Posts Tagged With: Travel as a Solo Gal

Adios and muchas gracias Cusco! Onto Lima tomorrow


September 8, 2014

Bienvenidos todos!

What a marvelous couple of days in Cusco. My first night, the rain and fog hit the lights on the streets in such a way making plaza enchanting. The city welcomed me back with open-arms. I have made ensured meals consisted of lots of quinoa and cerveza!

The place I’m staying is off the road and requires walking through three courtyards within a schoolyard to reach it. The terrace on the fourth floor lends itself to a most miraculous view of the city. Morning wake up calls are the sounds of dozens of chatty children pumped up on sugary treats running around the courtyard during a break from their classes. I can faintly make out teachers attempting to settle the balls of energy with exhausted efforts.

The following days yielded much walking. I have even hiked up to the Cristo Blanco on two separate occasions! No doubt the over 550 steps left me slightly winded but the altitude has not phased me. Maybe my body has just resigned itself to the fact that it is going to be pushed to some ridiculous level above sea on annual basis so it has decided to cope? Nija Warriors, here I come!

Shopping is the ultimate downtime here. As if a game, I weave myself in and out in the various markets tucked away on the old brick streets. This years style of alpaca sweater is strewn throughout  the markets, each with something slightly different to offer. Finding exactly what you’re looking for is a skill that requires precision, patience and haggling.

Between all my shopping sprees, I managed to have time to take a chocolate making workshop at the Chocolate Museum. Nibbles of milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate awakened the palate for further indulgences of chocolate tea, Mayan hot chocolate and Inca hot chocolate. Two polar opposites – one spicy of cayenne the other sweet with honey.

As fortune would have it, there was the parade going on Saturday through Monday, all through the night, in celebration of one the many saints. Bands harmonize with classic Peruvian music; masses of Peruvians  adorned in costume marching and smiling through the streets. Various sweets, chicha and corn snacks lend themselves at every turn. Normally quiet and reserved women are indulging in cans of Cusquena and startling the passing tourists as they block their paths, trying to engage them in a dance. The random wafts of sage reinforce the ancient feeling of the city.

Wrapping up my time here, I took a cooking lesson with CuscoCooking. Our chef, Luis, lead us to San Pedro market (a market I’d become quite familiar with) to obtain supplies. Navigating the narrow aisles of salted alpaca meat, freshly butchered meat assortments and smells, we weigh out the vegetables and herbs required for our meal. The fruit section comprised of many unfamiliar fruits. And what better way to determine what to buy? Tasting of course! Passion fruits, pepino, cherimoya and the likes introduced themselves to the class happily.

Back in “la cocina”, Luis guided us through a three course meal –  corn soup, llomo saltado and chocolate fondu with our new-found fruit friends. And let’s not forget the passion fruit sour – salud!

Completely satiated, I have made my way back through the courtyards and up to my room to try to consolidate all my wonderful treasures into my backpack before setting off for Lima tomorrow. I may get up early to grab a Starbucks coffee (yes, corporate America has found its way here) and bid the Plaza de Armas one last goodbye. And then onto Lima for the last leg of the trip and to meet up with Natalia!

Love to all,


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Arrived in Cusco – Behold, the Andes Mountains!


September 5, 2014


I have arrived in Cusco! The weather is cool and drizzling, but already my spirits have been lifted with the Andes in view. Insert huge sigh here…Found my way back to Cusco Plaza where I stayed with G Adventures 3 years ago! Insert second gigantic sigh here…I am already indulging in a warm cup of coca tea. I need to rest and take it easy while I adapt to the altitude but my itchy feet desire to wander around the Plaza de Armas again. Maybe a hot shower and non-jungle clothes will do for the time being. Yes, I think so.

I’m here until September 9 then off to Lima.

