is better..?

We’re coming up on a breeding beach.

The females are preparing to bury their eggs.  Isn’t that typical in all the world?  The women have to do all the work?? ;-)))

The sand is flyin’…  You go girl!!

Hmph.. what you lookin’ at..?  I’m just admiring your work.

This one seems to be watching over his harem.

Cheaters!  Awww.. it’s iguana love…

As we were leaving the beach, the slackers, Kevin and Sherri spotted a little baby sleeping in the bushes.  Using a branch to rest it’s little head.

This place is even more awesome than I expected.

Next stop is white tip shark alley.

Ahhh, there they are!

Sheez, they look amazing. You get it all here..!  They swim so peacefully.  We learned they feed during the night on reef fish by using electromagnetic pulses.. Smart sharks!  Unlike most other sharks, these white tips usually sleep during the day.

Now, the time has come to head back to our boat.

Fun fun fun!!

It’s hot and we’ve been sweating all day.  While sitting on the back deck, I dared Kevin to jump in to cool off.  I can tell by his face, he’s not so sure.

As he stares down into the water, he yells over for me to count down for him.. ha!  3…2….1 !!!

Another opportunity for sunset wine, before shower and dinner… I love my life.

Good Galapagos Night!!


Galapagos Islands – Part 2

We lined up early on the dock in San Cristobal Island to take the 7 AM water taxi to Puerto Ayora.  What a ride!!!!!  The water taxi was overly packed with people.  Luckily Kevin and I bought our tickets yesterday.  Even more lucky we got a part of the bench under a cover, because little did we know how choppy it would be and the passengers outside where hammered with early morning salt water!

For 2 hours we banged through the high waves, passengers were sick (we were not).  Every wave knocked all of us on top of each other.  Kevin, who was sitting to my left, didn’t mind because I’d end up on him.  However, I wasn’t keen about the much larger lady to my right landing on both of us!! It was actually quite comical.

The taxi eventually arrived Puerto Ayora, where it was calm and beautiful again.  We have very little luggage, so we just walked into town to where the organizers of our boat asked us to meet.  We are about 2 hours early, and the cafe actually had internet.. woo hoo!  So we used our time well while waiting.  Until the power went out for the entire island.  Then we just enjoyed a bit of shopping… and for one of us, an early midday beer!

We expected the other passengers in our group to meet at the same place. But two of the boat crew came into the restaurant, asked if we are Kevin and Sherri (that’s us!) and asked us to come with them.  Hmmm.. maybe everyone else is already on the boat then??

This is the first view of our new home for the next few days… Wow!!!

We get off the dinghy expecting to see the other passengers in the lounge, and there is nobody!  The boat is so beautiful!! We start running around, exploring and taking pictures of everything like two kids who just moved into a new house!!

Kevin and I both keep saying, “Can you believe this??!!”  I have honestly never seen or been on a boat so beautiful in my life.  And I have been on a lot of boats!  We feel like we have won the lottery as we keep exploring.

I asked Kevin, “Is it possible they got us wrong?  Did we answer to the crew of a different super VIP Luxury boat?

Nope, they have our name and want to show us to our cabin now.  Holy _____, we are loving this and get to live here for 6 whole days.. woo hoo!!

Compared to our horrible experience on the Independence from Panama, I think we actually did just win the lottery…

We get to our cabin, and it’s just as beautiful.  Kevin has now gone beyond excited and reached super goofy excited.  We have been riding and living together 24/7 for a while now.  We have stayed in some absolute dives, and we have stayed in some amazing places along the way.  But I honestly have never seen him so happy and goofy like he is now.

I remember taking this picture because I am in shock listening to him.. He keeps talking and carrying on like I’ve never known before.  I can even see my expression in this photo says, “Who is this guy???” 😉

The cabin is so awesome, we wonder then if they got us wrong again!  Well seriously, we would have been the last to book this boat, and at 50% discount, we expected the worst cabin, Or to be down below, in the engine room or dungeon.  But instead, we’ve got this large cabin and private bathroom with marble, glass and gorgeous wood.

Right about now, while we are unpacking, Kevin asks me where his new camera is (he’s been taking photos with his old one).  I don’t know, I haven’t seen you with it for a while though.  We rummage through every bag and every drawer, even though we don’t have much with us.  It’s definitely not here.   I asked him to think about the last time he saw it.  In the restaurant?  No…  You know what!  He was shopping for a waterproof bag for it and realized he set it down to look at the bag, bought the bag, but hasn’t seen the camera since!

