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Buenos Aires

Posted by Gary & Lynette Landy on November 20, 2012 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (1)

Buenos Aires, well what a cosmopolitan city. It surprised both Gary & I just how much like Paris & Rome it is....very stylish clothing stores & antique shops are everywhere near our hotel. We have 3 nights here at the Sofitel & whilst the rooms are typical for what is usual for Europe, i.e. on the smallish side, the hotel is very stylish & lovely to stay in.

I would have to say that Buenos Aires was probably the one city on our tour that didn't excite us, before leaving home. How wrong we were! It is so different from what we have seen of Chile, Peru & what we have seen so far of Brazil & other parts of Argentina.

Last night our whole tour had dinner at a Tango restaurant, eating local food & being able to watch a Tango & Gaucho say it was awesome would be an understatement. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photos during the show.

Today, we are off to learn a little about Eva Peron, however all our individual tours are in jeopardy as today there is a strike happening here that is anticipated to have a least 50% of the population involved in it. So, who knows what will be open or what tours will be affected. The reason for this strike is the dislike of the current President Christina Fernandez Kirchner, and what she is wanting the change here in Argentina. The economy here is particularly crappy - locals are not allowed to "buy or save" US dollars which means the exchange rate can vary between US$ 1 = 5 to 7 Pesos, as locals see far more value in having American dollars than their own currency. This is great for tourists who have US dollars as some great bargains can be negotiated.

We were warned as we arrived in Buenos Aires that it could be classed as the pick pocket capital of the world....there was some suggestion that perhaps they have a university course to learn it, as it is very slick! An example would be, a very small amount something wet being dropped on you (to imitate bird poo) & a couple of very well dressed locals come to your aid to assist in the clean up of your shoulder......they then pick your pockets. We were given a number of other examples which were all equally slick. To avoid being "stung" we were told to make sure everything (backpacks, handbags, cameras etc) are always kept in front of you & if approached for anything, just to keep not stop! If we abide by these simply things, all should be fine. So far it has been.

None of this should. Put anyone off coming to this fabulous city!

Puno & Lake Titicaca

Posted by Gary & Lynette Landy on November 16, 2012 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Today we received a 6am wake-up call as we had a 10 hour train trip to the town of Puno where we are spending the night on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

The train ride was quite amazing as we got to view how hard it is for the farmers at approximately 4000 metres above sea is extremely dry, at the moment, but when the wet season begins in the next couple of weeks the farmers move up into the mountains.

Here in Peru most housing is very basic, especially out in the countryside.....mud brick, only 1 window as glass is too expensive & very, very small.....about 5 sqm! Very few homes are painted as even if they could afford the paint (also extremely expensive) the mud bricks would need to "render" it first...another cost!

The following morning we began our day with a 2 hour walk around the town of Puno. What a lovely little town, but similar to other small towns we visited throughout Peru. After exploring the town we had the opportunity to hire a "tutut" to get back to our hotel. It ended up that the 12 "tutut's" that we hired raced us back.....a very amusing time to say the least!

After arriving back at the hotel we boarded a boat for a short ride out to the floating island of Uros. These floating islands came about as a result of the locals hiding from the Inca'a back in the 15 century & the Spanish after that. The "islands" actually float on Lake Titicaca! The way in which they float is on the reeds that are prolific in the lake. As I mentioned, we visited the island of Uros & saw how they lived......basic is an understatement. The size of the houses are about the same size as our "horse boxes", & the home will sleep a couple plus 2 or 3 children! It would be very interesting to see how Westerner's coped with this type & size of living.

One of the more unpleasant issues with the floating islands on Lake Titicaca are that all waste material (human & any animal) are deposited directly into the lake. Not only is all washing done I. The lake but it is also the only source of drinking water! They say it takes between 5 & 6 generations to build up a tolerance to the bacteria in the water. We were advised that if we drank from Lake Titicaca we would be returning home in a coffin.

Needless to say, that even though the people we met were delightful we all scrubbed well before having lunch back at our hotel!

Sacred Valley - Day 3

Posted by Gary & Lynette Landy on November 9, 2012 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I was sure that after yesterday I would be disappointed in our visit to the town of Pisac today. Why I should ever have thought that I do not know. Whilst we didn't have the heart rendering visit to a school, the visit to the Inca ruins at Pisac was amazing. The ruins at Pisac are supposedly larger than Machu Picchu and are certainly higher. About 800 metres higher!

