Saturday, December 31, 2011

Safari Time

*We were in Kruger National Park all week and away from the internet, so I'll be posting several posts I wrote this week while we were there.

December 25 - 28

Today is our fourth day in Kruger National Park.  We got to South Africa on Christmas morning and drove about 8 hours to get to Kruger and then a few more hours into the park to our first rest camp - Shingwedzi.   As of this morning we have officially seen the Big 5!  As a matter of fact, we saw all 5 of them in the first 2 hours of our drive this morning – after spending the last 2 days waiting for leopard and rhino.  Granted, the leopard and rhino were butts only, but we saw them!  I'm hoping we get to see them again in a better light before the week is up.

Now that I’ve been here, I’ve come to a few conclusions about the park.  1)  I am now planning to fund our retirement by renting out my husband, Nando “Dundee Irwin,” as a spotter for anyone’s future trips here.  Please email me for details.  2)  Half an hour really does make a difference in what you can see - especially the half an hour between 4:30 am and 5 am.  3)  Telephoto lenses are worth the price you pay for them.  4)    Seeing animals in a zoo is no comparison.  5)  Elephants are huge. 

Me photographing the lion with the window down
This has really been a phenomenal stop on our trip.  This morning, we were fortunate enough to see a male lion lying on the side of the road only three feet from our car.  Despite Nando telling me I should roll up my window, I couldn’t stand the thought of glass killing my pictures, so I kept it rolled down.  I could hear him breathing, hear him growl from deep in his belly as he stared at me.  Honestly, it sounds far more dramatic than it was since I think all he was really thinking about us was that he was annoyed that we had interrupted his nap.  We spent about half an hour just watching him as he went back and forth between staring at us and sniffing the air.

We were the lone car on S114 between 4:30 am and 5:30 am or so.  We saw a hyena sauntering across an open field, a rhino running away from us and were intimidated by an elephant bull who thought we’d gotten a little too close.  For a while we weren’t sure if he was going to charge us since he just kept walking at us flapping his ears (their warning).  It was a little scary since we knew there were elephants behind us too and we weren’t sure how far we could back up from him.   He finally decided we were far enough away and headed off into the bush.

Our animal checklist so far:  Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Water Buffalo and Rhino (the Big 5).  Mongoose, Hyena, Water Buck, Bush Buck, Impala, Zebra, Giraffe, Baboon, Hippopotamus, Fish Eagle, 2 kinds of Turtles, Crocodiles, Klip Springer, Nyala, Kudu, Vervet Monkeys, Warthog, Wildebeest, Ostrich and Steenbok.

Friday, December 23, 2011


December 22-23

View of Copacabana from Sugar Loaf
If you ever make it to Rio do not miss the views from Sugar Loaf!  You can see the entire city from the top and if you have a telephoto lens, you can even make out Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado in the distance.   Sugar Loaf is actually two mountains.  You can either climb or take the cable car to the top of the first one, followed by a cable car to the top of the second.  I'd highly recommend going first thing in the morning (yes Nando, you were right.  The light for photos was better.) as Rio seems to be covered in smog and a general haze by about 11 am every day - even when it's clear.

After a couple of hours at Sugar Loaf we went to the zoo.  It was fairly small but did have some beautiful birds (Macaws in particular - surprise, surprise) and a huge outdoor snake pen complete with two guys inside the pen feeding the half dozen pythons, dead rats.  Nando was having a great time trying to get pictures of the pythons swallowing the rats whole.  We found out that Nando is taller than a gorilla but not as tall as a Kangaroo and we found out that I am barely taller than a gorilla.  That said, I think even the smaller primates could probably take me in a fight.
The evening topped off with a fantastic samba/Brazilian cultural show at Plataforma.  We thoroughly enjoyed the show and the beautiful carnival costumes they performed in.  Although, considering the extreme lack of clothing on the women, I did find myself wondering how many of the men there had told their wives they were going to a "cultural show."  Our favorite part was definitely the capoeira section.

