Category Archives: Travel

Miscellaneous travel articles

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Green

It’s spring in the other half of the world and last month we traveled north to La Serena and the Elqui Valley.  Both places sit at the southern end of the Atacama Desert, the driest place in the world, So green isn’t the most ever-present color in the area.  But in the valley floors where streams and rivers might flow – green is everywhere.

In the Atacama wherever water can be found there will be green.
In the Atacama wherever water can be found there will be green.

The northernmost vineyards in Chile are found in the Elqui Valley.  These are the grapes which are crushed, fermented and then distilled into Pisco, a brandy-like elixir.

The northernmost vineyards in Chile
The northernmost vineyards in Chile

A big surprise for us was discovering papaya is grown here.  Grown on the steep sides of the mountains you identify them by their dark green color.

Papayas on a mountainside in the Atacama
Papayas on a mountainside in the Atacama

September is bud break time for grape vines.

Springtime bud break in September
Springtime bud break in September

As you drive closer to the Argentina border you leave the vineyards behind and enter into areas where the most green you may find is on a road sign.

Sometimes the most green in the Atacama is found on the road signs.
Sometimes the most green in the Atacama is found on the road signs.

Travel Theme: Broken

Alicia’s travel theme this week is broken.

Of course windows can be broken….

Four Fifths
Four Fifths

And sometimes trees break and get jammed against cruise ships…


The Unexpected

And sometimes our sense of direction gets broken…

Where are we?
Where are we?

And old historic modes of transportation like many of Valparaiso’s ascensors are broken…

Ascensor Artillería
Ascensor Artillería

And our hearts break when someone beloved passes on.

Evita Perón
Evita Perón

Zapallar Flowers

It’s spring (Wooly’s favorite time of year) in Chile and nothing says spring to us more than wildflowers.  We recently traveled to a small seaside community called Zapallar.  (Sap-pie-yar)  By the ocean there are two restaurants and a very nice small beach.  The signs of spring were evident with bright blossoms everywhere you looked.  A nicely maintained path led along the shore past the sandy beach to a rocky shore.  It led further but we ran out of time to fully explore the place.  But there are lots of pictures to share with everyone.  Enjoy the show and please let us know your favorite.

Peru Adventure – Arequipa, part one

Often overlooked and skipped on Peruvian tours, Arequipa is a treat to those who visit.  Ordinarily white, at sunset the buildings in the main square turn a vibrant golden.  Step inside the Santa Catalina de Siena Monastery and you enter another world.

The monastery has stood the test of time since 1579.  It’s survived countless earthquakes and still operates as a cloistered convent for the Dominican Second Order.   Encompassing 20,000 square meters, it takes a while to walk the corridors and peak inside the rooms where nuns used to work and sleep.  At its peak the monastery housed up to 450 people.  Today fewer than 20 nuns stay in an area that is closed to the public.

In early times it served as a place where the wealthy could protect their second born daughters.  To enter the convent a dowry of as much as 2,400 silver coins was required which is about $150,000 today.  At one time it was a wealthy convent until the money was sent to Rome.  Now they are poor.

The architecture is a blend of colonial and native styles – painted with bright and vibrant terracotta colors which happen to rub off on your clothes as Wooly discovered.  Every corner you turn and every doorway you step through is a treat.

After a major earthquake in 1592, the nuns built individual bedrooms since the dorm they stayed in was destroyed.  They built an arched sleeping area in each room.  The stronger arches provided early earthquake protection for the nuns.

Early earthquake safety - Sleep under an arch.
Early earthquake safety – Sleep under an arch.

Gardens inside the walled monastery are as peaceful as they are beautiful.  If you want to sit and contemplate you are welcome to do so after the tour when you are free to walk around on your own.  You can even sip coffee in a small courtyard featuring a snack bar.  And finally, when you come across a long and steep set of stairs – climb them.  The view at the top is worth it.  Just be careful because those steps aren’t uniform in size or height.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Zigzag

Some roads in South America are noted for their zigzags with good reason.  You simply don’t want to take the fast way down.  Here are a couple.  The first is the main highway from Santiago that crosses over the Andes and takes you to Mendoza.  Raeski took this photo from the bus window.  The second dirt road takes you to Machu Piccu.  If you are like most, you wish the bus driver would take it a little slower.

Peru Adventure – Lima

As we flew in over the bay with long running waves that seem to stretch forever I thought this must be a great place to surf when the waves get heavy.  Our drive from the airport to our hotel did nothing to dispel this thought as we rode alongside the beach.  The next day we saw a surfer with his board heading to the water.

