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Underway again

Posted on Monday Nov 3, 2008

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Finally we are setting sail again! Time for remote places, clean waters and nice beaches in Colombia and Panama.

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Costa Rica Guidebook Is Done!

Posted on Saturday Oct 11, 2008

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After 10 months of work, we finished it. And you my friend can now buy your own copy of Explore Central America Part 2 which covers Costa Rica and part of Western Panama. To make the job even bigger, I added a database that is integrated with Paypal to process orders and it also handles providing the update copies. It seemed like an endless task that would never be complete. But after about 165 pages of writing and lots of programming, the book and website are done!

These books are basically done as a hobby. There's no way in this small market to actually make money off them. In fact after 1 year of the first book, I could have made the same money working for about 10 days in the US. So checkout our labor of love and see what you think.

http://www.sailsarana.com/guide

Iron Pig Lives and Ecuador Gets a new constitution

Posted on Monday Sep 29, 2008

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Apparently the Iron Pig is the only undamaged boat in my dad's marina. He said there were some scratches where other boats had slammed into his (and probably sunk). That makes the Pig 2 for 0 in hurricanes.

Yesterday Ecuador voted. They voted on a new constitution that has a lot of built in surprises. I guess Ecuador needs something to spend their oil money on and the president wants more power. So throw some money at the poor (about 38% of Ecuador) and then extend your term limits at the same time and BINGO. The social programs are quite aggressive, including free schooling to college! Pretty interesting stuff. Hopefully they can do something about the corruption here which is incredibly bad. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1102ap_lt_ecuador_referendum.html?source=mypi

We are currently getting the boat put back together and hope to leave Ecuador shortly after Sherrell's birthday around the end of October.

What happened to the Iron Pig?

Posted on Wednesday Sep 17, 2008

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While we've been busy working on the boat, someone mentioned that a large hurricane hit Galveston, Texas. That happens to be right where my dad's boat is moored, and Galveston is only a dozen or so feet above sea level.

Then I was hit with the photo from the front page on the cnn website of his marina.

Not so nice is it? While I can't see the Iron Pig (my brother's nickname for his mastless steel sailboat) I'm worried that it didn't fair too well. I did hear through my sister that he and his family are doing ok but they don't have any power or phone lines yet. I'm sure he's going to have some good stories when he can finally contact the outside world.

Goodbye to Terry

Posted on Saturday Aug 30, 2008

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Life is fragile. This is why we decided to quit working and try to enjoy it, even if we went broke doing it. No one knows when the show will end. Once I took a 10 foot fall off the deck of our boat onto payment while it was in dry dock. The only thought that flashed through my head was I can't be paralyzed because I haven't done anything yet. All the work and preparation to enjoy sailing seemed to flush through my brain as a painful tragedy.

Fortunately I can walk. Fortunately Sherrell survived cancer. Fortunately we try to remind ourselves how fleeting life is.

Sometimes the reminders come in other forms. We met Terry Bingham and Tammy Woodmansee both sailors on a boat Secret-o-Life in the middle of a dusty field of Mexico. They were working on their boat trying to get it back in the water. Since then we bumped into them several times and they tried to catch up to us while we were touring Peru. In retrospect we are sad we never could seem to be in the same place at the same time.

While they were traveling Terry had stomach pains, which led to hospitalization in La Paz, Boliva. They then found he had a bad case of pancreatitis and a blood infection. He fought hard and was improving, but a sudden cardiac attack took him from us -- a shock to everyone.

Terry will be missed by all and our hearts go out to Tammy. http://terrybingham.blogspot.com/

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
--Emily Dickinson

Photos from Peruuuu

Posted on Sunday Aug 24, 2008

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What happens when you don't have fiberglass, but you still want to surf? These guys built little reed boats in Huachacho to fish from and surf the waves.


In Lima we toured the downtown and the underground catacombs. Here's the presidents house where they do the changing of the guard ceremony (ala Britain) at noon.


In Arequipa we toured a massive convent that was its own city.


Lake Titicaca was a world within itself. These people created new food sources, they built their own floating islands and constructed their houses with entirely new materials and methods. They did this to escape the Inkas and other hostile crowds. While the area was touristy, it was incredible to see how they built themselves a new world. And I was transfixed by the puma boats.


Of course we had to take the classic Machu Picchu photo from the guardhouse. That peak in the background is called Wyana Picchu and we climbed up that too. All in all we took about 200 photos and saw miles and miles of Peru. While the trip was really expensive (for our budget) we had a great time and Sherrell's mom was able to see how the people on the bottom half of the world live.

Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu

Posted on Friday Aug 15, 2008

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Since I last wrote, we've ridden a lot of buses, seen a lot of sites and lost a fair bit of sleep. We did the whirl-wind tour of Arequipa which had some spectacular views around the city and an huge Monastery.

At Lake Titicaca I got to fulfill my biggest wish -- riding in a reed boat that had a large puma head fashioned on the bow. Now who wouldn't be obsessed and travel 80+ hours on a bus to do something like that? The world that these people have built out of reeds is something that cannot be described. And the computer I'm typing on doesn't have a USB port so I can't upload any photos yet...sorry.

In Cusco we found the only Indian restaurant in Peru and we've eaten there twice already. We also toured a lot of places that were outside of the overpriced multi-site tourist ticket. This tourist ticket is like Disneyland, buy the pricey ticket and go on any ride you want, even if you just want to ride the rollercoaster. So needless to say we don't have the time to make this tourist ticket worthwhile and I don't think it would be anything like riding a rollercoaster. We made the most of what we could see and avoided the sites requiring the tourist ticket.

