Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tambopata Research Center

We're now at TRC for two nights. Four hour boat ride to get here. The
highlight was seeing a group of capybara on the shore. We were quite
close and they didn't seem bothered by us.

TRC is not quite as fancy as the last place but still quite nice.
Shared bathrooms but that's no big deal. Still wifi although it's slow

Went to the macaw clay lick at 4:30 am this morning but got rained
out. We'll try again tomorrow. More walks today to see what we can see.

At breakfast some of the "chicos" arrived. These are macaws that were
rescued as chicks and raised by hand. They live in the wild now but
still come back to beg for treats. Pretty cool to see them up close
instead of in the distance. Yesterday we saw quite a few toucans, also
very cool with their huge bills.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Into the Rainforest

We flew from Cusco to Puerto Maldenado, took a bus, then four hours by
boat to Refugio Amazonas. It's a pretty neat place. The rooms are open
on one side to the rainforest and we even have our own hammock in our
room. No hot water or electric lights but that's ok. And amazingly
there's wifi in the main lodge!

Back from Machu Picchu

We made it through the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu. We had Shelley's 82 year old father (Earl Ballard) with us so we weren't the fastest group, but he did great and made it through a tough hike.For example, one day includes a 5000 foot climb up to an almost 14,000 foot pass. Another day is 16 km including long (thousands of feet) steep descents on stone stairs. And this is the rainy season so it rained a lot. Word soon spread through all the trekkers and many people congratulated Earl and told him what an inspiration he was.

Machu Picchu itself is very impressive. Too many tourists of course, but not as many as in peak season. And it's a big place so it's still possible to wander parts of it almost on your own. 

We spent the night at Aguas Calientes and then took the train back to Cusco and spent the night and now we're off to the jungle and off the grid again for a while. These short (for me) trips with a lot packed in are hectic! Barely time to read our books! We'll slow down when the others leave and post more detailed information at that time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Photos from Cusco

Been too busy to write much, but here are a few photos from the ones I've had time to look at. Tomorrow we're off for the hike to Machu Picchu so no internet for a few days. Then we're back in Cusco for one night before heading for the jungle.


Monday, December 21, 2009

The Tale of Three Generations

- by Shelley

The first part of this trip is a bit different for Andrew and I. My whole family is joining us for a 4-day hike into Machu Picchu and then a few days in the jungle. The whole thing is very strictly planned with guides and schedules (not our usual fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants travel style). The players are as follows:

- Andrew and I
- My dad Earl and my stepmom Elaine
- My sister Bev
- My nephew Andrew and his wife Gretchen
- My niece Nicole and her boyfriend/fiance Austen
- My niece Julie and her boyfriend Grayson

It's a widely divergent group in many ways. We range in age from 17 (Julie) to 82 (Dad); some are totally comfortable with camping, roughing it and, when necessary, going days, even weeks, without a real shower (Andrew and I), while some are lovingly referred to as "high maintenance" with makeup, hairdryers, always fashionable and perfectly put together (Elaine); most of us are fairly well traveled but some not so much away from the western world; some are happy to go along with whatever the plans are and my sister in particular wants to see every possible site she can in the time allotted (she's an accountant and we joked that if she started making spread sheets for us we were all going to run away!). I've got to give her credit for the monumental task of organizing all of us on various schedules and logistics.

It's a fun crew and Dad and Julie especially create a lot of entertainment value. As Julie said on her facebook page . . . "11 people, 3 generations, 2 weeks of bonding and 1 mountain to climb!!!" My Andrew jokingly replied "Bonding??? Are we on the same trip?"

Andrew and I left a day ahead of the second crew (Dad, Elaine, Bev, Gretchen, Julie, Grayson). They left from Edmonton and the last legs of their flights were with Taca. Apparently Taca oversells many of their flights and it's pretty much first come, first served. They got bumped to standby and were facing an overnight in San Salvador which would throw out several other flights and plans in Peru. Between them, they used every trick (aka sob story) in the book -- 82 year old father, meeting family, tight schedule, etc. etc. They made it and we ran into them in the airport in Lima enroute to Cusco. But then their flight to Cusco got delayed and they had to move to Lan airlines, arriving several hours later than originally scheduled.

The third crew of Andrew J., Nicole and Austen are coming a few days from now due to university exam schedules. They and Elaine will take the train and meet the rest of us at Machu Picchu. Gretchen and Bev have emailed Andrew J. with tips to try to make sure their travel goes smoothly.

