A Travellerspoint blog

Cruise to Easter Island and Tahiti

Here is a short summary of our trip to Easter Island in January.
Ocean Princess Cruise Itinerary

Jan 02, 2015. Embark in Fort Lauderdale

Jan 03 At Sea
Jan 04 At Sea
Jan 05 At Sea

Jan 06 Panama Canal -Scenic Cruising 5:00AM 4:30PM

Jan 07 At Sea
Jan 08 At Sea

Jan 09 Guayaquil 9:00AM 7:00PM

Jan 10 At Sea
Jan 11 At Sea

Jan 12 Lima (Callao) 7:00AM 6:00PM
Jan 13 Pisco 7:00AM 4:00PM

Jan 14 At Sea
Jan 15 At Sea
Jan 16 At Sea
Jan 17 At Sea

Jan 18 Easter Island Tender Required 12:00PM 9:00PM

Jan 19 At Sea
Jan 20 At Sea
Jan 21 At Sea
Jan 22 At Sea
Jan 23 At Sea
Jan 24 At Sea

Jan 25 Bora Bora Tender Required 7:00AM 6:00PM
Jan 26 Moorea Tender Required 8:00AM 5:00PM
Jan 26 Tahiti (Papeete)

We spent a couple of nights in FortLauderdale before our 25 night cruise. I was a little apprehensive because it was a very small ship, just over 600 people, but in the end I preferred it to the larger ships. We made some great friends on the journey and really enjoyed this cruise. We did not have a lot of stops, and the highlights for me were the Panama Canal transit, Easter Island (the reason for the cruise) and the South Pacific. We spent 5 nights in Moorea at the end and then flew to Maui for another five nights before coming home.

Our trip to Easter Island, although the highlight of the trip, almost didn't happen. Day one of the cruise the captain informed us that we have around a 20% chance of being able to tender, because the ocean is so rough and there are so many rocks.
Here is my message from my Facebook post:

Today was the best day!!! We were so blessed to arrive at Easter Island (Rapa Nui). Only one of four ships that attempt are usually able to anchor close enough to tender passengers ashore, due to high waves, but although touch and go, we eventually got ashore, yesterday we would not have been able to go. For the past two weeks all 600 passengers have been very anxious after the captain informed us that there was a good chance it may not happen. As we got closer we were all so excited, as for most this was the main reason for the cruise. It was very slow going, and when our group finally got on the tender we all cheered and clapped.
Easter island was certainly a highlight of the travels in my life and one that I never really thought I would see. But I did, and it was all I had hoped it would be and so much more. The landscape was beautiful, much like Hawaii in many areas with gorgeous flowers and plants.
The main reason that I love to travel is to learn about the country and its history and this was certainly no exception. A truly fascinating experience and one we will never forget.

On Bora Bora we did a helmet dive and island tour as a shore excursion. I am glad that we choose Moorea to stay on as we liked it the best of the three places we stopped.

Maui was a great way to end our trip. The Humpback whales were in huge numbers, calving and teaching the young how to jump and feed. It was an awesome sight. We did go snorkelling out to Molokini crater, but it was very disappointing . I has changed a lot since we were here last.





Posted by debbep 10:45 Archived in Chile Tagged island tahiti easter bora Comments (0)

Dancing around the world

Who knew I was such a good dancer???

Your text to link here...

Here is a video I did for your amusement. I had a lot of fun making them.

Posted by debbep 16:35 Comments (0)

Cuenca and Quito

overcast 17 °C

Day 85 - 91


We spent seven nights here in a two bedroom house that we rented on flip key from John and Barbie from the USA. It was a great week, our last week of the trip. We only went out to eat in restaurants for lunch and really enjoyed cooking our own breakfast and dinner as well as having the space to spread out.

The weather is Cuenca is always spring, although this time of year we did experience some rain as well. They always have flowers and veggies and fruit growing.

We didn't do too much as this was a week to relax and wind down from some hectic weeks prior.

There are many expats living here, and almost the first question you get is, "are you looking to move here?"

I can see why it is attractive however. Costs are low, weather is pleasant and health care is good and very affordable.

We spent quite a bit of time just hanging out with our hosts and another couple Joanne and Kevin from White Rock. Both couples are just four of many who have decided to live here full time. Most, like them, rent rather than buy. They were around our age and had many funny and interesting stories to share.

We did visit the Main museum and found it one of the best we have been in as well as a smaller one, which had handicrafts from all over South America.

A tourist bus tour one day and walked around the main square a few times and found a hammock to bring home.

I spent a day at a spa getting myself cleaned up to come home. What would have cost over $200 at home was only $60 here.

A visit to two 'Panama Hat' factories where we bought a few hats for ourselves and the kids. It is so interesting how they make them. They take palm leaves and cook them and weave them and shape them into hats. All Panama hats are from Ecuador but when they were building the Panama canal they were all outfitted with these hats, so they got to be known as 'Panama Hats'. The fellow we bought ours from has sent hats to Madonna, Prince Charles, Denzel Washington and Johnny Depp. And now the Pattersons.

We also walked along the river a few times which was very pleasant. We really liked Cuenca and can see why so many move here, although it would not be what we would choose for ourselves.

Day 92 and 93


Our flight from Cuenca to Quito had us arrive at 2pm and this was the first time we saw the mountains and the sun. Quito is a beautiful city and we finally got to see it without the rain and clouds.

We visited another amazing small museum, Mindalae with displays from the Oriente region of Ecuador, the Huorani tribes. We recognized so many of the items in the museum from our trip to the jungle.

A visit to the San Francisco monastery and church and another amazing museum, Casa de Abalado which housed pottery and artifacts that were beautifully displayed. I think that Ecuador has some of the best displayed museums of any we have seen in the world.

On our way home from dinner, close to our hotel, we see many police dressed in fancy uniforms and musical instruments ready to perform. There is a road blocked off and many other police with machine guns lined up.

We asked someone what was going on and was told that the president of Ecuador, Correa, is in the building. We walked down the street, past the building and all the police and even walked between the two SUVs, one for the President and the other his security. Doug had a back pack on and no one said anything to us. Can you imagine if that was Mulroney or Obama? We would not have gotten anywhere near the place.

All too soon it seems it is time to head home. We are on the plane now, Quito to Miami, then to LAX and finally arrive Vancouver at midnight where we have to overnight and take the sea plane the next day.

We were so blessed to have all of these amazing adventures over the past year. We loved every country that we visited, but I think that if I had to choose a favourite in South America it would be Ecuador with Bolivia coming in second. But they were all fantastic and each one had its own charm.

Thanks for following along with us. We are both looking forward to being home for a while and enjoying our beautiful island this summer.

Posted by debbep 20:24 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Galapagos Islands

sunny 35 °C

Day 77

3:45AM just seemed too early to to go to the airport but off we went. We had to first line up to purchase a $10 Galapagos ticket and then have our luggage scanned and tagged. They want to be sure that no outside fruit or vegetables get to the islands .

There are a few school groups heading to the Galapagos, one we met from Calgary on Spring Break. Lucky kids. Our flight left on time and we found out that there is an hour time change on the islands. We are now only one hour difference from home. All visitors must pay $100 US cash park fee upon arrival to visit the Galapagos.

A five minute cab ride, (in a Toyota pick up) and we are at our hotel at 930AM. Thankfully our room was ready for us and the owner asked if we would like a city tour. Sure, why not. His brother and wife picked us up in their pick up truck and in ten minutes we had seen where most of the major sites within walking distance were. It was a great way to get our bearings.

The Main Street is the tourist area and on the waterfront with many shops and restaurants. Sea-lions are everywhere. They are smaller than our sea lions, almost seal looking, but there are hundreds of them in various shades of black, brown and blonde. They are laying not only on the beach but on the boardwalk as well, quite used to humans and very tame. We also see large iguanas walking down the Main Street. Welcome to the Galapagos.

We are now on the island of St. Cristobal which is one of many in this chain but there are only a couple inhabited by people. We will spend two nights here before meeting up with a five day cruise that we booked.

After walking around the town and having lunch we went back to the room for a rest. It is so hot here. Incredibly humid and hot which I was not expecting.

The evening however is very pleasant and we walked around the edge of the ocean and then had dinner. The sun sets at 6:30P here as we are on the equator.

Day 78.

The man from the hotel drove us to a beach called The Loberia at 830AM. We walked down a path and then along the shoreline looking at various birds, iguanas and crabs on the beach. There was a small bay that we were told to snorkel in and it was lovely. Huge turtles in groups, some the size of me, just lazing on the bottom of the ocean and coming up for a gulp of air every now and then. I had to move out of their way they were so close. We saw a number of tropical fish as well and it was a great morning and only a couple of other snorkelers in the water with us and the turtles.

Victor picked us up from the beach at 11:30AM as arranged and after we changed our clothes we walked to town to get some lunch and then out to the Interpretative centre. It was a lot longer than we thought it would be, and only felt so tiring because it was so incredibly hot. We quickly went through the centre reading the various boards and then started on the board walk towards the hills to see some birds. The problem is that there is not any shade. All the plants are very low bushes so we are in the blazing sun all the time. We came to a crossroads. To the right was the 200 stairs up to the lookout to see the birds. To the left was the beach.
We chose the beach.
The first beach had large waves and quite an undertow, and a few surfers. Tempting as it was we continued on to Playa Man which was a lot more swimmer friendly. Sea lions are suntanning next to the sunbathers on the beach.

Cooled off from our swim we flagged a cab, but because we were wet he made us sit in the back of the truck which was fine with us.

The town of Puerto Moreno is really charming, laid back, lots of tourists but I can see spending a lot of time here. There are many beaches and attractions (animals) that you can see just on this island.

Day 79

Luckily our hotel let us hang out for the morning until it was time to meet our group at 1PM. We were driven to the airport and met up with Harry, our guide from the ship. We were waiting for three more to arrive from Quito by plane.
I found out that there are already 7 passengers who have done the northern 5 day trip, and now will stay on board to do the southern five days with us. Harry is German so I ask, are the other passengers English speaking? No, they are all German. This was my fear and one of the first questions that I asked the travel agent before booking. I was assured they were all English speaking.

The first passenger arrives, Christine, late 20s from Switzerland. She speaks German.
The next two arrive, Anthony and his new wife D, mid 20s from Australia. Yeah! Someone to talk to. The other two are a young couple from Japan who speak some English.

We are taken to the boat by zodiac and amazed at the elegance of our home for the next four nights. The Treasure of Galapagos is a first class yacht and very luxurious. I booked this a few weeks ago, there was one room left so I got it for around half price. Our cabin is bigger than some of the hotel rooms we have had and we not only have our own bathroom but a balcony too. It is way more than we every expected or thought we could afford and feeling quite decadent.


The German thing didn't turn out too badly. Most of them were nice and spoke some english. One single woman kept hanging with us when she could. They are in their late 60s, mid 70s I think. Christine ended up being a great person to hang out with, we have so many of the same interests and she spoke mostly English. We seemed to form an Alliance right away, the Germans and all the new ones, whom Harry spoke English to. Our table their table, Our zodiac, their zodiac.

After being served lunch in the gorgeous dining room Harry gave us an overview about the ship and the itinerary for the next few days.

The Galapagos Islands are a series of islands in the National Park and protected. You can only visit most of them with a certified guide. There is an airport on San Cristobal and also on Baltra, off Santa Cruz. One of the other islands has a couple of hundred people on it as well. A lot of people just visit the islands by land, taking a boat from one to the other doing day trips. We decided to do the five day cruise because they travel at night while you are sleeping.