But let's get to the reason we came this far: Puma Shaped Reed Boats. Oops no, I mean Machu Picchu. What makes Machu Picchu special is not so much the stone work (you can't spit without hitting a stone ruin in Peru), but the location of the ruins. Deep inside a cloud forest canyon, hidden among 1000+ foot vertical peaks is Machu Picchu. Just taking a photo here is overwhelming because you are submersed 360 degrees in extreme beauty. I wish I was making this up and could tell you that the $120 we spent per person on the train, bus and ticket to get in wasn't worth it. But it was. To top it off the ruins are impressive. Compared to Kuelap (see the earlier post) Machu Picchu is bigger and more finely constructed but much newer. The Inkas (not usually spelled with a "c" down here) took extreme care in building all the structures at Machu Picchu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machu_Picchu.

We took the standard Machu Picchu photos from the guardhouse and we'll post photos soon. We were also among the day's select 400 people allowed to climb Wayna Picchu a spire that towers 1100 feet over Machu Piccu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayna_Picchu. Getting permission meant boarding a bus at 5:30 am and racing through Machu Picchu to be among the first 400. We were there at 6:40 am and were about number 340...phew!

Today we travel to Nasca to see the spooky lines http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazca_lines mentioned in the latest Indiana Jones movie, for those of you whose knowledge of pop culture exceeds that of archeology.

Then on to Lima and back to Ecuador and our poor lonely kitties!

Sleeping it off in Chachapoyas

Posted on Tuesday Aug 5, 2008

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After about 31 hours of bus travel from Ecuador we reached Chachapoyas. This town is deep in the Northern Peruvian Andes and is the center of a relatively unknown set of ruins. There are about 18 sites around the area and the 3rd highest waterfalls in the world.

So you'd think we'd be in heaven, hiking and seeing these sites, but no. The diseases bred on the buses overcame us and we spent about 3 days sleeping and trying to get well. We did pry ourselves out of the room enough to see some bits of the town and to visit Kuelap.

Kuelap is one of the biggest and oldest lost cities anywhere. After seeing it and the work that went into building it, I'm surprised it is not as popular as Machu Picchu. It must be the hard bus rides that stop the tourists, or just the lack of education. Check out some basics and photos of Kuelap for yourself http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuelap Here's a photo of one of the three entrance passages into the city.



Now we are in Lima and Sherrell's mom arrived late last night. We are still a little sick, but feeling better. The additional 27 hours of buses to get here didn't help. There are a lot more tourists in this part of the country, often dubbed the Gringo Trail. Not a lot of Americans though. I assume they are still suffering from disillusions of a falling economy. The international crowd is filled with Dutch, French, English and of course German. We've met a few Mexicans which is always fun and several other people from around S. America.

Because of all the tourists, it has been challenging finding places to stay so we've had to actually start planning ahead and booking things -- something that is difficult for us to do. Not the planning, but booking ahead. We prefer to stay in places that are super cheap but not nasty. When you book ahead you can get cheap rooms, but sometimes it is hard to avoid nasty. We'll just roll the dice and see how things work out.

First on the list is Arequipa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arequipa where we will hang out and do a couple of tours before moving on to Puno http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puno where we will tour lake titicaca. After that its on to Cusco http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cusco which is a high city up in the sky -- and oh so cold! We'll probably try to book a tour package from Cusco through the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machu_picchu.

Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well and we return to Lima in time for Sherrell's mom's flight!

More time on the bus

Posted on Sunday Jul 27, 2008

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The last post was interupted by our bus arriving early and Sherrell frantically running in and telling me we had to go -- right now!

In my rush I forgot to mention that we were deathly ill for about a week as well when Ecuador decided to make life tougher for tourists. Now we are super-paranoid about getting sick from the hordes hacking and coughing on the buses.

Anyway, another 6 hour bus ride brought us to Chachalayo where there are some cool pre-inca sites. Then tomorrow we take another 10 hour overnight bus up to Chachapoyas where this pre-inca village was built with 3 times more stones than the great pyramids of Egypt, yes 3 times more. Not many people know about this place, but it`s bigger than Machapichu.

In Peru (kicked out of Ecuador)

Posted on Sunday Jul 27, 2008

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We got back from the Andes in Ecuador and scrambled for two weeks. Sherrell got her annual cancer checkup at a cancer clinic (2 hours by bus). The price was good considering the quality of equipment and medical care, but the paperwork was tiresome. It also took 3 trips and we still need to do 2 more when we get back. The good news is all is well and she`s almost done with the doctors for another year.

The bummer part of all this, is Ecuador recently decided not to renew 90 visas for the standard $15. They decided $100 was better, and then they decided not to renew them at all! Since our visas expired a week before we were due to go to Peru, we had planned on renewing them for the 8 days or so before we left for Peru. However $100 per person for 8 days wasn`t going to work, and then when they closed the door on renewals, we were forced to leave the country early.

So we took a 6 hour bus to Guayaquil, Ecuador, toured the town for 7 hours, then took a 11:30pm bus to Mancora, Peru which took another 10 hours or so. Mancora is a surf town and is a lot like Canoa back near Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador just bigger and the wave is better. Today we hop on another 8 hour bus to get a little further south in Peru.