Earthquake

Earthquake

P1030147 I awoke on Friday morning with mixed feelings, knowing it was my last day of work and wondering how to properly say goodbye to Javier, who I’ve come to know fairly well during my time here. I got ready as usual and walked the 15 blocks or so the institute. Both Javier and I acted as if it was another day until he asked me to follow him in to a room where others were waiting to surprise me with a small celebration with some cake, grapes and light orange juice. They then gave me a certificate, so I definitely felt special. Afterward Javier told me to take care during our travels and thanked me for my help. I replied by saying I hope his baby is healthy when it’s born in 6 months and said I enjoyed my time and thanked him for his patience.

About the time I finished Rachel was beginning her last day of school. On Wednesday her conversation class of 5 women took her out to coffee as a going away gesture. They were very happy with the class and their only complaint was that it needed to be more classes. On Friday she said goodbye P1030143 to Nicole who promised to keep in touch via facebook and her students from the night class finished their final test and said goodbye and good luck. Rachel said the students were very grateful and it was a sad goodbye, but she did exchange info with a few of them. The other staff of teachers and secretaries surprised Rachel as they took turns giving her hugs goodbye they gave her a gift. It was a book in Spanish written by a famous Chilean author. It was a very nice gift as books are very expensive in Chile. Marcelo who has given Rachel a ride home every night dropped her off and she waved goodbye to Maria Elena, Jessica, and Marcelo.

That night the institute had a going away party at a local club for all the departing students. Just about everyone was there, including many people who hadn’t seen since our Spanish classes ended. We chatted and drank pisco-colas and decided to move on to another bar. Rachel and I went with Diego and Mara to drink beer while the others went elsewhere and had tequila shots. By the time we met up again Peter was a tank and his full concentration was centered on walking down the street as the others also staggered along. We tried to go to another club, but the line was too long and the cover was too much so we ended up at friend’s house playing cards without cards. During the game both Jon and I felt a tremor and jumped up from the table saying “did you feel that” to the others. Everyone stopped moving as the light fixture mounted over the table began to sway. We all jumped up and claimed we could feel it and were thrilled! Our second tremor within a month’s time! Peter brought his camera out and began filming the light. As he did everything went pitch black and the earth beneath us became violently ill. It felt as if someone had picked up the entire house and then let it drop back to the ground. We could hear glass shattering all around us and our excitement quickly turned to fear. I grabbed Rachel, covered her head with my arms and took cover in an entry way. The others fled outside. Realizing we were alone, I pulled Rachel along despite her wanting to stay inside. P1030185 Outside things were calmer, the main blow had been dealt, but the earth continued to move and heave. We asked each other if everyone was all alright. In fact, we were elated, our first earthquake! What an experience! But this effect would soon wear off as we came to realize the damage it had caused. Walking home that night underneath the moonlight we could see shattered glass all around, the streets that were empty 15 minutes earlier were filled with motorists fleeing the city. Many feared a tsunami would follow shortly and we debated whether to go home or not since our house was located only a few blocks from the shore. After talking to some locals we decided it was safe. There, with no electricity, we pulled out our perishable goods from the refrigerator that had moved significantly along with all other objects in the kitchen and had a feast, largely consisting of ice-cream.

P1030267 The next day we checked our house finding many cracks in the walls, broken mirrors, appliances moved toward the center of the room, dust everywhere, no water or electricity and tremors still happening on a regular basis. Outside in the city there were many broken windows, cracks traveling up the sides of buildings, traffic lights working in one block and not the other. A friend of ours was able to sporadically get a connection on his cell phone and allowed Rachel to call home quickly and let them know we were okay. We walked all through the city and to our host family’s house. They weren’t at home, but their house looked okay from the outside.

