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Lost in Transition
Sunday, 28 March 2004
Hello Goodbye
I made a donation to the Marijuana Party of Canada about 6 months ago, I asked for a tax reciept. Only now have they contacted me about it...hmmm...I guess I shouldn´t be surprised it is the Marijuana Party.

Anyway that is neither here nor there

"I´m in love with the world,
through the eyes of a girl,
who´s still around the morning after"
-Elliott Smith

Hello Everyone, I am alive. I learned in Tanzania that travelling is all about the people you meet; I have learned that again here in South America, having said goodbye to wonderful people.

I have been through southern Peru, a week in Bolivia and now am in Chile. Chile twists the brain a bit as the wealthiest country in South America, after having been in Bolivia, one of the poorest nations. Áhhh Chile, where the vegetarian plate comes with canned ham. Seriously.

I am becoming swallowed up by travelling, the last few weeks, especially in Peru, have been a wonderful rush of days places people and experiences. A consuming daze that I am only now coming out of.

Here are some postcards of what I´ve done-

Sandboarding down massive dunes in the Desert. (similar to snowboarding but on sand) You get sand everywhere but it´s glorious once you get the hang of it.

I had Pizza at a place that does Pizza and Tattoos. While I was eating my pizza some guy was getting a tattoo.

I saw the poor man´s galapagos.

Did a winetasting tour that ended up at a disco dancing to "Beat it" by the Chipmunks.

We had service so bad I eventually got up went to the fridge and got our drinks for us.

Had a wonderful Birthday celebration in Arequipa, drank happy hour prices well past happy hour, went to a trendy place with a great cover band of english speaking tunes. There was no dance floor, but that didn´t stop us, we cleared a space and danced. Midnight was when it became my birthday and Tequilla was imbibed.

The next day I was given a homemade birthday card from the girls we were travelling with and Emily gave me a spanish movie poster. I had been looking everywhere for spanish movie posters. All in all it was a strangely wonderful birthday.

The next day we hiked the deepest canyon in the world, the Colca canyon. It was quite difficult. Who would have thought the deepest canyon in the world would be difficult to hike? It was amazingly beautiful though. The second day back up we left at 4am and during the second half we got to watch the sunrise come up spilling blue, purple, red and orange onto the canyon walls. One of the highlights of Peru for me. Saw huge Condors soaring at the top of the canyon on the way back.

Cusco- The focal point of all travel in Peru, the mecca of Gringoes, the point of departure for the Inka Trail. In Cusco we ate like kings, drank for free, and got to dance to good old gringo tunes.

We did the 4 day Inka trail that leads to Macchu Pichu. It was gruelling, over 40 km, but totally worth it, as on that 4 day as you watch the sun rise on Macchu Pichu you feel like you´ve truly earned the right to be there. Later in the day when the tourists show up off their buses to snap photos you are visited with the overwhelming urge to throw mud on their clean clothes.

Macchu Pichu is a breathtaking combination of location- nestled in this beautiful valley- and impressive ruins.

Saw lake Titticacca, largest lake above 2000 metres. It´s so big you forget it´s a lake. I think I saw every shade of blue on that lake. Did hike at the beautiful Isle del Sol.

Lake Titticacca was also the site of the creation of Tittijuice. Tittijuice is a mixture of Inka Cola and Red Wine. Surprisingly good.

Sing it with me now ¨"Copa, Copacabana". That´s right the first place we visited in Bolivia was the tranquil little town of Copacabana. Overall the town was a nice change from Peru. However we did have a few run ins, one was at the a local bar called "Jack Daniels", in which a man with a roll of dimes or a roll of mentoes in his pocket insisted on talking to us and trying to shake our hands repeatedly. The girls were also subjected to another gentleman showing his appreciation for them...uh... quite openly and on the street.

After Copacabana we stayed in the very large and busy La Paz, the capital of Bolivia and the highest Capital in the world (3700 metres). I´ve been living and hiking at above 3000 metres for so long now that I´m looking forward to doing hiking at sea level, it should be much easier. There is a burger king in La Paz.

Finally we zoomed through the rest of Bolivia, seeing the amazing salt flats on the way. The salt flats are what remain of where large salt lakes you used to exist 25 000 years ago. Now there these brilliant white plains that are used for much of the industrial salt around the world. (Such as street salting in winter). The flats are amazing they look like snow and ice and...well you´ll just have to see the pictures but it´s very cool. The first night we stayed in hostel buil out of the salt.

