Bolivia – a country that exceeded my expectations

La Paz, Potosí and Chuquisaca
Potosí and Chuquisaca area – vicuña and rock formations
Potosí and Chuquisaca area – salt lake and volcanic features
Potosí and Chuquisaca area – Laguna Colorada, flamingos and rocks
Potosí and Chuquisaca area – flamingo, salt lakes and railway track that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid rode!
Uyuni Salt Flats
Uyuni Salt Flats early morning
Uyuni Salt Flats and salt hotel
Uyuni Salt Flats and train graveyard
5,000 perfectly preserved dinosaur footprints in the Cal Orck’o cliff

 

Quad bike trip to ‘crater’ viewpoint

Gadventures 11 day  Bolivia Discovery tour

 

 

I love Peru! I’ll let pictures tell a thousand words…

Ballestas islands boat trip from Paracas

Huacachina Pisco Winery and Oasis

Nazca Desert Cemetery

Arequipa

Animals on the road from Arequipa to Chivay

Volcanoes and Chivay

Colca Canyon 

Small town near Colca Canyon

Cusco

Ollantaytambo, Maras Salt Mines, Moray site and my favourite alpaca 

Machu Picchu 

Tambopata Rainforest / Amazon Jungle 

Lake Titicaca and the floating islands of Uros

Taquile Islands / Isla Amantani

 21 day – Gadventures Inca Heartland Trip

 

 

 

 

Lima Half Day Tour

City of Kings and Queens Tour by Haku Tours

 A brilliant tour and really interesting guide.  I was picked up at my hotel in Miraflores and driven into the centre of Lima.  First stop was the St. Franciscan Monastery for a look around the church, the museum and the catacombs. Yep those are bones through the grate, people should not throw money down there apparently.

St. Franciscan Monastery

Walking around Lima on such a beautiful sunny day you really do get to see it at its best. The bar is allegedly the oldest in South America…Hemingway is said to have been here. The green building is the old station which also is apparently the oldest in South America.  I am going on what the guide told me, but haven’t verified anything.

The main square has a nice atmosphere and we felt very safe.

Changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace being watched by some tourists, locals and a couple of nuns.

Changing the guard at the Presidential Palace

The tour was 3.5 hours and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t too far to walk, our guide bought us an ice cream which was appreciated as it was a very hot day. We learnt lots about the history of all the palaces and the gruesome stories about the catacombs and all the bones and skulls in there. There was also a really interesting story about a painting of the last supper that was in the museum…the artist was hung because of what he painted and he had said that Jesus was homosexual.  Edwin was so enthusiastic and interested in history, architecture and art.  We were a small group of just me and another couple, so for $36 I thought it was well worth it and would recommend to anyone. 

 

Costa Rica Adventure in Costa Rica, Central America – G Adventures

Spot wildlife while cruising through the canals of Tortuguero, search for the elusive quetzal bird, hike through the cloud forest, enjoy the gorgeous beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, savour a local lunch at a G Adventures- and MIF-supported coffee plantation

Source: Costa Rica Adventure in Costa Rica, Central America – G Adventures

Bolivia Discovery in Bolivia, South America – G Adventures

Explore the winding streets and markets of La Paz, experience the Uyuni Salt Flats and high mountain wilderness by 4×4, discover colonial cities and historic cultures in Bolivia

Source: Bolivia Discovery in Bolivia, South America – G Adventures

Inca Heartland in Peru, South America – G Adventures

Spot condors at Colca Canyon, trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, experience local life at a homestay on Lake Titicaca, explore the world’s highest capital city

Source: Inca Heartland in Peru, South America – G Adventures

South & Central America Adventure Booked

Having thought I would take some time off work to do a few weeks of voluntary service overseas, I got distracted by looking at holidays in South America!

I thought I would do the GAdventures Southern Cross trip from Lima to Rio, but then I couldn’t get excited about the Brazil part of the trip and wanted to go to Costa Rica instead.  After an hour with Alessandro at STA Travel in Victoria, London, we managed to work out that I could do Peru, Bolivia and then Costa Rica. Success!!

So I set off after Christmas for a 46 day trip to Peru, Bolivia and Costa Rica!

