Monday, October 31, 2005

Machu Picchu - last day!

OK - its the last day , the excitement is in the air...Hamilton can hardly contain himself and wants us to be the first to go.. oops im getting ahead of myself! The last day is very surreal in many ways! We all got up at 3am to get ready and to let the porters break down the camp very early. Our site is in a good situation in terms of where it is - close to the "gate" to get into the last section of the trek. Imagine about 20 groups with a range of tourists from 4 - 12, all getting up at the same time, all rushing to get to this "gate" to wait for the tourist police to arrive at 5am to "open the gate" and let us rush through to get down the mountain to Machu Picchu!

So we get up, dressed and still we have the fabulous breakfast - this morning its hot pancakes and fresh fruit- wild eh! You can feel the tension seriously, as we all fumble around in the dark and start queuing at the gate.At any one time there is only allowed to be 500 people on the trail - 200 trekkers and 300 guides and porters combined. So imagine all 200 plus trekkers waiting in this queue!

Then tada! The tourist police arrive and then - we´re off! Literally, it was ridiculous.. we were all walking, well pretty much running, on the trail, which is still a fair old hike, with giant stone steps and highs and lows.. we walked and walked and walked.. our group had a wee injury when Charlotte fell and hurt her ankle but Hamilton bandaged it up and she was amazing and a trouper and just kept going!

After about 2 hours we reached the enviable place we were all rushing for - The "Sun Gate" AKA Intipunka. This is where you are supposed to catch your first glimpse of the majestic Machu Picchu, and wait for the sun to rise over the encompassing mountains but duh - the darn clouds were in and we could only vaguely make out the amazing sights to come but hey, it was still great fun to catch your breath and watch all the other idiots to rush in to this one area and then realize we were all there, so just hang out for a bit and take it easy!

After a wee break, we headed onto the home stretch! The final triumphant descent took about an hour and then we were there!!! Honestly, considering the fact i was a bit worried it would be an anticlimax when i actually saw MP, it was INCREDIBLE!!! Words and pictures really cannot capture the size, beauty, magnitude and even surrounding mountain scapes in a way that would do it justice! This was WELL WORTH THE EFFORT!!!! All around you is 360 degrees of sheer beauty and nature at its best.

Def one of the most fantastic things i have ever seen. Hamilton took us on a tour (of course!) and we saw many different special Inca sites - the Alter of the Three Windows, the Condor Rock, Huayna Picchu (the mountain behind MP that guards it!) (just FYI the Incas chose their specific sites making sure that each one was protected by mountains all around it to keep it safe and sacred!).

Everyone was knackered but really happy we had all made it - in one piece! We had such a laugh! So true that when we had to say goodbye to Hamilton and Victor at Agua Caliente (the wee town below MP) i started crying when i gave him a hug (ok just a wee tear or two!) this then set off Charlotte and Jill and even Hamilton and Victor seemed a bit upset (of course i had been bugging them every single day saying - we are the BEST group you have EVER taken right folks!!).

Had a 2 hour train journey then got off at Ollantaytambo (our original starting point!) then another hour or so on the bus.

Went out for dinner with Angie in Cuzco, and we sat on a balcony watching the Halloween fireworks go off against the backdrop of the Cathedral in Cuzco centre. All the kids were dressed up and the town was buzzing! What a perfect end to an absolutely brilliant adventure!! Hope the rest of the South America trip can match this!!!

Talk soon - im off tomorrow to Ecuador to meet up with Dominique!!! Byeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Machu Picchu - Day 3

Got up on Sunday morning (had a giggle with Hamilton about finding the nearest church or at least an Inca temple as it was Sunday!) and headed off for Phuyupatamarca (Town above the clouds). This is a beautiful and well restored ruin about 3,500 metres above sea level and about 3 hours from our starting point. There are a number of beautiful, ceremonial baths with water running through them...the rest of the day was downhill (which i WAY prefer to uphill but it does a number on your knees). We went through the cloud forest and down hundreds (yes im not exaggerating!) hundreds of giant steps, for about 2-3 hours till we get to what Hamilton thinks is the most beautiful Inca ruin of all - Winaywayna (Forever Young!).

