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Monday, January 1, 2018

A Year of Travel

As we end 2017 and start a New Year, we reflect on a year of “bucket-list” travel taking us to places we have wanted to explore for a long time.  In a nutshell, we drove over 14,000 miles in only 6 months (in the U.S. and went to 16 other countries, traveling by truck, large cruise ship, train, foot, bus, cable car, rental car, small boutique ship, ferry, tuk tuk, zodiac raft, small wooden “panga” canoes, and of course airplane.  

Speaking of air travel, we took 21 flights in 2017 averaging 2- 1/2 hours each!  That’s a whole lot of TSA security lines.  Some highlights that we remember:

·       Stayed in a 11th century castle village

·       Experienced two healing ceremonies by Medicine Men Shamans

·       Drank Bordeaux wine in a French Chateau

·       Ate Basque pintxos with rioja wine

·       Munched on Cornish pasties

·       Stood at the Sun Temple of Machu Picchu

·       Devoured Swiss Fondue

·       Reluctantly tried “cuy”-Peruvian delicacy of guinea pig

·       Eagerly swigged Irish whiskey

·       Savored Dutch, French, Swiss, Ecuadorian, Belgian, Italian and Peruvian chocolate

·       Had a conversation with a “street working woman” in Quitos, Ecuador

·       Sipped champagne at the top of the Las Vegas High Roller

·       Hiked in the Swiss Alps and the Peruvian Andes

·       Wrapped a 150 lb Anaconda snake around my neck
·       Walked among the world’s largest tortoises in the Galapagos

·       Took our grandsons “camping” in our RV

·       Had our picture taken in front of Doc Martin’s Surgery

·       Survived left-handed driving with manual transmission in Wales and Ireland

·       Found the ancestrial home of Jack’s 15th great grandfather-Sir Richard Knightley

·       Lived for a while in a 16th century Georgian home in Sulgrave, England

·       Put one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern hemisphere

·       Spoke Swiss-French when we don’t speak French

·       Changed from our tandem bicycle to electric bikes

·       And the best…..spent Christmas 2017 with our children & grandchildren-Bert, Kathy, Ethan & Liam—Billy, Melissa, Owen & Isaac.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Trilogy Trip

We are back in Miami, Florida with better access to internet and so here’s a recap of the last two weeks in Peru & Ecuador.

This trip has involved more air, water and land in a short span than we’ve ever done before-9 flights and multiple bus & boat trips. 

 To reach Machupicchu we took a train and various bus rides out of Cusco (better for us than the 4-day hike on the infamous Inca trail or the very cheap bus on a dusty winding dirt road to the electro power plant followed by a 3 hour hike).

The altitude in the Sacred Valley (including Machupicchu) was quite a  challenge. We were in towns from 8,000-11,000 feet for a week. “Altitude sickness” is common and while we chose not to take “western medicine”, we gummed coca leaves daily supplemented with coca tea or a sweet, hard candy with coca leaves in the center. The Andean people continuously suck on a wade of coca leaves and bowls of dried leaves were offered on all of our buffet lines.  I was told this gives “energy”, but really I think it is more of a stimulant like caffeine.   Too much, though, gave us a headache or nausea. Mostly water was the best remedy—lots and lots (so much we were up 3-4 times in the night!).  It was humorous to watch us huffing and puffing as we walked slight hills or even just while getting dressed!

The people in both countries were extremely friendly and only a couple of words in Spanish from us prompted a rapid conversation.  Most people asked us where we were from (we could understand that) and were absolutely fascinated when we explained that we lived in a “caravan” or house on wheels.  Most had never heard of that.

Peru was definitely less expensive to travel in, as their currency is the Sol and Ecuador is the US$.  We’ve never been in a foreign country that uses the US currency!  They mint some Ecuadorian coins, equivalent to our quarters and dimes, but use them interchangeably with ours. 

Machu Picchu was magical and was less hiking than we expected. Of course there are other paths and Karen hiked out to the Inca Bridge which ended at a very spooky trail that skirted a 1,000 foot sheer cliff. Others in our group hiked further but this was just fine for us.  We respected our limits.

We flew from Cusco back to Lima then ran to catch the flight to Quito,Ecuador. Every one of our internal flights were late- guess that’s just routine. Our group was certainly a “team” as we were constantly counting uno, dos to catorce (14) and looking out for one another. Great group of new friends!

Quito seems more modern and prosperous and we visited some great sights including the changing-of-guards at the Presidential Palace complete with  political protest. We also heard a special performance of the Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra. 

Middle of the World-we are on both sides of the Equator at the same time

shopping for unusual food in the open market

Changing of the Guards (this happens every Monday)

riot police on the ready

Jack bought a handmade Panama Hat-these originated in Ecuador not Panama!

The icing on the cake were touring the Galapagos Islands on the 95 foot boat, Carina.  We were surprised at the population of people on the islands but thankful  that there was no “high-rise” condos or resorts. We had a naturalist from the Galapagos National Park with us at all times which was awesome as there is so much to know beyond just what we could see. Ecuador is working hard to maintain, protect and bring back species of “endemic” animals, reptiles and plants. Endemic means those that evolved into a distinct species such as the swallow-tailed gull, world’s only nocturnal gull who evolved to hunt at night because of the competition from other sea birds. Many of the animals are only found in the Galapagos-penguin, hawk, dove, mockingbird, giant tortoise, and blue-footed booby. 

Karen ready for snorkling

we snorkeled with a white tip shark and a Galapagos shark!

Endemic uncommon Galapagos Penguin the only one found north of the Equator

Galapagos Hawk-the largest predator in the Islands
endemic subspecies of Brown Pelican
our boat in the background

Galapagos mockingbird-enedmic to the islands-these birds adapted to not actually
mock" as other mockingbirds do because there were less birds around them

baby sea lion

this is a "wet landing"

zodiac trips around the islands
Galapago Hawk-(endemic) the largest predator in the Islands

Blue Footed Booby-endemic subspecies found in the Galapagos
the Boobys do a comical mating dance

Galapagos Sea Lions (they don't have seals in the Galapagos)

The male sea lion came out of the water roaring as we got too close to the baby
we saw many animals and reptiles peacefully sunning together-here a Sally Lightfoot crab and a Marine iguana

Black Neck Stilt one of the resident seabird

Uncommon Galapagos Flamingo
Yellow warbler (endemic Subspecies)

Giant Tortoise reach 150 pounds-Endemic and found only in the Galapagos Islands

what do you call a bunch of sleeping tortoise?

they are really BIG, and fortunately very slow

This was definitely a super special trip and more challenging than expected. We’re exhausted!