A Travellerspoint blog

SO, DID YOU EAT YOUR PET GUINEA PIG WHEN IT GOT OLD?

ADVENTURES IN THE SACRED VALLEY ON THE WAY TO AGUA CALIENTE

sunny 24 °C

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I am writing from Agua Caliente, the town that is the base for visiting Machu Picchu. It is a bit of dumpy little town but I am sure it exists simply to serve the ruins. It doesn’t matter at all because we have arrived here after a spectacular day in the Sacred Valley with the most amazing views.

Our guide for the Machu Picchu portion of our tour, Elvis (self-described as the king of the mountain) is wonderful. He is so knowledgeable and is really taking care of us. He joined us 8 am this morning in Cusco and we set off to visit the Sacred Valley. First we had the panoramic views from above.

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Then we traveled on to the town of Pisac set right in the valley where we first visited the Pisac archeological site, the largest Inca ruins in the area. The views were amazing as were the terraces where are built layer by layer dragging soil from around the region so that each layer had a difference quality of soil for growing various produce. Very impressive.

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The we went to the famous Pisac market for a few purchases. This was a lovely market and 40 minutes was hardly enough but we had a train to catch. I loved all the colours and the group of school children who came by walking hand and hand in pairs.

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As we were making our way to our lunch stop, we went through the town most famous for its guinea pig farms and it had tons of road side stalls. Our guide suggested this was the best place to try it and explained it was his favorite dish. I can’t say it is ours but we bought one just to have a taste. When in Rome right? Isaac was asked the question in the title.

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We fit in one more set of Inca ruins, Ollantaytambo, before heading to the train. This was a steep climb and if it is an indication of our ability to breathe going uphill, tomorrow’s climb of Machu Picchu will be a slow one.

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The train ride was perfect. The views were amazing riding through the mountain ranges and the train had windows in the roof so you could really see everything. They even served us coffee and a sandwich.

So here we are, ready to face another world UNESCO site and one that has been on my bucket list for a long time. We are both well. The dry air is killer and you feel short of breath quickly when walking uphill but otherwise feel as normal as we get. We are definitely feeling some effects of the altitude. Isaac has been reporting intermittent numbing of the mouth, nose, and hands since we got to Cusco which is apparently normal and nothing to worry about. Just the body adjusting. Today, I had the numb hand and later the bottom of my foot. It is the strangest thing. But again, completely normal.

The weather was amazing today. Hope that keeps up. Better than home, I hear.

The wifi is even worst at this hotel so I am off to see if I can find some better wifi over dinner.

Posted by curlygirl 18:26 Archived in Peru Tagged peru valley sacred cusco Comments (3)

CUSCO BY DAY AND A VIST TO SONCO WASI

A WONDERFUL DAY SPENT WTH LOCAL CHILDREN

sunny 25 °C

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We have had a wonderful day in Cusco. I am going to try and write little because it is late and we have an early rise tomorrow. The wifi has not been great either so it takes a ton of time trying to upload photos often being kicked off. In fact it is now morning and I had no luck last night.

We spent the morning exploring the city. We first visited the Ninos gift shop to make a few purchases in support of the organization. I so wish I brought less clothes because my bag is full of things I do not need. The weather was just so unpredictable and varied, I got carried away. Makes it harder to shop but we managed to cram a few things in.

We also went to a local market that had both handicrafts and local foods. It was really interesting but many of the ladies did not like having their picture taken.

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You could get guinea pigs raw or cooked.

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We went back to the main square where a major celebration was taking place. Apparently it happens every Sunday. The square was filled will school kids, military and the police who Isaac befriended once again. So many people!

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This afternoon we had wonderful experience at the Sonco Wasi project. We took a 45 minute drive into the Sacred Valley where we experienced incredible views. There was absolutely nowhere to stop as we riding cliffs and turns the whole way (yikes) but I grabbed a couple shots through the window.

