Ica & Paracas

Hello everyone,

This is (finally) the last part of our Peru trip. We’ve been relaxing in Brazil so I haven’t felt like writing any updates and this is only going to be a quick one because we are going to go to the beach soon.

The south of Peru wasn’t our favourite place… I think we would have enjoyed the north more but it was still interesting.

When we arrived in Ica we decided to go straight to Huacachina – it is a little oasis village about 15minutes away from the city of Ica. Here is a lagoon and sand dunes. Lots and lots of sand dunes.

This is Huacachina... a lagoon and sand dunes.
This is Huacachina… a lagoon and sand dunes.
Sunset over the lagoon
Sunset over the lagoon
We climbed up the sand dunes -- so hot. The sand burns.
We climbed up the sand dunes — so hot. The sand burns.

We decided to only spend a night here because it was a PARTY place. Ever single bar and hotel had a party that went on until 8am. It was crazy and so hard to sleep. It was really nice but after taking a paddle boat ride on the lagoon and climbing a sand dune there wasn’t much else to do. We visited some wineries (of course) to see how they make Pisco (40%+ alcohol used in Pisco sour). That was very interesting and we tried some of the wines they make in the region. Interestingly, the type of grape variety they use tastes like the Hubba Bubba grape flavour.

The fermenting pots for Pisco and wine
The fermenting pots for Pisco and wine
Portrait of Simon Bolivar -- this winery is run by his descendants. They also had a bunch of his stuff on show.
Portrait of Simon Bolivar — this winery is run by his descendants. They also had a bunch of his stuff on show.
They also had a bunch of artifacts and relics -- including skulls from Incan times of human sacrifice. Real ones.
They also had a bunch of artifacts and relics — including skulls from Incan times of human sacrifice. Real ones.
The wine maker pouring some wine to try. He dips the bamboo rod into the fermenting pot and there is an opening/cut that collects the wine and he pours it out into a cup/glass.
The wine maker pouring some wine to try. He dips the bamboo rod into the fermenting pot and there is an opening/cut that collects the wine and he pours it out into a cup/glass.
How nice a picture of both of us. surrounded by weird exhibits including stuffed animals, animal skeletons, human remains and just some old stuff.
How nice a picture of both of us. surrounded by weird exhibits including stuffed animals, animal skeletons, human remains and just some old stuff.

After we visited here we jumped on a bus to Paracas. It is a beach town. The cool thing here was the natural reserve. It was a boat trip tour and we got to see so many birds, sea lions, penguins. They were amazing. Interestingly enough, even though this place is a national park and nature reserve and is protected every 7 years the government comes out and collects the bird poop for fertilizer.

The first thing we saw was the sand etching the Candelabra.

Candelabra
Candelabra

Then after about another 15-20minutes in the boat we reached the place where the sea lions, penguins and birds live. It was amazing and our photos don’t do it justice. We were too busy looking and marveling to take heaps of photos. However, this is what we did take.

The first sighting of the sea lions.
The first sighting of the sea lions.
The rock covered in penguins and birds. No wonder they collect hundreds of tonnes of bird poop.
The rock covered in penguins and birds. No wonder they collect hundreds of tonnes of bird poop.
Us enjoying the trip.
Us enjoying the trip.

The rest of Paracas was small — you could easily walk it in about 15minutes. The water wasn’t super clear so we didn’t spend time swimming, we relaxed by the beach, drank coconuts and relished the warm weather. Then we flew to Brazil.

 

Arequipa & Nasca

Hello everyone,

This update will take us to Arequipa and Nasca in Peru.

Arequipa is desert – for the rest of our time in Peru we didn’t see greenery, just sand dunes and hot sun (and a little bit of snow – but more on that later). Interestingly, both Kris and I liked Arequipa and it had a lot of interesting things in it. However, we both preferred Cusco (even though it was cold). It would be interesting to return to Peru and travel the North as opposed to the South like we did this time.

Kris in front of a church - beautiful facade with a lot of details.
Kris in front of a church – beautiful facade with a lot of details.
Beautiful church in the main plaza - was also a museum which allowed us to see some of the very expensive and old religious items that are used in important ceremonies.
Beautiful church in the main plaza – was also a museum which allowed us to see some of the very expensive and old religious items that are used in important ceremonies.

Arequipa has the famous Colca Canyon which we did a tour of and we were lucky enough to see the condors flying. We went at the wrong time of year so it was very lucky. The canyon itself is the deepest in the world and it was magnificent. Our day trip to Colca Canyon started with a 2am wake up call. As we were driving we drive past some pretty tall mountains and volcanoes and since this is the cold part of the year in this part of the country it meant that we saw snow!

