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South American

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Minneapolis, United States

Well, it is finally over. I am back in the United States. Thanks to all of you who visited and posted on my site, it meant a great deal to me. I hope to talk to or see many of you very soon.
Thanks again.

permalink written by  Shawn04 on March 14, 2007 from Minneapolis, United States
from the travel blog: South American
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Ilha do Mel

Paranagua, Brazil

Usually I am not the biggest fan of the beach, just laying in a chair waiting for the sun to turn you a different color is not my idea of a good time. However, I have always wanted to learn how to surf and what better location than a carless island off the southern coast of Brazil. This island is paradise, when we read that the island has no cars I still imagined people with motorcycles, atv's, and other forms of motorized transportation, but they were right when they said no cars. People either walk or ride a bike on the beach or through the maze of sand paths. Any goods you want, food, clothes, etc. you buy from the mainland gets brought over by boat and then people either carry it on their back or pull it in a cart. Life moves at a very relaxing pace.
Reid and I stayed in a nice hotel just off of the beach. The owner is a retired pro surfer who enjoys taking people like us out to give lessons and to laugh as we struggle. The entire 3 days on this island were incredible. We spent the entire day in the water working on our surfing skills and our evening checking out the different places to eat and navigating around the island with nothing but flashlights. By the end of our way to short stop on the island, Reid and I were both very relaxed and a little bruised from wrestling with the waves. This island was by far the highlight of my stay in Brazil.

permalink written by  Shawn04 on March 1, 2007 from Paranagua, Brazil
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Iguazu Falls

Iguacuzinho, Brazil

After Bonito Reid and I caught an overnight bus to the city of Foz De Iguazu. This is a small tourist town located on the boarder's of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. We arrived in the early morning and took the short trip to the famous Iguazu Falls. The falls are shared by Brazil and Argentina with each offering different views, we decided to visit the Brazilian side first since it is easier and we were tired. I have never seen a large waterfall before and the sight of these 250 different waterfalls all in one valley was quite incredible. The majority of the time Reid and I just walked in silence just trying to take in all of the different views and stopping just long enough to take some pictures. It was a quick little busride from the town. In the town of Foz de Iguazu there really is not much else to do but visit the waterfalls and travel to Argentina and Paraguay so it was a good thing we were there just long enough to see the waterfall from both sides.
The following morning Reid and I scheduled a bus to visit the Argentinian side of the waterfall. Which, to the objection of only a few Brazilians, is by far the better of the two views. We crossed the border and got yet another stamp for the old passport and we were off. What makes the views from this side of the falls much better is the fact that you are so close to the different falls. The paths take you in, on, and around many waterfalls; were as the Brazil side just offers you great long distance photo opportunities. All the littler falls surrounding the valley are impressive, but the main attraction is the large one called "The Devil's Throat". This was pretty incredible, it is so large that it is almost impossible to take a good photo because of all the mist and water you get sprayed with. We crossed the boarder back to Brazil and caught another overnight bus, this time heading to the coast. Next stop Ilha do Mel.

permalink written by  Shawn04 on February 27, 2007 from Iguacuzinho, Brazil
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Bonito, Brazil

Bonito is a small tourist town located on the Southern tip of the Pantanal. We stayed at a farm house located 1 hour outside of Bonito. This house is owned by friends of Fu and was a great glimpse into the country life of Brazil. The main attractions in and around Bonito include crystal clear rivers, caves, rafting, and many other wilderness activities. We did our best to check out all the activities, including the blue lake, tubing, river rafting, and a 7 waterfall tour. By far the highlight of the activities in Bonito was snorkeling in the Rio Sucuri (anaconda). This river has crystal clear water given a blue tint because of the snail shells that decompose on the bottom of the river. Since it is a moving river you really don't swim you just float down the river trying not to touch anything. The entire float takes about 3 hours but the entire time there are fish swimming all around you. Very cool!
Our days consisted of touring Bonito and our evenings were spent hanging out in the farming community of Nioaque. The people in this community were amazing. The area is quite poor, but the people were so friendly and warm. We were even invited to a community BBQ, were we really got to understand the daily lives of these people. After 4 nights in Bonito Reid and I made our way alone, without the help of our tour guides (Fu and Carla). The good news is we survived.

permalink written by  Shawn04 on February 21, 2007 from Bonito, Brazil
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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Carnival, what a great experience. Being labeled as the biggest festival in the world Rio's carnival is amazing. Reid, Carla, Fu and I arrived in Rio in the early afternoon on Sunday. We drove straight to Sugar Loaf, which is the main rock overlooking downtown Rio and the harbor. Very amazing. Afterwards we caught a quick lunch then we went to Carla's grandparents to drop off our clothes and to get ready for the parade. Carla's grandparents were amazing hosts. Even though we did not speak the same language they went out of their way to make us feel at home.
Since there are some 60,000 tourists that enter the city for the week long festival driving and lodging get very crowded. We took a taxi to the fest grounds which was a good thing because Rio gets very dangerous at night. The stadium which houses the main parade is huge. The main idea of carnival is the different neighborhoods in Rio put together a performance and act it out in the stadium. These different parades tell stories and are put to song with costums and floats. Each "school" as they are called gets one hour and a half to complete their program and each school has around 1,500 to 2,000 people marching in this parade. The sounds, colors, and the songs are almost overwelming.
The most amazing part is that this parade goes on for 4 days. Different neighborhoods get to present on different nights. To make a long story short, we watched 3 different schools and still were not able to sit through them all (we left at 4 am. with still 1 more school to go). The next day we spent checking out the beaches.

