Where are we now?!

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Where are we now?!

 Some of our final shooting in Long Island

Some of our final shooting in Long Island

For those of you who are asking where in the world we are now, good question! In short, we're all over the place. After about 6 weeks working in Riverside, Long Island, we packed up our lives into the Honda Civic (which got a shoutout at the Oscars!) and headed south. With pit stops in NYC and Washington DC to catch up with some friends, we drove down to Durham, North Carolina. We are here for the next week or so catching up with our professors, colleagues and friends in the area. 

We won't be here too long before continuing our drive down the East Coast to Miami, where we'll continue to work for a bit and then embark on trip numero dos to Peru! This trip to Peru will be to film all footage that we couldn't get the first time around. Luckily for us, our flights will be courtesy of JetBlue, who messed up our flights so badly on our first trip that they fully refunded our tickets. Gotta love free stuff! 

So that's our plan for the next month or so. We'll continue to keep you updated with life on the move!

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We made page two!

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We made page two!

We are so excited to share an article about our Riverside documentary that was featured in the Riverhead News Review today! We owe a huge thanks to everyone we have worked with in the Riverside community for making this possible and can't wait to move forward as this project unfolds. Also a big thank you to the News Review for sharing our work!

Below, find the full text of the article written by Joe Werkmeister, or read the article on the Riverhead News Review website. 

 

Duke grads keeping history alive as Riverside moves forward

One question is often posed to Lauren Henschel and Isabel Dover.

How do two recent Duke University graduates — one from Miami (Ms. Henschel) and the other from Boston (Ms. Dover) — with no connection to the East End end up filming a documentary about an area often overlooked even by those who live nearby?

“We get that question a lot,” Ms. Dover said with a laugh. “People are like, ‘What are you doing here?’ ”

In Riverside, Ms. Henschel, 23, and Ms. Dover, 22, found a once-vibrant hamlet with a rich history of untold stories and community members eager to share them. After beginning the project this past summer, they returned to the North Fork this week to continue filming their untitled documentary, which they estimate will take another year or so to complete.

“These stories of the past — these oral histories — haven’t ever really been told,” Ms. Henschel said. “It was an incredible thing to kind of stumble upon.”

The pair’s exploration of Riverside comes at a unique time in the distressed hamlet’s history. Southampton Town hired planner and developer Renaissance Downtowns in early 2014 to create a redevelopment proposal that has since become known as Riverside Rediscovered. The town approved the for-profit company’s action plan two months ago as the project pushes forward.

Siris Barrios, a community liaison for the redevelopment effort, has been instrumental in helping the women coordinate interviews for the film. She summed up the community’s response to the filmmakers in one word: “Excitement.”

“It’s a great story about a place that’s been in economic decline and that, hopefully with this development, we’re going to see rise,” she said. “And we’re going to see it rise in a way that’s authentic and connected to the community that lives here.”

Ms. Henschel and Ms. Dover met as freshmen at Duke and eventually became close friends. Ms. Henschel said she was drawn to the school’s “incredible” documentary program; Ms. Dover studied history with a focus on civil rights and the history of race and minorities in America. Ms. Dover helped Ms. Henschel with her senior thesis documentary and the pair quickly realized their work styles were complementary.

“We couldn’t be more different in terms of the way our brains work,” Ms. Henschel said. “It kind of allows us to check in with each other.”

The pair often joked about collaborating on a project, and as their friends applied for jobs toward the end of college, they decided to take that leap and make a documentary. They applied for grants and received funding to travel to Peru after graduation, where they began documenting the story of a Miami woman who had left her family behind in Peru years earlier. Ms. Henschel and Ms. Dover followed the woman back to her native country for a story about immigration and how it affects a family.

Ms. Henschel was doing freelance work for a video company on the East End this past summer when she learned about Riverside. She called Ms. Dover to say she thought she’d stumbled upon a great story.

“Lauren explained to me about the Riverside area and some of the people she had met there and some of the families she had spoken to,” Ms. Dover said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is right up my alley.’ ”

And just like that, the women were on the cusp of starting a second project. They have since conducted numerous on-camera interviews with Riverside residents, including Robert “Bubbie” Brown and David Peter Fitzgerald.

As part of the Riverside redevelopment effort, Ms. Barrios said, her group conducted a handful of interviews with residents to better understand the hamlet’s history. But compared to what Ms. Henschel and Ms. Dover are planning, they only scratched the surface.

“Sometimes areas get revitalized and the history of the communities get buried,” Ms. Barrios said. “They’re helping to rescue a lot of rich history about this community — the African-American community, the Native American community.”

The women are staying at a family friend’s house in Cutchogue while they work on the Riverside project. When the production stage is completed, they plan to set up in Durham, N.C., to begin the long editing process.

When the film is finished — likely not until the end of this year or early 2017 — they plan to screen it in Riverside. As for wider distribution, Ms. Henschel and Ms. Dover are learning on the fly and hope to eventually find the right fit with a production company or TV network.

“This all started with just an idea in our head,” Ms. Dover said. “It’s really kind of turned into this huge thing I don’t think either of us expected. We’re so thankful for it because we’ve been on this incredible journey.”

--Joe Werkmeister

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Welcome to Riverside

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Welcome to Riverside

Happy new year everyone! (When do you officially stop wishing people a happy new year anyways?) After leaving South America, we parted ways for a few weeks to spend some time at home with family and friends before jumping back into self-employment-- a feat much harder than you might imagine. As some of you might know, we are currently working on two documentaries. One, which you may have been following over the past few months, is the story of ZZ and her family in Peru. The other is the story of a community in Long Island that could not be more different than South America.

Enter Riverside, New York. Lauren first came here over the summer while doing some freelance work. As soon as she met the people there and the story of the community began to unfold, she called Izzy immediately and said “You have to come down here.” Next thing we knew, we were working on a second documentary. We were both so drawn to the story of the Riverside community. We felt it had a history and an evolving present that were largely untold and needed to be recorded.

Riverside is a hamlet that is a part of the town of Southampton (as in the Hamptons). Riverside is located in the East End of Long Island, right at the split of the two forks: the North Fork, made up of farms and vineyards, and the South Fork, home to the Hamptons. Contrary to the common image of the Hamptons, Riverside is the most economically distressed hamlet in Suffolk County and is in one of the most racially segregated portions of the country. It has a large minority population and has historically been neglected by local government action and resources. Riverside wasn’t always this way, and we are working on uncovering pieces of its history to illuminate the vibrant Riverside of the past and its potential for the future.

Right now we are spending most of our days meeting with people in the Riverside community. It’s pretty easy to be self-employed when you get to spend your working hours meeting incredible, interesting people and listening to their stories. We’ve been slowly collecting an archive of stories, photos and other footage from the community. This past week we sat down with several community members, attended a community meeting about the area’s redevelopment, and did some serious archival digging at the County Center through deeds tracing back to the 1930’s!

 Kickin' it old school: microfiche copies of a deed from 1939

Kickin' it old school: microfiche copies of a deed from 1939

 Community meeting at Riverside Rediscovered with Siris and Angela

Community meeting at Riverside Rediscovered with Siris and Angela

 Meet our snowy friend, Hank!

Meet our snowy friend, Hank!

When we’re not working on the documentaries, we’ve been enjoying drives through the countryside, unbelievable winter sunsets, going to Costco and watching a lot of epic movies. We made it through Jonas (the blizzard)-- Lauren got to experience her first ever snow storm and building a snowman! Big shoutout to Lisa Lowenstein, who has been generous enough to put us up while we're working here, impart her culinary knowledge upon us, and set up a man cave in the basement for us to call our own. We’ve been working hard, and have been enjoying every second! We’ll be adding a Riverside page to our website within the next week, so keep your eyes out for more on this documentary.

 

 Meet our sound guy... 

Meet our sound guy... 

 Look, Lauren finally got a coat!

Look, Lauren finally got a coat!

 We like Costco

We like Costco

 A snapshot of our post-work ritual: treats n' movies

A snapshot of our post-work ritual: treats n' movies

 More sunsets!

More sunsets!