We have been looking forward to this morning all week!  We were picked up at 11 am to go on our helicopter ride.  It was my first time in a helicopter, so Nando let me sit in the front.  :)  The helicopter took us along Ipanema and Copacabana beaches then out past Sugar Loaf Mountain.  We flew over the stadium that is being built for the 2016 Olympics and finished our flight by flying around Christ the Redeemer.  It was incredible to have the same view of the statue that is seen in so many movies.  That said, ever since we've been here, I've been surprised at how small it looked.  Even up close to it, it was smaller than I was expecting, but still an amazing sight that I wouldn't give up for anything!

Still on a natural high from the helicopter ride we set out on a tour of two of the local favelas, or slums.   Over the years, the Brazilian government has worked hard to downplay the existence of favelas, but it's hard in Rio de Janeiro because of the way the city is built.  Built on the beach front at the base of mountains, there is no place for the slums to go but up - making them extremely visible to everyone below.  It's amazing.  On one side of the street will be the outskirts of a slum and directly opposite will be one of the wealthiest areas of Rio.  A strange dichotomy caused by premium real estate being used by the poor and rich alike.

We were at little surprised when we reached the first favela.  It looked to both of us like any big South American or Southeast Asian city.  It was dirty, busy and there were cars and motorbikes everywhere.  Meat hung from hooks with flys buzzing around and the stench of it rotting in the sun leaked over into the stands of grain and vegetables.  Electricity was being stolen through a tangled web of live wires hanging from poles and open power boxes on every corner.  Cell phones, satellite TV, internet and all the modern niceties you can get anywhere were all present.  It was definitely poor, but certainly not what I had pictured as one of the 950 slums in Rio de Janeiro.  The only particularly telling thing was that there was only one actual road accessible by car.  To reach the upper parts of the favela you had to climb narrow networks of stairs into streets with no names to reach addresses that don't officially exist.

A "street" in the second favela
The second favela was a different story.  Our guide led us through "streets" of dark, narrow passage ways where front doors were less than a meter apart and were hidden in what had become tunnels under the houses built above them.  More than once we had to duck through a space in the cement to continue up or down the stairs.  An open window allowed for us to witness the tiny living spaces buried under the vibrant colors of the top levels.  Some streets were named, others were not.  Twenty percent of Rio's population lives in slums and only a fraction of those have an official address.   We watched kids play in a miniature playground with nothing more than a wooden slide (don't they get splinters?!) and a vastly scaled down futbol goal post.

At one point we saw the jump off point that we took off from when hang gliding on Wednesday.  It was an extremely sobering moment to think that I had flown over this slum twice in the last three days - on a hang glider and then in a helicopter.  Both of them only 12 minute rides that each cost more than some of these people make in a month.   There is a moral question that I think people face when confronted with such a vast inequality between themselves and others.  Is it fair that I have more and they have less?  Did I work harder?  Was I luckier?  It's a hard question to ask yourself but I think 'white guilt' as I've heard it called is both unnecessary and pointless.  I think you need to just be thankful for what you have and not forget the people who have less when you have the opportunity to help.

So... with that, I will get off my soapbox and wish you all a Merry Christmas and ask you all to put your thoughts toward those with less as you celebrate with your families and friends this weekend.  We miss you all and will be celebrating with you from South Africa!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

You Need My Bloodtype?

*Note:  There are still no pictures here because the user interface is now in Portuguese - which I can barely order cerveza in, so "upload photo" is a little beyond me.  I'll hopefully be able to update all of these posts with photos from South Africa, unless of course the user interface is then in Afrikaans or !xosa or something which would only be progressively worse...

December 19 - 21

Buenos Aires is a different city by the light of a weekday.  The parks that had been filled with vendors hawking their wares and couples lounging on the grass on Sunday were deserted on Monday and had been replaced with streets full of cars, buses and trucks.