The third day is really a half day of sorts as you get to the last campsite (which was super busy as its the last stop before you head for the Sun Gate at 4am on the last morning....but more on that later!). We got to the site about 2ish, had another amazing lunch and then Angie and I (see the romantic pic of us below !!) went to explore the ruins....It was so beautiful, I loved it and it was so very peaceful too - again with Hamilton and the spiritual stuff but hey, i felt it, man!!! Of course, the peace and tranquility was somewhat ruined by the 2 Peruvian policemen who arrived and wanted to a) practice their English, b) quiz us on stuff and c) apparantly continue their long running history of being the "Peruvian Pervert Police"!!! (so Hamilton told us later - nothing dodgy just fancied themselves quite a bit!).

They asked us where we were from, how old we were, how much we made, were we married, single, how many children did we have, did we know how many children they had and that´s why they didnt sleep at night (nudge nudge wink wink!), how much money would someone like themselves make in a big city like New York....did we like to eat, they liked to eat a lot, and then one guy kept rubbing his rather rotund tummy.. blah blah it was quite funny at the time ...

And so to dinner (again!). We had a great chat and laugh and if i haven´t said this earlier we all heartily agreed with Charlotte that we had laughed our way across the Inca Trail - seriously you would think we had all been friends for years, we were so lucky to have such a fun group, who totally slagged each other off and yet looked out for each other (when Jill needed some oxygen after hyperventilating a wee bit, when Rachel needed some ra-ra when her knees hurt, when i was carrying the damn backpack .. yes that pack again! What a team!)

Hamilton brought out some red wine, and as there was a wee bar at this campsite we all sat and had some beers together and chatted away. The one slightly strange and awkward part of this evening was the official handing out of the tips to the porters, cooks, guides etc. We all pulled our tips together and the guides get a certain amount (more for Hamilton as the senior guide than to Victor our junior guide), then the next largest sums go to the cook (who is obviously amazing!) and the head porter (who basically organizes all the others). Then the porters themselves. They all come together and introduce themselves to us and Hamilton explains what everyone´s jobs are... then he hands out the cash and they all thank us and we thank them. These people work so incredibly hard to make our time on the trek an amazing one. You can´t change it because that´s how the system works, and you want to give these people as much money as possible to thank them for how hard they worked for you....but you do feel (i know i did) guilty that they are doing it all for you! Have i mentioned before that Hamilton explained the porters life is a better one for these men than their previous life as farmers and that they make more than professional people with their salary and tips (i dont care - its still not enough money!). I got really upset seeing some of the older men carrying way too much one day (it was for another company SAS who seem to make their porters carry way more than United Mice!). Our company does follow the regulations on how much a man should carry and how many men are required for a trek but its still a very strange dynamic knowing its all for us gringo tourists to enjoy ourselves....

Oh well, this is our last night and we are all sad its coming to an end but hey,tomorrow we get to see the real MP !!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Machu Picchu - Day 2

Got up at 6am to see about 10 llamas munching the grass around our tents without a care in the world! Had a fantastic breakfast - pancakes, banana oatmeal, crusty bread, tea, coffee and more - yes, you know its all about the food with me! Can you believe this is all happening on the edge of these gigantic steep mountains- wild! Check out Victor washing his hands before breakfast - teehee!

Many people say day 2 is the toughest so i was a bit worried but i absolutely loved it - the way you hike is like a giant M - very, very steep uphill for the morning then a wee break then equally steep downhill till lunch.. after lunch its the same again.. i have to say i thought these Inca folks were wee people (or at least no taller than me which as we all know is about 6ft right!). But the stone steps they built are ginormous .. dont know how they did it!

The views are incredible and almost impossible to capture on photo or in words. You feel like you are in a magical kingdom and its just amazing! When you look at where you are going to climb to, it seems almost unimaginable that you will make it (or at least that i would!) but then when you get there and look down to where you have been, you think - wow - that is just unbelievable that as humans we can actually do that... and so quickly too! Some of the climbs only took about 2-3 hours for each section and yet you seemed to be almost in the clouds!

