Archive | October 2014

Going to the Galapagos

Going to The Galapagos
Off to Galapagos 10/30/14
At 6:00am a beautiful black sedan car with wifi, Juber scheduled for us, arrived to take us to the Lima airport.
Goodbye Peru!!!!

Well, almost an hour after our scheduled take off while we sat in the plane we finally got in the air. Going west to The Galapagos we gained an hour so are now only one hour ahead of home.
The hour and forty minute flight was uneventful and we were served either a ham and cheese sandwich or wrap plus a drink. Just remember when you fly in So America, Avianca airlines equals good edible food and with Tame airlines you need to bring your own. Don’t forget this tip when scheduling your next trip!
Right before landing a stewardess came thru the cabin and sprayed (they announced it was non toxic) the entire cabin and everyone was coughing as soon as they came by. I do understand the need for caution but that was a bit much. Once we landed we walked quite a distance to the processing center and just before entering we all waded thru a disinfectant for our shoes. Security checks on our bags was also very tight leaving Lima with an X-ray of each bag and then they were security sealed. When we arrived once again our bags were x-rayed and then the seal was released. After all the paper work stations and we each paid our $100.00 (cash) entry fee we had to walk thru a big duty free store before exiting the airport.
Once outside we got on a bus and were transported a short distance to the water and we put our luggage in top of the boat and got inside for the ride across to the other side. ($1.00 per person). Once again after disembarking and collected luggage we had choices for the 45 kilometer ride to Puerto Ayora. After I checked the cab price and learned it would be $18.00 we opted for the cheepo public transit bus and paid $2.00 each for the ride.
The terrain started out as a barren waste land with a few short brown trees but as we progressed the foliage became a bit more lush little by little till we were surround by dense undergrowth and banana, mango and lots of Palm trees with flowering bushes and vines. Nice ride.
Arrived at the pier and drug our suitcases to a nearby restaurant for a bite and brew which will give us time to contemplate getting to our B and B. Refreshed and with a strategy via our Lonely Planet map we set out to find La K Leta Guest House.
We were greeted by Yolanda (the Mama) who took us to our room and a few minutes later we were greeted by Yogo (cute young man son) who I had been communicating with via email. In perfect English he gave us all the general information of the town and welcomed us to our home for the next 6 nights.
It feels so good to know we will have this down time before heading to Quito for the next adventure.
We headed down to the water front as I was most anxious to meet new friends but only encountered a few lizards, fat finches and pelicans that were close enough to strike up a conversation. We meandered down to the fresh fish dock and there was a seal (flanked by several pelicans) rubbing up against one of the ladies who was cleaning fish and she fed him the skin she was removing for a customer. Absolutely adorable!
When we got down to the wharf a parade was in full progress with all the little children dressed as princesses or super heroes and the classes of school children dressed in ethnic clothes and dancing. A pickup with music proceeded each group. The town was very festive and we enjoyed the crowd watching as much as the parade.
On the way home stopped for ice cream and a bit more people watching.
Wonderful evening in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. We were tired so off to early bed as we want to take an early walk in the morning.

This entry was posted on October 31, 2014. 1 Comment

In the Jungle

Sunday in the jungle.
The flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldanardo was about 45 minutes and coming from high in the Andes we were blasted with heat stepping off the airplane. Our guide mentioned this was a rather cool day as temps are usually really sticky hot. We jumped into a van and headed for the office to drop off our suitcases as we took just a back pack for two nights. Back in the van and 45 min later we arrived at the Tambopata River which is one of the main tributaries into the Amazon. The ride to the lodge took about two hours with several stops for wildlife sightings along the way.
Leoa our cute young local guide served us lunch on the boat which was in a metal covered bowl tucked in a cotton drawstring bag. The meal was rice, an assortment of grilled vegetables and chicken for all except for me which was a special, just vege one for me. It was so delicious and there was also a packet of crackers and a little banana and Leoa also gave each of us a water bottle. Really cool zipping along the river, dense jungle on each side munching on a really tasty lunch.