Monument to Evita
We spent Monday morning and afternoon fighting the crowds to get to Recoleta to see the many monuments in the parks there, including the monument for Evita.   We pushed our way through layers of people headed to and from work while trying to avoid the constant dripping of the window air conditioners above us.  We quickly learned to stand back from the corner while waiting for the little green guy to pop up on the other side of the street in order to keep from swallowing mouthfuls of exhaust fumes as cars raced by, honking at cars and pedestrians alike to get out of their way.

We got to experience life as a local Argentinian when we decided to stop for stamps for our postcards.  The post office (which is apparently the only place you can buy stamps in Argentina), looks like a DMV office in the U.S.  You take a number and then sit and wait to be called up to the next available window.  Fortunately for us, the Argentinian postal service is marginally faster than the DMV and so we only waited half an hour or so for the 14 people in front of us to be cycled through so that we could purchase our postcard sized stamps.  By the time we managed to attach the required stamps and write in the recipient's addresses, we had enough room to write notes that went something like this, "Can't write much.  Stamps too big.  Having a good time.  Love, N y M."

Monday night we joined our friends Nathan and Chloe who were also visiting Buenos Aires from Australia at a show called La Bomba del Tiempo.  It's done on Monday nights at the Cuidad Cultural Konex.  It's several hours of tribal sounding percussion music and the entire outdoor venue is filled with an eclectic group of dreadlocked wannabe hippies, roaming travelers like ourselves and local celebrities.  Drinks are served by the liter if you're drinking beer, and by the bottle if you're drinking wine.  Either way, they are poured into massive plastic cups in order to ensure that there isn't any broken glass on the concrete floor as dancers move to the intoxicating beat.  It's definitely a fun night if you happen to be in BA on a Monday.

Monday turned out to be a late one...  Needless to say, I spent yesterday fighting a bit of a headache as I crammed my stuff into my bag in an effort to pack for Rio as quickly as possible.  Planning to get to the airport early, we started trying to hail a cab more than an hour before we really needed to.  After 40 minutes of wandering around with our massively heavy bags trying to get a cab to even stop for us, we tried calling for one only to have the taxi company call us back a few minutes later to say THEY were having a hard time getting a cab to come to us.  Apparently airport fares are not popular ones.  We tried to hail one for ourselves again, were asked to pay 3 times the normal fare and when we didn't have the money, almost lost a few toes with how quickly the driver took off.  We did finally manage to find a guy who was both willing to take us to the airport and would use the meter.

After lots of fun mix ups at the airport and whole new boarding passes to a direct flight on a different airline (by then we were just hoping to see our bags at some point before South Africa) we managed to make it to Rio de Janeiro (with our bags!!!) around 1 am this morning.

We asked the front desk after breakfast about hang gliding and found out we could be picked up in 30 minutes.  We rushed to change into hang gliding appropriate clothes and shoes and met our driver in the lobby.  The ride was fairly uneventful, but getting to the office where you sign your life away was just plain nuts.  There were probably 30 tourists and pilots all crammed into a little office with 10 computers lined up on either side of the room.  The linoleum floors made the excited chatter turn into a deafening echo as people filled out the online form.  Seriously?  You want my bloodtype?  umm...really? In all my experience signing my life away, I've never had anyone ask for my bloodtype as a required response.  Mom, I'm sure you're glad again that I told you after I did this... And by the way, what exactly IS my bloodtype???

After successfully completing my paperwork, we jumped in back of a Volkswagon Golf with an 8 meter (I'm practicing using the metric system) long rolled up hang glider strapped to the top.  From there we pretty much drove straight up the side of a mountain to the launch site.