Good story. We had an awesome almost last night as group. We went to one of the only open places in La Paz (Capital of Bolivia and highest, 3700 metres, captital in the world) on a Monday night, it was called love city (where every night is Love). It´s right out of a Lynch film. It´s a chinese restaurant but also has a karaoke section and a dance floor. The decor is out of the flintstones or somehting...almost. All around you is chinese men in tuxedoes getting you drinks. So anyway we karaoked and danced up a storm, and finally as we were leaving at 3:30 am Ems and I are were getting a cab when we heard a crash. The crash was Richard a guy we´d been travelling with from England who somehow hit a pole and gashed open his head. So we had to find a Bolivian hospital and get him stitches at about 4am. The best part is that he got them we went home and the next morning we (including Richard) biked the "world´s most dangerous road" on 3 hours sleep and with six stiches in Richard´s forehead. I sang Richard Marx and American Pie.

The worlds most dangerous road leads from La Paz to Corico is primarily downhill, and primarily one lane not paved with cliffs on the side, and trucks coming both ways. It was excellent good fun.

So that´s about it, this in now way captures or sums up the experiences I´ve been having but is just some minor snap shots so everyone knows i´m alive. i´m alive.

We are left with a 3 week world wind tour of Chile and Argentina. I am back in Edmonton April 20 after a two day stop in Chicago and another two day stop in Ottawa. Take care everyone!

"The greatest thing I ever learned was to run away and hide"

Posted by cantina/lost_in_transition at 5:23 PM MST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 March 2004 3:50 PM MST
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Swallow me up forever, in love with instability, in love with moving, with each new face and moment, new mountain, desert, jungle, with each new person on the same trail. Stability comes from instability, each new room creates a pattern on which we lean. The rythm of the bus becomes familiar, the lack of leg room, exploring each city town museum or ruin. The pattern goes, the life becomes part of you, regularity of irregularity. Minor variations on the past meal bed and place creep on until you look back and realize each minute vairation has added up to a different culture, people, attitude. Buses rooms people flow by and become a river we paddle in search of new, of different, of more vairiations.

Posted by cantina/lost_in_transition at 4:08 PM MST
Updated: Sunday, 28 March 2004 5:20 PM MST
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Thursday, 26 February 2004
---Hey theatre people if you´re just skimming there´s very cool theatre story at the very end! (Although don´t miss the following story)
Cheers Charles

A story...a parable if you will. The whole time leading up to South America Emily talked about how she was going to bring SO much less stuff with her than I brought to Tanzania. Blah Blah Blah Charles Blah Blah Blah less stuff than you Blah blah Blah. WELL we took a plane the other day and before our luggage was put underneath it was weighed and Emily´´s bag weighed...drum roll please...da da da da da da da (that was a drum roll)...Emily´s bag weighs 21 Kilograms and Charles´ bag weighs...16 Kilograms. Seriously 21 friggin Kilograms! So there you have it. Why is it a parable...I don´t know.

Anyway onward and upward...

I have been to the Amazon Jungle! Hot sweaty and many mosquitoes- although not as bad as Manitoba in Summer- but I have been. The jungle is dense and gnarled with incredible insect and plant life, as well as amazing birds and other creatures such as monkeys, sloths (didn´t see any), large tarantulas and caimans (small alligators with red eyes). The Amazon long renowned for it´s plant life rumoured to heal many different ailments is indeed truly wondrous; in fact I discovered the cure for cancer. Unfourtuantely I left it and my towel and the cure for acne in my room at our jungle lodge. However I am confident it will be alright as I left a note with it saying “Cure for Cancer- Please use for Humanitarian Needs and not for Profit” I think clearly through history humans have shown that their compassion for humans of all races and economic situations clearly outweighs their need for personal benefit or greed. And so I have no doubt that the cure for Cancer I have found will be used responsibly and humanely. Look for it cheaply on a pharmacy shelf near you soon!

We spent 3 days in the jungle at our “jungle lodge” which is really some simple rustic (every agency in Iquitos used the word rustic...seriously) rooms with mosquito netting. The first day we got out there and did a hike in which we saw lots and lots of insects and plants, and lots of mosquitos (though not as many as Manitoba in the summer). We saw huge ants trucking large loads. In fact one of them start hauling Emily away and I had to step in and save her.

