Posts Tagged With: travel photos

Climbing to the Rooftop of Africa

If you had asked me growing up what my travel goals were, I would have given you a long list, which included travelling to all the continents, visiting all the countries my Grandma had travelled to and more, seeing the wonders of the world, and on and on…but climbing mountains was never something I had really thought much about. In fact, if you had asked if summiting mountains was a goal of mine, I would likely have just laughed—at least until I spent several months living in Kenya, and found myself climbing Mt. Kenya. It ended up being a tough but very cool adventure, and I thought, Well, now I can check climbing a mountain off my life list and move on! 

Climbing bigger mountains definitely wasn’t in the plans until some members of the group who I had volunteered with in Kenya in 2008 started talking about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. After debating my plans to never climb another mountain, I decided it would be a great adventure and I’m never one who likes to be left behind or miss out on a great experience…even if it is a challenging one.

So this is how, exactly ten years ago today, I found myself in Moshi, Tanzania, having an early morning cup of Kilimanjaro coffee while waiting to meet our guide and set off on our trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro.

We met our guide, Julius, who told us to call him “Whitey,” an interesting nickname for this tall, dark Tanzanian guide. We all introduced ourselves and headed over to the Ahsante Tours office to pick up any rented gear and have a briefing before setting off to the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. 

We arrived at the Machame Route Gate, at a height of 1800m, got signed in and met our assistant guide, Benedict, or “Benny.” We took a group shot to mark the start of our trek and by 10:45am, we finally started making our way up the tallest mountain in Africa. 

Whitey and Benny- our amazing guides

We spent the day hiking and chatting away, something that slowly died down on subsequent days as the air got thinner and our energy levels dwindled. But for now, we were fresh and excited. The setting today felt like hiking through a jungle, with some steep muddy parts thrown in to challenge us.

In between Whitey regaling us with songs, including a soulful rendition of “Hakuna Matata” and laughing and yelling out encouragement to us as we hiked along, I had some questions for him. I wanted to know how many times he had climbed this mountain, and he told me he quit counting at 120. 120?!? For me, once proved to be a challenge. I cannot imagine trekking up and down this mountain well over 120 times. (He is still a guide today, so I can only imagine what his count is now!) He’s been working on the mountain for 7 years, beginning as a porter at 18 years old, quickly working through the ranks to assistant guide and doing all the required training to become a lead guide. He told me becoming a guide was his dream. He grew up in Moshi and spent his childhood looking out at Mt. Kilimanjaro, knowing one day he wanted to climb it. Once he did, he couldn’t wait to bring others up his beloved mountain so they could see the beauty for themselves. We were definitely in good hands with him, and his love for his job and the mountain were unmistakable. He said he feels most at home on the mountain, and when he’s gone, he can’t wait to get back. 

Around 5pm, we made it out of the jungle and into that evening’s camp, already set up and waiting for us. After settling into our tents, we met in the dining tent for hot chocolate and popcorn. Then we walked up to the ranger station to check in that we made it through day one, and then Whitey led us in what became a nightly routine of singing and dancing all together with our guides and porters.

This was a team bonding time, which became a little harder each day as our energy waned. But no matter how tired we were, we always mustered a last bit of strength for this fun. A perfect way to end each day of trekking! 

The food prepared for each of our meals along this journey was delicious, made even more so by how hungry we were by the end of each day and how impressive it was that they were making pumpkin soup, pasta dishes and tasty desserts on the side of a mountain!

After dinner each night, Whitey came in to brief us on what the following day would entail and ask each of us to share our high and low moment of the day—another great daily tradition of this trek. Bedtime came early each night as we were always exhausted from the day.

“Now I’m in my tent, writing about day one by the light of my headlamp on Mt. Kili, 3000m up. How cool is that? Amazing!”  — Journal excerpt

Day two began at 6am with a knock on the tent. “Jambo, good morning! Tea for you!” I opened the tent to find steaming mugs of chai tea waiting, a cozy way to start the morning, still wrapped up in my sleeping bag. 

Breakfast was at 7am, before starting the day’s journey at 8am. Whitey told us today would definitely be “Pole Pole,” which means “slowly, slowly” in Swahili. He had told us from the start this was how we would be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and repeated these words often throughout the trek. Pole Pole was certainly the mantra of today as we made our way mostly uphill on a six-hour trek.