Our first outing was at 3PM and we took the zodiacs back into town and then a 45 minute bus ride to the other side of the island where they breed the giant tortoises.

We did see a number of them on the walk and also the area where the smaller newborns, (these are two years old) are kept until big enough to be put in the acreage that is the breeding centre. It was all quite interesting.

We, the English, got to know each other after dinner and then off to our rooms at 9 PM for the night. This is not a party ship that is for sure.

The captain started the engines at 2:30AM to move to the next island. We were really rocking and rolling all the way, I had to take a few ginger pills and a sleeping pill to get though the night.


Day 80

We wake to see a gorgeous white sand beach with aqua blue water, we are at Espana Island and it looks like a postcard for the Caribbean. After breakfast at 7:30A we pick out some snorkel gear and head to the island by zodiac. This is a wet landing, where we jump into the water and make our way to the beach.

We walked the beach for an hour first with Harry telling us about the many colourful iguanas, birds and crabs that we are seeing. Sea lions are all along the beach and none of the animals are the least bit concerned about us.
There are many baby sea lions that are still suckling. I watched as a young one went from female to female smelling for his mom, to have the adults bark and growl at him to 'get lost', They are so amusing. Related to the California sea lion but much smaller.

The snorkelling was disappointing as the visibility was not great.
It appears that none of the Germans swim or snorkel. We seven 'English' take every opportunity to be in the water as long as possible.

Our afternoon outing was a dry landing to the other side of the island for a walk on lava stones to the bluffs. We saw many more sea lions and iguanas, blue footed boobies and Nasca boobies as well as other birds.


Day 81

We moved during the night again but it was much calmer this time. At 8:30 AM we did a wet landing onto Florencia Island. A very short walk on the sand and we are at Post Office Bay. There are two barrels here and in years long ago the ships would pass through and leave mail for back home. They would then go through all the letters in the barrel to see if there were any for where they were going. The letters were delivered by anyone who was passing through your area.

So we did the same. We left a postcard, (no stamp needed) and will see when and who will deliver it to us. We took one for Abbotsford and will deliver it when we go to Mission next month.


We walked the beach for a while and then snorkelled again. Once again we were disappointed. We have all done some amazing snorkelling in different parts of the world so the bar is set high. Two other ships came in and so there were many people in the water and again the visibility was not great.

After lunch and a rest the seven of us went back into the zodiacs for a deep water snorkel. Now that's what I am talking about! This time the snorkelling was amazing. So many colourful fish, thousands of them and the sea lions were swimming all around us and playing with us. I had one come right up to my mask to check me out. We saw a large ray and the others saw two white tip sharks, but I missed them.

Doug had a blue footed booby dive into the water in front of him and go down about 12 feet and catch a fish. He said it was amazing. We snorkelled for over an hour until it was time to go back. Finally some great snorkelling, but it was worth the wait.

Once when I raised my head to see where our zodiac was I see that a sea lion has jumped into the boat with our driver. It is very common but so comical.

Shortly after we showered and changed we were back in the boats and this time all of us went to another part of the island for a walk across to the other side. We saw birds, more lava lizards, pink flamingos in the distance and different vegetation.

When we reached the beach on the other side we find a large sea turtle coming out of the water. He turned and went back in when he saw us coming, but we had a great chance to watch him coming in and then swimming off again.

As we walked down the beach we saw more turtles in the water and then we were lucky enough to see some spotted rays close to the shore as well as the sting rays.

We walked across the island again and back to the ship as the sun was going down and painting the sky a brilliant orange and red.


Day 82

A terrible night of rolling as we travelled to the island of Santa Fe in the night. We were all bleary eyed at breakfast this morning.
We left by zodiac and had a wet landing on the island at 8:30AM. It is already scorching hot out, we are all sweating profusely. Only three of the seven Germans came with us on the walk around the island.

We see many cactus trees in bloom as well as huge Galapagos land iguanas. They are endemic to this island. Being vegetarians and green plant eaters it is slim pickins here now as all the bushes are just coming into leaf. We did see one eating a prickly pear that had fallen from the tree.

Back on the beach to return to the ship the sea lions are spread across the sand between us and the water. We almost have to step over them to pass. So much for the two meter distance rule. Lots of babies again, and they are so funny to watch. One was very curious about D's hat.

I was the last to get into the boat, stepping over the little seals to get there. The waves are active and a little voice told me to place my camera into the zodiac before climbing in. I am glad I listened because I ended up going over backwards knapsack first into the water. Not my finest moment but so happy my camera was okay.

Ten minutes after arriving at the ship the six of us, (The English) put on our suits and set off again in the zodiacs for another snorkel from the zodiac. It was another great day seeing spotted rays, huge tropical fish and again swimming with the playful sea lions.

After a couple of hours we headed back to the boat and set off for our final destination of Santa Cruz island.

Upon arrival everyone went ashore except Doug and I, we had the ship to ourselves. We are spending two more days here so decided to just relax on board and read and listen to music which was great.


Day 83

We had to get up at 6AM and leave our luggage outside the room before breakfast. We said our goodbyes to the staff and headed into puerto ayora to our waiting bus at 7:30AM and drive across the island. The vegetation is much more lush here, bouganvillia, hibiscus and lots of other tropical flowers and palms line the road. They must get a lot more rain here, it looks more like Hawaii.

A large acerage is at the top of the island and is a private reserve for giant land tortoise. We walk around the property for a while and see many huge tortoise in the grass and also the many ponds. It is very lovely and a great way to see the tourtise.


The rest of the group got back on the bus to head to the airport to other parts of Ecuador. We said our goodbyes and then waited for an arranged cab to pick us up. Christina was staying a couple of days as well so the thre of us headed back into town,

Our hotel is a lovley oasis with a swimming pool which looks so inviting. It is only 9 am but already sweltering.

We were able to get into our room early and after a siesta we headed to town to explore. It is. Such bigger than San Cristobal and very touristy, with tons of tourists from all over, but I like it. The buildings are all very well made and have some great designs. The tourist strip runs along the water and there is a nice breeze.

We met Christina for dinner and her and I arranged another snorkle trip for the morning.


Day 84

Christina and I joined 12 others in a very small boat for what we thought was a snorkle tour for three hours. We stoped to look at sea lions first, then there was a walk to look at iguanas on the shore. I did'the go and instead asked if I could snorkle while we waited, which he said yes.
There were not many fish but I did swim with a huge turtle for a while.

Back in the boat to pick up the others and then to a snorkle spot that was quite good. I swam with white tipped and black tipped sharks for a while, tried to follow them but they are fast. They were around four or five feet long. More sea lions and lots of colorful fish,

We got called back to the boat and then stopped to do,this long walk that I was not prepared for. We were supposed to bring good shoes, which I did not know, so after climbing over loose lava rock, in my bathingsuit and sandles, for fifteen minutes I decided to turn back. I waited at the dock for about an hour and a half but got to see lots of rays and sharks in the water .

We headed back to town, I had a siesta and then walked for a few hours. Doug and I went into a number of fantastic art shops and just enjoyed the town. We had a great dinner and now it is time to pack again for our flight tomorrow.

We really enjoyed the Galapagos. It was different from what I expected, in that I had no idea we would be snorkelling for one thing. It was great to see iguanas and birds that are found no where else in the world and protected here. Most of the beaches were gorgeous and the water beautiful shades of blues and greens. To be able to walk amongst these animals and have them not take any notice of you, and feel perfectly safe was amazing.

The landscape is very harsh for the most part, and a lot hotter and humid than I thought possible. It is cooler in the summer months apparently.

There were a lot of other boats ranging from budget to luxury. Apparently this is a place where you really get what you pay for, so not advisable to go budget. If you have a flexible schedule like we did you can get the first class boat for the budget price anyhow.

There were a number of young families, and a lot of people in their mid 20s. The eldest were in their 70s, but not many of them. Everyone for the most part seemed quite fit, as you need to be to do this tour.

I am really glad that we decided to come here, it was a great experience. We are now off to Cuenca for a week.

Posted by debbep 20:55 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

The Amazing Amazon

semi-overcast 28 °C

Day 70
Quito. We just went to the main square, had lunch and bought a few supplies. We were bagged from yesterday and needed to prepare for tomorrow, so Quito will wait until we get back to explore.

There are lots of pictures in this one.

Day 71

Roberto picked us up at our hotel at precisely 6AM to start our journey to the jungle. We drove to another hotel to pick up four others from Texas. Marc and his wife Laurie, their 16 year old daughter Anna, and family friend 29 year old Monica.

Our seven hour drive took us north east through some rolling green hills and beautiful scenery. This part of Ecuador is the adventure area with bungee jumping, rappelling, zip lining, and biking. We stopped in a lovely small town of Banos for breakfast and could see why it was very popular with tourists.

At 2PM we arrived at the small airport called 'Shell', named after the oil company. All of our luggage was weighed and then we each had to get on the scales too as we were flying on small six seater cessnas.

Waiting there for us was a Hourani man called Moi and his family. Moi is the president of the Hourani tribe and spends a lot of time on the main land talking to politicians and oil people, not to mention President Obama as well as others. He is working hard to make things work between the oil companies and the tribe. The Ecuadorian government is on the side of the oil companies because it brings a lot of revenue to the country, but the Hourani tribe are losing a lot of their hunting grounds, not to mention that they are cutting down the rain forest and polluting the land. The incidence of cancer has risen substantially in the last few decades since the oil companies came.
The Ecuadorian Government said that there were not many Hourani left, so selling the land to the oil companies would not impact them. Moi spent eight months walking from village to village to do a census to prove to the Government that there were in fact many left.

The history of the Hourani is a violent one. They killed so many people over the years, oil men, loggers, other tribes people, missionaries and many of their own. The spear would solve many problems for them, protecting their land and culture, revenge issues as well as some anger issues. The last killing was March of last year. A revenge killing of 30 people of another tribe the Taromenane, who still remain deep in the jungle and want no contact with the outside world. They killed an elder Hourani couple, which promoted the revenge.

I would think of this sometimes as we were hiking through the jungle, or floating happily down the river, that perhaps they were hiding in the bushes with spears.

Moi had some groceries that he wanted us to take back for him and he also showed us some of his handicrafts that were for sale. He needed to make some money to get to the the hospital to have an injury checked out. We each bought a necklace or two from him. I bought two with large teeth of wild pigs that are rather unique.

The group was divided into two with myself, Doug, our guide Roberto and Monica who got to be the co pilot. The flight over the Jungle was breathtaking. We can see the river snaking its way through the dense forest.

In forty minutes we see a patch of grass and realize that we are going to land there. As we are flying lower to land many groups of Huorani are coming out of the jungle to greet us. By the time the planes landed there must have been fifty people in total running towards us, young and old. We felt like quite the celebrities.


After meeting a few people and sharing a glass of lemonade we are given rubber boots which will be our footwear for the next five days.

Our bags are taken for us as we hike through the mud into the jungle and towards the river. A very long wooden dug out canoe is waiting for us. There is an engine at the back for travelling upstream or if in a hurry. Most times one man at the front and one at the back push a long pole into the river to help us manoeuvre down.

We are now going by canoe for an hour to our village camp. The river is not that deep right now and there are so many sticks and logs proving a challenge to navigate. Our driver, who looks to be less than 18, is very skilled however and arrive in one piece and still dry.

