Tag: walking

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.

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!

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!

Five nights in Bangkok

Five nights in Bangkok

No but seriously, have I mentioned we love the heat?

Urgh.

We’ve been to Bangkok several times before. We love this city – the whole noisy, hectic atmosphere of food, markets, people, shops. But Bangkok is hot. Like, really hot. Muggy, sweaty hot. We can no longer wear the same clothes five days in a row hot. It’s quite a dramatic change.

To counteract the heat, Don has purchased cloth trousers and more sarongs, and I have purchased batik* Thai** pants and an elephant singlet.

I shall wear all of these back in Australia.***

However counteracting our new, cooler outfits we are eating chilli for breakfast, lunch and dinner at street vendors across the city. Big, fat red chillies that take you completely by surprise**** if you’re not looking. Chilli to turn your face red and make sweat cover your brow.

To counteract the chillies, we’re drinking gallons of water. Bottles and bottles of water, as well as bottles and bottles of Pepsi***** and Coca-cola.

Counteracting all of this water and cola consumption, we are walking everywhere (in our new outfits), for miles and miles, seeing temples and markets and statues and shops and people. It’s pretty hard going.

To counteract being hot and worn out from walking****** we’re buying fruit at every corner. Vendors sell it from ice laden carts, chopping it fresh in front of you – watermelon, pineapple, mango, other fruit.*******

Yep, Bangkok is pretty fabulous, but pretty darn hot.

I guess the other thing we could use is our air-conditioned hotel room and the swimming pool, but then that would be quite lazy of us.********

________________________________________________________

*not really batik, just “batik-look”

**not worn by any Thai people, worn only by tourists

***probably not, going on past experience

****yep

*****not really Pepsi, a kind of sugary cola substitute

******ok so perhaps we’ve jumped in a tuk-tuk several times

*******small, round brown things, sliced green things, pale yellow segmented things

********alright yes we are totally being lazy every afternoon from around 3:30pm

University challenge

University challenge

Cambridge

Don, Tim and I went on a day trip to Cambridge yesterday. Tim’s niece studies at Cambridge so we met her there and she showed us around. Such a beautiful town, with glorious old buildings, a superb gallery and lush manicured lawns.

Tim’s niece told us about uni life, her studies and ambitions.

Tim and Don and I told her about what we did when we were at uni. Because young people love it when you do that.

“I sent some friends to stage a coup of the the Conservative Association.”

“I spent more time finding somebody who had already read Great Expectations than it would have taken to read it myself.”

“I was founding member of the University Alcohol Appreciation Society.”

“I jumped in the fountain and won a bloodthirsty garden gnome in the annual statue competition.”

“I got elected student union secretary in order to stop the candidate we didn’t like being elected.”

“I instigated an occupation of the university teaching block when I was accommodation officer.”

“I was involved in the protest when the condom vending machines were removed at our uni.”

“I wore my pyjamas to uni once when I was late for lectures.”

“I washed the inside windows of the uni hall with a fire hose.”

Suffice to say yesterday was educational for everybody involved.

Hola!

Hola!

Barcelona

If there is one language that I’d love to learn, it’s Spanish.

I’m virtually fluent in it already. I mentioned this to Don.

“I think you mean fluid,” was his response. Ignore him, he’s just jealous of my uncanny ability to pick up words and phrases in a short space of time.

I already had a solid grounding in the language thanks to Sesame Street. I also have Feliz Navidad, despacito and macarena, as well as tapas and sangría.

I learnt queso (cheese) and jamón (ham) the first time we were in Spain in 2004, back in the days when I was a vegetarian. Worried that I would be served ham in the ham restaurant, I made Don walk the streets with me until we found cheese labelled cheese. Only then could we go to the ham restaurant for a ham sandwich and a cheese sandwich – queso, no jamón!

Now three days into our Barcelona visit, I’ve added potato, street, house, fountain and grilled. I’ve just forgotten fountain and grilled, but I’m sure if I see them written down I’ll be right.

My favourite word is hola (hello). I’ve hola-ed everybody – every staff member at our hotel, all shop assistants, the people working at the museums, Don, our room, the shower, dinner, wine, the elevator, sangria, the bed.

Obviously I look like I speak Spanish. I’ve been stopped in the street several times and asked in Spanish for directions somewhere. Ok once, I was stopped once, but it just proves I look like a local.

Yesterday we sat for lunch at a little tapas bar.

“Hola!” I said to the woman serving.

“Hola!” she replied, before bursting into a string of rapid Spanish. The thing is, the whole time she was speaking I felt like I knew what she was saying. I didn’t. But I nodded and smiled, said hola and sí and queso a few times, pointed to random items on the menu and sounded them out in near-perfect Spanish. Wine and beer and food soon appeared, so all good, sí?

Perhaps when I get home I’ll enrol in Spanish lessons. Anybody is welcome to join me, however you’ll need to get the basics under your belt first.

Far be it for me to upstage you.

Layer upon layer upon layer

Layer upon layer upon layer

Iceland

I have completely acclimatised to the freezing cold weather, and have the cold weather habits of people who live here down pat.

Bahahahahahaha! I have no freaking idea what I’m doing.

It is cold in Iceland. Freezing cold. Several layers of clothing cold. It’s a science getting dressed for this, and every morning I drive Don mad with a string of questions. What’s the temperature? What does minus 1 mean? Is it much different to 3? How long will I be inside? How long will I be outside? What do I have to carry? Is it snowing? Is it raining? Will I be too hot? If I take layers off how much will I have to carry? How many days in a row can I wear these socks? Long or short sleeve thermals?