We stopped for lunch around 12pm and then made it to camp around 3pm. All day today, the scenery was beautiful. We woke up above the clouds and by lunchtime had climbed above a second layer of clouds.

In the distance, you could see the summit of Mt. Meru in Arusha peeking out from the clouds. We were now up at 3,800m. We climbed up to 3,900m and then back down a bit to sleep and let our bodies adjust to the altitude. “Climb High, Sleep Low” was another mountain mantra that helped us to safely acclimatize.

Tonight’s camp was at Shira Cave, so after settling in, Benny took us up to see the old cave.

“The sunset tonight was incredible, going down through the clouds, behind the hills, and the view of the peak was amazing. It’s so beautiful and peaceful up here. After dinner, once it was dark, the sky was lit up by 1000s of stars. Gorgeous. Tonight was one of the most beautiful sunsets and starry skies I’ve ever seen. Breathtaking!”  — Journal excerpt 

Once again, day three began at 6am with another steaming cup of chai tea at our tent door. A girl could get used to this kind of wake up…even if it is earlier than I would like!

Another incredible view this morning up above the clouds, with the summit stretching high above us and the sun just starting to streak through the clouds.

Getting packed up to leave camp on Day #3

Our highest point today was Lava Tower at 4560m, a very cool rock formation created by volcanic activity on the mountain years ago. The tower stands 90m tall and is a beautiful backdrop for a much-needed resting spot by this point in the trek. We went back down to 3950m to sleep. 

Every time I’d ask Whitey how much farther, he’d tell me we were almost there. Finally, about nine hours later, it was true! Each day, our singing and dancing ritual got a little more challenging, but still no one could resist celebrating the end of another day of trekking and being closer to our goal of reaching the summit.

On day four, after about 20 minutes of hiking, we arrived at Barranco Wall, a challenging climb up 257m. We went Pole Pole for sure here, trying not to lose our footing. We carefully made our way up this part of the trek, our guides helping us across the tricky parts.

As we got to higher altitudes and trickier spots, we had both Whitey and Benny, plus Francis and Joaquim, two other guides in training, with us at all times to help us along and make sure everyone was still doing okay with the altitude.

Today was when things really got tough. The higher altitudes and steeper parts were challenging and we were moving at a turtle’s pace. Even if we wanted to go faster, I’m not sure many of us could have done anything other than go Pole Pole.

Camp tonight had by far the best bathrooms—still just a squat hole in the ground—but this one had a cement floor, instead of the usual wood. And even better, the contents weren’t up around the top! (Some days it’s the little things that bring you joy!) Whitey gave us a pep talk as part of the briefing tonight and we all went to bed early to prepare for the summit. 

We were woken up at 11:30pm to get ready and had hot chocolate, popcorn and porridge. I was dressed in as many layers as I could manage because it was freezing in the pitch-black night this high up on the mountain. We set off just after midnight, with only the stars above and our headlamps to help guide our way. You could only see what was right in front of you, which was likely a good thing, because if I had seen how far and high I still had to go in the freezing cold, I might have crawled right back into my warm sleeping bag!

We took a break about halfway up. 

“When you looked out across the darkness, you could see the red/orange line of the sun beginning to rise above the clouds and there was a tiny sliver of a crescent moon just above the cloud line. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, and for a moment, I forgot about being freezing and exhausted and just stared out at the beauty, taking it all in.”  — Journal excerpt

The higher we climbed, the harder it got. My muscles burned and near the top, my breathing became more laboured. We made our way through the snow and ice closer to the top, past the glaciers.

Whitey said he’d already seen a dramatic decline in the size of the glaciers in the seven years he had been climbing Kilimanjaro due to global warming. It was still an impressive sight, but I wonder what it used to look like?  

We stopped for a tea break, before slowly continuing along the snowy, rocky trail to Stella Point. From there, we only had an hour left to go, but that last hour felt like we were hardly moving, everyone inhaling deeply, trying to get enough oxygen to take our next slow step. 

Finally, around 8am, we rounded the last bend in the trail and made it to the summit, 5896m up. Making my way over to the flags and the sign saying, “Congratulations, you are now at Uhuru Peak,” welcoming me to the highest point in Africa, I burst into tears, exhaustion and excitement flooding over me. 