The humidity is very high, sweat is pouring off us. The temperature here never varies much, being on the equator. It is usually around 29, but it gets more humid this time of year.

Pulling off to the side of the river we climb the bank to our homes for the next few nights. You can not see them from the river as they blend in. You can not find them on Google maps because the canopy is so dense.

The main meeting area is a raised building on stilts that is screened in on all four sides and has a wooden roof. Inside is a table with 8 chairs and our lunch is waiting.

I did not expect much for food here, but was happily surprised at the quality and quantity of food. Anna was also a vegetarian and the cook was very accommodating.

We have two cooks, one cleaner and couple of boat drivers and workers. The camp is run by the Huorani with the guidance of a manager. The staff rotate every time new guests arrive, then return to their village and give others a chance. The marketing and payments are done by an American company because there is not any internet or communication in the jungle, which would make it impossible to manage.

There is a manager, Mowgli, a young man from Quito, but everyone else is from the community and most of the money stays here.

For every meal we would have an appetizer, main course and dessert, all fantastic and tasty. We were not going to go hungry here.

Full, but tired, we were taken to our cabins. There is not any internet, telephones, tv or electricity here. Solar panels keep the fridge and a few lights going.
Our cabin is four screened walls. No privacy but we are in the jungle and set back from the paths. We have two comfortable twin beds, one light bulb, a bathroom with flush toilet, sink and shower with cool water. Our porch has a wonderful hammock and area to leave our muddy boots.


In the evening we met our local guide, 'Bay', who is a Huorani hunter aged 54. He took us on a night walk after dinner through the jungle looking for nocturnal animals and insects. Before we went however we were told to be careful where we stepped and put our hands as there were many deadly snakes, scorpions, and spiders lurking under leaves and branches. We also had to be aware of these huge Conga ants, about an inch long, that sting like crazy and leave you in pain for a long time.

The jungle is very loud. Frogs that sound like large animals, cicadas, birds and crickets fill the air with their singing.

Every tree, insect and flower has a use and a purpose. We have learned a lot from Bay already on our first day.

Sleeping in the jungle with all the sounds around us was a great lullaby.

Day 72

After a large breakfast of eggs, bread, fruit and granola we set off in the canoe for 40 minutes upstream towards the airstrip. The next four hours were spent walking through the jungle learning about the medicinal plants, edible and hunting plants and looking at the different tracks in the mud. And speaking of the mud, it was a boot eater. Sinking and slipping through lots of mud.

We came to a huge tree that had a 'Tarzan' vine hanging from it, so we each took a turn swinging through the jungle which was fun. I did not get too far before falling off however. I am made painfully aware that I have not been to the gym in three months.

We came to the river, so hot dirty and tired, to find that we can swim in this part of the Amazon. After finding a tree to change behind we all welcomed the cold refreshing water for an hour. The rain came while we were swimming which made it even more invigorating.

Lunch was waiting for us on the side of the river. Our cook, with two of her four children, were there to serve us another great meal.

A walk back across the airstrip and we are at the community centre. There are many small family areas within a large area, but they all meet here in the community area to play sports such as soccer, go to the two schools here, high school and elementary as well as a gathering place.

A couple of dozen people are in building in the middle which has a palm roof and open sides. Six or more small areas hold necklaces, bracelets and bags that are the local handicraft and for sale. Nothing is said, they patiently sit there talking amongst themselves. Small children are playing in the grass and a couple of the teens are playing soccer.

Our group of six tried to buy from each of the vendors. A couple of necklaces from one and then I bought a blow gun from another. We will learn to shoot using a blow gun tomorrow.

Two of the young girls in our group are single, so the men held arms and ran in a circle chanting and singing before circling Anna, the youngest, and pushing a young single male towards here. This is a mock wedding. and they have just married her off to an eligible bachelor. They did the same with Monica and it was great fun.


We were given a tour of the school which has been closed since January. It is very hard to get teachers to commit to living here for a year, and now the government has decided not to fund education here any more. Very sad. The education is very basic in the reading writing arithmetic department, focussing more on learning the history of their elders and ways of the hourani tribes. Like most places the kids are not as interested in the old ways anymore, so there is a big focus on preserving it.

Our last stop was a visit to an elder woman and her husband who have so many stories to tell. She showed us a scar of a spear that she was shot with as a young girl that went right through her.

The company that we have booked this trip with with focuses on creating an awareness about these communities and what the logging and oil companies are doing to damage the lifestyles and habits of these people.

It was a very long day and after another canoe ride home, we collapsed into bed for a rest before dinner.


Day 73

Today we learn how to hunt, the Hourani way. Down the river by canoe a ways and then a walk through a different part of the forest. We were shown tracks in the mud of anacondas, caiman, large wild pigs and rodents, and many birds.

Once we were deep in the jungle our first mission was to kill a squirrel with a blowgun.
Well not really, or course I could never do that. Bay hung a up a large flower pod as a target and we each took a turn.

Bay was dressed ( or undressed) in his traditional hunting garb. A small undergarment and a few adornments was all that he wore. He was barefoot and carried his heavy blowgun and a spear. Roberto decided to go barefoot today too, which proved to be a challenge for him as there are so many biting ants.

The blowgun is around 8 feet long and very heavy. Trying to hold it up to aim proves difficult, but with a bit of help I was able to shoot quite close to the target.

We then had to aim at a monkey (the favourite food of the Hourani) which was a target at the top of a palm tree. Shooting up was actually easier. Of course we were not shooting a real monkey either. We were laughing and making so much noise there were no animals within 10 miles or more.

A walk further into the jungle and we try our hand at spear throwing. Targets are set up to resemble wild pigs and we learn how to sneak up and throw our spear in for the kill.

Our last lesson was tree climbing. They weave a circle of vines to put around their feet and shimmy up, blowgun in hand, and shoot the monkeys from the top.

After watching the two young women having great difficulty trying to do it, we decided not to humiliate our selves and politely declined.

A lot of the women have deformed feet from doing so much climbing at an early age, they resemble hands from wrapping them around the tree.
This is still the way of life for the Huroni. It was not a show for the tourists, but the way that they really live today. It was fascinating.

We returned back to camp and after a rest we sat in the hammock cabin overlooking the river learning how to make some of the baskets from palms as other crafts. Bay told us some stories of the jungle, translated by Roberto.

The girls came into the dinner room all excited because they saw a snake outside their cabin. Roberto ran off to find it, in the dark, and he and a couple of other guys had to kill it as it was a very poisonous snake. Thankfully no one got bit.

After dinner everyone went out in the canoe for a night hunt for caimans. I stayed back at the cabin. They didn't see any but did see other birds and tracks in the sand.


Day 74

Thunder like I have never heard last night. The storm was right over head and shook the cabin at times. Rain pelting down accompanied by lightning and more thunder. The real rainforest experience. Roberto said that he was scared......it does not happen here too much like that.

In the morning the rain stopped and it was another warm but muggy day. We packed up our belongings after breakfast and tried to fit everything back in to our small backpacks.
All of our clothes are filthy and smelly and seem to take up a lot more room.

We said our goodbyes to the staff who were staying behind and split into two groups. Doug and I were with Monica and a few of the boatman as they poled the canoe downstream. So peaceful and beautiful floating down the river.

After an hour or so we pulled onto a beach and switched with the other three who were kayaking.

Kayaking on the amazon. What an experience. The canoe followed behind us a distance as we went with the current, dodging the many sticks and logs coming out of the water. I was the lead kayak with Roberto navigating the river, while Doug and Monica followed behind us.


An hour or so later we arrived at Bay's house. We were greeted by four small children, his grandkids, and were led up the hill through the many fruit trees on his land. The Hourani people can decide where they want their homes, if they want it over here, then that is fine. No one questions it, you build you house where you want to.

His land is beautiful and he has a few structures on it. Sleeping, cooking and communal buildings. Beba his wife greets us at the house as well has his two daughters and a few other relatives . They are in the traditional dress, Beba (bebantoque) topless and the daughters have bathing suit tops on and skirts made of tree bark.

Our greeting involves having the red colour of a fruit painted around our eyes. We are all given Hourani names and welcomed with the local drink of chicha.

The local girls then took a few of the fruit and smashed them into Roberto's and the other boys faces, which was then returned by the boys. It became a war of red paint for a while, and a young boy around seven decided to smash a fruit in my face which he and everyone else found quite amusing.

A few handicrafts were sitting on a bench which we looked at and each bought one or two things. Doug and I bought a couple of necklaces and two small spears.

Then we danced the traditional dance done at parties and the women sang a few chants. It was great fun and everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves. A small baby capuchin monkey was there as a pet. They rescued him from the forest and he was quite happy sitting on our heads and being part of the action.

In the kitchen were other pets which included two baby red tanagers and two blue ones as well as a parakeet. The Hourani like to have parakeets as they let them know when visitors, or enemies, are coming.

When ever we approach a Hourani home the lead person hoots, or makes a noise to let them know we are coming.


It was now 2PM and we were hungry so set off up the hill to Bay's old house, a building with no walls and a palm roof that is very sparse at this point. Chino had our lunch ready for us, once again a wonderful three course meal which included poached pears for dessert.

Thunder in the distance and then the rain poured down. The roof did not seem to keep much off of us, Roberto produced some ponchos which were welcomed. We waited for the rain to pass but after half and hour decided to go. Our path down to the canoe was now a small muddy river.

It rained for most of the hour and a half ride but we all found it a fun part of the Amazon experience. There seemed to be more obstacles in this part of the river which necessitated us ducking in the canoe to get under large fallen branches and manoeuvring around fallen trees.
To get over a large log that is laying across the river submerged just under the surface our driver would go very fast to glide over it and lift the engine at the last minute. It made for a bumpy ride at times, but exciting.

We arrived at our home for the night which consists of four platforms with tents for each party. We have foam mattresses, sheets and pillows. It seems quite comfortable.

The rest of the crew went for a hike up to this huge tree we passed on the way, but I stayed behind to rest.

Tonight is our last night in the jungle.

Day 75.

I have been fighting off a cold since we have arrived, but last night it came with a-vengeance and settled in my chest. The hike to the waterfall did not sound like the best plan for me so unfortunately I missed the hike. Doug decided to hang back with me.

The rest of the group left at 6:30AM and returned around 8. They said it was a very muddy, slippery and steep climb up and down to the waterfall so I felt I made the right decision.

I sat in the open air dining room and took funny pictures with my ipad of the kids and women. We were all having a great time and laughing a lot.

After breakfast we packed up the canoe, said our goodbyes to the staff and made our way down river in the canoe for a few more hours.
A stop in another local community with more dancing, learning how to make fire, and handicraft purchases. Each place we have stopped have had different items which is great.

Another couple of hours in the canoe heading to the town of Coca. As we head downstream we can see the canopy getting lighter. The forest is thinning out and the sun feels hotter now.

We reached the town and tried to clean up a bit, change into the least dirty and smelly of our clothes for the trip back to Quito. This is an oil town, many people are employed on the rigs and everything else that goes along with oil drilling. Unfortunately what also comes with it is that the locals also get involved with more alchol ,prostitution and other vices that are not common in the jungle normally. There are a lot of plantations where the land is cleared for cattle and farming. Pollution is of course another big problem.
We have many of these problems with our own oil tar sands as well of course, but the Amazon rainforest is considered the lungs of the world and no one wants it to be cut down and to die from oil and logging.