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A Look Back on Our Experience

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A Look Back on Our Experience

After returning from our trip in South America, it took the two of us some time to process and collect our thoughts on the experience. We’ve finally gotten to the point where we felt we could put those thoughts into words and share them with you.

The filming process

We have always been incredibly close friends, often on the same page about just about everything. But working with a friend can be a toss-up, especially when you’re living together in a foreign country, often sharing a bed and basically everything else. While we’ve had a few small arguments, we have always managed to find ourselves on the same page about the work we are creating. Working together, we established a flow that really allowed us to get the most out of what we were doing. It wasn’t long before we had fine-tuned the art of telepathy—anticipating follow-up questions in interviews, agreeing to set up shots without exchanging words and bursting out with the exact same ideas simultaneously. We quickly realized that as a unit we had an energy that was contagious. People were opening up to us, crying to us and sharing in their struggles. Because of this, we felt the need to always be our best selves, which can be hard to do all of the time.

There were times when one of us felt too ill, or tired or hungry to function, yet one of us always managed to pick up the slack. We were there to support each other, to push each other and to make sure that what we were creating was not only the truest representation of someone else’s story, but one that felt honest to us as well.

Reflections

Leaving ZZ’s family in Lima felt really difficult for many reasons. We spent three weeks with her incredible family and experienced life the way they do. We lived in their homes, ate with them, traveled with them, cried with them, and even watched as they slaughtered our dinner. Our lives were so intertwined for those weeks. Moving on to the next part of our trip felt strange because we suddenly weren’t surrounded by the Peruvian family we had come to call our own.

Every person in ZZ’s family that we spent time with was more than hospitable. Theirs is such a tight knit family network. Everyone is involved in each other’s lives and provides a support system to one another. They understand the family the Henschels became for ZZ all of the years she had been far from home and unconditionally welcomed us to be a part of their family. They often told us: 

Nuestras casas son pequeños, pero tenemos mucho cariño” 
(Our homes may be small, but they are full of heart.)

 They shared personal stories and experiences from their past with us, and they welcomed us in sharing the experiences of this journey with them.

When family is present in your life it is easy to take them for granted. As we watched ZZ and Julie leave for their flight, we were struck by the fact that they didn’t know when they would see their family again. For most of us, that is such a foreign feeling. It’s difficult to describe the sadness you feel when you say goodbye to someone without knowing when you will see them again. It’s a powerful combination of emotions tied together by an underlying feeling of the unknown.

ZZ’s relationships with her family members have been stretched over huge spans of time and across continents. But no matter how far away she is, how long it’s been since her last visit or how much it costs to call, ZZ has put so much time and effort into maintaining her connections with her family, calling them as often as possible, visiting when she is able, and contributing to their lives in any way that she can. Seeing this made us both think about how important it is to make the effort to maintain family connections, to pick up the phone now and again and be present with your relatives. ZZ showed us the unconditional love and effort that has kept her family together.

Support

We could not be more lucky to have parents and sisters who have supported us on this crazy adventure. It started off as no more than an idea and a few notes we jotted on a piece of paper last December. We can only imagine that it must have been difficult for our parents to hear that we we would be self-employed for the next year of our lives (a.k.a. no paycheck), but they let us prove to them that we were capable of making this happen and for that we will always be grateful. And to our sisters- you guys rock! We love you and know that you are always around to hear about all of the ridiculous things we ate, the hikes we did that were absolutely not safe, or the crazy sunburn we were too scared to tell mom and dad about.

Spending time with such a close and inviting family has also allowed us to see how important it is for all of us to be connected to the stories of our own families. It is likely that people in our generation go to a family gathering only to sit in front of the TV or play on their phones. But for us, being relatively disconnected from the outside world while being so immersed in family stories has opened our eyes. It’s crucial to talk to your grandparents, ask your mom where she came from, ask your dad about his party days and really take the time to find out what life was like for them before you came along. While these might not be questions you would think of asking, they allow you to understand why people are the way they are.

None of this would be possible without the support of our family, friends, mentors and programs at Duke that helped us get to where we are now. A special thank you to the Benenson Award for not only giving us the fiscal support but also for affirming that this piece was worth creating.

Challenges & Rewards

Needless to say, there were aspects of filming while traveling that were challenging. It was pretty hard to wrap our heads around how hard it would be to make a film. We had very little experience and nowhere near enough hands. We won’t lie, we made a lot of mistakes. We didn’t anticipate how challenging the initial language barrier would be, we neglected to start the camera during one interview, we forgot to charge batteries, accidentally left equipment at home and ended up having to use a whole lot of duct tape to doctor our equipment when needed. While frustrating, those mistakes only helped us to become more focused moving forward. Somehow we managed to make it work. And we did it well.

Being new filmmakers, we both struggled with being pulled in two directions. While it is obvious that you need to be physically present at all times, being behind the camera creates distance between those who are recording the story and those who are telling it. With headphones in your ears, an eye on the equipment, and the camera between interviewer and subject, it can be difficult to feel fully engaged. We felt like we needed to constantly have the camera running. Ten days is an incredibly short time to spend with individuals whose life story you are going to tell. Because of this, we decided to put the camera away every once in a while, using that time to strengthen our relationships and open up about our own personal lives. We may have missed some footage that would have been great to have, it only deepened the trust between everyone and allowed for more honest content when the camera was rolling.

One of the most rewarding aspects of filming was the perspective it gave us on our entire experience in Peru. By filming our entire journey, we were able to not only travel with ZZ and her family, but also to gain an understanding of each person’s experience from their perspective. With every interview, we gained an insight into that person’s experience and why this journey was important to them. In many cases, sitting down for an interview and having the camera rolling presented an opportunity for us to share moments with each person, to ask difficult questions, and to have conversations that gave us a greater sense of understanding of this trip and its significance to everyone that was a part of it.

Debriefing with people about our trip upon returning to the United States allowed us to identify perspectives we had adopted over the course of this experience. We both realized that the value of rich experiences can be so much greater than the value of money or material things. We felt most happy and fulfilled when we were stepping outside of our comfort zones, meeting people we wouldn’t normally interact with, and most of all taking the chance to just be and get to know who we really are as individuals. There are more venues for learning than just institutions, and there are far more measures of success than just money. While those things can be important components of having a happy and healthy life, there is so much unharnessed potential that can only be uncovered when you throw yourself into life experiences that are so far out of your comfort zone that that potential reveals itself. That’s why it’s important to push yourself into those experiences. You don’t have to travel to another continent to leave your comfort zone, it can happen within a few miles of your home. Simply starting a conversation with a stranger or spending time with people who are different from you is enough to push your own limits and tap into different parts of who you are. Regardless of where either of us ends up in life, we will always be able to look back on this experience and know that we set out to do something new and challenging, and as a result of that we learned, changed and grew in ways we wouldn’t have ever expected.

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Crossing the border... again: El Calafate & El Chalten

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Crossing the border... again: El Calafate & El Chalten

From Puerto Natales (the closest town to Torres del Paine), we took a bus back across the border into Argentina to El Calafate. We only stayed there for the night before taking off for El Chalten. Calafate and Chalten are on opposite sides of Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina’s second-largest national park. Chalten is a mecca for avid trekkers and climbers worldwide, known for its majestic peaks, as well as temperamental weather. Coming into Chalten, we knew we would be up against some crappy weather, so we kept our expectations low.

 The small town of El Chalten

The small town of El Chalten


Our first day there we did the Lago Torre hike, a beautiful (and thankfully not too difficult) 10-mile hike along a valley to a glacier pooling into a lake surrounded by several mountain peaks. The views were unbelievable for the majority of the time we were walking. We complemented the scenery with more talk of our middle school days, and even started reaching into the elementary school memories. It’s safe to say we probably know everything about each other at this point. Once again, we arrived at the end of the hike to pretty low visibility, but after giving it some time, the sun came out for a few minutes and we were able to get an awesome view of the lake, glacier and mountain peaks.