Even though I wanted to quit at least 100 times today, I had made it. I could check climbing the highest mountain in Africa off my travel list!  

Watching the sun rise over the rooftop of Africa is a moment I will never forget.

Those of us who made it to the summit got a group shot and quickly took our photos with the sign. Then, about 15-20 minutes later, we were on our way back down. Such a long way to go for such a short stay, but with the high altitude, we couldn’t linger. 

We made it back to camp eleven hours after leaving it, toenails bleeding from the impact of heading basically straight back down, slipping and sliding through the gritty sand. After a nap and lunch, we packed up and hiked another two hours or so to that night’s camp. Today the highs were all about making it to the top and celebrating that victory!

The final morning after breakfast, we gathered for one last dance party before packing up and heading down the rest of the mountain, about a five-hour journey. 

Back at the hotel that night, after having my first shower in six days (which was amazing), we met for one last dinner all together and toasted our success with cold Kilimanjaro beers. 

Climbing mountains may not have started out on my life’s travel list, but the fact that I made it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro remains one of my proudest travel experiences. Standing at the top, smiling through my tears and watching that incredible sun rising to the “Heaven of Africa,” as Whitey put it, is definitely a moment I will never forget. 

I always knew I enjoyed a challenge and was not a quitter, and completing this trek cemented that for me. But now I’m seriously through climbing mountains…I think!

For some singing, dancing, hiking and commentary on this beautiful but challenging trek, check out the video below!

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Travelling Grandma’s Slides

Some of the earliest memories I have of my “travelling Grandma” are of sitting in her living room, watching slides of her latest travels and listening to her tell us stories from around the world. Seeing the Taj Mahal, animals in the African savanna, the Pyramids, penguins in Antarctica and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and landscapes started my quest to follow in her footsteps and see the world for myself at a very young age.

By the time she passed in her mid 90’s, she had been to over 120 countries, taking thousands of photos along the way and turning most of them into slides to share her travels with others.

Grandma at dinner in Arizona

These slides have now made their way to me and as I’ve been home from my job as a flight attendant and not able to take off on any travels of my own during the current Covid-19 pandemic, I have finally begun the task of going through and organizing her slides, reliving her travels as I go.

Today, she would have turned 104 and I can’t think of a better way to honour her birthday then by diving into another set of slides and heading out on an adventure with her…. and of course having an ice cream cone to go with it!

These photos are a small selection of today’s slides from my grandma’s travels to Costa Rica, Galapagos Islands, Iceland and Arizona.

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No Prob-llama

Like so many others worldwide, I’m currently sitting at home, trying to help stop the spread of Covid-19, while desperately wishing I was able to be out travelling. I spent some time this morning, looking through photos of my trip to Peru and all the photos of llamas brought a big smile to my face.

Hopefully, these adorable llamas along the Inca Trail can bring a smile to yours as well!

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Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu has been on my bucket list for years. The more photos I saw of this mysterious Incan wonder and the more I read about the Inca Trail and how Machu Picchu was ‘lost’ for years, the more I wanted to see it for myself. While there are options for just seeing Machu Picchu, I didn’t want to arrive at the site by train. I dreamed of following the path of the Incans and hiking my way along the Inca Trail.  

One of the most famous treks in the world, the Inca Trail trek itself is 42km, leading you along ancient narrow paths in the Peruvian countryside, up into the Andean Mountains. This mix of jungle, Incan ruins, cloud forest and beautiful Sacred Valley views lead the way to the incredible Machu Picchu, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.

Machu Picchu’s existence was not widely known in the West until it was “discovered” in 1911 by the Yale University professor Hiram Bingham, who was led to the site by a local Quechua-speaking resident as he sought to find the lost city of the Incas.

I couldn’t wait to get there!

Our trek started in Cusco. Here, we met with our guide, got our gear and learned about what each day would entail, before taking a bus to the town of Ollantaytambo to stay overnight. 

During the Incan Empire, this area was the site of the Emperor’s royal estate.  Today, the small town is basically built around all the trekkers heading to the Inca Trail.  We took a tour of the town, filled mainly with shops and restaurants for tourists, and then climbed up one of the surrounding hills to an old Incan site that used to be storehouses for the Inca’s crops.