Our guide showed us all the plants and insects and told us what the various plants were used for. He showed us termites and then preceded to tell us that people eat termites and then showed us by letting a few crawl on his hand and then ate them. He encouraged us to do the same and not to miss out on the “jungle experience” I tried a few. Emily did not. That´s right the vegetarian ate a few termites, and the carnivore would not. It´s always scary when you can see where your food is coming from hey folks! Actually you couldn´t really notice them, they were really small and I only had a few- they were a sort of crunchy but as I said so small they were barely noticeable.

At night we got to go out onto the Canoe to experience the Amazon at night! Sounds good doesn´t it? What it means is a lot of Mosquitoes-although not as bad as Manitoba in Summer. Actually the Tarantulas come out at night and we got to see these huge tarantulas sitting on the trees, and we got ot see one eating! We also went looking for Caiman´s and although we didn´t get too close up to one we did see the red eyes of one lurking in the bushes.

The next day we spent more time on the boat as we went bird watching and then fishing for Pirhannas. I caught a small fish that wasn´t a pirhanna and Emily caught a couple small Pirhannas which she tried for dinner. We also saw pink dolphins although only from a distance. We also got to have lunch with and visit a family that lives on the Amazon. That was nice because often times what you get is that you can visit tribes and they reenact their old traditions, dances and ceremonies that they actually have totally abandoned nowadays. (Like the Masai Village we visited on Safari). This was nice because we got to see the way they actually live now.

They live on houses on stilts because at the height of the rainy season the river rises considerably. Actually it´s more like roofs on stilts there´s no walls. They have a great deal of livestock just running around everywhere and they plant quite a bit of fruit. They have a casette deck radio player run off a generator they use sparingly, they don´t have running water but they do live next to a big river.

That night we did a hiawasca ceremony with a shaman. Hiawasca is a hallucinogenic plant used by Shaman as part of ceremonies. So we paid an overinflated price (especailly by Peruvian prices) for a Shaman to come in and perform the ceremony with us. We did it at night in another rustic room, the Shaman mixes the hiawasca with something foul...I think it was tobacco juice or at least something containing tobacco juice, he smokes a pipe and exhales into the thermos holding the hiawasca then he poured a cup for each of us and we drank the foul substance down. Then we smoked a cigar with some kind of leaf...not really sure what it was. It´s pretty standard with Hiawasca to throw up, and we were no different. After about ten minutes of lying in the dark with the Shaman chanting Emily said “Charles I may need that bucket” she soon starting throwing up and I followed soonafter into a nearby sink. Now you may or may not have already realzied but we both consumed the same amount of everything but I am rather larger than Emily and so she got hit a lot harder. For example I threw up only twice whereas Emily threw up about 4 times or so...they kind of blended into one another. In between we lay immoblized on a mattress. The Hiawasca is quite strong but luckily with the lights out it´s totally manageable. In fact I just felt quite heavy and sleepy and kept thinking in triangles. See my breath was in out, in 2´s, and my heart beat was in 2s so I kept wanting a third to break the pattern, I wanted triangles variation. I think it was something musical. I think Emily got hit harder so you may want to ask her about her experience. Still it was very cool and I´d probably do it again.

The last day we went for another boat ride down a different part of the river (we were on a tributary of the Amazon, the Amazon is actually huge and a big highway for ships and people). And then we returned to where we started our Jungle adventure Iquitos, an isolated city in the Northwest of Peru that is the jumping off point for Jungle treks. It can actually only be reached by boat or plane (we took the plane from Lima). Before we left we had made a reservation with the swankiest hotel in Iquitos and by the time us city kids had returned we thoroughly needed the pampering. It was wonderful! Airconditioning, no mosquitos, a pool, big comfy beds ahhhh!!! Sometimes it´s a wonderful thing to spoil yourself, especially after the jungle.