 The mountains played hide and seek at Lago Capri

The mountains played hide and seek at Lago Capri

 

The following day, we set out to do the infamous Fitz Roy hike, an 8-hour trek to see the highest peak of the mountain range. While we were warned that there might be rain throughout the day, we decided to go for it regardless since we had come all this way. We hadn’t even reached the trailhead yet before we were completely soaked by the rain. We picked up some ponchos to protect ourselves. As soon as we put them on, of course it stopped raining. Happens every time. It was on this hike that our luck with the weather ran out. We hiked for a couple of hours to one of the viewpoints along a lake. We actually could not see a thing. And then it started downpouring. So we downed our lunch, and made the fastest descent. We may have set a record, that’s how badly we needed to get off the mountain, out of the rain and into a bar.

 The wet ascent to Fitz Roy begins!

The wet ascent to Fitz Roy begins!

 The best view we saw along the way in between downpours... not too shabby!

The best view we saw along the way in between downpours... not too shabby!

We had a long, leisurely lunch at a yummy restaurant that afternoon. As we were preparing to pay the bill and head to the bus station, we were told that they only accepted cash, which we had none of. So, Izzy held down the fort while Lauren sprinted into a cab, went to an ATM, came back and paid the bill, then the two of us raced in the cab to catch our bus that we were late for. It was a slightly stressful experience, but we made it on the bus back to Calafate.

Our final day of activities in Southern Patagonia was easily one of our most epic. For our day in Calafate, we rented a car and drove to the national park to trek on the Perito Moreno glacier. The scenery throughout the car ride was absolutely stunning. We didn’t think it could get any better until we saw the glacier with our own eyes. We can both agree that the Perito Moreno glacier is the most incredible thing we have ever seen in nature. We took a boat to the glacier, and were led on a trekking excursion across the glacier’s surface. They gave us spikey things (called crampons, not to be confused with croutons or tampons) to strap on our feet and we walked all over that glacier. It felt like we were walking around on a different planet. The ice was the most incredible shade of blue, with pools and ravines with fresh running glacier water that you could drink directly out of. As if the glacier trek wasn’t amazing enough, the tour finished with a tasting of whiskey on the rocks with ice taken directly from the glacier. It’s hard to get more perfect than that. After the tour, we drove over to the main viewing area, a series of tiered balconies overlooking the glacier. We sat in the sun watching giant pieces of the glacier crash into the water below. It was truly one of the most spectacular sights we have ever seen, and was a perfect way to wrap up our time in Patagonia.

 Cramp On, Cramp Off!

Cramp On, Cramp Off!

 2 gals and a glacier

2 gals and a glacier

 Always gotta be prepared with your warpaint against the sun

Always gotta be prepared with your warpaint against the sun

 Mmmmm fresh glacier water

Mmmmm fresh glacier water

 Finished off our trek with some glacier-cold whiskey

Finished off our trek with some glacier-cold whiskey

 Cheers to you Patagonia!

Cheers to you Patagonia!

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A Spontaneous Trip to Southern Patagonia

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A Spontaneous Trip to Southern Patagonia

We know this wasn’t part of the original plan, but allow us to explain. We were approaching the final week of our trip and were feeling pretty bummed about it. Our plan was to spend that week in Valparaiso and Santiago, exploring the cities. But, the more we thought about it, the more it felt like we were still missing out on a huge part of South America: southern Patagonia. Initially we thought that we wouldn’t have enough time to make it all the way south, but once we looked into it, we realized that we could make it to all the must-sees in Patagonia during the time we would have spent in Valparaiso and Santiago. We both agreed that we had enjoyed the nature-y parts of our trip the most by far, and that the cities could wait for another trip. We also skyped in expert advice from our friends Amanda and Rob, who had both traveled in southern Patagonia and advised us that it was definitely worth a visit. So with that, we booked flights to Punta Arenas, one of the southernmost cities of Chile, to begin our week in southern Patagonia.

Torres del Paine

 Very happy before the hike began!

Very happy before the hike began!

Our full day trek in the Torres del Paine national park was easily the most physically demanding endeavor either of us has ever attempted. We arrived at the park’s base camp just before noon to drop our belongings at the refugio we would be spending the night in, and then headed off on the first leg of the “W” trail. We started out optimistic: the skies were blue, the weather was warm, 8 hour hike? No problem. But then the uphill segment started, and it was steep and we realized that we had a lot working against us. Lauren was breaking in new hiking boots, it was hot and we had overdressed, there were few places to sit and rest that weren’t covered in pricklies, oh and we’re both incredibly out of shape. Despite these obstacles, we made it to the top of the steep segment within a couple of hours. From there we turned a corner around the mountain, and it was as if we had entered a subarctic climate. The temperature dropped at least 20 degrees, the wind started blowing, and the sun became obscured by giant gray clouds. On the bright side, we could see the refugio we were going to stop for lunch at in the distance, and we rejoiced!

 Beware of the Rolling Stones!

Beware of the Rolling Stones!

 The refugio for lunch

The refugio for lunch

We stopped at the refugio for a much-needed lunch break and rest before continuing on our epic trekventure. The next segment of the hike wrapped alongside a river and was, to our great delight, mostly easy rolling hills through the forest. The final hour of the hike was when things really got interesting. It started snowing, Lauren pulled her groin (what is the groin really? tendon? muscle? probably not bone?), and the landscape changed to straight uphill on loose, giant boulders completely exposed to the elements. We motivated ourselves, and others on the trail, up the hill by blasting an epic playlist that included “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Africa,” “Carry on My Wayward Son,” and “This Will Be” (yes, the song from The Parent Trap). The snow continued to get heavier, and before we knew it, we were caught in a full-on blizzard. But we had no choice but to continue, how could we turn back after making it so far?

 A wild Isabel, lampin' away

A wild Isabel, lampin' away

Somehow, with a couple of numb fingers and toes, support from each other, and probably some luck from some higher power, we made it to the top of the trail... and we couldn’t see a thing. No view, no towering mountains, we couldn’t even see the lake that is at the top of the trail and was 10 feet in front of us. Needless to say, we were a little disappointed. And by a little, we mean on the verge of angry tears. But, once we refueled with some peach juice and peanuts, saw a fox prancing in the snow, and met three ridiculous Chilean ladies we started to gain some optimism. We were about to turn around and head back down when all of a sudden, the snow stopped and the fog started to clear. Little by little, we could see more of the lake and eventually the three “torres” or towers of the mountain began to reveal themselves. For about 5 minutes, we were able to see all three towers. That’s all we really needed to know that our hike was worth it. That and a good picture of course.

 Our initial view from the top of... well not much

Our initial view from the top of... well not much

 We couldn't see anything and it wasn't just because our eyes were closed

We couldn't see anything and it wasn't just because our eyes were closed

 ...but we had healthy snacks to keep us going!

...but we had healthy snacks to keep us going!

 Finally some visibility, and a view of Los Torres

Finally some visibility, and a view of Los Torres

The tough part about hiking to a destination is that once  you get there, you have to do it all over again to make it back home. And our home was really really far. With our muscles starting to feel the soreness from our day of hiking and the constantly changing weather, we embarked on our return trip down the mountain. It really felt like it took forever. We passed the time by digging into the treasure trove of middle school memories to tell each other entertaining stories. We really learned a lot about each other this day, the good, the bad, and the incredibly ugly. By the time we made it to the last part of the hike, the sun was beginning to set (it was 9pm). This offered us an incredible view of the valley and lakes below and the mountains beyond. Even though we couldn’t feel our legs and feet, it was a spectacularly beautiful view and an incredible day that neither of us will ever forget.

 The aftermath of the blizzard

The aftermath of the blizzard

We finished off our day with a glass of wine by the fire, looking out the window at the towers that we had hiked so far to see. Turns out, we could have just viewed them from the refugio. But that wouldn’t have made a very good story, would it?

 A view of the towers from afar

A view of the towers from afar

 The view from the dinner table

The view from the dinner table


P.S. We were planning to hike the next day, but our bodies absolutely would not allow it.