On the way to the airport we stopped at an animal rescue centre to view some of the animals that we only saw the tracks of, as many are nocturnal.

Our flight to Quito was pleasant, our bags (and spears and blowguns) all arrived with us and we say our goodbyes to our jungle 'family' of the last five days.

We found out that some teachers have arrived and that school will be back in. The government was also coming to look at building another elementary school in another village which is great news.

The staff at each of the places we stayed were wonderful. We have not complaints or criticism what so ever.

We were very happy to have Roberto as our guide. He was so enthusiastic about everything, like it was the first time he saw it too. He was incredibly kind, patient and had boundless energy. His passion for the Amazon jungle and the Hourani people added to our enjoyment and desire to understand the area even more.

Our four fellow travellers from Texas were great companions and we all seemed to get along very well. We felt very blessed to have just a small group with people who were ready for adventure and what ever came our way.


Day 76.

Quito. Well another day in Quito where we won't be seeing much. Doug has picked up a bug of some kind so we are laying low in the hotel room, which is actually fine by me too. We sent out our laundry (those poor souls who have that awful job) and will re pack and re group for our flight south early tomorrow morning. The cab is coming for us at 3:45 AM !!

It is now on to the Galapagos Islands for a week. The fun never stops.

Posted by debbep 18:44 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

The Sacred Valley

sunny 19 °C

Pisac and Ollyantambo.

Day 63

We thought about taking a direct bus or taxi to Ollyantambo, but in the end decided to do a bus tour so that we could explore Pisac on the way.

We left our luggage at the hotel in Cusco and only took two small backpacks with enough for three days.

We were picked up in a comfortable tourist bus just off the square. Our guide spoke in English and Spanish. The scenery on the way was beautiful and after two hours we arrived in Pisac. The guide said we had a half hour in the market but the first ten minutes were in a silver factory to tell us how the silver jewelry was made.

I really resent this part of a tour, where they take you to a factory or somewhere where I am sure the guide gets a cut of what you buy. I know everyone has to make a living, but that only gave us 20 minutes left to shop and look around the Pisac market.

We did manage to find a couple of little things in the market and then back on the bus to head up the hill to the ruins.
You need to purchase a tourist ticket to visit all the sites in the Sacred Valley and Cuzco, so we purchased it here at the gate. Our guide had the blue flag for us to follow her. Ugg, I hate bus tours but this seemed the best option.

She took us to a few different viewpoints and explained about the site and the history which was really interesting. Then we had a half hour on our own. A half hour? I could have easily spent another hour or so here. It is a lovely setting in the mountains and very peaceful and interesting.


Our time was up all too soon and then it was to Urubamba for lunch. Lunch was included in the tour price and really had low expectations of what we would get, but was very pleasantly surprised.

The drive from Urubamba to Ollyantambo is gorgeous. Hills of emerald green with the Urubamba river flowing by. I think that this is the most beautiful scenery of our entire trip. I was in Ollyantambo six years ago and loved it then, but really loved it this time. Here is the best surviving example of an ancient Inca town with many of the original homes. The cobblestone streets are narrow with high walls on each side. Ollyantambo is sandwiched between two mountains with ruins on each side. It is spectacular.

There are many men and women walking around town wearing their local dress which is very colorful. The town feels very relaxed and tranquil.

Our tour included a visit to the main ruins, but it was only for an hour. The stairs are very steep and it looked like I would want more than an hour here so we just took our small packs from the bus and went to find our hotel. It turned out to be a great decision because at 4:30 the skies opened and it just poured with thunder and lightening accompanying it.


Day 64 Ollyantamo.

Check out time was at 10AM that that was a good thing because it got us up and about early. We were at the bottom of the ruins by 9:30AM under beautiful blue skies. The sun was warm but not oppressive. There were a couple of young men at the bottom of the ruins offering their services as a guide. We were happy to hire one of them for the short tour, one hour.

Climbing the many stairs up was a slow go, but there were many others climbing at a similar pace. Having a guide really enhanced our experience as he gave us so much information about this site as well as Inca and pre Inca life. It was just fascinating and so beautiful up there. We were so happy that we decided not to go yesterday.

Most of the tour busses arrive around 3PM, so going early in the morning there was very few people up there.

After our hour was up we had the option to continue on for another 40 minutes to explore more of the site, which we did. As I said, I think that this is one of the favourite places we have been so far, we just loved it.

Heading back to the square we came upon a tiny restaurant which is owned and run by a lovely young man and has only been open for six months. The coffee was amazing and the food delicious.

Full and satisfied we explored the narrow cobblestone streets and town square.


If you see this red flag in front of a house, they sell the local moonshine made from corn, Chicha

The little girl wanted to wear my sunglasses for the picture



At 2:30P we headed back to our hotel to pick up our small backpacks and walked the road by the river down to the train station.

We chose the Vista Dome train, on Peru Rail. The 3:30P train only had two cars, (most people go up earlier) and we sat with two German men and had four women from the US beside us which made for interesting conversation.

It was a wonderful 1 1/2 hour ride through the mountains and there were large windows and windows in the ceiling too for a great view. Very professional staff and we were even served coffee and sandwiches on the way.

Half an hour from Agua Calliente the rain started. By the time we reached our destination it was pouring.

A young woman was at the station holding a placard with our name on it, as well as another couple's, We were grateful for that as she led us through some mazes to get to our hotel for the next two nights.
We all agreed to stop at the bus station for the transfer tickets to Machu Picchu first to avoid the inevitable line up in the morning.

As we rest in our room for a couple of hours we hear the rain pelting down on the roof. It is torrential.


At 7 PM there is a break in the weather so we venture out to find dinner. I remember Agua Calliente as not being a great place to be, just a place you had to stay to get to Macchu Picchu. But now it is just lovely, a wonderful surprise.

Lonely Planet recommended a place called Indio Feliz which was not far from our hotel. It is owned and run by a man originally from France and the decor is very French Pub looking with two lovely big fireplaces which was wonderful as it was getting cold.

The decor was fun and all the painting and decorating was done by him. The food was amazing. We could hear everyone at the tables around us raving about the food.

Two great meals in one day, what a treat.

Returning to the hotel we met the owner (Bill's) son Lawrence in the lobby. He wanted to make sure that everything was okay and asked if we had arranged a guide for tomorrow. We said we hadn't and half an hour later he called our room and said he had a guide for us and he will be here at 6:30AM to pick us up. Wonderful service.

Day 65 Matchu Picchu

Alain our guide met us in the lobby at 6:30AM and we walked a block to the waiting busses. We were able to get right on and start the 25 minute ride to the top . This is the only way to get to the site, other than walking, and has us going on many switchbacks up the mountain.

We started at the bottom of the site as the clouds had the mountains completely socked in. Alain was a wonderful guide and told us so many new things about the Inca's and Matchu Picchu life. At this time of the morning there were not too many people around and it was quite pleasant.

The clouds rolled in and out quickly. One minute you could see the other mountains and a moment later it was completely covered again. It made it all that much more mystical.

We slowly made our way to the top of the site stopping every once in a while to learn more from Alain. Two hours later we paid for his services and he went back down and we climbed higher to visit the Inca Bridge.

This was part of the old Inca Trail and took around 20 minutes each way on a narrow path with a steep drop off to the valley below. It brought back memories of my time here six years ago when I did the short Inca Trail and how I was terrified I would go off the edge with my vertigo and fear of heights.

When we returned the crowds had arrived, it was 11AM. I thought it was much more crowded than the last time I was here. Many large groups of Japanese tourists were everywhere as well as a number of other groups. We were glad we came early to have some time with fewer people.

At noon the rain started and we decided to go, we both needed the bathroom. There are no services on the site, it is the way it was all those years ago. By the time we climbed the stairs to the bottom the rain was coming down quite heavily so we just caught the bus and went back into town. It was a great morning. This is still one of the most amazing places I have ever seen.


Day 66

I thought I knew rain, living on the west coast, but last night the sound of the pouring rain work us up. It sounded like we were in the middle of Niagara Falls.

We woke to a gorgeous blue cloudless sky. Our train left at 11 AM and we were joined by a lovely young man named Edwin who was a tour guide. He had just finished taking a group on the short Inca Trail and was now heading home to Cusco. He was a great source of information for us about the Inca life and the area.

The train stopped for fifteen minutes to wait for the other train to pass by. During that time we were entertained by a dancer in a costume and then a fashion show of beautiful Alpaca clothing.



We disembarked at Ollyantambo and saw a young man with my name written on a placard. He directed us to a mini bus to take us to Cusco. Edwin joined us and I ended up on a spare middle seat, made of plywood I think, in a 12 passenger van. It was a very long one and a half hour drive, no air and a lot of close bodies.

By the time we got to Cusco I was feeling rather ill. We walked a few blocks to our hotel and I flaked out for a few hours while Doug went out for lunch.

This evening we went to a show of dancers and singers wearing the traditional costumes of the area. It was very entertaining and we enjoyed it a lot.

Day 67.

Edwin (whom we met on the train yesterday) had a friend who was a local tour guide and had a nice car, so he arranged for him to pick us up at our hotel at 10AM. Marco took us to three sites in Cusco and explained a lot more about the Inca Life.
A common theme in all the ruins is the three levels, the underlife is represented by the snake, the present is represented by the Puma, and the after life the Condor. There are still a few tribes who live the way the Incas did hundreds of years ago, wearing the traditional clothing and way of life. There are no roads there and it takes a few days to get to them, but they do not accept any outsiders.

After we said goodbye to Marco and had our lunch we went to the Pre Columbian Museum. The artifacts and display were outstanding, a very well presented museum.

Down the hill was the Inca Museum which we visited as well, but I just did a whirlwind tour in half and hour and then went back to the hotel. It was a very long day with a number of things packed into it.

Today is our last day in Peru.

Day 68. Flying around South America.

6AM came all too early to catch a cab to the airport. When we checked in for our 8AM flight we were informed that nothing was leaving Cusco because of the weather. It looked fine outside to us, but for what ever reason nothing was flying.

Our connection in Lima to Quito was not going to happen. I paid more money for this flight in order to arrive into Quito at 1PM, but now we were going to be routed through Bogota Columbia and arrive at our destination at 1AM.

The gate area was standing room only, as all flights were grounded, but we arrived early enough to secure two seats. Our four hour wait was pleasant however as we met a lovely couple from New York and spent the time chatting to them.

We finally left for Lima and had another five hour layover which allowed us plenty of time to grab some lunch. At the gate two hours early we met a couple from Saskatchewan (Glenys and Randy )and a solo woman traveller from Australia, (Kath) and we had some wonderful conversations. We all hung out together for the rest of the journey.

The flight was late by about 45 minutes and we were all concerned that our luggage would not make it. Next stop Bogota Columbia. What a gorgeous airport and the shops had such beautiful things in it. Thankfully we did not have a lot of time to spend shopping as our flight to Quito was leaving in less than an hour.

We finally arrived in Quito at 1AM, (12 hours after our scheduled arrival time and 19 hours later). We were all so happy to see that our luggage arrived with us too.

Kath shared her arranged cab with us and we took the one hour commute to the centre of town. The airport is new, very modern, but very far out of the city.

We finally arrived at our hotel at 2:30AM and the young fellow helped us with our bags to our room and we collapsed.

Now our adventure in Ecuador begins. This is the last country we will visit in South America.

