A Travellerspoint blog

THE GRAND CANYON

ANOTHER BUCKET LIST ITEM THAT DOES NOT DISAPPOINT

sunny 17 °C

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Although we had rented a car, we decided to book a tour to the Grand Canyon. It was a great decision. With no worries about navigation, we were both able to sit back, relax and enjoy the incredible views. We would not hesitate to recommend Pink Jeep Tours for this experience.

We were picked up at 8 am and did not return until about 6:30. The drive was almost 2 hours each way but was great. It took us through beautiful Oak Canyon and the ever-changing landscape that has long left the cacti behind and brought us into snowy forests. Fortunately we had a gorgeous day with sunshine which was much better than a couple weeks ago when, according to our guide, it was well below zero with 3 feet of snow.

I even got to see 2 roadrunners at one of our stops.

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Our tour of the canyon had us enter the park from the south east rim and allowed for many stops along the south rim. We even enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch on the edge of the Canyon while giant raven waited patiently for a sample.

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I was pleasantly surprised that my fear of height and vertigo was almost non-existent. Something about the hundreds of million year old layers in the rock make you feel like you don’t have that far to fall. Still, I, as always, was a rule follower and stayed inside the guard rails.

Here are some shots from our amazing day. It may just look like a whole bunch of rocks but it really is spectacular. I am not much of a landscape photographer and it is really impossible to capture the canyon’s grandeur.

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Posted by curlygirl 22:13 Archived in USA Tagged canyon arizona grand Comments (5)

RED ROCKS, VORTEXES AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF ENLIGHTENMENT

EXPLORING SEDONA

sunny 24 °C

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Leaving Phoenix early on Thursday morning, we made our way further north towards Sedona and our base for the next three days.

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We stopped along the way at Montezuma Castle National Monument. This castle built into a cliff was built by the Ancient Puebloans.

Neither part of the monument's name is correct. When European-Americans first observed the ruins in the 1860s, by then long-abandoned, they named them for the famous Aztec emperor Montezuma in the mistaken belief that he had been connected to their construction. In fact, the dwelling was abandoned more than 40 years before Montezuma was born, and was not a "castle" in the traditional sense, but instead functioned more like a "prehistoric high rise apartment complex.

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From there we headed into Sedona and were immediately wowed by the red rocks that Sedona is famous for. After a visit to the visitors’ center, we confirmed our theory on why the rocks are so red.

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Before checking into our hotel we decided to visit Red Rock Crossing. We opted to do a hike to the base of Cathedral Rock but after about 20 minutes on a poorly marked trailed we opted to turn around for fear of getting completely lost in the wood, in the heat, with our half bottle of water. We did get some nice views though.

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We quickly learned that we really don’t fit the typical visitor profile for the area which is primarily hikers and those here to see the hundreds of psychics that line on the main strip of the city. Some of the hikes look great but with Sherry’s post op foot and my foot that has yet to recover from my Peruvian mud hike fall ( might need a x-ray since that was last July), we were not too adventurous.

We did take a tour up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross which is built into the rock.

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The rest of the day we just poked around the city center. Although the town is beautiful, it is full of touristy shops and money grabs.

After a delicious dinner of rattlesnake sausage, buffalo skewers, prickly pear cactus fries with a prickly pear dip, we set out to find one of the 4 vortexes in Sedona. This is what the web tells me about the Sedona Vortexes.

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There are several energy centers, or vortexes of subtle energy, located in the Sedona area. (In Sedona, the energy centers are referred to as vortexes rather than vortices.) The energy from these vortexes saturates the whole area in and around Sedona, and can be noticed in a subtle but general way anywhere around town. If you actually go to one of the vortex sites, which is where the energy is strongest, it can be a very uplifting experience. The energy you take in at one of these energy centers can stay with you and affect you positively for days afterwards.

I seriously think I felt something and Sherry had wind swirling in her ears but not sure if we are changed by it. We do plan to look for at least one more….just in case.

Posted by curlygirl 21:52 Archived in USA Comments (1)

A LITTLE BIT OF SHOPPING AND WHOLE BUNCH OF CACTI

THE DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN – SENORAN DESERT

sunny 24 °C

There was no intention of blogging today or for many of the days on my trip to Arizona since most of the sightseeing is planned for later in the week and today was just gonna be a little shopping and poking around. But we had such a good time at the Desert Botanical Gardens that I had to share a few pictures.