The launch site was almost as chaotic as the office below with some pilots helping students into harnesses while others practiced running alongside their tandem fliers.  Within minutes we were harnessed and strapped into the gliders next to our pilots.  After watching one or two takeoffs in front of me, it was my turn.  I didn't even have time to be nervous about running down a ramp that ended with me continuing to run as my feet left the ground.  Seven steps later and we were airborne.
It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.  There is no sense of falling.  No adrenaline rush, just calm and the most amazing sense of what it must be like to have wings.  For 10 minutes I soared above Rio trying to absorb everything from the feeling of the wind on my face to the smell of the ocean below to the sight of Christ the Redeemer towering over the city.  Far too soon the flight was over and we were hurtling toward the beach at what seemed like far too fast a pace.  My pilot reached down and unhooked one of my legs so it was hanging, prepared to continue running onto the ground, as though I had never stopped when we left the platform above.  Moments later, we were on the ground running to a stop.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Buenos Aires

December 16 - 18

The couple of days after Machu Picchu went by in a blur.  We spent the night in Aguas Calientes (avoiding the restaurant thugs at all possible cost) and then headed back to Cusco for a night before flying out to Buenos Aires on Saturday morning.

We arrived in Buenos Aires around 8 pm on Saturday and were tired and hungry.  Thinking we would just go have a quick steak and some wine (we are in Argentina after all) we headed out.  Four hours later we left the restaurant with full bellies and with the restaurant minus a couple bottles of wine.  Steak and Malbec in Argentina really are what everyone says they are.  Phenomenal.  The steak melts in your mouth and the wine goes down far too easily.

Yesterday we roamed through the Sunday antique market in Plaza Dorrego that spills over into booth after booth of souvenirs, leather products and toys for miles in every direction.  Little old ladies walk around selling homemade empanadas while their male counterparts lug heavy ice chests through the cobblestone streets selling chicha and gaseosas (sodas). 

After an amazing steak lunch in the plaza we wandered through the crowded streets to Parque Lezama eating gelato and taking photos.  We caught a taxi from there to take us past the stadium where Boca Juniors play and then on to the Cementario de la Recoleta where Eva Perón is buried.

Recoleta Cemetery
The Cemetery was by far the coolest thing we saw yesterday.  We arrived just before closing.  It was like walking through a city.  There are streets with beautiful lamps, and each street is lined with ornate mausoleums.  The whole place is a strange blend of old and new.  On one corner you'll have a crumbling mausoleum that you can barely read the name of it's inhabitant and right next to it will be a shiny, new mausoleum with a new bouquet of vibrantly colored flowers.  There are doors with broken glass that allow the stale air to escape while rusted locks and chains wrapped around the wrought iron gates barely hold them closed.  Right next to that are new doors made purely of glass to allow visitors to see the beautifully intricate stained glass windows behind them.  Evita's tomb was fairly easy to find since really all you have to do is follow the crowds into the tiny alley that houses the Duarte resting place.  After the cemetery we sat on the patio of a restaurant in the plaza and had a cool drink while watching street performers dance the tango. 

When in Buenos Aires, you can't miss going to a tango show.  The performers are incredible and many of them are dinner shows which means that once again you will be eating mouth watering steak while quaffing delicious Argentinian Malbec.  We went to La Ventana in San Telmo and had a fantastic time.  The music is exciting and the dancing is passionate with intricate footwork that keeps you enthralled despite the late hour.

Machu Picchu

I apologize in advance for this rather long blog post, but Machu Picchu deserves it if anywhere does.

December 15, 2011

Every time I visit a ruin or an ancient place, I get a strange feeling that I can't really describe.  I think it's something about being in a place built with ancient hands, walking on streets built hundreds or thousands of years ago that have held up the feet of kings and common people alike.

My first experience with that feeling was when my Dad took me to San Francisco for my 17th birthday and we visited Alcatraz.  It was the first place that I could really remember being after it was no longer in use.  I whispered to my Dad that I was standing right where Al Capone could have stood!  He told me that I could probably choose more worthwhile heroes.  Perhaps, but that was beside the point.  Someone famous (and dead) had stood right where I was standing and I had a sense of connection with the past.