The next day we ventured out and found wireless internet at McDonalds, which allowed us to call home and talk with our families. Hopefully, we were able to convince them that we were alright and that it wasn’t too bad where we were and that it was much worse in cities south of us. We walked to the bus station since were supposed to leave that day and confirmed all routes were suspended until Monday. While at the bus station we felt a large tremor that cleared out the crowded terminal in an instance. Many people reacted with screams and then tears. Everyone was still on edge and uneasy including us. The bustling, lively city that we had come to know was silent and felt vacant. I P1030277 don’t know if people left or simply didn’t want to leave the comfort of their home. On Sunday I was out with Dan and Rachel was at the house with Peter. While there, Anna knocked on the window and told them to “Get out, get out, we have to leave!” They dropped everything and left, fleeing with others to higher ground as a Tsunami alert had been dispatched. I came home to an open door and found Morgan and Mara inside who had just arrived. They told me a false alarm had been sent out and that Rachel and Peter probably left not knowing. We were about to set out to find them, but thankfully they came in the door shortly after telling us their ordeal. After that no one wanted to stay in the house thinking a tsunami would hit while we were sleeping, so we had to split up. Rachel, Mara and I went to Diego’s house and the others went to Peter and Dan’s.

On Monday we all met for a meeting at the institute to make sure everyone was okay and toP1030182 see if they wanted to continue on with the program, go home or what. After that we went and changed our bus tickets since the South Pan- American highway was cut in several places, bridges were down and therefore the road was largely impassable. We changed our plans and decided to head to Mendoza, Argentina. We had one last night with our friends at the house, said our goodbyes and left the next morning.

We hope to return to Chile later this month and see parts of the South. We will also return to Vina before we fly home from Santiago.

Andy

Videos from Viña del Mar and Valparaiso

I’ve been meaning to upload these videos with the blogs, but I guess I forgot.  So here they all are in a separate post.  The first is of a soccer game and their fans that I went to last Friday, then a Tango dance from a show, two funicular rides up the hills of Valparaiso (kind of like an outdoor, sideways elevator), then an clip of an orchestra that we attended and finally a presidential celebration rally for Pinera, Chile’s next president.

(Videos don’t show on Facebook, so visit www.andyjcollins.com)

Me Falta Palta

P1020850 Two weekends ago, we went on our first camping trip here in Chile. A teacher that I work with gave me directions that were spot on. We had to hike a few miles on a dirt road before arriving at Nido de Condres, which is a piece of land that is owned by the nearby town and is used by gauchos (cowboys) for grazing, but also has campsites and trails that follow a small stream up into the hills and canyon. Moving slowly, the stream has created several natural pools, which we swam in, jumped in and found many small waterfalls and inhabitants. We cooked dinner on our new stove and slept in our new tent. During the night pobre Andy awoke with a stinging sensation on his chest and then again on is arm. A wasp had been trapped inside the tent and as a last resort to survive stung him twice. Don’t worry I came out of the incident unP1020872harmed. In the morning we awoke to a huge steer mooing outside out tent. We packed up and  headed out. Along the way I stopped at a scenic spot that overlooked the stream and sprinkled a few of Matt’s ashes. As I was turning around, I realized a poem had been painted on the rock. After translating it we realized this place was a memorial for someone else as well. I thought Matt would like to experience this place… the view and the sound of the stream coming from below.

We returned to Vina to celebrate the Superbowl at our house. Sadly we didn’t get to see the commercials, but the game was an exciting one. The Chilenos that I spoke to were amazed that the Superbowl was the most watched event in the United States. I tried to say it’s because of the commercials and the half time show. It was nice to spend the evening surrounded by Gringos who have always enjoyed the Superbowl experience.

I am jealous of Andy, because he uses Spanish at work to talk to his coworker, Javier. I go to work and usually speak English. I am teaching three classes and gaining a lot of experience. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are pretty crazy for me. I have two English classes in the morning, then our Spanish class, and right after that my night class begins. Andy continues to work in the mornings and then meets me for lunch before we go to our Spanish class. Christina is our Spanish teacher and has been reviewing many of the rules of the language and gives us homework most nights. Living with other North Americans we don’t speak much Spanish, except when we have been drinking. Working on my Spanish has been hot and cold. I feel like I can produce it sometimes, but other times I lose my confidence and will.

P1020914 Our living situation is so different from living with the host family. In general I like it. Besides the problems we have with the lack of hot water, the kitchen sink blasting water or nothing at all, or the broken refrigerator and its de-thawing freezer, it’s a decent place to live. The atmosphere is always lively. Morgan, Mara, and Nick are usually and other students have become regular visitors. Getting to know everyone has been great and now we seem like a crew. After a few nights of drinking, going to a club, playing Kings cup, and talking until 6 in the morning we have become close. We never go to bed at the same hour and always have the option of having one or two more drinks. The other night Andy and I decided to go to bed early which was about 2 am and the others went to a bar until 5am. One night we returned from a club at about 5, all hungry and craving palta (avocado). Palta is a staple food with every meal here, but this morning it was the main dish. We toasted bread and loaded on the palta while singing “me falta palta” which means “I’m missing avocado” It was quite the contradiction as we had plenty of palta.