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We arrived in the small farming town of Taray which was completely devastated by a flood in 2010. Here we had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with two volunteers at a local school and a number of local children. One of the volunteers was the founder, a local dentist who still takes the kids to her office for dental care. They also get health care and through international volunteers, informal schooling several afternoons a week. We were told that these warm and funny kids come from challenging homes, some with no parents at all. Because they lack attention at home, they are glad to get the attention of the volunteers.

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At first they were shy, but the boys engaged in a game of soccer.

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Next was craft time followed by a short English lesson about Canada. The kids thought it was hilarious that we have guinea pigs for pets. They raise them and then kill them when ready to eat as we would do with chickens.

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I hung out in the playground with these two ladies.

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After that was a salsa lesson. Everyone was warming up then and there were plenty of laughs.

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Finally, the kids played volleyball and everyone was smiling.

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These three boys opted out because they wanted to catch a lizard for Isaac. They did but we explained we couldn’t take him home.

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It was a really special experience and we all had a ball especially Kajal, Jackson and Isaac.

If you want to read more about the project click here

Not sure when I will check in again. Tomorrow is very busy and the following day is a very early rise to visit Machu Picchu. So many great things ahead.

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Posted by curlygirl 04:16 Archived in Peru Tagged peru cusco sonco wasi Comments (0)

WE CAN BREATHE

A DAY OF ACCLIMATIZATION IN CUSCO

sunny 15 °C

Our first view of Cusco

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We left our lodge by boat at 8:30am and headed back to Maldonada where we stopped to visit a lovely butterfly farm. We were at the airport in plenty of time for our 11:20 departure and we in Cusco shortly after noon. Although we are not on an organized tour we did plan the trip through a local company who were waiting for us on arrival and transported us to our hotel.

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We love our hotel, Ninos Hotel. There is so much charm to be found when you get away from chains and 4 and 5 star hotels and this is a gem. We selected this hotel because it had a story.

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We are staying the second of three hotels founded by a Dutch lady, Jolanda van den Berg who vacationed in Peru in 1996 and returned because she wanted to do something for the many children she saw working in the streets. She originally rented a small room and gave two children a home. Her family grew quickly and she eventually housed 12 boys. There is more to the story which you can read online but she eventually started a hotel to provide a steady income and a place to teach the boys skills. In 2000 she opened the Ninos (which means children) restaurant and two years later a second hotel which houses the girls. All profits go the foundation. The kids are fed, get medical and dental care and get support for schooling. Jolanda still lives in the first hotel with her two biological children. She has adopted 23 Peruvian children. Their names are the names of each of the rooms (you know this made me cry). We have Janeth’s room. The rooms are big, clean and simply gorgeous.

To read more about the project click here

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The town of Cusco has immediate charm. It sits 11,000 feet (3360 meters) above sea level and was once the capital of the ancient Incas. Because of the altitude the air is very thin and many tourists will suffer from altitude sickness which can be quite nasty. They say there is no predictor of who will get sick. Sometimes it is top athletes while those with poor health do fine. In any case it is not to be taken lightly and it was my biggest fear about coming here. I actually had an irrational fear that I would land and immediately be fighting for air. I am happy to report we are all well. We are taking medication that helps and followed the directions yesterday to rest, walk slow, eat light, and drink lots of coco tea, the local remedy. We did have a moment shortly after arriving at the hotel where we feared we may be going nuts. I suddenly felt light headed, Sharon reported the same and within minutes we were in fits of uncontrollable laugher ( for those who have spent Christmas eve with me, I will liken it to that). Not long after, Jackson, Isaac and Kajal joined in while Lorna looked on wondering what the hell was going on. It was like booze hitting you hard but we hadn’t been drinking. It did settle out but was a bit of fun for a while.