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The Island of Chiloe

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The Island of Chiloe

From Puerto Varas, we took a bus (which drove onto a ferry) to the island of Chiloe. Chiloe is the second largest island (technically it’s an archipelago) off of South America. It is well known in Chile for its fishing villages, brightly painted houses, and strong indigenous folklore and culture. It’s by far one of the most unique place we have ever been. We stayed in the northern city of Ancud in the 13 Lunas Hostel, an incredibly Victorian-esque house with tall ceilings, tons of windows, hammocks, a puppy, and a deck overlooking the ocean (perfect for viewing the 10:30pm sunset). We met many interesting people there, young and old. But seriously, some were pretty wacky.

On our first day, we rented a car and drove the northern part of the island, stopping at a national park, several small fishing towns, and viewpoints overlooking the green rolling hills of the island and the ocean beyond. It was by far one of our favorite days of the whole trip. We picked up various fresh market items along the way to finish our day with the best meal we’ve ever cooked: fresh steamed mussels!

 A map of the island and the only directions we had for the day

A map of the island and the only directions we had for the day

 The wonderul trees of the  Chiloén National Park

The wonderul trees of the Chiloén National Park

 Full head of hair on this tree!

Full head of hair on this tree!

 How could this all exist in one park?

How could this all exist in one park?

 All of the different little towns had a plethora of incredibly colorful boats!

All of the different little towns had a plethora of incredibly colorful boats!

 One of the famous churches in  Chiloé. 

One of the famous churches in Chiloé. 

 Inside the church

Inside the church

 A nice cozy cup of coffee

A nice cozy cup of coffee

 We cooked these and bought them fresh off the beach!

We cooked these and bought them fresh off the beach!

 And the final, delicious product!

And the final, delicious product!

The next day, we went off to see some pinguinos (penguins)! We hopped in the hostel’s Land Rover (Lauren’s dream car) with a motley crew from the hostel and drove to a nearby beach where we boarded boats to check the penguin colonies. They were everything you could ever hope for in a penguin, cute, silly, tuxedo-wearing, clumsy little bird things. On the way back, we made lots of stops to take in beautiful views of the island. We ran into some cows on the road, found a cool cave on a beach, and ate the Chiloean version of rhubarb raw (it was yucky). We finished off the day reading and drinking maté in the sun-soaked top floor of the hostel, and cooked a delicious steamed clam spaghetti for dinner. It was an incredible way to capture the essence of Chiloe. 

 SO MANY PENGUINS!

SO MANY PENGUINS!

 Our leeeetle penguin friend Peeeeta!

Our leeeetle penguin friend Peeeeta!

 The sun is blinding!

The sun is blinding!

 The whip

The whip

 Yummy home-cooked meal #2!

Yummy home-cooked meal #2!

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Our First Parilla and Volcanoes with New Friends

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Our First Parilla and Volcanoes with New Friends

 We know it's a terrible picture, but here's Santiago grillin' some meat Argentina style

We know it's a terrible picture, but here's Santiago grillin' some meat Argentina style

We celebrated what we thought would be our last night in Argentina (we’ll come back to this) with one last night at the Green House Hostel. Santiago agreed to cook us a traditional parilla—Argentinian barbeque—if we supplied the groceries. It was hard to beat our dinner at Francis Mallmann’s restaurant, but this came close. We were confused when he cooked everything without spices directly over hot coals, but we figured out that this plus his magic touch and a whole lot of maté made for absolutely delicious meat. 

The next morning we hopped on a bus to cross back into Chile heading towards the town of Puerto Varas. Puerto Varas is located in the Lakes and Volcanoes District of Chile on Lake Llanquihue. The German colonization left its mark in the architecture of the town, which overlooks the silhouette of the Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes, whose summits are always covered by snow and oftentimes clouds. The views in pictures are absolutely incredible, but we were confused when we arrived because the volcano was entirely covered by clouds. Were we in the right place? It turns out we were, we just needed a sunny day to realize it.

For our full day in Puerto Varas, we took a local bus along the lake to the Petrohué national park, home to two volcanoes and a waterfall, Los Saltos del Petrohué. Once again, we arrived a little bit confused and unsure of what we should actually be doing there. Luckily we stumbled across a longhaired man named Manú who became our guide, funny friend and source of entertainment for the day. Following the death of his phone, we became his personal photographers as well. Evidence of the photo shoot to follow. With Manú’s help, we were able to get on a boat ride to view the entire volcano from the lake, which was glorious. He also led us through a series of winding trails through the national park. Manú really saved the day for us and we love him for that. Manú: If you’re reading this, hi we miss you, you rock, don’t change, keep posing. 

Let the photo shoot begin:

 Our new friend Manú

Our new friend Manú

 Manú throwing sand

Manú throwing sand

 Manú disobeying rules

Manú disobeying rules

 Manú being pensive

Manú being pensive

 Manú being Jorge del Bosque (George of the Jungle)

Manú being Jorge del Bosque (George of the Jungle)

 Now a little bit of us!

Now a little bit of us!

 Look, a volcano!

Look, a volcano!

 Who knew that was in there???

Who knew that was in there???

 Two girls and a volcano!

Two girls and a volcano!

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A Hippie Backpacker's Paradise

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A Hippie Backpacker's Paradise

After our road trip through the lakes, we hopped on a bus to head south to the town of El Bolson for two days. El Bolson is described as a ‘bohemian town,’ which basically means some hippies live there. The town is surrounded by hiking trails and is within its own microclimate, making it one of the few areas in this part of Patagonia that is great for farming. Although our time there was short, we had a few favorite moments and places in El Bolson.

Casona de Odile

We stayed at a hostel called Casona de Odile, which we decided might be heaven on earth. It’s a ways out of the center of town, but has a couple of acres of its own land that looks like the Garden of Eden with hammocks where it’s always the golden hour. The back of the property borders a river where you can swim and fish, and they offer yoga outside every morning. We decided to sample the yoga class, and let us tell you, that might be one of the best views we’ve ever had from the downward dog position. We soon began to understand why none of the staff were from Argentina, but rather were travelers from various countries around the world who had come to the Casona but never left. We loved having the opportunity to spend hours in the garden, sipping maté and talking about the documentary—discussing our reflections and what our next steps will be once we return to the U.S. to complete the remainder of the film. It was the perfect place to relax, replenish, and look forward to all of the amazing things ahead.

Humus Dairy Farm

When we did manage to pull ourselves away from the garden, we did some light hiking to some of the nearby places recommended by the hostel. One of these included a two-hour walk in the baking sun to a “waterfall.” We were slightly disappointed to find that it was really just a trickling stream of water down a rock face. It looked more like a pee stream than a waterfall. But, it wasn’t all a loss. We ended up hitching a ride back towards town with a friendly school teacher and her daughter who told us all about the area. They even dropped us at a local dairy farm, where we bought fresh home-made cheese and apple juice. Martinelli’s has nothing on this juice. After our morning hike it was just what we needed.

El Bolson Mercado Artesanal

What do hippies do best? The Argentinian answer to that is make crafts of course. El Bolson is known for its huge weekend craft market, so we spent our last morning in town drinking maté with the locals and perusing everything from jewelry to maté gourds, dream catchers and hand-carved drums, all while eating yummy empanadas and French fry cones.

For anyone traveling this region of Argentina, we would highly recommend a stop in El Bolson, whether to hike and camp or to take a break and unwind, it’s a truly wonderful place with lovely people and a whole lot of maté. 

 Wild lupines on the walk to the beautiful pee stream of a waterfall

Wild lupines on the walk to the beautiful pee stream of a waterfall

 La Casona de Odile: hippe backpacker heaven

La Casona de Odile: hippe backpacker heaven

 Walking to the river behind Casona de Odile

Walking to the river behind Casona de Odile

 The hostel dog and our guide through the woods

The hostel dog and our guide through the woods

 Casona de Odile garden, also known as hammock paradise

Casona de Odile garden, also known as hammock paradise

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The Seven Lakes

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The Seven Lakes

After two days of exploring Bariloche and the surrounding area, we weren’t quite sure what would come next. We knew that we wanted to make it south to the town of El Bolson, and also wanted to spend some time exploring the area north of Bariloche known as the Seven Lakes Route. We woke up that Wednesday morning with no plan whatsoever, but with some help from our dear friends at Green House, we pulled something together quickly.