Luckily the other passengers have not arrived.  The boat carries 16, so we are expecting 14 more people and every single one of them is on the same flight from mainland Ecuador to Baltra Airport.  Then they have to be taxied from the far north to us in the south port and are running very late.  The crew agree to take us back to shore by dinghy to go (hopefully) find his camera!

Whew!  The lady in the shop had his camera safely tucked away, thank goodness!!  Lucky boy..

Kevin saw this as an opportunity to stock up on a bit more beer and wine, as we anticipate it will be much cheaper to buy in the shops rather than on board.

Once we got back to the boat, the others have arrived and we meet our naturalist guide who lives on the boat as well.  He gives us all a briefing of what to expect each day.  This being day 1, he actually has a little excursion planned for us before we sail.

Back into the dinghy once again. We are going to the local part of Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we get our first educated look with a guide of what they are doing to protect this amazing part of the world.

Literally one of the first things we learn about is this toxic tree, Manzanillo.  They want to teach you up front so to be aware not only here, but on the other islands.  If you touch the bark or a leaf, it could cause itching and burning of your skin.  If you eat the fruit of this tree, which looks like apple (manzana), it can be fatal to humans.  Gee whiz!!  Got it.. Stay away from the Manzanillo tree…..!  I’m wondering if it’s more of a scare tactic to keep the tourists obeying the rules from the beginning.. ha!

Next up we get to see something extra special.  This is Lonesome George, the most famous tortoise in the Galapagos.  He is the last living tortoise of his kind and when he dies, will be officially extinct.  The scientists have tried many times to get George to mate with no luck.

OMG… I just looked up on the internet to verify what subspecies of tortoise is Lonesome George (the Pinta Island Tortoise) and I see that he died on June 24, 2012.  Although his exact age is unknown, he was believed to be around 100 years old.

That is really sad and I am thinking about how lucky (or unlucky) I am to be amongst the last to see a species before it’s extinct.  This in itself is incredible, but even more sad because the reason for the extinction is because they were hunted to death before the Galapagos were protected. Wow, I still can’t believe I just found out he’s gone.  Best get back to what else we see and learn.. ;-(

Ooooh, man.  Big yellow!!  I think this iguana looks like it’s wearing those rubber kitchen cleaning gloves with that saggy skin.

Our naturalist guide tells us about the next tortoises we see.  I find it hard to see the difference, but like any twins you first meet, they look identical!  However, once you get to know them, it’s usually easy to distinguish the difference. (I’m not there yet..)

There are heaps of tortoises here, but I like this one because it lays on the ground like my dog used to do at home… 😉

That was cool.  It was great to meet the others and get this party started!  After taking the dinghy back to the boat, we finally get to sail.

Kevin brings out the wine from our cabin and we enjoy a gorgeous Galapagos sunset before dinner. It turned out neither Kevin or I paid attention at our first briefing, because the crew was looking all over the boat for us.  Every passenger was sitting down for dinner inside waiting for us!  I, personally, was really embarrassed.  I don’t think Kevin was.. 😉

See you in the morning! ;-))))


Granada Nicaragua

We’re in!!  After 30 something countries on this journey, it’s still exciting to me every time the border officers let me in. They have the power to deny.  And then it’s another new country.. new territory for me to explore!  After crossing the border to Nicaragua, Mark and I decided to head straight to Granada.

It’s Walter!  He’s showing me that my credit card isn’t working here.  Big problem.  Well it’s a little problem really.  Every border crossing means I need to have the local currency to buy things. Usually I like to wait until I am in a town with an ATM so I can feel better about the exchange rate than using the dodgey people at the border willing to exchange money for us.   So until I reach town, I have been lucky that most fuel stations take credit card, even though they don’t like it.  Not this one!  Time to resort to  “El Banco de Mark”.  😉

Which is funny for me really.  For weeks I was the bank for Young James.  When I told James one day that the Sherri Jo bank was out of funds, Kevin became the bank for James.  And I used to tease them so much!  Now! It’s come back to haunt me, as I need to use Mark as the bank.  We are bikers.. we help each other, always. 😉

So Mark and I make it to Granada after navigating around the madness of Managua.  We had a bit of trouble finding a place to stay, but once we were settled, we head out to explore the town and find a much needed meal.

