Tag Archives: tourist

Doing the tourist thing…

18 Apr

I woke up to the bus shuddering as the engine was killed. Everything was totally dark, except for a blinking yellow light outside from, what I would discover, was a construction truck. I overheard bus stewardess (not sure what else to call her) tell another passenger that there was a landslide. I closed my eyes figuring we would be moving on again soon.

Later, I felt the bus start again. When I looked at my watched, I was shocked to see that it was 4 in the morning — 7 hours later. We had sat on the side of the road for all that time, waiting for them to clear the road. Through the window, I could see the other trucks and buses pass, one at a time. When it was our turn, I could see where the road had been washed away and the pile of rubble still to cleared.

At 3 in the afternoon (the time we were suppose to arrive in Lima) when we stopped for lunch, I asked the bus stewardess what time we would be arriving. She told me that it would be another 7 hours. Now — I want you all to pull out your maps — yes, the world ones. And look for Peru. And look in the southern part of the country — there you go — find Cusco.  Ok — then look in the central part — find Lima. There you go. Now — see how far apart they are? Yeah — not so much, huh? Ok — now imagine that journey taking 29 hours.

yeah, i could barely believe it either.

We ended up arriving at 11 at night, 8 hours past when we were suppose. A half hour after my next bus to Huaraz was leaving.

And that, my friends, is how I came to spend an unexpected day in Lima with no plans whatsoever.

Peruvian coast

But — that is not the point of my story. Well, only part of it.

I did not know what to do today — so I walked around the area I was in, Miraflores, spent too much money on coffee and food. And took the double-decker tourist bus tour of the city.

Which I made fun of in other cities I have been in. In Cusco? I laughed at those poor suckers.

But there I was. In the front seat. Being that tourist with my camera as we drove by sights.

Sculpture in Parque del Amor (can you guess why it was named that?)

Which made me wonder to myself, why the scorn?  What is the problem with toursity things?

I am not quite sure – maybe it is that I have never really been a joiner.  And doing touristy things tends to mean that I am joining big crowds. Not my favorite thing.

But sometimes, touristy things, are touristy for…. well…. a reason.  Right?  I mean, the Eiffel tower is famous for a reason.  People go to Angor Wat for a reason.  Just like people flock to Machu Picchu for a reason.

And I was one of them.  Me, who doesn’t like crowds.  Me, who likes to be off the beaten track.  Me, who wants to go where others don’t.  If its harder, steeper, less people – yep, sign me up.  None of which defines Machu Picchu (or a double decker bus for that matter…).

But sometimes, those really tourist things are just worth it.  Machu Picchu is one of them.  Aguas Caliente, on the other hand, is not.  (there are two ways to get to MP – doing the Inca Trail, which treks right into the sight – but you have to reserve at the time of birth – and taking a train to AC and possibly spending the night there beforehand or afterwards.  I, needless to say, did not have reservations for the Inca Trail – so I took the train and spent the night there beforehand.  If any of you want to know how to do MP solo – I am happy to help – just send me a message – it is actually quite confusing….).

The good thing about spending the night there beforehand is that I was on the first bus up to MP – which meant that at 5 in the morning, I was waiting in line, in the rain, to head up to the site.  Which meant that I was one of the first people through the gate.  Which meant that I was one of the first people with a view of MP in the breaking dawn.

Of course I had seen pictures of MP before going, who hasn’t?  In fact, the above picture is taking by just about every one of the 500 visitors EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Yep, 500 people a day visit the ruins.  I am sure there are days when there are only 497 or 456, but that is still a lot of people.  And we all take the same picture.  So – I am sure you have seen it too.

Machu Pichu at daybreak

But, this is one of the touristy places that is really quite amazing.  In the early morning light, in the quite of morning with the birds chirping and swooping around (many swallows live in and around the site), I was blown away by the majesty of the site.  By how beautiful it is.  By how beautiful this world is and how truly blessed and lucky I am to be here, exploring and witnessing it all.

The clouds over the mountains in the distance

I spent the morning exploring the ruins and then climbed Huyana Picchu which is the mountain next to the ruins – in which there are ruins on the top of as well (Damn, those Incas – carrying stones up to the top of the mountain!).  It rained off and on for most of the day – but there were enough glimpses of sun to enjoy the views and the amazing orchids in the forested hills.

orchids on the surrounding hillsides

It was a day that I was glad to be doing the tourist thing.

looking down on Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu

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Monkey Temple

10 Oct

Monkey at Swayambhunath overlooking Kathmandu

Yesterday Katherine and I explored Kathmandu – Dubar Square, Thamel and Swayambhunath.  Swayambhu, or the monkey temple, was definitely the highlight of our day.