Snow!
Snow!

After a few hours of driving we arrived at Colca Valley (which then turns into Colca Canyon).

Colca Valley
Colca Valley

There were so many terraces and because of the depth of the Valley and Canyon they have many vertical micro climates that allow them to grow various crops, including tropical crops such as avocados.

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Once we reached the Condor viewing point we saw the condors flying. They are the second largest bird (second to the wandering albatross) and can weigh up to 15kg and reach a wingspan of about 3.1m.

Flying Condor
Flying Condor

When we finished here we stopped in one of the small towns and we got to hold an eagle (very well looked after and treated very well).

Kris with an Eagle
Kris with an Eagle
Yulia with an Eagle
Yulia with an Eagle

We also walked over a rope/wood bridge which could only hold two people at a time and Kris (obviously) shook it so it was difficult to walk on it.

Shaky bridge
Shaky bridge

We also followed a man on a horse who was throwing candy while wearing a costume. We are not sure what the was representing but there was music, a big crowd and we got some candy!

Man on horse throwing candy
Man on horse throwing candy

We also saw some mummies (not technically correct, because they are human remains that are frozen rather than mummies). Very interesting history of human sacrifice and learnt about that and saw one of the finds (still frozen and kept at -20degrees for preservation).

Nasca was a lot smaller and we walked the town in about 30 minutes. The main attraction here was the Nasca lines which we saw from a small plane.

Next to the plane that will take us up to see the lines.
Next to the plane that will take us up to see the lines.
Feeling optimistic that I won't feel sick on such a small plane. Also excited to see the lines.
Feeling optimistic that I won’t feel sick on such a small plane. Also excited to see the lines.
The Astronaut line -- we have photos of the more famous ones but they are harder to see in our photos. They were very clear from the airplane though.
The Astronaut line — we have photos of the more famous ones but they are harder to see in our photos. They were very clear from the airplane though.

At the end the trip was a success — I felt sick but managed not to vomit (yay!) and we got to see 12 of the most clear and famous lines including the hummingbird! Very exciting and absolutely worth it, other than that there is nothing else in Nasca.

There are two more places to update about in Peru which I will do at some point.

p.s. we are loving Brazil right now 🙂

Cusco & Inka Trek

Hello All,

We have a couple of hours before our bus leaves Cusco and we head off to Arequipa. Now seems like the perfect time to back up our photos and share some of our journey with you.

In short, Cusco during wet season is exactly that. Wet and cold. We had rain every day that we were here, but that didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves and having a great time. Our first two days B.T (before trek) we took everyone’s advice, took it easy, relaxed, drank a lot of Mate de Coca (Coca tea – helps with altitude sickness). We also ate a lot of delicious local food.

Adobo (thick pork soup) and Chicheron (fried pork)
Adobo (thick pork soup) and Chicheron (fried pork)

We saw the famous twelve sided stone.

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Kris with the twelve sided stone.

After our trek the weather didn’t improve – we had a lot of dark clouds and even had some hail on our first day back from the trek. We decided to spend a few extra days post trek in Cusco and are so pleased that we did. It meant that we got to be a part of the first weekend of the new year which saw a MASSIVE Catholic procession in the street to the church with the main church being FULL. It also meant that we were part of a lot of festivities and markets to bring in the new year.

Weather in Cusco -- dark rain clouds all the time cover the city with downpours happening often. It's PONCHO time.
Weather in Cusco — dark rain clouds all the time cover the city with downpours happening often. It’s PONCHO time.
Trying Guinea Pig at a local restaurant 'Cusquenita'. They also had a show at this place which was amazing.
Trying Guinea Pig at a local restaurant ‘Cusquenita’. They also had a show at this place which was amazing.
The procession into the church with all the locals joining in singing and playing instruments.
The procession into the church with all the locals joining in singing and playing instruments.
We did get to see a rainbow over the church which made up for all the rain we had :)
We did get to see a rainbow over the church which made up for all the rain we had 🙂

We also saw all the churches, ruins and Christo Blanco but that would be way too many photos here. We also ate at the markets (a lot), saw a lot of local produce and happily ate avocado with every meal (they have giant avocados).

Inka Trek

The Inka Trek was on my bucket list for a long time and I am so pleased to have finally completed it. We had an amazing group (just four people) and a great guide. I think a small group like ours meant we were able to be a lot more flexible than the bigger groups (10+ people) that we saw along the way.

So hopeful at the start of the trek
So hopeful at the start of the trek

As it was rainy season we had a lot of rain. Every day. For many hours. This became known to our little group as ‘PONCHO TIME’.

