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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Viva Madrid

Tapas, vino, cerveza and other awesome stuff!

Two weekends ago Shosh and I visited Madrid for the first time. A while ago I was able to book some of the most awesome tickets via Ryanair - €10 per person per one-way flight ALL-IN :-)
Leaving early on Friday morning and with a delay of approx. one hour we arrived in Madrid around noon. We took the metro to our hotel (Hostal Luz) whihc was located tight next to the Opera, Royal Palace and Plaza Mayor - sweeet!
All we did the whole weekend was walking around, eating, drinking and shopping. Oh and not to forget have a siesta every afternoon. So let's start with some pictures of the sights we saw.

And from all that walking around you get very hungry and thirsty so we had to make the occasional stop for a refreshment and something yummie for our tummies ;-) Luckily finding those things is one of the easiest jobs in Madrid. Everything we had was amazingly good and pretty cheap as well! Places such as "La Venencia", "Casa Alberto", "El Tigre" and especially "Museo del Jamón" should not be missed!

The next week we invited a group of friends over to our "mad house". First we went out for some great burgers for which I scored some amazing coupons via Groupon (which I truly love by the way...). And we ended the night at our place hanging around in the kitchen area and enjoying some tequila, pisco and other drinks :-)

Now the countdown has started for our trip to Colombia mid-February!!!

Der Rudi, Die Shoshannah (und natürlich Piggy!!)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Ending 2010

December was cold, but the festivities made up for that!

We ended November with a yummie Thanksgiving dinner at our place. Just invite some good friends over, prepare loads of food, ensure the availability of many bottles of wine and success is guaranteed :-)

In December we faced lots and lots of snow (for the Netherlands at least). The fun part is that you get to play in it, see cars struggle to get some grip and that is simply looks nice. Especiialy with a Christmas tree inside and snow outside!

Our tree! We tried to get a real one, but the prices in Amsterdam for even the ugliest trees are ridiculous...

On the other hand it also meant hard times for public transport... The trip south to my parents took us approx. 4,5 hrs with 3 transfers while normally it is 2 hrs without transfers. But oh well, we got there and had a very good Christmas weekend with "surprises" for everyone!

And of course Shosh and I had have a snowball fight... initially we intended to build a big snowman, but oh well...

With this as result:

Tonight we'll go celebrate New Year's Eve @ the Museumplein in Amsterdam. Never been in Amsterdam for this event so looking forward to it!
It also seems 2011 will be a promising year as we already have three vacations planned for the first three months: Madrid, Colombia & Egypt :-)

Happy New Year!!!
Ruudje & Shosh

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Halloween 2010

Lots of "spookjes" and other creeps

One of the American traditions we can't pass up: Halloween (see also our awesome Chinese Halloween pics). This year we invited a bunch of people over to our place. We were not at all prepared so that meant running around town that same day to get all stuff for decorations and our costumes. It was a slow start, but it ended up being absolutely fantastic!!! :-)

And of course there was a winner for best outfit of the evening...

Last weekend we went to Groningen for a friend's housewarming party and to experience the city. Both the party and the night out were great. Never expected Groningen to be so much fun!! But definitely worth going back!

Shosh is almost done with her introduction month at ING and will have to make a choice for one of the many projects she is offered. Quite hard as there are a couple of really interesting ones.
Also this is the week of yet another great American feast: Thanksgiving! So once again we invited a group of friends over and we will have some amazing food!

Der Rudi

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bolivia & Peru

Death Road, Salar de Uyuni, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu & Ayahuasca...

Our big trip this year took us to Bolivia and Peru.

A long flight via Madrid and Lima took us to La Paz where we landed at one of the world's highest airports. The first couple of days we spent in La Paz, gettig used to the altitude a little bit and exploring a whole new culture. We checked out the city, the witch market, and tried to relax a bit.

The next day we hiked to and climbed the "Muela del Diablo", a view point just outside the city.

On our last day we did what any backpacker should do when in La Paz: Mountainbike down "The World's Most Dangerous Road" a.k.a. "The Death Road" or the Yungas Road. Whatever name you prefer the experience will be the same: absolutely brilliant! Starting at an altitude of 4600m and ending at 1200m a couple of hours later after cycling over dirt road with sheer drops to the side is simply unbelievably awesome!

I told you... sheer drops...


The next morning we flew to Sucre, La Ciudad Blanca. It is a relatively small town with a lot of white buildings and a very laidback atmosphere. However, as we hardly had been on the road we got bored soon and decided to head out to Potosi the day after.