permalink written by  Shawn04 on February 19, 2007 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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Brazil with familiar faces

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Well after one canceled flight and two more delayed I finally made it to Sao Paulo. There waiting were my good friends Reid and Fu. After over a month it was great to see some familiar faces. We did not have to much time to catch up, because we had to pack and make the 6 hour road trip to Rio in time for our tickets to the parade. The parade and Rio are amazing, but more to come on that at a later time.

permalink written by  Shawn04 on February 17, 2007 from Sao Paulo, Brazil
from the travel blog: South American
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Vacation with the Family

Camana, Peru

After my classes and volunteering position in Cusco were ending my host family, along with my house mates, and I went to the beach. I am usually not much of a beach person but I was excited to see how a Peruvian family takes a vacation. We jumped onto a bus from Cusco to Arequipa at 8 pm. The bus ride takes about 10 hours and I was unable to sleep at all during the night. We were in Arequipa just long enough to catch breakfast before taking another bus 3 hours south to the beach. The coast of Peru is incredibly dry and this beach was no exception. We arrived at our hostel at around noon, threw on our suits and headed across the road to the ocean. The beach was full of people and you could rent chairs and umbrellas for cheap. The water was pretty cold but with the hot sun it felt great. The entire day consisted of reading my book, ordering seafood from the local resturants, and just hanging out. In the evening we hung around and just socialized. A very relaxing trip. On Sunday we all caught the bus back to Arequipa. In Arequipa we parted ways, I was heading to Puno and Lake Titikaka and the rest of the family was returning to Cusco. My bus ride was long, I had to sit next to an old guy who did not speak spanish and who had gas, but I made it. My arrival in Puno was also interesting but I will comment on that in my next blog.

permalink written by  Shawn04 on February 14, 2007 from Camana, Peru
from the travel blog: South American
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My life in Cusco

Cusco, Peru

Being that this is my last full weekend in Cusco I thought I would share some details of my daily life. Cusco is an amazing city, it is quite small which makes it easy to walk every place, and it is alive with history. Most days I get up at about 7 am. and review my spanish homework prior to my class at 9am. I take 4 hours of spanish classes every day at the Machu Picchu spanish school. It is a small school but the teachers are amazing and they are very helpful. After the class I return back to my house and eat a Peruvian style meal before hitting the books. In the afternoon I have the pleasure of volunteering in an afternoon program for children who live and work on the street. These kids spend the entire day selling postcards and begging for money so this is a place were they can let loose for a couple of hours and just be kids. Normally, I play soccer with some of the boys, draw some pictures, and attempt to read stories in Spanish. The kids get a kick out of when I read with them because I don´t alway pronounce things correctly and they like to correct me. I am not helping the kids with their English which was my initial plan, however I am helping provide these kids with a place were they can enjoy being young, if only for a couple of hours, and that is very rewarding.
After work with the kids I usually take the long way home and just get lost in the cobble stone streets. I really enjoy living here and am sad that I will be leaving in a couple of days, but then the excitement for my other portion of the trip is taking hold. Look out Brazil!

permalink written by  Shawn04 on February 3, 2007 from Cusco, Peru
from the travel blog: South American
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Rafting on the Urubamba

Cusco, Peru

On saturday Heidi, Leticia (my house mates), Dante (a teacher at the school) and I spent the day rafting the Urubamba river. There are several options, but we decided to do the one day trip. We met our group at 9:30 am in the main plaza in Cusco and took the bus 1 1/2 hours to the base camp. After some simple instructions we were off. It did not take much time for us to be in the thick of the rapids. I guess we were not the most skilled group, but our raft flipped in the first tough stretch of the river ( i guess we needed some more time to practice). Everyone was fine and I actually enjoyed it, grabbing onto those that did not swim well, and grabbing paddles that were going by. The rest of the float went well and we all arrived back at base camp in one piece. They fed us a great meal, put us on a bus, and said goodbye. Despite the first rapids our team did well.

permalink written by  Shawn04 on January 30, 2007 from Cusco, Peru
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Cusco, Peru

Located on a hill overlooking the city of Cusco are a string of ruins. The first is Sacsayhuaman which was the originall fortress of the city. During the Inca´s time the city of Cusco was layed out like the body of a puma with the fortress of Sacsayhuaman as the head. The site is pretty incredible, some of the rocks way as much as 300 tons. The next ruin on the road was Qenko. THis is a large rock that the Inca´s carved into stairs and chairs for the nobels to sit. They are not sure exactly the purpose of this site, but one theory is that of ritual offerings. Next, and quite a bit away is Puca Pucara. To get to this site you need to walk a couple of miles on the road. If you have ever driven in Peru or South America, you know that it is not the best place to be caught walking. However, the only problem I had was a car pulled over and a little kid spraid me with silly string. The site of Puca Pucara itself is not that amazing, but it sits over the valley with an amazing view to have lunch. The last stop was Tambo Machay. This is a very small site, but still has a running fountain that is feed by a mountain spring. I made the entire trip with another student at the school from named Virginie. She was good company during the route.

permalink written by  Shawn04 on January 30, 2007 from Cusco, Peru
from the travel blog: South American
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