Peruvian Coast – A Desert!

12 11 2013

I knew Nazca, and the Nazca lines were kind in the desert, desert plain, desert plateau kind of place. But I had no idea how much of the costal region of Peru was desert. Aprox 20% of Peruvian land mass is desert!

That being said I’m enjoying my first bit of Peru! It is an interesting country to say the least! Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should say the ankle is improving, still sore, I still limp around, but it is feeling better all the time…

I didn’t do much in Lima, because I have a few more days there. First stop was Paracass; a costal port. It was quaint, beautiful, what you’d expect a beach ‘paradise’ to be like. I even have a nice sunset picture here for you;


Next we were on our way to Nazca, but a few stops first. One a ‘winery’ that is well known for making Pisco (they call it a brandy, describe it as something similar to grappa, but to me it still kind of tastes like turpentine). This was very different, on many levels from the Italian wineries I toured last month. Very interesting. I did find one wine I liked, very sweet that the nicknamed ‘the baby-maker!’



Next was the desert oasis of Huacachina; I could have sat by the pool, or toured the sand dunes in a dune buggy (looked like something out of tank girl) and by going sand boarding. It was a hard decision. The dunes were beautiful, I can’t get over how much sand there was (and how much I took home; it got everywhere). But they really were remarkable! I also had a butt load of fun!










We did finally reach Nazca, this morning we had a fly over of the Nazca Lines. The lines were remarkable, it’s hard to believe, why and how there are so many, and the figures were outstanding!



Then we visited the Necropolis at the Chauchilla Cemetery; where we got to see the remains of several mummies that have suffered various degree of grave robbery, and weathering from being exposed for public viewing over the last 16 years. I found this place really dark and sad, not because it was a cemetery (because to be honest I don’t mind being in most cemeteries) but I think because of how much grave robbing went on, how weathered these mummies have become, apparently the skin that is now gone was perfectly preserved until the last el ninio. There were human bones lying all over the surface of the land, and you didn’t have to dig to much to find a tooth or some other artifact that had been dug up and left by these grave robbers. It also made me think about how much has been robbed from this culture, from this land, and from many others. The thought that cities of gold were disassembled, and moved to other countries, to be melted down to adorn their own places of significance. No wonder these people, and others who have faces cultural genocide feel lost and have so many problems. We can only pray that one day, as a ‘superior race’ we can truly overcome, forgive and move ahead. I guess at least these people are starting to learn their story, which I think is an important part of the healing process.


We then were reminded that the earth has so much to give us, including all our food by participating in a traditional meal called Pacha Manka, where our meal was literally cooked in the earth, our group partook in a ceremony to remove the meal. There was lots and it was delicious.





Well tonight I am on a night bus to Arequipa.

I’m thinking of all of you at home and am looking forward to getting together with you! Thanks for the prayer, support, energy and love that you all send me.



Here is a link that you can click on anytime to follow my trip…

A lifetime of experiences in four nights…

7 11 2013

What can I say the Galapagos were truly amazing. I may have only been there a short time, but it felt much longer; not because I badly twisted my ankle, but in a good way.

I remember standing on a beach and thinking; who would believe that I (someone who dislikes the heat) would be standing on a beach at the equator. How did I get here? Funny story, I was thinking of taking a cruise that was being organized for members of the Cadet Instructor Cadre, but realized I’ve never really been interested in taking a cruise, but really wanted to do it to be with friends, I decided that is an expensive trip for something that I never really wanted to do, so I asked myself if there is anywhere I would ever consider cruising, and thought retracing some of the steps of Charles Darwin would be ultimate, and thus started my South American adventure!

It was a short trip, but a great one. Lots of great scenery, including walking across the islands, including walking across 600 year old lava flows and down lava tubes, and across sand beaches…







Some great animal encounters; which included, magnificent frigates flying above,




Marine iguanas; including having salt water squirted on my legs from them and watching them feed while snorkelling,






Crabs, were everywhere, some flees when you got close, but not on every island,



Albatross, mainly watching some of their courting rituals,


Sea Lions, by the hundreds, I wish I could share the stench, umm I mean smell of them with you too,






There were many more too, some of which I can’t post photo’s of until I get home and can take pictures off my camera, this includes, sharks, sea turtles, rays, tortoises, etc.