We woke up at 4:30 am to make sure we had plenty of time to eat breakfast, get ready and get to the bus station for the 5:30 bus up the hill to Machu Picchu.  It was pissing down rain (sorry for using the word pissing Mom, but there really is no other way to describe it).  We could hear it pounding on the tin roof over our heads and we looked at each other in angst, neither one of us wanting to say what the other was thinking.  We were going to see nothing.

We rode the bus up in silence.  The rain had lightened a little while we ate breakfast, but there were still clouds everywhere and certainly no signs of being able to see anything if we made the trek up Huyana Picchu - an hour (okay, more like two hours for me) trek up the side of the mountain that you can see in all the pictures, on ancient Inca steps that are both narrow and deep.  I had been dreading doing it for a second time anyway (I did it 5 years ago on my first visit) and the thought of having to do it with no reward at the top was only making it worse.

One thing to remember about the clouds at Machu Picchu is that they are less like clouds and more like a thick mist or fog.  It moves in and out of your field of vision in seconds and if you're not paying attention you might miss something.  Our first moments at the site were incredible.  We could see nothing when we entered other than the wall in front of us.  As we came around the corner, the mist teased us by lightening momentarily enough for us to see the city through a haze.

Machu Picchu in the morning
Everyone has seen pictures of Machu Picchu -  more often than not, of it on a clear day.  A picture of a perfectly clear day does not even come close to the feeling of being there, even on a mist covered day.  the second we stepped through the gate, I had the familiar feeling of connection that I've felt since my first visit to Alcatraz.  Some people would call it a spiritual feeling, and for lack of a better description I would have to agree.  We wandered the city for the next hour, getting pictures whenever the fog cleared enough, juggling camera equipment, umbrellas and the S/5 poncho we bought for Nando as we climbed on the bus, in an attempt to keep the water off of the camera.

We had decided to try the hike up Huayna Picchu despite the possibility of not seeing anything when we got to the top.  I had forgotten what an absolutely amazing site is at the top of the climb, whether you ever see the city below you or not.  When we got to the top, we had emerged above the clouds and as they moved in and out of the valley below us, we could see for miles in every direction in addition to the thousands of meters between us and the valley floor where the river snaked it's way between the mountain peaks that were surrounding us.

We climbed through the city that is built on top of Huyana Picchu (how did they manage to build that?!) and made our way to the peak of the mountain to eat lunch and hopefully catch a glimpse of the city below.  Patience (not one of my many traits) at Machu Picchu, more often than not will pay off.  As we sat there eating our lunch, the fog parted and the city lay there in front of us, begging for the use of our new telephoto lens.  After snapping hundreds if not thousands of photos, we headed back down through the rock tunnels to get back to the city.  Let me just tell you - down is NOT easier than up.  My legs have been hurting since and I'm writing this 4 days after we left.

Inca Bridge
After an hour or so break - trying to wait out the rain that had started again we decided to try and make the trek up to where everyone takes the postcard picture from to see if we could get lucky enough to have the clouds clear twice in one day.  By the time we got up there, it had stopped raining, but the clouds were still out.  We saw the signs for the Inca Bridge and decided to try and see that while we waited.  The hike out is beautiful but a little nerve wracking since it's right along the edge of a cliff with a never ending drop off as far as I could tell.  I really didn't get close enough to see where the end of the fall would be.  Sadly, the bridge itself is sort of anti-climactic compared to what I expected from an Inca bridge, but it was still impressive in it's own right.

At the end of the walk back from the bridge, we saw the top of Huayna Picchu clear and we ran the rest of the way to try and make sure we didn't miss the view.  So. Worth. The burning lungs.  It was absolutely incredible.  The entire city glistening in the sun with the mountain soaring above it.  Truly one of the most phenomenal sights I have ever seen.

