Tag: travel blog

Sounds interesting

Sounds interesting

Peru

I don’t really have a bucket list per se. Sure, there are some places that I really want to see, but something we’ve found is that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Case in point, I’d never hear of the Colca Canyon, or the Cruz del Condòr, but researching where we might visit in Peru, I thought that sounded interesting.

Interesting is not the word for it.

This was one of the most amazing things we’ve ever experienced. We watched from the lookout over 1,200 metres above as the condors began catching the thermals, mere specks against the valley below. We were tense with expectation, totally focused on spotting them one by one as they left their nests, gliding back and forth between the canyon walls. Slowly they made their way up, up, up, until they were right there in front of us, and then mere metres above us, their huge wing span and feathery ‘fingers’ sweeping across the sky. It was absolutely incredible, and brought tears to my eyes. Like Machu Picchu, this was a real highlight of our holiday.

So perhaps what we do have is a sort of ‘post’ list of things we’ve seen and done that have left us awestruck. We may have planned them, or they were somebody’s recommendation or perhaps we never knew they existed and we just stumbled across them. We knew Machu Picchu would be a special experience, but the condors, the Nazca lines and the Neolithic cave paintings were surprise highlights.

Although I am a little worried about Don. On our final day in Lima today he downloaded his photos onto his iPad, and whilst it’s true he went overboard on condors, cave paintings and Machu Picchu, as far as I can tell, his highlights also included the car park at the Santiago markets, various power lines, people at bus stops and the desert sands around the Nazca lines but not the actual Nazca lines themselves.

Well camouflaged

Well camouflaged

Peru

We’ve just spent two days in Peru’s canyon country. Salinas Y Aguada Blanca National Reserve to see the native vicuna, alpaca and llamas, passing through small highland villages, marveling at Neolithic rock art and, the highlight, Cruz del Cóndor, at the start of Colca Canyon, where enormous majestic condors glided right in front of us.

This part of Peru is absolutely beautiful. You can trek this area. Spend days clambering up mountains and wandering throughout the valleys.

I do not trek.

Good grief, no. I like to exercise, and I like the outdoors, but the two should never cross. Quite simply I like my exercise to be over and done with quickly, and I don’t want it to be ruining any time I spend enjoying nature.

But I do get why trekking might appeal to some. Really finding a place by experiencing it up close, and the sense of accomplishment having walked through, up or over it must bring.

What I don’t get is the trekking dress code. Grey, beige, brown, and khaki seem limited options. Perhaps a pale bitumen blue or a faded watermelon for the more adventurous. I assume this is to do with blending in with the surroundings to hide from the fauna, but a fat lot of good khaki is going to do me if I take a wrong turn and have to wait for search and rescue.

On our first day in Valle del Colca I wore my bright yellow pants with tiny coloured flowers, a white shirt and my shiny silver Frankies. Sure, I looked a little different to those in beige with their hiking poles and enormous boots, but I had no intention of trekking anywhere, nor any need for camouflage.

It wasn’t until the end of the day looking back at the photos that I discovered two things:

1. Somehow I’d dressed to disappear completely into the golds and yellows of the landscape; and

2. I was perfectly coordinated with Don, who was, ironically, wearing camouflage pants.

Good grief.

To market, to market

To market, to market

Peru

We do love a good market. Fruit and veg, craft, exotic food, artisan, we’re not fussy, we’ll visit any or all. The noise and vibrancy of locals and tourists shopping, eating, touting and wandering is often the heart of a city, and is usually our first port of call when we reach a new destination.

The markets in Peru have been amazing. The stalls are so colourful, the sellers so friendly. There’s been music and food and multitudes of alleyways to explore.

Markets used to be my downfall. Over the years I’ve been easily swayed by items such as fabrics, earrings, bags, shoes, tablecloths, wall hangings, paintings, carvings, bowls, blouses, socks, belly dancing outfits, necklaces, rings (finger and toe), tea, stuffed animals, beads, scarves, pants, carpets, hats, hair ties and key rings, just to name a few.

But not anymore, no sir. I have developed a resourceful and effective ‘analyse and discuss’ technique when colourful, glittery objects catch my eye, and I am going to share six real-life examples I have put into practice in Peru so that you too can consider the same strategy whenever you are tempted.

You’re welcome.

1. Alpaca wool blankets (also alpaca wool shawl, socks, poncho, scarf) – OMG this is so soft, Don feel this, how good would this blanket be on the couch at night while we’re watching tv? Might be a bit hot, yes, true, we do live in Queensland, there’s no need for an alpaca wool anything, but for that one week of winter it would be so good. Yes? Sì?