Friday we experienced a tremor! I was laying in bed, awake, and all the sudden my room started violently shaking! It was strong at first and then it lessened. The tremor lasted 10 seconds! I jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen screaming “Did you guys feel that! That was amazing!” Morgan was in the shower at the time and Andy brushing his teeth. That was the first real tremor I have ever felt and a reminder that the earth beneath us is constantly moving.

P1020905 This past weekend was very chill. We spent Saturday at the beach in ConCon and walked the beach in Renaca as well. The beaches in these two cities are very different. In ConCon there are more families and there are fabulous seafood restaurants just off the beach. Renaca is a different world. Andy compared it to South Beach, with younger people, showers and massages on the beach and swimsuit contests happening. ConCon was more my speed. After the beach we took a bus to the market to stock up on fresh produce and we decided to get a fresh salmon filet for Valentine’s Day which was very relaxed. We caught up on sleep, studied Spanish, and prepared the salmon. Peter our friend from Michigan set the mood of our romantic dinner by playing love songs and our roommates made us take a sappy prom picture. We ended the night with a game of Kings cup.

P1020908 Right now we are taking it easy in a coffee shop near our house. Andy ordered a hot chocolate and the waiter asked, “espeso o liquido” meaning thick or liquid. Not quite understanding, he went with the espeso and ended up with a cup of hot, rich, chocolate pudding in front of him. Andy liked it, but won’t likely order it again.

Taking a look at the calendar we have less than two weeks left in Vina. After February we leave for the South and then to Argentina. We are in the process of planning our trip and hope to cover some ground. Time has flown by and I realize that I have enjoyed living in Chile and learning about the culture and the people that live here.

One Completo, Two Completo

completo Everyone has been telling us, “Oh, you have to try the ‘completos’, they’re fabulous.” A completo is one item on Chile’s menu of fast, unhealthy food. The funny thing is that they don’t hide it either, like this particular restaurant was called ‘El Guaton’ which is the title for a fat person. So we made our way there and each ordered a completo completo. We forgot the camera, so this photo will have to do it justice, but as you can see it’s a foot long hot dog and bun topped off with huge amounts of sauerkraut, tomatoes, avocadoes and mayonnaise. All you taste is condiments. Ugh, we both felt ill after.

This week Rachel and I have moved out of our host family’s house and into a house with 3 other students. We were ready for the change, but sad to go at the same time. We really liked our host family, but our relationship with them was always hot and cold. At times it felt like they didn’t want anything to do with us and at other times we felt very included. I’m sure it was hectic for them P1020811 (1024x768)though since this is their holiday and had family coming and going. The new house has two wings. Rach and I live in one end and have separate rooms, living area (with yellow, fake leather furniture nonetheless!) and a bathroom. The other wing has three bedrooms, bath and a more comfortable living area with internet, TV and dining table. The two sections are joined together in the middle by a kitchen and open air patio. The accommodations are very basic and kind of remind me my friend’s houses in college, obviously not the best or cleanest, but get the job done. We knew one of the roommates, Nico, from class and the other two, Morgan and Mara, flew in last weekend from Colorado. We’re really representin’ down here!

Plus, the nice thing about being on our own is we can buy our own food. Rachel found out about a sweet, outdoor market held twice a week here. We went a couple days ago and were able to fill up a backpack chock full of goods for five bucks! Most things cost between $0.60 and $1.00 per Kilo (2.2 pounds), so we loaded up and got strawberries, bananas, avocadoes, tomatoes, grapes, lettuce and more. Wish it were this cheap in the States!

P1020674 (768x1024) We’ve been keeping busy with our jobs, especially Rach whose work load has increased this week. We also started new Spanish classes today. We hope to get out of town this weekend and do some camping. In the mean time we’ve continued to visit Valpo to climb up the Cerros and then wander down through the nooks and crannies of the dilapidated stairways lined with beautiful graffiti art. I’ve been trying to think of the best way to describe Valpo and haven’t been able to since it’s so unique, but I think this small excerpt from Chile’s famous poet Pablo Neruda does a nice job:

Valparaiso,

How absurd you are,

You haven’t combed your hair,

You’ve never had time to get dressed,

Life has always surprised you.

