We’re going on a Caiman Hunt

Our full day in the Rainforest started with a walk from the river to the Oxbow lake. The walk was about 2km, and we saw and learned about a number of species of plants and animals.

Trees in the rainforst grow all the time, so they don’t have rings. This blew my mind!

no rings!


The Candlestick Ginger is very important to the native people here. It’s stem contains water, which can be consumed by a thirsty traveller. Its stem can also be boiled into an infusion and used against headaches. Elvis told is he has used this many times, and it is very effective. He did not mention if these headaches he suffered from were acquired after a night at the discotheque.

candlestick ginger

The trees in the rainforest do not have deep roots like in other forests. Because the nutrients in the soil are really only in the top 80cm, the trees have no need to have deep roots. Instead they have developed two types of systems to stabilize themselves, buttresses, like the figs, and stilts, like the palms.

buttress roots
stilt roots

The largest venomous snake in South America is called the bushmaster. It can grow larger than 3.5m in length and 10cm in girth. Though we looked, we did not find any bushmasters while on our hike, nor at any other time of our stay in the rainforest.

The walking palm can move up to 15cm per year searching for sunlight. It accomplishes this by sending out new roots in the direction it needs to travel.

walking palm

Elvis also pointed out a plant he referred to as the erotic plant. Apparently the sap from this tree is used to make a type of Viagra. I’m not sure where they got the idea from, though…

Although Tarantulas are nocturnal, Elvis woke a few up so we could see them. I was surprised to learn that they live in holes by the path, which makes finding food easier for them. While their bites are very painful, they are not deadly. Still, they move very quickly, and I was glad to see them from afar. I know how grumpy I get when someone wakes me up from a good sleep!

tarantula hole
the clearest photo I have…

At one point, Elvis grabbed some leaves and started rubbing them in his hands. He added a bit of water, and it started turning a deep purple.  I got voluntold for face paint, and then after it was on, told it would take years to come off. Thankfully my experiences with Queen’s Engineering taught me how to get purple dye off my skin quickly and effectively!

amazon warrior

While in the forest, we thought we mist be looking pretty good because someone was whistling at us. Turns out it was male Screaming Piha competing for a mate. take a listen!

We had a short boat ride on the lake, where we saw some hoatzin, aslo known as stinky birds.

Apparently they are so smelly that they have no natural predator! Now that’s smelly! Creatures in the lake include piranahs, electric eels, and freshwater stingrays.

The two biggest trees in the forest where we were are the strangling fig, which wraps itself around a host tree, slowly killing it, and the Kapok.

strangling fig – outside
stangling fig – inside
One of the roots of a giant Kapok
giant kapok

On the boat ride back to the trail, Elvis handed us packages of crackers and these orange spherical fruits. When we opened them, I thought it looked like brains on the inside. Turns out they were passion fruit, and very very delicious. I just couldn’t look too closely at what I was eating!

passionfruit

We returned back to the lodge for a yummy lunch and a relaxing afternoon. The water for each lodge was heated by solar, so I wanted to wait until after midday to shower. The water was good and hot, and I did not regret my decision.

solar hot water heaters

At 6:30 we met to learn a little bit about the Caiman, a member of the alligator family. They are solitary animals, and the males attracts a mate by blowing bubbles! We then jumped in one of the boats and went out searching for Caimans. Clearly Elvis has been trained for this because when he pointed to where one was, I kept looking at what turned out to be a log in the water, not the caiman at all! The first one we saw was huge, maybe around 1.5m. Elvis later told us he figured it was about 20 years old. Caimans never stop growing, and can live to be 60 years old, so you can tell approximately how old they are by their size.

We saw two more caimans, both babies about one year old. They looked to be no more than a foot long. We also saw some capybara up close. The biggest one was HUGE! It was the size of a medium to large dog! In the same vein as last night, I decided not to bring my camera out of respect for the caimans and capybara.

We spent a good 5 minutes on the boat with the motor turned off just listening to the sounds of the rainforest. I also looked at the stars. I always forget how amazing the night sky is when there’s no lights on!

Tomorrow we begin our trip home to Toronto. This has been a magical trip, and I am sad it’s over.