Shortly after we finished eating Leoa jumped up and had the driver cut the engine and he pointed out three Macaws feeding on the mineral wall. He mentioned this was quite a good sighting as the last group did not have a good Macaw sighting. After photos were taken we headed on up the river in high spirits. The next spotting was again Leoa jumping up and stopping the boat as we all gazed in the direction along the muddy bank where he was pointing. It took a bit before we were able to see the movement of a head and body of a small pig sized brown rodent (largest in the world we were told) emerging from the muddy looking water. It was followed by another bit smaller rodent, a female, (canaberra which is probably spelled wrong) and then there came a little tiny baby that made me ooh and awe. They were meandering around the shore so we all got a really good look and good pics. We also spotted buzzards and Leoa gave us the names of some birds that were flying along the shores.

Arriving at the dock of the lodge I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of stairs we had to climb but about 3/4 of the way up we were shown the high water mark during the rainy season from Dec thru May.

The main lodge consisted of two large screened rooms on either side of the steps and we were greeted by Homer, a large green parrot who was quite young but had two words (hola and hello)already, waived when you did and laughed every time I did.
The dining room was on the left and the bar on the right. The rooms were high roofed thatched huts (two attached together) with the interior separated by walls not all the way to the ceiling so we could hear Pauline and Frances in the next hut and they us. The bedroom and private bath had all outside walls just screens and we were serenaded all night by the jungle sounds and gently awakened each morning as the choir of birds grew little by little as the dawn crept in. Love that special morning time.
The lodge turned on the generator from 5 pm to 10 pm each evening and had a bank of charging plugs so everyone could recharge camera batteries etc. no wifi. Our rooms only had candles which were needed after dark.

The first night there was a jungle walk and I opted to stay and read. I had started reading “Gone Girl” and it called my name a bit more than gimping thru the jungle at night. Wayne thoroughly enjoyed the outing spotting a snake, bamboo rats, possum, lemur and lots of bugs. Confirmed my decision to read for sure!!!!!

Up early for a 6:00am breakfast and we were on the river before 7:00am. We went about 20 minutes up River and disembarked on the opposite shore for a mile or so walk to the lake we would be visiting. All thru out the walk Leoa would stop after spotting movement and then show us monkeys, birds, insects along with explaining all the plants and trees. We had two really great tarantula sightings where he enticed them out of hiding. The second one was huge!!! Luckily they are shy.

We made it to the lake and climbed aboard a canoe and were taken around the lake for some good bird sightings. We gave our Birds of Peru bird chart to Juber when we left Peru so I can’t give you the correct specific names but we saw some beautiful birds. The grand finale was when Leoa threw crackers into the lake and the piranha flew to the top and gobbled up the crackers. Quite a show. Leoa also demonstrated that piranha are not as Hollywood projects by putting his hand in the river trying to attract them and absolutely no action. He did note that if he had a cut on his hand it would have been a totally different ending to the demonstration. Great trek back to the lodge with lots of monkey sightings.

That evening they took a night piranha hunt (without me) and had a fun time spotting really big ones on the river.

The meals were really delicious and each lunch and dinner they had a special dish of grilled veges for me. I kept telling Leoa it was not necessary but they would show up at the next meal again and were delicious. All meals were buffet style with a lot of selections and options for meat lovers and non meat lovers.

We left the next day mid morning and the boat ride back, as always seemed much shorter. Once in the van and since we had time before our flight to Lima, Juber had the driver do a city tour of Puerto Maldanardo which quite frankly was not the highlight of the day. I must confess here that our Kaiser travel pharmacist was quite alarmed when I mentioned we would be in this city and she was quite relieved to hear we were not spending the night. She said it had the highest known cases of malaria of all the jungle towns. I think that may have hindered my feeling any warmth towards that city.

After arriving in Lima we all got together for a farewell dinner. After spending 21 days together it was quite moving saying a final good bye to Pauline, Frances, Lanah and Juber. We really had become a great little family. It’s so nice to know we have family in Ireland, Australia and Peru now!!
I finished writing this in the Galapagos and I’m really tired and apologize as I did not proof read. Hope you can track OK.
Hugs to all!!!!

