Saturday, December 7, 2013

As long as we're on the water, it's all good

Lest you all think that our lives are no longer sea-bound, let me set the record straight by taking a break from writing about our land based travel hijinks, and get back to the boat.  The countdown has begun….

For 2 years, while traveling south from Canada, to the states, to Mexico, and into Central America, inevitably when you meet fellow cruisers, the question is asked, “so where are you off to next, and what’s the long term plan?”  I had happily told every one of our plans.  Apparently, they were MY plans, but not my captain’s plans.  According to ME, we were headed down to Panama, would spend a few months there, and then cross through the canal, first heading right to experience the famous San Blas Islands, and then retrace our footprint to head north along the coast, to sneak into Rio Dulce, Guatemala as our hurricane hole.  We had just crossed over the Costa Rica/Panama frontera, when Ron turns to me and said, “You know, I really don’t have any desire to head left, to the Caribbean.  I think I’d rather turn right and go across to the South Pacific."  I was stunned, as this was the first I had heard about it.  

After a moment, I realized I didn’t care.  I had sailed in the windward islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, and had chartered in the BVI’s.  I was looking forward to heading back over there in my own boat, but….I had never been to French Polynesia, or any part of Oceania, so I had no problem with the change in plans.  

We DID end up spending a few months in Panama, 6 to be exact, but the lightning was on the way and Panama is not a good place to be during the July-December time period so we thought that a few months of traveling in South America, basing ourselves out of Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador would be a good stopping point in the journey to head west.   It WAS really good.  So good in fact, that we have decided to postpone our Puddle Jump ‘til 2015.  Another winter in Panama didn’t seem like a hardship to us, with a return here to Bahia next summer for another 5-6 months.  There is still the Amazon rainforest to conquer, and I desperately want to see Patagonia or Tierra del Fuego.  Not to mention that we’ve only scratched the surface of Ecuador, (and the obscure countries of Uruguay and Paraguay may be fun) and it seemed like it would be folly to leave South America until we had explored a bit more.  

And so we will.  

But back to the countdown.  We hope to start the journey back north within the week.  We had a new bracket for the new wind instruments made and it’s now installed at the top of the main mast.  We had a new keyway broached in our generator pulley, and it too is installed.  The fuel tanks are almost full, but we need another 75 gallons to top them up (at a cost of $1.03/gallon for diesel, there is no way we are leaving here without the tanks overflowing!!!).   A bit of water, our second propane tank filled, a short provisioning list completed, and we should be set.  The usual crap floating around the salon is pretty well put away, and even better, the v-berth is completely clear, save the asymmetrical spinnaker ready for deployment.   


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Main Event

So if you think you are going to get a religious experience visiting Machu Picchu, think again.  The first time I visited was in 1987, and I can still recall the goosebumps I got while overlooking this most ancient and mystical of citadels.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I knew I was in one of those “power places” on earth.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that this time I went, but I still have those memories, and while not mystical, it was almost better this time because I got to share it with people I loved.  

We had chosen to visit Peru in September for a very specific reason.  It was at the end of the high season, and as such we thought that perhaps the sites we wanted to visit would be less crowded.  Combined with still good weather (it would be cool, but still not much, if any, rain), we also anticipated not needing to make any accommodation reservations.  This scheme was good, and it frankly worked out great in the rest of Peru, HOWEVER this was the big MP, and apparently every tourist decided to go there at exactly the time we did.  

A word about the weather….if you are planning on visiting, consider your dates carefully.  Thinking you are tough, and don’t mind a bit of wet, coming in the rainy season can be fraught with drama.  In January, 2010, the Rio Vilcanota inundated the town with flood waters, forcing 2500 people to be airlifted by helicopter out of the valley.  The train tracks had washed away.  (Upon our return, we sat on the tracks for several hours, due to a landslide the day we were heading back to Cuzco, and this was with only a bit of drizzle).  
We had made our reservations at the Cuzco office for PeruRail, as arriving by train is the only way to get there, unless you want to walk.  
Pretty deluxe!

These reservations for trekking the Inca Trail DO need to be made months and months in advance, as they only allow 200 (! – only?) per day to begin to walk.  Coming from Canada and the wilderness we are accustomed to hiking, this seems like an insane amount of people.  Of course, this was before we got to Aguas Calientes, the town located at the base of Machu Picchu. 

Aguas Calientes
Upon arrival, we headed to the office which sold tickets, not only for the site itself, but also for the bus that would get us to the top.  We contemplated walking up (oh, for a very brief 5 seconds) before we happily forked over the cash to get up there the 21st century (or lazy) way.  The tickets for hiking up Huayna Picchu were sold out!  Only 400 per day (again, ONLY!)  This is the mountain featured on every photo you see of Machu Picchu, and we figured it would be a great place to see the sun come up.  Oh well.  

Although town looked pretty empty, and we knew there were other people around, we wanted to head up first thing in the morning to avoid the majority of crowds.  This meant waking up at 5am, and being in line for the first 5:30am bus to the top.  Getting to the bus stop that early, we were confident we’d have the site to ourselves for a time, but we were stopped in our tracks when we saw the lineup.  Suffice it to say that 1000+ people had crawled out of every nook and cranny and had gotten in line before us.  

Our new traveling companions
Perhaps not a religious experience
I’ve talked about how busy it was, but don’t let me dissuade anyone – this is a place that everyone should visit.   

And a celebratory Pilsen to mark the achievement of visiting Machu Picchu.  

Plan your visit to Peru, and this newly added Wonder of the World, but do it sooner rather than later, as there will just be more people there in the future.