Welcome to the Jungle

We arrived in Puerto Maldonado, and met our tour guide Elvis, yes, Elvis, who directed us to our bus. The bus took us through Puerto Maldonado to the Tambopata Eco Lodge offices. While we were there, we packed our necessary gear into duffel bags to take with us to the Lodge – the beautiful and warm alpaca gear we’d become so comfortable in wouldn’t do us much good in the Amazonian rainforest! We also ate a provided lunch of rice, chicken nuggets, jungle potatoes and root veggies, along with two lady finger bananas and a bottle of water. I ate a surprising amount considering how little I’ve eaten in the past few days.

Because we had to wait for the remainder of our group to arrive, T convinced Elvis that we should climb the tower, known as the Obelisk, at the centre of Puerto Maldonado. So we took the giant bus to the Obelisk and climbed the 45m to the top, a walk in the park compared to the Inka Trail.

Then we were off to the airport to pick up the rest of our group. Their plane was delayed, so we stopped at a serpentium right beside the airport. It was closed, but it seems as though posted hours are merely suggestions here. After Elvis managed to convince the groundskeeper to get the guide, and the guide to let us in for free, we learned not only do they have snakes, but other abandoned animals as well. In addition to boas and snakes, we saw some round turtles, a spotted cat related to an ocelot, some russet monkeys, and, my favorite, a baby three toed sloth! He looked like he was smiling the whole time, and I wanted to steal him.

We picked up the remainder of our tour, and headed back to the Lodge office, where they re-packed into duffel bags and we were off! Our trip consisted of a 45 minute bus ride on some pretty beat up dirt roads, followed by a 2 hour boat ride along the Tambopata river.

Along the way, we saw a horned screamer, which apparently sounds something like a donkey, thou I can neither confirm nor deny this point as it did not make a sound while we were there, and some capybara, the world’s biggest rodent, eating grass by the river.


We arrived in the Tambopata National Reserve and had to register. At this point in the trip I knew my passport number by heart, and was still confused about why they wanted to know what our professions were.  We once again got some really cool stamps in our passports, this time with at puma on it!

We arrived at the Lodge and had a quick tea before heading to our cabins to unpack and prepare for our night walk. The lodge we are staying in is quite nice, and was lit by candles when we arrived. There is running water and a 3rd bed, which means I once again get two fluffy pillows!

We met Elvis at 6:30 to watch a slideshow presentation about the Tambopata river and the EcoLodge. We then set out on a short (400m max) walk to see some of the nocturnal insects that live in the jungle. I chose to not bring my camera out of respect for the nocturnal animals we were seeing. I’m not fond of camera flashes in my face at night, so I can’t imagine they’d be too thrilled about it either.

In addition to some giant crickets and grasshoppers, we saw some stick bugs (the kind that look like sticks!), an orb spider, a bullet ant, which can grow up to 1.5 inches and has the same venom as a cobra, albeit in much smaller quantities, a blunt nosed snake and, possibly coolest of all, a two toed sloth! It was motoring by sloth standards. As a nocturnal animal, I suspect he didn’t like our flashlights shining on him.

We came back to the lodge for supper at 8. Then it was back to our lodge for T and I. She was really, really tired, and I wanted to get this thing up to date, even if I can’t publish until I get back to civilization!

Camino Inka: Pacamayo to Winay Wayna (15km)

Read about Day 1, from Cuzco to Wayllabamba, and Day 2, from Wayllabamba to Pacamayo.

Inka Trail Map – Day 3

 

Day 3: Unforgettable

We were up super early from Paqaymayu, and after a quick breakfast were on our way for a long and unforgettable day of walking.

sunrise
ready for day 3

Thanks to E’s oxygen and a lot of sleep, I was feeling pretty good, and was excited for the day.

At the bottom of the 2nd pass of the trek, Abra de Runkuracay at 4,000m, E told us of a tradition for those travelling the trail to bring an offering including a stone from the bottom of the mountain to the pass.

my offering:
a small stone, some coca leaves and some white chocolate from my trail mix

We hiked for about an hour to the ruins of Runkuracay, which overlooks  the Pacamayo valley.

Runkuracay

When we arrived at the Abra de Runkuracay pass, we made our offerings as the many passing before us had. Some brought large stones, but mine was quite small given my issues with altitude sickness the previous day.

The decent from the second pass led us to a particularly beautiful and lush section of the trail and, not surprisingly, more Inka ruins.

back down again
Sayacmara

Sayacmarca means ‘Inaccessible Town’ and it describes the the ruins perfectly, as they are protected on three sides by sheer cliffs.