After getting gigabytes worth of pictures, we headed back down the mountain to the natural hot springs in town to soothe our aching muscles, finally talking about our fears from the morning about the rain.

"Happy Hour"

A Note from my previous blog post and for this one since several people have asked - there are no pictures in it because unfortunately I can't seem to figure out how to upload the pictures since blogger's editor turns into Spanish when you get to a Spanish speaking country.  Unfortunately, my Spanish is limited to things like discussing cerveza and asking for directions to the closest restroom, so my blog posts will be suffering until I can figure out which words under the photo link mean "upload from file."

December 14, 2011

On our first day in Aguas Calientes, we were pretty sure we were about to start an international incident.  

I'm going to start this blog post with a little quiz.  If you see a sign that reads "Happy Hour 4 X 1" what would you assume that means?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Beuhler....

Personally, I would assume that means you get 4 drinks for the price of 1 since that's what it means in the rest of the world.  That said, just to be careful, I asked (in Spanish I might add) if it included ALL the cervezas on the menu.  I was told that of course it did so I ordered my 4 for S/7 (that means 7 Soles - the equivalent of just over $2 USD) beers and proceeded to have a very nice afternoon with Nando - chatting, people watching and watching the rain pour off the tin roofs on the buildings around us.

When it was time to pay, I got a bill for S/20 for my beer.  I politely asked why I was being charged S/7 when the sign clearly showed 4 X 1 and I was told that the "happy hour" price was S/20.  I asked them why that wasn't on the menu or at least why they hadn't told me that the price was different than the menu.  I was told that our waiter didn't speak English to which I replied that I had asked in Spanish.  The manager rolled his eyes and started yelling at me about showing him where in the market I could find 4 beers for S/7.  I told him I couldn't and that's why I was drinking in his restaurant rather than buying beers in the market.  Now, anyone who knows Nando, knows he doesn't take very kindly to his wife being yelled at.  I realized that he was about blow up at the manager for yelling at me, so I figured we better just pay and get out of there to avoid the aforementioned international incident.  We paid the bill partially in pesos and partially in US dollars and set about finishing the last of the beer.  As we got to the last sip and were getting up to leave, the waitress came back to us with one of the US $5 bills that had a tiny tear in it and told us that in Peru they don't take torn US bills.  We told her that was all we had and promptly got up and left. 

A few feet down the road we realized we were being followed by another guy from the restaurant.  We took an immediate right down the next street, followed by another right into what I thought would lead us into the market.  Unfortunately, it was just some guy's souvenir shop with no outlet.  Trapped!  We waited breathlessly, hiding behind piles of souvenirs, watching for our tail to pass the shop looking for us.  As soon as he passed us we ran out of the shop in the opposite direction and hurried down an alternative street, snaking our way through town back to our hostel hoping there weren't other thugs looking for us as well.  We passed cops on every corner and I silently hoped that they weren't being paid off by the Aguas Calientes gangs to drag us down to the station and demand a nice crisp $5 bill or else....

Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly like that...  As soon as we walked into the souvenir shop, we left and turned back toward our hostel along a different road.  But I WAS watching for the tail...  When we came to the cross street where we'd last seen him, we hurried across it hoping he wasn't looking since he was still several blocks down in the last place I'd seen him.  Hmm....maybe he wasn't following us after all....

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Little Things

Thank goodness for remembering toilet paper and hand sanitizer - albeit last minute.  It's amazing how something seemingly so small can make or break an otherwise fabulous adventure.  Fortunately, we packed plenty and so we were able to thoroughly enjoy the ruins outside of Cusco today.  :)

We arrived in Lima on Saturday, 10 December around midnight after a long 13+ hour day of traveling, only to be met with a never ending line of bags coming off the plane - none of which were Nando's.  Big sigh.  I stood in line (I use line loosely since it was more like a mob) with the other 30 or so people who's bags hadn't made it out of Houston.  After correcting the girl who took my information about 6 times on my phone number, the name of my hotel and it's address she finally told us the bag would be delivered to our hotel on Monday morning - right about the time we were supposed to be headed back to the airport for our flight to Cusco.  Bigger sigh. 