2. Knotted cotton wrist band with a simple but colourful Inca pattern – oh, look, only one sol, I should buy one and have as a laid back decoration knotted around my wrist, where it’ll get wet and dirty and ragged and eventually lose all of its colour, but still, what better way to represent being carefree and on holidays than a knotted cotton wrist band?

3. Oven mitts with ‘Welcome to Machu Picchu’ embroidered on them – OMG these would be great in our kitchen, not only useful but also a reminder of our time in Peru. I can just see myself removing tamales from the oven, plus the orange matches our wall. Ok, so they’re a bit thin, and yeah, perhaps a little tacky. But they’d be so useful. And nothing says Peru like oven mitts!

4. Peruvian women’s hat – oh wow, I look great in this hat, don’t I look great in this hat? I’d definitely wear this hat, might be a bit hot in summer, but would be perfect for winter. I know I already have three winter hats and several beanies, but come on, this one is from Peru! Made from alpaca! And I look great in this hat!

5. Peruvian earrings just like the ones I owned when I was twenty – oh look, Peruvian earrings just like the ones I owned when I was twenty. Why on earth did I ever get rid of them? I should definitely buy some more, although if I really wanted a new pair I could have bought some at any folk festival over the past twenty odd years. Still, I used to love those earrings.

6. Red ankle boots (with Peruvian fabric inserts) – ooh, boots. I love boots! Red boots! I don’t have any red ankle boots with Peruvian fabric inserts. And they’re cheap for boots. And they’re leather, except for the Peruvian fabric inserts. I could wear these at least twice a year, maybe three times. So cost per wear isn’t so good, but look at them! They’re awesome!

See? Just give me a moment and I can completely talk myself out of all manner of purchases.

Employ this simple technique and you too can enjoy a 35% success rate just like me.

Inspiration

Inspiration

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, what an incredible place. So many people talk about wanting to go there; it’s always been somewhere I’ve wanted to visit. We spent over three hours at the site, exploring every nook and cranny, marvelling at the Incan stonework, the buildings and altars, the terraces used for agriculture. While it’s true there’s been a lot of reconstruction, this doesn’t detract from the experience of Machu Picchu.

If it is on your bucket list, I suggest you make plans. It was a pretty awe-inspiring place.

You know what else was inspiring? On the train back we sat across from two older women from the United States. I talked with them the entire way to Ollantaytambo.

They talked about the journey they were on, through Peru and on to Bolivia, and I told them about our trip so far.

They talked about the USA government, the protests they’d attended, the women’s marches they’d been a part of – the ‘pussy hats’ one of them specialised in knitting! When they return to the states they’re planning their trip to Washington DC for January 2021 – as they see it they’ll be there for either an inauguration celebration or a massive protest.

We talked about our families, and we compared notes on the places we’d travelled, and the places yet to visit.

At Machu Picchu they’d hiked to the sun gate. It was a rocky, uphill climb in the hot sun that Don and I had trekked for 45 minutes and had taken these two women at least twice as long. In fact they’d visited Machu Picchu the day before, and had come back just to do that hike.

‘I really wanted to do it,” one of them said to me, ” but I’m 65, I was pretty sure it was going to be a hard trek.

“But then I thought, you know what? It’ll be even harder at 66.”

And that, my friends, is golden advice.

Can you see it, can you see it?

Can you see it, can you see it?

Peru

Yesterday we went on a flight over the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Nazca lines, 400 km south of Lima. It was advertised as every person gets a window seat. Yes, that’s because there are only twelve seats in the entire plane. They had to weigh each of the passengers before we boarded so that they could distribute us evenly. Don’t worry, we were told, we won’t tell anybody, your weight will be like the secret of the ancient Nazca lines themselves. Well thanks.

The Nazca lines were amazing. Enormous, distinct, intricate, mysterious. But what really made our day was our *pilot, Carlos.

Now I’m sure that Carlos flies this little tourist route at least three times a day, seven days a week. But he is not bored with his job, oh no siree. He is loving his job.

After taking off we fly for 30 minutes before descending towards Nazca.

“Now, the first picture we’ll see is the whale,” Carlos announces before suddenly banking.

“Can you see it, can you see it, can you see it?” he squeals excitedly through the intercom, “can you see the whale?”

The plane is now banked at an alarming near 90 degrees, with everybody on the left side of the plane facing the earth. We’re circling downwards towards the desert sands, and I am not looking for any drawing of a whale, I’m clutching either side of my seat and praying that we don’t tilt any further.

It becomes apparent that Carlos will continue to circle sideways until he is assured that all six people on the left side of the plane have seen the whale. He’s paying no attention to the controls, rather he is facing back to us, grinning and waving his hands.

“Can you see it?” he asks again. And at the last minute I spot it, the perfect drawing of a whale.

“Sí, sí, sí!” six of us yell over the noise of the engine.

Carlos gives us the thumbs up, pleased.