Thurs

Thurs
Arrived in Aguas Calientes late morning and the entire town was without electricity. After scaling blocks of pure uphill ascent (insert any or all painful adjectives here!) Juber and I reached our hotel and checked in. Just to stay with the program my room ended up on the second floor which actually was the third floor.
Juber and I then walked around town and ended up sitting and watching the workers unload supplies from the train mostly into wheel barrels and then push them uphill into town. The only non ascending street was along the train tracks so all the supplies, water, soda, beer, canisters of propane etc had to be hauled uphill. Lots of jobs.

One of the wonderful observations is the tremendous amount of building going on everywhere you look and Peru is experiencing a great economic growth. The influx of tourism has been a big contributing factor.
I want to insert here that this trip has totally exceeded our expectations in almost every way and especially the wonderful HOT showers. Lima had warm water and of course there were no showers on our home stay on Lake Titicaca or for Wayne on the Inca Trail but every other morning has been pure shower bliss!! Ahhhhh…
Tonight I go to sleep by candle light with no running water (yea no shower in the morning) and tomorrow I meet Wayne at Machu Picchu!!!! Sure been missing him!!

This entry was posted on October 25, 2014. 1 Comment

Wed in Cusco

Wed
Had breakfast with Juber and we had a fun hour or so chatting till the guide picked me up.
Tika is my guide today for the city tour and he also wants to take us to the local market as an added bonus if the other three we will be picking up. Really luxurious seats in this van today. Yippee!!
Cusco is a beautiful city with a very impressive and elaborate church along with some interesting Inca sites which are being preserved. We walked quite a bit and also traversed quite a few steps up and down but well worth the pain.
Our guide was very knowledgable about the ruins but also art history as his Dad is an artist.
The same three Aussies were on the tour with me and the guy (I was going to refer to him as gentleman but couldn’t ) was more of a jerk today than the day before. He asked Tika questions that only an Inca who had lived during that time would know and then was put out that he didn’t have an answer. His wife was his cheerleader so it kept going on. Tics finally said, “Sir, I will do my best if you let me give you my information and if you have any questions please let me know.” I gave Tica a big smile to say thank you. Mr Jerk settled down after that but I know he will give him a bad review to the company so I will also write a review on Mr Jerk.
Got back to the plaza and I quickly hustled off and found a restaurant overlooking a small plaza across from the Choco Museo where I will take my chocolate making class.
At 4:00 I went to my chocolate making class and since there were just two if us Josie gave us really special attention. Anyone interested in chocolate contact me and we will talk.
Leaving at 5:00am for Aguas Callenties in the morning and then meeting Wayne and the group early Fri morn.

This entry was posted on October 24, 2014. 1 Comment

Tues 10/22

Tues 10/22.

Tues
Got Wayne, Lannah, Francis and Pauline off on their hike of The Inca Trail.
Our van was to pick is up at 10:00am and since we had a little bit of time we went to the Inca ruins just down the street from our hotel. The construction precision and then the movement of these huge stones seems impossible but they did it. Also the elaborate water system bringing the water out of the mountains and to the precious crops in the fields via cut stone duct ways was pure architectural genius. I found this site so relaxing and meditatively peaceful with the sight and sound of lots of cascading water but at the same time I felt a sense of powerful energy all around. Peru has done a great job with restoration and Juber filled me in with lots of information about how the Incas used this site. Since Ollantaytambo is a popular starting place for the Inca Trail there are so many vendors of handicrafts everywhere and regular tienda type Latin America stores but these also sold every type of hiking equipment you could imagine right down to feather weight down jackets.

Our van picked us up and a bit down the road Juber and I were joined in our van by two other tour group “non Inca Trail hikers” so there were 4 tourists, three guides, one local guide and our driver.

Our local guide who was called Abuelo, which means Grandfather in Spanish, was a delightful character who always had a smile on his face. Raised in the area he had been an Inca Trail guide till he had knee surgery in Feb.
we first stopped at a natural salt field and the water, a salt content twice that of the ocean, flows from an unknown source thru a small crevice in the side of the mountain.
Onward we went to Moray a very impressive Inca site. When leaving the site our driver informed us we had a flat tire. It took about an hour to figure how to extract the spare and then just a few minutes to change the tire. The two Aussie ladies and I sat and had a great time talking but the most impressive part was the stunning backdrop of multiple mountains and a stunning blue sky dappled with puffs of fluffy clouds. Stunning.
The trip to Cusco was uneventful and I asked Juber if he minded eating a late lunch at Jacks where my BLT was callings name.
I did a bit of exploring and them went to my room for an early to bed night.
City tour at 9:00 am tomorrow.

Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo

Monday
We took off for a tour of The Sacred Valley. Along the way we stopped at a “Planetaria Cooperative” which is supported by G Adventures, our tour company. Here the money has allowed the women to have weaving looms and they produce beautiful textiles and also knit scarves, hats, gloves etc. the men of the village are employed by G Adventures as the porters and cooks for the Inca Trail. The village is flourishing. We were given a tour and each of us ladies took our turn weaving with the help of our tutors. These women are amazing as they weave intricate designs with no pattern. We then were shown how they processed the fiber and made the natural dyes from plants. The fiber (llama, alpaca or sheep) is boiled in these dyes for about 45 minutes. We had our own local little lady that assisted with the demonstration and she then quickly took us to her table of wares. I bought some leg warmers as I already had an alpaca hat, gloves and socks.

It’s getting quite cold today and has been raining off and on all day. The local guide said that it will probably rain on the big hike. The group is on a one hour hike right now and I opted to hang on the bus and jot down thoughts while still fresh. It really is great how they get in a hike or two almost every day in preparation.

The topic all day has been snacks on the trail and Lanah, (23, very slim and is our best eater) is the most concerned as she pretty much is a non stop eater and they have to carry all their snacks. When we were leaving Puno I spotted Snicker bars and bought 2 for Wayne (his fav candy) and gave him one on the bus for a treat and this morning I gave him the other for the trail.

Lunch was a gastronomical delight.

We had lunch at a G Adventure sponsored village project and I could not adequately describe the gourmet presentation of each course at this meal. I somehow left my phone on the bus so Wayne graciously agreed to take photos (as I knocked his fork out of his hand till he took a photo) and I will share with you foodies later. Creatively beautiful stunning presentation is all I can say!!

We arrived in Ollantaytambo where our Trekkers will blast off to The Inca Trail tomorrow.

Sunday

We arrived in Cusco around 3:30pm on Sun and Juber took us to a great little, always jam packed, restaurant. I spotted the BLT on the menu and knew this was going to be good. The description listed homemade bread and mayo with pesto. Well let’s just say if that restaurant was in McMinnville I would have a hard time deciding if I wanted Ricardo’s pork belly tacos or that BLT. Yes it was that good. Juber and Wayne had a stew in a wine sauce that was accompanied by delicious mashed potatoes. All you potato fans would love eating here as there are over 1,500 varieties and the flavors are so different but so far each have been very tasty. They very often serve multiple varieties in the same dish.

Juber then took us on a walking tour of the main city but everyone was anxious to attend the 7:00pm informational meeting about the upcoming hike. The presentation was really in detail and our presenter went over each day and details of the terrains for each day and what to expect along the way. Very interesting but I don’t think that even if I were in tip top shape I would attempt. Each hiker was given a duffle bag and after the (rented) sleeping bag and air mattress each hiker could add 2 1/2 kilos of personal items and this is the bag the porters carry for you along with the tents, food and cooking utensils. You then must carry anything yourself that is over the 2 1/2 kilos in a daypack. Lots of questions were answered and we were to pack for an overnight stay along with all the hiking essentials and be ready by 7:30am take off Mon morning. Our luggage will be stored at the hotel.

Monday morning dawns……

Breakfast was at the hotel and it is pretty much the same everywhere. Rolls, butter, jam, unidentifiable cereal, milk, thin yogurt, juice, instant coffee, tea and cocoa leaves for tea. Some hotels will cook eggs and charge extra but this one it was included and the coffee was perked. Ahh, the precious little things. 😊. Also sometimes there is cheese and ham and this one did. Pretty bare bones except for Lima where breakfast was a buffet feast. Not as good as our China trek breakfasts but really good.

The hikers were all pretty nervous and anxious this morning about what they packed or didn’t pack as they will not have another opportunity to add any items before the hike. I think Wayne re packed about three times last night and then again this morning.

Off to The Sacred Valley.