Love to all,


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Heading to Cusco Tomorrow


September 4, 2014

Today has been a day to explore Puerto Maldonado…and I am done. After spending two hours in the Star Peru office trying to gimp my way in Spanish, I managed to change my flight and I depart for Cusco tomorrow. Words cannot even begin to relay my relief to be venturing to the mountains again and seek cooler climates. It is hard to believe, but Puerto is hotter than the jungle. Although, the rains came this morning and have mellowed the temperatures slightly, sweat unceasingly ripples out of every pore.

Seeking a bookstore for a Spanish-English dictionary, I met a new-found friend, Raul. At first I thought he worked there, but again, after using some broken Spanish on my part and broken English on his, he was just hanging out. He was a lawyer and psychologist from Arequipa here for family. The bookstore was closing at 1200 pm, as everything does for “siesta” and Raul embraced me in a whole-hearted hug and confirmed we were friends. I left without a dictionary…

We set out to Anaconda Lodge today for lunch and had Thai food with Holwer monkeys. Sadly,   more monkeys revealed themselves today than the entire time in the jungle.

I know there is  much to fill you in on about my almost two-weeks in the jungle, but still wrapping my head around things. And currently, I am doing the hunt-and-peck method on this foreign keyboard, making things quite challenging. Not to mention, it has literally every word underlined as being mispelled! Not an English-speaking computer. So, if there are typos, a thousand pardons, as I would not know at this point.

Wish me luck in my last minute change of plans for tomorrow and hope things go smoothly. Off to catch a tuk-tuk in the dark, crossing my fingers I make it back to the house without being mauled by a pack of wild dogs…

Love to all,


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Made it out of the jungle…

Creepy spider

September 3, 2014

I arrived back in Puerto Maldonado today after leaving the jungle two days early, mostly unscathed. There is much to catch up on and I have some mixed feelings. I was stalked by an ocelot, caught a few bats and snakes, and managed to get chiggers.

I will write more in the coming days, but I’m ready for the mountains.

Love to all.

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Made it to Puerto Maldonado

August 23, 2014

After many delays, I’ve arrived at the Fauna Forever headquarters. I’m getting ready to be briefed and set out to my station tomorrow morning for 2 weeks. I’ll be keeping a journal (I hope) and write when I can. Already seen owl monkeys and a fellow bunk mate (below).

Love to all.


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Friday meshes into Saturday

August 23, 2014

My sleep at the Lima airport rivaled that at the Qatar. This time, there were no chairs since. I have been unable to check in so I am not the departure terminal and therefore STILL lugging the bags around. I feel I found what was “the sleeping place”described by fellow travelers in Lonely Planet: a hallway leading to the security gate.

A few Peruvian men line the floor, already snoring with a newspaper to cover the face as a passerby reads the news he is sheltered with. A cluster of young female travelers sit awkwardly and another young man busies himself inflating his travel pillow. Allowing my overstuffed backpack to crash to the floor, I envision what a nice back rest it would make. Crouching to the ground, I thought this is something I should have done in my 20’s but here I am in my 30’s, making my nest on the hard surface. But honestly, I don’t think I would have been comfortable enough to do this in my 20’s and would  probably resemble the uptight cluster of female travelers perched at the end of the hall.

Amazed at how quickly I doze off, I was awake just as easily to pillow man using his hand pump unceasingly. He’s blowing up an air mattress! You go dude! Maybe I should have whipp out my sleeping bag…

My next sleep-cycle breaking noises are more common – floors being buffed, luggage being dragged. Gazing around, the entire hallway was lined with folks as sleepy as I. It’s Saturday; a day to prove just as lengthy as Friday.

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So close but still so far…

August 22, 2014

I know at this time tomorrow, I’ll be in my new home for the next two weeks. Or at least on a boat to Tambopata or wandering Puerto Maldonado in search of knee-boots. But for now, I pace the one-chambered terminal in the Fort Lauderdale airport. Drank some coffee, harassed at TSA agent (per my father’s suggestion since we all know I would never do anything of that nature 🙂

But once I leave here I wait again; this time in Lima. I only just realized I will be needing to claim all my checked bags before finding a spot to sleep in the airport and check into  my next flight tomorrow morning. Those of you who helped me yesterday can stop laughing at any point now!