Along the route to the third, and final, pass is a cool Inka tunnel!

The view from the pass offers views of several  peaks including Salkantay (6,180m) and Veronica (5,750m).

Aguas Calientes (I think)

 

Just after the pass is Phuyapatamarca, an impressive Inka ruin.

Phuyupatamarca
entering Phuyupatamarca

 

Up next is the infamous gringo killer, a thousand or so steps straight down! While I struggled with uphills, I thrived going down, and didn’t feel any pain in my knees at all!

After all the stairs we arrived at the ruins of Wiñay Wayna, meaning ‘forever young’ in Quechua. The ruins are comprised of some incredible agricultural terraces which also had some llamas (yay!) when we were there. Naturally I took pictures.

we made it!

 

That night, our cooks, who had been completely amazing to that point impressed us even further by baking a cake to celebrate one of our fellow hiker’s birthday. We were all blown away.

cake!

Tomorrow we finally arrive in Machu Picchu!

Camino Inka: Wayllabamba to Pacamayo (12km)

Read about Day 1, from Cuzco to Wayllabamba.

If the day 1 was “Inka flat,” the 2nd day was “Inka uphill!” It’s known as the most challenging day of the 4-day Inka Trail trek, since it involves hiking up to 4,200 m at Dead Woman’s Pass, which for me was a bit of an omen.

Inca Trail Map – Day 2
Day 2: Challenge

As we left Wayllabamba, the smoke from the previous night’s forest fire was still lingering.

From Wayllabamba, we followed the left bank of the Llullchayoc river. The path was all uphill, but the river was beautiful and the foliage was fascinating.

still smiling!

 

Throughout the climb, I got further and further behind those in the front, and it drove me crazy that I couldn’t keep up.

Several hours in, the terrain changed from beautiful forest to slightly barren land.

 

This is where things really got tough for me, which is why I don’t have any photos until the top of the climb. I could only take about 5 steps at a time before I was so winded I needed to stop to catch my breath. At this point, E traded bags with me, so I wasn’t carrying all my stuff.

Start of the long upward haul to Abra de Huarmihuañusca (Dead Woman’s Pas)
from www.incatrailperu.com

Arriving at Abra de Huarmihuañusca, or ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’, is the only time I can remember that I cried from relief and had no control whatsoever over it. But I made it, and I’m so proud of myself for doing it!

Abra de Huarmihuañusca at 4,200m
We made it!

Thankfully the remainder of the day was downhill to our camp at Pacamayo.

I went pretty much straight into our tent to sleep, despite arriving at the camp fairly early in the day. E gave me some oxygen to help with the altitude sickness. Along with a little soup for dinner and a nice, long sleep, I felt better the next morning. But it was rough going for a while!

We learned our lesson from the previous night, and bundled up!

T’s space blanket came in very handy!

Read about Day 3: Unforgettable.

Camino Inka: Cuzco to Wayllabamba (12km)

I’m realizing now that I really should have either taken notes or tried to write these posts as I was on the trail and not 2 weeks later back in the comfort of my house, but here’s a lame attempt to summarize possibly the hardest and most worthwhile thing I’ve done.

Inca Trail Map – Day 1
Day 1: Easy

From Ollantaytambo, we continued to kilometer 82, where we disembarked, picked up our sleeping bags and mats supplied by Peru Treks, and began our journey. Our trek began VERY early in the morning – our guide, E, came to pick us up at our hotel at 5:30 am. We traveled around Cuzco by bus picking up the remainder of our trek companions, and got to the Peru Treks‘ office by about 6:30. From there, we drove for about 2 hours through Chinchero and Urubamba to Ollantaytambo, where we stopped for breakfast. Since we left as early as we did, there was no breakfast available at our hotel, and I was very glad that we stopped!

On our trek we had a family from Mississauga, a honeymooning couple from Montreal and another from Perth, Australia, a couple on a year long tour from England, a young couple from Melbourne, Australia, a nice couple from Belgium and his cousin from Italy, who was a machine on the course.  I’m pretty sure he could have (and maybe did) keep up with the porters!

In the beginning, I was the annoying girl who stops to take pictures of everything, including a donkey!

 

We had to register at km 82, where in addition to the tickets pictured below, we also got some cool stamps for our passports!

