Monday, May 28, 2012

Back Where I Started

I have just made it home from an amazing and difficult adventure.  For the past year, my family and I have been traveling around the world.  We have been to Europe, Asia, New Zealand, and South America.  However, six months into the trip I became very homesick and tired, but we still pushed on and finished the trip.  Finally a couple of days ago, I found myself back in my Alaskan house!    

When the plane landed in Alaska, my dad and I let out a loud scream and all three of us clapped.  We soon got picked up by our friends, Dave and Vic, who kindly drove us back to our house.  On the way, we saw a moose crossing the road.  As I saw him, I thought,  “I am back in the land of the wild, my home and where my heart belongs.”

The first thing I did when I got home was to visit my two next door neighbors, Neve and Soren.  For two days, the three of us played.  We went wild, played in my room, ran around outside, and watched a ton of movies.  Finally, on the night of the second day, I changed out of my filthy travel clothes and took a nice, hot shower.  This morning, Soren came over to my house and into my room to wake me up.  I told him that I needed sleep, alone time, and rest.  After those three points where achieved, I settled down to write my last blog!

For six months, I have been wanting my home so badly that I could hardly contain myself.  Now I am back.  I have not been let down by my homecoming.   In fact, I would have to say that I am overwhelmed by the pleasures of Alaska.  When I look back on the trip, it seems like an endless battle of stress, fear, and hope.  However, there were some good times too.  Diving, paragliding, and zip lining were my favorites.  I also really loved hanging out with my parents, experiencing different cultures, and eating exotic foods.   Despite the fun time I had, it still feels great to be home!

This is my last Rohan Geographic post and I want to thank everyone for following and commenting.  I really appreciate all the people out there who took the time to read my posts.  It is sad and exciting for me to finish the long Rohan Geographic blog.  On one hand, this blog has caused some late nights and fights, and has stolen a lot of my free time.  On the other hand, it has felt really good to express my feelings and have people enjoy my work.  I have also been published in two newspapers, which was an unexpected surprise.  But no more, for this is the last post!

I am so happy to be back, and am feeling the best I have in a long time.  When I look ahead I see a relaxing summer and some good times.  I think that it might be a long time before I am ready to travel again.  Though, I might be tempted to head south for a couple of Rays’ games... Of every place I have visited in the world, my favorite place is still Alaska, my home.

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Almost There Baby!!

We have flown from Cusco to Lima and are currently waiting for our L.A. flight to board!  I am so excited to see my house, state, country and friends!  I have just completed my last math assignment of the trip!  This was a unit test and if I had scored less than 90%,  I would have needed to do it over.   I successfully scored 96% and passed!  I am finally done with all home school assignments of the rigorous world trip!

We will finally make it to Anchorage tomorrow night.  I have taken a vow to do watch movies or play computer games continuously from Lima to Anchorage!  I have been having a blast and am feeling the best I have in ages!  See ya there!!!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Looking Back

Tomorrow, at 2:30 PM, a flight will leave from the Cusco airport heading for Lima.  Many hours later, another flight will land in L.A., coming from Peru.  These connections will continue through L.A., Seattle, and finally Anchorage, Alaska.   After landing, the captain of the final flight will hear a loud, high pitched scream coming from the cabin.  Our family, after a year of traveling, will finally make it home to Anchorage.  Before these flights, family TCR has visited Europe, China, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Thailand, New Zealand, Chili, Argentina, Ecuador, and Peru!  During these times we experienced some remarkable things.  Of these experiences, there were intense lows and extreme highs.  There were times when I felt like breaking down and crying and times when happiness and excitement surged through my body.  It was intense. 

When I look back on the trip, I see all kinds of different times, experiences, and adventures.  The ones I like to remember the most are the good ones.  On the top of the list are, by far, my experiences diving.  When I was younger, I always looked forward to age ten when I could be dive certified.  I was so excited.  I had the equipment, safety, hand signs, and all the details of diving, memorized.  As I became older, the desire of breathing underwater shimmered and went out.  Sitting on the bed with my family in Thailand considering getting certified, I said “it might be kind of cool.  You know what, why not?”  The first moment I submerged myself underwater everything changed.  My love for diving was rekindled.  As I slowly drifted down, surrounded by fish, I felt a surge of unexpected happiness.  I wondered how I was kept away from this amazing world for so long.  Finally on the sandy bottom, I thought “this is where I belong."  Over the year, I learned to dive above coral reefs, with strong current,  and over deep blue water!  This remains one of the extreme highlights of my adventure and I will remember this forever.