Couple cool things in Iquitos. There was an art display by a local artist at the swanky hotel we were at. So Emily and I went down and visited him at his place to see more of his stuff (and possibly get a non-hotel price for the work). Anyway his stuff is amazing unique and beautiful, clearly inspired by the Amazon. In fact he paints on this kind of canvass made from a tree or plant in the Amazon. I bought one of his paintings which is just fabulous. All his stuff is incredibly unique. We also went to what we thought was the Francis Grippe museum. Grippe is a famous Peruvian artist who has studied all over the world but has based himself out of Iquitos before. Anyway we were told it was only open 8-9 pm which seemed strange but we went anyway and when we got there it seemed to be just house and some women waiting outside. The lady took us inside and took out a few Grippe prints. They were actually quite fabulous and I was considering buying one. Originally she said 50 US but she could see we weren´t high rollers and we´re sure if we could afford it. So she dropped the price to 30. I decided to buy one and then we asked her if she knew Grippe, and at the point she explained that she was his wife! Apparently it used to be a whole museum but most of the art had been bought and shipped out of the country. She was an incredibly nice woman and preced to throw in for both Emily and I (who had then decided to buy one too) two more paintings EACH! There all prints, some done by Grippe himself, and a couple are posters of his work. His work is quite excellent and he has gone through a lot of phases, for example I got a cubist print of his and also a poster of a painting of his of caricutres. The caricutures are famous U.S. presidents all set up like the 12 apostles painting but on the table instead of wine there´s mcdonald´sand coke and the caricature´s are exquisite. So anyone we thought we were going to a gallery and kind of got a garage sale of awesome art.

So we´re now here in Lima, grounded for a few days, possibly a week, by a bus strike. So it leaves me with some time to write. Overall what preceded the Jungle is that we came from Southern Ecuador (Vilcabamba) into Peru. We went to Huancamba in the mountains where we were going to vist the Maestros (Shaman) at these lakes where they perform all night ceremonies. However we weren´t warned how high the town was and I got hit with Altitude sickness. It turns out the town was about 3700 Metres high, that´s almost the height at which I summited Meru. To put in perspecitve, we travelled from Piura to Huancabamba. On a map Huancabamba is about 150 km´s away from Piura, but it took us nine hours to get there! So anyway it was high, I got sick BUT at the end I also had the best Lemon Meringue Pie I´ve EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. Seriously. I mean Peruvians are big on their Postres (Desserts) anyway. You see them everywhere. But this Lemon Meringue Pie was glorious melt in your mouth goodness. Truly great, and we found it in a small town in the mountains in northern Peru. (Stefan did the French invent Lemon Meringue Pie?)

From there we headed down the coast and spent some time in a gorgeous beach town called Huanchaco. I didn´t do much in Huanchaco but Emily acquired some boyfriends, went surfing and got sunburned badly. We also saw some very cool ruins near to Huanchaco.

As mentioned previously we are now in Lima and I have to say Lima is not what we expected. Beforehand all we read was how Lima was big and crowded, polluted and dangerous. Actually Lima is awesome, it´s a big city and I´m a big city kind of person. It´s totally modern, the area were staying had a quite a bit of money and so is very nice. While there is of course incredibly poor areas, like many major cities, Lima is still a great city to spend time. We wandered Lima Centro, saw a church with catacombs underneath with piles of old bones from people who used to be buried there. We wandered China town and have been to a few museums. Beforehand to hear it be told Lima was so dangerous that it´s best you walk around naked so no one takes your clothes. Well we´ve had no problems whatsoever, nor has anyone we know. Lima is definitely WAY better than somewhere like Nairobi- which sucks more than...I don´t know a vacuum.

The highlight of Lima and my last thing to write about was the play we went to. We saw a play in Spanish in this gorgeous little theatre that seats a couple hundred or so. It is in connection with the university although I don´t think the actors or at least all the actors were students. The show was called “Metamorphasis”, but no not the Kafka. This was based on myths- some greek, some like King Midas. What was really cool though was that there was a pool sunken into the stage. Like 75 percent of the stage was a pool. What was also really ingenious was that it had different levels. So the Up stage part of the pool was actually only ankle deep so they could walk in it or lie in it. Then they walked down stairs which provided different levels, and then there was the deep end which was deep enough they could swim (and they did sometimes). It was really cool and used as a few different things depending on the tale being told. It was quite a feat as lighting had to adapt and costumes were quite gorgeous but had to contend with being wet to different degrees, some more than others. Overall it was very professional and quite impressive, even if I didn´t understand a lot of what was being said.

That´s everything, when the buses are running we´re heading south down the coast and then to Arequipa and Cusco. I miss my veggie tacos. Oh and I caught a cold in Iquitos. Seriously I caught a cold in the jungle...

p.s. I just finished "A People´s History of the United States of America" by Howard Zinn which is mind blowingly good. Possibly the best book I´ve ever read. Emily has just finished Stephen King.
p.p.s Where my brother Nigel works in Toronoto (an upscale Home stereo dealer and installer) they also put art on the walls and sell it. Well when I was there the artist whos work they were selling was Billy Dee Williams. Seriously the Billy Dee Williams, and his stuff wasn´t too bad either.

