Off to Saigon

After a month of planning and anticipation we left Toronto for Vietnam with a long layover in Beijing. The approach to Beijing was remarkable. Extraordinarily dense development with the city peeking out of a heavy layer of smog. Not surprisingly, Beijing Capital Airport is vastly larger than I remember from our first visit in 1982. … Continue reading Off to Saigon

Last days in Peru

We flew back to Lima and split with our group to spend our second last day exploring Pachacámac, an enormous, sprawling archaeological site about 31 km south of Lima. It was a major adventure that required two local minibuses and another bus down the highway to the site. I'm not sure how, but we navigated … Continue reading Last days in Peru

Email is great when it works but a big pain when it doesn’t

When I checked my email on February 27, a strange thing happened. There was nothing new. Not even the junk mail that greets me every morning. Oh well, thought I, just a glitch, I should log on fresh and get things synced up. It can occasionally happen that, due to an update or some such, … Continue reading Email is great when it works but a big pain when it doesn’t

Machu Picchu!

It was an early start. Well before the crack of dawn we left our hotel and trudged down to Aguas Calientes' bus loading area to join a very long but fast-moving line for the nine km, 1,500 ft. grind up the Hiram Bingham Highway to Machu Picchu. Walking is an option for those with a masochistic bent but … Continue reading Machu Picchu!

Train ride, long hike, jungle waterfall, early night

We were off to Aguas Calientes and our long-anticipated visit to the "Lost City of the Incas," Machu Picchu. It was an early morning departure from the Hotel Marquese in Cusco for the five-hour PeruRail Vistadome trip to Aguas Calientes. We could have walked the Inca Trail -- four days three nights of hard, high … Continue reading Train ride, long hike, jungle waterfall, early night

Stepping up, stepping down in the Sacred Valley

Still acclimatizing for Machu Picchu, we spent the day exploring the so-called "Sacred Valley," so-called because according to our guide this is a recent name, created for touristic purposes. Oh well, still a lovely, extraordinary place and the centre of the Inca Empire. First stop was Awana Kancha Living Museum of the Andes which features llamas and … Continue reading Stepping up, stepping down in the Sacred Valley

Discovering Cusco

Truth is that I had never heard of Cusco and had very little idea what to expect. This was a pre-arranged tour so research was not necessary and I let the experience sweep me along. Looking out over Cusco. So it came as a bit of a surprise that this provincial town and ancient Inca … Continue reading Discovering Cusco

Tour bus to Cusco, the Inca capital

It's been a while but Vietnam and Xmas are behind me and it's a new year so time to get back to blogging. Our trip to Cusco was by a guided public tour bus with several stops on the way and it didn't start well. Our six am transportation didn't show up at the hotel … Continue reading Tour bus to Cusco, the Inca capital

To Cambodia by bus

We're travelling so I've taken a break from posting Peru things and hope my accumulating stock of photos will keep me busy for those long winter nights. It's been a wonderful adventure -- only a smidge of the runs and that passed fast. Imodium and cipro are my friends! After a few days in Ho Chi Minh City … Continue reading To Cambodia by bus

Lake Titicaca

Puno is Peru's major port on Lake Titicaca. Shared with Bolivia, Titicaca's 12,500 ft. elevation makes it the world's highest navigable lake. We set out early for our lake trip and the first stop was a group of floating islands (Islas de los Uros) in marshy areas near Puno. The Uru people live on more … Continue reading Lake Titicaca

Pressing on to Puno

We departed Chivay for a look at the Colca Canyon which descends more than 10,000 feet making it the deepest canyon in the world. Despite low agricultural prices which make farming unprofitable, people still cultivate some of the terraces which line the canyon. The Colca Canyon is also home to Condor Cross (Cruz Del Condor) where Andean condors make daily … Continue reading Pressing on to Puno

Up to Abra Patapampa & down to Chivay

We set off from Arequipa in a small bus with a new guide. Peter announced he would be our doctor and gave a detailed lecture on preventing altitude sickness. I had brought a prescription but opted for the recommended combination of coca leaf, dark chocolate and mineral water. I soon had a big wad of coca … Continue reading Up to Abra Patapampa & down to Chivay

Vietnam Visa sticker shock

Gone are the days of showing up at the border and having a nice man stamp your passport and welcome you to his country. We're planning our next trip to Vietnam and just got our 30-day multiple entry tourist visas. Almost C$200 each. Yikes! Here's the painful bill: Note that a multiple entry visa is required … Continue reading Vietnam Visa sticker shock

To Peru’s White City in the black of night

The 10-hour Nazca to Arequipa overnight bus trip was not a pleasant experience. There were no stops and the bus ground slowly on with lots of sharp turns and -- judging from the sound of the engine -- big hills. Maybe it was better that we couldn't see anything. The only alternative was to backtrack to Lima … Continue reading To Peru’s White City in the black of night

Peruvian textiles

Handmade textiles are a big part of Peruvian life. Alpacas and llamas provide the fibre which is often hand-dyed using traditional methods and is spun, woven, embroidered and knit into all kinds of products with both traditional and modern designs. Mummies are still clad in their 2,000-year-old shrouds and museums display some amazing examples of similarly-ancient … Continue reading Peruvian textiles

Nazca’s desert mummies

After the Nazca Lines flight, our stop at the Chauchilla Cemetery, an open-air Nazca Culture burial site and Indiana Jones movie location, was decidedly more subterranean. Legally protected since 1997, Chauchilla was discovered in the 1920s but local grave robbers (huaqueros) plundered valuable artifacts and damaged the site. The cemetery is in the middle of a … Continue reading Nazca’s desert mummies

Nazca Lines, Geoglyphs & Biomorphs

Ahhh… the big day… our flight over the Nazca Lines. Safety standards are said to be high for these flights, a co-pilot is required and they claim to have rigorous mechanical checks for the aircraft. Apparently this was not always the case but these flights bring in a lot of cash and they don’t want … Continue reading The mysterious Nazca Lines

Even if you’re not a birder, the Ballestas are remarkable

Wonderful visit to the Reserva Nacional Islas Ballestas. Only protected since 2010, the area was once covered by guano up to 70m thick. The nineteenth century guano trade created modern "input-intensive" farming and guano is still mined though in much lower quantities. Before the birdshit came the birds and they are still there in vast quantities and configurations, … Continue reading Even if you’re not a birder, the Ballestas are remarkable

Dry & dryer… on to Paracas

Departed Lima for Paracas, a coastal city several hours south, aboard a double-decker tourist bus. A very bleak desert journey with endless semi-cultivated fields, debris, half-finished buildings and an occasional dusty person. A depressing sight and hard to imagine there was anything worth seeing or visiting. Our destination changed that perception. Paracas is a small, walkable beach … Continue reading Dry & dryer… on to Paracas

Acclimatizing in Lima

This was a first for us  -- a private tour put together for a group of friends, neighbours, relatives and assorted hangers-on. It was treat to be picked up at the airport and not face the unease that comes when arriving in a strange city at 2 am. Next morning we were right at it and had three … Continue reading Acclimatizing in Lima