The ways in which the Incas developed methods for agriculture way back in the 15th century was amazing. As Peru has many Earthquakes & tremors which results in landslides especially during the wet season, the Incas have constructed hundreds of terraces throughout the valley. On these terraces they grew all manner of produce. An additional feature of these terraces were that they created a "micro climate" which meant that potatoes could be grown on the same set of terraces as tropical fruit etc.

The true Inca was classed as the elite in society...the ones with the intelligence. The rest of the population were known as Setchuwans. The Incas were easily recognised by their conical shaped heads. How the cone shape was achieved, was at the age of 12 to 18 months a baby had a band placed around its head to alter the shape. Trial & error meant that the band must be placed well prior to the age of 2 otherwise death resulted!

At the Pisac Inca site a cemetery had been discovered with mummified remains of over 1000 bodies, of that only about 50 were Incas. The burial grounds were simply holes or caves in which the remains were placed. After all internal organs were removed, the arm & legs ligaments were cut to enable the bodies to be placed in a foetal position before being wrapped in fabric many times. The Incas believed that the foetal position would lead them into the next life. Around each of the mummies was placed a jar of water, food, sandals (or moccasins if they were the royalty) & clothing. This was to assist with the long journey to the next life.

After visiting the ruins we then headed into the town of Pisac & it's markets. The colourful clothing, scarves, tablecloths & wall hangings were simply stunning. Whilst at the markets where we were taken to a silversmiths shop to view how the silver jewellery was made. I decided to assist the local economy by purchasing a pair of silver earrings & a silver ring, both have Lapis settings. We were told that it is acceptable to bargain with vendors but how can you when things are so cheap anyway & Peru is classed as a Third World country? I couldn't do it! I received a small discount for cash but even that made me feel a little comfortable. We are such a fortunate country in Australia to bargain over what would end up equating to A$5 just didn't seem right.

We proceeded to a lovely restaurant for a massive lunch before being bused back to heaven (our hotel) before a 6pm briefing on our train ride to Machu Picchu early tomorrow morning. We will receive a 5am wake-up call with the bus departing for the train station at 6am. We are lucky be to spending tomorrow night at Machu Picchu, where I doubt I will have Internet availability, so no update tomorrow.

Sacred Valley - Day 2

Posted by Gary & Lynette Landy on November 9, 2012 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Today we received a wake up call at 7am as we needed to be up & ready to go by 9am.

We began our day by doing a tour of part of the Scared Valley of the Incas by visiting Inca ruins, very similar to Machu Picchu but slightly higher up the mountains that surround the 91Klm valley we are in. The ruins are so spectacular that they defy words. At the ruins we all had the option of being guided to the top or by guided around at ground level. Given the issues I have been having with the lack of oxygen I remained at ground level however, Gary opted to climb up, along with majority of our tour group. The views that Gary saw & hence photographed made me wish I had been able to make the climb. I will have to wait until we return Home to post all our photos as I can't seem to work out how to so it for. My iPad!

After spending an hour at these ruins we headed to a school that is assisted by The Scenic Group. The school takes students from the age of 6, which is kindergarten level, up to 14. After the age of 14 children have the option of attending secondary school. Primary school is compulsory & in order to encourage parents to send their children the Government funds breakfast & subsidises a light lunch. School hours are 8am until 1:30pm. After school children return home to assist Mum & Dad with field work....perhaps guide the bullock plough, plant seeds, harvest crops etc. There is no time for playing!

Every Scenic tour that has time in the Sacred Valley will visit one of the two schools that Scenic have an involvement with. Some schools (the pretty ones) in the Valley will get up to 20 tour visits a week, whereas the two schools Scenic are involved with only get visits & hence assistance from Scenic. As part of the cost of our trip, included was an amount of money which Scenic use to purchase items for these schools. Each year these two schools provide Scenic with a "wish list". This visit our donation supplied flour, oils, cans of tuna & other food items needed for the lunches provided. We had the opportunity to contribute further earlier, which enabled our Tour Director to purchase treats for the kids. So the money from our group meant that all the children, about 50, to receive a bag that included 3 pieces of fruit, a bread roll, a biscuit, couple of lollies & a drink. The look on these kids faces was priceless when given their "bags".