Being up high helped protect the crops from both thieves and decay.  The view of the Sacred Valley was beautiful from up here.

After a dinner of alpaca pasta, we headed to bed, ready to start our trek in the morning.

Day 1

After breakfast, we drove over to the start of the Inca Trail, Kilometre 82. We got our bags all sorted out (what we were carrying and what the Porters were taking), making sure the weight was under the limit. Then we got our passports checked and tickets taken and headed across the bridge one at a time to start our trek of the Inca Trail! 

It was so beautiful. I have been wanting to do this trip for so long that crossing that bridge was an exciting moment for me.  

By 9:30am, we were hiking and it was uphill pretty much right from the start. We spent the next couple of hours going uphill and downhill, stopping for breaks every hour. The landscape was incredible. Most of it was so green, especially down in the valley when you were looking up at the hills surrounding you.  As we passed various old Incan ruins our guides would give us some info about what we were seeing. The first big one we stopped at was Patallacta or Llactapata. 

As you make your way along the trail, you are walking on a mixture of the original Inca Trail and a newer one, located nearby. This has been done in places to help preserve the original trail. Looking at all the sites and even parts of the trail itself, it’s incredible to think that most of this was built pre-1500s. How were they able to get all this stone here? This would be a challenge to build today, and yet they did it without any modern tools.  Each time we came across a new site, this is something I marvelled at again and again.

As we walked, the sun soon turned to a misty rain. This continued on and off for most of day one, so it was nice to stop for our lunch break at Tarayoc for warm tea and soup followed by fish with rice and vegetables. After a break, we headed back to the trail. We passed houses along the way, and locals out on motorbikes, and horses and donkeys carrying loads along the trail. What a view you would have living out here (and also what a challenge unless you could completely live off the land!) 

We hiked for about six hours that first day and of course the last 45 minutes was once again pretty much straight uphill! Camp tonight was at 3100m.  I was exhausted by the time we made it there and so happy to see my tent!  After arriving at our first camp, our guide, Odie, introduced us to the rest of our crew. The cooks and porters ranged in age from teens to their mid fifties, some of them earning money for school or training to become guides themselves, and others who had hiked this trail working as either cooks or porters their whole lives. While the language barrier made it hard to have conversations, learning something about each of them and sharing something about ourselves was great.  We all sat for our first “Hot Drink Happy Hour” and had a hot chocolate or tea and cookies before having dinner in the dining tent around 6:30pm: soup followed by chicken and vegetables. By 7:30pm we all made our way to our tents, exhausted. It was pitch black and cold, but you could see so many stars. What a day!

Day 2

The day started with a knock on the tent around 5am. “Good morning, would you like a hot drink?” A very early start, but such a lovely wake up call! We were given warm water to wash our hands and faces and a cup of hot tea.  We had a breakfast of porridge and pancakes with chocolate sauce and coffee. By 6:30am, we had loaded up and were ready for what Odie said would be our toughest day, as we gained 1000m in elevation and then had to come back down 600m. It was steep right from the start!

Twenty minutes in, we stopped as Odie had to do some paperwork at the checkpoint. They make sure everyone is accounted for and that none of the porters are carrying more than the allowed weight of 25kg. It’s great that they are being monitored and that this rule was put in place to protect them from being completely overloaded. 

The first part of the hike today was through lush vegetation, at times with small waterfalls and a river flowing beside us. The trail was a mix of dirt and rocks with large stone ‘steps’ in some parts (which I found much harder to climb). The trees were covered in moss and we saw some very large hummingbirds, in beautiful colours. The misty rain had settled in again by this point and the higher we went, the harder it was to breathe. At one point, I was stopping for a breather every twenty steps or so. 

We climbed higher and higher and after three hours of climbing, we finally reached Dead Woman’s Pass – a name that was quite fitting for how I was feeling by that point!

The view was incredible and looking down at where we came from was almost unbelievable. We had a nice break here, taking photos and catching our breath.

Although being up at 4215m, it was quite chilly. At one point, someone yelled that they saw something moving. We all ran to look at what Odie called a Bobcat – dark in colour, with a long, ringed tail – a wild Andean cat. He said in the 10 years he’s been leading treks here, he’s only seen a couple of others, so we were very lucky to have spotted this cat! 

