Category Archives: Travel

Tissue Time

I went over to Tom and Lori’s last night to help them with some last-minute packing. When I got there, Lori handed me a small bag with my name on it.  “We got this for you at the State Fair.”  What you need to know is that Lori and Tom love the State Fair as much as I do.  We usually meet up once or twice a year, although we don’t spend long periods of time together, as we like different things.  They love to shop in the Grandstand and Lori loves to sit through lots of radio shows.  Oh and she loves Math on a Stick.

When I started to open the little bag, I said “this isn’t going to make me cry, is it”? They both said no but as you can guess, it did make me cry.  A little rock with the Chinese character for friends.  It’s exactly the kind of item that I would never acquire for myself but will now keep forever.

So we cried a little last night and I’ll go home mid-day today to wave goodbye as they depart the neighborhood – so probably some more tears at that point too. Remind me to take tissues.

What can make you tear up?

Two Days

Before my trip to Peru, I was well aware that this would be a trip of a lifetime. Even if I hadn’t already thought this, everyone I knew was sure to tell me.  As you all know, one of my life goals is to not have expectations set too high.  So this felt dangerous to me, to hear so many folks talk about bucket lists and dreams come true.

As a way to try to tamp down my expectations, I did not do ANY research on Peru or Machu Picchu prior to the trip. From our hotel in Cusco, we took a minibus to Ollanta Station (1.5 hours) and then took the Vistadome train to Machu Picchu City (another 1.5 hours).  Then there was the tourist coach up the side of the mountain (hint: if you are afraid of heights, always try to avoid the window seats on a trip like this).  On this last leg of the trip to the site, I reflected that I really didn’t know anything at all about Machu Picchu, with the exception of the altitude – 8,000 feet.

Turns out that there isn’t a massive amount to know. The pre-Andeans had abandoned the site centuries before it was re-discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 and they left no written record.  In fact “Machu Picchu” is just the name given to the site in the local dialect and means “old mountain”.  Archaeologists and scientist are pretty sure what many of the buildings were for: homes, palace for the Inca when he visited, security look-out and even a temple (although they only believe this because on the winter solstice the sun shines directly through the main window of the building) but other than that, they don’t know much about how life was lived here.

As I stood gazing out over the stone buildings I was struck with a strong desire to go back in time for just a couple of days to see what life was like when Machu Picchu was populated. How did they live, what did they eat, what were their favorite past times?  Of course it would be nice to know why they abandoned the settlement, but if I only have two days, I don’t think I want it to be the last two days!

 Two days to visit a time in the past. Just two.  When and where do you choose?  (And an absolute guarantee you can get back home after the two days!)

Sent Forth

Yesterday was a day of sitting and people watching in airports.  In Minneapolis, we waited  for our flight to Sioux Falls at a gate where people were boarding a  plane to La Crosse , WI.  For some reason, several  of them were preoccupied with their phones and nearly missed the flight.  Husband is a U of W grad, and I took delight teasing him about the strangely disoriented Badger passengers getting on the flight to Wisconsin. I suggested they were too drowsy from eating all that cheese.  Husband joked that the Badger motto was “Don’t bother me, I’m watching the game”.  I told him that my college motto rather loftily described me as an “informed person sent forth  to influence the affairs of the world at the same time being dedicated to the Christian  life.” Sometimes I think I would rather watch the game and eat cheese.

What motto from college or high school or family are you supposed to live up to? How are you doing with that?

 

Planning Ahead

Now that Christmas Day is over, husband and Daughter and I started talking about a trip next December to Austria.  Daughter has lots of exciting ideas and brings up infinite possibilities. Husband is dour, and says he just wants to be away from the US and all the holiday hysteria the week of the 25th, while Daughter wants to be gone in early December.  Prague is a must, as is Hallestadt, Austria.  I just don’t want to be rushed and stressed. We will spend the next couple of months debating and discussing, and then we will consult with a travel agent. Planning ahead sometimes isn’t easy with a bunch of opinionated people.