Testing out the new country and the new beer.  And our chicken that is served on banana chips!  Pretty good really from the grill on the street outside the Chinese restaurant in Nicaragua! 😉  But is was local Nicaraguan dish, not Chinese.  If you want Chinese food you order from the kitchen out the back.  We wanted Nicaraguan food from the same people on the sidewalk out the front.. ;-))  New country!

As we wandered the streets, guess who we ran into.. speak of the devils!!  Young James and Kevin!! I don’t have any photos of meeting up with them.  I think we got into more beers and catching up.  I do however have a couple photos from the night out of Kevin’s camera.

Would it shock you that this is Kevin’s photo!!??
The next morning we plan to meet up again for “brreake-fast”.. still trying to say/type it in a Scottish accent.  
Young James manages to meet up with his best friend from England.  Mark is trying to nurse a sore knee from his accident in Guatemala.  So Kevin and I set off to explore the town.

A morning walk leads us right into the markets.
  
Kevin is most amazed you can buy hair color along with your carrots and pineapple.  I was more attracted to the eye pencils with radishes myself. 😉

This is Kevin’s photo. We were trying to work out what the pink stuff was.  The lady explained to me you drink it, but I still don’t understand exactly what it is.  So Kevin bought some!  He carried this little pink bag forever.  I asked him every time he’d pull it out of his motorcycle if today was the day to try the pink stuff.  He’d look at it and say, “not yet”.  He eventually threw it out about 3 countries later. 😉  So it’s still a mystery to me what it is, but it’s very popular in the markets!

This cute little boy is selling baby chicks!

And this woman selling the big chicks..

We wandered into the plaza and fell in love with this little guy..

This man came up to us and said he would love to take us around us show us more.  We usually shy away from those guys but we both felt comfortable with this one and agreed it was a good idea.  If we learn a little or a lot, it’s still better than walking around and guessing what we are looking at.  So he’s hired!

First stop, (took no time to convince me) is a visit to the Cacao Museum… Chocolate!!!!!!

I learn to grind the cacao beans.

There is so much history inside the museum that shows how the Aztecs and Mayans used the cacao beans in their culture.  The history trail follows right through to “Mass Consumption” as they describe for the modern times in the United States.  Really good museum, well thought out.  I walked away with a bag of chocolate tea. (I would have fallen into the mass consumption category and bought heaps of chocolate, but it’s far too hot and will melt instantaneously). Kevin walked away with a new tea mug.. combined with my tea, we’re set!

The guide walks us down the “Calle del Beso”, the kissing street!  One thing he commented on with Kevin was that I should be on the inside wall of the sidewalk and the man should always protect the woman by walking on the outside. Kevin is only marginally shorter than I am, but he learned quickly that it feels better if he walks on the sidewalk next to me while I walk on the actual street for him to be taller.  I think we both looked at each other and laughed.

Check out the traffic around here.. you can see why the guide was trying to give us the best safety advice! 😉

Now another fun stop, that really perked Kevin’s ears up, a look into making Nicaraguan cigars!

The man shows us how it’s done and then offers to let you make your own.

I don’t smoke, but Kevin made one!

After you pick which leaves you want, you roll it, then it goes into a mold and you need to squish the ____ out of it…

A very proud cigar maker he is.. 😉

We actually need to get a move on.. After all that we have accomplished in one morning, the plan is to ride to the island of Ometepe yet today!

I got back to the hotel and Mark was sure he needed to give his knee a rest today.  So Kevin and I pack up for the island.  The humidity is crazy, and I dread putting on my hot riding gear.  But a quick goodbye to Mark for now and a very sweaty hug.  See you again Mark!

Kevin, hurry up!!  I need to get out of the street, the horses are coming! 

We leave Young James behind as well to enjoy a few days with his best friend from England.  And we’re off!


El Salvador and Honduras

It probably wouldn’t be a huge surprise after much communication and planning, Mark and I still managed to miss each other on the road in Guatemala to El Salvador.  I waited and waited but the time came for me to cross the border alone.

Adios Guatemala..    Hola El Salvador!!

The process of crossing the border with a motorcycle is always entertaining. And El Salvador did not disappoint!  The customs officer on the right asked me to marry him… Lucky me!