In the end the answers to any of these questions have been irrelevant because I’ve been in the same clothes for five days in a row. And everything about them is a drama.

I have three layers of pants. Thermals, followed by thick tights followed by even thicker leggings. They may keep my legs warm, but it’s a complete nightmare getting them on. And getting them off? Every time I need the bathroom I have to roll them down my legs, creating a giant black Lycra wad around my knees. The crotch of each pant hangs at varying levels between my legs so for even a hint of comfort I’m forced to try to separate each layer and hoik them up one by one. All this while holding all of my other clothes out of the way. At the end of the day I peel the whole lot off in one go, only to find I have three elastic band welts at various heights around my stomach. Charming.

I’ve worn four shirts with the same big red puffy jacket over the whole lot every day. It’s so puffy the one time I tried carrying a shoulder bag I got so tangled up in scarf, sleeves, strap, hair and hood that Don had to rescue me before I cut off my airway. Now instead I have cash, cards, tissues, camera, phone, spare battery, hair tie and gloves all stashed in the three pockets of the jacket. Every time I pull the gloves out, all of the other items go flying. Every time I need something and I’m not wearing the jacket I spend 20 minutes searching through metres of red puff just to locate a pocket. Almost always the wrong pocket.

I can’t put my hair up because if I do I can’t jam my beanie far enough down my head. I left my hair loose for two days and ended up with three enormous dreadlocks. I tried low hanging pigtails like a five year old, but have now settled on a sort of a side plait.

But all of this is nothing compared to the time and effort spent whenever I go from inside to outside or from outside to inside. We’ve been getting around in a big Nissan Patrol for the past few days, which has been great, but space is at a premium.

Getting out of the car? Pull on hat, wind scarf around neck, look for gloves that aren’t stashed in pockets like they should have been and put them on. Undo seatbelt. Untangle scarf from seatbelt. Wind scarf back around neck. Manoeuvre one sleeve of puffy jacket on before exiting the car and getting too cold. Exit car. Pull on other sleeve and try to connect puffy jacket zip while gloves are still on. Fail. Take off gloves, connect zip. Look for gloves again, find them in the snow, pick up and put back on again.

Go see waterfall/geyser/glacier/snow/mountain.

Come back to car. Unzip and remove one puffy jacket sleeve before entering car. Sit, pull on seatbelt. Remove the rest of puffy jacket, get tangled in seatbelt. Undo seatbelt, remove puffy jacket, stuff puffy jacket in a ball on the floor. Remove beanie, gloves and scarf one by one and stuff on the floor. Do up seatbelt. Realise we’ve already arrived at the next waterfall/geyser/glacier/snow/mountain.

As you can tell, it’s a slick routine I have going here.

Most people would think I’m a local if not for the accent.

Expect a slide night

Expect a slide night

It’s week nine and I have taken 2,562 photos. Many photos of buildings, paintings and churches, some photos of food, multiple selfies, lots of squirrels, even more lion statues, lots of Don and me standing in front of famous things grinning inanely. Photos with our heads chopped off, photos with only half the background.

But if there’s one subject with which I may have gotten a tad carried away, it’s autumn.

Well come on, everywhere is full to the brim with trees, their leaves changing colours at varying rates – we don’t get that at home. Clouds of red, orange, brown, yellow, rust stretched as far as you can see, blankets of yellow and brown to shuffle and swing your feet through, massive bursts of red. It’s just so beautiful, I could happily spend all day just walking through the parks, gardens and wilderness. Taking photos.

In Lucca, London and Scotland, Queen of the autumn leaf brigade, I’ve taken:

  • 9 landscape photos of various parks
  • 7 close ups of leaf litter
  • 10 selfies with background leaves
  • 2 photos of Don disappearing into a leafy wilderness
  • 6 photos of me crouched amongst the leaf litter
  • 15 photos of individual trees that looked particularly pretty
  • 18 photos up tree lined avenues
  • 1 photo of Don and Kristin disappearing into tree lined avenue wilderness
  • 8 photos of London landmarks carefully framed amongst the autumn leaves
  • 16 photos of Scottish castle surrounds
  • 15 photos of Scottish castles within their surrounds
  • 7 photos of trees along a bubbling creek
  • 5 photos of sheep in fields surrounded by autumn trees.

As I said, a tad carried away. Thank goodness our next stop is Iceland.

Welcome to Scotland

Welcome to Scotland

It was four degrees when we arrived in Aberdeen. Four.

That’s ok, we were expecting the cold so we were dressed appropriately when Kristin picked us up from the airport. And even better, Gary had built a roaring fire to welcome us after the long drive to their country home.

A burning, crackling, coal driven, flames hurtling up the chimney roaring fire.

I took my coat off at the front door and we snuggled into the living room with several drams of whisky, welcome to Scotland champagne, a determination not to peak too soon and the roaring fire.

After a while I had to take my shoes off. Gary put more coal onto the fire. We drank some more whisky and champagne, a bottle of red was opened.

It got warmer. I took my socks off. Gary put even more coal onto the fire. We switched to white wine, the whisky kept coming.

It got even warmer. Burning up a wee bit, I took my scarf off. Then I took my jumper off.

Gary put more coal onto the fire and brought out more whisky. I took my shirt off. Then I shoved the sleeves of my long t-shirt up my arms.

It was one degree outside, yet sitting in that tiny living room was like being in a bikram yoga class with endless alcohol.

In danger of stripping down to my underwear, Kristin eventually moved us into the dining room where it was icy cold and much more comfortable.

It wasn’t that we couldn’t feel the cold. Because there’s no way we peaked too soon.