Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lima

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We ended up not having much time in Lima, due to our extra night in Puerto Maldonado. We spent the afternoon walking around Miraflores district, having Ceviche for lunch at a charming little restaurant and then riding a double decker bus. The bus was a great way to see the main sights quickly.

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The Huaca Pucllana are preInca ruins in the middle of the city of Lima

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We were all looking (and smelling) quite lovely by this point... no showers since leaving the jungle.

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We visited some interesting art galleries...

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I can't remember what anything was called, but once again, there was some beautiful architecture and of course the ocean. I wish I lived beside the ocean...

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Jungle

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Meet Omero (Homer in english). He came to greet us as we settled into our thatched roofed houses in the jungle. There were a few birds that had been rescued around the Eco Lodge and these birds were the highlight of the jungle for my kids. I think they would have brought this one home if there was anyway to get it through immigration.

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This bird was a little crazy. It would laugh hysterically when Micah pretended to fall off of the hammock. In the early morning, you would hear him screaming like a woman being murdered in the woods.

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He even wanted to come onto our boat tour one day with Josiah. As soon as the boat took off, he flew back to safety.

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Anyone who knows Josiah, can see that he is in his glory here. He did not want to leave the jungle.

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To get to our lodge, we had to fly from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado. We saw monkeys everyday. We saw macaws. And many creepy crawlies. Abby liked to make fun of me because I would spray around my bed with bug spray and slide under my mosquito net each night. This was of course, right after she made me tuck her mosquito net tightly around her first.

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Everyday, we would go by canoe and hike. Usually, about 4KM. Into the jungle. Once to a pretty lake, filled with apparently, very nice piranha's that would NEVER bite you unless you happen to be bleeding. There were likely some anaconda's in there too, I wish we would have seen one! The only snakes we saw were tree snakes.

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We ate a lot of fresh fruit and the kids were able to pick bananas off of the bunches around us. So amazing.

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We never saw any other animals -- we wanted to see a jaguar -- but only saw footprints. I think that was on the Malaria Trail, or maybe it was the Yellow Fever Trail...

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We visited a local farm. All of the food that we ate at the lodge was locally grown.

This lodge was much better than I expected. It takes me a bit of time to adjust when I am out of my comfort zone and the first night I slept very restlessly. The jungle is very loud. It is like the NYC of bugs. The second night was much better. The third night I woke up to the sound of a rat outside my house (remember this is kind of a hut with screen walls and a thatched roof) squealing and fighting in the grass below my bed. This was of course, after I had seen a rat run along the roof inside the dining hall during supper.

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We had another amazing guide at the Eco Lodge (along with Jose, who was always with us -- we always knew where he was, because he would be singing). Leao took us on all of our jungle tours. The first night was a walk in the jungle in the dark with flashlights. Creepy. Especially, when we all turned out the lights to see how dark it was. He could spot monkeys, bugs, footprints, etc. even when they were so far away, we couldn't find them when he told us where to look. We also did a night river tour to find animals along the banks and he would find cayman, catabarras and even a sloth way up in a tree, in the dark.

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The kids loved to swim in the creek.

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The Tambopata Lodge took a one hour bus ride and then a 1 1/2 hour boat ride to get to. It only had power from 5 - 10 pm. It was beautiful.

After three days, we headed back to the city of Puerto Maldonado. We ended up staying the in the airport all day, waiting to fly back to Lima, but our plane never came due to high winds in Cuzco. We were taken to a "5 star" hotel. It was maybe 1 star, only because it had Wifi. I have never stayed anywhere so nasty. It was very dirty and the bathroom hadn't been cleaned. There were no pillowcases on the looney toon, rock hard pillows. We were scared to sleep on the sheets. It was smoking hot and we were trying not to melt. The bathroom had a glass door you could see through. Abby would move on her bed and the sheets would pop off. When we turned out the lights, the hallway light reflected through the louvers above our door, onto a mirror, and back into a perfect round spotlight on Abby's face. It was so bad that we laughed more that night then any other. Aaaahhhh... the memories...

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Sacred Valley

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Throughout this trip all the girls would stay together, usually in one room, and all the boys would stay together. It made our family feel a little disjointed, but at the same time, as girls, we had an absolute blast. It was like a ten day slumber party. Abby and I always laugh together, but on this trip, we laughed even more. Apparently, I amuse her.

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After visiting Machu Picchu, we headed to Ollantaytambo for the night. We stayed at Hotel Sol y Luna, which was the most beautiful place I have ever stayed. We each had our own casita style homes with hot tubs in the back. There was a little plate with cookies set out for us.

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Me: "Zoe, what do you think this is?"
Zoe: "I don't know, we should try it!"

Me: "What do you think this is?"
Zoe: "I don't know, we should try that too!"

Zoe: "Mom, you should try this one too!"

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Micah was sick while we were here and so things were not quite so relaxing for Tim who was constantly cleaning up after him.

