Archive for January, 2011

PVX: Hostal Casablanca, Arequipa Peru (Camera Obscura)

Posted by Arlo on Jan 16, 2011 under Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Videos

We arrived in Arequipa early in the morning after an all-night bus ride from Nazca.  The bus wasn’t so bad, but we were led to believe we would have fully reclining beds, like we did coming down from Máncora.  Instead, we found ourselves with semi-reclining seats, not that far off what you’d get flying couch.  All that is to say that we arrived tired.

The first hostel we looked into was the Casablanca, right next to the Plaza de Armas.  They had a room, but it was a whopping $35 a night, twice what we were expecting to pay.  On the plus side, they had a room available and were willing to let us check in at 7am so we wouldn’t have to kill time until the noon-hour changeover. After a quick sidewalk consultation, we decided to take it for at least one night.

Our room was nice.  A little on the small side, but with a balcony looking out on the street, a private bathroom (with both hot water and pressure), a desk, and a relatively fast wi-fi network.  After that bus ride, though, all we cared about was the comfortable bed with the fluffy pillows.

Oksana crashed right away, while I ran out to the store to get us some drinks and some semblance of breakfast.  A little while later, I closed the balcony doors to darken the room and climbed into bed beside her.  I laid on my back for a few minutes and, eventually, my eyes because accustomed to the dark.

Above me, projected on the ceiling, was the street scene outside!
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Staying Connected while Traveling

Posted by Arlo on Jan 13, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Travel

Yesterday, I was asked a question and, after typing up my reply, decided that posting the answer here might satisfy other people’s curiosity, too.

In the future I would like to do some traveling like you, but I work on line for about 25 hours a week. How easy would it be to find wireless in other parts of the world that you have traveled? –Rich Marcus, via Facebook

In 1998, my college roommate and I spent three months backpacking around South America.  I had just opened a Hotmail account and once a week or so we’d stumble upon an internet café and I’d send an email update to a mailing list made up solely of family and friends.  It surprised the hell out of me that we were able to get online in Aguas Calientes, a tiny, remote town at the base of Machu Picchu.  Granted, it was with a slower-than-molasses modem connection to Cusco, and it cost an arm and a leg, but I was still able to send an email out of the remote Peruvian jungle.

The lesson I learned then: If a place is popular with tourists, someone will be making money off their internet access.
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PVX: McDonald’s in Peru

Posted by Arlo on Jan 11, 2011 under McDonald's of the World, Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Videos

I mentioned briefly in the last post that I went to McDonald’s in Ecuador.  I wanted to make a video about eating there, but when I left Quito, I didn’t realize that would be my last shot at a Mickey-D’s in the country.  (There’s no McDonald’s in Cuenca, just a KFC and a Burger King.)  Anyway, I wasn’t about to risk that happening again in Peru.  Before we left the capital city, I made sure to have cameras rolling for my order.

It was fun putting this video together; I may try to do it again with the other countries we visit, too.

Thoughts on Ecuador

Posted by Arlo on Jan 9, 2011 under Postcard Valet, Thoughts On..., Travel

The Panacillo in Quito, Ecuador

The first time I visited Ecuador was at the end of 1998. I’ve been back twice since then; once at the tail end of 2009 and again at the end of 2010.  Not being very familiar with the country makes it pretty difficult to spot the changes over that timeframe (I noticed a few), but it’s fairly easy to pick out the differences between Ecuador and the United States.

Here are some of the little things I noticed:

Economy and Prices

One of the ways to gauge how inexpensive it will be to travel through a foreign country is to look at the exchange rate.  Generally speaking, if one of your dollars buys a whole bunch of their currency, you can expect that your stay won’t cost you very much.  That used to be true in Ecuador.  When I first arrived in 1998, one US dollar bought about 6,000 sucres.  By the time we left Ecuador, three months later, that same dollar gave us 13,000 sucres.  Their economy was tanking.

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2011 Galapagos Wildlife Calendars

Posted by Arlo on Jan 5, 2011 under Photography, Postcard Valet, Travel, Website

Galapagos Calendar Preview

One of these days, I should probably try to put into words my philosophy about making money off our Postcard Valet web site.  In a nutshell, we want everything we have to offer – photos, videos, writing – to be free for you to enjoy… but more money means more traveling, and that’s important to us, too!

It would be easy enough to put up some Google ads or to explore other set-it-and-forget-it revenue streams on the site, but I hate how banner ads destroy the aesthetic.  Besides, when I visit other sites, I tend to completely ignore all the ads, anyway.  Don’t you?

The best solution, in my mind, is to create something special that you’d want to spend your hard-earned money on.  For example, we haven’t really pushed it, but we already have a link to our Smugmug gallery where you can purchase a print of any one of the photographs posted under the “photography” category on Postcard Valet.  And today we’d like to present you with our first published product: A 2011 Galapagos Wildlife Calendar!  (Actually, there are two of them!)

2011 Galapagos Calendar Cover (Premium) 2011 Galapagos Calendar Cover (Standard)

Visit our Lulu storefront to purchase one of these calendars!

The premium version of our calendar is printed on glossy white paper, is 13.5″ wide by 19″ tall, and has a coil binding.  It’ll run you $29.79, which puts exactly $5 in our pockets.

The standard version is a little bit smaller at 8.5” by 11”, but costs only $18.79.  Buying it, too, will give us five more dollars to travel on.

If we to sell 20 of these, we’ll be able to add another day of travel to our trip!

I’ve dealt with Lulu, the self-publishing site, before and the quality of their products is superb.  You can order directly from them and have one of these calendars for your own in just a few days.

I put a lot of effort into making this a product that I would want to own.  Hopefully, after you see them on our Lulu storefront, you’ll want to own one, too!

PVX: Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador

Posted by Arlo on Jan 2, 2011 under Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Videos

Here’s a little video about my time spent in Baños, Ecuador (and no, before you ask, “Baños” does not refer to a “bathroom,” but rather the thermal baths the area is known for!)

A little bit of background info:

We don’t particularly like the song I edited this video to, mostly because it is way overplayed down here. Seemed appropriate, however, since we heard it approximately 342,000 times while we were in Baños.

Not everything you see in the video happened on this trip. I have a lot of footage from last year when I brought a few UAS students down to Ecuador. I decided to incorporate some of those clips because, well, we didn’t get to do all those things on this trip (mostly because Oksana was busy taking 4 hours of Spanish lessons every day!)

Our last two nights were spent at Luna Runtun, a resort and spa perched on a cliff, directly above Baños.  The first night, I decided to experiment with my DSLR and took one photo of Baños every minute over the course of two hours (it was pretty easy, I was sitting in a volcanic hot tub at the time.)  My hope was that I would be able to use the frames to create a tiny video clip of Baños at sunset.  So that I could pan across the image during the short video, I made sure to move the camera a little bit every fifteen minutes.  By cropping the video, I thought I’d be able to center and move the video frame cleverly enough to hide those camera movements.  Well, because of the minor — but noticeable — shift in perspective with each camera move, that didn’t work out so great.  I tried to finesse it a bit in post, but then realized I was spending way too much time on a video that was supposed to be a quick edit, anyway.  So… I just kind of dropped the clip in, anyway.  I think it still looks kind of cool, even if it is jerky at times.