Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cuzco & Machu Picchu, Peru

Cuzco, what a charming little city! We arrived to Cuzco by plane which was only a one hour flight from Lima. (note for those taking the plane, take Star Peru or LAN not Taca or if you do, be prepared for hidden fees...). Cuzco is almost 3400 m above sea level and this quite often causes altitude sickness for some people. Tina and I both luckily didn't suffer too much, some headache, tiredness and occasional feel of being short of breath.

The best food we've gotten in Peru so far was definitely in Cuzco. This was at a vegetarian restaurant called El Encuentro on our way from the hotel to Plaza de Armas...yes another one, I believe they have a square called "Armas" in every city in Peru:). Since we only had less than a day to explore Cuzco before heading to Machu Picchu, we decided to come back to Cuzco after exploring one of the wonders of the world.

Before embarking on our Peru journey we spent quite a lot of time figuring out how to do our trip to Machu Picchu...train, bus or both, staying overnight at Ollantaytambo or Aquas Calientes or going straight from Cuzco...there definitely are options to chose from! Our itenary went something like this...spend a night in Ollantaytambo, do a day trip to Machu Picchu and go back to Cuzco the same day.

We took a fully packed mini van, 1.5 hour ride from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo where we spent a night. We got up early next morning to catch the train to Aquas Calientes, this was another 1.5 hour trip with some beautiful views. The closer we got, the more excited we were to soon be walking on the ruins of Machu Picchu. From Aquas Calientes there we busses leaving one after the other to take people up to Machu Picchu. You could also hike this part, they say takes about an hour and half...unless you are in a really good shape and willing to hike up without stopping, my guess is it would take longer than that, seemed like a pretty steep hike...After a bumpy winding bus ride we finally got there. There Machu Picchu was right in front of us. We were admiring the famous view that you see in every postcard and guide book. We had a wonderful guide who explained the history of the ruins and afterwards we did our own exploring around. Tina and I went off to take pictures and found a breath taking view on the edge of the ruins where we sat for a while. I could not describe the feeling of awe I had while sitting up was truly amazing...
On our three hour train ride back to Cuzco, Perurail offered us some snacks and entertainment. The hostesses had music pumping out loud while they gave us a fashion show introducing various traditional Peruvian clothing. Fun for us and I'm sure they got some pieces sold too. We arrived to Cuzco tired but extremely happy and satisfied with our memorable trip to Machu Picchu. I hope you get to experience it one day, unless you already have...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lima, Peru

Now that I've been in Lima, Peru for two days those feelings have changed slightly, I feel more relaxed and ready to immerse myself into the new culture:) Since our (Tina, my dear friend will be travelling with me for the first two weeks) departure was in the early am and we did not get that much sleep on the plane, we decided to take the first day in Lima fairly easily. After breakfast and a nap we headed out for a walk around the neighborhood, Miraflores. Our walk ended up being an eight hour marathon...first we walked around a restored ceremonial centre,the Huaca Puccllana ruins. Since we had some bigger ruins ahead of us on the trip we decided not to go in but just observe the ruins behind the fence. After that we found the charming Inka Market where we got really tempted to buy tons of traditional Peruvian souvenirs but tamed our impulses to only getting a few items. Those items became more special to us when sweet and bubbly Gladys educated us on the cultural meaning behind them. Gladys also gave us charms with Huayruro seeds that are said to bring good luck, fortune and health. That day we also got familiar with a traditional Peruvian drink called Chicha that is made out of black maize. The taste of it slightly reminded me of a Finnish christmas time drink called glögi.

On the next two days we headed towards downtown Lima. We were all excited and ready to experience the fully cramped combi bus where the "busboy" shouts out loud the destination during the short stops whilst people jump on and off the bus. Instead we found out that the busses going downtown were running on a more modern system, like a new fancy metropolitan subway on wheels...

Downtown Lima had very beautiful architecture and so we walked around for some hours admiring them. We went to Plaza de Armas which was surrounded by stunning buildings such as La Catedral de Lima, Palacio Arzobispal and Palacio de Gorbierno which serves as the presidental palace. Close to the plaza there's also the Iglesia de Santo Domingo and Monasterio de San Francisco, they are both worth of checking out. During the daytime downtown Lima was fun to explore but as soon as the evening came and it got dark some of the older gothic like buildings and the ominous atmosphere made us want to jump back on the bus to seek a more safe feeling outside downtown.

There's my experience of Lima in a nutshell:) Now I'm really looking forward to moving ahead, hopping on a plane and seeing what Cusco has to offer! Until then...adios amigos!

Pre travel feelings...

While October 20th was getting closer, the day when my three month journey to South America and Caribbean would start, it slowly became a reality to me that I was REALLY about to embark on this amazing adventure! I had mixed feelings...quite excited, slightly nervous and also happy, especially to have friends join me on part of my trip! Half of the trip though I would be on my own which made me a little sad because I would not be able to share all the experiences with someone...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Goodbye Finland, Hello Canada

It's been four years now since I moved to Vancouver, BC. My first contact with Canada was when I was two years old and my family moved to Sudbury, Ontario. My parents, like me now, wanted to experience something different in life so they sold our belongings in Finland, packed a few luggages and off we moved to Canada for five years. We had a five year plan, it was to work and enjoy a different way of living life in a foreign country. We stayed with the plan, ended the five years over seas with a 2 month travel journey around 17 states in the US and then moved back to Finland.

Ever since I had the thought in my head that I would want to come back some day to see how life in Canada would be. First time I really considered it was when I was in my early twenties but the timing never seemed to be right. Then finally when I was getting close to my thirties I thought "it's now or never" and so it all started happening. For a while I had been considering about continueing my studies so I thought I would combine these two goals of mine together, move to Canada and study there. I applied to a university on Vancouver Island to study Recreation and Sport Management and got accepted in. I sold pretty much everything I had including my business and my apartment, packed a few luggages and said goodbye to my family and dear friends. At the same time I was excited about my new life but also felt sad about leaving my loved ones.

It has been an amazing four years of studying, working, a little bit of travelling and most importantly making great connections with some amazing people. I feel that during this time here I have learned about life more than ever before and that's because of those people who I've crossed paths with. I've met so many people with various backgrounds and from different walks of life. All their interesting stories and life philosophies has taught me so much and this is something that I will always be grateful for.

Maybe I'll tell you some of the stories along the way but now I'm going to catch a breath of fresh air in the Finland we have the snow, here we have the rain and we get lots of it. That's something I don't think I'll ever get used to. Luckily I don't have to worry about the rain nor snow this winter. Three week countdown to my South American - Carribbean trip has started! Adios for now!