(Click here to read the full poem)

We’ve also met the other new students at the school and we’ve all been hanging out at nights. It’s pretty low key and we usually end up playing a game called Minority. Basically, someone says two things like “Wedding Crashers or Old School” and everyone votes for their favorite. The choice with the least votes means those people have to drink.

So which would you choose? Wedding Crashers or Old School?

Signing Off,

Andy

Bring Back that Love and Feeling

P1020514 Oye! Our last week was jam packed with an array of experiences I don’t know where to begin. On Friday we celebrated our 5 year anniversary. Andy Collins and I have been together for 5 years…. and a day. Hard to believe it has been that much time. I remember when we met I was 19 almost 20, unsure, and reluctant to get into another relationship. The ongoing joke between us is we have been together for too long, but actually I won’t be giving up on a good thing any time soon, especially since we can travel together. To celebrate our big day we hit the town and went to a Mexican restaurant where I had a chirimoya (chirimoya is a tropical fruit that is popular here) margarita and Andy had a burrito stuffed with beef, chicken, and pork (He probably won’t order the mixed meat again… he was overloaded). Then we went to the Municipal Theatre to see a production called Tango. We listened to a piano, accordion, bass and violin play wonderful tangos and watched professional dancers. There was also a singer and master of ceremonies that sang along with some of the melodies. Before catching a micro (the local buses are called micros) home we found a bench under the stars. It is a local custom to make out in public areas… for hours! When in Rome… against Andy’s wishes we only stayed for a few minutes. J

P1020482 As the saying goes time flies when you are having fun and with three weeks under our belts we are ready to start week four. Last week seemed like a normal working week. We both got used to our own schedules. Andy continued to work on projects in Valparaiso and I attended three different English classes as a visiting Gringa. This gives all the morning classes the opportunity to listen to and interact with a native English speaker. The students in the morning classes are all teenagers and in the evening I have been co-teaching a class of beginning level adults. There are only three students and in February I will become the full time teacher. I am excited for the chance to teach a class on my own, but realize there are challenges. The teacher now uses a lot of Spanish to explain the meanings of words. I prefer and am not able to use Spanish when I teach. I am anxious to see how they adjust and how well I can teach a beginner adult class.

On the downside we both have been battling bad colds. I think it is a combination of the change in climate and adjusting to the city air and all the crap that is in it. Including tons of cigarette smoke; almost everyone here smokes and most restaurants and bars allow it. I had to stay home sick one day, but we are both on the mend and don’t cough nearly as much as before.

P1020573 On Friday we went to a botanical garden to do a high ropes course with the classmates from our Spanish class. We did a few zip lines from the treetops and walked across several types of hanging bridges. It was fun hanging out with our American classmates, who we have gotten to know during the past few weeks of class.

On Saturday we took it easy and then ventured out to Valparaiso to experience the cultural carnival, which presents several types of art from music to theatre, spread among the cities plazas. We walked through the streets and took a funicular, which is like an elevator that goes diagonally up a steep slope. Once above the city streets we found silence. Wanting to take advantage of the peace and quiet I found a corner table at a café. We spent at least a couple hours there journaling, sipping on helados, and listening to the street musicians passing by. The festival activities picked up in the evening and Valparaiso came alive. We roamed the city until 1am, drinking super bitter cheap beer, which is sold on the streets for a buck, and watching popular bands play on a stage at the heart of the city.

P1020565 Today we took a bus to the small town of Isla Negra to see one of Pablo Neruda’s houses. Neruda, who is famous for his poetry, has three houses, but this was his favorite. He loved the sea, but could not leave land and so he built his house like a ship. The inside has very low curved ceilings and small doors. The view of the waves hitting the coast was spectacular. Heading home we missed the bus and began to wait at the bus stop. I asked Andy if he was hungry and an older gentleman turned to me and said in English, “you know what happens when men get hungry don’t you?” Not sure how to react I played along and said asked what happens. He said, “They get aggressive.” Then he explained his story and before long the three of us were standing there having a diverse conversation for at least 45 minutes! He was a local and had some very interesting opinions and used to get grumpy when he came home from work. His wife figured this out and would leave food or a beverage for him at the front door so that he would not be so “aggressive” when he had some food in his stomach. His interesting viewpoints and his willingness to share with a couple of young extranjeros was refreshing and a nice touch to our day.