On Monday we are heading deep into the Amazon for five days. I hope the natives are friendly!!!!! We will not have any internet or communication while there.

Posted by debbep 11:28 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

La Paz, Lake Titicaca and Cuzco

Day 57
La Paz Bolivia

Arrival in La Paz was one of the easiest of anywhere we have been.We were on a smaller plane and walked off onto the Tarmac and into the baggage claim area. Our bags arrived in five minutes and we went outside to waiting marked taxis.

Cab ride into the centre was a fixed rate of 60 BOL. On the way we saw hundreds of riot police. Not a comforting feeling really.

It took about half an hour to get to town and then about 45 minutes to go a few blocks to the hotel. Complete gridlock.

We met a couple from Australia who just arrived and said that their bus had to circle the city for ages before being able to come to the airport area. They then took a cab and videoed what was going on and showed me. The sex trade workers in the El Alto area are experiencing violence from the residents there, so they are striking, making it all but impossible for traffic to go through.

On the video I saw tear gas canisters, small bombs, yelling etc and then this lovely looking older woman starting throwing large rocks at the cab they were in and smashed the window.

These two were really shook up about it, understandably. It appears that the strikes are a common occurrence here, as I found out when I googled it.

We went for a walk down to the main square, or pigeon park you could call it. There were thousands of pigeons and people would stand with food in their hands to feed the birds so they would land on them. There were many photos taken of people with six or more pigeons on arms, shoulders and heads.

We sat and people watched for over an hour and a half and then went into a small modern art museum nearby, admission was free.

I am having a terrible time breathing. I almost collapsed at one point. It is mostly due to all the diesel fumes as La Paz is very busy. The population is around 4 million and there are so many small busses and cars on the road. The altitude is also at 14,000 feet so the combination of the two is not working well for me.

We decided not to stay in La Paz and arranged for a bus to pick us up in the morning and go to Copacabana, on Lake Titicaca.

We purchased tickets on line and will arrive in Copacabana at 11AM, overnight and then leave at 6:30PM the next day to Puno. Puno for two nights and then the bus to Cuzco. It is a nice tourist bus with reclining seats and the total for all three legs is only $34 each.


Day 58,

Copacabana Bolivia.

The scenery on the way to Copacabana is beautiful past rolling hills and countryside.

The girls in front of us reclined their seats and we were feeling a little cramped, until we looked out the window and saw an 18 passenger van with twenty people and lots of packages in it.

Copacabana is around the same altitude as La Paz but there is very little traffic so the air is much cleaner. We took a cab the short distance to our hotel because it was up a hill and rolling suitcases don't do too well on cobblestones.

The Hotel Cupula is just perfect. We have a lovely room overlooking the bay and the grounds are full of flowers and hammocks. You can tell that the people who run it have a lot of pride in their work. The building is Moorish in style, all white and rounded tops. There are a great many different styles of buildings in Copacabana, some very unique and interesting buildings.

A walk down to the town and along the boardwalk shows many paddle boats and kayaks for rent. It is low season so not many people are out on the water.

Copacabana is definitely a tourist town, and probably in the high season the tourists would outnumber the 6,000 residents I would think. It is again a backpacker haven and we are clearly at least 30 years older than any other tourist we have seen in town. Rastafarian hippies are everywhere as well as lots of young people making their way around South America, just like we are.

I would much rather be in a town where the average age of the tourist is 25 rather than 85 however.

The local shopkeepers and people on the street are not very friendly I found. They seem fed up with tourists even though it looks like the town's main source of income.
The people in hotels and restaurants are nice however.

We did not do much in Copacabana. We just relaxed, walked around and enjoyed the clean air. It was lovely during the day but really cooled off at night and early in the morning. There are tours to the outlying islands and that is why most people come here. I had done it 6 years ago and didn't care to go again and Doug was just fine with that as well.



Day 59. PUNO, Peru

Our bus to Puno left at 6:30PM so we paid for a late check out of the room. The cost of the hotel was only $33 a night. Once again, we are the oldest on the bus by far. We had to sign in and put our names, nationality and age. I looked up the list and the youngest was 18 and the oldest (other than us) was 33.

This was a double decker bus with the nice seats downstairs. I asked if we could sit downstairs and she said yes which was great.

Half an hour out of Copacabana we stopped at customs control, checked out of Bolivia and then walked up the road to check into Peru. We were able to exchange our BOLs for Peruvian Soles there as well.

The trip took about three hours and just before we arrived in Puno a man got on the bus and was chatting us up, and eventually told us that he was selling tour tickets. We bought two tickets from him to go to the floating reed island (Uros) tomorrow for 35 Soles each.

Upon arrival in Puno we found a cab right away and for 7 Soles he took us to our hotel, Casona Plaza which is just off the main square and very nice. The cost is $41 per night including breakfast.

They kindly kept the restaurant open for us and we had a small dinner before bed.


Day 60

I did not have a good morning, couldn't breathe. We are at 14,000 feet or more and I don't have the signs of altitude sickness, just really short of breath. I can't seem to walk more than a half a block without stopping to rest.
I asked reception if I could go on oxygen for a half and hour and that really seemed to help. Most hotels in Puno and in Cusco will have oxygen available as it is a common occurrence for people to be short of breath when they first arrive.

We walked the short couple of blocks to the main square to look around and find an ATM. We can only take out 400 soles, or around $160 a day here which again is a pain.

It is international women's day and many of the women are walking around dressed in their traditional outfits. I spoke to one woman in Spanish who was from the island of Amanti and she had embroidered her blouse and shawl. It was just beautiful.

I don't remember these from six years ago, but there are hundreds of small taxis, like Asian Tuk Tuks on the streets as well as the bicycle tuk tuks.

At noon we were picked up by a van with 12 others and taken to the pier where our boat waited for us. We sat inside on route while the guide told us about Lake Titicaca and the reed islands we were on our way to visit. There are many islands in the lake, some are real islands but a lot are floating islands made of reeds.

We came to one of these floating islands and disembarked to sit in the hot hot sun while the guide and the local president of the island explained how the islands were built from the reeds. The homes are also made from the reeds, which grow in abundance in the lake. They even eat them and we were each given one to try. I just pretended to eat it.

This island has six families that live here full time. The children are taken by reed boats to school every day and there they learn to speak English and Spanish. The local dialect here is Aymara.

Each group of us were taken inside one of the huts, which were very pleasant inside. It was scorching hot outside, but rather cool inside. The hut is very small and only a bed and a few blankets plus hooks along the walls to hang clothes. They have solar power and two light bulbs hung in the middle and they had a small tv. I asked how many channels they got and they replied 6, but Dad likes to watch sports most of the time.

Then the embroidery came out, wall hangings and pillow covers. They were very beautiful but you couldn't help feeling like a fish in a barrel in their home while they show you this beautiful work. Of course we did buy one pillow cover for 50 soles ($20) which is a lot but the work that goes into it is amazing.

From there a few of us went on the reed boat to the next island while a man and woman rowed us. It looked like very hard work and we felt guilty just laying back while they seemed to be struggling. The kids came along for the ride too.

The next island had a restaurant and gift shop which I did not go into. I had been here six years ago and it was a different experience from this one. It is very touristy and you feel like you are being set up to buy things, but it is also a great experience to be able to see how they have lived for over 900 years on these islands. There are a lot of islands that people live on where tourists are not allowed to go to, only those who choose to share the experience do, and it is a source of income for them as well.


On the way back we asked to be dropped off at the bus depot as we needed to get our seat assignment for our bus tomorrow. I am so glad we did because in Copacabana the woman took my voucher and gave me a piece of paper in return. When I handed it to the fellow in Puno today he said there was no leg from Puno to Cusco. It took more than half an hour to sort out, but in the end he said we had paid.

I then found out that the 8AM bus were were booked on did not have a bathroom. 8 hours with out a bathroom was not an inviting thought. He changed us to the 11:30AM bus instead, so we were so glad we made this stop on the way back to the hotel.

Day 61. Puno to Cusco

The bus left on time and we had upstairs seats with a platform in front of us, so plenty of leg room. I had brought lots of books and things to do on the 8 hour journey but the scenery was so beautiful we just looked out the window the entire time until it got dark.

Green rolling hills with farmland and the snow capped Andes behind. Half way into the journey four women got on with buckets and baskets, one with a baby bundled on her back and oldest one with a huge bundle in a blanket. She threw it down on the platform in front of us, opened it up and peeled back the brown paper inside. It was a huge piece of cooked meat of some kind.

From one of the baskets she withdrew a huge butcher knife and started cutting and hacking away at the meat, putting pieces into a plastic bag and then a potato from somewhere went in too. The other women were going up and down the aisles taking orders and delivering the goods. The bus has taken of again now and the women worked for the next half hour of so until the next stop. I assume they would hop another bus and make their way back again. It was great entertainment

Especially because she was right beside this 30 something European ( German I think) couple who were so serious and impeccably dressed and seemed really uptight.
The older woman had her butt right in his space the entire time and they would lean over him to pass things. Very entertaining. He didn't say anything but did not look pleased.


The bus station in Cusco is huge and there were probably hundreds of big tourists buses like ours. We needed to move from the bus with our luggage to get to the taxi area and it was just jammed with people.

A cab to the Plaza de Armas was supposed to be 5 soles but we were quoted 10 which was fine.
Our hotel is La casa de selenque and is right off the plaza. Cost for one night with breakfast is $70CAD. The rooms is spacious and clean and you can't beat the location.

I was here 6 years ago and can't believe the difference. There is a Starbucks beside our hotel, KFC on the square and high end shops. The square was packed with people, Saturday night, and it was exciting to be back here.

Sticker shock. I don't remember it being this expensive, but maybe it was just because Bolivia was so inexpensive. We got to the point in Northern Argentina and Bolivia that I didn't even look at the prices any more, they were so inexpensive.

We ate on the plaza tonight, each having a bowl of soup, salad and leamonaid and it came in at 80 soles. With a tip that is $35 and it wasn't very good either. I guess we need to look more closely at prices and realize that Cusco is expensive now.


Day 62
How lucky are we? We woke to find that there is a parade today for Carnival, and right in front of our hotel in the Plaza de Armas.
First we did go to Starbucks for a real cup of coffee and it was wonderful. It's been a long time since we have had a good cup of coffee, as a matter of fact I have just not even bothered for a long time.
The parade lasted a few hours and had many dancers, singers and musicians in their native dress from the different areas. This was a much more polished parade than the one we saw in Sucre, but we still enjoyed both.

The plaza was packed with both locals and tourists. There are many tourists here, and a lot of young backpackers. Once again there are many people with waterguns, balloons and the foam spray cans. Everyone seemed to get in on the act here, and so many of the young tourists were having such a great time spraying the locals, who returned the favor. No one was off limits and everyone just took it in great spirit.

We were talking to some of the people in the parade and they took pictures of us in their hats and gave Doug on of their guitars for the pose.

The day was beautiful and warm and at 5PM the skies opened up and it just poured. How wonderful that it held off and the parade did not get rained out.


the little goat (kid) is only four days old.

My breathing is so much better here. I can make it up a couple of flights of stairs without problems now. Such a relief.
We will be heading to lower altitudes now. We purchased train tickets on PeruRail to Machu Picchu but this time of year the train does not leave from Cusco, so we need to take a bus to Ollyantambo first. A visit to a travel agent to arrange all the other details and we are off tomorrow morning to the Sacred Valley.

