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New Zealand trip so good, the kids liked it

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Pelletreau New Zealand 

 Contra Costa Times

Article Launched: 02/29/2008 03:18:20 AM PST

Are your teens dreading the “F” word, as in family vacation?  Lafayette’s Ernie Furtado and Barbara Pelletreau recently returned from New Zealand with rave reviews.  “Both kid’s thanked me independently for taking them on this trip,” enthused Pelletreau.  “I would return in a heartbeat!” The family hiked glaciers, drove all terrain vehicles, mountain biked, swam in waterfalls, and helicopter toured their way through Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Mackenzie Country of South Island, New Zealand over Christmas break.

“I loved the bungee jumping because it was such an adrenaline rush,” says David.  An avid snowboarder, David liked free falling and flying upside down.

If your High School or college student is looking for a way to give back to the community while traveling, Lafayette’s Ibis Schlesinger has launched the non-profit Ties to the World.  The organization’s goal is to enable orphanages to be self-sustaining through the creation of social entrepreneurial businesses.  

Based in Lafayette, Schlesinger travels to her native Guatemala with groups of students. Each participant takes their unique talent like singing, painting, teaching English and shares it with the children.  Those interested in the business aspect spend time researching and meeting business people and local students who share the same zeal for entrepreneurship. There is the opportunity to meet Guatemalan people from all walks of life.

Hogar San Francisco Xavier is on Kilometer 21.5 on the way to Antigua.  The Hogar shelters 100 boys, ages 4-13.  Boys and girls from the neighboring community attend the 1-6k school.  Check Ties to the World website for information on Summer volunteer opportunities.  Applications are due February 28. Macchu Pichu

Last month I reported on Peru from an eco-tourism perspective.  This month we visit Peru with a trekker’s point-of-view.  Kelly Berry and Ed Bottoroff are a sporty couple.  You know the type; they run the Reservoir rim trail to jumpstart their morning!   In Peru they boarded the “backpacker” train for a two hour ride to Kilometer #104.   They met their guide at the Inca Trail check point after crossing the Urubamba River and began the 6.8 mile climb to Machu Picchu on an overcast day. 

The drizzle turned into a torrential downpour which flooded the trail.  They climbed rows and rows of terraces where natives grew their crops.  Finally, they reached the top of the trail known as “Sun Gate,” which could have been called “White out Gate” that afternoon.  On their decent they were rewarded with a spectacular view of Machu Picchu.  Tired and hungry, they boarded the bus for Aguas Calientes and the Inkaterra Hotel.  The Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, at $800 per night, was full.

The night’s rainfall had caused a huge landslide, closing the railway and all trains to the mountain.  Rather than the daily 2,000 visitors, the hilltop welcomed 400 people.  This was the day the Lafayette couple would conquer Wayna Picchu mountain peak as climbers 31 and 32 and take in commanding views of Machu Picchu.  And now we leave Peru’s terraced grounds to visit Sonoma’s terraced vineyards. 

 Landmark Vineyards Wagon Ride

Have you dreamed of owning a vineyard?  Imagine becoming a gentleman farmer without securing a mortgage.  Visit Kenwood’s Landmark Vineyards; take a horse drawn wagon tour and stay overnight in the cottage.   As a member of Friends of the Vineyard you’ll adopt a row of vines and in 2010 receive custom-labeled wine bearing your name.

Now take that wine and pair it with some chocolate during Concord’s Chocolate Festival, March 9 from 1-5 p.m. at the Crown Plaza Hotel.  The festival features a teen culinary competition, cooking demonstrations and of course, plenty of chocolate.