Santiago, manager of the hostel and extremely chill guy who soon became a good friend, helped us figure everything out. He helped us rent a car, figure out our route, and accompanied us part way along the beginning of our journey north through the Seven Lakes with a friend, and of course a thermos for maté.

 A map of the Seven Lakes Route

A map of the Seven Lakes Route

The Seven Lakes Route is one of the most famous circuits for driving, biking and camping in the Argentinian Patagonia, located in the area known as the “Lake District.” It is about 200 km from start to finish and links the town of San Martín de los Andes to Bariloche. They call it the Seven Lakes Route, but we counted way more lakes than that. This was the first time we had our own wheels in South America and there is truly nothing better than blasting amazing music with the windows down, stopping whenever you want to and being surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery you have ever seen.

We could try to describe it to you in words, but we think pictures may be the only way to do it justice. 

 Our road trip buddies, Juan and Santiago (with our rental car, Clio, making an appearance in the background) !

Our road trip buddies, Juan and Santiago (with our rental car, Clio, making an appearance in the background) !

 Welcome to Villa la Angostura. We loved this sign!

Welcome to Villa la Angostura. We loved this sign!

 Stopping for a photo in front of Rio Correntoso, connecting Lago Correntoso and Lago Nahuel Huapi.

Stopping for a photo in front of Rio Correntoso, connecting Lago Correntoso and Lago Nahuel Huapi.

 Lago Correntoso... Look at how clear the water is!!!

Lago Correntoso... Look at how clear the water is!!!

 Rio Correntoso is magnificent :)

Rio Correntoso is magnificent :)

 The Fisherman Path

The Fisherman Path

 These yellow flowers grow wild all over Patagonia, including Chile, and smell like peaches! We love them very much. They will be missed. 

These yellow flowers grow wild all over Patagonia, including Chile, and smell like peaches! We love them very much. They will be missed. 

 Fisherman fishing. Lauren accidentally got too close and got whipped in the face by his fly.

Fisherman fishing. Lauren accidentally got too close and got whipped in the face by his fly.

 Fisherman Path part 2 continued. 

Fisherman Path part 2 continued. 

 Lago Espejo. We swam here and it was COLD. Leg-numbingly cold. 

Lago Espejo. We swam here and it was COLD. Leg-numbingly cold. 

 A lost flower on Lago Espejo

A lost flower on Lago Espejo

 Bridge over troubled waters. JK the waters are very calm and collected. 

Bridge over troubled waters. JK the waters are very calm and collected. 

 Trees leading down to our favorite lake, Lago Espejo. 

Trees leading down to our favorite lake, Lago Espejo. 

 Did you know 'espejo' means mirror?

Did you know 'espejo' means mirror?

 This picture's just fine, but we wanted to show you Lago Villarino. 

This picture's just fine, but we wanted to show you Lago Villarino. 

 These trees rock!

These trees rock!

 Cascada... okay we'll be honest we know it starts with a V. Couldn't tell you the rest of the name. 

Cascada... okay we'll be honest we know it starts with a V. Couldn't tell you the rest of the name. 

 Finishing day 1 in San Martin de los Andes overlooking Lago Lacar. No joke, sun set at 9:30 pm.

Finishing day 1 in San Martin de los Andes overlooking Lago Lacar. No joke, sun set at 9:30 pm.

 View overlooking the valley leaving San Martin de los Andes. 

View overlooking the valley leaving San Martin de los Andes. 

 Little Isa, big world. 

Little Isa, big world. 

 Our road trip box of supplies: maté, leaky thermos, maté gourd, bombilla, and plenty of ham n' cheese. (And dirty clothes)

Our road trip box of supplies: maté, leaky thermos, maté gourd, bombilla, and plenty of ham n' cheese. (And dirty clothes)

 We drove an hour each way on an unpaved road to get to Lago Traful. Definitely worth it, but we weren't sure if the car would make it. 

We drove an hour each way on an unpaved road to get to Lago Traful. Definitely worth it, but we weren't sure if the car would make it. 

 More Lago Traful. It was awesome!

More Lago Traful. It was awesome!

 The booming town of Villa Traful. Population: 1 (from what we could tell)

The booming town of Villa Traful. Population: 1 (from what we could tell)

 The windy side of Lago Traful.

The windy side of Lago Traful.

 Driving back into Bariloche (you can see it in the very distance) overlooking Lago Nahuel Huapi. 

Driving back into Bariloche (you can see it in the very distance) overlooking Lago Nahuel Huapi. 

 Couldn't have done without our homegirl, trusty Clio.

Couldn't have done without our homegirl, trusty Clio.

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Bariloche: Our Intro To Patagonia

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Bariloche: Our Intro To Patagonia

Bariloche was the most welcoming possible reprieve from the bustle of Buenos Aires. As much as we enjoyed being in the city, it’s hard to compare it to being surrounded by incredible views and clean air everywhere you turn. Bariloche is located in the lakes district of the Argentinian side of northern Patagonia. The landscape is made up of deep green valleys, hundreds of bright blue lakes and snow-capped mountain peaks at the edge of every horizon. We arrived a couple of weeks before the start of the high season, so we got beautiful weather and surprisingly few tourists. We stayed in the Green House Hostel, a little house on the outskirts of town with incredible views of the main lake and mountains from every room and the chilliest, most wonderful staff and vibes. We walked in and they were blasting Amy Winehouse and playing reggae at breakfast the next morning. That’s how chill it is.

In Bariloche, there is a decently reliable bus system. The only problem for us was that we had the card needed for the bus, but had no money on it. Everywhere we asked, we were told that there was nowhere nearby to recharge the card that we have, so the most common practice is to either ask someone on the bus to pay for you, or to hitchhike. Several people told us once we arrived in Bariloche that hitchhiking there is not only safe, but extremely common. So the first morning after waiting for 20 minutes for a bus that looked like it had no intention of showing up, we stuck out our thumbs and hitched a ride. We were pleasantly surprised when a young, friendly couple pulled over and drove us part of the way to our destination. They were so sweet and welcoming, and gave us great advice on what to do in the area. So, we decided to try to hitchhike the rest of the distance we needed to go. Our next ride was with a guy who is a trekking guy in the area, also super friendly, loaded with great information, and dropped us off right at the doorstep of the bike rental shop we were headed to. Not only did we get to where we needed to go, but we met some incredible people along the way and it was free!

One thing we have definitely picked up on in South America is that exaggeration and/or underestimation are ridiculously common. We were advised to take a bike ride around the Circuito Chico, a 29 km route that circles several of the lakes in the region. We were told that parts were ‘pretty steep.’ After having to get off the bikes and walk up the very first hill, we realized that this was an extreme underestimation. Despite the intensity of the ride, we decided to take our time through the loop, stopping frequently to enjoy the incredible views, grab a bite to eat, or casually walk our bikes up a particularly steep stretch of road. In the end we had a thoroughly exhausting but unbelievably beautiful day. 

 Lauren drinking from a fresh water stream

Lauren drinking from a fresh water stream

The next day we decided to ‘take it easy’ by doing a short hike up to Cerro Campanario, once listed as one of National Geographic’s top ten views in the world. Once again, we were misled to believe that this would be a gentle hike. While the hike was only about 40 minutes long, the majority of it was straight up a hill that felt like at least a 45-degree incline. Of course the view at the top was entirely worth the climb. We could see lakes and mountains forever, and could see and marvel at the loop we had biked the day before. 

 The loop we biked!

The loop we biked!

When we made it down the mountain, we decided that we had definitely earned a treat for all of our strenuous exercise, so we decided to take a short tour of some of the local Argentinian breweries called cervecerias. We started off at one called La Berlina, a log house surrounded by fields with a grassy backyard overlooking the mountains. It was absolutely heavenly. From there we had the luck of hitchhiking with the kindest older man who spoke great English, enjoys gardening and wasn’t creepy in the slightest. He just so happened to be driving to the supermarket next door to the cerveceria we wanted to try next… what luck! He even ended up joining us for a beer. At this brewery, we tried most likely the best amber ale we’ve ever had. We liked it so much that we took some home with us. Their policy was that the customer provides the bottle and they fill up the beer. Not having had the foresight to bring an empty bottle with us, Lauren ran next door to the store, bought a bottle of water, we chugged/ dumped it out, and the bartenders kindly filled it with beer. 