Nations are not communities and never have been.

My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the psat, deplete our moral energy for the present.

I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past´s fugitive moments of compassion rather than its solid centuries of warfare.

Posted by cantina/lost_in_transition at 1:04 PM MST
Updated: Thursday, 26 February 2004 10:54 PM MST
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Thursday, 5 February 2004
Travel Email 2
Well of course not everyone is getting my travel emails with the link, so if anyone asks please spread the word.

First off about the tear gas, as best I can find about 4 years ago the Ecuadorian president was deposed and so every year on the anniversary there are major protests. Protests which I assume are kind of lighting rod for many frustrations. I think.

Internet is slow here, so look me up on yahoo or msn messenger. y

Well we are on our way out of Ecuador and into Peru. We have spent the last week in a sleepy little town called Vilcabamba. It´s a tranquil little town that is known for its spring water. Apparently people in this valley live quite regularly to a hundred, something attributed to the altitude, climate and spring water here. The water is quite good. We´re staying at great hostal that has a pool, jacuzzi, sauna, pool tables, ping pong tables and movies. All for about 8 bucks a night.

We took an overnight trip to Podocarpus National Park. Ecuador´s biggest park, encompasses all of the different climates in Ecuador in one place. You have everything from rainforest to highlands. We took horses into the park, did some hiking, spent the night in a refugio (cabin), the next day hiked up a river, through some beautiful jungle rainforest to a waterfall, and then took the horses out. On the way out it rained and there was some crazy terrain for the horses to get through. There´s nothing like going up a steep hill and seeing the horse in front of you slip on wet clay, I was sure he was coming right back at me and taking out me and my horse. Our horses names were Cranky, Van Stop, and Fall Back. In case you´ré wondering I named them. Overall it was quite fantastic.

So we´re on our way out of Ecuador into Peru then probably a few days in Bolivia then through to Chile and then Argentina. In theory anyway. Unfourtunately the Inca trail and Machu Pichu are closed for February so we may have to fly back to do Machu Pichu.

That´s´about it, more info whenever painfully slow internet permits.

If interested in Peru go to the bottom and I will add under ecuador, Peru info.

luv to everyone!

Posted by cantina/lost_in_transition at 2:11 PM MST
Updated: Thursday, 5 February 2004 2:20 PM MST
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Damp, wet. We walk up to the Waterfall. Through a cloud. It begins to mist and then rain. The dirt turns to mud, puddles form and as I hop them my mind turns back to my room where my recently washed clothes sit trying desperately to dry. My quick drying garments fighting the humidity which is buyoed by the rain. Every step is wet: in the air, falling on the ground, the clothes I wear. By the time we reach the waterfall there is no need to swim, I am already soaked, swimming in rain and humidity. Later I will sit in my room wiling my clothes to dry.

As we walk in to the building darkness and quiet envelop us, but I don´t notice. I am struck by the seriousness of the scattered worshippers and the smell of wood. The church has solid beams of rich brown wood. We walk the floorboards creaking, sounding the alarm that we are only turistas, giving us away. We take in the deeply human and tortured renderings of Christ and his death. As we cross over I make the sign of the cross in hopes of hiding my purely architctural motives for being there. It is only once we leave returning to the plaza bustling with noice and energy do I realize the quiet solitude existing in the building I just left

Posted by cantina/lost_in_transition at 2:08 PM MST
Updated: Sunday, 2 May 2004 7:29 PM MDT
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Superbowl & Snakejuice
We tracked down a place in Vilcabamba to watch the Superbowl. A restaurant near our hostal called Ashanta´s. Ahsanta´s is a fabulous bar/restaurant run by a wonderful Ecuodorian couple. The husband has a big moustace and wears a cowboy hat, and the walls are covered with the skeletons of animals, mostley snake jaws and snake skin. The highlight (or lowlight depending on how many you have) of any visit to Ashanta´s, and really Vilcabamba, is the “Snake Juice”. Snake juice is actually primarily cane alcohol but mixed with a very little snake venom. In fact it ferments in a jar with some snakes. This is strong stuff, they claim it´s 75% alcohol though I don´t how they possibly measure it so it´s my guess it´s anywhere between 50 – 80 percent. Now also “one” shot is poured into something more like a jigger, or about 2 or 2 ½ shots worth. This stuff kicks a bit going down, but the real kick is about ½ hour later when it really steps in. There´s even some colours that go along with it. Needless to say it was a good Superbowl although a shame the Panthers lost, it was close and a good game. We also played some drinking Jenga. They call me the Architecto, Good times.