But a highlight was the boobies; I saw lots of Nazca Boobies,





And the most exciting for me; the Blue Footed Booby. I remember the first one I saw, from a distance perched on a rock to the last. But getting close to two on land was a highlight, they were actually on our trail and wouldn’t/didn’t move as we all moved past them.




My world is still rocking, it’s hard to believe that you can still feel the effects if the sea for a week afterwards, considering I wasn’t even on the boat that long, but I’ve been spending the last few days just resting my ankle. I think it is going to be a few weeks for this to properly heal.



I was really impressed with how the Park was set up to handle the ever increasing pressure of tourists. The islands have had some pressure that has decimated the tortoise population, and currently have had issues with shark finning. But they really are spreading the message of sustainability and conservation. I wish them luck in continuing this, and hope that future visitors have as rich an experience as I’ve had.

I leave for Peru tomorrow, and am there for the rest of the month. Let’s see what adventures await me there.

South America – Automatic Update #1

5 11 2013

Here is a link that you can click on anytime to follow my trip…

Well I should have just finished sailing the Galapagos Islands in a small yacht. This has been a life long dream to visit the area that was very important in helping Charles Darwin develop his theories of Evolution.

The Galapagos Islands are located about 1000 km (620 miles) off the Pacific coast of South America. The archipelago is comprised of 13 major islands and scores of islets that served as a living laboratory for Charles Darwin, the renowned evolution theorist. Long before Darwin arrived in the Galapagos, seafarers knew these isolated islands as home to some of the strangest and most wonderful wildlife imaginable, including birds that could swim but no longer fly, aquatic iguanas, dragon-like lizards left over from prehistoric times, and the giant Galapagos tortoises for which the islands were named.

Covering nearly 5000 square km (3100 square miles), the Galapagos Islands are now a National Park. The Galapagos National Park is the institution that controls the preservation of this environment, assisted by the Charles Darwin Research Station. Inaugurated in 1964 and based in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station is the one place where visitors can easily see the famous Galapagos Tortoises, which may live up to two hundred years. This is also the training centre for naturalist guides who accompany all visitors landing at more than 40 approved sites on the islands, and members of the international scientific community often come to study at the station.

The highlight for me will be some of the islands will visit and the wildlife we’ll see. This includes; San Cristobal, Espanola, Floreana, Isla Santiago, Bartolome, Santa Cruz, and Baltra. I think I am most looking forward to the boobies. I find them to be such an interesting bird, especially the red and blue footed variety. I’m also likely to see Waved Albatross, Marine Iguanas, Sea Lions, Sea Turtles, Tortoises and much more. I think I’ll like hiking the islands the most. I am currently undecided about snorkelling and swimming as I am not a strong swimmer, so we’ll have to see what the currents and waves are like.

Can’t wait to post some pics!

I think I underestimated Quito

31 10 2013

Well my first complete day in South America is done. I’ve had a wonderful day. After a bit of a sleep in I awoke to a beautiful breakfast buffet, the highlight included fried plantains…. Mmmmmm…

After that I went back to my room. Part of me wanted a sleep, but the other part said, “nah, go out for a walk”.

The walking won out… So I headed to the ‘old city’; a UNESCO world heritage site.










Now I knew South America had some nice churches but I was not ready for what was in store. Absolutely beautiful. Not only did I look at churches, but I took in one of my favourite past times… Climbing churches…

No I’ve climbed some precarious places throughout Europe and in North America… But I was not prepared for Basilica del Voto Nacional, which Lonely Planet described as “The highlight is the basilica’s towers, which you can climb to the top of if you have the nerve; the ascent requires crossing a rickety wooden plank inside the main roof and climbing steep stairs and ladders to the top”. Just remember, what goes up, must come down, this time using the same path… Lol







None the less the views were remarkable.








I visited a number of other sites and churches, returning too late to take the nap I wanted. I meet some of the group that I’ll be travelling to the Galapagos with. Went for supper at Uncle Ho’s; a restaurant that specializes in Asian and Ecuadorian Cuisine, eating a dish from the Andes, which included potato patties, a fried egg, sausage, avocado, and an onion and tomato salad… I normally like bananas, but when I saw fried stuffed bananas on the desert menu, I had to try them. The best part is that they were stuffed with Nutella…

I then packed for the cruise, had a shower, and am now off to bed… Night…


The night before the next chapter…

29 10 2013

I must say I’ve really enjoyed the last two weeks that have been spent with family and friends. I really do have some great people in my life. If there is one thing that my travels and work has taught me this year is that I miss being away from these people, and constantly look forward to the next time we can see each other.