At one point we all formed a circle with the children to do the "hokey pokey". Whilst moving to position myself in the circle, a young girl, about 11, raced over & grabbed my hand. She was fascinated with my nail polish. Given that she was so taken with the polish I asked the teacher if I could give her a tube of lip gloss...that was ok & the response I got from doing this very simple thing was truly heart warming. The smile, hug etc certainly made it well worthwhile.

The visit to this school would have to have been the highlight of the tour so far.

It was then back to our sumptuous hotel for a rest for me before a group dinner. Gary however decided to walk the 2 blocks to the town square where a festival was underway. The varied native costumes were stunning. The festival was on as a celebration of a 107 year anniversary.

All in all a bloody fantastic day.

Sacred Valley - Day 1

Posted by Gary & Lynette Landy on November 7, 2012 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Oh My God.....what a stunning place is the Sacred Valley! We arrived here after landing in Cuzco and being bused for about 2 hours. What magnificent vistas of the Andes we saw. About an hour into our bus trip we stopped for a photo & bathroom stop & were lucky to meet some local ladies & children. They were there to display & sell local woollen & Alpaca items & other goods to those who stop to take advantage of the photo opportunity. I couldn't help myself & purchased that first of what I am sure will be numerous Alpaca scarves & wraps.....I am determined to come home with a few!

After leaving the photo stop we drove for another hour to a Hacienda, which was amazingly beautiful. Our 3 course lunch with drinks was all provided. The food, like the environment was amazing. Following on from lunch was a 20 minute drive into the town of Urubambra for an unbelievable hotel for the next 3 days. Our room is so lovely that I actually took photos of it! The hotel is called Tambo Del Inka (Tambo Del Inca meaning resting place for the Incas). Our room actually looks out at the over a river! A small piece of trivia - the Amazon River is 6756 Klms long, starts in Peru & is 91 Klms longer than the Nile.

The reason we are based here for 3 nights is an attempt at acclimatisation to the high altitude before heading to Machu Picchu. I totally understand the reason for it as, even the short walk from the plane to the airport concourse let most of us struggling slightly for breath. As we left the airport, Mick Hill our Tour Director, advised that it is normal to fall asleep during our 2 hours bus trip, especially the first part whilst we were travelling at of 3769 metres above sea level. It is also normal whilst here to forget things (so we don't need to blame that on the ageing process for a week). At this altitude most people struggle to sleep properly & we were recommended to have some oxygen before retiring, which should enable us to get some decent sleep. We have been told that to help combat the effects of altitude sickness that we should drink about 4 bottles of water plus 2 bottles of Gatorade, to replace the electrolytes that are urinated out with all the water. It seems like spending a lot of time in the toilet will be something we do for a week or so! From what we have seen so far, it will be so very worth it though!

Unfortunately, whilst we were sitting having lunch I started to really struggle for breath & was administered oxygen for 10 minutes. Apparently this 10 mins of oxygen will assist me for about 6 hours. Given I take chemo daily, I've been advised that I may not get the 6 hours, especially when performing any activity.....we shall see. Either way it won't be a problem.

I am going to try & post some photos of Santiago, Lima & what we have seen today....fingers crossed it all works ok.

We are both so very impressed with Scenic Tours that we are already talking about doing another tour with them....destination unknown at this stage.

Lima, Peru

Posted by Gary & Lynette Landy on November 6, 2012 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

After experiencing temperatures around 30C whilst in Santiago it was a slight shock to be back around 20C here in Lima, so no tanning was gotten today whilst touring the Ruins etc.

Interestingly, we understand that Lima only has an annual rainfall of between 3 - 5mm per year. As you would expect with very little rainfall it is very dry & dusty here.

We began our day here in Lima at 8:15am, meeting our Tour Manager in the hotel lobby & were arranged into groups for our tours of Lima for the day. Scenic offer "free choice" tours in a couple of places during our South American experience & Lima was one of these free choices. Prior to departing Australia we had chosen to do the day tour that included the Huaca Huallamarca Ruins, which is Inca ruins that have been excavated right in the city (walking distance from our hotel). These ruins were amazing to see being that they were Inca Temples & burial sites. Unlike Egyptian Temples & Pyramids these have flat roofs. The reason behind this apparently is that the Incas held important ceremonies & prayed to the Gods up there as they saw this as being closer to their Gods & more advantageous.