Lima was a lot of fun!  We roamed around the San Francisco Convent - including a tour through the catacombs, but we both agreed that the library was by far the coolest part.  It's been pretty much preserved as it was built 500 years ago.  Many of the books stored there are still from the original collection.  We both thought Chinatown would be sort of kitsch, but we figured we should check it out anyway.  We were presently surprised to find absolutely delicious dim sum and a more than crowded market filled with Christmas decorations and blaring Latin music.  A short cab ride away is Parque del Amor (Lover's Park) in Miraflores which overlooks the ocean and is the launching point for many a hang glider pilot.  We finished our romantic day with dinner at La Rosa Nautica, a restaurant built out over the water where you can feel the waves crash underneath you while you dine on gourmet food and quaff delicious Peruvian wine - all for well under $100 USD.

Hooray!  They found Nando's bag and actually managed to call our hotel on Monday morning before we left for the airport so we were able to get them to keep it for us until we got there.  Two hours later we landed in Cusco!

We arranged for a private driver (Awesome way to go - not very expensive and nice to be able to beat the tour bus crowds) to take us to several of the archaeological sites outside of Cusco today.  We visited Sacsayhuamán (Sexy Woman!), Q'enqo, Pukapukala, Tambomachay and Pisac.  We really enjoyed all of them, but highly recommend Pisac which was a last minute add on suggested by our driver.  It was absolutely stunning and is only a slight second to Machu Picchu. 

Tomorrow we are headed on to Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu and then Machu Picchu on Thursday.  *Note to anyone looking to go to Machu Picchu - their new online system is great for reserving your tickets.  Not so great for actually paying for them.  I'd suggest making the reservation online and then heading to the INC office in Cusco to pay for and pick up your tickets - SO much easier and it will save you a lot of frustration and hassle with their online payment system.

Sorry for the massively long blog post.  That's what I get for waiting too many days.  :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Boxes, Tape and Signatures

It's amazing how your entire life can be wrapped up in boxes in one day.  Everything you own inventoried and itemized on pieces of paper, then shipped off to the other side of the world while you hope that you see it all again in a few months.  Sort of makes me wonder how much of it I really need.  If I can live without it for the foreseeable future, did I ever really need it to begin with?  Probably not, but it's my stuff and I want to see it again. 

It was a good day.  The packers finished up early and I managed to sell my Jeep to a dealer.  Checking things off the list is satisfying and relieving.  Now we get to go check into a hotel and take a deep breath.  For a few hours at least. 

The stress is starting to melt away and be replaced with excitement for our adventure!  Only 3 more days!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Epic Begins

It's official!  Nando and I can move to Australia together without me being an illegal immigrant.  As of this morning, I am legally allowed to live and work there! 

As excited as I am, it feels almost anti-climactic after months of waiting to hear something.   Weren't we supposed to have to go through intense interviews where he knows the brand of skin cream I use and I know that his favorite hockey player is Alex Ovechkin (#8 on the Washington Capitals by the way)?   Ah well, in this particular case, I'm happy to not have much more of a story to tell.  Overall, the move is well under way.  We are checking the to do's off our list, today is Nando's last day at work and they're coming to pack everything up tomorrow. 

The official epic adventure countdown is at 4 days, 17 hours, 53 minutes and 45 seconds.  Right now though I have to admit I'd be happy to skip Peru, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa if it meant I could go straight to the Maldives and do absolutely nothing for a week.  Yes, I know, there are tiny violins everywhere playing a cacophonus symphony of sad music for me right now.  I'm sure once I'm securely fastened into seat 10C of Continental Flight 468 on Saturday morning I will be more than happy to have not skipped any of it.