Reminiscing… Galapagos Islands Adventure 2012

Discovery awaits



Circuitous imagery





Sanctuary of Isabella

Age is wisdom

Age is wisdom

Marine Iguanas

Marine Iguanas

Island Mami


Brilliant Coloring

Sleeping Baby

Party Girl

Galapagos Crabs


Sunset treat

Shell Beach

Old boat near the Tintoreras

Linsey Rankin and I on our Isabella expedition

San Cristobal

Lounging with some friends

Lounging with some friends

Just hanging out.

Just hanging out.


Chocolate Chip Starfish

Our new friend, David Attenborough - Filming Galapagos, his final film.

Our new friend, David Attenborough – Filming Galapagos, his final film.


New Directions

I am passionate about writing and find pieces of my thoughts randomly strewn through my backpacks, trunks and storage spaces; they are all very special but so rarely do they make it here. My over critical nature draws out the editing process to unjustifiable lengths and has left these waiting pages blank. As a result after much reflection, I have decided to start sharing my adventures though my photography which will allow me to creatively tell my story in a different way. I have already been crafting an idea for the next series which will begin with my April departure. Until then, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane….

Reading Recommendations

Reading recommendations for South American travels. 

Mandatory History Lessons:

Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, written by Uruguayan journalist, writer and poet Eduardo Galeano

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, a 2007 book by Naomi Klein

For the Hippy:

The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life (Part 1 &2), by  Drunvalo Melchizedek

For the Romantic:

Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

For the Imaginative:

The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolaño Ávalos

Temescal Ceremony

I participated in my second sweat on historically sacred ground yesterday. The first was 3 years ago in a ceremony at Mt.Shasta with a Shaman from the Okwanuchu tribe and now a Temescal with a Shaman in the Andes. Cleansed and purified I know this will be the first of many as I prepare to head into the Sacred Valley on Wednesday.

Temescal Ceremony

Temescal Ceremony

Yoga Camp, Sembrando Semillas Con Yoga

Blessed once again, the day I turned up in Cusco I received an email from an organization I had put in a request to volunteer with. Sembrando Semillas Con Yoga ( an inspiring school teaching yoga, meditation, language, and art to children in the slums, about 30 min from Cusco. The facility is run by a lovely but far out couple with the best intentions, Marisol and Christian. Marisol is a 41 year old Peruvian, yoga student and teacher of 14 years who is  living her dream in running this school. Her partner Christian, 29 is Austrian and was a hippy on the brink of burning up his passport and going rouge when several years ago they fell in love and started this beautiful venture together. They had looked over my profile on where I had contacted them and they were reaching out to me out of many requests because they saw I have experience cooking for large groups. They were entering a 3 week period of a yoga teaching program and were looking for someone to prepare 3 healthy, vegetarian meals a day and in exchange they could attend the teacher training free of charge…given that this person could keep up with everything. Ha! Did they know who they were talking to?!  I had been considering doing a teacher training for sometime in San Francisco but at a cost over $2000 dollars I was going to have to put it off for at least one more year while I pursued my travels.

Being a career backpacker at the moment dropping two grand on this kind of class in Peru would never have been in my cards. I’m now finishing up my program and I have to say I have learned a lot about myself through this experience. It has been a wonderful detox for the mind. No alcohol, fresh mountain air, peace, vegetarian meals prepared by myself, daily service for others and strict meditation and yoga practices.
Every Sunday we have a day off and after I finish bustling around the local markets in Cusco for the weekly groceries I have just enough time to race to use the internet, make my weekly Skype calls, plan my next move and then slow it all down to meet up with Florian one of my bunk mates, and indulge in sweets and coffee. Florian, a massage therapist from Germany is full of laughs and stories. We sit and chat overlooking Plaza de Armas in the charming square where I mend a surprising amount of his tattered souvenirs of brightly colored bags and clothing that have gotten their use over the past months. We have worked out a very nice exchange, my handiwork for San Pedro capsules and massages. I enchant him with tales of Burning Man and he reminds me how charmed my life is.  It hasn’t all been easy dealing with the frosty cold high in the Andes, no heat, compostable toilets, lacking showers and the long, long days but looking back I will only see the good that came from this experience; the new friends I have incurred, deepening my practice and inspiration from the children who attend. With determination and hard work I will be able to pass on my teachings and of course, that in itself is a gift. Only 5 more days till I depart once again. Grateful, tired and blessed I open my heart to the next adventure. Plant medicines, sacred ceremonies and energy work await me in the Sacred Valley.

Offering to Pachamama

Offering to Pachamama



Cusco, Peru

Stumbling off two bus rides that totaled about 24 hours, I arrived in Cusco just after 6 in the morning. Exhausted, I checked in to my hostel and fell in to a deep slumber for a couple hours before jumping up and getting to know my new surroundings. Cusco is a charming city with easily navigated streets and alleys with classic Spanish architecture and historic churches lining the squares. There are several plazas which serve as good landmarks and it is easy to see on foot. I took sometime to absorb the city on my own and then reached out to a fellow I had been speaking to on I gave Julio a ring and we made fast plans to meet for lunch in the square.