There was a beautiful horse show while we ate dinner (these horses had been released right as we were walking across the field for dinner, I ran away in a panic, leaving Abby doubled over with laughter) and this is the restaurant that we tried the guinea pig. It was very good and tasted like dry ribs... you just had to ignore the little leg bones!

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The next morning, we headed to the Pisac ruins which were, once again, beautiful.

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All the holes in the mountain, in the photo below are tombs of the Inca's.

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We had lunch at the Alhambra Restaurant, where the kids were able to feed the Alpaca's. This white one made me laugh.

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We walked through the narrow streets of this town and were able to go into the courtyard of a family there to get an idea of how they live. Drastically different then how we live here.

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Sweet babies everywhere...

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Next up... the jungle. This was our favourite part of the trip!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cuzco and Machu Picchu

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Where do I even start? My post before we left was way off base... I was worried for no reason about things I didn't need to worry about. At times I wondered why I would take seven children with me to Peru. It was the most amazing trip. We felt completely safe the entire time, thanks in part to our guide, who was also amazing. The main reason we chose to visit Peru, was to see Machu Picchu. I had heard rumours that it may be shut down to tourists in the next five years or so and wanted to make sure we would see it before it was. Apparently, tourists will still be allowed to visit Machu Picchu, but may not be allowed full access to the site as they are right now.

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We showed up in Lima in the evening and were tired from a long day of traveling. We knew our guide would be there to meet us with our name on a sign. What we didn't expect, was that there would be hundreds of people holding signs with names on them! But my kids spotted him almost immediately in the middle of the crowd.

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We had a quick layover in Lima and got up early the next morning to fly to Cuzco. We toured around the city a little bit by foot and then on bus. We visited Qurikancha, which was the most important temple in the Inca Empire. When the Spanish came, they built over top many of the Inca buildings. The city square is beautiful. The cathedrals are stunning. We went to Saksaywaman, on the outskirts of Cuzco, which is the former capital of the Inca empire. This is a huge area that the locals still use as a park to spend time with their families, typically on Sundays. You would see people playing sports, visiting and roasting potatoes in the ground. Many of the woman still wear the traditional Andean dress, which is bright and colourful. I loved the architecture and the people. Many woman dress up, carrying babies and baby sheep, so the tourists can take pictures with them (for money of course). Our guide asked that we don't take pictures with anyone carrying the baby sheep, because they take these animals away from their mothers and they often die. At one point, I was taking a photo of one of these woman and a security guard ran up to her and grabbed her hat and ran away. She wasn't suppose to be there. But the whole situation was a little violent, especially considering she had a baby on her back. Which may or may not have been her own child.

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We also saw the mini Christ the Redeemer statue, which is a huge statue of Jesus that overlooks the city, much like the one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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We then drove by bus to the train station, where went by train to the town of Machu Picchu. The train ride made me feel like I was back in the Canadian Rockies, until the vegetation started to become much more tropical. Along the way, carved into the mountain was a sign that said "C God". I had prayed before this trip that my kids would see God in the beauty of Peru. This was like a reminder to me to seek him in all I saw in the Andies, despite the poverty. The town of Machu Picchu is all touristy. We ate along the train tracks in one of the many restaurants. We tried the Inca Cola, which the kids loved! Tim and Abby enjoyed eating Alpaca, to me it tasted a little gamey. The food in Peru was amazing... we even ate Cuy (guinea pig).

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Machu Picchu.

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Amazing.

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I am not going to give a history lesson here. But these Inca people were smart people! There was so much information, that my brain couldn't quite grasp it all. We seemed to be given the best guide. He is doing a masters in Archeology and his focus is Machu Picchu. He is even writing a book that he hopes to have published in about a year. He is also a very good photographer and takes some beautiful photos. Micah asked me if Jose was married. I said no. He exclaimed, "But he has a beard!".

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We split Machu Picchu into two days. The first visit was in the afternoon, and by this time most of the tourists had left, so the place was very quiet. We hiked to an Inca bridge. It was one of those hikes where I wondered if I would have nightmares later of my children falling off the edge of the mountain. Especially after being told that if they did fall off the mountain, there would be no way to get them.

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The next day we went back in the morning. It was much busier. We took a tour with another guide and learned the same things that our regular guide had already told us. Josiah exclaimed at one point that walking up and down all the stairs was like walking up to Abby's bedroom... anyone who's been in our house will understand! Josiah also said that there must not have been any fat Inca's. The stairs are everywhere and built much like the stairs on the Great Wall of China.

We hiked half way up to the Sun gate, which gave some great views down onto the ruins.

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*Zoe laying on the sacrificial table.

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Zoe twisted her ankle and exclaimed, "Oh great! Now I only have one ankle!" A few minutes later she twisted her other ankle and exclaimed, "Oh great! Now I don't have any ankles!".

To be continued...