We're gradually getting acclimatized to the altitude in Cusco and walking up the hill to our hotel gets easier each day. Machu Picchu here we come! 

Andrew, Shelley, Gretchen, Elaine, Bev, Earl, Julie, Grayson - Cusco in the background.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

First Batch of Peru Photos

The Cow Parade -- There are a cow sculptures everywhere! Decorated quite elaborately. We took photos of a few that most caught our eye!

Huge Christmas trees in all the parks/squares! Seems strange with no snow and so much warmth!

Note the doberman police dog with the muzzle. Doesn't look quite so friendly as our German Shepherds!


Not in Saskatchewan

by Shelley

We arrived in Lima at 0100 hrs. Only 1/2 hour late. But by the time we got through customs, waited an inordinate amount of time for our luggage, and got to our hotel it was just after 3 a.m. A whirring mind (still thinking about work), a too fat pillow, chirping birds, and being over tired made it difficult to get to sleep.

As we drove from the airport I was vaguely disappointed. Large, new modern buildings, casinos, big Toyota and Hyundai dealerships, Starbucks and Scotiabank made it seem like we'd hardly left home. But the rows of shops with metal garage overhead doors, the cement shell of buildings almost falling down, and the warm humid air blowing through the open windows of the taxi reassured me that "Yes Shelley, you're not in Saskatchewan anymore!" And if there was any lingering doubt, a number of things over the past two days sealed the deal: crowded streets and the overpowering smell of exhaust fumes; excessive amounts of graffiti; excessive numbers of police in riot gear with an armored tank; standard shift, very small taxis that rattle as if parts will fall off at any moment; taxis with no meters; the feeling that you're getting ripped off by drivers of said taxis with no meters; thanking God that you managed to survive a ride with said taxi drivers; roof top gardens; laundry hanging from rooftop clothes lines and balconies; big glasses of fresh fruit juices at ridiculously low prices; and . . . bougainvillea!

Our hotel is Villa Ponciana. A very small (6 rooms) and out of the way place run by a very friendly Peruvian man named Harry who has been extremely helpful with suggestions on where to go, places to eat, what to do and see. Yesterday we wandered in the older Central part of Lima and just happened to arrive for the changing of the guards at the palace. Also a quiet lunch at an out of the way museum and tour of the museum. Today we went to the zoo which was quite large, had some interesting animals, but was not the greatest in terms of making animal habitats that were the best for the animals. We also went for a walk along the ocean front; lots of parks and walkways on the clifftops overlooking the water. Beautiful!

Tomorrow to Cusco...

Small Coffees

We're back in the lands of small (but good) coffees. Actually, that's
pretty much everywhere but North America where we've all been super-

Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Morning in Lima

Breakfast at Hotel Villa Poinciata. Nice litlle (8 rooms?) place in
Miraflores neighborhood. What did we do before we had the Internet?

Got here late/early at 3am, slept in, and feeling ok now. The owner
has suggested a plan for the day, including a museum with a nice
restaurant with vegetarian options.

It's a beautiful day mid 20's - a far cry from -40!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On the Road Again

Actually, not literally the road. We're in the Toronto airport waiting for our flight to Lima.

Had the usual "alpine" start - up at 3:30, taxi at 4:15, drop off our bags (checked in online yesterday), breakfast at Tim Hortons, then through security. Flight at 6:30.

Annoyingly, this time the coffee place inside security wouldn't put my tea in my travel mug and insisted on giving it to me in a disposable cup. If I'd been more awake I would just have said no thanks. I hate disposable cups (and bottled water).

I used to really enjoy airports, not so much for the airports themselves but for the association with adventures and new places. Nowadays I'm too conscious that this kind of travel is not sustainable. But at the same time I'm here and I'm doing it so I might as well enjoy it (and I will). Every generation has its own kinds of guilt.

The terminal for our Lima flight seems new. Not much in the way of shops or restaurants. But we found somewhere for lunch with a vegie burger and Pad Thai. And there's a Starbucks for a coffee later. And a bookstore to browse :-)

I've started reading The Global Soul by Pico Iyer - good so far. (thanks Penny!)

I'm typing this on my iPhone - not bad for typing but awkward for editing.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Seashore Scavenger

These are from our kayaking trip from Gabriola Island a few months ago.