“Ok, and now for the right side,” and suddenly the plane circles in a figure of eight and I am sideways again but looking at clear blue sky while Don is now below me staring down at the sand. Carlos repeats the routine with these right side passengers until all have confirmed seeing the whale, and we straighten up and head towards the next design.

“And now the astronaut,” announces Carlos, “he is special because he is the only one on the side of a mountain.”

And thus we begin circling sideways and downwards, in our little tin can plane, towards the side of a mountain.

“Do you see him? Do you see the astronaut?”

“Sí, sí,” yell just five people on my side of the plane, as one lady is now quite green and unable to yell anything, “please stop plummeting towards the mountain!”

Ok, so none of us actually yell this last bit, but you can’t tell me we weren’t all thinking it. Especially the lady who is green.

And now it’s Don’s turn to face the mountain.

Through the sky we fly for the next 30 minutes, Carlos banking, circling and plummeting as though he’s piloting a remote controlled aircraft, and all of his passengers yelling sí, sí at the tops of our voices and holding our thumbs up the second we recognise the monkey, the parrot, the hummingbird and the rest of the patterns.

It’s a good thing these ancient lines are so fascinating. Once I start focusing on looking for the patterns, I forget I’m on a roller coaster ride and the only thing holding me in place is a flimsy seatbelt.

Although Carlos isn’t helping. He’s delighted at every tilt and turn and every design, laughing with us (or perhaps at us), and finding the Nazca lines and his passengers much more entertaining than the actual controls of his aeroplane. It’s like this is his very first time flying.

Although thank-you God that I’m only thinking this right now.

*actually co-pilot

Hours of entertainment

Hours of entertainment

We’re having an absolute ball in South America, however time is becoming extremely difficult to fathom, and sleep is becoming increasingly difficult to schedule.

You’ll recall our trip started on Saturday at the airport, Don in his jaunty hat, me in my track pants. A short flight to Auckland gained some hours; we then spent the afternoon waiting for our flight to Santiago. Unfortunately this was not to be – the Santiago flight cancelled due to a sick crew member.

Our new flight was scheduled for 10:30am the next day, we would arrive in Santiago at 7am on the same day, and our walking food tour would start at 10am. On the same day.

Working out when we should sleep on the plane was a hot mess of mathematics that never added up. By the time we’d been awake for 30 hours, I’d had a coffee with breakfast, a coffee on the plane, a coffee when we reached our Santiago hotel, a Starbucks before the food tour commenced and a super strong coffee at Santiago’s ‘best market cafe’. Don had watched 20 hours of back-to-back Marvel and fortified for the day with aeroplane red wine.

To add to this mess, I seem to have scheduled all of our activities for arse o’clock in the morning.

Yesterday we left our hotel in Santiago at the crack of dawn in order to fly to Lima (subtract two hours).

This morning we were collected for our Nazca flights at 4:20am.

Tomorrow we’re leaving for the airport at 6:45am.

We’re yet to be there for breakfast in any of the hotels we’re staying in, and I have no freaking idea what time it is in Australia, nor how many hours we’ve gained, lost, then gained again.

However our care factor is low, because in the time we’ve been away (however many hours that is) we’ve been on two amazing food tours, walked all over both Santiago and Lima, flown over the Nazca lines, explored Huaca Pucllana pyramid ruins and gone on a boat tour of Ballestas Islands.

If looking a tad seedy in our photos is the worst thing to happen, we’re doing ok!

Clothes make the man

Clothes make the man

Well our Peru holiday has finally arrived and something has already gone mysteriously wrong.

It’s like this. I spent the early hours of the morning scurrying around the house throwing last minute things in my bag. Being a shorter holiday I’ve returned to the trusty backpack, squashing last minute items into pockets and dragging out non-essentials until I’m down to the bare minimum. My travelling wardrobe for most trips currently consists of three pairs of tracksuit pants, a super-hero t-shirt and two multi-purpose scarves.

Upon arrival at the airport I strapped my backpack on, wound my scarf around my neck, untucked my shell necklace and turned to look at Don for the first time since leaving the house.

And found him sporting a jaunty Panama hat, a beige tailored jacket and brand new jeans. Wheeling his suitcase behind him.

While I’ve been busy looking for a beanie and cutting down on knickers, he has somehow become the modern man’s style guide to South American travel.

I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to do, but I think if I just leave him be he’ll eventually return to type. Although he’s now discussing purchasing a belt in Santiago.

And here was me worried he’d come home with an Alpaca wool poncho.

Around again

Around again

Everybody knows that when you return from a ridiculously awesome holiday, the first thing you do is start planning your next holiday. It’s a somewhat useless tactic designed to distract you from the fact that you’re back in your real world with your real job and your real responsibilities.