At a rest stop - please note that I am covered with rain. This was the first PONCHO time.
At a rest stop – please note that I am covered with rain. This was the first PONCHO time.
More rain. Always more rain.
More rain. Always more rain.
This is the view from our tent on the first camp night. Worth the 11km hike through the rain and wind? Absolutely.
This is the view from our tent on the first camp night. Worth the 11km hike through the rain and wind? Absolutely.

On the second day (hardest day) we climbed to the highest altitude and then descended again. For many, the uphill climb was the battle. For us it was the downhill as we had so much rain the downhill was a river (literally) and we had to be really careful with our knees and ankles.

At the top (4215m altitude).
At the top (4215m altitude).
Day 3 we had pockets of dry weather. When I say pockets I do mean we had 10-15minutes without rain.
Day 3 we had pockets of dry weather. When I say pockets I do mean we had 10-15minutes without rain.

Then we celebrated New Year and my birthday. Freddy our cook had made a delicious cake, everyone sang happy birthday. We left our camera in the tent so will share photos when our trek buddies send them through to us. Feliz Ano Nuevo.

On my birthday we reached Machu Picchu and it didn’t rain. YAY! There were clouds but they parted and gave us beautiful, magical views. No amount of words or pictures can do this justice. It is something that must be experienced for oneself and is made so much more meaningful after 3 days of hiking in rain and wind. Having nothing dry. A 3am wake up call to reach the check point in time.

Happy New Year!! Even with the early wake up call.
Happy New Year!! Even with the early wake up call.
This was our first view of Machu Picchu (it is behind the clouds) as per usual on our trek. It did clear and we had a great view (for a brief moment).
This was our first view of Machu Picchu (it is behind the clouds) as per usual on our trek. It did clear and we had a great view (for a brief moment).

Finally, we reached the postcard view of Machu Picchu. We were so proud of ourselves and the clouds parted to show us this magical place.

Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu.

Also, before I forget. Machu Picchu has llama’s. We fed the llama’s.

Feeding the llama's with Machu Picchu in the background. Just another ordinary birthday :)
Feeding the llama’s with Machu Picchu in the background. Just another ordinary birthday 🙂

Lima

Hello everyone,

Our trip to Lima started EARLY. We needed to be at the airport at 6:30am for our 5hour flight. The flight was uneventful (other than it was freezing). We flew over the Andes which was beautiful!

Flying over the Andes
Flying over the Andes

Once we arrived at the airport we picked up one of our bags from the conveyor belt. It was so quick we were excited that for once our bags would arrive quickly and we would be out there – 45 minutes later we were in line for the lost baggage claim… My bag hadn’t arrived. After another 45 minutes they announced that they had found some extra bags and (luckily) mine was one of them.  We went through customs and found a taxi to take us to our hotel. Our taxi was going so well… and then he got lost. for over an hour going around the same streets because he didn’t have a map or GPS. We kept asking him to call the hotel and get directions, which he did after almost 2 hours of driving. By the time we reached the hotel we were irritated and exhausted.

That night was Christmas Eve so we got some food, wandered around and had a pretty uneventful evening. Christmas day we went to Miraflores. It is the touristy area in Lima and also a rich/nice area with some pretty buildings houses. The main thing that we found here was a cat park. Right near a church is the central park of Miraflores. The church put out food and drink for the local stray animals, the cats now live in the park and are well looked after, clean and super friendly. If you sit down they will come and sit on you.

I sat down and within 10 seconds this beauty was on my lap, settled in for a tummy rub.
I sat down and within 10 seconds this beauty was on my lap, settled in for a tummy rub.
There is about a dozen cats in this picture... and about 50 cats in this park when we were there. GLORIOUS.
There is about a dozen cats in this picture… and about 50 cats in this park when we were there. GLORIOUS.
Enjoying a scratch and a pat from KT
Enjoying a scratch and a pat from KT
Beautiful kitty all curled up
Beautiful kitty all curled up

We then walked around some other places in town and because it was Christmas — many things were closed so we are going back tomorrow. However, the cat park was glorious and my favourite part of the city.

As we are going to be busy in Lima, Cusco and on the Inka Trek over the next week or so. I will wish everyone a Happy New Year and will probably do an update some time in the New Year.

Buenos Aires

Hello everyone,

We have safely arrived in South America after an arduous 30 hours flying :S

We spent our first 3 nights in Buenos Aires in Argentina and it was amazing.

The city landscape was stunning – so much greenery everywhere, on buildings, balconies and just taking over everywhere.

Building overgrown with green
Building overgrown with green

 

The trees are so big they need support posts (and some of them are very creatively done)

Tree so large it needed support
Tree so large it needed support

Even the cemetery vaults are overflowing with greenery.