We had two wonderful meals today and really enjoyed our time in Cusco so far.

Posted by debbep 19:32 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)


Please pass the salt

sunny 23 °C

Day 49

We arranged a cab to pick us up at our hotel in Purmamarca and the driver took us to Tilcara which was the next town where the bus station was. The station was just an area where the bus pulled in and our 11AM bus showed up at 10 to 1.


The bus arrived at the border town of La Quicaca around 5, where we grabbed a cab for $2 to take us to the border into Bolivia. There was a line up to leave Argentina, paperwork filled out and handed in, and then another line up to enter Bolivia with more paperwork. The entire process took around 40 minutes.

We are in Bolivia now. There are money exchange stalls every two feet so we are able to trade our Argentine pesos for Bolivarios. There were busses that went to the town of Tupiza, where we were headed, but instead we negotiated a cab for $34 for the two hour ride.

Tupiza is a small town in a lovely setting with mountains surrounding it. Our hostel is very basic but only cost $28 including a very meager breakfast. We immediately went off to find our travel agent that we had been working with to pay for our tour tomorrow.

Day 50.
Mario picked us up at 9AM for our two day tour in a Toyota 4x4. He spoke very little English, but that was okay as we wanted to practice our Spanish.

The scenery north changes every half hour and is beautiful. This is where Butch Cassidy and the SunDance kid had their last big shoot out.

llamas are everywhere, large groups of them on the hills and in the meadows.

The road to Uyuni is a very narrow, winding gravel road with many switchbacks over the mountains. This is the only road and the one we would have taken had we decided to take the bus for the five hour non stop ride. It would have driven me crazy to not be able and stop to take pictures on the way. Mario would stop many times during the day to let us take photos and just walk on some trails and meadows.

Three hours later he pulled off the road and down into a meadow where he suggested Doug and I walk for an hour. There was a large group of llamas and donkeys with their new born babies, some only weeks old. They were not too sure about us and kept moving further into the hills as we walked towards them
Upon our return we find lunch waiting for us, set up on the tailgate of the Toyota.


The road is in great condition for the most part. We seem to be following the Dakar race route as this where it started off before ending in Valparaiso Chile on the day we were there. There are areas however where the road just seems to disappear into a river bed, lots of times with water flowing quite strongly in the river. I am not sure how the bus does this route.

A small mining town was on the way so we stopped and walked around for about half an hour. Everyone in town does some sort of job associated with the mining. Bolivia is very rich in minerals. They have been mining for hundreds of years but the supply is still plentiful.


Quinoa was growing in fields on the top of the mountain. It does not require any irrigation, only rainwater, and grows in the high altitudes. It is more expensive to buy quinoa here than at home. Bolivia does not export it's quinoa to other countries only uses it for themselves.


Mario once again pulled off the road up onto a hill and told us to walk down to the lagoon and he would meet us on the other side. The water was a pinkish color and we see that there are many flamingos in the lake which was a nice surprise.


An hour out of Uyuni the landscape changes to flat land with small brush, certainly not as attractive as the area around Tupiza. Mario drove us into the town and helped us to buy our bus ticket for two days from now which was great.

There is a tourist attraction that is on all the tours called the 'train graveyard'. We drove past it but said we did not need to get out of the truck. It was just a bunch of rusted out trains in my opinion. Sure they were the first ones involved with the mining industry, but not that interesting in my opinion. Train travel is very scare in Bolivia now. Every thing goes by truck and passengers by bus.


We finally arrived at the Salt Flats outside of Uyuni town. The lake is massive. Mario said it is the size of Switzerland but I have not checked that out yet.
We are lined up on the edge waiting for the sunset. A shallow skim of water in on the ground and when the sun goes down it looks like a mirror on the ground. It was so beautiful.

It is really chilling off now as we head to our hotel for the night. A lot of people, especially the younger back packer crowd, do a four day tour staying in dorms with no heat, shared bathrooms and bunk beds. We considered this but it would be far too tiring for me to have four full days in a row. They also sometimes put up to six people into the trucks which can be rather uncomfortable on these long rides to say the least.

We arranged a two day private tour and were so happy we did. We saw everything that we wanted to see and could go at our own pace.
We also opted for a unique hotel instead of the unheated dorms. A salt hotel on the lake, with everything made of salt. Walls, furniture, even the floor. This is a newer hotel and quite nice. Dinner and breakfast were included, which was a good thing seeing as how the hotel is miles from anywhere, and we enjoyed this unique experience. It gets extremely cold here at night but we had electric blankets to keep us warm.
The only thing I did not like was that the floors in our bedroom were salt, coarse grains of salt which made walking in your bare feet to the bathroom at night a little uncomfortable.


Day 51. Salt Flats.

Mario arrived at 8:30AM and we drove through the water of the lake for around 15 minutes and then there was only salt. Miles and miles of blinding white salt. It is so hard to get your head around the fact that it is not an ice field.

We stopped to take some of these goofy pictures for fun and then headed to an island a couple of hours away.


The flats are now dry, which is so lucky for us as it is the rainy season. We could drive right up to the island and Mario told us to go for a walk for and hour or so while he made lunch. The island is covered in huge cactus and had a lot of lava rock and coral rock on it. It is very well designed and well taken care of by the five residents who live here. We walked the trail to the top of the hill, slowly. The altitude is getting to me here, we are at 12,000 feet already and then climbing higher. We had to sign in when we arrived with our name, nationality and age. Mario and I looked at the ages of the people over the past few weeks and they were all 20 or 30 something. The other older folk like us did not climb to the top so we were quite pleased with ourselves that we made it. Slowly, one foot in front of the other, but we did it. It was so peaceful at the top, we had this part of the flats to ourselves, not another truck in sight.


From this vantage point we have a 360 degree view of the salt flats and can imagine just how big they are. Bolivia again does not export any of this salt, just for their own use.

After we made our way back to the bottom we find that Mario had cooked some quinoa for me ( I told him I loved quinoa) as well as some meat for Doug and vegetables. We enjoyed a wonderful picnic in this amazing setting.

Our long ride back across the salt flats I am wishing that I had a good pair of sunglasses instead of the cheap ones I bought on the street in Santiago. It is like the Arctic, blinding white everywhere. A large flock of flamingos flew overhead in formation like Canada geese, but they were pink. So cool.

Mario takes us to our hotel and we say our goodbyes. After checking into our room and a short rest we head out to explore the town of Uyuni for an hour.
The women all dress in the traditional way, the bowler hats, large skirts, and long braids. Some of the women wear straw hats and look like a darker version of Anne of Green Gables with the braids. There are street stalls set up and everything from clothing to food being sold.

Teenagers are all running around with water balloons and large squirt guns shooting at each other. They also spray each other with foam and we hear firecrackers going off. Not sure what the celebration is, we will have to check it out.

Uyuni is backpacker haven. There are so many young people here with huge backpacks and most likely doing one of the many treks or adventures available in the area. It seems most are South American or European.


Day 52

Our bus to Sucre was not a luxury bus, but not as bad as I had feared. No bathrooms for the four hour journey, but they promised to stop half way. The cost of the trip was $5.

Our departure time was to be at 10 AM. At 10:15 the locals are yelling, "Vamos, it's past 10" in Spanish. Bolivians appear not to be a patient as Argentinians, but it worked, we left.
The scenery through the mountains is again very beautiful as we climb even higher.
As promised two hours in we stopped at a roadside building for refreshments and a bathroom or smoke break, and none too soon. (the bathroom, not the smoke).

We arrived in the city of Potosi just after 2PM. It is a large city high in the mountains, 13,450 feet. There is a three hour layover here so we decided to see about taking a cab the rest of the way. The taxis that went to Sucre were on the other side of the station, up a steep hill. I am so winded I can only do three steps at a time, but we finally get to the top.

Women are running full speed towards us. I guess we don't blend in like we thought we did..... " Sucre??? " They were offering transportation to Sucre.

The first quote was for 400 Bolivanos, twice what we were told it should be. When we said "no, 200" one woman looked at the other one and said in Spanish something like "what are you nuts? It's not 400 BOL"

In the end they quoted us 160, ($26) which is funny cos we said we would pay 200. The car looked good, the driver was a young man in his late twenties, Nicholas. It ended up not being a cab, but the police were there and he had a receipt book that we needed to fill out with our names and this seemed to make it all legal.

One hour in I realize that the exhaust is coming into the car. We have a 2 1/2 hour ride ahead of us and we are being asphyxiated. We travelled with the window open the entire way, listening to 80s disco. One of the longest rides of my life. The scenery was spectacular however, through the winding mountain roads. These roads have been recently paved which makes the journey much more pleasant and faster. The only way to get to Sucre from Uyuni is by bus, the flights go through La Paz to get here.

We finally arrived in Sucre around 6 PM and are dropped off at our hostel which is right across from the Central Market. A lovely hostel with a large clean room and only $35 a night with private bath and breakfast.

Day 53. Sucre

Saturday. The altitude here is down to 9,200 feet and it feels much better. The population is 600,000 and there are a number of Universities so lots of young people. The sidewalks are very narrow and extremely busy. Sucre is in a valley, with the main square being in the middle and then it all goes up from there.

We made our way up to a travel agency that claims to be non profit. We sat and had a wonderful Cappuccino and a cup of cocoa tea as well while we waited for our guide Rogero to show up. A private three hour tour was arranged for $10 each. Rogero was a lovely young man of around 25 or so and we started off walking towards the main square, Plaza de Mayo.


Rogero told us a lot about the city of Sucre, history and the country of Bolivia as well. His English was pretty good and we would revert to Spanish sometimes as well so that we could practice which he appreciated.

One of our stops was in the market across from our hostel where we enjoyed a fruit smoothie which was delicious. There were a lot of potatoes for sale in this area. Bolivia has over 350 different varieties.


Our last stop was the Mirador, which means lookout. Of course this means that it is on top of the hill, up a very steep hill. I did well however, stopping at the end of each block, but not as bad as I had feared from the bottom looking up. The view overlooking the city was wonderful and the air was so much cleaner up there. There is a lot of diesel fumes in the busy streets which makes my breathing ever harder. The side streets are so much better for both of us.

We said our goodbyes to Rogero and went for lunch at a wonderful cafe at the top and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Muy Rico!!


There are a number of stalls at the top of the hill selling hand made alpaca items as well as other handicrafts. We just looked and took stock of what was available.

Later in the evening we went to a dinner show which was fantastic. Three hours of dancing representing the different tribes and communities in Bolivia. The young people performing had endless energy and we really enjoyed it.


Day 54
Next week is carnival in Sucre. This morning there is a parade for 'pre carnival' which will have people in different costumes from the various regions in the area.

Even yesterday no one knew exactly what time it started, even Rogero who is in the parade! They figured it would end up at the main square at noon, so we headed off at 10. This was after finding out that the final hockey game at the Olympics was on our TV (we haven't turned the tv on since we left home) It looked like a shoe in for the Canadians so we headed off for the parade.

A few blocks away we can see that the sidewalks are packed with people eeking out their spot. A few blocks up we found a little space, in the shade which was a bonus, and sat on the curb and waited about a half hour until we could here the bands coming.

It was a lot of fun to watch, most of the participants are either really young, (like 7 or so ) or really old, in their 80s some of them. Got to give them credit for dancing for a few hours non stop.