After 15-20 minutes, we were all starting to shiver, so we began the trek back down the other side of the pass.  As always, the scenery was gorgeous, although you needed to spend a lot of time looking down at where you were stepping so you didn’t go tumbling. 

Just before 2pm, I saw Jorge waving the purple G Adventures flag meaning I had made it to tonight’s campsite. What an amazing sight!!

The porters all cheer you on as you make it into camp and hand you a refreshing drink. By 2:30pm, we sat down for lunch. I had been saying all day that I just wanted some spaghetti and cake and that’s what we ended up having for lunch! It was delicious! We had a restful afternoon until “Hot Drink Happy Hour” before dinner. The campsite tonight was around 3600m and the view was amazing. Definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever camped!

Day 3

Another 5am wake up call with a cup of coca tea before breakfast. We set out around 6:15am for our 16km hike today. It was a beautiful sunny day as we started our uphill climb.

We soon came to Runcuracay Ruins, which Odie said were discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1915. This site had been used as a resting spot for Incas using the Inca Trail. The entire trail is 40,000km long, so this was one of the resting spots used by messengers as they travelled along the trail. We explored the ruins and then continued on our way.

The view from up above was beautiful, looking down on the ruins, with the morning mist still casting shadows over the mountains. The trek was challenging, but the views kept me going. 

Today wasn’t as steep, but was more of a rolling up and down. 

We also came across a number of llamas walking along the trail today. This made my day!

Each llama had an ear tag and Odie explained that their name was printed on the tag. One of my favourites was Doris.

She walked along with me for a little while before running back with her pack as we entered a cave. 

Our lunch spot had a view where you could see for miles.

It also had a bunch of llamas to take photos of! Today’s meal was a feast. We had pizza, ceviche, veggies, chicken stuffed with peppers, pasta with cheese, quinoa burgers, squash, fried jungle potatoes, beef, corn and fried chicken!

Our head Chef, Wilbur, was great. We were certainly never hungry along this trek!  

After a break to digest, we began the 3-hour mainly downhill section of today’s hike, much of which had very steep stone steps.

We stopped at another Incan site, Phuyupatamarca. With its elevation around 3600m, it’s also known as “The cloud above the town.” 

This site had many different levels and some great views out the ‘windows.’

Shortly after, it began to rain, which made our rock-filled trail very slippery. Soon it was pouring, so the hike along this beautiful, jungle part of the trek was a slow one. We were soaked and cold by the time we finally made it to camp and had a tough time getting warm and dry as the rain continued. Not the best afternoon on the trail, but as we went to the dining tent for “hot drink happy hour,” the Chef surprised us with a cake that said, “Well done Inca Trail 2018.” 

Such a nice surprise! We had another great dinner and then said our goodbyes to the cooks and porters as they would be leaving early in the morning to catch the train back to town. Then, it was early to bed as our final day would be an early start.

Day 4

We were up by 3:30 to have a simple breakfast of bread and coffee and head out to get in line at the final checkpoint. We had to wait there until sunrise as the trail isn’t safe in the dark.  Watching the sun rise over the Andes was incredible!

The final hike was about 45 minutes, including one super steep 52-step hill to reach the Sun Gate, or Inti Punku. 

From here, you could see the sun rising over the valley on Machu Picchu. We were almost there! 

We continued hiking down from the Sun Gate, passing several other Incan sites along the way, until we finally reached the entrance to Machu Picchu, which means ‘Old Mountain.’ 

I got some more llama selfies on the way and then continued on to what Odie called the “classic picture spot” in Machu Picchu, looking at all the old ruins with Huayna Picchu standing tall in the background. We made it! 

We toured around the site, with Odie telling us about the different parts. The detail is incredible, especially considering how old it is and how remote.

There were terraces all the way down to the river below, but the brush had only been cleared down to a certain point after being found again by Hiram Bingham in 1911.

The site has several temples, including the Sun Temple and the Temple of the Condor. You could tell the difference between a temple and a regular building because the temples were built using only rock, with no mortar in between. There were huge storehouses for grain and crops and a large sundial at the top, as well as many other buildings which would have been living quarters.

The Temple of the Condor was made to look like a giant condor, with a cave below. Here, an ancient mummy was found. It was also the place where sacrifices would likely have taken place. 