How do you and your family plan ahead? How do your plans work out?

Thunder & Lightning

Photo credit:  Javsama

As part of my site inspection in Peru, we spent two nights in Cusco, which is also known as the “Gateway to Machu Picchu”. Cusco is in the mountainous part of Peru and is 11,152 feet in elevation (this is actually HIGHER than Machu Picchu).  While there are certainly spots on the globe higher than this (Kilimanjaro, Mount Everest), Cusco routinely makes the list as one of the highest altitude cities on the planet.  Many of the hotels in Cusco pump extra oxygen into the rooms and almost every establishment of any kind (shops, restaurants, hotels) have access to oxygen tanks, just in case.  If you search the internet, you’ll find a massive amount of information about altitude sickness, what causes it, what you can do about it.

But nowhere are you warned about the thunderstorms. In the mountains and tropical areas of Peru, it’s rainy season right now.  That means a lot of gray days and in Cusco, thunderstorms – three to four a week for a few months.  We experienced a thunderstorm the first afternoon we were there and let me tell you, when you are 11,000 feet up, the thunder and the lightning is MUCH closer to you than down in  the lower climes.  It’s hard to describe the visceral feeling that goes through you when the lightning seems just on the other side of the street from you and the thunder crackles and booms loud enough that you cover your ears.  We were touring a couple of convents during the storm, both with large courtyards and covered walkways; we weren’t actually standing out in the rain (which was intense as well) but close enough that the storm felt startlingly  close by.

The next day, I got to spend a couple of hours with the tour guide all to myself (a serious perk in my estimation) and he told me that in the Andes, the god of thunder is the most popular weather god as he is associated with the health of agriculture and crops. He is not known as Thor there, but as Illapa (pronounced E-yapa) and he even has his own holiday – July 25.  Apparently he is the keeper of the Milky Way which he keeps in a jug and pours out to make the rain.  Did I mention that on a clear night in Cusco, the Milky Way is very bright and visible?

So I came home from my trip with a robust appreciation of the god of thunder and lightning. When thunderstorms season rolls around next year, I’ll have to try to enjoy it more.

Any gods or goddesses that “speak” to you?

80 Days

Today is the anniversary of Phileas Fogg completing his trip  in Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 days. He left on October 2 and got back to London on December 21.  I haven’t read much of Verne, but I thought this  plot was fascinating and fun when I read it years ago

What route would you take to go around the world if you mainly took trains and boats and cars?  What would you want to see? 

Khaki & Backpack

There is a Wyndham hotel right across the street from the Lima International Airport. Although Lima is a gigantic city of 11 million, it is just a quick stopover for many tourists who are on their way to the interior of the country to see Machu Picchu.  In fact, the Wyndham does a very brisk business for those arriving from the States at 12:30 and 1 a.m. in the morning, who then turn around to depart the next morning for Cusco and other cities farther south and east.  At 1:30 a.m. the front and bell desks are fully staffed!

There might be folks staying at the hotel who are NOT heading off to hike in the mountains, but you can’t tell by looking at them. Everywhere you look the view is khakis and backpacks.  At breakfast (which opens at 4 a.m.), even families are all dressed in khaki and even the smallest kids have backpacks (although you see more red and pink backpacks at this age).  Hiking boots and sturdy shoes always round out the ensembles.

It is such a ubiquitous outfit that our last morning in Cusco, I was startled (yes, startled) to see a group of five women at breakfast in extremely fashionable clothing. Tight leather-ish pants, a lacey red blouse and the little short black jacket of one woman definitely caught my eye.  And shiny red heels that were so high that if I were to wear them, I would have to super glue my feet onto them to keep from slipping right off.  She and the other four women looked lovely and very stylish, but definitely not in keeping with the khaki and backpack set!

What item in your closet do you wear the most?