To be honest, I was ok going back to work. I love my job and get on famously with the people I work with. Plus I had a bazillion stories to tell – so many that I’ve begun noticing people ducking through doorways when they see me approaching. No matter, they’ll keep.

Our trip was so immense it did take us a little while to begin working on the next one. We’d been home for almost as long as we’d been away before we started considering our options. We don’t have 99 days this time, we only have 16, so it would need to be a short flight to an easy destination.

Now, the thing is, when you’ve been 99 days around the world, covered three continents, seen sunshine, snow and autumn leaves and gazed at twenty-seven different versions of Water Lilies, it’s very difficult to choose your next adventure.

”Somewhere relaxing,” I suggested, “Hawaii? Fiji?”

Neither of us could work up the enthusiasm.

“Somewhere in Australia? Tasmania? Broome? Adelaide? Uluru? Darwin?”

Maybe?

I switched tactics.

“How about somewhere we’ve been before? Sri Lanka? Japan? Malaysia? Vietnam?” Less effort, and all places we’ve said we’d like to go back to.

”Those are possibilities,” said Don. Now we were getting somewhere.

”Which one?”

”Ummm…”

We discussed a fishing holiday, a road trip, a staycation. Camping at the beach. Returning to Singapore seeing as I’d spent the whole time sick in the hotel room last trip.

We stopped thinking about it for short periods of time, only to suddenly circle back with new suggestions.

And finally, after taking into consideration that we don’t have much time, we don’t want to fly too far, we don’t want to spend too much money and we really just need somewhere to relax, we’ve booked our holiday.

We’re going to Peru.

Highlights

Highlights

I wanted to finish this blog series on a high, and so, anticipating the questions people might ask, I’ve been contemplating the highlights. Seeing friends is always going to top these lists – spending time with people we so rarely get to see – so I’ve eliminated them from the equation. But to my English, Scottish and expat Aussie friends, know that you were our highlight!

Top eats

1. Pasta at Rossopomodoro on our first night in Venice. Unbelievably creamy, ridiculously tasty whipped buffalo ricotta concoction on fresh made pasta. At the time I said it was the best meal I’d ever eaten. I stand by that.

2. Cioppino at Sotto Mare, North Beach California, sitting up at the counter, with wine, feeling so alive only four days into our holiday.

Places to which I’ll definitely return (in no particular order)

1. Reykjavik

2. Berlin

3. Washington

4.Everywhere else.

Top moments

1. Discovering the former Australian Embassy building in Washington DC, where my grandmother first worked.

2. Recently arrived in Rome, dusk, sitting at a cafe in Piazza della Rotonda, looking out at the Pantheon, glass of white wine, nowhere to be in any hurry.

3. Standing in the Neumarkt in Dresden surrounded by the Christmas markets.

4. Driving through the deep snow north west of Reykjavik, unable to see anything at all – a complete white out.

5. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Most amazing sights

1. Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland.

2. Autumn leaves, Scotland.

3. Chicago buildings.

Funniest shrieking with laughter moments (sorry, for these you had to be there so are to remind me, but I’m happy to tell the stories if asked).

1. Don buying a jacket in Macy’s New York.

2. Ruth hanging her last Christmas decoration on the thermostat.

I could add to all of these lists, because of course the whole trip has been the most amazing, eye-opening, brilliant and fun experience for both of us. And I have loved sharing all of this with you via the blog. Thanks so much for reading, and for all of your lovely comments.

Now, to start planning the next adventure…..

Stuff happens

Stuff happens

Singapore

Last I left you dear readers we were enjoying the exploits of Bangkok before heading on to our last destination, Singapore. But something happened on the way to Singapore.

I got sick.

I must say, we had a pretty good run – perfect weather everywhere we went, fabulous hotels, scarcely a runny nose between us. We lost a couple of things – including an expensive thing and a sentimental thing – but things can be replaced. Small panic when we thought we were on the wrong train in Germany, but we just needed to change platforms. That’s it, really.

So long story short I pretty much missed Singapore, other than the inside of the hotel room, Singapore Raffles Hospital and the Changi Airport medical clinic.

Sometimes stuff happens, and you just have no control over it.

My beautiful husband sorted doctors, fed me fluids and held my hand, keeping me sane and safe.

He also bought me an awesome yet somewhat hideous toothpick holder/bottle opener souvenir and a mini Merlion, both of which I shall treasure. Then when I was starting to feel better, he walked me ever so slowly down to the Merlion and back again, just so that I could be outside in a different city on our last day away. He truly is my rock.

And as I was worrying over how I could possibly be comfortable flying that last eight hours home, Qantas sent a message upgrading us to business class. Sometimes stuff happens!

So now we are home, safe, and almost well.

Stay tuned, there is a little more to come reflecting on this epic 99 days.

Merry Christmas!