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After some mandatory rest we sauntered down to the main square, stopping at a few markets along the way. We have been in some of the high end Alpaca shops where the wool is soft to touch and the prices high, so have been ruined for some of the stuff in the streets. It might just be better to pay more and get something nice although I am not getting a $400 sweater. It is so cold; I may get a $25 one on the streets. Brhhh. We had the heat going in the room all night and our bathroom, which is separated, is freezing!

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I can’t wait to go back to the main square this morning because it is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Because it is winter it gets dark very early so by dinner time it is hard to doing any sight seeing. The one thing I do notice which is probably a product of the economy and so much tourist money is that there are still many street children selling and lots of drunks in the streets. That makes me sad.

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We are excited to get out an explore what appears to be another amazing South American city.

Posted by curlygirl 05:04 Archived in Peru Tagged peru hotel family cusco ninos Comments (3)

TWO DAYS IN THE AMAZON JUNGLE

FOMO VERSUS FOH

sunny 33 °C

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Our journey to the Inkaterra Haceienda Conception Lodge in the Amazon Jungle begin with an early rise for the airport. We were surprised that our journey was as long as it was but it was a pleasant couple of flights on a Star Peru BAE146. Our first leg to Cusco was 1.5 hours. We didn’t get off the plane because we had a short 30 minute stopover before proceeding to Puerto Maldonado. I was so delighted that I could breath in Cusco because I have this phobia that I won’t be able to breath at all in the thin air (due to the extreme altitude at 12,000 feet). Now I feel better about our upcoming stay there even if it was only a little test.

Puerto Maldonado seems to be the point of access for all the Amazon lodges in the area but the town itself looks very rundown hosting a large prison right in the middle. We were barely there at all before boarding our boat and taking a quick 25 minute jaunt down the river, a tributary of the larger Amazon.

We had been warned that the Amazon would be the only warm spot on our trip and that it would be extremely hot and humid for hiking so we were completely surprised that it felt like a Newfoundland summer on a bad day. Cold and wet. Thankfully, the rain stopped before our first hike and after the first day, it got warm and beautiful. The reason we chose to do Peru in the winter is that it is normally extremely dry however the locals tell us that el Niño is really affecting the weather in ways similar to what we have seen here.

When we arrived at the tiny airport, this is what we saw.

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When we pulled up to camp, we saw a medic sitting in a boat. We wondered if we should be worried…..not really.

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Our rooms are located in the main lodge. Supposedly the cabanas are nicer but I just love my little perch outside my room. We are completely screened in so no bugs at all.

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Upon arrival we met our guide for our stay and were given our very busy schedule. Our first hike started at 2:30 and was 1.5 to 2 hours. At 6:30 was the night boat ride where we scouted the river banks for night creatures. We saw caiman and a large group of capybaras who are giant rodents.

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This morning started with a wake up call at 5am and a 6am boat ride which begin our 5 hour excursion. The hike was only 3 kilometers in and 3 kilometers out so I was surprised to have read that it was a difficult walk where people got injured. To be honest, I think if there hadn’t just been three days of rain, it would have been relatively simple but there was three days of rain and it was not simple. We set off in rubber boots and were almost immediately in slippery mud up to the ankles. It was crazy and we were filthy. Once we walked in, we took canoes for a beautiful paddle around lake looking for birds and caiman before braving the walk back out. I should have known I was doomed when I started taking pictures of one of the girls who had her boot stuck in the mud. When I was almost done, my boot got stuck but I kept going doing a major face plant into the mud. It was gross but other than a bruised knee and foot, I am fine.

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After tormenting for 2 days and asking one billion questions to the group who is a day ahead of us, I decided to do the next excursion, a canopy walk on swinging bridges 100 feet off the ground. I have no idea why I feel the need to do this shit when heights absolutely terrify me. But I was feeling the pressure and the cheers from the other group were encouraging. I decided my FOMO is way worst that my FOH. That means my fear of missing out was wrestling hard with my fear of heights….and the fear of missing out won. Well, I did it. I was terrified and I am not sure I could say I had fun but I didn’t miss anything. Isaac did great although he was also terrified. He was very excited to go, expecting them to be more like the ones in Costa Rica (not bad when at 17 you have jungle bridges from various countries to reference) however he is reporting that these are Indian Jones jungle bridges. In any case, we have survived.