On our second ascent after lunch, when we passed Warmiwanusca (Dead Womans Pass) and very high at over 4,100 metres, you are definitely gasping a wee bit here..... we were all asking Hamilton about any crazy or wild stories from the trek as he has been a guide for more than 4 years (it takes 5 years at university to learn all the aspects of guiding- from the flora and fauna expertize, to the knowledge of the Inca people, to the history of the Inca trail itself, a very well respected profession to become a guide on the Inca Trail.. and it seemed that not all guides are quite as passionate as Hamilton, which of course we were delighted about!). So... this is apparantly a true story. Some years back, when independant travelers could walk the Inca trail without a guide, a couple had been out and about walking ahead of a group. They had camped further on than the group one night. The next morning the guide from the group went ahead to check they were ready to go before he sent his group up to their area. He came upon the man, outside his tent, videoing the beautiful landscape, the guide said "Ola".. and was the man and his companion ready to pack up as his group would be coming soon. The man replied,¨"There was an accident in the night. My wife was shot". WHAT! The guide went into their tent and found the woman shot in the head... and the husband was outside, calmly saying an intruder must have come in while he was out taking photos! The woman was airlifted to the nearest hospital but died a few hours later and the man was taken into custody, apparantly having undertaken this dastardly deed for the insurance! I asked Hamilton if this was an Inca urban myth but he says it is a true story so there you go- even in the midst of thousands of year old history there is some good ole´ E True Hollywood gossip stories going around - who knew!

Our second nights camp was near Sayacmarca, (Dominant Town) a mere 3,580 metres this time! This time the campsite was a bit busier with other groups- and we all agreed we prefer having Machu Picchu to ourselves - oh well! Before you actually get to the campsite there is this amazing fort that looks down on to it, and we were told, if you want to go up and have a look there, for it! With my new found strength AKA without the backpack, i jumped right in. The views from the fort were really gorgeous! Hamilton had said to some of us "If you can manage it, take some time to be quiet, especially during part of the day´s trek, both at the fort and walking the 20 or so minutes to get to the campsite through the tree and flower covered stone will get so much more from the trek and if you are lucky, feel something special and almost spiritual¨. Well, you know me, very gullible but i did believe him as the places were so beautiful we were walking through, you almost couldnt help but be taken in by them... so i managed to be quiet for a wee while and definitely felt the pull of the Inca´s at that particular time!

We had a great dinner (see some of our lovely porters who laughed when they saw their pic!) and of course the big kettle for all our cups of tea... black tea is hard to get so we had to contend with either chamomile or coca tea (again for the altitude if you needed it!).

Did i tell you about United Mice the name yet? OK- so the original owner and his 3 colleagues were working away some years ago.. doing everything - guide, porter, cook, cleaner etc. One of the Australian tourists who was on the trek said¨"Hey you all remind me of wee mice running around like crazy, working so hard!" so apparantly the owner thought this was a great idea and named the company United Mice! Tada!!!

Ok enough for today - will write soon. Stefanie

Friday, October 28, 2005

Machu Picchu - Day 1

Ok - so today is the big day! I couldn´t sleep at all in excitement AKA dread for the big trek! Well, not really but I was a bit worried that I would make it through the 4 days.. anyway here goes with how it actaully went! I packed as lightly as I could (or so i thought!) as i was carrying my own backpack, thinking it would be deemed ¨lazy¨ or ¨high maintenance¨ to have a porter....hmmn slight problem right there but i´ll get to that later! Waited at the hostel lobby with some of my new found Inca Trek friends (4 fab Irish girls - Tara, Jill, Susan and Victoria all from Kildare, who were school friends from childhood, and are traveling around the world for a year together!) at 4am waiting for our ¨pick-up¨to arrive. Hamilton and Victor, our 2 guides, duly arrived and we all got into the bus that would take us about an hour or so to Ollantaytambo (which was where i had been the day before on my Sacred Valley tour!). Breakfast time here - a hearty one for all of us (teehee any excuse for food right!). As well as gelling with more of the United Mice team (that´s our tour company´s name -again more on that later!) - we had breakfast with Guy and Charlotte from London, who both work with the BBC, and Angie (soon to become my tent-mate, who runs a non-profit foundation in New York for low income people to be trained in banking and hopefully end up working with companies like Goldman Sachs etc. - very impresssive wouldn´t you agree!) we also purchased the necessary accoutrements for any Inca Trek hike - I hear you ask, what would they be? Well, if you are in the know, it would of course be the traditional Inca walking stick with attractive hand woven handle for the ultimate in comfort, a brightly colored poncho to cover both you and your backpack in the event of any sudden rainfall (in a delightful color of chartreuse of course to match my hiking pants!), coco leaves and this black gungky stuff to help with altitude sickness (you take 8-10 leaves, pick off all the stems, put a wee blob of the black stuff in the middle, then roll them up into a cigar shape and stick it under your gum to help with altitude sickness...(see how much i have learned!). Oh yes and of course about 16 Snickers bars which apparantly all "outdoorsy" types purchase to keep their energy levels up - who knew i was ahead of the game when i was chomping down all that chocolate living in Somerville!..