On my travels I will be able to tick off a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites (which I should start to keep track of as I’ve seen quite a few already).  I am excited to see Machu Picchu but have been realistic about my physical capability and have booked the train, rather than making the 4 day hike – this has also given me enough time to do the optional Jungle Safari!  I’ll be seeing Lake Titicaca, the Uyuni Salt Flats, volcanoes, hopefully turtles, condors and hopefully lots more.

I need to pack for all seasons as it is rainy (summer) season in Peru, Bolivia is high altitude so can be minus temperatures at night and Costa Rica will be hot and likely humid.

For anyone interested these are the trips that I’ve planned:

Inca Heartland Tour

Bolivia Discovery

Costa Rica Adventure

Photos and my progress will be tracked on this blog (wifi signal dependent!).  There are going to be quite a number of days where there won’t be any signal or indeed electricity!  However, I’ll try to keep it up to date when and where I can.

Four holidays booked!

Despite travelling from Inverness to London every week, I still haven’t lost that urge to travel.  Currently I have four holidays planned, ok so one is a trip down to stay with my folks…but still it lifts my spirits no end having holidays on the horizon.

In September I have booked myself on a yoga retreat in Ibiza.  I have had no end of teasing about me going to Ibiza…not about doing yoga, not about going on my own, instead it is the ‘making shapes on a dance floor, foam parties and getting drunk in the streets jokes’.  I have never been to Ibiza before and to be honest didn’t think I ever would, as I also thought it was just all about drunken people and raves…are they still called raves?  I am looking forward to going and have been trying to do a little yoga every day since I booked it…I don’t want to embarrass myself too much.  I feel I am already walking straighter and feeling more energised. 

In November I am visiting the Wirral to stay with my folks.  I have been planning a reunion for a company I worked for in Liverpool for nearly 9 years.  The venue is booked, deposit paid and 39 confirmed attendees so far.  I will also catch up with my friends from the Wirral, so it should be a great week of reunions.

In December I am off to Bratislava for a long weekend with my best friend Helen.  We will be taking in a visit to Vienna whilst we are there.  We visited Budapest a few years ago and I expect the same sort of chilly temperatures so will be stuffing thermal vests and long johns in my hand luggage.

Finally in June 2016…yes I really have booked a holiday 11 months in advance…Helen and I are off to Michigan.  In 1991-1992 Helen and I were both au pairs in Michigan and next year will be the 25th Anniversary!!!  I looked after  three girls (twin babies Molly and Trish and four year old Erin.).  It will be the twins 25th birthday whilst we are there, so a double 25 year celebration!

No holidays planned with my husband yet, but likely we will rent a cottage in Italy near Florence at some point and maybe a mini break to Islay.  I buy 10 extra days holiday a year, he doesn’t and then he spends 5 of his days on boys trips (usually to Scotland games).  So that gives me 15 days a year to sneak in more trips than him 🙂

Universal Studios Singapore

Well I make it no secret that I love Minions, so a trip to see them at Universal Studios was obviously a top priority for me.  A brilliant day out and a fair bit of money spent on the Express Pass to jump the queues, but there is no way we would have got on all the rides without it.  I also spent a fair bit of money in the Minion shops…no surprise there.

Minions at Universal Studios Singapore

New family members

 

Purple Minion Invasion

 

Brisbane

 
With my husband still sick with a bad case of flu, I decided to still venture out to Brisbane.  My cousin, Robyn, dropped me off at Apollo Wharf ferry terminal and I caught a ferry to the city centre.  Going along the river you can see some amazing houses and with the sun shining and the blue skies, despite it being winter, it makes Brisbane seem a very desirable place to live. But it would be way too hot for me in the summer. 

Brisbane

Brisbane City skyline

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia Zoo

We had seen a programme, back in the UK, about two tiger cubs called Spot and Stripe.  They lived at Australia Zoo so we were keen to include a visit to the zoo in the hope of seeing them.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to see those particular tigers but we did see some of their other tigers who they go into the enclosures with and they treat them like they are house cats.  Stroking them, giving them milk, and you can pay extra to either go on a walk with the tigers or to have a photo taken stroking one.  We didn’t pay the extra money for those experiences, I was nervous enough stroking the kangaroo!!  