We have enjoyed reading all your comments so please keep writing! We miss you all and hope all is well in the states.

Amor,

Rachel

Chileans Love Mullets

P1020394I don’t know what it is, but young Chileans love mullets. I thought they went out  in the 80’s, but they are fresh down here. Everywhere you look, a person is sporting one, including our Spanish teacher. I wish I could sneak pics of all of them and just make a post about mullets, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The first week in Chile went a little slow for both Rachel and I as we adjusted to our new lives here. The city is always bustling and we can’t even escape from the noise in our room. Buses are constantly passing by and the bar next door blasts Reggaetone (A popular type of music in Latin America). Right now the song Ride ‘til I Die by rap artist DMX is shaking the walls.

But we are adjusting and getting in the swing of things. We are now in our third and final week of Spanish courses and we both started our jobs last week. I am working at Catholic University in Valparaiso and Rachel is working at a British English School in Vina del Mar. I like the work so far and am challenged everyday to effectively communicate with Fernando, the university’s main computer guy. Rachel is a visiting teacher that rotates to a different class every morning to mainly converse with students in English. In the afternoons she will start to co-teach in an adult class and will take over for the teacher next month.

P1020353 The weekend before last we made like Chileans and stayed out to the wee hours of the morning, almost late enough to see the sun rise. We went to Valpo to check out a popular band called Chico Trujillo with other students from our Spanish school. Of course, we couldn’t find the bar. So we asked people where the Aduana Bar was, but in return they would give us these crazy looks. Turns out, we were saying it too clearly for them. Once Rachel mumbled the name, they knew right where to send us. Fortunately, everything starts late here so we made it to the bar by 2:00am to see the band go on by 2:30 even though we were told 12:00. Anyway, we danced to some Latin Ska with a packed house in a dimly lit, smoked filled bar. Rachel even got to dance with a couple of gay guys, who were of course sporting mullets. One guy’s mullet even had dread locks and was died orange. It was great!

P1020420 This last weekend we decided to ditch the city and head for the hills. We attempted to climb La Campana Hill in a nearby national park. This was some hill though; the trail was only 4.2 miles long and it had an elevation gain of 4,000+ feet. Plus, I mixed up the buses and we ended up walking an additional 5K just to get to the park entrance. Along the way we ran out of water, but thought we were close to the top and continued on. Soon thereafter we ran in to some people coming down and learned we were at least 45 minutes away. It was very hot and since I had recently gone through a dehydration bout last summer we decided it was best to turn around. On the return we met a nice couple from Denver; it was pleasant to hear someone without an accent. Then on Sunday we took it easy and witnessed Chile elect their new president, Sebastián Piñera, and attended a celebration in the main plaza of Vina. Our host parents are beside themselves since they were going for the opposition leader Eduardo Frei.

valpopano2

Other than that, we have watched the Santiago orchestra perform classical music in an outdoor theatre and have taken a tour of Valparaiso with the school, where we took a boat out in to the harbor, road a funicular up one of their many hills and found places decorated with ‘graffiti art’ which it is known for. We have also visited the beach in Con Con and got thoroughly sunburned, which makes it the second time for us. It’s nasty; we have skin flakes coming off everywhere. =P

Catch ya next time,

Andy

From the Bottom of the World

P1020242 The flight down was uneventful and long. I slept or tried to sleep for most of it. In Toronto we had to go through security again and spent seven hours anxiously waiting for our flight to leave. From Toronto to Chile it was nine hours and we had an open seat next to us. Even though we had the extra room we both got off the plane feeling grumpy and groggy, but in Chile! Customs was a cinch; we found our bags, and then our driver. I remember my first step out of the airport… the sun was high and it was hot!! We had to shed our winter layers quickly.