After the Ruins we proceeded into Lima central for a brief tour of the City. We were fortunate in that the tour included seeing a changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace....the "goose stepping" was amazing to see!

After a 30 minute delay caused by 2 of our group who didn't listen (their words) to our guides instructions about where & what time to meet we were then taken to a private Museum to see items unearthed from tombs & other excavations in Peru which date back well before the Incas to 3000BC. The symbolism in the items recovered & there representations to their Gods, the Earth etc were beyond belief. After touring the museum, which for a private collection was massive, we were provided with a typical Peruvian lunch & the local alcoholic drink......Pisco Sour (a high alcohol spirit drink made from grapes).

Now it was back to the hotel for a siesta before the welcome cocktail party at 6:30pm. It won't be a late night, as we have an early start tomorrow morning as we depart the hotel at 7:30am for Lima airport to fly to Cuzco & then a bus ride to the Sacred Valley for 3 days of acclimatisation at high altitude before our train ride to Machu Picchu.

Lima, Peru

Posted by Gary & Lynette Landy on November 5, 2012 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

We arrived in Lima about 3:30pm were immediately taken to our hotel, Swissotel Lima by Scenic Tours.

We have been left to our own devices until 8:15am tomorrow when we will meet our tour manager & begin our South American experience.  

During the 2 days we spent in Santiago (as per tour extension) we met up with 2 other great couples also doing the same Scenic tour.  David & Angela were on the same flights as us all the way from Melbourne and Alan & Rosalie joined from Sydney.  If the others joining the tour are as easy to get along with as these two couples I think we will be in for a fun tour.

Santiago, Chile

Posted by Gary & Lynette Landy on November 5, 2012 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

We arrived in Santiago about 9:55am on Saturday 3rd after departing Sydney at 11:30am the same day.....the international date line sure makes things interesting.  By the time we arrived at the Ritz Carlton hotel it was bordering on 2:30AM back home so we were both stuffed.  A quick shower then a snooze for a couple of hours had us feeling a lot better by late afternoon which enabled us to wander around the area near our hotel.  Unfortunately it was a long weekend in Santiago which meant there was nothing open!  As the temperature was around 30C it was extremely pleasant wandering the streets. 

The Ritz Carlton was absolutely fabulous & the staff couldn't have been more helpful. 

When we arrived at the Park Royal, Melbourne airport on Friday evening we wandered over to the airport to catch up briefly with Lynette's niece (Lauren) & whilst there I grabbed a pair of Scholl heel guards for my shoes ...... They felt a little loose.  Well huge mistake.....between the airport & hotel (about 200 metres, if that) I developed blisters on both heels. As my other shoes were packed I removed the heel grips for the flight only to discover that by the time we arrived at the Ritz Carlton the blisters had not only developed further but had now burst, to the point of the skin coming away on both heels totally.   Bloody chemo stuffs my bodies normal responses & everything is worse than it should be!  Anyway, upshot was we needed to get the hotel first aid officer to bandage & disinfect my heels.

This problem made walking quite difficult for our City highlights tour the following morning but there was no way I was missing it so it was on with thongs! Both of us were glad we persevered & did the tour as I said earlier, Santiago is a beautiful city to visit & we wish we'd had more time there.

So now it's onto to Lime, Peru for the official start of our Scenic Tour.

Day 1 - Flights from Melbourne to Santiago, Chile

Posted by Gary & Lynette Landy on July 31, 2012 at 11:25 PM Comments comments (0)

After spending the night at Melbourne Airport to save us Travelling out there at 4am we boarded our flight to Sydney for our connecting flight to Santiago, Chile.  The flight fromSydney to Santiago is only 12 hours & 30 minutes. It is quite amusing to depart Sydney, Australia at 11:25am & fly for over 12 hours but arrive in Santiago at 9:55am the same day....we arrive here before we have left home!  Our accommodation in Santiago is at the renowned Ritz Carlton Hotel for 2 nights