Posted by cantina/lost_in_transition at 1:17 PM MST
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Thursday, 29 January 2004
Odds & Ends
Hey All,
I realize I{m going to use this blog as a bit of a diary for myself as much as for you, so I will be adding bits and pieces all the time and you may have to sift a bit.

Some quick notes:
We{re in Cuenca right now which is great, Emily is recovering from a wicked hangover care of the local Ecuodorian moonshine and so I am off emailing.
We boughtt a big bottle of rum here for 1.25. It was supposedly Carribean rum but it was made in Brazil, it{s pretty terrible but you can{t really tell in a rum and coke or Cuba Libra. We{re staying at a place right now that is basically a cafe-bar, I mean we open our curtain and the people are right there. But it{s good, we{re there for happy hour and at 4 bucks each for a room of our own with a bathroom (no shower, got to walk across the cafe to the showers) you can{t complain.

My friend Brain Bergum, an avid Weather Channel watcher, tells me it{s minus 33 in Edmonton minus 46 with windchill. It}s not here. Usually between 20 to 30 in the day, little cooler in the evenings.

Emily is learning that rainforest and unmatched biodiversity also means bugs, lost of bugs.
I am learning that my sunscreen and bug repellent moisturizer is actually JUST bug repellent. That explains my red nose.

If you want a postcard send me your mailing address to

457ers what{s the story, is it Chalk Circle?

couple interesting non travel things:

From the World Social Forum (took place in India this year)...
"External debt under the regime of the IMF and the World Bank has been an efficient tool to prevent any local social economic development. While James Baker has insisted since the end of the 1980s that Argentina has to pay its debt contracted under a dictatorship, he is now asking the Club of Paris to
cancel the debt of Iraq because it was contracted under a dictatorship. Not only is the double standard unacceptable, it also shows that the system of the debt is a key for economic and political dominance. The "odious debt" question (legacy of apartheid and dictatorial regimes) is but the tip of the iceberg of the whole issue."
For more info on the World Social Forum declarations this year check the link World Social Forum to your left.

Also a cool link on a new group which is basically watch - dogging the “war on terror” (does that really mean anything?) , trying to make sure we don{t have our civil rights completely trampled, which of course has already begun.

Just cause I{m travelling doesn{t mean I forget this stuff.


Posted by cantina/lost_in_transition at 12:08 PM MST
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La Nariz Del Diablo y Volcan Chimborazo
Bike Riding - Rail Riding & Roof Riding

A couple of spectacular and exhilarating experiences:
We were in Riobamba for a day and a half and our original plan was to paraglide but that wasn{t going to happen so we thought we might just rent some bikes and a map and bike around a bit. When we got there we realized it was quite a serious biking operation he told us they didn{t usually just rent bikes out but they could rent us a couple of bikes and give us a map for a bike ride to a nearby town. However he also mentioned we could also do the more challenging Mount Chimborazo. We eventually decided to get the most out of it and do the Chimborazo ride.

Wow, Right choice.

For those that don{t know (most of you I assume) Mount Chimborazo has the distinction of being the mountain farthest from the center of the earth. While Everst is the farthest point on earth above Sea Level at 8846 metres from Sea Level. Chimborazo is only 6310 m above sea level. However, and here comes a geography lesson for ya, the earth is not a perfect spere but bulges at the equator. In fact, the distance between the North and South poles is over 21,340 metres shorter than two opposing points on the equator. Got all that?