My work was kind enough to send me to Arizona in the midst of winter for a two day conference on Tuesday and Wednesday so it only made sense that my bff, Sherry would fly up from Newfoundland, check out my new pad in Ottawa and then join me as I extend my work trip into a little holiday.

Those who know us won’t be surprised that we decided to spend our first few hours at the Premium Outlets. Well those few hours turned into many and before we knew it we were rushing out of there to get the Botanical Gardens in time to explore and enjoy sunset at the park. It did not disappoint and was so worth tearing ourselves away from the shopping. Although I will say, the drive to the mall was also gorgeous…like driving through the set of the road runner cartoon. Love the landscape.

The gardens were so spectacular, peaceful and surprisingly quiet. Apparently Superbowl Sunday impact the people who get out to the malls or the Botanical Gardens. Works for me.

Here are a few snaps.

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Just could’t keep sherry from trying to rest on the cacti.

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We loved it so much we decided to dine in the gardens, sitting outside, alone under a heater. The food was amazing. I will never eat corn on the cob like that again….hot, sour, salty, sweet…a palate explosion.

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A great day here in the desert. Can’t beat sunshine, shopping and extraordinary landscapes. Sigh……

Posted by curlygirl 21:20 Archived in USA Tagged gardens botanical phoenix Comments (2)

‘TIS A LITTLE BREEZY AT THE TOP

sunny 22 °C
View FOGO on curlygirl's travel map.

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After two years of talking about it and trying to find the “right” day, I finally made it to Fogo Island with the help of my good friend Pat. Time was getting short with my move to Ottawa less than 2 months away and I couldn’t imagine living on the mainland and not being able to speak about what has quickly become Newfoundland’s most famous and trendy destination. Our own Prime Minister visited last Easter and stayed at the Inn with his family. Sadly my budget did not allow for the $1500 - $2000 overnight stay at the beautiful Fogo Island Inn but nevertheless we elected to do a very full day trip that did not disappoint.

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We left on the first departure of the day at 8:30 am on the new and very modern Fogo Island Ferry. The ferry which makes multiple trips daily from Farewell has a reputation for being unreliable even since my days in the early 80s as a tourist information officer. Even this new ship has had its issues with engine failure so packing a light overnight bag seemed like a reasonable plan especially with the high winds in the forecast. But we traveled both ways on schedule and in comfort.

There is no shortage of things to do on the island and I expect most people are like me, underestimating the size of the island and number of communities, each with their own personality. I was grateful that my friend, driver and guide knew her way around. Being late in the season some attractions were closed but there was still lots to see and I wished I had more time to explore the towns on foot and hike more trails.

Our first stop was in the town of Seldom. Surprisingly named because people seldom miss a visit to this quaint town, and not for my assumption that people seldom go there. The main attraction there is the Marine Interpretation Center which includes a very well maintained traditional trading post and museum. It is a beautiful representation of past life with artifacts from jars to old ledgers.

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I think what I loved about Fogo was that no one seemed to fuss. The people were friendly and chatty but no one was out to impress or pretend as you sometimes find in touristy destinations. I had a fine chat to this crew who were mending their shrimp nets. One man patiently teaching the new guy.

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I have never seen so many churches, new, old, and every denomination. We visited the two hundred year old United Church in town of Fogo or Fogo proper as it is sometimes referred.

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Of course no trip to Fogo is complete without the hike to Brimstone Head. I have always heard it is considered one of the four corners of the earth by the Flat Earth Society although some of my research last night questions this theory. The hike was lovely and the trail well maintained. The high winds increased as we got to the top. We met an Irish family descending who warned us that “tis a bit breezy at the top, but worth it”. Truth be told, I was glad I had enough weight to ground myself because it was blowing a gale.

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Next it was off to the Fogo Island Inn for a peek around. The hotel is fully booked until the end of September so getting a lunch, dinner or full tour reservation was out. But the staff was excellent and gave us lots of information. We visited the art gallery inside but failed to realize that the white plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling were not just that but instead the exhibit “Light Boiled Like Liquid Soap” by Wilfrid Almendra. It’s a wonder we didn’t pull one down. Oops. We only learned that it was actually an exhibit much later in the day when we saw the poster advertising it at Nicole’s Café, the favored spot for lunch.

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I loved the room keys.

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Joe Batt’s Arm was another beautiful community with at least three harbors in the middle and another viewpoint for the Inn.