Potosi has a very rich history and even used to be the world's richest city due to the massive amounts of silver ore present in the nearby mountains. Today it is a mere shadow of what it use to be and miners work in extreme conditions without the aid of machinery. For tourists this means that you are more than welcome to come and visit some of the mines and add a little to the meager wages of the miners. We bought cigarettes, coca leaves, soft drinks and some alcohol both to give to the miners and to offer to Pachamama - Mother Earth

After Potosi we left for Tupiza is a nice but boring little town. For us, however, it was the starting point of a four day 4x4 tour to Uyuni which is famous for its Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni). Luckily for us we ended up in a Landcruiser together with a bunch of cool people: two Aussies (Bhas and Will) and a South African photographer (Timmy). The first day we were surprised by the massiveness of the landscape that surrounded us and got to see our first llamas. That day we drove from 9 AM till 7 PM to get to our sleeping spot. There we met some other groups and had a great night.

The next day again consisted of incredible mountain ranges and spectacular views. The mountains in this area are also known as the Salvador Dali mountains because of their weird shapes and many colors. The third day we visited quite a few colorful lagoons, checked out an active volcano (from a distance) and saw a lot of Flamingos.

But the big moment was day 4 - the Salar de Uyuni. Getting up at 4 in the morining to be in time at the Salar for sunrise was the first hurdle we had to take but absolutely worth it!

The rest of the day we spent playing around and being amazed by the sheer size of the Salt Flats. One of the highlights of our trip for sure!!!

Super Fun Shots :-)

From Uyuni we bussed all the way to Copacabana, a small town at the shore of Lake Titicaca - world's highest commercially navigable lake. We chilled out for a day in the town and then took a boat to Isla del Sol where hiked the high road to the other side of the island and also spent the night. The next day we walked back via the low route and took a boat back to Copacabana where we caught a bus to Peru (Cusco).

We arrived very early in Cusco (5AM), took a taxi to our hostel and started walking around town. Cusco is a very relaxed, beautiful city where you can cleary see the influence of the Inca society that used to live here.

The next day we rented a motorbike and visited the "Sacred Valley", an area highly valued by the Incas. The best part was that we did not have to stop at any of the "authentic markets" where they try to sell all kinds of crap to tourists. We just drove from one amazing Inca site to the next. One thing that struck both of us is how extremely different the sites were (just check out the pictures). But what they have in common is that they are all extremely well built. Incredible!!! A good preview of what Machu Picchu should look like...

The next day we left for a five day hike to Machu Picchu called the Salkantay Trek. Access to the official Inca Trail has been limited to a mere 500 people per day (incl. porters and guides) and permits sell out months in advance, but our trek was a worthy opponent as well! We experienced it all: sleeping in freezing tents, climbing pretty serious peaks, amazing views, rainforest, mosquitos, but most of all we enjoyed every single bit of it!

The final day we had to walk to Machu Picchu itself. To assure you also get a ticket to Wayna Picchu (the peak you always see in the background of the temples), we got up at 2.30AM. First we walked to the lower entrance gate that would open at 5AM. Here we waited for quite a while, but it was worth it as we were now entirely in the front of the line. When the gate opened the most strenuous task of the whole hike lay before us: walking up the Inca Stairs that lead to the actual entrance... I made it in approx. 40 minutes and was assured of a ticket. Shosh, however, was nowhere to be seen... Due to the darkness she missed a set of stairs at one point and had to take a detour via the bus road. A quick, sneaky action from our guide ensured she got a stamp anyway and we were good to go!
I am not going to describe Machu Picchu as you simply have to experience it to understand. But I will say this: It was superb!

After a relaxed day back in Cusco we went on our Ayahuasca retreat. In three days time we would experience the magical, spiritual powers of this root. Hard to describe what happens, but it kind of feels like you are under full anesthesia but your mind is fully functioning, although your subconscious becomes a lot stronger. It didn't do too much for me but the feeling is different for everyone and it is a unique experience.

After a quick stop in Cusco we took a bus to Arequipa for the last part of our journey. In Arequipa we wandered around, visited the convent, had some great local food and booked a nice trip for the next day: Rafting! Which was simply amazing. Great surroundings, a fun raft-crew and we all got a wet suit ;-)

Bolivia & Peru: We are loving them!!!

Ruud & Shosh
(& Piggy...)