Pack Rat

2 04 2009

I leave tomorrow on a much needed trip. I’m heading down to St. Vincent and the Grenadines to write about a resort there. Since I’m seeing long lost friends for dinner tonight, I had to pack last night. It was no small feat. I’ve never been that great at economical packing, but it’s even more of a challenge when after many sun-starved months you start pulling out the beloved summer clothes that have been lying dormant in the back of the closet.

Not only do I prefer summer to winter, I found last night that I’m much more fond of my summer clothes than of my winter ones. I pulled out sundress after sundress and then had a debate with myself over how many outfits one really needs on a tiny Caribbean island. All to the tune of my latest obsession, a Spice Girls (yes I said Spice Girls)  station on Pandora—a combination of 90s pop, it’s just the sort of guilty pleasure that takes me back a long way to silly late night study breaks in high school (and less of a long way to rocking out at EuroCheapo).

I settled on four dresses that could go day or night and a couple that were just easy to throw on over a swimsuit, along with a couple pairs of shorts and plenty of workout clothes, as I intend to indulge in the yoga offered on the island, as well as many long hikes. It’s probably still far too much, but since the Squirrel is staying at home, and summer clothes take up so little room, I figure it’s okay. Also coming along is my new love affair, Flip, though the gold stilettos, much to their dismay, are sitting this trip out.

It’s my first foray into the Caribbean and I’m oh-so-happy about it. As are my summer dresses.

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Llama Sweater

26 02 2008

Anyone want this sweater?
Complete with nieve in the hair: A regular Snow White.

Oh the llama sweater, a staple in the tourist arsenal. In Peru they are sold everywhere and everyone seems to have one. Made (ostensibly) of llama wool, they are soft and oh-so-warm and tourists love to buy them.

On our second day in Cusco I myself almost did just that. It wasn’t the manly type with pictures of llamas on it, but a fitted cream number with a simple geometric design around the collar. It had fringe on the bottom, however, and toggles on the hood. I was in one of those tourism frenzies, where, overcome buy the excitement of all things new, the tourist buys or seriously considers buying things she would never even pick up otherwise. Luckily, some new friends who joined at the market played the “will you really wear it?” card and I was spared an unneeded sweater.

Then came Northwest Argentina, where llama sweaters again abounded. And, in a moment of need rather than want, I had to buy one. I had left my belongings in a hostel in San Salvador de Jujuy, had traveled to Humahuaca for Carnaval with nothing but two changes of clothes (both dresses), some pajamas, and my fleece. Too bad I hadn’t done my research and realized that Humahuaca is cold in the evenings, even in summer. Very cold.

So there I was in my thin pants and not quite warm enough fleece, with flip flops on my feet. The wind was picking up and it was promising to be a long night. What was a girl to do except to splurge on a $10 llama sweater, an oh-so-attractive thick and too big sweater, complete with llamas prancing across my chest. Wasn’t I the fairest of them all? But I was warm.

So now I’m back in New York with my llama sweater, which, in the land of Fifth Ave. and Soho boutiques might just be cause for beheading if I were to wear it outside (or at least cause for pointing and staring). So, if anyone out there would like a llama sweater, women’s medium, I have one here and it’s up for grabs.

Lesson learned: Check the weather ahead of time. And pack accordingly.





Adios Zapatos part 2

30 01 2008

For a girl who loves her shoes, I haven’t had much luck with them on this trip (See Adios Zapatos Part 1).

While at home in California for Christmas, I went to several stores with my brother Scott on the quest for the perfect pair of hiking boots for my trek in the Andes. At the first store, we told the salesman that it would be cold because of how high I’d be, and he tried to sell me a shoe that would be good in negative 30 degree weather (that’s Faranheit folks). Perhaps he misheard South America and thought I was going to the South Pole?

At the second store we fared little better. The girl said she knew nothing of Machu Picchu but she did know a little about hiking. When we explained that this would be a little more intense than hiking, that I would be trekking in the Andes, we could see the wheels in her brain moving. In the end she couldn’t make it past the after-dinner mint. Finally, however, I went home with a pair of shoes.

After two days of wearing them around the house per Scott’s orders, I decided they were uncomfortable and we were back at the store, this time with a girl who knew her stuff and who sold me the other shoe I had been looking at the first time.

I took them back to New York and wore them to run my errands (yes, I did in fact go out in public in Manhattan in my hiking boots), and by the time I got to Cusco they were comfortable and fantastic.

All through days one and two Hans and Frans (as I christened them because they did in fact “pump me up”) held strong. They kept my feet dry and happy no matter how much it rained of home much mud I stepped in. But come day three, I accidentally plunged my whole foot in the river while trying to cross: waterproof does not work if the whole shoe is sumberged.

Nontheless Frans served me well, and Hans was great too despite a little water. By the end of the day, however, my feet were less than happy, and when I finally sat to take off the boots, I found that my brand new shoe (Hans) was starting to fall apart. The leather on one side was coming away from the gortex, which doesn’t quite help with the whole water thing. I tried to patch it in the morning, but the thing about sticky-backed gortex is that it only sticks to dry things, which Hans was not.

So now Hans and Frans are sad, broken, and muddy, but still hanging out in my backpack, unlike the heels that were worn once and sent back to New York with the girls.

Lesson learned: My flip flops haven’t failed me yet.





I’ll be the girl with the giant backpack…

5 01 2008

Ok, I’ve done it. I managed to wade my way through the swamp of clothes that has been my living room for the past week. And I managed to fit all (or most) of it. The Squirrel, as my beloved pack was christened (though I can’t really recall why) on her virgin trip through Europe long ago, is standing tall in my living room. And by tall I don’t mean just proud: the girl is huge. But I am happy to say that I can still lug her around with the best of them. That skill came back like riding a bike. The week of preparation, however, was not so easy…

What to bring for six weeks? In Europe (for four months) I had exactly 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of thermals, 3 shirts and a jacket. I’m not exaggerating. But now that I’m older (and slightly prissier) that just won’t do. Not to mention hiking gear. So my week of packing in brief went something like this:

  • Five (yes five) trips to Eastern Mountain Sports to pick up gear. Partly because I kept forgetting things, partly because I wanted to make use of coupons, and partly because I just really got to love the gang there. Hey, if I can’t find a job when I get back, perhaps I’ll go work there.
  • As many trips to the drugstore to stock a pharmacy that I will now carry on my back for the next six weeks. Always best to be prepared for anything…
  • Two trips to the Outdoor World with my oh-so-patient brother because the first pair of hiking boots didn’t work out.
  • Then comes the everyday clothes. A last minute trip to Nine West to buy shoes (on sale of course) I could take for going out and not care much if their heels broke off after being stuffed in the squirrel.

But I survived, though I’m exhausted reliving it all. And now, it’s time to go. I’ll be in Buenos Aires at noon tomorrow, the girl with the towering backpack that looks nothing whatsoever like a squirrel.