The one downside to this incredible place was the crowds. Tourists flock to Machu Picchu and there were tour groups EVERYWHERE. It was hard to get to see everything with as much detail as I would have liked as you were constantly moving from one point to the next, dodging people. We spent several hours here, taking photos, learning about the history, and walking from building to building.

 Before we left, I just stood there and took in this beautiful wonder of the world, so happy to have finally made it here to see this old Incan world for myself!

Extra Info

Booking

Since 2002, access to the Inca Trail has been limited to 500 people per day (this is roughly split between 200 tourists & 300 guides and porters). It is necessary for everyone to obtain permits in advance to do the hike. The only way to secure a permit is by booking with an approved tour provider who buys these daily permits in advance. This means that you can only do the Inca Trail with an approved tour company and spaces are capped. Be sure to book early to avoid all the permits being gone for the time you want.   (We went with G Adventures on their 7-day Inca Trail tour and had a great time).

Toilets 

There are a number of toilets located along the Inca Trail. They range from outhouses that locals own (they usually cost 1-2 sol to use), to actual restroom facilities located mainly at the campsite. Most are squat toilets, but some flush. The campsite ones had running water to wash with and freezing cold showers if you dare! Best to bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you!

Clothing

Dress in layers. The temperatures varied from day to day and hour to hour, depending on your elevation. Also be sure to have a warm fleece for the nights and rain gear as we had some rain most days, varying from a light mist to pouring. You’ll want comfortable hiking boots and good socks to avoid blisters.

Most of all, come with an open mind and a camera to record the breathtaking beauty you will find along this ancient trek!

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Relaxing in the Rainforest

After a week hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and spending nights camping on the ground along the trail, we decided to end our trip to Peru by treating ourselves to a cabana in the jungle!

We boarded the plane in Cusco and took the short flight over to Puerto Maldonado, the start of the Amazon in Peru. The airport here was tiny, so we quickly grabbed our bags and met our Adventures within Reach shuttle. From here, we travelled 15 minutes to the docks to catch our riverboat to the Inkaterra Lodge – Hacienda Concepcion. An immediate difference we noticed from Cusco was the humidity. It was 35+C here and so humid your clothes began sticking to you in a matter of minutes.

Thankfully we were soon cruising down the Madre de Dios River with a bit of a breeze on our 30-minute journey. We docked and made our way up to the main lodge to check in and have lunch (which was amazing!)

The photos I’d seen when booking at the Hacienda Concepcion certainly don’t do it justice. What a gorgeous spot! Our cabana was perfect with a screened in porch you could sit on and listen to the birds and other wildlife moving around outside while looking at all the beautiful vegetation.

After settling in, we met our guide, Plinio, for a tour around the property. As we walked, he explained that the grounds here used to be a cocoa and rubber plantation. They were owned by a Spanish doctor who started a Catholic mission here in the 1950s with the intention of improving the lives of the locals by using his boat as a ‘hospital’ and visiting communities along the river. After the boat sank and the doctor passed away, the grounds were left to decay until they were bought by Inkaterra in 1979 to develop it into a scientific research facility.

Our guide pointed out various types of vegetation we found and let us try some of the cocoa. We also saw birds, insects and a few monkeys!

We enjoyed coffee time in the lodge and then a traditional Pisco Sour at happy hour before heading out for our Twilight River boat excursion.

Here, we found some night birds and a bunch of caimans ranging in size from babies to five feet.

After another delicious meal here, we went back to our cabana for an early night and fell asleep listening to the sounds of the jungle!

I woke up around 3:30am to a huge crash of thunder and rain pouring down, followed by lightning lighting up the sky. It rained a good part of this day, which cooled everything off and sounded so cool pounding against the huge leaves and thatched roofs of both our cabana and the main lodge. Being in the rainforest during a rain storm is certainly quite the experience!

By 2:30pm, it was only spitting rain, so we set out on our next excursion, The Inkaterra Canopy Walk and Anaconda Walkway. We took a riverboat about 25 minutes up river and were greeted by Tamarin monkeys playing in the trees.