We found out that the water fights are all about carnival. For at least a week the young people go after each other with the water balloons, water guns and an aerosol spray can of soap foam. Everyone in the parade was fair game for the water or foam and everyone took it all on good fun. When there was a break in the parade the young ones would go into the street and soak each other.

We had a lot of really young ones sitting near us and they would get about two feet away from each other and have all out wars. We got quite a bit in the cross fire, but it was only water and soap. I did put my camera away however when it got really crazy.

Doug and I were the only tourists in our area that we could see, so when the women in the parade would come by with bags of rose petals or confetti they would put a big handful on my head which they thought was pretty funny.

Some of the participants were handing out eggs. The woman beside us gave it to me and we figured out that it was a hollowed out egg shell, filled with water and then sealed over again with paper. They instructed me to break it over Doug's head, which I did quite happily.

It was a really fun time and we are glad that we were able to see some of carnival as it seems we are a week too early everywhere we go.

In the streets are many vendors with masks, colorful wigs and other dress up items for the main festivities next week.

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in our room until time to go out for dinner.

Selling water balloons is big business during carnival


Day 55.

A trip to the post office to mail some winter clothes back home, but it was going to cost over $90 so we said forget it.
Three small museums were explored today. The Anthropology museum which was interesting and had artifacts from all over Bolivia and from thousands of years ago. There were many weapons, pottery and jewelry on display as well as six mummies, but not in as good repair as the ones we saw in Salta. A number of elongated skulls were there as well. The Inca royalty would bind the heads of children to have them change to conical shape, similar to what the Japanese did to children's feet.

There were two other museums in the same building but one was closed so we only went to the small modern art museum. It had some really great paintings on display.

I thought that I would have a very difficult time with finding vegetarian restaurants in Bolivia, but I have had some amazing meals here, as has Doug. For me I have a different salad and sometimes soup every day for lunch and dinner. There have been some fantastic varieties that I will try when I get home too.

Back up to the Mirador to visit a textile museum. On display were various styles of embroidery and clothing from the different areas of Bolivia. Fascinating and intricate works by some very talented men and women. I bought Doug a leather and embroidered wallet that he liked as an early birthday present.

Some alpaca items were purchased from the street vendors and then back to the hotel for a rest while Doug went on a fruitless search for more Coca leaves.

Tomorrow we fly to La Paz in the north. We really enjoyed Sucre and Bolivia in general. Now to explore the north.


Posted by debbep 20:43 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Salta Argentina

Getting High in Northern Argentina

sunny 30 °C

Day 42. Salta Argentina.

Our one bedroom apartment is just perfect, with room to put everything away. Just five blocks from the the main square we are really happy here. Salta is a lovely town. Very clean and everyone is laid back. The main square is surrounded by many restaurants and museums which we shall explore later.
The traffic here is wild however. Even on a green light pedestrians don't seem to have the right of way, you must really be careful when crossing the road.
Our first stop was the tourist info center and then a travel agent to book some tours for our time here.

The people, dress and items for sale are more Bolivian now as we get closer to the border.

While having our lunch in one of the outdoor cafes we and the other patrons are serenaded by different groups either playing guitar and singing or groups of men playing pan pipes and drums. Children are often coming up to patrons selling small items and in some cases begging. Adults too are selling small items such as necklaces, coca leaves, shoe shines and other things. They are not aggressive in the least however, as they leave if you say no. Salta is a lot poorer than other places we have been.

Many young families here, but not sure if they live here or are vacationing. There appears to be a baby boom as we see lots of toddlers, infants and pregnant women. Breastfeeding while walking or sitting in crowded area is quite acceptable here which is great.


some graffiti art near our hotel



Day 43.

In the morning we went to one of the museums in the square, the modern art museum. It did not cost money, which is a good thing because only one small room was open. It had large pieces of paper on the wall with what looked like finger painting by children on it. But with modern art you can never tell.

In the afternoon we were picked up by our arranged mini van and had a tour of the city with 7 other tourists. This time of year is off season for foreign tourists as it is the rainy season. We were the only English speakers on the bus and the guide did her best to narrate in both Spanish and English, but I noticed that the Spanish explanations were much longer.

The city of Salta has just over 600,000 people so when we took the tour we could see how big this city is. In the area we are in it seems so small. We are at 3750 feet in altitude and doing okay with that A drive to the top of San Bernardo hill takes us higher to the top of where you can ascend by cable car. It offers a great view of the city but the day is getting cloudy and starts to rain
Locals walk, run and bike up this steep hill as a form of exercise If you still need more before going back down there are stationary bikes at the top.


Day 44.
The Museum of High Mountain Archeology was another on the square that we visited today. This was a small museum housing Inca treasures, but one of the best that I have seen. There is a very long story here, but the Readers Digest version is that in the early 1990s a team of archeologists found three child mummies on a mountain top in the area. They were from the Incan times and aged 6, 7 and15. The Incas wanted to unite the different regions, even countries, so young children who were of nobility in their area, would be chosen to marry one of another region to unite man with the gods. After the ceremony the children were given a potion that would put them in a coma like sleep and then they would be buried, facing different directions.

Because these children were buried in the mountains and it is so cold they are almost perfectly preserved 500 years later. The boy still has coca leaves in his mouth.
Custom was to also bury them with many items that were also recovered at the site in almost perfect condition.
Only one child is on display at a time, to keep them preserved, and in a climate controlled display.

We watch a film of the excavation as they had a fellow from National Geographic on the dig with them. It was fascinating. Sounds gruesome I know, but it really was amazing.
We were not allowed to take pictures so I copied this from the internet. We saw the boy on the right.


Day 45

Another tour day in a mini van, this one had 16 Spanish speakers aboard, plus us. Cachi is an area south of Salta and to get there we travelled through many hills and mountains.
Driving through a few small towns on the outskirts of Salta we see many fields of tobacco and corn.
The landscape changes to forests of cactus, hundreds of years old, growing with deciduous trees which I have never seen together before. This area gets a lot of rain in the summer, (now), and everything is very green. The first half of the journey the road is paved, but then turns to gravel. Water coming down from the mountains, over the roads which create a waterfall over the edge. We would slowly drive through these creeks and see that the road is being eroded away by the water. Large rocks are on the side of the road from the mountains above.
A lovely couple from Buenos Aires kind of took us under their wing for the day, he an ex teacher felt we needed help with everything. We probably did.
Lunch was in the small town of Cachi, I had some Quinoa and a salad and Doug tried goat stew. Both were okay but nothing we would want again.

This woman was in the main square banging the drum and chanting and then saying prayers for the tourists who visit.


The elevation is 8300 feet and to try and acclimatize our guide suggests we take coca leaves. We purchased a bag from one of the sellers around the square yesterday and you don't chew it but rather take three leaves, which look like fig leaves to me, and put them in your cheek. You keep them there for a couple of hours and then replace them with more.
They make you very thirsty however and so we went through a lot of water. They also act as a diuretic which can be inconvenient trying to find a place to pee in a desert with only small bushes and cactus.
The trip back had us in thick fog and pouring rain. The roads were one lane switchbacks through the mountains, so adding the fog and rain to that was un nerving. I was glad to be at the back of the van where I could not see anything. I slept most of the way back.

All in all an enjoyable but very long day, we did not get back until 7PM.


Day 46

Siesta time is in most cities in Argentina. In Salta everything except resteraunts pretty much close up between 1 and 5PM. After re opening they will stay open until 9. Restaurants don't open for dinner until 9PM and stay open until at least midnight.

Off of the main square are pedestrian streets which are like huge open malls. A big police presence, people on the sidewalks selling everything from socks and sunglasses to popcorn and cotton candy. It is like a mosh pit at a rock concert it is so crowded. Seriously, and this is on weekdays as well as weekends. So many people out shopping.

Argentinians are the most patient people on the planet I think. I mentioned the line ups for everything. Well tonight I found a blouse I wanted to buy, there was a huge lineup for the change rooms so I just tried it on over my top and decided to buy it.

There were three checkers at tills and each one had 20 people in line. The fellow who was checking out our line was so slow it was un real. But nobody got impatient or said anything, they all just stood and waited. I could use some of that in my life

I am dreaming in Spanish now. I don't understand anything that anyone is saying.

Day 47. Salinas Grande

At 7AM we were picked up by Lewis our driver in a Ford SUV for our tour north. Rather than come back to Salta we are taking our luggage and will stay in a town that is at the end of the tour. We are joined by two young girls, Kim age 20 from Switzerland and Isabel age 18 from Austria. They are lovely young women and as they speak English our driver gives the tour mostly in English.

Again we are traveling though the mountains and the scenery changes a half dozen times during the day. Unfortunately I think that the lovely meal that I had last night was not so lovely after all. I was sick as a dog all day today and it was not the best day to be spending 12 hours in a truck. Our driver was wonderful however and stopped many times for bathroom breaks where we could.
On the way we saw a lot of cactus again, many llamas, donkeys, horses and guanaco, which are smaller and more delicate looking than llamas

The elevation was up to 14,000 feet and at this point we went for a hike up a hill to see
some ruins of pre inca times. The ruins were fascinating and we even had two condors flying overhead. The elevation however was a bit tough, especially when I was not feeling well anyhow.
We stopped in a small town for lunch where Doug had a quinoa soup and a Llama stew which he said was good. I stuck to water.



We had a flat tire one the way down one of the gravel roads. We were wondering what would happen if we had another, as we only had one spare and we did not pass too many other vehicles out here.



Our final destination of Salinas Grande was fantastic. It looked like a huge lake frozen over with ice. It is however solid salt, meters deep. Walking on it is a bit unnerving, I kept expecting the ice to crack as there is a layer of water on the top.

They extract salt from the lake as well as lithium. Borax is also mined in the area as well.




Purmamarca was over the mountain and 40 minutes away, our home for the next two nights. The hills are called the hills of 7 colors because of the many colors of the rocks. Our little cabin at the foot of the small mountain is just perfect and I was so happy to arrive and flake out in bed.
Doug went into the small town to have dinner but food was not in the cards for me today. I slept for a long time. It gets quite cold at night.


The last one is a copy of a post card because we could not stop the truck to take a picture.

Day 48 Purmamarca

A much better day for me today, thank goodness. I woke thinking I was in the Amazon, it sounded like parrots outside. Yes it was. Flocks of green parrots flying all over town. Strange really.

I just love this town. The population is 2000 and the elevation is now at 7625 feet. After breakfast we walked up into the hills for a hike for a couple of hours. One the many things in my shopping basket full of ailments is mild COPD, or lung disease. I have a hard time breathing when going up hill as it is, so throw in an 8000 ft attitude and it was a challenge to say the least. We stopped every few minutes to catch our breath, Doug felt a bit winded too, but not like me. It felt like I was hyperventilating and my arms and face were tingling. The sun was strong but not too hot. We were so lucky to have an almost cloud free day.

The scenery is gorgeous. After a while we reached the top and then I felt adjusted to the elevation. The trail did a loop and ended up on the other side of the town. The streets and shops are postcard prefect. Everything is in pristine condition and there are so many colorful goods for sale.
The main square is lined with tables of alpaca goods, hats, jewelry and trinkets. A tour bus has just arrived, a day trip from Salta most likely. After they leave the streets are quiet again, not many tourists here.


Tonight we will head back into town for dinner when the restaurants open at 830PM. It is hard to get used to eating so late.

So now it is off to Bolivia tomorrow. Don't Cry For Me Argentina, we had a great time in your country.