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Peru – Version 2.0

August 20, 2014

Hola! I return to Peru this coming Friday, August 22. For those of you who did not know me then or do not recall, my yearly traveling really solidified in 2011 with my first trip to Peru. A two week tour with G Adventures that included Lake Titicaca, the Lares Trek through the Andes, Cusco and Machu Picchu, Tambopata in the Amazon and strangers who became instant friends. This trip altered me completely, and I’ve been on the move ever since!

This year, I return to Tambopata for two weeks to do volunteer research in the jungle with Fauna Forever. Of course herps are my passion, as I completely geeked out on them last time, but as you can see, bats have earned a fond spot in my heart. So I pick up my books, boots and bat gear with plans to migrate into the dense jungle and see what nocturnal mammals await me.

But first, the shrapnel covering my upstairs floor (a.k.a. my belongings) need to find a way to consolidate themselves into my trusty steed of a backpack. Much work to do before the adventure begins.

I will try to keep up posts when I can, so please check in.

All my love,


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Reflections from Kilimanjaro in an email home to Dad and Kara, September 10, 2012


Yes, I will return to work speaking Swahili.  

I have made it back down the mountain!  And yes, I made it all the way to Uhru Peak – 19,341ft!  I mean, I barely made it.  I had no side effects from the altitude, and did not take that much diamox.  The hardest part (besides hiking for 12hrs) was the terrain.  Scree, rock, scree, scree, rock.  I hate scree.  We started plodding up at midnight, and yes, I get the zombie reference now.  I have never seen so many stars!  But that novelty wore off after about 10 minutes and the slipping and freezing cold began.  I wore 4 layers on bottom, 7 on top, a balaclava and hat, and super heavy gloves and I was still freezing.  Maybe because we were moving slower than the slowest living thing.  I never looked at my watch, as I thought I would get too discouraged.  But what felt like 2 hrs, we reach 4,900m (we started at 4,700m!).  My God, we are never going to get there!  My guide mentioned every one struggles around Jamaica rocks, and I figured it was because it was at 5,300m at that point.  No, because it is hell.  Literally as close to hell as you can get on the trail.  After over 5 hours of walking up hill and scree, up the never ending switchback, you come to these boulder sized rocks.  Maybe they were smaller, but it was all I could do to lift my feet over them.  Hand and knees.  And in between all that, more scree.  Step, slip, step, fall.  After about the fourth time of falling and my guide saying, “Don’t fall sister” (yeah, that was my plan), I was so exhausted, almost in tears, and ready to quit.  My guide points at the rocks above and says were are almost to Gilman’s point (5,600m).  So I get up, even though I have been staring at those rocks up there for the past several hours and have yet to reach them.  But yes, shortly we were there.  And I got a second wind.  The hike to Uhru point was much easier, but the weather was not good – very high winds.  We arrived at Gilman’s point around 6am right before the sun came up.  The last reach to Uhru, I was really struggling again, but I made it at 6:50am.  Got a few pictures, and back down.  We scree ski the whole way down for 2 hours.  Then another 3 hours of hiking back to the next camp.

So, sounds like fun, huh?  I am glad I did it, as it was very amazing, but don’t think I will do it again.  Not the summit anyway.  The days before were nice.  The first day there were monkeys!!!  Colobus monkeys.  They were playing hard to get, but once everyone else left and it was just me, one, then two, three, four came down about 30ft from me and were eating leaves and playing.  What can I say, they like me 🙂  It averaged 3-6 hours of hiking a day – some easy, some hard, but manageable. 

Tomorrow I head to Nairobi to catch the safari, which I am ready for now!



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