Peru Plan

by Colleen Morrow in

Oh boy!  Peru planning is done and Peru booking is *almost* done!  I love the anticipation of a trip, especially one that has come together so nicely as this one has.  And it's all going down in just 74 days.

So what's the plan?

Well, on May 7, we're heading to the airport.  I assume I'll carpool with EDP and probably my sister, too, but I'll have to consult them before I cement that plan into place.  Once at the airport, we'll be meeting up with Wayne.  Wayne lives out in Manitoba and managed to make connecting through Toronto to Peru work so he's actually on our flight with us.  And because of the power of the internet, all four of us have seats together on the flight!  

Our flight arrives in Peru in the wee hours of the morning so we'll head to our hotel to get a bit more sleep before getting up and heading out to check out Lima for the day.  Since I'm the master planner, everything I want to do is on our itinerary so that means checking out Museo del Convento de San Francisco, watching the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace and visiting the Lima Cathedral.  Later on, we'll either wander around or head back to the hotel for a bit of a nap before heading out on our food tour.  This is one of the things that EDP is most looking forward to, and given the PS on a recent love letter my sister sent me, I think it's near the top of her list, too.  The tour says we'll be exploring the city and discovering Lima's oldest bars and best food stalls.  It should be a pretty fun evening.  

Early the next morning, we're taking off for Cusco.  Once there, we're going to check out Qorikancha, which was once the richest temple in the Inca empire.  It now forms the base of a church and convent.  We're also going to check out Calle Loreto, a little street that is bordered by high Incan walls and the Cusco Cathedral before heading up to Sacsayhuaman.  Sacsayhuaman is an Incan complex that offers impressive views of Cusco & the valley.  Then, if there's time, we'll check out the Pre-Columbian Art Museum.  Then, it's off to bed for an exciting adventure the next day of zip lining and touring the Sacred Valley.  We'll start off by visiting the village of Chinchero to see some Incan ruins before heading over to one of the longest zip lines in the world, letting us see the Sacred Valley from a very different point of view!  Then, it's on to the Ollantaytambo ruins before stopping at the village of Pisaq and finally, heading back to Cusco for a good night's sleep before what I'm looking forward to the most...

Our Inca Trail trek!  I got very excited when I discovered you could hike part of the Inca Trail without doing the whole thing.  The whole thing takes about 4 or 5 days and you have to camp the entire time.  That's not a life for me.  But, you can get dropped off for the last 10km of the trail and spend just a few hours hiking from that point to Aguas Calientes!  We've got a private service booked so it will be the four of us plus a guide.  We'll hiking along an Incan trail to Winay Wayna before ending at the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu.  We'll spend the night in Aguas Calientes before taking the first bus up the next morning to Machu Picchu.  We'll have a tour and then we'll be able to explore on our own and climb up Huayna Picchu, visiting the Temple of the Moon on our way down.  Then, it's back to Cusco to catch our night bus to Puno.

And what's in Puno?  It's the town closest to Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 12,500 feet.  We'll be heading by boat to the Floating Islands of Uros,  The islands are built of roots and rumour has it, we get to walk on them!  Then, we're heading to Taquile for lunch and to learn more about the culture of the residents.  Then, it's back to Puno.  My sister & I will get back a bit earlier than Kevin & Wayne as they are doing a version of the tour where they kayak to Uros Islands instead of take a boat.  They seem to think it's a fine idea but taking the boat leaves more time later in the day for sitting on a patio with a glass of wine.

The next morning, we're getting on a bus to go out to Arequipa.  It's a long ride with stops at Lagunillas, Patawasi and Pampa Canahuas but the scenery is apparently very beautiful.  It will also provide some excellent book-listening time.  Once in Arequipa, we're going to visit the Monasterio de Santa Catalina and possibly the Museo Santuarios Andinos.  The monastery is a large complex that is said to be very beautiful and the museum houses Juanita, a very well preserved mummy from the mid 1400's.  The next day, we'll be taking a bus tour out to Colca Canyon.  This is the only part of the trip that isn't 100% booked yet but it's almost done.  We'll be picked up in the middle of the night (seriously - we get picked up at 3am) to head out to Chivay, where we'll get breakfast and then continue on to Condor Cross to see the flight of the condors.  Then, we'll be heading back to Chivay to see some lookout points over the valley, visiting the hot springs, having lunch and exploring a bit before heading back to Arequipa.  On the way back, we'll be stopping at the highest point in the area to see the mountains and stopping to visit some llamas and alpacas!  A long day, for sure, but Colca Canyon is really beautiful.

Then, it's back to Lima to check out a few more museums (Museo Nacional de Antropologia y Arqueologia, Museo del Oro, and Museo Rafael Larco Herrera) and to wander around the city a bit more before heading back to the airport to fly home.  