 Beers with a view

Beers with a view

 B.H.Y.O.B. (Bring Home Your Own Beer!)

B.H.Y.O.B. (Bring Home Your Own Beer!)

Once we had our water bottle of beer secured in our bag, we went back to the road and had one last fabulous hitchhiking ride to seal our experience in Bariloche. A father picked us up with his 10 and 11 year-old daughters in the back seat who literally feigned fainting when they found out we were from the U.S. It also turns out the dad has a friend who owns 3 Argentinian restaurants in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Once again, an amazingly charming hitchhiking experience.

The next day began a spontaneous series of events that we’ll have to fill you in on later. 

 

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A Buenos Aires Thanksgiving

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A Buenos Aires Thanksgiving

From Mendoza we flew to Buenos Aires, and what a change it was. Our flight was delayed so we did what anyone in South America would do: ate empanadas. Buenos Aires is a huge, European-feeling city that can be hard to get to know in a short period of time. Here are some of our highs and lows from three days there:

 A doggie friend in La Boca supporting his local team.

A doggie friend in La Boca supporting his local team.

High: We danced our way off the plane to Lake Street Dive blasting through our headphones.

Low: Got stuck in rush hour traffic on the way from the airport to the hostel.

 Izzy and her long time friend Jaryd, who played host in Buenos Aires

Izzy and her long time friend Jaryd, who played host in Buenos Aires

Our neighborhood:

Low: Our hostel was huge, apparently known as 'the party hostel.' A.k.a. huge place, too many people with very little interaction. The vibe was too commercial mixed with a feeling of middle school social awkwardness.

High: Izzy's friend from high school, Jaryd, was working one block away at another hostel with great vibes and an incredible rooftop overlooking the entire city, so we spent a lot of time there. Not to mention it was situated above a scrumptious pizza and empanada place. 

Thanksgiving:

Low: We missed our families' home-cooked Thanksgiving smorgasbords and being surrounded by loved ones. 

High: Jaryd's mom, who was visiting Buenos Aires, invited us over for turkey, gravy and potatoes and we felt right at home!

Palermo:

Low: We walked to the artsy area of Buenos Aires called Palermo. Unfortunately we got stuck in the rain there and spent most of our time in a cafe.

High: The second time we went we had beautiful weather and the neighborhood was full of people on a Saturday. Palermo is the Wynwood of Buenos Aires. We saw amazing stores, markets, restaurants, street art and tons of funky people. We wandered the streets for five hours and never stopped seeing cool, interesting and new things. 

 Palermo, Buenos Aires

Palermo, Buenos Aires

Nightlife:

Low: For the first part of this trip we had gotten accustomed to being in bed by 11 at the latest (except during Peruvian parties), with a few later nights in Mendoza. Buenos Aires was a whole new ballgame. We got home from a night out at 7am, nearly blinded by the sunlight when we left the club.

 New friends joined in for a snapchat at a nightclub in Palermo.

New friends joined in for a snapchat at a nightclub in Palermo.

High: We had an awesome night out in Buenos Aires. Jaryd brought us to a bar with several of his friends, and by an early 4am, we had entered a club. We had a great time pretending it was Izzy's birthday so we could get free drinks. The night was full of fun, dancing and funny Argentinian pop music and safety (don't worry mom). 

Once again, sorry to be brief with our post. We are still working off a phone and little wifi. Thanks for staying tuned!

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Good Vibes n Wine in Mendoza

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Good Vibes n Wine in Mendoza

Pardon our lack of posting, we are in the middle of nowhere with horrible wifi but we think of you all often! We are also uploading everything from a phone so it is sure to be a mess.

Mendoza was the perfect transition from a month of traveling with others to flying solo. After leaving Lima, we flew to Santiago, Chile where we had around 8 hours to kill before catching our overnight bus to Mendoza. The only attractions near the Santiago bus terminal are shady casinos and a giant shopping mall—we chose to spend our afternoon at the mall. Here are some things that happened during that time:

  • We ate KFC on the mall’s rooftop overlooking the city.

  • A couple sitting next to us took PDA (public display of affection) to a new level, intimately caressing each other while the boyfriend drank his beer and looked at his phone with headphones in.

  • Another rooftop group was having a birthday party during which they smuggled in their own refreshments (6-pack included), hung a Chilean flag on a bush, and started posing next to a picture of Luis Miguel they brought with them. We later did some investigating and found out that this was actually a pregame for a Luis Miguel concert. Who pre-games at the mall? Apparently Chilean Luis Miguel fans do. They were eventually 'kicked out’ by security, but they just kept on partying.

  • We decided to kill a couple of hours by buying beers at the food court, pouring them into water bottles and smuggling them into the movie theater so we could catch a Spanish-dubbed viewing of Los Juegos del Hambre (The Hunger Games). Neither of us knows anything about The Hunger Games movies, which wasn’t helped by the fact that we arrived 20 minutes late for the movie, had to leave early and it was the final film in a series of four. Oh and did we mention it was in Spanish? What happened between Catniss and Peeta? We couldn’t really tell you considering we mostly made up the plot based on what little we understood and a lot of creativity.

Surprisingly enough, we made it to our bus on time and were crossing the Argentinian border by 1am. That was where the efficiency ended. Crossing the border took about 2 hours, during which we made fun of the idiots who didn’t bring warm clothing to stand outside the border in the Andes in the middle of the night. Just kidding, we were those idiots. Everyone else was warm while we huddled together in t-shirts under one shared raincoat. As they say, you live and you learn and sometimes you freeze along the way.

Day 1 in Mendoza: We slept for 2 hours, and then hopped on a bus out to Maipú (pronounced my-poo) for an afternoon biking through vineyards. It was amazing; we love wine and will tolerate exercise to drink it. But really, the countryside was absolutely stunning and the weather was glorious.

 Arriving at our first vineyard, Trapiche! 

Arriving at our first vineyard, Trapiche! 

 We attempted a bike selfie but instead we took a selfie with a pole. Lol.  

We attempted a bike selfie but instead we took a selfie with a pole. Lol.  

 Yum wine! 

Yum wine! 

We spent that evening in the courtyard at our awesome hostel, Punto Urbano, drinking wine, meeting new people and exchanging crazy travel stories. It’s unbelievable how much you can have in common with people you barely know and only overlap with for a short period of time. Somehow in the moments we spent getting to know people at our hostel, we connected with them and had so many shared experiences of traveling despite being from entirely different places and backgrounds. It’s truly wonderful to be able to sit around a table with complete strangers in a strange place and yet feel so at home.

Day 2: We weaseled our way into a rafting trip with a friend we met at the hostel and drove out of the city towards the mountains for the day. The trip guides had a pretty chill set up of a wooden cabin set up with deck chairs and plenty of spots for basking in the sun, wedged between a river and giant mountains. We white water rafted through the icy glacial river in the morning, and after a lunch and sun-bathing break, we hiked up a treacherous rocky path to repel down a rock face. Lauren almost fell to her death several times but managed some impressive saves, one of which included grabbing onto a cactus for support.

 With our new friend Shai! 

With our new friend Shai! 

 Wahoo! 

Wahoo! 

 Isabel prepping! 

Isabel prepping! 

It was a full day of activities and we worked up an appetite, which was definitely a good thing since we had dinner booked that night at Francis Mallmann’s restaurant in Mendoza. Mallmann was featured on Netflix’s series Chef’s Table in our favorite episode. It’s difficult to describe how insane his cooking is, so we can only recommend that you watch it for yourself. The food was of the best we’ve ever had and our meal included a trip down to the wine cave with the sommelier to pick our wine for the evening. We ate:

  • Home-made empanadas

  • Grilled pear with burrata cheese and crispy bacon crumbs

  • Slow-cooked pork ribs that melted off the bone and tasted like candy

  • Grilled rib eye steak with domino potatoes

  • “Chocolate for fanatics,” a tasting of their three best chocolate desserts

 hey look it's us!

hey look it's us!

 the wine cave

the wine cave

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Overall, the meal was overwhelmingly deliciously superb. There are no pictures that do it justice, so do yourself a favor and watch the show on Netflix.