These guys were fun.. (it’s not often you can say that about border crossing officers)  I knew straight away I was going to like El Salvador.  I happened across a common problem.  The immigration office is closed for lunch.  Why do they do that?  They know people are showing up at the border all day long.  Why can’t they stagger the lunches so there is at least somebody working the entire day.  Instead, they all go to lunch together and lock the doors and a huge line builds up outside.  I seem to get lucky with showing up at lunch time far too often.  But my new future husband and his colleague have me hang out in their office and we discuss whether we are going to live in Australia or El Salvador.  “Sorry, I can not make that decision until I see your country!”  😉

Once the doors were open again for immigration, they treated me like a queen and I was walked past all the waiting truckers to be the first one to get my paperwork done. Wow.. Hallelujah!! I think I quite like the life of a rock star!! 😉  (very short lived, but beggars can’t be choosers.. 😉

When I walked out of the other immigration building past all the staring angry eyes of the other waiting truckers, I hear a motorcycle on the bridge.. It’s Mark!!  Finally!  I was worried, so I’m glad to see he made it.

The good news, is that since I have totally learned the process and made friends, it was a breeze to walk Mark to each counter he needed to visit.  And even better news, they treated him like a rock star too and sent him past the waiting truckers.  We are free!  (I put in 3 hours worth of border, Mark got through in I’d say less than 30 minutes!?) I am so glad for that! Now we can hit the road together and continue.

After spending so much time at the border, we only rode for a couple hours before the sun was going down.  The coastal towns were off the beaten track and we found a great place to stop for the night.

So here we are in a coastal village of El Salvador.  There are lots of very tan tourists with their surf boards and shell necklaces.  We came in the dark and left first thing in the morning.. No beach time for me. Am I jealous?!  Just for a moment and I’m over it.  I realized I have a motorcycle and they don’t..  ;-))))

Now, Mark is even more on a mission than I am.  I mentioned before that we need to get to Panama in time to cross the Darien Gap.  Mark has an actual booking for a boat and is running out of time.  I haven’t booked and I know I don’t want to go as early as he does, but it will be great to ride with him and catch up some miles.

The problem is:  El Salvador is totally gorgeous!  However we literally just buzz right through the country in 1 day..  So this blog post will simply be photos from the road. ;-(

I really know as I am riding down the road here I am missing something special.  But if I stop everywhere I love, I won’t meet my goal to be in Chile on time.

I have seen this in many countries.  A family’s harvest is dried on the shoulder of the road.  At first I thought it was a worry that you’d let your food dry on the side of a dirty road.  But it makes sense really, the flat long surface, which would heat up naturally by the sun and would make the drying process easier?  And quicker?  These crops are corn.  I’ve seen coffee beans, all sorts of beans really as well as the corn.

This might be a bit deep in thought, but I often think about these people who grow their own food for survival, not for fun.  And to think through the process of corn for example.  You nourish and grow your crop for weeks.  Harvest it, lay the corn out to dry.  Collect and grind it.  Bag it.. and then at some point you turn the corn into tortillas.  I have been very lucky in my life that if I want a tortilla, I go to the store and buy it.  But imagine if there was a major world crisis.  These people will be the ones who survive!  I’d be hopeless at working out a garden that I actually needed to support me.  I love to garden, but I don’t have to worry if my corn fails me this year.  (These are things that go through my brain inside my helmet as I ride… sorry!)

Local transport is not nice.  I like that they carry several people reducing traffic, but each truck is a choking mass of black exhaust.  These are so hard to ride behind and we try to get past as quick as possible.  I do my best to hold my breath.  Sometimes I can, other times I come close to passing out either from the smoke or lack of oxygen. 

Some have to walk.  I’m in a country were not only do few people own cars, few people own motorbikes, which I usually see as the back up option.  Quite often they are in horse and buggy which we see more of as we go south.

Bike? 😉

We stopped on the side of the road.  I was sitting on my bike and I saw this man walking toward us carrying the front of a truck. I thought he looked good so I took a photo.

Then this guy totally on the other side of the street and opposite intersection was whistling so loud.. Take a photo of me!!   Happy to!

Then the guys who had finished up their lunch stall were looking at me.  I felt guilty and added one more photo.  These are the lovely guys of El Salvador!

So that is all I can offer as a look into El Salvador. Really wish there was more!

We arrive the next border crossing, El Salvador into Honduras.

This one was relatively painless.  The beauty of going through these with somebody else is that one of us can wait in line and handle the paperwork for both bikers while the other stands guard over the bikes and gear.  I did the paperwork on this one.