It's going to be a jam-packed trip with a bunch of early mornings or late nights and long stretches of travel but the alternative is to not do as many cool things.  Yeah, we're going for lots of cool things.  Who knows when we'll be back?

Ah... Ahhhh.... Ahhhhhh.... Machu Picchu!

by Colleen Morrow in

Yes, we're heading to Machu Picchu (and Peru in general) in May! 

And what's really exciting is...  My sister is coming, too!!  We travel a fair bit with a good friend of EDP's and a while back, EDP mentioned to him that we were looking at heading to Machu Picchu soon.  There are already a lot of restrictions on visitors to the site - the high number of tourists plus things like earthquakes and landslides are a threat to Machu Picchu.  A few years back, the government introduced limits of only 2,500 tourists per day with only 400 permits issued for Huayna Picchu and 500 for the Inca Trail.  There's a concern that they may need to shut the site down to tourism entirely so we wanted to make sure we got there before that happened.  Anyway, it was something that EDP's friend wanted to see so he asked to come along.  Since he has a wedding this fall, we decided to plan a trip for the spring.  

Around Christmas, we started looking into things - we decided we wanted to hike part of the Inca Trail so I started looking into tour operators to book with.  Well, things were booking up so we jumped on booking a 2D/1N trek that lets us hike the last 10km of the Inca Trail and then spend at day at Machu Picchu, including hiking up Huayna Picchu.  While we were working on this, I texted my sister to see if she wanted to come and after giving her a full 24 hours to decide, she said she was in!  So now, the four of us are heading to Peru in May.  

As the official Tour Director, I'm still working on the itinerary and I figure I probably should share it with my travel mates before the rest of the world but it's shaping up to be a pretty good trip!  

2015 TBR Challenge

by Colleen Morrow

Last year, I signed up for Roof Beam Reader's TBR Challenge and failed spectacularly.  Well, I failed the challenge but I did make some good progress in clearing the oldest books in my TBR so it was somewhat of a success.  I ended up getting through 7 of my 12 books and I'm hoping to still finish off one more this year.  And I found it motivating enough that I'm signing up again for the 2015 challenge.

The challenge is no different this year - 12 books that have been languishing on your TBR for more than a year.  I'm going start with the 4 that I didn't get through in 2014 and add 8 more to the list.  And they are:

Leftover from 2014:

  1. The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson - been on my TBR since 2010, finished March 10
  2. Intellectual Capital by Thomas A. Steward - been on my TBR since 2006
  3. The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean 7 Peter Elkins - been on my TBR since 2006
  4. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman - been on my TBR since 2006

And new for 2015:

  1. The Art of Strategy by Avinash K. Dixit & Barry J. Nalebuff - been on my TBR since 2009, finished February 28
  2. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell - been on my TBR since 2013, finished March 15
  3. What the Buddha Never Taught by Tim Ward - been on my TBR since 2010
  4. Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje - been on my TBR since 2008
  5. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - been on my TBR since 2010, finished February 9
  6. Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - been on my TBR since 2010
  7. Ex Libris by Ross King - been on my TBR since 2010
  8. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding - been on my TBR since 2006

And my alternates for the year are The Crimson Petal & the White by Michael Faber (been on my TBR since 2009) and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (been on my TBR since 2013)

Zip Lining in the Jungle

by Colleen Morrow in

Our last full day in Belize gave us some pretty good relaxing time in the morning followed by Central America's longest zip line in the afternoon.

This was actually our first day that we didn't have a morning adventure so we took our time getting up and heading to breakfast before getting some solid reading time in.  I curled up on the porch and EDP headed down to the beach.  After lunch, it was time to head over to the Bocawina Zip Line.

We had a big group - there were 9 of us and 4 guides.  We got buckled into our harnesses and helmets and off we went to start climbing up into the jungle.  After a test run (I think there was an escape hatch after it...) we climbed up some more.  In total, there were 8 runs - all different lengths and speeds.  The longest one was almost a half mile long and you could get up to speeds of 30 mph.  It was a lot of fun, we got to see a lot of the jungle and I didn't lose either of my shoes!  Though, at one point, we had to be dropped via rope about 15 feet.  That wasn't so fun.  I think every lady in our group screamed when the drop happened.  I'm pretty sure I heard EDP laughing at me when I started freaking out.  But the rest of it totally made up for that!  What a great way to end our trip.

After zip lining, it was back for one last dinner and to pack up before heading out Sunday morning.  We had an even smaller plane taking us back to Belize City - this one only held 8 passengers and while I needed a step stool to get off the plane, EDP was able to just step right onto the pavement.  Two more flights saw us safely back to Toronto and now it's back to reality.  And laundry.