Our driver talked to us in Spanish the entire trip to Vina del Mar (2 hours). He was easy to understand and told us many things about the country of Chile like the famous vineyards, the copper mines, the climate, the government, food and what drink you should have with which food… he went on and on. It was very nice to have him as our guide, but it took energy to keep up with him. After our first view of the city of Valparaiso, which was very similar to San Francisco with narrow, steep streets, we went to Viña del Mar with our driver and our Adelante contact Jennifer. Both were giving us points of reference so we could remember how to get from place to place. We arrived at our host family’s house around 4pm, but the maid had already left and our parents were still on vacation so they put us up in a hotel for two nights.

P1020241 Being in a hotel we were able to catch up on sleep and explore the city of Viña del Mar. The city has many high rises and new buildings going up everywhere. There are many people here on vacation from other parts of the country so the restaurants, shops, hotels, and the beach are all very busy. It is nice to once again be in a place where everything is accessible by foot. There is a metro, buses and taxis, but we have walked everywhere so far. On Sunday we went to the beach, but it was too cloudy to swim. We walked along a path where the waves hit rocks along the and then splash onto the sidewalk. Several unlucky passersby were drenched with water! It almost happened to us once. I told Andy on a hot day we should come back and dodge the waves.

Monday was our first day of Spanish class. We both didn’t know what to expect. There are 7 students total. Most are from the states and most of them are men. For the first class two teachers asked all of us questions and we had to go around and answer in Spanish with everyone listening to our answers. I think everyone was really nervous, but Andy and I made it into the advanced class with 3 other students. After class we met our host family Susana and Denis. They own a big house 15 minutes away from our school. They are very nice and are used to sharing their home with students. Denis loves soccer and also plays basketball. He even invited us to play with him at a local gym! Susana has been a midwife for years and now is a professor at a college teaching others how to be midwives. She also paints and has many paintings hanging in the house. Their Chilean Spanish is very difficult to understand at times, but it is getting easier.

P1020226 The food has been great. We have had so many avocados and empanadas. My favorite is an empanada made with spinach, cheese, and queso! But Denis told me if I eat too many I will get fat J Our host parents had some guests over last night and we tried a beverage called “cola de mono” which is milk and tequila mixed together. It was surprisingly good. I am also looking forward to trying the ever famous Chilean drink pisco sour but poco a poco (bit by bit).

Overall we are adjusting to our surroundings, learning Chilean Spanish, walking everywhere, loving the nice weather, and soaking up the Chilean culture.

Going Home

May 1, 2007

To finish out our trip, we moved south to the little roadside town of Uvita. We stayed at the Hotel Toucan for 4 nights. Being one of few hotels in Uvita, this chill hostel was a great place to stay. I especially liked the hammock movie theatre. From Uvita we kept ourselves mostly busy. The rain came in the afternoons so we hiked to waterfalls and the beach in the mornings. Both of us got sunburns, but our time here was relaxing. The day before we left we went to Cano Island to snorkel. This being my first real snorkeling experience I was pumped. Then the tour agency forgot us! The shuttle was supposed to pick us up at 6:30am, but went to the wrong hotel and left without us. Luckily we were able to catch a taxi to the dock where the tour boat was leaving. For snorkeling the visibility was only 50%, but I thought it was great. We saw different types of colorful fish, eels, and we got to hold two puffer fish! After lunch on the beach we headed out for another snorkel trip and saw a school of fish. After a long day in the sun we arrived back at the Toucan and prepared for our trip back to San Jose.

Now we are sitting on the plane en route for home. It has been a trip of a lifetime, but both of us are ready for the familiarity of home. We return home with a little more knowledge about other countries of the world, the fundamentals of a new language, and thousands of memorable journeys.

Sloth of the TreeTops

May 1, 2007

We headed to the Pacific Coast town of Dominical after leaving San Gerardo. We spent one night there before we  decided to move further outside the city to a place slightly more expensive but held more than a bed in the room. So we ended up at Hacienda Baru Nature Reserve.