The first day of hiking was ‘Inka Flat’ which meant that the trail was hilly, but it was definitely manageable, and really interesting. E stopped us at a couple of locations to talk to us about what we were seeing.

The white things on the prickly pine are a bug that was used as a dye. You can’t tell at all, but when E squished some of this stuff in his hand it turned a very deep red colour.  The Inka used to mix their dyes with urine and soak the fabrics for days. It sounds gross, but apparently it works really well, and based on all the other cool, interesting and effective things I saw the Inkas were able to do, I’m inclined to think they’re probably right!

Our next stop was at a small village, where we learned how to chew coca leaves and llipta, this black stuff that is used to make the taste a bit sweeter, but also made everyone’s mouths numb.  I really didn’t like the taste of the coca leaves, even with the llipta, but they did seem to improve my ability to breathe at altitude, so I continued to chew as instructed.  It left beautiful green globs in my teeth, though.

 And we kept walking mostly up, but not in the steep way that was to come.
These baby goats were bleating like crazy, but we were quickly releaved to find their mother(s) and family a little further ahead on the trail.

This is a good indication of the type of trail we hiked on day 1, uphill but sloped as opposed to stairs.

Here we stopped at the Inka hillfort of Huillca Raccay, where we had some great views of the Urubamba mountain range, and of the Inka ruin of Llactapata.

Llactapata was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 and was primarily an agricultural station used to supply Machu Picchu with maize.

We arrived next at our lunch destination at 2764 m above sea level, and where the cutest puppy ever resided.

This was our lunch: avocado with walnuts and cheese. On the trail! Delicious!

lunch

We continued on our way to our final destination for the day, Wayllabamba.

It was smokey because there was a forest fire, that we could see later on from our camp site.  S, our other guide, was telling us they are not very common.

When we arrived in Wayllabamba, we stopped outside the local bar (really it was a simple structure with a metal roof), where we tried chica, a home-made alcoholic beverage made from maize. While most of the people on the trek weren’t particularly keen on it, T and I liked it a lot!  We then went into the bar, where we saw the vat the chica was made in, and some guinea pigs under the stove.

Cui

Once it got dark, we could see the forest fires that C was talking about. This is my lame attempt to take a photo.  While I had a mini tri-pod, I couldn’t find anything stable to put it on…

We had a very, very cold night. T and I snuggled in our tent, and made some changes to our sleeping arrangements for the next day.

Read about Day 2: Challenge and Day 3: Unforgettable.

Cuzco on Foot

After sending out some Laundry to be done (the B&B specifically requested that we not do it in the sinks, and at 5 Soles/kg, the price was right), we started the Walking Tour described in our Tour Book.

We started with a walk around and through the Plaza de Armas, where we were accosted by just as many merchants selling alpaca scarves, hats and mittens, massages and other goods.

We walked along the Calle de Medio, a pedestrian only street where there are plenty of small shops, to the Plaza Regocijo. The colonial arches surrounding the plaza encompassed this area in ancient times.

Then it was along Calle Carcilaso to the Plaza San Francisco, where there were these beautiful blue Juliette balconies! Neither the Church nor Museum of San Francisco were opened, and although we planned to come back to visit, we never made it.

This led to the colonial archway of Santa Clara, and past that the church and convent of Santa Clara, which was not open to the public. That led us to the Mercado San Pedro, where I went in, and T stayed outside. Shopping in the market was overwhelming with all of the things that were available. Along the outsides were the typical clothes and other textiles, spells, incense and other random products.  On the inside there was all kinds of produce, including pig heads and frogs, as well as many, many species of potato! Finally there as a ginormous fruit juice selection, but I avoided it, as much as I didn’t want to, for fear of my stomach disagreeing with my mouth! Instead, I got myself a typical bag to carry all my junk in, which you will no doubt see in most of the pictures following this post, and some gifts.

Outside the market, we got roasted sweet potatoes, and T got a roasted banana. They were delicious!

Just in case the market wasn’t enough, the walking tour took us onto Calle Nueva, where we saw merchants selling hardware, guitars, dvds, and tea (which T bought).

We ended up onto Avenida El Sol, where we were last night while at Peru Treks, and found the Palacio de Justica, a big white building that looks kind of like a wedding cake!

Behind the Palacio del Justica, we walked along Loreto, a pedestrian only cobbled walkway with Inca walls on both sides.

The wall on the left of the photo belongs to Amaruqancha, the wall on the right belonged to Acllahuassi and is one of the oldest and best Inca walls in Cuzco.

