Thursday, May 29, 2008

Touching Down

We arrived in Phoenix, AZ on Sunday; My first time on American soil since April of last year. Two things struck me; 1, how convenient and easy everything is and 2, how many really big box stores there are! We stayed with a couple we met on , who spoiled us with wonderful hospitality and spent two days car shopping. On the third day, we hit the open road in a 1998 Honda CRV, which should get us reliably to Alaska. I will continue to post photos of the road trip as we make our way to Alaska, and then, because I have really enjoyed blogging, I will start writing about life in Alaska on my new Alaska blog,

I will continue to update here, too, as we travel in the future and as I think of stories from past trips I don't want to forget. Our next trip planned is in November. My whole family will spend 21 days on a private raft trip down the Grand Canyon.

This is America: The wide open road

Sometimes you just gotta wear shades. A man with his dog and his truck in Utah.

Utah cliff and mountain views. Utah is my favorite lower 48 state.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Two more days

Two more days till we go home.
Fifteen months is a long time, and I am looking forward to going home. One adventure ends, but a new one begins.
Reintegrating into life in the United States.
With a whole new view of the world.
I am also depressed. Most of my life, I have dreamed about and planned for this trip around the world. And now I have done it.
I don't know what to dream of next.
It has been absolutely amazing beyond words, especially the section traveling by land from Pakistan into China, Central Asia, and back into western China.
Such a different world, and yet so much the same.
So many kindnesses from strangers.
Strangers who are so much like us in their basic needs and desires.
Strangers who reached out and shared a small snapshot of their lives with us.
What better dream than this?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Volcanic Eruptions and Torture Chambers

Did I say that we were staying under a smoking volcano? That's not quite true. We are under an erupting volcano! Usually, the clouds are covering the volcano, which is probably good for our peace of mind, but yesterday they cleared long enough that we could see a big, black, growing plume of ash going sideways and up, and looking a bit like those photos I saw of Hiroshima when I was a kid. Tim and I looked around to see if any one was panicking. No, everyone was just going about their business. We pointed it out to a kid. He smirked at us and said "not much dangerous". A lady told us the volcano is very active, erupting often and causing tremors in the earth. But no one says anything about it because, well, they are used to it. And they don't want the tourists to flee.

We, however, are too busy pampering ourselves to flee. After spending our mornings hiking up the flanks of the erupting volcano, we head back into town for a soak in the mineral hot springs. Or to have my body painted head to toe with mud. Or a steam bath. A steam bath? It sounds pretty good, you might think. In reality it is a well devised torture chamber. You sit on a bench in a giant wooden box, and the torturer slides the top over you, so that only your head and neck is poking out of a little hole in the top.

A hole like you see in those medieval torture contraptions.

Then the scalding steam is turned on. After about five minutes, when you think you can't handle another second, the torturer gets you out of the box, dumps ice cold water over you, and then puts you back in. This time you stay in longer, until you think you are about to pass out from the heat. Granted, you do have control over how much steam is coming out, but if you want the maximum cleansing benefits you want to keep it as high as you can possibly take.

More ice cold water. Another 15 minutes in the steam box. It's almost unbearable by the end. You lurch out unsteadily, drink a shot of mystery plant liquid, and now sit in the ice cold water. Then back in the box, nauseous, dizzy, with a pounding heart. Thank God it's the last time.

Then the grand finale. This time you are hosed off with a jet stream of ice cold water. My skin is as healthy and pink as a baby's bum.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Trekking in the Cordillera Blanca

Early morning light touches Alpamayo peak on the Santa Cruz trek.

Early morning sun and clouds on Peak Paron.

Sunrise colors at their finest. Nevado Artesonraju.

Sunrise on Quitaraju Peak.


Tim at our high knoll campsite in the Alpamayo valley,
overlooking mountains all around.

I can never resist a swim in clean, blue water, even if it is breathtakingly cold glacier water!

. . . while Tim can barely stand getting his feet wet.

Glowing, golden sunset on the peaks above Valley Paria.

Reflections. Nevado Taulliraju.

Huascaran Norte Peak at sunset, near Laguna 69.

Most babies are carried on the back in these colorful clothes.

A parade for the patron Saint in Huaraz.