We stayed in the upscale Miraflores district of Lima.  Most of Lima’s population is poor and are unable to live in such a nice area.  Unlike the U.S., in South America the hills are where poor people live.  Yes, they have a great view from their homes, but poor construction and lack of utilities ensure daily living with hardship.  I know I wouldn’t like having to carry water up a steep hill every day to my home.  It’s a harsh life when you are poor and don’t have access to the things we often take for granted.  This is the life of many in South America that tourists don’t witness.

Where the Poor Live
Where the Poor Live

What most people see when they come to Lima are places like Parque de Amor where they see the famous Victor Delfin statue, “El Beso”, or in English “The Kiss”.  The views are fantastic from the park as are the tile mosaics lining the walkways.  Of course the people in the park are fun to watch as I suppose we were when we emulated El Beso.

Since moving to South America we walk a lot more than we used to and as a result we stumble onto a lot of things other folks don’t see.  In the Miraflores area there is a mall that is cut into the cliff.  What’s nice is the view on top of the cliff isn’t spoiled by a lot of buildings.  Above the mall there is a park overlooking the ocean with stupendous views of the ocean.

We also walked between Parque de Amor and the mall where we were rewarded with more sculptures, views and oddities.  Painted stairs, a beautiful divided roadway and a rather eclectic door were a few of the things we saw along the walk.

In Peru one of the methods people use to draw attention to their cause is by striking.  On the day we were in the main square doctors and nurses were marching for better medical standards, care and pay.  The police were ready and also ready to smile for the camera.  In the same square, as with many squares in Peru, was a cathedral.  There is an amazing amount of wealth to be seen in these churches – something that will be discussed in another post.

Finally there are Inca ruins being restored in the city.  Since granite wasn’t available in this area the Inca’s used adobe.  While adobe isn’t the best building material to use in a seismic prone area, it is what was available to the Incas and the Huaca Pucllana still stands.  The Incas were truly an amazing people.  Like Raeski, I too wonder what would have happened if the Spaniards and Church hadn’t destroyed their culture.

In Lima the modern sits next to the ancient.  You find a well-dressed business person rushing past a person in traditional dress.  Hills filled with the poor overlooking the Spanish colonial homes they can only dream of owning.  Street vendors hawking their goods across the street from a mall filled with efficient Norte Americano stores.  It’s a vibrant place where we started our Peruvian adventure.

Every region has its own hat style.
Every region has its own hat style.

7 Wonder of Wonders from our travels in Peru

Today Raeski is contributing a post about our Peru adventure.

Our seventeen day adventure to several cities and sites in Peru filled us with much wonder but left me with many contemplations beginning with “I wonder…”

We began in the capital and largest city of Lima, Peru where we stayed in the area called Miraflores.  This coastal site hosts a park inspired by Antonio Gaudi featuring a huge sculpture of a man and woman (the sculptor and his wife) embraced in a kiss and aptly named El Beso.  Wonderment #1:  How many people have been kissed at this location and who holds the title for the longest?



Arequipa, ‘La Ciudad Blanca’ was constructed predominantly from volcanic silica and serves as the gastronomic center of Peru.  Curiosity #2: “Does alpaca taste like chicken, too?” was answered with a resounding “no” and left us considering ordering more.  Not only is the meat scrumptious, but also the fibers of the baby alpaca are extremely soft and warm so we also became consumers of the external product with the purchase of a beautiful sweater, hat and scarf.


Mirador de los Andes and Cruz de los Condors presented magnificent views of the splendor of the seven snow-capped volcanic peaks at 5,600 to over 6.000 meters and the majestic flight of the condors scavenging the heights.  Here we were left wondering #3: “Do the local caballeros toss their dead livestock over the edge of a ridge to keep the condors circling and inhabiting this specific area?”


Exploring the inhabited areas of the highest navigable lake, Titicaca at 3,812 meters (12,507 ft) was an interesting marvel. In the village of LLacon on the peninsula we watched demonstrations of their textile handicrafts, and on Isla Taquile we participated in a ceremonial lunch event giving thanks to Pachamama or Mother Earth and the other gods represented by the condor, puma and serpent. On our final stop, one of the floating islands of Uros, we were welcomed by members of a family and treated to a visual demonstration of how the tortura roots and reeds are layered to create their anchored living platforms.  We learned they apparently chew the tortura reeds that provide a source of fluoride but we couldn’t help but wonder #4 if the coarse fibers couldn’t also be fashioned into toothbrushes, which by their smiles, seemed to be of great need.