Julio is a kick back guy I would loosely describe as a Rastafarian. With dreadlocks past his waist he was easy to pick out of a crowd.   Once again I totally lucked out and we fell easily in to a groove. He showed me the best vegetarian places to eat, we walked the streets stopping by to drop in on his friends, share a smoke and dish on the local scene. I quickly learned that almost everyone in Cusco knows each other through some affiliation, especially Julio. I marveled at his slick ways as he acknowledged people on the street throwing out sly hand shakes and crackerjack smiles to cops we’d come across. He obviously had few roles he played in this community. Our day adventures and late night parties quickly aquatinted me with Cusco. I felt like a bit of a princess at times as I was introduced around town quickly. I was out on my own late one night and asked one of Julio’s friends if it was safe for me to walk home nearing 5am and he ushered me out and personally took me home in a cab to make sure I was safe. Apparently Julio was well respected and I was well looked out for in turn.
On Julio´s day off from working the bar he took me on a hike that was truly special and rarely walked by anyone else. We took the bus to the ruins of the imperial baths at Tambo Machay and started on a uncharted hike down the sprawling hills, through which was most certainly private property. Everything was so peaceful and quiet, far removed from the small bustling city below. We weaved in and out of pasture land and rare forests of eucalyptus trees and a small gathering of Madrone that I was surprised to find. We shared a couple smokes along the way and practiced my Spanish as we discussed the nature. The hike lasted several hours as we made our decent back to the city. Once again counting my blessings for a strong new friendship and the magical experiences born of it.There are several ruins in Cusco that are worth viewing, Sacsayhuaman being one of the largest. The stones are of epic proportion and so perfectly placed it leaves much to the imagination. The history here just grabs you and makes you open your mind to so many possibilities. With an offering to Pachamama of coca leaves and flowers I walked the grounds mostly in silence and wonder. The structure is a brilliant design with slabs weighing over 3 tons intricately joined to create the fort proposed by Emperor Pachacuti that didn’t begin construction until around 1440. Walking the grounds here gives me goose bumps and fills me with wild excitement to enter the sacred valley.IMG_3276 IMG_3299
Walking with Julio

Walking with Julio


My hike with Julio

My hike with Julio, Tambo Machay

Colca Canyon

The bus situation was easily sorted in Lima the day before my departure. I paid about 40 dollars for the bus to Arequipa on Cruz Del Sur which is one of the nicer rides around the country. I left at 4 in the afternoon and slept for most of what turned in to a 16 hour trip. Upon arrival I quickly grabbed my pack and ran to book the following bus I would need to take from Arequipa  to Cabanaconge, the entrance to Colca Canyon. I knew there was a 10am bus leaving and I ended up getting the very last seat on that ride. The next bus would not have left until 3:30 in the afternoon!

I had time for a quick snack, bathroom break and a water before boarding. Now this bus, The Andalusia, does not have luxuries of any kind including toilets. I spent the next 7 hours gently nursing my water being careful not to drink too much. Pressed up against the window of the back of the bus, I was getting acquainted with view of sheer drop offs as we navigated the winding mountain pass to Cabanaconge. I had done a little research before I arrived and chose Pachamama as my hostel for the rave reviews on guidance, maps and of course the food. I really lucked out. The hostel was clean, cozy and filled with other like-minded hikers. The owner speaks English, Dutch, and French in addition to Spanish and had the most competent maps and guidance in all of the canyon.

The morning came to greet with a heavy mist and from the start my mouth agape. This is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Everywhere you look, 360 degrees there are epic views of the green robed canyon and the details of its rich history etched in the sides. I spent 3 nights in the canyon. The starting point at Cabanaconge was at 3287 meters. Hiking down to the river at the base, a climb up the south side to Tapay at 2900 meters then across through the villages of Malata and Conirhua and down through the oasis of San Galle before climbing back up the north side of the canyon to Cabanaconge. My legs are tired but my mind is strong. The trail was difficult and scary at times, ranging about 3ft to 1ft a along sheer cliffs.

I need to laugh here because the word for this hike is breathtaking and at this altitude it’s not just the view. I am humbled by the sheer essence of being in such a place. Colca Canyon is the 2nd deepest canyon in the world. A very special place that will always have a vivid snapshot in mind.

As I was leaving Pachamama on my final morning the owner, Luis hugged me good-bye and said, ‘Natalie! You are always smiling! Always!’ I told him, ‘Is there any other way?’

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Jaw dropping views from every direction

Jaw dropping views from every direction



Winding narrow trails..

Winding narrow trails..

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Shared with my brilliant new friends over a beer to celebrate our long day of hiking up hill..


Mountains robed in green

Mountains robed in green

I love this cat!


Scenic art

Scenic art

The depths of the canyon

The depths of the canyon

He followed all the way from town to the bottom!