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The most unusual little town was Tilting, where there were tons of handmade fences and homes and stages with double doors for entrances. I would have loved to have wandered around here more on foot and read all the historical information posted about the town. We did get to visit Lane House which is another worthwhile museum.

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We visited many more smaller communities and enjoyed a picnic before heading back on the 7:30 ferry. It was an unbelievable journey home, warm enough to sit outside with a sunset that could have been a painting . Although I was beat by the time I got in my door at 9:30pm, I was so glad I made the effort. Funny how easy it is to travel the world and miss the gems in our own backyard. I look forward to returning, next time as a true CFA.

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Posted by curlygirl 17:11 Archived in Canada Tagged island inn fogo Comments (14)

MEMORIES OF BOLIVIA

THINGS I DID AND DIDN'T HAVEE TIME TO WRITE ABOUT BUT WANT TO REMEMBER

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1. Tourism – They haven’t quite got it mastered yet but they are getting there. Our excursions and travels were all without incident but bathrooms and water were never as simple as in Peru. Our tour coordinator thought a 4-ounce bottle of water would do us on the 11-hour bus trip.
2. Mining is the number one industry.
3. The poorest of all the South American countries. Sixty percent of the population live below the poverty line and it is worst in rural areas. Some of the areas we drove through were the worst I have ever seen.
4. Has two capital cities. Sucre is the official capital although La Paz is considered to be the administrative capital.
5. Altitude. La Paz, is considered to be the highest capital in the world. It is 3640 meters above sea level (11,942 feet).
6. The airport (El Alto) is even higher at 4100 meters above sea level. We were many places higher than that. We felt fine until we walked up hill, even an incline was labour intensive. Everything was up hill!
7. With altitude comes dry land and dry air. My skin feels like leather. We all had a few minor nose bleeds.
8. Wifi – almost as bad as Peru.
9. Even more people chew Coca. The government claims to have strict control over the use of the leaves claiming all the cocaine in the country is coming from the bordering countries. From what I gather, no one believes that.
10. Bolivian Salt Flats. Tick! 11,000 square kilometers of flat white salt. Once under the ocean, now hosts very little wildlife, except the pink flamingos.
11. Many issues with drunk drivers on the salt flats. We even saw a driver, with tourists, drinking out of a flask. I expressed my concern when we booked and we had no issues. Our drivers were great.
12. Eighty percent of the population is Catholic however the Quechua and Aymara often pray to the Virgin Mary and the various Catholic saints while simultaneously offering sacrifices to the Pachamama (Mother Earth). Llama fetuses are often part of the sacrifice.
13. A decent meal is…..I am not sure we had one. Quinoa and potato with no seasoning. A bottle of water was between 5-8bs. Pizza was popular and our saviour. Our hotel in La Paz did have decent food and we ate there a few times.
14. The currency is the Boliviano; one Canadian dollar is about 5 bs.
15. Llama is on every menu.
16. The Cholas or Cholitas. The ladies in the big skirts and bowler hats or fancy hats carrying the colourful bags which hold goods or children. The sense of elegance is a direct contradiction to the obvious poverty. I often felt like I was walking through a movie set.
17. I will not forget all the begging in the street or worst the very young children dancing in the streets with a money dish in front of them. When we walked by, I saw a mother push her daughter to perform in hopes that we might pay. As much as it breaks my heart, I would never pay. I cannot encourage such exploitation of children.
18. I won’t forget the kids being offered cocaine in the streets in broad daylight.
19. La Paz was interesting and beautiful but it was also a little scary. I never felt like going out after dark. As much as I loved my time there, it made me a little sad.
20. I won’t forget how I felt when my guide told me he saved two of four Advil I gave him days before. Here’s what happened…..

While we took the nice tourist bus to Uyuni, our guide had to take a different, and I imagine, not so nice, bus. He had little sleep and at the end of our magnificent first day on the salt flats, he looked tired and mentioned he had a headache. He said don’t worry, I will go look for a pharmacy to see if I can get something. I gave him enough Advil for the night (4). Three days later when I hired him for our extra day, he asked me about them and said they worked so well, he saved two of them in case his daughter or wife had a headache or pain. He told me medicine was available but expensive and they would never use ibuprofen for pain, it was for serious fever. The conversation continued and I got the impression that although he was university educated, his life was not that easy. When we parted, he had my bottle of Advil, some Tylenol and a number of other things that I no longer needed. Talk about perspective.

Posted by curlygirl 15:13 Archived in Bolivia Tagged bolivia salt flats uyuni Comments (0)

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