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The view looking up from the ground.

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We did decide to skip the last excursion, a night hike, in favour of massages.

We have had a great couple of days here and Isaac’s scouting skills are showing up in his rowing, his hiking and his love of nature. I am also giving credit to his amazing Earth System’s teacher this year, Tina McDonald who sparked an interested in so many things about this earth that we have seen firsthand in the past two days. Isaac figures she would love it here.

So, although we were told we would have limited electricity and no wifi or cell service, we actually have electricity more often than not, and with that comes wifi. All the same, we have really detached with barely a minute to spare. It is all about to all shut down so I must attempt to post before it is too late.

We are off to Cusco in the morning for more fun and adventure.

A white caiman

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Oh I have taken up Instagram. Isaac has been after me forever and Tara showed me photo grid. I am so proud of myself. Follow me. I am
Travelshell67

Posted by curlygirl 19:20 Archived in Peru Tagged bridges peru mud amazon canopy Comments (5)

LIMA, PERU

OUR FIRST DAY ON OUR SOUTH AMERICAN ADVENTURE TO PERU AND BOLIVIA

overcast 15 °C

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Hello from Lima, Peru,

We had an uneventful trip yesterday arriving right on schedule with our luggage. We left Gander at 5 am while our Calgary friends left at 1:30 am, which is pretty close to the same time. We passed in the air and they arrived in Montreal at almost the same time as we arrived in Toronto. We departed at almost the same time and landed in Panama within five minutes of each other. A short wait and we were on our way to Lima. Despite the perfect connections, we were still traveling for about 16 hours. But no complaints as all 6 of us were traveling on points.

We had a quick bite did some catching up before heading to bed. Truthfully, it was like we saw each other just weeks ago, not two years ago in Africa.

We spend half the day with a guide for a tour of Lima. It was nice but certainly not as charming or colourful as other Latin American countries we have visited. It is winter here now so the temperatures were cool at 15/16 degrees. Nice sightseeing temperatures and warm enough for us to sit outside and have a long lunch overlooking the ocean.

One of the coolest things we did was visit a monastery and its catacombs which housed over 25000 people at one point. We saw lots of skulls and femurs. Of course there were other bones but the smallest were destroyed by the lime in which they were buried. We were not allowed to take pictures.

There were few tourists around but tons of men in the squares who seemed to be relaxing. A few interesting characters, including the Avon guy.

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We were told, however that they were planning a protest which is believable given the riot police around who Isaac befriended. We also saw the tourist police. The female uniform includes a pair of pearl earrings.

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As always, there were those trying to sell whatever to tourists. The lady with the coco leaves was determined and hung around for a long time before giving up.

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We watched the changing of the guards which was great but a little odd. It was small and really was more of a performance by the band who came to the gate playing a wide range of music including the Lone Ranger theme.

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We sat and had an amazing lunch/dinner which was a buffet of Peruvian food. I had lots of ceviche. We were all tired so opted to take it easy. Especially since we have a 5 am rise tomorrow.

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We have seen a couple plastic ladies, including this chick with what appears to be a butt lift. She looked so plastic front on and the extreme between her waist and legs looked way too extreme to be natural. The picture doesn't really capture it.

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Cute gas station on the side of the road. More like a pit stop

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Isaac was having a pretty great day until his phone just suddenly turned off and died, He is not pleased and I feel his pain.

Tomorrow we fly to Peurto Maldonado and take a boat ride into the Peruvian Amazon and stay at a Jungle Lodge where we will spend the next three days. You will not hear from us as we only have a few hours of electricity daily and no wifi. I will be sure and have something ready when we get back into service.

A few from the day

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Posted by curlygirl 16:06 Archived in Peru Tagged lima Comments (7)

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