Day 3: What perfect way to finish up our time in Mendoza? A trip to the hot springs of course! We had the most beautiful, relaxing time at the hot springs outside of the city. Surrounded by mountains, the hot springs are a series of natural pools of different temperatures. We spent that evening with new friends from the hostel and had a hoot and a half rolling through the city with one of the most odd-ball gangs ever, ending the night eating late-night French fries and hamburgers from the only place that was open. For those considering traveling to Mendoza in the future, give Mr. Dog’s a hard miss.

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 New friends of different sizes, Shai and Jerry at Punto Urbano Hostel.  

New friends of different sizes, Shai and Jerry at Punto Urbano Hostel.  

Mendoza was the perfect, relaxing and friendly way to start the next part of our trip: The Backpacking Phase.  

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Reaching New Heights: Machu Picchu & Cusco

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Reaching New Heights: Machu Picchu & Cusco

The two of us parted ways for a few days to travel to Machu Picchu and Cusco-- Lauren with her dad, and Izzy with her parents. We were able to meet up a few times throughout the week to get both families together.

 Eating jello in Ollantaytambo

Eating jello in Ollantaytambo

We found that Cusco-- other than its name and a lot of llamas-- doesn't have all that much in common with "The Emperor's New Groove." It has a charming historic city center with great vibes, and plenty of backpackers, but is also a much larger and expanding city of about 500,000. The highest regarded career for Cusqueños is tourism, especially since Cusco now receives over 2 million tourists per year.  

One thing that's particularly cool about Cusco is that there are incredible layers of history. It was the capital of the Incan Empire and has over 3,000 sites of Incan ruins. The town center is all colonial Spanish architecture, with wooden balconies overlooking the streets, cobblestone alleyways and ornate churches constructed on top of the Incan ruins. 

Here are a few of our favorite moments from our time in Cusco and at Machu Picchu: 

Lauren and Andy summited Wayna Picchu, one of the most dangerous climbs in the world! For two of the clumsiest people on the planet, this was a huge feat. 

Izzy and her parents saw the sites of Cusco.

Lauren bungeed off of the highest bungee jump in South America and lived to tell the tale. 

Izzy danced on a train with 'traditional Incan devils' in rainbow jumpsuits. 

Lauren and her tour guide Carlos started a lifelong friendship.

We explored the Cusco central market and bought a lot of alpaca sweaters. 

Andy and Jeff stargazed together.

Lauren and Andy caught some poolside music.

The llama fraternity showcased membership bracelets atop Machu Picchu. 

Lauren and Izzy made new friends. 

The Dovers and the Henschels united for an afternoon stroll through Machu Picchu. The mosquitoes were vicious, but the views were incredible. 

A HUGE thank you to our parents for joining us in Peru and taking us to some of the country's most beautiful places. It was amazing to share this experience with you and we love you so much!

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The Sacred Valley

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The Sacred Valley

The next phase of our journey has begun! Lauren's dad, the one and only Andrew Henschel, arrived in Lima on Friday night. Early the next morning the three of us took off for Cusco! Izzy's parents will be joining the Cusco party on Monday. We are both excited for this part of the trip for many reasons: quality time with the parents, visiting the site of the acclaimed film "The Emperor's New Groove," decompressing from an incredible but exhausting three weeks of filming, making alpaca friends and exploring a new part of Peru. 

If you're not familiar with Incan history and folklore, its okay, neither are we. So we did a little research to give some background on Cusco and why it was such a significant place for the Incas. According to an Inca legend, long ago people were ignorant and brutal, living like wild animals, without clothes or houses. The god Inti, known as Our Father the Sun, sent one of his sons and one of his daughters to earth to teach them how to live properly. The son was Manco Capac, whom Inti made the ruler of all the races of people around Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. "I want you to rule these peoples as a father rules his children," Inti told Manco Capac. The god gave his son and daughter instructions about how to find the best place for their court. Starting at Lake Titicaca, they were to visit the villages and look for a place where they could drive a gold stake into the ground with one blow. The site became the location of Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire.

The Sacred Valley, where we are now, was given this name because of its fertile land despite being at such a high altitude. It's absolutely beautiful, with small pueblos snaking along the river in between the Peruvian Andes. Here are a few snapshots of what we've done since we've been here. 

After landing in Cusco, we drove up over the hills into the valley, stopping along the way for a few scenic views and finishing up at our hotel with a double rainbow. 

In a town called Chinchero, we went to a textiles workshop to see how women in the region have been dying and weaving alpaca and sheep's wool for centuries. We were mind-boggled by how they had discovered all of these natural resources to create such vivid colors. Nelly (the woman in the video) showed us how to make soap out of roots and crush up beetles to create red dye that can even be used as lipstick!

 Scrubbing the root to make suds

Scrubbing the root to make suds

 Looks and smells like soap!

Looks and smells like soap!

 This is what happens when you 'sacrifice' a beetle

This is what happens when you 'sacrifice' a beetle

 Beetlejuice lipstick

Beetlejuice lipstick

 Izzy loves baby alpaca wool. So cozy!

Izzy loves baby alpaca wool. So cozy!

 All the weavers

All the weavers

Nelly also showed us the proper way to bundle up a baby when you're on the go!

Next stop was the Chinchero market.

 Traditional women's hat

Traditional women's hat

 Lauren joined a local band

Lauren joined a local band

And we saw our first llamas! (Different than alpacas. Llamas tend to be about three times the weight and much taller than alpacas)

We made some alpaca friends of our own too. Meet Tika and Wina. We've bottle-fed them breakfast twice, so now they're our new best friends.

We'll be traveling separately for a couple of days with our families, so if you don't hear from us don't worry! There will be more to come soon!

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10 Things You Should Know About Lima

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10 Things You Should Know About Lima

We left Lima for the last time on Friday to head south to Cusco. After spending so much time there, we feel like we’ve come to know a bit more about the city, and definitely a lot about the people who live there. Here are ten things you should know about Lima:

1)   Nothing is ever on time. Ever. You can usually count on there being a one to two to three hour delay on most things.

2)   Being in a car is like real time Mario Kart. There are no traffic lanes, you can bash into other cars without consequence, or hit a giant pothole and spin in circles and keep going. And there are rewards in the streets! At any stop you can buy fresh juice, clothing, cell phone batteries, you name it. Just like Mario Kart, it’s thrilling, fun, and a little bit anxiety-provoking.

3)   The population of Lima is approximately 11 million—over one-third of the entire country’s population. And it’s bigger than the state of Rhode Island! It’s really very big.

4)   Lima is situated on the Pacific Coast, and thus the ceviche is absolutely killer. People in Lima take their ceviche so seriously that it’s actually impossible to buy ceviche in the second half of the day because the fish isn’t as fresh. Cevicherias close after lunch and if you see one that’s open, it’s probably run by foreigners.

 Lima, desert city!

Lima, desert city!

5)    Lima is the second largest desert city in the world next to Cairo. That explains all the dust!

6)   We were told that the majority of traffic police are women. When we asked why this might be the case, they said it’s because men are much more likely not to charge people for misdemeanors in exchange for a bribe.

7)   While we were in Lima we noticed that the sky was almost always completely gray. We were a little bummed out at the lack of sun at first, until we learned that the gray sky is fondly referred to as the donkey’s belly. How can you be sad when you look at a donkey belly? Who needs sunshine anyway?

8)   As much as we loved the food in the northern countryside of Peru, the home cooking in Lima is entirely unbeatable. Not only is the home cooking out of this world, but you can also get some of the best food you’ll ever have in local restaurants without emptying your wallet.

