Time well wasted

Thursday, July 31, 2008
Witness something truly majestic
This was number one on Morgan Freeman's list of things to do before dying from the movie the Bucket List. I'm pretty sure that so far, Machu Picchu is probably the coolest thing I've ever seen in my life. And not just the city, but the surrounding mountains, and getting to see the sun rise over them. I took a fairly ridiculous number of pictures here.

Cal and I's first day there we hiked Mt. Putukusi. It's a nearby mountain that overlooks MP - and you don't see the city until you get to the very top. My first view of it is the black and white picture at the bottom of my last post. It was amazing.

Cal and I on Putukusi

The next day we left for MP before dawn and got up to the city in time to see the sun rise over the Andes.

We then climbed Huayna Picchu.

Apparently I figured my legs could take another hike, so I went up Machu Picchu.

It was a long freggin hike. I had no idea when I started how long it was, but I certainly didn't expect it to be that long. Compare it with the view from Huayna Picchu to see the differences in altitude - and Huayna was a difficult hike. My legs hurt for days afterward, but it was completely worth it. Certainly the most majestic view I've seen to date.

posted by Brian @ 9:04 AM   1 comments
Friday, July 25, 2008
Cuzcotopia - oh yeah!
Country 2 – Peru

It’s going to be really hard to choose which pictures to post of Peru, it was such an amazing country. So this will probably end up being a few different posts.
We got to Cuzco and I liked it immediately. It has so much character. Our first day was spent exploring. We had an early flight in and our train to Machu Picchu left early the next morning. The weather in Cuzco is crazy. Early mornings it’s freezing – literally. It could be 30 or 40 degrees when we got up. But in the afternoon it could easily be in the 70’s. The fluctuations made it very difficult to dress – but the lack of clothing options due to no luggage made it easy. However, I knew I’d need a stocking cap. There are crappy little shops selling “alpaca” wares all over the city. We found one hidden out of the way that had some of the nicest people working there. I’m not sure if the hat really is 100% alpaca, but I don’t really care. It was soft and warm. We came back later in the trip to buy more stuff, and these were the only people I didn’t haggle with. They were too nice. When I asked Berta if I could get a picture with her and my hat she was more than happy to, even grabbing some more stuff around the store for me and some for her to make a good picture. She gave me her card and asked if I’d send her a copy of the picture. So now I’ve got to figure out how to send something to Peru.

The Plaza de Armas (which is like a downtown or central square to us) was very interesting. With some really old churches and original Incan walls as well as some great restaurants and bars.

The food in Cuzco was fantastic - and cheap! I think our most expensive meal was probably $26 (for the two of us) as compared with probably $50 in Costa Rica. Most meals were around $15 or less for both of us and a beer was rarely ever more than $2. Jack’s (an American place) had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. We ate a bit of Peruvian food as well, including alpaca steak and cuy (guinea pig).

Mountain biking was kind of a random decision - it wasn't something we had planned on, but it was definitely well worth it. Some of the best views of the trip were on this excursion.

Amazingly this picture is unaltered - in any way. A lot of pictures I adjust the shadow level to give the pictures a more realistic, less washed-out-by-the-sun look. Not this one, the sky really was that blue.

We also visited some ruins other than Machu Picchu. The name of these sounds remarkably like "sexy woman" which everyone makes the joke about.

And of course there was Machu Picchu, but that will wait for another day. But as a preview of what's to come, this was my first view of the city.

posted by Brian @ 8:17 AM   2 comments
Monday, July 21, 2008
What am I, an astronaut?
Occasionally I randomly (or not so randomly) choose a college and look at job openings to see what I'll be qualified for once I eventually leave the U of A. I found this gem at Belmont University. It's a Student Services Coordinator (which is just vague enough to involve almost anything. Here's the description of the working conditions (with comments added)

Sedentary work (sweet). Occasionally requires standing (well f), lifting(sedentary my ass), pulling(tug of war?), pushing(I hope it's small children), carrying and climbing(climbing? seriously? Hot), reaching both high and low(how high?). Frequently requires walking(done) and balancing(wait, at the same time?). Constantly requires sitting(I'm a fantastic sitter), repetitious finger and wrist movement(crocheting?), speaking clearly(I tend to mumble), hearing conversations(does this job involve spying?), hearing with acuity(my hearing is more obtuse - bad math joke), seeing near and far with depth perception and color vision (my vision, much like my sense of humor, is off-color).

I think I'll have to cross this one off my list sadly.
posted by Brian @ 10:11 AM   2 comments
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Oh man, it's tired in here...
So I wrote this post on the plane ride back, but I just keep forgetting to post it, so here goes.

In the first 25 years of my life I left the country once – to Canada. On Friday I set foot in 4 countries in one day (of course 2 of them were just airports, but the point remains). It feels like I’ve been gone forever, but it’s only been two weeks. It was an amazing trip, and I’m also so glad to be home. Traveling to countries like we did really opens your eyes to the blessings we have in the US. Little things you don’t think of like drinking tap water or having signs on the highway to tell you where to turn.

Anyway, the trip. Every time I pack for somewhere it takes me forever. And people tell me to hurry up and that if I forget something then I can get it wherever I’m going. Not true in SA. Cal and I were left without luggage for 3 days, and I forgot my camera battery charger (which for someone who loves to take pictures as much as I do – it’s heart wrenching when the first of your 2 batteries dies 2 days into the trip and you realize you have no way to recharge it). Sure I was able to buy some clothing so I didn’t smell all the time. But it’s remarkably hard to find underwear and socks.

The camera situation turned out to be not too bad. I used Cal’s some, and eventually just said screw it and took as many pictures as I wanted. My camera’s low battery light started to flash as I was taking the last pictures I wanted to take of the Plaza on the last night of the trip. All in all I took nearly 800 pictures over the course of 2 weeks, Cal took a few hundred as well. I’ve narrowed them down to my favorite 100 or so pictures which you can see on my picasa site http://picasaweb.google.com/bsrickard/CostaRicaAndPeru and a few will follow in blogs about the trip.

Country #1 – Costa Rica
Cal and I decided for a summer vacation going only somewhere with no beaches where its winter is just silly. And after many words of praise from Wes and an amazing flight deal, we decided on Costa Rica. Almost everyone in this country spoke at least some English. I was amazed. We got of the plane and headed for Dollar Rent A Car. Having a car in this country was very nice, and at the same time scary as hell. The drivers here are mad men – but not as bad as Peru actually. Anyway, the drive from San Jose to Quepos is very cool – either driving through the hilly rain forest or along the Pacific Coast line. We stayed in a town near Costa Rica’s smallest national park. But although small it was very cool. Walking through the park toward the first of many beaches we came along this little guy

I have no idea what it is, but he was not scared of us.
We hiked to a beach our last day before our flight out and where the only people there when we arrived. A few more came later, but probably no more than 5 or 6 people.

It was here we saw the most monkeys. They were all over a tree right near us and didn’t seem to mind me getting close enough for some pictures.

Hiking away from the beach we stumbled upon some more monkeys.

We also saw a few big lizards.

And some amazing views while hiking.

All in all it was a quick few days in Costa Rica, but they were definitely fun. We drank lots of Imperial beer and had some of the best nachos ever at a restaurant that’s made out of an old army plane.

I wrote a Peru post on the plane ride as well, so I'll be posting that one soon.
posted by Brian @ 8:03 AM   2 comments
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