Another unforgettable adventure was when I paraglided over the vast fields of Nepal.  Originally, I was more excited for this than SCUBA diving, and I would have to say I was not disappointed.  For me the coolest feeling was taking off.  I stood on a grassy field above a short and abruptly steep hill with my Nepali guide, Babu, beside me.   He told me that we were going to wait until seven or eight groups had flown.  As they took off, I heard screams of excitement coming from the puffed up colourful wings.  “OK, it is time to get ready”. Once we were both in our harnesses, he told me to start running.

 I looked down the step hill and said “What??” 
“Run” he replied.  I took off at a steady trot and right before I was about to step off the grassy cliff, our wing filled with the surrounding air and we were lifted off the ground.   I loved the feeling of the wind in my face.  It was somewhat scary, but now I look at the skies differently.

Despite our amazing times this year, the trip was not a vacation.  I was given no summer or weekend breaks, completed rigorous math assignments, wrote many long tiring blogs, and experienced strong draughts of home sickness.  On top of that, traveling the world can be extremely difficult, confusing, and chaotic.  Many things, when I look back on them, make me shiver and cringe.  I would have to say that the nadir of this trip would be the stressful experiences with transportation in India.  As most of you know, one of the most intense places to travel is in India and the most chaotic way to travel in India is by train.

At the time, we were traveling with a big group of American and Indian doctors and our friend Ivan.  In order for my dad and the other doctors to help the sick Indians of the slums, we had to carry huge containers of expensive medicines. I remember well being split up into different, precarious rickshaws, all crammed with luggage.  When we finally arrived at the train station, we had to find each other in the crowded terminal full of goats, cows, and beggars.  As we got the group together, all of us had to keep twenty eyes on our luggage, especially the thousand dollar containers of medicines.  Once all of us were in one place, one of our group would jump up and point to the dirty train currently waiting on the train tracks.  “That’s our train!”  Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn’t.  Of course, we only realized this once we were aboard.  Many times we would have to jump off the train and hastily board another.  Ahhh, you think, that’s bad.  Oh no, no we’ve just begun!

Once we were aboard, we had to fight for our seats!  This was easier when we had tickets, but it was rare to have all of our seats ticketed.  The train rides were rickety, loud, cold or hot, and uncomfortable.  Oh and the bathrooms...but no, that’s a different story!  By the end, we felt trashed and exhausted! India was intense, chaotic, and at times unbearable.  To this day, I get scared in bus or train stations, even those that are comfortable and calm.  However, when I look back on this trip, the one place I remember the most is India. 

This trip has been spectacular, rewarding, exciting, intense, hard, and at times scary.  I have discovered my favorite sport, diving, and have had some really good times with my parents.  All in all, this trip has changed me for the good, and I feel I am a different person from when I started.  I am more experienced in photography, math, and writing.  I also feel I have a more cosmopolitan view of the world, am more grateful for my life, and more respectful of people less fortunate than I.   I have a new understanding of different religions, cultures, and lifestyles.  It has simply been an amazing experience. 

During this trip, I still have two more blogs to write.  You will get a short report in the Lima airport tomorrow, and one blog from Alaska.  The Alaska blog will be the night after I arrive, the 27th of May.

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Best of Rohan Geographic

I am currently in Cusco looking back on the trip.  I have remembered some of my greatest photos and have picked some to share.  A vote of your favorite photo would be appreciated in a comment at the end.  Let your eyes stare and your mind race! 

Cayman Lurking in the Water
Heads of Mauthausen

Tiger Heron of Napo

Hands of the Hermit

Preparing to Jump

A Day's Work

Fins of Uncertainty
Om Mani Padme Hum

Slum Ride

Written in the Snow

Diving into the Deep

Shallow Pink

Out of the Dark

Winged Curiosity

Read Between the Lines

Praise Allah


Beauty's Work

Softly Afloat

Heaven's Ladder

Helping Hand

Grains of Life

Water in a Dry Land


Festival of Color

Golden Meditation

Ancient Life

Looking Through the Flames

Rays of the Inca

Running High

Patterns of Work


World of Movement

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spitting Llamas

I have just arrived back in Cusco after a five day trek through the Calca district of Peru.  Unlike our last trek, which was focused on wilderness and ruins, this week we experienced current Andean culture.  Instead of passing through remote wilderness and seeing ancient Kichwa ruins, we saw traditional festivals, towns and dress.  During this trek, my three favorite activities were catching llamas and alpacas, preforming an exotic Andean ritual, and experiencing a local festival and fiesta. 