At the next stop, it’s Mark’s turn for paperwork.  And the endless need for masses of photocopies of every document we own.  Mark is here at the photocopy shop near the Aduana.  We have a constant gripe as to why they can’t put the photocopy people in the same building or at least a building next to where they need them.  Usually we have to go on a crazy search for the things.  Recently I had to cross the border of one country without my bike to walk in to the photocopy place in the next country and then return back with the copies to the first country.  They would make more money if they just had a photocopier in the Aduana!  I’m happy to pay for the copies, I just don’t want to go on a wild search!  Besides the fact I actually carry loads of copies so I don’t have to do this.  Somehow they always want a copy of something different and something I don’t have.

My job to stand guard here…

We’re free!  On to the next stop.  There is no rhyme or reason to how or where they put the buildings you need to visit to accomplish the paper trail goal of each crossing.. sometimes each office is several kilometers apart.  And that is PER country!  The lengthy process to check out of the country we only spent a day in, is followed by the lengthy process to check into the next country just over the line.

More chaos ahead…

The line up for the border…

Hmmm.. this looks like a humdinger of a border crossing.. ;-/

This is the one and only time we hired a fixer to run around and do it for us.  It only cost us $10 ($5 each) and the man ran around to the offices with our passports and to the photocopy shop, etc etc.  Mark went along with the guy and I guarded the bikes.  We didn’t need to do this as we take pride in finding our own way.  But I’m not sure what came over us on this one.  Too many border crossings back to back? This was the third country in three days and we thought, heck it’s cheap and he help support the guy who is helping us. We had many borders after this that we did ourselves.  There was no problem using the fixer, but in general we’d rather save our money and do it ourselves.

After another very long hot wait, we are on the road again .. now in Honduras!

This guy didn’t make it too far.  I’m surprised I don’t see more of these cows accompanied by vultures.

I’m always thinking that I am so glad in my business life that I don’t have to make deliveries by Ox and cart.  The Ox have become more popular than horses for transport down this way.  I hope it’s not hard for them, but for me to see this is like taking that step back in time I am always wishing I could do.  And every time I see the oxen I think they are such strong and good looking animals.  But I don’t know how strong.  The big wood blocks across their necks to pull the cart look painful no matter how strong.  But maybe they are, I really don’t know.  ;-/

This is a very busy road with all forms of transport.

This a new one.. pig traffic!

So fun to see the young people excited for the bikes. I haven’t seen this much enthusiasm since Albania.

This kid carrying the wood home for cooking…

To see Marks version, check out
Mark’s blog El Salvador to Honduras

Adios Honduras.. next stop Nicaragua!


Guatemala!

I’ve studied my maps, I’ve looked at what I want to see on the way down, and I really need to keep on the move.  There is always something I need to get to, a goal to meet.  This one is to be to Chile by March 5 to meet up with the Husaberg Adventure Team.. I know it’s a long way off, but it’s also a long way from here!  I’m also checking ahead for how I’m going to get across the Darien Gap once I get to Panama.  My choices are a boat or airplane.  I’ve got a lot of figure out and so much research to do.

In the meantime.. keep going!! 😉

Southern Mexico is beautiful.. however, my road conditions are going a bit down hill..

Third post in a row with a partially missing road.. Would I have seen that stick if I was motoring along here at night?

Aha.. yes lovely photo of Sherri Jo.  The good news is that I have made it to the border of Guatemala.. woo hoo!!  One whole month of traveling through Mexico complete!  And I feel that I haven’t seen enough of it. I could stay so much longer!

This border crossing was funny. It’s at the end of this bridge where I locked my camera away and I didn’t dare bring it out.  There was this chain link fence at the border that had been totally cut through. People everywhere and no security at all!  I had to leave my bags and my bike unattended to go inside and stand in line.  Was not happy!

Once I made it to the counter, the customs (aduana) guy was not happy with my Australian documents and he sent me to a lawyer down the street in Guatemela to make a notarized copy of my own documents that have passed through 30 something countries by now.

The guy saw I was worried and not cool with walking away from my bike and gear to go for a wander around a dirty border town to find a lawyer to notarize a paper..  I don’t even have a passport stamp yet for Guatemala!  He was really trying to help, but he said if he didn’t do this, he could lose his job.  In a very poor country, I don’t want to be responsible for that either.  So we organized a security guard to watch the bike.  

My other big concern is for the first time on this journey, I have an oil leak. I’m in a small panic about it, never had one before!  However, I had done my research and there is a KTM shop in Guatemala City.

After about 3 hours at the border crossing.. sweating and overheating.. I’m free!  Since the camera was still locked away,  I didn’t pull it out yet.  All I could think of with this long delay was that I need to  hurry to get to Guatemala City before dark.