 Inca Kola advertising: "With creativity love is possible"

Inca Kola advertising: "With creativity love is possible"

9)   Lima is one of only three cities in the world in which Coca Cola is not the leading drink. Inca Cola, the neon yellow bubble gum soft drink sold on every corner in the city and throughout the rest of Peru is by far the most popular beverage. We were pretty grossed out by it when we first arrived, but now we have to admit that we actually really like it. Okay, we love it.

10)  Lima is home to some of the most genuine, welcoming, interesting, beautiful humans we have ever come across and we couldn’t be more grateful for the hospitality they showed us.




P.S. Here’s another one for good measure: Lima is named after Peru’s native lima bean. We don’t actually know this; it’s just an educated guess.

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Sand Surfing in Huacachina

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Sand Surfing in Huacachina

On Monday we drove 4 hours south of Lima to Huacachina with Tio Wilson, his kids Susan and Jeyson, Nils, ZZ, Julie and Abigail. When we started off the day with a rental van with a dead battery, we were unsure of how successful our day trip would be. But thanks to Wilson and Nils's expertise, we were able to get the van running and hit the road. Other than that, we made it through the trip with very few hiccups-- other than Abigail losing her breakfast on the way there and her dinner on the way back... all over the van.

Huacachina is a nature preserve that covers about 100 square kilometers. Tourists travel from far and wide to visit the natural oasis surrounded by giant sand dunes as far as the eye can see. We got there just in time to hop in a sand dune buggy driven by our number one homie Rinaldo. Let's just say his driving was far from cautious and we loved it. We zoomed up the massive sand dunes and got to surf down them on sand boards. We left Huacachina with hearts full of adrenaline and pants full of sand. The whole time we were like...

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Back to Lima: A Nugget, a Futbol and a Finca

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Back to Lima: A Nugget, a Futbol and a Finca

A Nugget

The nugget has arrived in Lima! The morning after we got back to Lima, we went straight to see Abigail (ZZ's 18 month-old granddaughter and Lauren's niece who is visiting Peru for the first time!) We've had so much fun seeing the sites of Lima with her and watching her enjoy the Peruvian cuisine. We know she's a true Peruvian because she loves to munch on raw red onions. At the moment she's probably the cutest toddler in Peru. We can't wait to see her in her new alpaca poncho!

We also visited the house that Julie (ZZ's daughter) spent the majority of her childhood in in Lima before she left to come to the United States. The house looks different than it did when Julie lived there, but being there brought back emotional memories of her time there. For Lauren, it was powerful to see where her sister spent much of her life before living with the Henschels in Miami. It was meaningful for both of us to see where Julie spent much of her childhood and to hear her describe her childhood in Lima. 

 ZZ, Abigail and Julie in front of Julie's childhood home 

ZZ, Abigail and Julie in front of Julie's childhood home 

A Futbol

 Supporting Team Cristal

Supporting Team Cristal

That afternoon, we got to experience a Peruvian club futbol (soccer) match firsthand. Edgar, Nils and Julie brought us to one of the stadiums in Lima where we were corralled into the ticket line by riot police on horseback, had to make up fake passport numbers, and were seated by our hosts in the family section surrounded by fences and barbed wire. Needless to say, the fans in Lima take soccer very seriously. So seriously that alcohol sales are banned in the stadium. Don't worry, we binged on sugary snacks instead and no one got hurt. Even though the game was scoreless, we thoroughly enjoyed watching the game and especially the fan section that began singing chants before the players got on the field and didn't stop once throughout the game, even when the riot police tried to break up a mosh pit. 

A Finca

 Family at the finca

Family at the finca

The next day, we were told we were visiting ZZ's cousin's finca (very loose translation: farm) for lunch. It turns out that no one describing it had ever actually been there. The house was in fact part of a suburban housing development, but they did have a lovely garden patch in the backyard where they grow a few grapevines and herbs. We pushed through a food coma to film interviews with ZZ and Tio Wilson on the rooftop. It was incredibly meaningful for us to sit down and debrief the road trip with the two of them. Both ZZ and Wilson spoke about the significance of having the opportunity to take this trip with their family members and return to the places that have meaning to them. We finished off the night passing around beers in the vineyard/garden, talking about the importance of family and the forces of migration and immigration in Peru. 

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Road Trip Part Two: Capital of the Sky

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Road Trip Part Two: Capital of the Sky

Niepos is a tiny pueblo perched on top of a mountain, also known as “The Capital of the Sky.” Most of the time it’s above the cloud line, so you get spectacular views of the mountains plunging down into the clouds below. It’s very likely that we were the first two gringas to ever set foot in this little town. Definitely the first Jews. By the end of our three days there, we became local town celebrities. Yes, the town is that small.

 

The ride in

High: Driving up a mountain through rice fields, bamboo forests, and tiny villages.

Low: About 4.5 of the 5 hours are driven on a one-lane dirt road that was incredibly bumpy. Also when everyone had to get out of the car so that it could drive down a steep slope without bottoming out.

 Marina

Marina

Arrival in Niepos

High: Meeting ZZ’s sister Marina who we think may have the most beautifully photogenic face ever.

Low: At lunch, the walk from the restaurant to the bathroom went through the outdoor kitchen with all kinds of dead animals on display ready to be fried.

 Jorge in the town square

Jorge in the town square

Exploring the pueblo

Low: The rapidly dropping arctic temperatures.

High: The homemade Peruvian version of moonshine called ‘agaurdiente’ we drank to warm us up. All 9 of us passed the bottle around talking, joking and laughing in the town center as the sun set.

 Snuggling with Edgar

Snuggling with Edgar

The Niepos hotel (?)

Low: Washing each other’s hair using a teacup and small bucket of hot water.

High: Snuggling like bugs in a rug with Edgar and Nils and teaching them words in English. They also showed us the wide variety of American music they like, ranging from Katy Perry to Calvin Harris.

Dia de los Difuntos

Dia de los Difuntos is a holiday celebrated in Peru when families visit the graves of their deceased relatives. Many people spend the whole day at the cemetery praying, lighting candles, singing, talking, eating, drinking beer and catching up with friends (dead and alive). It’s an incredibly colorful, vibrant event that brings together the whole community. Celebrating this event for the first time, we found it an unbelievably meaningful and surprisingly rowdy day. In Niepos, following the cemetery, the whole town spectates a local futbol (soccer) game. This game was particularly hilarious because the town drunk, Chooki, was running through the field pretending to referee the game and doing flimsy handstands, cartwheels and flips, more often than not landing face-first on the ground. Lauren, already considered a big shot photographer in Niepos, was summoned onto the field to take the winning team’s picture and join them for one herself. After that, we witnessed another breathtaking sunset above the clouds. That night, fireworks were lit and a live band played in the town square until the wee hours of the morning. We only made it until about 3 thanks to a long day and some strong aguardiente.


 Edgar and Manuel cured their hangovers with the hair of the dog

Edgar and Manuel cured their hangovers with the hair of the dog

The next morning

Low: Slight hangover

High: Watching everyone else be hung over

 ZZ telling us about growing up in this home

ZZ telling us about growing up in this home

Visit to ZZ’s childhood home

ZZ was raised in a small house on the outskirts of town by her great aunt alongside her brother Jorge and several of her cousins. Her mother died when she was 18 months old, which led to ZZ and her 7 siblings being split up and raised by various family members for the majority of their childhoods. ZZ brought us to her childhood home, which is still owned by a member of her family, but hasn’t been lived in for several years. It’s hard to describe the experience of seeing where ZZ grew up, but it was an emotionally intense experience that left us deeply thinking about the challenges she has faced in her life and what she has overcome in order to get to where she is now.

Our road trip came to an end with another incredible sunset as we pulled into Nueva Arica. We both had an amazing week getting to know some beautiful people and places. Despite being two gringas who are still far from fluent in Spanish, we were lucky enough to spend our time connecting with ZZ’s family and sparking friendships that have had a great impact on us (sorry this is so corny, you try and find better words to describe it).

High: Incredible dashboard sunset

Low: ZZ took a giant swig of what she thought was water in the back of the car. Turns out it was aguardiente! Oops! (This was also kind of a high, we have to admit it was pretty funny) 

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