Amazin Amazon

May 21, 2012

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After a 20 hour bus ride and a impromptu party night with Nicole Hannay in Lima Peru, we boarded our flight to Iquitos Peru….the Amazon! Flying into the Amazon is incredible and looks alot like it does on National Geographic. Miles and miles of water ways surrounded by dense green forest. When we got off the plane the humidity hit us like a brick wall. It was 30 degrees with 100% humidity.

My bud from Crescent Point, Blair Torry was on route from Ecuador to meet us for some jungle fun. We settled into Camiri hostel which consist of floating huts on the river. It was so nice to be down on the water, away from the city of Iquitos. They have the most motorbikes/mototaxis per capita in South America, so you can imagine what that is like. Very loud and stinky. On the water it is peaceful and you can watch the locals going about their days on the water. Boats filled with everything from bananas to appliances would pass us by, while we chilled in our hammocks.

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Every self respected traveller has heard of Machu Picchu and would not consider leaving Peru without paying it a visit. Personally I have been intrigued by the stories of lost Inca cities, the lost City of Z etc.. since I was a girl. Mike and I planned our trip to Peru around visiting this iconic site and this is our experience…

The Good: Machu Picchu takes the cake for the most scenic ancient city that we have seen thus far. It is build on the edge of a mountain side, overlooking a spectacular canyon. The mountains plunge straight up into the sky and are often surrounded by fog. The buildings are very well preserved and you get a real presence for the time and energy that went into building this amazing site. The fact that this place was only discovered one hundred years ago is not surprising once you see where it is situated. By far one of the best photo shoots I have ever done! 

The Bad: MP is not an easy place to get to. It is situated high in the mountains with no roads that run directly to it. There are a couple options to get there depending on your budget. The train line runs to the town below Machu Picchu, called Aguas Calientas. If you have some cash, you can secure a round trip ticket from Cuzco for around $140 for backpacker seats. The price goes up from there for 2nd and 1st class. The other option for getting there, and the one we opted for was a 5.5 hour bus ride + 1 hour taxi ride + a 3 hour hike. As there are no roads that go directly there, you must first bus to a town called Santa Maria. Once there you jump in a collectivo (taxi) and head onto a road I like to call death road. The reason buses don’t run on it, is because they wouldn’t fit! It is a curvy one lane road that is cut into the side of a mountain! Looking out the window you could look straight down into a canyon roughly a mile deep. Needless to say we were incredibly nervous on this section of our journey. Ironically the song “stayin alive” came on the radio and made us all chuckle. The road ends at the hydro electric dam, and that is where you begin your hike. This part of the journey was quite nice and very scenic and could be added into the “good” portion of my story. We followed the train tracks through the peaceful jungle and saw a few beautiful birds on our way.

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Cuzco, who knew!

April 11, 2012

After an overnight bus through a snow storm, we reached the town of Cuzco. Our only reason for going to another big city was because it is the launch pad for Machu Picchu. If you want to see the ruins you have to leave from Cuzco. We were pleasantly surprised with how much we enjoyed it here. The central park is stunning and has numerous old churches lining it. The prices are reasonable and there are tones of cuisine choices. Thank the heavens! We indulged in all you can eat curry (x2), falafel and two amazing pizzas while we were here. The shopping is also amazing and we had to hold ourselves back. We bought two alpaca sweaters to keep us warm at night and I got a sweet pair of 80’s leg warmers, which are all the craze here.

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The city is full of things to see, including ruins, statues and museums. We simply enjoyed the scenery, churches and food! and saved some of our budget for MP.

To our pleasant surprise we had a couple freind’s in town, who we had met in Nicaragua! Colin and Braydon were two of the four overlander’s who were biking to Argentina. We met up with them at the Loki hostel (dangerous place), for a couple beers to catch up. I say this is a dangerous place because it is a crazy, scandelous, party hostel were people disappear for weeks at a time! lol Luckily for us, we only got sucked in for one very drunken and fun costume party. After trying a Picso shot (the local liquor) and a few blood bombs, we knew we would never do that again! A hangover at high elevation is something I would not wish upon my enemies! lol

Another awesome surprise was our good friend Sven Andre was arriving into town from Northern Peru! The good times were many traveling with Andre and the gang in Nica, Costa and of coarse the Blue House in Bocas, Panama. We knew we were in for a treat. We met up Andre and his freind’s, Jackson and Will, the brother’s from the U.S, who we had also met in Central. The traveling world is surprisingly small. We headed to Loki, again, for a small dance party to celebrate our meeting up. We made it out without too much trouble and finished off the night watching a movie. The three boys had an interesting walk to their hostel, stopping at a club and seeing a ten person spitting/fist fight. lol Too bad we missed that one.

Jackson and Will are off to Woof on a local farm for a couple weeks in the mountains. The Swes- we- Can’s (as we like to call ourselves, Sweds + Canadians) are off to Machu Picchu. ttys

Peru Peru Peru

April 2, 2012

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Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and is way up in the Andies mountains, at an elevation of 7,661 ft. We came here to see the beautiful central square and plan our trek to the worlds second deepest canyon, Colca! It was really cool to wake up in the morning after our night bus from Nazca, to see the snowy mountains in the distance! Its been awhile since we seen snow so it was extra exciting.