So!  This, I’m sure with the overheating, turned me into a mad woman on a motorcycle!!!

The road conditions in Guatemala were beyond bad.  Massive chuck holes.. and where there wasn’t a hole, there was a speed bump instead.  Add to that some seriously crazy traffic all heading to the same city that I am!  I just went wild.  I was riding fast, weaving in and out of traffic (as safe as possible), and surprisingly doing most of this standing up. The bike was kicking and bucking like a horse as we kept hitting the deep holes or very tall pointy speed bumps.  Because the road was so bad, there was no option to sit down.  And this is main highway! 

Welcome to Guatemala City!

The first thing I want to do is find the KTM shop.  I know it’s too late to go in and have the oil leak checked out, but if I can find it, then I’ll get a place to stay nearby.  Just in case this is a major deal, I can be near it and walk home.

The city was huge, the gps doesn’t work in the city and I’m going in circles.  But I found it!

And it was closed as expected.  Found a hostel just 2 blocks away.. I made it.  Sometimes it even amazes me. 

The owner moved her own car out of the way so I could park my bike inside.  I am quite concerned about the level of locks and gates, but the good news, we are in.

I met the KTM guys.. they would not know the problem unless they took the bike apart.  It was a little shop and they didn’t even have oil to do an oil change.  They were super nice and helpful as they could be, but I decided that I didn’t want them taking my bike apart.  It is only a little leak and according to most people I talked to online with KTMs, I am far more worried about it than I need to be.   Fine.

There is something about the way they celebrate Christmas around here that helped convince me to get out.

This is good because I don’t want to hang around in the big city.  Plus, a man contacted me on facebook that he is just down the road in Antigua, Guatemala.  I knew I wanted to go there already, so I pack up and go to meet him.

Arriving Antigua, Guatemala

This town is looking good!!

And I found Mark!  He rides a BMW f800gs.  Mark is here but his bike is not.  He’s had a small mishap with a ditch on the Guatemalan roads (shock) and his bike is in the BMW shop in Guatemala City.  So he’s been here in Antigua taking Spanish lessons while he waits.  Smart man!  He’s also organized for me to stay at the same hostel in town.  Which is awesome. Saves me a lot of work, just need to find the address and show up. All sorted, thanks Mark!

Since Mark has been here a while, he knows just where to go to find a good cheap meal for lunch.  This place was a classic!  You would have NO idea there was a little restaurant behind this little shop stocked full to the ceiling. You have to SQUEEZE behind the counter through a little door opening and there are 4 large tables in the back.  Mark has some great photos of the place in his blog link here: Radioman rides the World
I told Mark I saw some very good looking street markets on my way in. He knew exactly where and showed me!  

I got a bit enthusiastic and googly eyed over all the colors.. and wished so bad I could have at least something!   I bought a couple little colored bracelets.  I don’t have to make space for them on the bike.. Then!!  Mark, I can’t stand it!  I must buy something and send it home..! The pressure of not buying anything anywhere in the world must have been building up. He laughed knowing all to well that it’s nearly impossible to buy things for ourselves on the trip.  And he enjoyed watching me spend my money he says.  
This young girl was determined to sell me a scarf.  The most determined sales lady I have come across in a long time.  Her English was really good, and I kept telling her I don’t need a scarf.  Then she said I should buy 2!  This went on and on, she’d take every excuse I’d give her and then use it against me!  I got weak!  I was still in the buying mood even though I was trying to deny it.. and she knew it!  I bought 2 scarves.. One I still wear nearly every day here.
She saw me on the streets the next day.  I was wearing my new scarf and she said, “I thought you didn’t need a scarf!”  and kept walking.. ha!  
The good news it was all super cheap.  (I sent a few small things home, however, I don’t think my package ever made it)
Mark also keeps a great blog as he travels the world by motorcycle.
Radioman Blog Post Antigua Guatemala  It’s always worth reading a man’s point of view of shopping in the markets with Sherri Jo.. ha!
 View of La Merced from the roof of our hostel.
 
Now for some treats you don’t have to send home.  How could you not buy something sweet from this lady!

I love wandering this town and experiencing the culture.  It has a few similarities to the south of Mexico I just came from, but it is very different too.
Dinner time! Mark ordered a beer and I chose a Sangria.. Gee whiz, they must think I’m thirsty!