Tigers at Australia Zoo

I really enjoyed our day there with my husband, cousin and her family.  The boys were really well behaved, despite it being a long day and we pretty much had got there when it opened and left just before closing. It was during half term but it didn’t feel too busy, it seemed like there was plenty of space and lots to see. We got to stroke a koala bear and kangaroos, so definitely a more hands on experience than I have had at other zoos.

Australia zoo

 

Sydney & Bondi Beach Tour

We decided to do the Hop On/Hop Off bus tour around Sydney, which included a separate bus tour of Bondi Beach.  Each tour takes around 90 minutes, although there isn’t much commentary but it is in quite a few languages. 

Selection of shots taken on the tour bus

I spotted this really cool building which I think is a lovely idea.

Green Building

I am not sure why people rave so much about Bondi Beach, we have seen much nicer beaches around Sydney.

Bondi beach

 

 

Blue Mountains National Park

It was about a 130km drive up to the Blue Mountains to see the three sisters and visit the National Park.  There was a cable car that took us down into the rain forest and we did a walk around the wooden footpaths and then walked down to a waterfall. We then took the scary train back up and Allistar took the other cable car that went across vertically and came back. It was a lot cooler temperatures in this area, but at least it was a sunny day.

Katoomba

Blue Mountains

World’s steepest train?

Me on the train, eyes closed and covered!

 

 

Home and Away Location!

 
We visited Palm Beach area and saw them filming a Home and Away scene!  We walked up the hill/steps and made our way up to the lighthouse. It was a bit of a trek uphill for my unfit legs but I was pleased I made it.  The view was pretty great from the top.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse and Palm Beach

View from Barrenjoey Lighthouse

 

Palm beach

 

Humpback Whale Watching off Manly Coast

Today I learnt that Southern Hemisphere humpback whales tend to have white(ish) sides/undersides, unlike the Northern Hemisphere ones.  I have seen humpbacks in Hawaii and Cape Cod and I never tire of seeing them.  This is the first time we have gone watching and not seen a series of breaches.  There was an adult and juvenile whale that kept coming up beside our boat.  We took a trip from Manly and it wasn’t too choppy.

Whale watching off the Manly coast

 

Australia Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

I know a blog is supposed to have lots of words but I don’t want to end up with a backlog and a lot of the purpose of this blog is to remind myself what we did and provide a selection of photos for family to see, so here’s a short post about today.

My brother-in-law, Tony, was our expert guide for the day, with me being chauffeur.  Our day at the National Park including some terrible kangaroo photos, hey ho!

Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

Kangaroos and view to Palm Beach area

 

Australia…our first few days

I am very behind wth my posts because of jet lag and nights out, so here is a brief selection of photos from our various days out.  

We caught the bus to Manly and then hopped on the ferry to Watson’s Bay.  We saw some whales offshore but too brief a glimpse for a photo.  Allistar obviously went for the beer taster at the 4 Pines Brewery pub.

A day trip to Sydney on the bus led us to walk through Sydney Botanical Gardens (which is free!)…

Sydney Botanical Gardens

At the bottom of the hill, when walking through the gardens, you find Sydney Opera House …which is not how I thought it was, it is 3 separate buildings and the tiles are just like bathroom type tiles.  Here is a selection of shots.

Sydney Opera House

And a small selection of photos of Harbour Bridge.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

 

 

 

Dubai Day 2

We were quite late waking up and so headed for breakfast with only 30 mins left before they were due to stop serving.  I was a complete piggy eating 6 pancakes with fruit…or at least I thought I was a piggy until Allistar beat me in that by having two waffles with maple syrup, strawberries, whipped cream with berries and because that wasn’t quite sweet enough he asked for icing sugar as well!! (Photo inserted below in Aquarium montage.)  Our piling on the pounds day just continued all day, ending with a Cold Stone Creamery Love It sized ice cream!  Now lying in bed having had a peppermint tea and still feeling like I may well explode.

Anyway, apart from eating we did manage to squeeze in some tourist stuff.  Firstly we hopped in a cab from the hotel to Dubai Mall.  We headed straight to the At The Top Burj Khalifa and headed up at 12pm.  We hadn’t pre booked for the lower floor (124), so the only choice you have is to buy the VIP ticket which takes you to the higher floor (148) anyway.  

Burj Khalifa

We went back in the evening to see the fountain display and see it lit close up.