After some feed back from other traveller’s, we decided that we would opt not to take a tour and see Colca canyon on our own. We jumped on a colorful local bus and headed six hours up into the mountains to reach the canyon. The country side is absolutely beautiful and we started to feel like we were getting the real deal, finally. The cliff sides are lined with terraces and colorful wildflowers in bloom. There were lamas and alpacas everywhere and I fell in love! They are the cutest animal in the world~! There were a few hairy spots in the road where you were looking down into the canyon (1 mile deep) right beside the tires of the bus! That’s when you don’t want the window seat. Read the rest of this entry »

Nazca Mystery

March 26, 2012

The town of Nazca certainly leaves a little to be desired as far as ambiance goes. Picture a dusty town with one central park, surrounded by shoe shops, cheap clothing shops and tour operators, and you have Nazca. The big tourist activity here is flying over the Nazca lines. We were bombarded with tour operators offering us hostels and tours as soon as we stepped off our bus. With a price tag of $80+ for a 30 minute flight, we deceided that flying was out of our budget. We chose to check out a few of the lines via taking a taxi and bus which costs us a whopping 10 bucks. There is a tower located on the main highway which overlooks the giant tree geoglyph and one that looks like a retarded frog or alien hands. The weird one is called “manos” which is spanish for hands, but the interesting thing is that one hand has five fingers and one has four! We also got to view the interesting trapezoids and lines which look like an ancient runway. Turns out there are hundreds of lines in the mountains here depicting all kinds of things, animals, birds, trees, plants, geometric shapes and even a space man! Who could have made these huge eliberate pictures in the mountains? and why would they go through the pain staking labour? No one knows for sure, but it is believed that they depict an ancient calendar and where built to appease the gods.

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We booked in for a sand boarding and dune buggy adventure, which we thought better value for our bucks. We spent five hours racing though the desert, jumping over dunes. We got to see our first mummies too. There were miles and miles of bones scattered in the desert, out in the open with no protection. Because there is very little rain, there is practically no erosion, so bodies are perfectly preserved. We even saw a small child with skin and hair still intact on its body. I have never seen a human skeleton before so this was a very interesting part of the day. The guide said these remains belonged to the last of the Nazca people, who dissepeared around 1000 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Mini Galapagos

March 25, 2012

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Isla Ballestas are a group of protected islands of the coast of Paracas Peru, that we knew we needed to see. They are called the mini Galapagos or the poor mans Galapagos, because for 10 bucks you can take a boat tour to see many of the same species! We were very excited to see our first Penguins. These are the Humboldt variety and are so super cute. They hobble along the rocks, looking very clumsy out of water. We also seen hundreds, if not thousands of sea birds. There were frigate birds, boobies, pelicans and many other varieties. The water was filled with the largest jelly fish I have ever seen. They were floating on the surface of the water, in the foaming scum that had developed from all the animal urine. I must say the smell was overwhelming when you reached the island.

The one side of the island is completely covered with sea lions and their pups. It was heart warming to watch all the pups playing in the surf. It looked like a typical school yard, lots of noise, rough housing and playing. I could have watched them for hours! The islands have been protected for many years so the animals are not afraid of the approaching boats. We got to stare into the eyes of some penguins and sea lions as they basked in the sun. 

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On the way there we also got treated to our first ancient geoglyph. This one depicted what looked like a candle stick or cactus. It was carved into the mountain side and stood over a 100 meters high. Pretty amazing! Dolphins also welcomed us by jumping beside our boat, which was a real treat. Overall money very well spent!


From Central to South

March 23, 2012

After 7 glorious months from Canada to (and through) Central America, we have made the move to a new Continent. We booked our flight which took us from San Pedro Sula, Honduras to Miami, Florida to Lima, Peru. Seems like a round-a-bout way to get to South America, I know, but we made the choice based strictly on the most inexpensive option. Unfortunately, the trip took a total of 24 energy draining hours, so when we reached Lima at 4:30 am, we checked into probably the most expensive hostel in town and slept till almost noon! Mind you, the hostel (Pariwana backpackers) was definitely the nicest, cleanest, most comfortable and accommodating hostel we have ever stayed at, and by expensive, it was $12.50 each per night for a dorm bed, lol.

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It could have been because we were exhausted when we arrived, but it felt like we had entered the ‘twilight zone’, or ‘planet of the kitties’ when the taxi dropped us off at the central park in the Miraflores zone of Lima. As we walked through the park in the darkness just before sunrise, there wasn’t a person in sight, but the park was teeming with house cats! Hundreds of cats were scurrying through the beautiful flower beds and cobble paths, and lounging in the branches of the trees. It was funny and creepy at the same time. I have to say though, it seems Peruvians are more in tune with animals than anywhere in Central America, as all the dogs and cats seemed healthy and there were little dishes everywhere with bits of food people had left for the strays. Also, I haven’t seen one female dog with long droopy teets, indicating that they don’t have time between litters to heal.

I like South America so far, although I find Lima to be quite expensive and commercialized, as can be expected in massive capital cities. We walked around Miraflores for a couple hours and we were quite impressed with how beautiful and well-kept this area of Lima is. The waterfront offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean crashing into dramatic cavernous cliff sides and sandy beaches. There are many well-groomed parks, lush with different trees and flowers. Cyclists and runners enjoyed the meandering paths, and tourists had access to as many little shops as they could imagine.

Lima has more shoe stores per block than any other type of store, which took us by surprise. Later, we noticed the Peruvian men checking out the feet of beautiful women as they passed by, rather than their rack, as in some other cultures. Nastaja found herself desiring a fresh pedicure, lol, though her only footwear consists of a beat-up pair of flipflops, which probably wouldn’t turn too many heads.

From here we will head south to Paracas to see some marine-life and the driest desert in the world!!