The Circle of Life on the Inca Trail and in Nicaragua: From dead baby llama backpacks to ping pong sized turtle eggs

This is likely the last blog post for a long time.  We're back in the US, spending time with family and getting ready to start grown-up work in a few weeks (on our 1 year wedding anniversary - a nice bookend to a great year).

Our last stop was a long weekend visit to Nicaragua, where our friend, Aaron, works with Green Empowerment to provide renewable energy and water systems to alleviate poverty and improve the environment (you can support Aaron's work here).

Since a typical day for Aaron might include a bumpy bus ride to a remote village to install a solar water pump, solar panel, or wind turbine, we decided to vamos a la playa for a relaxing getaway.  Aaron scored access to a beach house in SW Nica, so we had a few nights living like royalty.  The waves at Coco Beach were perfect for boogie boarding, the view from the infinity pool was magnificent, the size/diversity of the insects would have made Armin's mouth water, and we shared the beach at night with 5000 turtles laying eggs the size of ping pong balls (and the 3 soldiers with machine guns who protected them from poachers).  And we could see Costa Rica from our house!
Red flashlights required so as not to disrupt the egg-laying.
A classic Nicaraguan home...
Sandino, watching over Managua
Before Nicaragua, there was Peru.  Cusco (highlights: chocolate-making class, giant parade with dead baby llamas hanging from backpacks for good luck, 12-sided stone), the Sacred Valley (Incan cities, breathtaking views), and Lima (ceviche!) were nice.  But it was all about the Inca Trail en route to Machu Picchu, which proved to be one of our favorite travel experiences.

The hike was fairly difficult (though not as tough as getting a hit against Tim Lincecum in high school, which I did, as anyone who ever talked to me knows) and the weather wasn't always cooperative. But that just made the adventure - and the thrill of arriving to the Sun Gate at sunrise (in fog) - all the more exciting. We'll let a few of our friends from our lively hiking group describe the journey here - you deserve pictures if you've made it this far:
Nothing says remembering an obscure Catholic holiday like dead llama baby backpacks!
Part-way through Day 2 of the hike ('the challenge')
One of our many "photo breaks" as we climbed to up, up, and up. Holly with Yasmin, Onur, and Jackie.
Our friends from Turkey, Australia, Canada, and Norway. The background is decent, too.
Holiday card - for life
Dead Woman's Pass - 4200ish meters closer to Pachamama
Don't look down.  Don't look down.  Don't look down.
Good thing we woke up at 3am and raced to the Sun Gate - we might have missed the view!
Incan stonemasons: showboating
Worth the schlep!
All's well that ends OK, so thanks for reading our blog - and have a nice day.


Chilly Chile and Lake Titicaca

After Ecuador but before Cusco...

We met up with our friend, Reid, in Santiago, Chile. In addition to being a great travel amigo, Reid also served as a Chilean tour guide, chorizo-avocado sandwich and ramen chef, card game teacher, tennis competitor (clay courts!), Copa South America futbol enthusiast, Pisco connoisseur, kitten alarmist, downloader of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and expeditioner in search of the gnarliest sailor bar in Valparaiso (success!).

Also part of our Chilean adventure: 
  • great views of the Andes, 
  • discovering beautiful (and trippy) graffiti in hilly Valparaiso,
  • uninteresting nautical-themed Pablo Neruda homes, 
  • new friends at the hippodrome, 
  • wobbly bike rides through the mystical Elqui Valley
  • overnight buses, 
  • strep throat (Holly) and nasty coughs (Ben and Reid), 
  • an astonishing number of couples making out
  • huge protests that led to looting near our Santiago hostel (newspapers did a better job articulating the purpose of the protests than the actual protestors we chatted with...still cool to see such huge demonstrations only 20 years after Pinochet), and
  • chilly Chilean nights (Santiago - a city with modern infrastructure - felt like Europe...in winter). 
Smoggy Santiago, surrounded by Andes
Valparaiso, the original San Francisco treat
The rawest drunken sailor bar in Valpo
We saw a lot of llamas on this trip, but this was the only pink one
La Serena, a sleepy beach town with no visitors during winter
It doesn't matter who won or lost this epic 4 hour battle - as long as we had fun
Wobbling through the Elqui Valley
"What do we want?"  "No sé!"  "When do we want it?"  "Now!"
We were also treated to some, um, memorable local food - classic Chilean street food (oscar meyer hot dogs with mayonnaise or mountains of fried pork/french fries/egg/mayonnaise) is best enjoyed (only enjoyed?) after a busy day drinking.  Fortunately, we spent much time winetasting, exploring Pisco vineyards, and experiencing the terremoto. Overall, a great time in Chile.

The flight from Chile to Bolivia was stunning - Atacama desert, jagged Andes rising with the plane, salt flats...we were too mesmerized to pull out our camera though. We spent the first days in La Paz acclimating to the altitude (almost 12k feet!), checking out lucha libre in El Alto, and buying more warm alpaca clothing. Our next stop was Copacabana (on Lake Titicaca, not Brazil...next time!), where we hid from the touristy town center in our nice hotel (fireplace, huge skyroof for absurd stargazing, hammock) and hiked the surrounding hills.