Oops- I digress as always! So then we all got back on the bus and continued our drive to the beginning of the trek. We went through tons of teeny wee villages waving and shouting "Ola" to the local folks - hmmmn im sure some of them were like - "buzz off you daft tourists", but hey, it feels nice to say "Hi".

So the starting point - we are at the head of the trail which is 2,750 metres (this height is important let me tell you!). I started feeling just a wee bitty nervous after looking around and seeing that i was the only person (apart from Angie whose pack was def smaller than mine! - hence the comment that i thought i had packed light!) who didnt have a porter to carry their rucksack.. hmmn. But I thought hey, get on with it girlie, you are made of strong stuff.. so i grabbed my pack and threw it over my shoulder! Felt fine at first.. yup, I could do this no problemo (see the Spanish coming through there!). Hmmmm but as time went on, and we continued to climb, climb and climb in the hills on these bluuddy massive stone steps (sorry but i thought the Incas were wee people - these steps were made for giants, well, definitely people talled than me!!) things started feeling a little heavier ...

We stopped for lunch at Wayllabamba and what a spread we had! Seriously, we start by washing our hands in these little bowls of cold water and soap, laid out for each of us,, then we get this amazing 3 course meal.. there is a definite weirdness of knowing that lots of these lovely, smiley wee men have to cart heavy heavy heavy (believe me you wouldnt believe it unless you saw what they did each day!) packs each day to make our experience on Macchu Pichu so wonderful - from gas tanks, to plates and cups, to the actual food itself, not to mention our tents. There were 12 of us on the trek and 16 porters and 2 guides.. you definitely feel guilty at times although we talked alot with Hamilton, our guide, about the porters lives and the fact although it is a hard life, it is in fact better than their previous ones of being farmers and that they make more than professional people like teachers etc, in the bigger cities (I still feel bad about it but Hamilton says its quite a privelige to be a porter these days - hmn not so sure about that!).

Wayllabamba was at 3,000 metres, so you could definitely feel the lungs working at that altitude! Lunch was over and it was time to hike the pack on again - everyone was super nice and said i would be the strongest girl in Scotland (yes i was really looking for that title!) but i walked with Rachel, another lovely member of the United Mice team, who had bad knees, so we just took our time and hung out with Victor, the second guide, and i kept teasing him that i would carry his oxygen tank (gulp - they need to have that in case someone needs it - and they did - not me but more on that later!) and he could carry my pack- yeh, good try Stefanie but the oxygen was wayyy heavier so i decided i was fine as is!

Our first camp night was at 4,200 metres, the highest we would ever be at on the 4 day hike and it was incredible - there were no other groups that night so we had this beautiful campsite all to ourselves, with lots of llamas grazing around us not in the slightest bit interested in our goings on, and the stars were just huge and so many of them! We all agreed we were so lucky to have such a brilliant group - as well as Hamilton and Victor, there were the 4 Irish girls I mentioned earlier, plus Guy, Charlotte, Angie and then Rachel and Al from Aberdeen who live in England and are traveling around the world for about 2 years almost !!(they sold everything including their house to do it - yikes!) and then Kiku and Rose from Barcelona - loved them! Kiku and I talked about football - Celtic and Barcelona- all the time and sang¨"You´ll never walk alone" each day - great fun!

To be honest - day 1 was probably one of the most strenuous things I have EVER done in my entire life.. the backpack was a BIG part of it i have to say.. but it was so worth it (ok i wasnt quite thinking that until I talked to Hamilton and he said i could pay for a porter for the next few days - at first i felt guilt, then complete and utter "Phew"-ness that i wouldnt have to carry the damn thing anymore - do i sound awful.....?

Everyone agreed it was a tough day but we all went to bed thinking, yes, bring on day 2 i´ll fill you in on that soon!

Bye for now - Stefanie

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Sacred Valley Tour

One quick note before I get started... it´s a little different typing a) on a Spanish keyboard where all your punctuation is in different places and b) where all the instructions are in Spanish which as you all know, I am still absolutely rubbish at .. but hey, I am rambling again and there is so much to fill you in on!