We actually went for Thai food tonight in Guatemala.. ha!!

A very busy barber shop for this time of night..

And if we were the type of tourist who didn’t want to try authentic Guatemalan Thai food, we could always go to McDonalds.  ;-/

Mark’s bike is nearly ready in Guatemala City and he’s keen to get there and make sure all is well.  I’m too in love with this town so I chose to stay and check it out more.  The next morning he grabs a bus to the city and I go and explore..  To read more of Marks blog, go to Radio man rides the World

I had to take a photo of this couple.  They were so happy in love.

I’ve decided to go check out a volcano hike that Mark has already done. He said he didn’t get to see much when he went due to the fog.  However, view or not, I could use a good hike up a steep hill just for some exercise! 

This is Volcan de Pacaya.  The last eruption??  May 27, 2010!!  My logic says it’s okay to hike because it will be a few years before the pressure builds up again.  I don’t know this, but it makes sense in my own head! 😉

I have never seen this before.  This tree has grown large enough, but it’s roots are on the outside, not in the ground.  The volcanic earth is too hot so for it to survive, the roots grow “up” on itself.  Interesting!

We had a guide on this hike, who was really good.  But I was enjoying so much his dog, Terri.

What the heck is he doing?

He explains that he gets in here when he gets cold.  It is a pocket of hot steam, like a sauna.  Then he asks if any of us would like to get in.. I will!

Oh man, it is sooo nice!!!  I think I’ll just stay here while the others hike! 😉

Walking out of the cloud line on our way back down the volcano.
 

Back on my rooftop in Antigua.. and looking back at the hill I just walked up today..

Went out looking for dinner and on this corner, I could choose from handmade tortillas, packaged marshmallows, or Dominoes Pizza!

I chose to meet Scott at the wine bar instead. So cultured and civilized! I’ll never fit in!! 😉 Scott was on my hike today and he happens to be from my home state of Indiana!  He’s taking a break from work and like Mark, was in Antigua to learn Spanish!  

I’m still wearing my new pink scarf.. And this lovely boy comes in to sell Chiclets as do millions of kids on the streets at night from Mexico down.  But this guy was special.  When I said no to his Chiclets, he turned the blinking lights on his hat and wiggled his eyebrows.  Gee whiz!  How many Chiclets have you got!  I bought 4 packets.. A new record for me!  I talked to him for quite a while, about the comic books he was carrying and what time does he go to school etc.  It bothers me to see children working at night.

Well the time has come to pack up and leave Antigua.  I loved it here, and it’s on a list of places I wouldn’t mind returning to someday.  I was thinking maybe I love these places so much because I am going through quickly.  If I stayed in one spot too long it might lose its charm.

The plan is to try to catch up with Mark now that his bike is fixed in Guatemala City.  However, the city is far too hard and slow to navigate so we arrange to meet somewhere on the road between here and the border of El Salvador.. I don’t know which would be harder!

While I was looking for Mark, I found this guy.  No idea what he’s doing out here, but he was sure he hasn’t seen a man on a white BMW! 


San Cristobal de Las Casas MEXICO

I’m getting close to the bottom of Mexico. From Puerto Escondido I ride to San Cristobal de Las Casas.. could they make that name any longer???

It feels great to be riding through the countryside of Mexico.. total freedom. Nice roads, not much traffic, happy days.

I stopped for fuel and said g’day to these pilgrims.  The men that pumped my fuel were just as keen to jump in!  They are all so full of energy, and…… happiness!!

I have passed so many groups of young people running along the road with a torch… barefoot!  I’ve asked and learned it’s a yearly pilgrimage in the name of the Virgen de Guadalupe.   Their destination is also San Cristobal (hope it’s okay to take off the last 3 words of the town name for now) and we still have a couple hundred kilometers to go.  I wondered who is the Virgen de Guadalupe?

She appeared in Mexico over 530 years ago.. and has since been the unity to the mostly Catholic nation.  I found the best explanation below:

SHE IS THE CRADLE OF MEXICANISM

Beginning to understand the intense relationship between Mexicans and La Virgen is to begin to understand the people of this great and confusing nation of contrasts

In ten years of oppression by the Spaniards, the Indians had been worn down, their spirit was broken, but relatively few had been baptized as Christians. Even those who had been converted to Catholicism missed the closeness of worshiping their own gods. They were separated from the Gods that belonged to them, that looked like them. They felt orphaned by their gods, and then adopted into a religion where they didn’t feel they belonged. When the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe appeared, brown skinned, and speaking a local language, they again had an object of worship that was their very own. She was a shield of the weak, help of the oppressed, the mother of orphans.