Reeds of Uros

On our Inka Express bus trip crossing the highest point between Puno and Cusco we visited the panoramic vista and had the chance to use the highest public toilet (whole in the ground with planks and a hut for a bit of privacy).  A short distance later we caught the flow of the Vilcanota River, which spans over 6,000 km and connects to the Amazon, eventually emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.  That made us reflect on the fact that we pee’d at what would be the Continental Divide of the South American continent.  Wonder #5: which way the urine flowed?


Visiting the many ruins and foundations of the ancient Andean peoples emanating from the “obligo” or navel of civilization in Cuzco, one cannot help but be awed by what incredible engineers and craftsman the Incas were.  The planning, chiseling, movement and careful construction of huge rock structures that have withstood centuries and earthquakes were somewhat mindboggling considering the time and lack of technology for such feats. No mortar and not even a blades-width of gap between stones cut with nearly a dozen angles seemed unimaginable, so #6: where would Peru stand in today’s’ global economy had the Conquistadors not trampled the indigenous peoples and “enlightened” them? At Sachsayhuaman (fittingly pronounced ‘sexy woman’), I offered a silent prayer deep in her womb chamber for Peru to remain resolute to preserve its hundreds of varieties of corn and thousands of strains of potatoes against such enemies as Monsanto and persevere as the heartland of organic products to keep us nourished and healthy.


But our final wonder was one on the list of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of the World #7: Machu Picchu, The Lost City rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Mere photos do not do the experience justice.  Everyone should touch the Inca construction; feel the reverence to the gods of earth, air and water and sense the community of the terraced farm areas, communal areas and urban planning features. How thankful the world should be that this 15th Century treasure remained unscathed and is now available for humanity to enjoy and relish in the wonderment!

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Relic

Some relics we hate to see go because they remind us of a time when things moved at a slower pace and we didn’t feel so rushed.  Others are better at adding ‘character’ to fields and yards.  Those are probably best left where they are found.  Some become monuments leaving us in awe and wonderment.  And finally some remind us of a past taken from storybook pages.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Wood

I’ve always been enthralled with trees that cling to life in harsh environments.  Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah is one of those environments with cold windy winters and blazing hot summers that are occasionally interrupted with lightening, strong winds and short torrential downpours.  It is here these extreme elements converge and shape the twists and turns of these trees.

Amazing Peru

We’re back in Chile after an amazing trip to Peru and we’ve had our welcome home earthquake.  Check out the Earthquake tab for details.  There’s also a new entry in El Diario for those who follow it.

I know I will always smile when I think about the trip.  A trip to Peru is definitely a worthy bucket list item.  Machu Piccu is stunning and thankfully it wasn’t discovered until after the colonial period.  I will write more about that when I write that post.

The second highlight that rates almost alongside Machu Piccu was Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world and far deeper than the Grand Canyon.  It also has one of the greatest attractions in the world – the Andean Condors.  The bumpy dirt road drive is part of the Peruvian charm on this side trip.

We found Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world with it’s floating islands quite interesting along with a lunch stop with a shaman and his family.  Having a view of the distant snow capped Andes didn’t hurt the experience either.

The Sacred Valley amazed us with the Inca architecture, ingenuity, and even agricultural laboratories on a giant scale.  I couldn’t help but feel both sad and angered about the utter destruction of this culture by the Spaniards and the Catholic Church.

Yet in Arequipa we found a beautiful working cloistered monastery.  There will be some great photos of the place.  In Arequipa Wooly discovered Anis Najar Seco and Recoto Rellenos.  The first is a dry licorice liqueur and the second is a spicy twist on the stuffed pepper.  There is also a great legend about the volcanoes that tower over the town.

June in Cusco is a lot of fun.  It seems like the entire month is one festival after another with all the crowds to squeeze past.  And ladies, when in Cusco keep your purse zipped and hold it tight, or better yet, leave it in the hotel safe.  Regardless it’s still a lot of fun.

And yes, I’m back on the blogging wagon so you will hear and see all about them.  You will follow us on our journey in the order we traveled it which means you have to keep checking in because Machu Piccu is last.  And that’s also how I would recommend you schedule your own trip to Peru.  Machu Piccu will overshadow the rest of your trip if you go there first.  Save the best for last, just like I’m going to blog about it.

In the meantime while you’re waiting for the next post, enjoy this picture of a condor’s eye while he is in flight.

You're being watched.
You’re being watched.