After being dropped off at the start of our trek in the village of Huaran, the first things I noticed were the alpacas.  These animals are a common relative of the llamas and look almost identical.  As I looked upon herds of these exotic mammals grazing in their stone corrals, Joel, our guide, told me that it is a difficult challenge to try to catch them.  It took up until the second day of five, but I soon was able to sneak up upon the alpacas and grab them!  On the third day, I got my llamas and alpacas confused.  There are two reasons why one should not catch a llama.  First off, they are bigger than alpacas and, secondly, they are capable of catapulting spit balls.  I snuck up on a llama that I, at the time, mistook for an alpaca.  I soon realized my mistake.  Luckily, I turned my head just in time for an incoming spit projectile.  My parents and Joel laughed.  All over the back of my baseball cap, entangled in my hair, and covering my backpack was llama spit.  So, afterwards, I caught sheep and alpacas but I learned my lesson with llamas!

Pack of Llamas

The main Andean god is named the Pachamama, which translates into English as mother earth.  Pachamama and the Andean spirits live up high in the mountains and when we crossed passes we had to be respectful of their presence.  Once, as we looked over the earth from Huilquikasa pass, Joel taught us an Andean ritual to honor Pachamama who gives us clothes, life, shelter, happiness, and food.  As a sacrifice, we all had to carry one or more beautiful rocks to the pass.  With our stones and some traditional coca leaves, we walked to the highest point on the ridge.  With the coca leaves in hand, we all stood upon the knife edge ridge.  Then, with three wishes in our minds, we thanked Pachamama and the spirt of the surrounding mountains, Chicon, Colque Cruz, Pituceri, and Suruceri.  We put our three Coca leaves on the ridge to symbolize the underworld, the earth, and the heavens.  On top of these, we put the rocks we had carried from below.  I also gave the Pachamama a bracelet that I had made.  Joel commended me and said that when farmers preform this ritual, they sometimes leave their best fruits for the gods.  I loved learning about a new religion and getting a peak into the Andean world.

On our third night, we found ourselves camping next to a relaxing hot springs.  Here, locals (and occasionally some tourists) take a break from their current work, be it trekking or farming.  For the next two days, we would be walking uphill along a popular road with many other tourists.  All of us were secretly dreading the upcoming days, when we noticed a sign on the hot springs bathroom.  The sign displayed that the next day would be the anniversary of Lares, a small town twenty minutes walk from the hot springs.  A grand festival would be taking place.  In the middle of beautiful markets would be dancing and celebration.  We asked Joel if many tourists would be there.  He soundly shook his head, no.  The three of us exchanged glances.  We asked if we could change the itinerary to visit the festival, stay an extra night at the hot springs, and drive to Cusco on what would be the fifth day of the trek.  Joel thought it was a great idea!  So, it was decided that for the next two days we would relax in the hot springs, visit the town, and skip two days of uphill trekking!

During the festival, we enjoyed and experienced much amazing culture.  The first event was the traditional folk dancing.  As we watched, dances were preformed by locals from age five through adulthood.  These dances were preformed to remember the ancient Kichwa culture.  They demonstrated farming and many other traditions unknown to us.  The children looked so happy and proud of their culture while they preformed dances older than the wind. 


Also, in the town, the three of us passed many interesting markets.  These sold all kinds of beautiful handicrafts and traditional foods.  As we perused the market, we saw Peru’s 108 types of corn.  Some were purple, others grey, yellow, or brown.  Peru also has more then six hundred types of potatoes.  Some were twisted, lumpy, round, yellow, purple, brown, or white. 

Natural Dyes

Finally, we visited the last section of the festival.  Here, competitions took place where judges chose the best sheep, alpaca, llama, bull, and guinea pig.  We walked passed ladies in traditional attire and loud animals.  It was so crowded and interesting, that we could not take our eyes off the intriguing animals.  Finally, tired and content, we returned to the hot springs after a day of culture.


I loved the five day trek and was interested in the culture I experienced.   It was fun catching alpacas (and llamas) with Joel and preforming the traditional ritual on the mountain pass.  I also liked the hot springs and the festival and was glad to skip two days of up hill trekking.  Our homecoming is in four days and I can’t wait!

Mauro (the Cook),  Me, Caesar (the Muleteer)

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!