As for Italy,

It was a great trip. I love being in Italy, and look forward to the next time I go back to visit. That being said this trip was different.

On our way, while in the Montreal airport, 30 minutes before our next flight departed we found out that our beloved Aunt Marry had passed away. She is close to all our hearts. We had a cry and hug in the airport and decided to continue with the trip as planned, as hard as it was. This did set a different tone for all of us and the trip. I don’t think we were truly able to grieve or seek any closure. We did attend mass, and light many candles throughout Italy for both Aunt Mary and her family. The picture below is of a candle that I light in Sienna at the Basilica of San Domenico. It seemed fitting to be lighting candles in front of Mary the Mother of God, as Aunt Mary had a strong faith and devotion, but was also an outstanding mother, grandmother, wife, and played so many other roles in her life. Another special thing about this church is that it is the resting place of Saint Catherine of Sienna, and her relics lied just across the church. May Aunt Mary rest in Peace, she will be missed by many.


Somehow we all still managed to have a good time, and see many wonderful things. I’m glad that we made the trip and wouldn’t change a thing. This was my third trip to Italy, but the first time for my Mom and sister; Renee. They were great travel partners, and the only thing that might have improved it would be to have the rest of the family there too.

As my third time there, I didn’t take many pictures and instead let mom and Renee play photographer. They took many pictures and already shared them on facebook, so feel free to visit their pages and see the photo’s. That being said I did snap a few.

Venice – beautiful in its own right. We spent a lot of time on the water and visited some interesting sites, including the museum of natural history (there are somethings about Renee that I’ll never understand). Our gondola ride was great and had some great singing to accompany it.

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Florence – We did not spend too much time in Florence proper, but also explored the region of Tuscany where we tested many wines. The featured wine of this region is the Chianti Classico, which I tasted many different, if planning on buying a bottle back here in Canada be sure to look for a band with a black rooster on the neck of the bottle.

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Orvieto was one of our favourite stops on the way to Rome. While waiting to ride the funicular out of the town I had a chance to snap a few scenic pics.

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Rome and Pompeii. I love Rome, as we drove in a got a feeling of returning to somewhere dear to the heart. I’m not sure why, but I really like this city, and everything about it. A highlight for Renee was to visit the ruins of Pompeii.

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Well it truly was a great trip. I don’t think it was the trip that we had signed up for or necessarily wanted but none the less it was a great trip. One of the best things about travel is it makes you appreciate all that you have, from amenities to family and friends. I’ve said it many times before; travel is great, it is awesome to be out seeing and experiencing the world. But it is also great to return home. I guess all good things must come to an end.


Well I guess I am off on the next leg of my adventure in the morning. Two months in South America. I’ll post pics and updates. I’ve borrowed and brought a spot with me; feel free to click this link all that you want to see where I am and where I’ve been.

Italy – Automatic Update # 3 – Rome

16 10 2013

This was my third (and not last) time to Rome, and we are now on our way home.

Day 7

As you journey to Rome, stop at the ancient Etruscan stronghold of Orvieto. Situated on a pedestal of volcanic rock in the Umbrian region, the lovely town boasts a breathtaking duomo—one of the finest cathedrals in the country. The black and white building is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic style and was constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries. Travel to this impressive Medieval city by funicular and take in views of the surrounding Volscian Mountains. Then arrive in Rome, where dinner is included tonight.

Day 8

Follow in the footsteps of Julius Caesar during your guided sightseeing tour of Rome. Highlights include entering the Colosseum, where 50,000 spectators cheered their favorite gladiators to victory, and making a photo stop at the ruins of the Forum, from which the Caesars ruled their vast empire. This afternoon is free to further your explorations of ancient Rome. Visit the Pantheon, or tour one of Rome’s many important churches.

Day 9

Take in all the art and architecture that greet the eye at every turn—from relics of the ancient empire to treasures of Renaissance and Baroque art. Stroll across the Spanish Steps. See Bernini’s captivating Fountain of the Four Rivers and stop at the legendary Trevi Fountain, into which centuries of visitors have tossed coins to ensure their eventual return to Rome.