He followed all the way from town to the bottom!

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Lima, Peru

The morning I arrived in Lima it felt surreal. I piled on my bags and through groggy eyes navigated the airport to stop an receive my yellow fever shot for Bolivia (which is about a hundred dollars cheaper at the airport than in the states). It took only a few minutes and it was on to the next mission of finding my ride. I was incredibly lucky to find that the brother of the guy I would be couch surfing with had offered to pick me up regardless of my 6am arrival time.  As I approached the arrivals gate Gino instantly spotted me and helped me with my backpack to where he parked the car. The early morning sun and the rush from finding myself well on my way put me on alert and I excitedly watched out the window and started chatting with Gino. He saw my excitement and took the time to give me a driving tour of beautiful San Isidro and down to the southern tip of the coastline through Churillos. When the tour ended we circled back to a beautiful neighborhood in Miraflores arriving at their family home on quiet, prominent street. The house is grand and absolutely lovely with a cozy courtyard in the center that housed their playful dog Cotty and a loudmouth parrot named Faustino. After making introductions with my host Renzo, I took a short rest and then the two of us set out on foot.

Honestly, after much travel I had the feeling that Lima could be just another big city but bumming around with Renzo gazing at the colonial architecture, eating extraodinary food, spending entire days walking through the coastal neighborhoods and napping in the park when we were exhausted, made it all worth it. I feel so blessed to have had Renzo as my guide, I could not have chosen a better host. We were completely at ease with each other and joking around like brother and sister after only a few short hours. In 4 days I absorbed Lima with him as my guide. The coast, a taste of the nightlife, and one day downtown to absorb some history in the city center and a quick duck  out-of-the-way for a little taste of the real Lima, far off the beaten path. I will always cherish the feel of bohemian Barranco and sitting by the ocean enjoying ceviche with Renzo as company. The conversations flowed and we had such a good time just talking and hanging out. I just don’t have the right words sometimes for the way things work out. It was just ‘perfect’.

I now have a forever friend in Lima and without him Lima would certainly have been fated to be just another big city.

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Adventure to Forevertron

I was speaking with my friend Chris Cummings this year while working for DPW at Burning Man and upon learning I was from the great state of Wisconsin he asked me if I have visited Forevertron. Just 5 miles S. of Baraboo and the world famous Wisconsin Dells, Forevertron is the Guinness Book of World Records largest scrap metal sculpture. While I was visiting home this week Dad and I decided to ignore the 15 degree weather, hop in the car, turn up the tunes and set out to see this landmark.

It was absolute magic. Dr. Evermore has creatively up-cycled discarded instruments, scrap metal, old machinery and assorted miscellaneous junk  into a wondrous work of art. This is a not to miss stop for any midwest road trip. My Dad turned to me and said ‘This is what I think Burning Man must be like!’. Right as usual Dad, but I would say this would be more like where Burning Man was born, before it moved to California and did a lot of LSD.

If you want to learn more about Dr. Evermore and Forevertron visit their website at


There are two sections of wide open space with assorted birds, many composed with different instruments in their structure. They were amazing and looked like they just might come alive in the sunlight.

There are two sections of wide open space with assorted birds, many composed with different instruments in their structure. They were amazing and looked like they just might come alive in the sunlight.

Art Car Come to life! IMG_3078 From afar

I wish I could capture the magic, the details seem infinite and must be studied by personal exploration.

I wish I could capture the magic, the details seem infinite and must be studied by personal exploration.

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PAC NW Hot Springs Part 2

Heading further up the coast to Seattle we took a few days to enjoy the city. Realizing that there was never going to be a ‘warm up’ during my stay here we chose the coldest, but sunniest day in the forecast to make the hike to Goldmeyer. It was 35 degrees but you value the sun in this part of the country and today it was raining down only golden rays of warmth and we were counting ourselves lucky. Scrambling to get on the road as early as possible we still didn’t hit the freeway until 10:30am. The drive to the trail entrance is 1.5 hours East of Seattle. Once you exit the freeway and make a few quick turns you hit the last leg of the drive, 14 miles of a road with pot holes the size of craters. WARNING: This road hasn’t been graded since they paved it and your in for bone rattling ride. Once you arrive at trail entrance parking is free and you have a 5.5 mile, picturesque hike from start to pool. You follow the Snolquamie river along the base of the Cascades, the trail is mostly flat with very minor hills . You have several beautiful waterfalls along the way to use as landmarks and I truly believe the snow made it even more beautiful. We lucked out again this day and were the only ones brave enough to make the hike and I couldn’t have been happier.  The price is steep at $15/person and $5 per night in addition to camp; they have a caretakers cottage at the entrance and they oversee who comes and goes. It’s stated they allow up to 20 people/day but the pools are very small and I can’t imagine more than a few people here comfortably at a time. Temp was about 104 in the hot pool and the small pools are cooler. What a fantastic day, we stayed so long we hiked out the 5.5 miles in the dark!

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Traveling Mari

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