Anyway that doesn{t really have a lot to do with the biking trip. What they did is drove us up to the first refuge which is at 4800 metres, about the same as where I was when I summitted Meru. You could feel the lack of oxygen, but that wouldn{t last long as we got on our bikes and sped down the mountain. It was incredible: glorious, fun, exhilirating and very challenging. So on an incredibly clear day we flew down the winding gravel path of the mountain for awhile before hitting the highway. Our support vehicle was behind us but by the time we hit the highway I had stopped waiting for Emily and just flew. It was incredible, we were flying down the highway surrounded by beautiful countryside. I had a speedometer on my bike and I topped out at 57 km/hr at a few points. It was absolutely thrilling.
Unbeknownst to me we had to turn off the highway after awhile and do some more offroading to circle around and see the other side of the volcan. I had flown so far ahead of Emily that by the time support vehicle realized and had caught up with me I was about 5 or 6km ahead of her and the turnoff. However he picked me up and drove me back to the turn off.
From there it was challenging rocky terrain with some uphills and fine silt thrown in to make the riding more difficult. It was still an incredible experience, sometimes we were just flying and sometimes it was all about control in navigating rocks.
I{m not much of a mountain biker but I could start. For those who took 407 with me I did a monologue once about being a kid and the freedom of riding my bike just for the pure joy, well this came pretty damn close. The freedom of riding while being surrounded by amazing countryside, I think I saw every shade of green possible, dying greens that were almost brown to dark forest greens to bright sunlit green. By the end of the day we were exhausted but thoroughly satisfied and happy.

The Day after was another unique experience. We took "La Nariz del Diablo" train from Riobamba to Alausi. The nose of the devil is a popular ride and an "engineering feat" that takes you through the Andes and descends a sheer cliff and one point with "ingenious engineering" which involves switchbacks and actually going Caboose first at one point. Actually the Nose is cool but not the highlight. The highlight is actually roofriding. For a dollar you can rent a cushion and sit on the roof of the train. Needless to say that is really what everyone does and so you have this double line of Gringos sitting on the roof as the train traverses the Andes. It was awesome, an amazing way to see even more of the countryside and get some breathtaking views of the Andes as we tromped through on the train. Admittedly we didn{t prepare for it and as we left at 7am the first hour was actually quite cold and shaky, but once the sun was up we warmed up and it was a great way to really take in the mountains and the small towns we passed through.

We are now in Cuenca.

love to all,

Posted by cantina/lost_in_transition at 11:57 AM MST
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Thursday, 22 January 2004
Travel Email 1
“How does it feel, to be on your owñ, no direction at all, like a rolling stone”

Hola Mis Amigos y Familia!

Alive and Well here in Quito Ecuador. Have to say I could live here and be pretty happy. Beautiful weather up here in the Andes, good transit, people are friendly with no touristo hassles and everything is stupidly cheap for such a great city. Best highlight so far was the other night in a small little local bar dancing Salsa to fantastic music with the locals.

I{m slowly working on my spanish (slowly). The most important phrase Ive learned so far is: “No hablo español, Nuestros cuerpos pueden hacer el hablar para nosotros.” (Translation at the end)

Things have been good we ve done the touristy stuff like go to the center of the earth. Thats right o degrees on the equator, pour water on one side goes clockwise other side counter clockwise. Bunch of other neat museums and info right in the area.

The most ñoñ tourist experience was probably yesterday. We had wandered sightseeing through Old Town and everywhere we looked were riot police on top of a lot of regular police and some army. We wondered why until we saw a small protest march pass us. It seemed like overkill for the march but there was more. We were taking a cab when we couldnt get through because the police had blockaded all the roads back to our area of town. So we got out and walked. We were going by the university and saw a crowd of people, looked like part of a protest. After a few more steps my eyes started watering and I figured we were walking into tear gas. Yup sure enough a couple of steps later our noses and throats were burning and we were forced to turn around and circle back. We hit an even rougher patch of tear gas and then got through. We got around to the other side and got a better view of what was going on, now that we were no longer upsind of the tear gas. When we were there it seemed like only a small demonstration, a couple of hundred people. As we started watching they seemed to mainly be standing around with the odd person running up picking up a rock or something and throwing it. Then the police fired rounds and rounds more of tear gas, we witnessed something like 15 or 20 cannisters just while we were watching for a few minutes. More and more tear gas, it starting coming closer to us though again at this point we were upwind. Some were thrown back but the protesters mainly just backed away. Then the police charged into our view as they came in to try and clear them out. There was little to no hand to hand violence while we were there but we didn{t stay for the whole thing. I have the newspaper today and Emily and I are going to read it and try and find out more details.

That{s been about the most exciting thing to happen. Other than we went to the Guyasamin museum that houses a bunch of his artwork. If you don{t know Guyasamin is fantastic Ecuadorian painter who paints these amazingly distinct and expressive works. Definitely worth checking his stuff out.

Generally I have to say if things are half as good the rest of the way as they are in Quito, this trip is going to be a breeze compared to Tanzania.