Loreto took us back to the Plaza de Armas, where we turned down Triunfo and to Hatunrumiyoc, another walled-in pedestrian alley, and home of the famous 12 sided stone.

Here, we went to the Museo de Arte Religioso.  I desperately needed to use the washroom, and T was very interested in visiting the Museum.  A win-win situation if I ever saw one!

At the museum we took an audio tour.  The paintings were mostly by the Andean people, but were cathlolic in nature, and the audio tour explained to us how the artists combined the Inka style with the Catholic faith. It also talked about how the catholic church was able to integrate with the indigenous people. There were also a collection of paintings depicting the signs of the zodiac and their Christian equivalents, which T and I thought was really cool. (Sorry, no photos were allowed in the museum! I took from in the courtyard, where it was allowed, though)

After the museum, we ended up on the same street as our B&B, where we stopped for some lunch and coffee.  I had the most delicious hot chocolate I’ve ever had, it was spiced chocolate with espresso, and I wish I could have it every day! While we were there T fell asleep, and I did some reading about the next portion of our walking tour!

Once T woke up, we started on our way along Cuesta San Blas, a very steep cobbled street which leads to to the Plaza San Blas.

The Plaza is supposed to be a ‘Bohemian Headquarters,’ and while there was a guy juggling, it wasn’t as bustling with ‘fire twirlers, jugglers and itinerant artisans’ as our tour book said it would be.

Plaza San Blas

Here’s a close-up of the juggler. He’s not that visible above!

Juggler

From the Plaza San Blas, we walked through the San Blas area of Cuzco along Tandapata. The road was really cool, and I took lots of photos!

Cuzco from above

 

After a bit of debate when we came to a crossroads, we ended up on the path to Sacsaywaman, or as T renamed it, Scandalous Woman. Before climbing to the ruins, we got some freshly squeezed OJ (very yummy!) and T got a corn with cheese, which she enjoyed immensely.

On the way up, we saw a llama, which I took lots of pictures of, because it was the first one I saw…

my first llama sighting

When we arrived at the ruins, they yelled at us because apparently there is a fee of 130 Soles to get in.

Photo from before we went mistakenly went into the ruins

 

We decided it was probably not worth the money to go in, since we were going to see all kinds of Inka ruins on the Inka Trail to Macchu Pichu, so we went in and dropped off our garbage, took photos of ourselves, and then climbed the other side of the mountain to see if we could get a better view.  And the view ended up being pretty spectacular.

Sacsaywaman is supposed to be the most impressive one in the immediate area around Cuzco, although apparently what we could see was only about 20% of the original structure.  The Spaniards tore down much of the structure to build their own houses, which makes me very, very angry!

Sacsaywaman

When we arrived at the summit of the other hill, we found this!!

Later that night, we met up with C at the McDonalds in the Plaza. I could smell it before I saw it, and I was glad we weren’t eating there. If it wasn’t such an easy marker to meet at, I would have been upset that we were meeting there.  We walked around for quite a while looking for a place to eat, and ended up just down the road from our hotel at the Blue Alpaca! We ordered chica, a juice made from a corn, and I ordered alpaca! It was delicious, and I guess the most exotic food I ate while I was away.  The cui (guinea pig) was twice as much as everything else on any menu we saw, which is why I didn’t order it.

Alpaca
Chica!

Cuzco: Stone City

The fitful sleep on the bus was somewhat made up for by the fact that we woke up to this.

20110824-073617.jpg

The Andes are absolutely beautiful, and I was amazed at every turn (and there were a lot of them) at the natural beauty here, and the hardworking nature of it’s people. We saw many farmers using bulls to till their land.

One of the things I found surprising about the trip was the lack of stops. The only planned stops were to pick up more passengers in Ica, Nazca and somewhere else whose name escapes me right now. However, a lady on the bus didn’t deal well with the motion sickness and barfed outside the bathroom while T was inside, necessitating a stop to clean out the bus. Thankfully they stopped quickly enough and cleaned thoroughly enough that the bus didn’t smell! If it had, I might have been the next!

The lack of stops led C to decide he was going to quit smoking. He figured he’d probably pick it up again as soon as we got to Cuzco though.

The remainder of the bus trip was spent watching more old movies on loud, and playing Bingo! Much to my surprise, it was a fabulous way to learn the Spanish numbers. T can now count convincingly to 75.