Posted by debbep 18:38 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires and Cordoba

sunny 28 °C

Day 30, Feb 01, 2014. Buenos Aires

10AM was our scheduled departure time from the ship and we walked down the gangway to pouring rain. A tent was set up at the bottom where umbrellas were handed out. Yesterday when we returned to the ship in the sweltering heat we were given ice cold towels. Nice touch.

A waiting bus took us to the terminal where we found our luggage and grabbed a cab to our hotel.

The sidewalk in front of our hotel was torn up and three men were working in front of the entrance doors. Our hotel staff greeted us and apologized profusely for the inconvenience of no electricity. in the middle of the night the lines 'blew up' and they were now fixing them and should be done in a few hours. I have heard this story before and was concerned it could turn in to days.

The manager assured us that this happens quite often. The electrical lines are old and rather than maintain them the city electrical company decided to just fix them as they break.

We are given a candle and are shown to our room on the second floor. It is a lovely room and we are glad that it is not has hot as yesterday as the air conditioning is not working.

Soon after we grabbed a cab and headed back to Recoleta to the 'Belle Arts Museum' (museum of fine arts). Not having any expectations we are blown away by this small building.
Admission is free and although there were three floors, the second is under construction.

Starting on the third floor we find ourselves at a temporary exhibit called 'Madre"
Large black and white photos in three rooms of the faces of women aged 50-70 I would guess. They are the mothers of young people, mostly boys, who went missing after a demonstration in the 70s. I have never seen portrait photography this amazing and so sorry that I did not bring my camera. The expressions on their faces and in their eyes was so moving.

Downstairs contains a very impressive collection of wonderful Argentine art as well as many of the European masters which was a surprise. Rembrandt, Goya, Mattise, and Van Gogh just to name a few. There was a very strong connection to Europe in the arts.

Later in the evening we walked the pedestrian mall, Florida Street, to people watch and get some exercise. The rain was merely spitting now and the temperature comfortable.

Dinner was at a restaurant near our hotel and we went back there twice more during our time here.

I had a salad and Doug ordered a steak. Argentina is known for it's beef, free range and grass fed it did not disappoint. Covering the plate it was about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide. The cost for his meal, with salad was only $13.

Cattle ranching is becoming less and less in Argentina. One of the last places where cows are able to graze the fields freely is not as lucrative as growing soybeans. Per square foot you produce more soybeans than beef on the land here. The future is unclear for the beef industry.

Day 31.

We walked for hours exploring our area. A church and then the Parliament buildings were in the first area we stopped. There is so much history here and there were large pictures of many of Argentinas past leaders hanging in the Parliament. There was even a picture of Che Gueverra. I had my pictures taken with these two guards but it is quite fuzzy.


I had really hoped to be able to see a concert at the Opera house but it seems that the entire city of Buenos Aires almost closes shop in February. It is the equivalent to our August and many locals go to the beach or mountains to escape the heat.

We opted for a tour of the building instead and it was fantastic.

Our guide, Emmanuel, was a student there and was very informative and had a great sense of humor. The theatre took over 32 years to build and seemed to have a bit of a curse on it, so they thought. The first two architects died at the age of 44 as did a few of the workers. From then on any worker about to turn 44 would quit. It took a lot of convincing to finally find a third to finish the job. He was told he would be safe as he was age 65, but taking no chances he said he would do it but not take a salary.

When it finally opened, the price of a ticket to a show was about three months salary of an average worker. It was a place where the rich and politicians would come. Most people came to the Opera house, not for the show, but to be seen and to see who was there and what they were wearing.
The building itself is very ornate and beautiful but not gaudy. It reminded us of a combination of the Hermitage and Marinski Theatre in St. Petersburg.

Every chair, drape, carpet and piece of wood was designed in a way to accentuate the acoustics. When you hear a show at the Opera house it is unlike any show you have ever been to according to our guide. He was so passionate about this place. If I were to ever come back to Buenos Aires I would plan it around a concert here.

Day 32

Today we explored the area of San Telmo. Yesterday Buenos Aires was like a ghost town, there were only tourists on the street as it was Sunday. The day before it was the same. It seems that in Buenos Aires people love to go out at night, and they don't start until midnight and go to 4 or so in the morning. So on Saturday and Sunday a great deal of the shops are closed and everyone except the tourists, are sleeping

Today however is Monday and the streets are packed with people. Argentina is in a financial crisis right now. The peso has dropped considerably since we have arrived. You would never know it however, the locals are still out with lots of bags of their purchases and filling cafes and restaurants.

We are only able to withdraw $1,000 pesos a day, the equivalent of $140 CAD which is inconvenient and expensive with the service charges added to each withdrawal.

Police have a very big presence and almost every store has a security guard. We have never felt unsafe however. We find the people here all extremely friendly and helpful when asked questions. A young man from Belgium who is staying at our hotel remarked how the Argentinians are so relaxed and laid back. No one is stressed out. It is true, they never seem in a hurry, I have never heard a raised voice or cross word from or to anyone.

When two people meet they do the fake kiss on the cheek. Co workers, people who know each other on the street, men to men, women to women etc. Everybody seems generally happy to see someone they know.

Line ups are for everything. In the morning we see maybe 100 people or more lined up at the insta banks all over town. There are even more lined up inside. Line ups for grocery lines, movie theatres, and post offices. But no one ever complains or looks annoyed. You never hear anyone say
"Come on......hurry up already!!" They all just stand and patiently wait.

San Telmo is an area of antique stores. Items are sold in areas here. If you want appliances you go to one area of Buenos Aires, another for cameras, somewhere else for eyeglasses etc.

Here were many antique shops. Most were closed today however as yesterday, Sunday, was a big day for a lot of antique flea markets in the streets etc.

Lunch was at a square where two young people were dancing the tango for donations. They were quite good, but on the cruise ship we were fortunate to have a couple who performed a number of times for us and I can not imagine anyone could be better than they were.




Day 33

Palermo Soho was the place we explored today. It was quite a distance so we ventured onto the subway to take us there, which is very inexpensive to ride.

After walking around for a few hours we went into a botanical park which was an oasis in the middle of all the traffic and heat.

We see people all over with cups full of green leaves and a metal straw coming out that they suck on. It looks like a big Sherlock Holmes pipe. We thought it was a drug pipe, pot or something, and were thinking how liberal they are here. Old and young were using these early morning until late afternoon.

I saw two girls on a park bench chatting and indulging so I went up and asked. They thought it was quite funny that I thought it was pot. It is Yerba Matte tea.
They put the tea in the cup, pour hot water over top from the ever present thermos and then drink through the straw. You can not get these in cafes, only use your own. As a matter of fact you can not buy a cup of Yerbe matte tea in any cafe.

Back to the hotel on the subway. It was so hot out, over 33 and 100% humidity. The subway was packed to the gunnels. It was a sardine can sauna. No one else had a bead of sweat on them and I looked like I just stepped out of the shower. How do they do that, look so cool all the time?


Day 34.

Another day of walking the city. We purchased bus tickets for our trip north tomorrow.
I mentioned how wide the roads are here, but last night when we were walking I counted. You can not cross on one light, it takes at least three of the six total to make it.

There are five lanes of traffic going east, then a boulevard and a walk sign. Then four more going east, two bus lanes going east, then two more going west. Another boulevard and a walk sign. Then 4 lanes west, boulevard and then 5 west. A grand total of 22 lanes in the city. This is only a few blocks from our hotel and not a freeway.

You really have to look both ways here to get across without getting run over.

Day 35, Feb 5.

The bus to Salta left on time at 10:30AM . Travel by bus in Argentina is like travelling by plane. We purchased the more expensive seats ($10 more) for the downstairs part of the double decker bus. The seats are two across, an aisle and then one single seat. They are wider than normal and recline 150degrees. With only four rows downstairs it will be quieter and the bathroom is on this floor as well. You can almost lie down in the seats and there is a foot rest.

The bad thing is of course that the seat in front of you also reclines 150 degrees.A young girl and her grandma sat in front of us and grandma had her head in my lap it seemed pretty much the entire trip.

The air conditioning stopped working about a half hour into the trip. It was so hot it became unbearable. The 10 hour journey was not as enjoyable as I had hoped.

Day 36. Cordoba.

Cordoba is a city with four Universities. Unlike Buenos Aires the sidewalks are in good repair and there is no garbage in the streets. There are a few older buildings but for the most part it is very modern and young looking. We walked every day for four or five hours to explore

Day 37.

We are staying in a hotel that encourages families and there are many young children and babies with their parents. It is great to hear young children playing and having fun. The other hotels were so quiet where people barely spoke at breakfast.
Again we walk the city but it is very hot.


This statue is an optical illusion. The statue is actually two feet above the water.

Day 38

I am so tired of wearing the same clothes day in and day out. A large, air conditioned, mall was nearby by so I went to look for a new top or blouse. Every store int he building was very small and the clothes hung perfectly on the racks with spaces in between. They all looked like very exclusive boutiques from West Van or Robson Street. .
These little boutiques also had every size, up to size 6. The fashions were all geared to the young thin student. I am not sure where the fat people that I see shop, they must send them all out of town, as I have never seen any clothes over size 8 since we have been here.

Day 39.

Yesterday we took all of our clothes, pretty much everything, to a laundromat around the corner from our hotel. He said they would be ready at 7:30PM. The sign on the wall said ' Monday to Sunday, 9AM to 8PM'
We showed up at 7:45P and he was closed. The sign on the door had something different. Monday to Friday, 9-7:30P. Yesterday was Friday. We have a bus ticket for Salta on Sunday. Well that sucks.
We figured that four days was already one day too many for Cordoba and now we were here for one more. Thankfully we could extend our stay here one more night.

Another very hot day. We went to a movie at the mall, (air conditioned). It was '12 Years A Slave' , an amazing movie.

Day 40.

Cooler and rainy today. We went for a walk and later back the the movie theatre to watch 'August' with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. Another amazing movie.

Day 41.

Standing in front of the laundromat at 9AM we were so worried that the fellow would not show up on time. We changed our bus tickets to leave today and only had a one hour window. A flood of relief when we saw him walk up at 9:15.
Our 10:30 bus never left until 11:30AM. We used a different company this time and got the two seats at the front which was much better. This bus has a steward who served a small lunch and keeps the bathroom cleanish,although sitting at the front meant we could smel the unpleasant bathroom during the trip. My only complaint.

Movies play on the bus. The first one was 'My name is Khan' which we had wanted to see for a few years now. Great movie. The second one was ' 12 Years A Slave' !' I worked on my blog and slept through most of that one as we had just seen it.

One reason we took the bus was to see the scenery but the steward came back and asked us to close our curtains to keep it cool on the bus.

There were non stop movies. We also saw three more, two really bad ones with terrible swearing, 'Heat' with Sandra Bullock and then the 'Internship 'with Vince Vaughn and finally ' Despicable Me ' which had Spanish subtitles and was also in Spanish.
I read , played solitaire and slept through the last few.

We were served an airline style dinner and finally arrived in Salta at 1AM. We are going to spend a week here I think. We have a lovely one bedroom modern apartment and the elevation is now at 3700 feet. We hope to climb gradually before reaching La Paz which is at 14,000 feet.

The weather looks good outside so now we are off to explore the north of Argentina.

Posted by debbep 18:41 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

(Entries 41 - 50 of 98) Previous « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 8 9 10 » Next