At Hacienda Baru we signed up for one of their tours that took us up into the canopy of the rainforest. With ourselves and a guide we strapped into a series of harnesses, ropes, and other contraptions that made climbing a lot easier. A one-way lever was attached close to our feet and another in our hands. With this setup we were able to pull our legs up close to our chest, have the foot lever lock into place on the main rope allowing us to ‘standup’ and move our hand lever up next, then the hand lever would lock i nto place, and we could repeat the process all over again. Using this process we went vertically up 120 feet reaching into the uppermost part of the tree. I was a bit scared since I’m not real fond of heights and Rachel handled it better and was even bouncing off the tree a bit. Rach reminded me that tree climbing was my idea! It was really cool though and I became more comfortable with it. In addition to this we also rode on 5-6 zip lines through the forest, and at the end of the last one was a sloth! She was within feet of us going ‘full speed’ as our guide said up this little tree. She soon realized it wasn’t big enough for her and came down to the forest floor to find something better. Unfortunately, she found an even smaller tree that started bending back over itself the further she climbed up, but with another guides help who pushed the tree to run into another one she found herself on sturdier limbs. It was a rare and nice finishing touch to the morning and awesome to see a three toed sloth up close and personal.

We heard about a horse ride trip that took people to a set of waterfalls. For us though it was a bit much to fork over and not quite our style. We prefer to hike if possible and therefore set off on our own. First we walked a half hour into the Dominical from Hacienda Baru and found a taxi to take us to the entrance and from there we walked for an hour or more and came to them. They were gorgeous with two smaller waterfalls dumping into an  upper pool that collected water for the main spectacle pouring out below. We swam and even climbed up onto the first ledge at the base of the main fall. After eating lunch we hiked back to the highway and hoped for a bus to come along as no taxis hung around the area. With luck we made it to a bus stop just as the rainy season decided to start that afternoon. 20-30 minutes later a bus arrived to take us back to Dominical. The rain was coming down heavier as we got off and to our dismay there were no taxis available to take us to Hacienda Baru. With no signs of it letting up we began our 30 minute walk back. 10-15 minutes into our very dark walk along the dirt road a Jeep pulled up next to us. It was a guide from earlier in the day who offered us a ride. There wasn’t enough room in his Jeep so we climbed on to the running boards. One of us on each side, and off we went! Pretty exciting…wet ending to an exploratory day.

Fila Cementario de las Maquinas

April 24, 2007

After hiking 8 miles on the beach every night for a week, I thought it would be a good idea to escape to the mountains and climb the tallest peak of Costa Rica. The trailhead is located in the rural town of San Gerardo de Rivas. The bus ride out there was a bumpy one on a steep, dirt road. As soon as we got off in the small town of San Gerardo Andy said, “Rach, what have you gotten us into.” That was just the beginning of a big adventure. We stayed at The Descanso hotel that is run by a very nice Tico and his family. The day before we rested and did some hiking in the Cloud Bridge Reserve before the hike up Chirripo. The next day we left at 5am for the initial 14 kilometers to the hostel located 5.5 kilometers from the summit. The hike was steep and muddy and winded through a luscious rainforest. Above tree line the scenery changed to more of a desert with small plants and tons of lizards. We made it to the hostel around 1. We were tired from the climb with our packs full of ramen and our heavy, but extremely important Nutella and snickers. The hostel sits at about 11,000 feet, can sleep up to 60 people, has running water and is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. Awaking at 3am, we left the camp and headed to the summit to catch the sunrise. Walking in the cold and darkness with one headl amp was a challenge and maybe the low point of the hike. The signs were not well marked and both of us had the feeling that we were lost. We climbed a ridge and looked into a valley and saw some lakes and then Chirripo looming in the background. Daybreak was upon us as we started the ascent. Not wanting to miss the sunrise I tried to push it only to become severely out of breath and therefore almost crawling up the mountain. We made it though and saw both the Atlantic and Pacific shorelines and the sun came up. The view was phenomenal…this was the high point and made the whole trip worth it. 5.5 kilometers back to the hostel, we packed the rest of our stuff and started back down the mountain. Every kilometer is marked with a sign that has given that section of trail a name. One  odd name is Fila Cementario de las Maquinas, translation: The Machines Cemetery Ridge. There were no machines to be seen. Other names were Ba rbas Viejo: Old Man’s Beard that was a very calm section of trail with plenty of singing birds. While hiking we calculated that by the end of the two days we will have hiked 25 miles! Once we hit Kilometer 0, we were tired and limping from the downhill grind. Our trip wasn’t over. We had to walk another mile to our hotel, stopping along the way for ice cream and juice. To sooth our aching legs and feet we ventured out that afternoon to some nearby hot springs. It was also a steep hike to the springs, but was well worth it. The next morning we left for the Pacific coast where we are now. We had the idea to head to the beach to take it easy, but we will see how long that lasts.

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