We also spent a few nights wandering Lake Titicaca's islands (Bolivian and Peruvian).  Our Titicaca island time included lots of hiking to prep for the Incan Trail, a homestay, and constant comparisons to Greece (dusty hillsides with many donkeys and great views of deep blue waters).
Lake Titicaca - boats and floating islands made of reeds
Isla del Sol
La Paz creeping up and over the surrounding hills



Hola!  Ecuador esta exquisite.

A few of our favorite Ecuadorian things:

  • 6-foot long Andean flutes played by 5 foot tall people; 
  • Watching a nun and friar enjoy a candlelit dinner at a fancy restaurant; 
  • Amazon Rainforest (everything grows on everything else; every plant seems to serve a purpose; ants serve as a primary staple, lemon flavoring, or even stitches); 
Kichwa war paint, princess crowns, and giant leaf hats; 
Blowgun dart practice.  An unimpressed audience.
  • Thermal baths, hammocks, and reading for fun;
  • Monkeys sleeping on dogs; 
  • Small towns known for oddly shaped ice cream or taffy made in doorways;
  • Mate de coca (great placebo to deal with altitude sickness...we are probably just out of shape, but we'll blame the altitude...); 
  • Holly salsa dancing with a grown man much shorter than her; 
  • Surprise upgrade in the jungle to honeymoon cabin; 
  • Empanada tasting and people watching in plazas; 
  • Watching Motorcycle Diaries in South America;
  • Llamas;
  • Straddling the equator; 
  • Dr. Suess style trees; 
  • Quinoa, Andean soup (lots of potato and avocado), and canelazo (passion fruit + spiced liquor);  
  • Cotopaxi;
  • Amazon double rainbow

Less Delightful:

  • Long bus rides through the Andes;
  • Hiking uphill at 13k feet high in the Andes;
  • The fact that the gateway city into the Amazon is called "Shell;" 
  • Unrestrained monkeys playing on Ben's shoulders; 
  • Hearing more German than Spanish in the touristy areas; 
  • Ordering 5 different mystery appetizers - all of which turn out to be fried corn logs; 
  • Tarantulas in the wild;
  • Consecutive banana/yucca chip dinners; 
  • The return of Patches McTuggles; 
  • Llamas, piglets, and melty ice cream for sale by the same vendor at Otavalo market
The forecast for manana morning is a flight to chilly Chile for some Spanish lessons from Moonlight Moink.


Paris, Bar Exam, and Kitties - oh my!

Apologies for the blog silence.  Upon returning home, we’ve received two common responses: 1)   We hate you for posting pictures of warm tropical places while we were stuck in a wet Seattle winter; and 2)   You need to finish the blog.

Well, we’re not sorry for the beautiful pictures, but here’s a quick summary of the last few months:

From Nairobi, we went to Paris. Holly rented a studio in Japantown (between the Opera and Louvre) since she was staying for a full month.  We walked all over, trying to see as many neighborhoods and sample as much wine/cheese/baguette as possible.  We had to buy warm-weather wardrobes from a second-hand store – I looked homeless in my new hole-covered wool jacket and beard.  Unfortunately, I had to leave after a week to finish law school.
Sloppy tourist, homeless, or terrorist?
Upon arriving in the states, I was interrogated by Homeland Security for 30 minutes. ("You're returning alone from your honeymoon to Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya... and with a big beard? Step out of line, sir...")

Holly’s parents, sister, and aunt came to visit over the next few weeks.  Beyond the usual (and incroyable) Paris sightseeing circuit, they also did side trips to Champagne, Provence, and Bordeaux.  Judging from the e-mails and pictures, it was magical.


After a few days into my final quarter of law school, I found myself looking for return tickets to Paris for a long weekend – why not?!?  We did day-trips to Normandy and the Loire Valley.

Holly became a fixture at the Royal Palace gardens.  She temporarily took up smoking.  She learned a dozen French words (though her accent sounds Russian).  And her diet consisted of fresh bread, cheese, nutella crepes, and wine.  Tough life!

Eventually, our adventures abroad had to end.  Back in Seattle, we became uncle/aunt to twin boys Ian Seth and Eli Noam Hinterwirth.
Hi! I'm Eli.
My name is Ian!
We settled into an apartment in the Pine/Pike corridor of Capitol Hill.  We crammed for the WA Bar exam, which we just took (passed?) last week.  And – after many months of indulgence – we finally realized that we don’t just live our lives for ourselves.  That’s right, we’ve started a family.  We are now the proud parents of two little babies of our own.  Meet Papaw Omar (orange, boy) and Poa kichizi (tabby, girl).

Unhelpful study partners.
We start our grown-up lawyer lives in October.  How to fill the void?  Simple: 2 months backpacking through South and Central America.  Stay tuned!