When we finally arrived in Cuzco, we shared a cab with C to my favorite B&B so far, Hotel Andenes el Cielo. The rooms are comfortable and warm, we had plenty of hot water to shower, and not only were there feather duvets, but also thick wool (and potentially even alpaca!) blankets. Though my favorite part was the not one but two thick fluffy pillows, a rarity here, I’ve learned. T and I went up to the rooftop terrace with some coca tea to enjoy the view of Cuzco while Javier, the hotel owner, took our bags to out room. I really can’t stress enough how amazing this place is!

Once we were settled and showered, we went for a walk to the Plaza de Armas, the main square in Cuzco. I have never been offered more massages in a 20 minute period than I was for the walk to and around the Plaza! It seems as though they’re a jot commodity here. We also ran into 3 traditionally dressed women with 3 baby goats, which we (mostly T though) had to have her picture taken with. After the photos were taken, they informed us it was going to be 10 Soles for the picture. When I gave them some of my change, they reinformed me that it was going to be 10 Soles EACH, which we gawked at, gave them the remainder of my change, told them we had no more, and continued on our way to the Plaza de Armas
.

We had to get to the Peru Treks office to pay the remainder of our balance for the trek, and for our trek briefing by 5pm. But before we went, we had to go to the bank to get some American dollars. Thankfully T was able to figure out how to bypass the random blue screen with some numbers on it. Then for some reason, the machine we went to would only give me a portion of the money I needed. Thankfully, Peru treks also accepts Soles. The briefing for the trek just made me more excited for it!

After we finished there, we found a beautiful patio and had tea and coffee. I even splurged for a fizzy water! While we were there we were approached by many merchants trying to sell their goods. None, however, were as cute as the girl trying to sell us dolls. When we said “lo siento” (i’m sorry) she said “no lo siento, i give you better price”. T loved her persistence and wanted to take her home, rather than the dolls, but we figured that might be child trafficking and a bad idea.

Central Lima

On our 2nd day, we ventured into central Lima to see the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin. After a fairly hectic cab ride to the Plaza de Armas, I needed to find a bathroom. There was a little shopping centre with a sign for a bathroom right on the square, so we went in. While I looked for the bathroom, T looked at the wedding dresses and cakes that filled the mall. As I was leaving the bathroom, the woman handing out toilet paper asked I’d my bag was heavy, because we’d already checked out of the b&b and I was carrying my big backpack. I told her it was a bit heavy but that I was strong, and then, to make my point, proceeded to make a bodybuilder pose and grunt. She and her daughters thought this was really funny so we all had a good laugh. I’m glad my sense of humour translates!!

While in the Plaza, we saw the changing of the guards, which was basically a brass band playing some fun music. Needless to say, we did a little dancing!

When we were done walking around the Plaza de Armas, we walked along Jiron de la Union to the Plaza San Martin they had some actual moving walk signals, which I video taped because of my geekiness.

We had lunch at a restaurant on the Plaza San Martin surrounded by locals for 8 soles each, which included an appetizer and main. I risked it and ate a fresh salad, and have thankfully suffered no gastronomical ill effects!

We then travelled to the Cruz del Sur bus station, one of the better services in Lima. We checked our bass and I had a brief discussion with the bag check guys about my water filter.

Robots in Disguise

 

When we got on the double decker bus, we saw what amazing seats they have; much better than any plane I’ve travelled on (then again I’ve only ever traveled coach). They were giant sized leather recliners that reclined 160 Degrees!

They served us two meals on the bus, a dinner of chicken, if you remember the clucking from my previous post, and a simple bread and jam breakfast with an apple.

The views from the bus were amazing. We saw shantytowns that grew up on the outside of lima after the last set of major earthquakes as well as places out in the country that were still half rubble from the destruction.
The entire trip T was a bit (a lot) nervous because a girl at our B&B in Lima had told us that she read about buses being hijacked in Peru. Thankfully there were no hijackings. Every bus with Cruz del Sur is equipped with GPS so the operators can tell if there has been an unauthorized stops.

Since T got the window seats on both our flights, she let me have the window seat on the bus ride, mostly because there was a cute guy across the aisle. T broke the ice with a witty jokes about flexibility! C is a German guy who has lived in Brazil for the past seven years.