Oh your Six Degrees/Small World moment: In Tanzania I met Tom and Bronagh. Tom and Bronagh were from Winnipeg but recently moved to Toronto. This Christmas I went to visit them and stayed with them at their place on College and Markham. Theñ the other night I met a girl from Toronto who grew up and lives on College and Markham. TJ this girl seriously lives up the block from you! Crazy aint it.

That{s about it. Tommorrow we{re leaving Quito and making our way South to experience swimming in waterfalls, bathing in hot springs, horse back riding, climbing a couple volacoes and paragliding!

Love to everyone, I hope you{re all well!

Love Charles
p.s. Did you kñow the Houston airport is the “George Bush Airpot”. Makes me want to vomit in my mouth a little.
p.p.s translation to above is roughly, “I dont speak spanish, our bodies will have to do the talking for us”

Ryan: in the Houston airport I got my hands on the TSN Fantasy Baseball mag 2004. Yay!

Posted by cantina/lost_in_transition at 4:15 PM MST
Updated: Thursday, 22 January 2004 4:19 PM MST
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Sunday, 11 January 2004
A little something on Ecuador and Peru for y'all (care of Lonely Planet)
Full country name: Republic of Ecuador
Area: 283,520 sq km (175,780 sq mi)
Population: 12,920,092 (growth rate: 2.1%)
Capital city: Quito (pop 1.5 million)
People: 40% mestizo, 40% Indian, 15% Spanish descent, 5% African descent
Language: Spanish, Quechua, Quichua, other indigenous languages
Religion: Over 90% Roman Catholic, small minority of other Christian denominations
Government: Democracy
President: Lucio Gutiérrez
GDP: US$58.7 billion
GDP per head: US$4,800
Major industries: Oil, bananas, shrimp, fish, coffee, textiles, metal work, paper products, wood products, chemicals, plastics, fishing, lumber
Major trading partners: US, Latin America, EU, Asia, Caribbean

The smallest country in the rugged Andean highlands, Ecuador is among the most rewarding travel destinations in South America. With its array of vibrant indigenous cultures, well preserved colonial architecture, otherworldly volcanic landscapes and dense rainforest, it packs its perimeters with more points of interest than many countries twice its size. Touch down in its picture-perfect capital, Quito, and you are no more than a day's drive from a slog through all-swallowing Amazonian jungle, a snow swept ascent of an active volcano, a sociable haggle with indigenous artesanos or a welcome wallow on a tropical beach. And all that in a nation no bigger than the US state of Nevada.

Full country name: Republic of Peru
Area: 1.28 million sq km
Population: 27.01 million
People: 54% Indian, 32% Mestizo (mixed European and Indian descent), 12% Spanish descent, 2% Black, Asian minority
Language: Aymara, Quechua
Religion: Over 90% Roman Catholic, small Protestant population
Government: Democracy
Head of State: President Alejandro Toledo
Head of Government: Prime Minister Dr Luis Solari

GDP: US$111.8 billion
GDP per capita: US$4,300
Inflation: 2%
Major Industries: Pulp, paper, coca leaves, fishmeal, steel, chemicals, oil, minerals,cement, auto assembly, steel, shipbuilding.
Major Trading Partners: USA, Japan, UK, China, Germany, Columbia.

It's the multiple layers of great civilisations which make Peru so intriguing. You can wander around colonial cities which have preserved the legacy of the Spanish conquistadors, visit the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco, explore the lost city of Machu Picchu and ponder the enigma of the Nazca Lines.

It also has some of the most spectacular and varied scenery in South America. The Peruvian Andes are arguably the most beautiful on the continent and the mountains are home to millions of highland Indians who still speak the ancient tongue of Quechua and maintain a traditional way of life.

You don't have to be in Peru too long to realize that the 'New World' had a rich and complex cultural life thousands of years before Pizarro turned up wearing funny clothing.

And then there's the natural world. The verdant Amazon Basin, which occupies half of Peru, is one of the world's top 10 biodiversity 'hot spots' - a species-rich area of tropical rain forest that will make your head spin when you start to learn about its ecology. And the coastal deserts, with their huge rolling dunes, farmland oases and fishing villages, are underappreciated by travellers but offer the opportunity to get off the Gringo Trail in a big way.

Posted by cantina/lost_in_transition at 11:40 PM MST
Updated: Thursday, 5 February 2004 2:28 PM MST
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