Vault at the Recoletta Cemetary
Vault at the Recoleta Cemetary

Added to that as the colour of the city itself. Nothing is in pastel colours it is all BOLD and BRIGHT. Buildings are rainbow coloured, or there will be a row of buildings in red, green, yellow, blue and all other colours.

So much colour on one building.
So much colour on one building.

The animals are all really well cared for and we didn’t see any stray animals at all (well, that’s not true. We saw a couple of very well looked after cats while we were touring the Recoleta Cemetary (see the cat sleeping in the photo of the vault…)

We really enjoyed our time at Buenos Aires. We walked the streets and ate some amazing food (lots of meat!!) The best place was one we stumbled into on our first day for lunch. It was a family run place and we would have walked past it because it was all in the backyard and you enter through the driveway/gate. The steak was very thin and cooked well (all the way through). At first we were worried thinking it would be chewy or tough but it was amazing – so tender and soft.

The restaurant
The restaurant
We forgot to take a photo of the food before we ate it because it looked delicious
We forgot to take a photo of the food before we ate it because it looked delicious

We also visited the famous Recoleta Cemetary. It was the first public cemetary and it is very prestigious. A medium sized vault (roughly 18 coffins) will cost up to $60 000 US. To restore a vault if it has been run down will cost up to $400 000 US. So it’s not a cheap place to rest. Only the rich and important people are buried here.

We were lucky enough that while we were walking around one of the caretakers allowed us to see inside a family vault which was very special and a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is quite spacious in the vaults and they have two underground levels with different degrees of ‘fancy’.

Rows of vaults at Recoleta
Rows of vaults at Recoleta
Falling apart
Falling apart

Some of the vaults are falling apart because they are not cared for/looked after by the owners. This could be because the owners no longer care, cannot afford it or have all died. It is private property and because it was sold in perpetuity even if the owners do not pay the taxes on the land the government will not take it. They will do the bare minimum (as seen in the photo) to keep the vaults safe and from destroying other property but they will not seize it.

Recoleta is also the buriel place of Eva Peron (Evita).

Resting place of Eva Peron
Resting place of Eva Peron

Final photo is a view of the cemetery from the Cathedral next door. The land was originally gardens for the clergy before the government turned it into a public cemetery. The cloisters overlook the cemetery and provides for a great view.

View of Recoleta from the cathedral cloisters
View of Recoleta from the cathedral cloisters

Tomorrow is Christmas and as such most things will probably be closed, meaning we will be able to have a restful day. Wishing you all a very happy festive holiday season and I will write about our eventful trip into Lima tomorrow 🙂

2 week countdown…

We have finished an extremely busy couple of weeks with KT doing his computer contracting work, attending a family wedding and still trying to complete other tasks before we fly out on our 64 day holiday.

We are now at LESS THAN 2 WEEKS away from flying out on our dream holiday. The excitement is building at the ‘to do’ list is growing shorter and longer. I am ticking things off as I go, but for each item I tick off I realise there are extra things that I have forgotten.

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This weekend we are sorting out the medical things we need — a letter from the GP for various medications and such as well as getting our yellow fever vaccinations (not looking forward to that one).

However, I have:

– found my backpack (buried in my parents garage);
– bought some active wear which will help us hike and trek on our trip (keep us dry and cool and not stinky);
– bought a Portuguese phrasebook and found my Spanish phrasebook;
– informed everyone of our travel plans and left copies of important documents, printed off any copies of documents we may need to carry with us.

It doesn’t seem like a big dent in the ‘to do’ list but with some of the major events finished (i.e. wedding) I now also have a lot more time so it doesn’t feel so scary.

Work is winding up for the year (for me at least, with KT still running around like a madman trying to finish everything for his business).

With only 12 days before we fly out… I’m feeling EXCITED

 

Four week countdown…

Today marks the four week countdown to our trip.

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I should be feeling really excited, instead I’m feeling overwhelmed and unprepared.

Logically, I know all will be okay because let’s face it — I’m super organised.

We have our visa for Brazil, our reciprocity fee is paid and our first few night’s accommodation is booked.

So what am I worried about?

I am worried about the fact that in the next four weeks we have:

– a business (or two) to start;

– a wedding to go to (really excited about this one!);

– yellow fever vaccinations (feeling queasy just thinking about it);

– friends to catch up with;

– full time jobs to do;

– go to the doctor for scripts and letter’s for our medication; AND

– pack and make sure we have all the correct paperwork sorted.

I guess writing it down doesn’t seem to bad. At this point I just need to remember to

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