This guided tour takes you inside the world’s smallest state, Vatican City. Upon arrival, you’ll first visit the Vatican Museums, which recently celebrated a 500-year anniversary and hold many of the world’s most important Classical and Renaissance-era sculptures. Next, you’ll visit the Sistine Chapel, where you’ll gaze on what is perhaps Michelangelo’s greatest masterpiece. Finally, you’ll visit the enormous St. Peter’s Basilica, the epicenter of the Roman Catholic faith. The artists whose efforts have contributed to its glory are some of the best Italy has ever known, including Bramante, Peruzzi, Raphael and Michelangelo. Masterpieces await at every turn, from Bernini’s magnificent bronze canopy to Michelangelo’s Pietà.

End your day with an elegant four-course dinner at one of our favorite Roman restaurants. While you dine, you’ll be treated to some of opera’s best-loved arias…and you might even join the singers on stage. Don’t miss this lighthearted evening of food and fun! Do you think Ted was up to sing?

Day 10

Today mom took a free day while Renee and Ted continued south;

Travel to Pompeii for a guided tour of the famous ruins. Discover how Roman citizens lived 2,000 years ago, before Mount Vesuvius erupted in and smothered the town of Pompeii in a flood of volcanic ash. Visit the excavated ruins of theaters, villas, temples and baths. Lunch is included.

Day 11

Today the rest of our tour left while we try to spend two more days in the Eternal City;

Today we went on a food tour;

Trastevere is the quintessential neighborhood with its small, cobblestone streets and building facades drenched in ivy. At night it is a happening destination for tourists and locals alike. Yet by day Trastevere is more like a little village with its timeless, multi-generational shops that have been serving the same local families for decades, and its colorful outdoor food market showcasing Italy’s abundance of fresh fruits, veggies, cheeses and fish.

On this walking food tour we get a chance to eat our way around the neighborhood enjoying 10 delicious food tastings that offer proof a to why Rome is one of the food capitals of the world. Along our way we engage with all the many wonderful families that work hard at preserving the city’s greatest food traditions. As with all of our tours this one features some fabulous cultural and historical sites that few tourists get an opportunity to see.

Day 12

Our last day in the city. You’ll have to ask us what we were up to, enjoying the last flavours of this wonderful trip! See you soon!

Ciao, Bella!

Italy – Automatic Update # 2 – Florence

9 10 2013

Well we’ve had a good few days in Florence.

Day 4

Cross the Apennine Mountains to the timeless city of Florence, birthplace of the Italian language, the Renaissance and opera. A guided sightseeing tour introduces you to the city’s splendor, including Brunelleschi’s masterpiece, the massive pink, white and green Duomo, complemented by Giotto’s Campanile. Then, discover the Basilica of Santa Croce, where the tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo are displayed as well as the Dante Memorial. You’ll also see the Palazzo della Signoria, which serves as an open-air gallery of ancient and Renaissance statues. This Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany. Dinner is included this evening.

Day 5

During free time in Florence, choose to admire the world’s finest collection of Renaissance art at the Uffizi Gallery. Stroll along the romantic Arno River or visit the Accademia Galleria to view Michelangelo’s early masterpiece, the sublime statue of David, sculpted when the artist was 26 years old.

Discover the essence of Tuscany on a full-day excursion. In Siena, a local guide introduces you to the town and its black-and-white marble duomo, where you’ll find brilliantly colored 16th-century frescoes in the Piccolomini Library. You’ll have some free time to explore the Campo, the square that serves as the center of civic life in Siena. Then, journey through the countryside to the town of San Gimignano, where you’ll have some free time to explore the city’s medieval towers or simply admire the Tuscan hills. As the sun begins to set, you’ll head to a nearby vineyard, where an included wine tasting awaits.

Day 6

Today we’d booked a wine tour through Tuscany via

Once we got back to Florence we got ready for our Dinner;

Take a scenic ride to the town of Fiesole, where you’ll be treated to some of the region’s best cuisine over a relaxing three-course dinner. Unmatched views of nearby Florence serve as the perfect complement to your indulgent meal. Fiesole sits on a hill overlooking Florence, and its views of the city have been prized since pre-Roman times.


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