Oct 27th was my Sacred Valley tour. The Valle Sagrado, or Sacred Valley of he Rio Urubamba, is about 15 km north of Cuzco (as the condor flies apparantly!). The big places to see are Pisac and Ollantaytambo - both amazing Inca ruins. So I was off - from 8:30am till 7pm - definitely a jam packed day of Inca ruins, colourful markets with traditional crafts and great chat and travel tips from new found ¨trip¨friends I met on the bus!!

First stop - Qorao, not even a wee town really, just a market place where i befriended (through smiles and hand signals mainly!) the lovely lady you see in the pic. I got a fab, honest to goodness, alpaca wool hat to keep me warm, and the wee lady was delighted when she saw her pic - so happiness all round.

Second stop was in the Golden Eagle valley - just gorgeous with huge mountains all around us. Sandi - I have your pickle t-shirt shot here- will send you via email soon!

Third stop - a big one- was Pisac and then Pisac ruins. The town is very traditional with lots of arts and crafts for us gringos... yes, they do call us that and its not a bad word. It comes from when the Americans first came to South America and the indiginious people wanted them to leave so said "Green - go" which then became¨"Gringo"!!!. Pisac ruins lie high above the village itself (at 3800 metres) , with plunging gorges either side. We hiked up very steep and skinny steps t get to the terraces at the top, where the sites ceremonial center is - with an Intihuatana (or hitching post of the sun for those of you who dont speak Quechea, the local Andean language - teehee!). There are over 450,000 Inca burial tombs built into the rocks surrounding Pisac and its ruins, although almost all of them have been plundered over the years...

Went to a wee place called Colca for lunch - hmmn you could pick out your favourite guinea pig for lunch if you so desired- yes, this is a delicacy in many of the South American countries but i havent tried it yet (and dont know if i will to be honest!).

From Colca we went to Ollantaytambo. This town, dominated by a massive Inca fortress above it, is supposed to be the best surviving example of Inca city planning - lots of narrow cobblestone streets that have been and still are inhabited since the 13rh century! (Ok are some of you saying I need to stop reading so much of my Lonely Planet book and just give you some fun tid bits...! sorry if this is boring...) OK - just one last interesting fact - the rock used to build much of the ceremonial temples here is a red granite that had to be transported from a quarry over 6km away and let me tell, you there were tons of giant pieces of red granite that had been brought over- scientists said it would have required about 20-30,000 men to actually push the rock from there to the ceremonial sites.. phew no thanks - little too much like hard work here!!!

Last stop on the tour - before heading back to Cuzco for my pre-Inca trek meeting (yes its all go on this so-called "relaxing" do nothing holiday of mine) was Chinchero.. seen as a very spiritual place by the Andean people because the current - and very old- church is built on original Inca ruins from 1607. The church was lovely, decorated on the walls and ceilings with hand made dyes. ...

So - this was a brilliant day and i saw so much - thank goodness i write things down cos there is no way i would remember all of this (as most of you know, my memory is a complete sieve!).

Will talk again soon and let you know about Macchu Pichu! Stefanie

Another wee update from yesterday!

Hi all. It´s around 6:30am Cusco time and I thought I would get a quick jump on the ole´computer this morning as I didnt get to write too much last night because there was a massive queue in the hostel for the computers .. so here´s a few more wee charmers from yesterday. After I had unpacked a bit, I thought "Right, time to go adventuring and check out this wonderful and ancient city". So I open the door of the hostel, stepped outside, took a deep breath, and ...then - the damn pigeon pooped all down my brand new REI "sporty spice" jacket.. Hmmnn - an omen I think. It IS supposed to be a lucky sign I suppose so that´s how I´m interpreting it! I have attached a new photo - this is the view from the hostel bar.. not bad eh. Cusco is apparantly the undisputed archeological capital of the Americas as well as the continent´s oldest continuously inhabitated city. There are massive stone Inca walls lining the city streets, and the streets themselves are cobbled with some of them being very steep and narrow. I was walking past one of the wee squares yesterday evening and there were about 40 children, aged between 4-6 i think, all learning a new dance for an upcoming Creole Festival of all things. Their teacher, this very excitable flute player, was obviously running the show and doing a pretty good job with the kids, except for this one wee boy in a pink shirt who kept getting his left and right mixed up. It was hilarous - his pals kept trying to help him get it right and the teacher would come over and raise his hands, then they would all burst out laughing together. Sounds kinda corny but it was very funny to watch. OK enough of my ramblings.. again.. I´m to buy "un te y un churros de chocolate" down town before i start my tour at 8:30am..will try to post those shots tonight but if not, you won´t hear from me for a few days as I´ll be climbing all over Macchu Picchu. Wish me luck. Stefanie

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Finally arrived in Cusco!