We climbed up the tower to the canopy walk, 120-150 feet up into the treetops of the jungle and went one at a time across the six long suspension bridges used by scientists to study the canopy. What a view! Looking down was freaky, but if you just looked straight out you got a unique view of the jungle canopy, looking out over it instead of looking up from the ground. I wanted to see a sloth so badly, but sadly it was not to be on the walk.

That night, we had our final excursion, Hidden Forest. We went for a walk around the property with Plinio, who stopped to point out all kinds of insects, a few chicken tarantulas, a bright green tree frog and a caiman in a little pond.

It was neat and also a little spooky wandering through the dark, listening to all the sounds of the jungle moving around you. On our way to dinner, we found more monkeys playing in the trees including a mama with a baby hanging on her back!

Our last morning, we had another amazing meal.

The food here was incredible and the coffee was delicious! Then, we got our stuff packed up and went for one last walk around the grounds.

It was such a beautiful spot – the perfect place to relax for our final few days in Peru.

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A quick trip to Cabo

Sun, sand, stunning views and tacos…what’s not to love about Cabo? After years of taking planes full of bachelor parties, wedding groups and vacationers to this beautiful spot on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, I finally got the chance to spend a couple of days enjoying the beaches here myself.

Playa El Médano, Cabo San Lucas

While I was mainly looking to unwind, hang out at the beach and of course stuff myself full of tacos and guac and chips, a trip to Cabo isn’t complete without taking a boat out to see the famous El Arco – The Arch of Cabo San Lucas. Rum punch in hand, we set off on our sunset booze cruise to see the arch and hopefully spot a whale or two.

El Arco de Cabo San Lucas – also known as ‘Lands End’ – marks the spot where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. We sailed past Playa del Amor, or “Lover’s Beach,” a secluded beach surrounding the Arch. Sea lions and pelicans could be found lounging on the rocks around the beach.

We stopped for a photo near the Arch before rounding the corner into the rougher waters of the Pacific Ocean. On the other side, we found what our Captain said was “Divorce Beach,” with waves and wind crashing in – quite a contrast to the calm “Lover’s Beach.” Here, we also spotted the first of several Humpback whales breaching!!

As we watched the sun begin to set, a mother Humpback and her calf came by and the baby put on quite a show, leaping out of the water, playing away. What an incredible sight!

Another great spot to check out is Art Walk in San Jose del Cabo. It’s a colourful spot to wander around any day, but on Thursday evenings it becomes even more colourful. Art Walk was established by the Gallery District Association to encourage art lovers and tourists to step away from the Main Square and explore the artwork and galleries found along the cobblestone streets. This event runs each Thursday evening from 5-9pm between the months of November and June.

I enjoyed our time checking out a few beaches, but one of my favourites was Playa Palmilla in San Jose del Cabo, a much quieter beach than some found in Cabo San Lucas.

Kayaking at Playa Palmilla

Here, we took kayaks out into the waves for a cruise around, looking up at the huge houses on the hills, and a Humpback whale came by to say hello. Even though it didn’t come too close, it was still incredible to be out on the water with a whale!

View from our condo
View from our condo

What a beautiful place in Mexico. I can’t wait to come back and explore some more of what Cabo has to offer!

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Cusco

Thousands of tourists flock to Cusco, Peru every year, but often it is only a stopping point before heading out to hike the Inca Trail, visit Machu Picchu, climb Rainbow Mountain or one of many other amazing sites waiting just outside the old city. I made this same mistake, only spending a day before and after our hike in the old capital of the Incan Empire, which was not enough time to properly explore this cobblestone beauty. 

The altitude here can take some getting used to and what better way to do that than by getting out and exploring the city!

Plaza de Armas is the city’s main square. Here you can find a variety of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and even a brewery. It’s also a great spot to sit near the fountain and watch the sun set over several beautiful old churches found here.

After a great afternoon wandering around the city, head to Organika for an amazing local farm to table dinner and a Pisco sour.

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Memories

I love taking photos while I travel. Looking back at them, I’m always transported back to the place where it was taken, remembering all the amazing adventures I’ve had over the years.

Lately, however, all of my Facebook memories have been reminding me that for the past ten years, I’m always away having fabulous adventures during the summer months: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, exploring Alaska and the Yukon, travelling around Asia or backpacking around Europe. This summer, I’m at home, working and feeling jealous of my previous summer fun…..

Guess it’s just about time to hit the road again!

 

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