Heading to swayambhu is a great destination because from the top you can overlook the whole city.  We were amazed at how big it truly is — as our visit has been limited to so few places (Patan, two different bus station, more Patan, and Thamel (the touristy section of Kathmandu)).  Once you climb up all the stairs to the stupa, you have this amazing view of the whole city — it really is impressive.

Swayambhu is cool for a number of reasons.  One is the view, the other is the stupa and the third is the monkeys!  The stupa, in the center, is truly amazing!

What was really cool about this Buddhist holy place is that it is not just a tourist destination.   Sure, there are plenty of tourists there, but there are also lots of Nepalis who come there to either check it out or to worshop (if that is the correct terminology….)

There is also a monastery on site that you can go into.  When we viited, there were several monks meditating which involved chanting, drums and the traditional ‘horn’ (again, for lack of a better word).  There were several monklets in there (ok, apologies — they are real monks, just young).  It reminded me of the monastery that Sarah, Lindsay and I visited in Ladakh with all the young monks running around!

But, what we really loved were the monkeys!  It was hard not to take a gazillion pictures.  They made us laugh (and scared us a little when they came a little close) – though they did not seem to be bothered at all by us humans!  One of the highlights was watching the baby monkeys playing on the prayer flags that were hanging down – they would jump out, grab on, swing for a bit until another one jumped on, knocking the other one off!

Here are some of our pictures:

yoga monkey (this one is for you, smak!)

Oh monkeys…

The evening was topped off with Mexican food….  sure, in Nepal.  It  wasn’t amazing by any standards, but it was pretty good….  I’d go back.  Though the feeding frenzy can now come to a close — I feel back to normal from the trek….

Today is just a rest day — we both woke up feeling a bit lazy and no real need to go see more temples today (although there is one on the docket for tomorrow).  So – it has been a slow day – coffee, cafe, some shopping, lazy lunch with a salad and a beer….  feels like a vacation!    which is nice to do once in awhile.  The monsoon rains are over, though it is still quite warm during the day.  Today, we could see the mountains in the distance!

Hard to believe that it has been about 6 weeks already….

Ok.  peace out.  I am going to go enjoy some cafe time and look for a book to read!

love – AK

Patan

8 Oct

I promise to blog about the trek soon but first I wanted to let everyone know about where we are staying in Kathmandu.  For those who don’t know, I have a good friend from college who has been living in Nepal for the past 15 years.  She lives in Patan, which is technically just outside of Kathmandu to the south.  It use to be it’s own kingdom, but now it is inside of Ring Road, which circles the outside of Kathmandu.  We are staying close to her – which has been awesome and convenient.  Great to be able to see her (for instance, we ran into her last night on our way to pizza) and she has stored our extra stuff when we are out trekking.

Today was our first day of really getting a chance to explore the city.  We have been wanting to go to Dubar Square (Dubar is the name of where the king lived – so there are Dubar Squares in Patan and Kathmandu and probably elsewhere!) for awhile, but each time we were here we were too busy getting ready for trekking.  So today was the day!  After an amazing breakfast of coffee, fresh fruit, pancakes with cream and syrup (eventually our metabolisms will slow down and that will not be a wise idea….), we found Dubar square.

It took us some time to figure it all out – but since right now is festival time (Dasain – which is Nepal’s biggest festival – meaning that most people are out visiting family and many shops are closed, restaurants that are open (which aren’t many) have limited menus, and life is pretty quiet here in the city) it was much more mellow trying to get around by foot.  Normally, it is slightly scary — bikes, motos, buses, taxis and pedestrians are all headed towards us and there is honking constantly.  Not that it was silent today, but not quite as overwhelming!!!

As with all older cities (meaning older than what we have in the US) – I am amazed with the history that you find around any given corner.  Today was no different.  Yes, we were walking in the historical part of town, but the shrines – both Buddhist and Hindu – were beautiful.

But it is pretty interesting about how Buddhism and Hinduism in this area have some shared beliefs and shared icons.

Then, we found Dubar Square and wandered around there with all the other tourists for awhile.  I checked out the museum, which had some great displays explaining the differences between the Buddhist and Hindu gods and goddesses.

Following that adventure, we headed back to our guesthouse — well after a visit to the grocery store for some peanut butter, chocolate and cookies!  As I mentioned, our metabolism is still quite high….  it is good to feed just about every two hours!  But, it won’t be long before that changes…..  though with restaurants closed it is tough to be eating out all the time.

Katherine leaves on the 13th so we are planning to head out and sight see as much as possible the next few days.  As for me…. on the 14th….. who knows….

I promise to get trekking pictures up soon — it just takes forever to load the pictures but I promise that will be next!

take care –keep the comments coming!

love – AK