Hi folks! So I´m really here. Flew in to Cusco from Lima today - bit of an olde journey but well worth it. Looking out the window I could see so many mountains - all humungous and they just stretched for hundreds of miles was incredible. Was picked up by Jess from my hostel, and had a nice chat with him - he is from New Zealand so no language problems there. The Spanish is pretty awful right now but fingers crossed it gets better. The photo i posted (if i did it right?) is the view from my room.. not bad eh! Took a walk around the town itself, very pretty, booked my tour for the Sacred Valley tomorrow then the big trek starts Friday morning. Didnt feel any altitude issues until climbing the hill back to the hostel and then wow, it hit me and felt quite winded but ok now.. I´m off for a wee burritto (yes i hear some of you laughing but its burritto night at the hostel) and then to bed cos im zonked. Will be more creative tomorrow hopefully.. Stefanie

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Today's the big day!!!

Umm... well,,actually yesterday was supposed to be the big day but thanks to Hurricane Wilma, Miami was closed so I couldn't fly out of there! So today is another chance to leave this sunny (AKA wind and rain torn...) land .. this time I'm flying Boston - JFK - Lima. Keep your fingers crossed that Wilma has had enough and is heading out to sea (I've definitely been watching wayyyyyyy too much of the Weather Channel). Love to all and hopefully next time you read something, I'll actually be in another country!!! Love Stefanie

Saturday, October 08, 2005

So it's getting closer to the big day - October 24th, 2005 to be exact! That's when I head off to begin my adventures! I'm going to outline my itinerary below(it's very loose at this point!)- let's see if I actually manage to keep to it as the next year progresses! A year - yikes! Sounds like a long time - as I keep telling you all, be prepared, I could be home in a month in tears! Fingers crossed tho' that doesn't happen!

So here goes:
Leave Boston Oct 24th at 6:05pm to fly to Lima via Miami. Arrive Lima 4:20am and then hop on a wee plane to Cuzco at 6:40am (do you really need this much detail I ask myself?). Get to Cuzco at 7:55am where my new found friends from Loki Hostel will pick me up! Yah - I will have arrived at my first stop! Spend 3 days in Cuzco getting acclimatized to the altitude (3,326m), visiting the Sacred Valley with its' Inca citadels of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, and gearing up for my 4 day Inca Trail to the lost city of Machu Picchu. Total distance is only 33km but the ancient trail laid by the Inca's back in the 1500's winds its way up and down and around the mountains, hence the fact it takes 4 days to get up and back down again! Really looking forward to this!!!

So - back to the itinerary. Arrive back in Cuzco on the bewitching night of Oct 31st - Halloween! Stay at Loki one last time then head off on Nov. 1st back to Lima where I pick up another flight to Quito in Ecuador. Meet up with my friend Dominique at the Secret Garden Hostel in Quito. That's the only real planning done so far.... the rest of the trip is very loose but we know we want to go to the Galapagos Islands, hike around Ecuador, head down via Peru to Bolivia, visit Lake Titicaca and the Salar de Uyuni (the hallucinogenic salt deserts with geysers and eerie lagoons), maybe pop down the Amazon, on then to Chile where we intend to enjoy the many vineyards to be found there, hike in Patagonia, onwards to Argentina where we have to learn to tango then phew, time for a rest on the beautiful beaches of Uruguay, and if there is time, pop over to Rio for a wee look! I leave South America from Buenos Aires and fly back to Boston on March 1st, 2006 -4 months after arriving... and fingers crossed my awful Spanish gets just that little bit better.

Phase 2 of my world adventure will begin around the end of March when I set off to visit friends in Australia and New Zealand. Then it's onward to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, India (maybe Dubai?) and home to Scotland then back to Boston - this trip is still up in the air in terms of logistics/time in each country etc. - its all down to how long the money lasts but I hope to be able to do it all.... if not, that's fine, I'll save up and head off again when I can. OK- enough rambling - will write again soon.