The appearance of Guadalupe on Tepeyac, the site of the destroyed Aztec temple of Tonantzin, the Mother Earth Goddess restored the dignity and the spirit of the people. Her arrival is said to mark the birth of a new land and a new people, neither European nor pre-hispanic, but both, the first product of the New World. Even her physical appearance announced the newness of this world, for her face looked neither like the Spanish nor the Indian. Her lovely features are the pleasant mixture of both – she is a Mestizo, the first Mexican.  This explanation plus lots more info in the link below.

http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1404-la-virgen-de-guadalupe-mother-of-all-mexico

Lunch time in the mountains of Mexico!  Not much to choose from, so just take what you can get when you see some smoke coming out of roadside shop.   And a good choice it is!!!

Super yummy, super nice lady who made sure I ate well.  She expressed (a lot) her concern for me traveling as a woman alone.  I assured her and I think convinced her, that really after this many countries on my motorcycle, I am fine!

Another group!  They are so dedicated, I can’t believe the way they are traveling. And I feel a bit guilty as many of them jump and cheer for me when I pass on the bike.  They really make me think about the sacrifices we can choose to make for whatever we believe in.

Another different group.  From looking at their flags or signs, they represent their church from either a region or a neighborhood in a particular town.

In the mountains I start encountering the indigenous Maya people.  I am so in love with their dress and colors.  Each village has their own laws, dress codes and languages. 

In the last post I showed part of a missing road on a different mountain pass.  This one at least has a warning sign.. most often they don’t!

Awww, man.  I got busted sneaking in a photo! 

I have been to Mexico several times when I was younger but it was either Yucatan or Puerto Vallarta.  Now that I am down in the south, the culture and dress has changed so much.  I really didn’t expect this, but I like it!

I’m not sure where that guy came from on the bike below.  So unusual around here!  A very clear contrast of traditional and modern lifestyle.

Finally got into San Cristobal right before the sun went down.  And now begins the job of finding a place to sleep tonight.

This photo with my bike the town seems so peaceful and quiet.. wrong!! What the photo can’t show is the continuous “POW!!” of homemade fireworks in the sky.. at all times, at all hours of the day and night. Wait until you see the streets tomorrow!

I’m only here 10 minutes and totally in love with this town.  I might have to stay 2 nights instead of 1. San Cristobal de Las Casas is considered the cultural capital of the state of Chiapas.. And I can see why!

At this gorgeous church is one the best party creations of all time, the Pinata!!!  Surprising to me, the adults were as much attacking it as the children were! I would have too !! 😉

And just outside this church on the street, I have a new favorite Mexican meal… Mmmmmmmm… LOVE IT!!!  Cheese empenadas with salad on top.. and they use beetroot here, even better!

The next day I walk around town witnessing group after group after group of pilgrims who are making their way to the Cathedral de la Virgen de Guadalupe. Many of these groups I would have passed on the road.  They are tired and dirty, but they still chant loudly their dedication to Guadalupe.

The only thing I can guess by the nice clothes and sneakers in the group below is they are from San Cristobal, and only had to meet this morning?  I really don’t know.  They really stand out compared to the others.

I climb up the hill where the Cathedral de la Virgen Guadelupe is and the crowds and food are going to make it that much harder for the pilgrims to get through to the altar inside.  This is quite the festival and again, it’s not just the locals, many people have come from far and wide to be here today.  I did too, however, I had no idea it was happening today.  I was just coming to San Cristobal because I heard it was a great town to see full of culture!

I needed to throw in this photo.  There is a man holding the hand of a little girl dressed for the Virgen and chanting her little heart out.. can we just discuss the shirt HE is wearing???!!!

The church is up the hill.. nearly there guys.  “Curiously, the power of belief in the Virgin of Guadalupe has little to do with membership or attendance in the church. In fact, it is said that while 89 of 100 Mexicans are Catholic, it is certain that 100 of 100 Mexicans are Guadalupanas, devotees to the Virgin.”  http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1404-la-virgen-de-guadalupe-mother-of-all-mexico

If you are not on the crowded path of the Virgen, San Cristobal de Las Casas is a gorgeous lovely town to visit. I feel like I want to stay longer.  It’s very charming.. BUT!  I am still as behind as I was and need to catch up.  I hope to return to this place someday.

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