The bus played several out of date movies, and the operator felt the need to turn them up to full volume, rather than letting us use the headphones they provided.

Despite the comfortable reclining and wide chairs, sleeping proved to be a bit of a challenge because of the winding mountain roads and swichbacks. I’m sure I slept a little bit, but it was fitful at best.

Lima: Miraflores



After arriving at the bed and breakfast Casa Wayra extremely late the night before, T and I slept in. After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and 2 rolls of margarine and jams, we head out to see a bit of Miraflores, the area of Lima where we were staying. A very nice South African gentleman suggested a few things that were worth seeing.

After some lovely hot showers, which were a pleasant surprise given how cold and damp it was, we walked along Av Jose Larco to the Ocean lookout and LarcoMar Shopping mall, where we got our first taste of the beautiful textiles made in Peru.

From LarcoMar, we walked along the ocean to Parquet del Amortization, where there’s a giant statue of two lovers. I only got a photo on my camera, however. Along the way, we found a small gym, where some Peruvian guys were working out. I got a stealth photo on my camera and will have to add it in here when i get home.

Next, we walked up Malecon 28 de Julio towards Kenedy park, and yes, it is of the John F persuasion. There was a really cool terraced tennis club, a very good use of the valley where it was located.

We found a pizzeria near Kennedy Park for lunch. Our server was really good. After I ordered a cafe con leche she came back and asked if I wanted to change my order because the water wasn’t boiled. I got a cinnamon and clove tea instead, and it was incredible! T ordered a sopa a la criolla, which was also amazing. We decided that most good Peruvian food comes with a surprise egg on top! In addition to the surprise egg, the soup came with a slice of toast right in it! Yummy!

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From Kennedy Park, we walked to the Indian Market. There was an incredible collection of alpaca products like scarves, mittens, sweaters, ponchos and hats, as well as jewelry, bags, and some very raunchy sculptures!! T and I bought some great, and warm, alpaca attire.
We walked back to Kennedy Park to find a place to get dinner. We found a tourist information booth, where we met Fernando, who was able to help us get information for our bus ride to Cuzco. He couldn’t get them to us himself, so he gave us directions to his travel agency. The agent got us tickets on the VIP bus. When he asked what kind of dinner we wanted, vegetarian, chicken, or beef. We we both chose the chicken and, to get our point across, we started clucking. When we stopped, the agent gave this sweet cluck of his own, and we all had a good laugh.

We finished off the day with a delicious dinner at LarcoMar, including ceviche, a yummy marinated raw fish dish.

Toronto to Lima via Miami

Today was a long travel day that started with a shady ride to the airport. Our cabbie turned off his cab to come and get us because we were a bit late for our 6am Pick-up, and then his cab wouldn’t start back up again. He called for a back-up, which we were very happy about, but he managed to get it started again just in time.

So despite his low oil and tire pressure, he took us to terminal 3, which may be the most barren airport terminal on the face of the planet! All I wanted was a good cup of coffee. But Terminal 3 has zero options for coffee. There was a tims behind a glass barrier, but that was it, so I settled for a crappy coffee from a crappy vendor. The good news was it had some caffeine in it, so despite it’s crappiness, I was less of a grump after drinking it.

The flight to Miami was uneventful thankfully. I did my Pimsler Spanish lessons, and was once again reminded how much I hate when people clap as soon as the wheels hit the runway. I’m always glad when my plane lands, don’t get me wrong, but a) the plane could still crash until it has come to a complete stop and b) no one claps for me when I finish an energy model or water use calculation, why should I clap for the pilots for doing their job? Just sayin’.

We did some browsing at the airport in Miami, but it was mostly just seeing what was there for our 5 hour layover on the way home. For anyone flying through MIA, the lunch we had at the Mohito bar was incredible.

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I had the turkey, Brie and currant sandwich with a peach Mohito. Yum, yum!

The man in front of me on the flight to Lima had his music so loud that I could hear the lyrics to the songs he was listening to through the airplane noise and my earplugs. Dude, turn it down, you’re going to go deaf! Otherwise, the flight was again uneventful. I learned a bit more Spanish and slept.

Unfortunately our flight was delayed by over an hour, so our Airport pick-up left the airport without us. It probably didn’t help that we organized our flight from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonato in the baggage pick-up area… We got a taxi akin to the airport limos in TO to take us to our b&b. Ke$ha was playing when we got in, which we took as a good sign for the trip.