After our trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa, we stopped at the food court which is closed off and hidden from the view of Muslims who are fasting for Ramadan.  Then we had a look around the aquarium which was great value we thought.  Especially in comparison to Blue Planet Aquarium that I used to work at.  

Dubai Aquarium

 

Dubai Day 1

We travelled from Glasgow to Dubai overnight, arriving at the Raffles Hotel at about 8am, luckily our Room was ready.  We had a wander around Wafi Mall, a game of glow in the dark mini golf, a snooze back in the room, afternoon tea in the Club Room, a swim in the pool, soup and canapés back in the Club Room, another wander round the Mall, bought a yummy ice cream and then crashed out in the sauna which is our balcony to upload these photos.  We will venture out tomorrow but this was intentionally a lazy day. 

Portland to Seattle via Columbia River Gorge

20 June 2014

Bridal Veil Falls
On the way to Bridal Veil Falls we spotted people parking on the side of the road and we started to get puzzled as to whether this was the parking, we decided to drive onwards and eventually found the official car park much further on, so I suspect the people parking on the road were hikers.  We didn’t have too much time so we were glad to have driven on to the official car park.  Judging by the number of signs about car thieves it obviously has a history of car break ins. We weren’t there too long and had everything hidden in the boot/trunk of the car and were fine.  It is quite a way down to the falls but worth it to see them, the hike back up to the carpark was a bit of an effort, but didn’t take too long.
 
Multnomah Falls and Mount St Helens
Parking for Multnomah Falls seems to operate on a one out, one in basis, so keep your eyes open for people leaving or heading back to their cars.  Again we didn’t have too much time so only did the short walk up to the bridge and no further.  There is a restaurant and snack vendors there for something to eat.
 
The bottom right picture is Mount St Helens taken from the Mount St Helens visitor centre.  We managed to get there just in time to catch the last video which shows footage of the eruption in 1980.  It is worth stopping at to read the displays and watching the short film.  

 

 

 

Portland Japanese and Rose Garden

19 June 2014

The Japanese Garden is a bit out of the city centre and so public transport or a car is needed to get there.  As it was summer we took the MAX to Oregon Zoo and then caught a shuttle bus up to the gardens.  Out of season I think the transport changes so it is worth checking their website.  
 
The plan had been for Allistar to sit in a bar watching England playing football in the World Cup and I was going to head to the gardens, but in the end we both watched the football and both visited the gardens.  
 
The gardens were smaller than I had expected, but they are lovely to wander around.  We have a couple of Japanese maples at home and it was lovely to see so many different types.  The rose gardens are actually free and are a bit below the Japanese gardens.  It was a baking hot day and there is limited shade in the rose garden but plenty of shade in the Japanese.
 
The rose garden was free and you get a good view from there across to a Mount Hood.
 
 
 
 
 

Portland brewery tours

19 June 2014

Persuading Allistar that Washington and Oregon would be a great roadtrip location really came down to the selling point that Portland has soooo many micro breweries and despite us only staying in Portland a couple of nights, he seemed to really enjoy the tasting trays that the brewery pubs sold. A small selection of the ones we visited are in the collage, plus a few city shots and my ginger ale. I really liked Portland, I could easily have stayed longer and hope that one day I will get an opportunity to return here. The streets were so clean, lovely architecture, a real buzz about the place…probably down to all the beer people consume. I did a Facebook quiz ages ago which asked which City I should live in and it came out as Portland. I know these quizzes aren’t scientific and are just a bit of fun, but I was disappointed that it hadn’t come out saying San Francisco!! I do love San Francisco so much, but Portland comes a close second above New York and Chicago for US cities I like.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/f20/57134625/files/2015/01/img_0066-0.jpg

Bend to Portland

18 June 2014

 
 
The Three Sisters Mountains, Mount Hood, clear rivers, dense forests…I love this sort of scenery.  There is something really special about seeing snow capped mountains and in Oregon there is certainly no shortage of them.  Given that this was a day where we didn’t have anything specific to go and see and it was just a day for getting us from Bend to Portland, it turned out to be an enjoyable day anyway…soaking up the views and stopping to take in the panoramic views.
 
 
 

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

17 June 2014

Our interest in volcanoes and volcanic features was sparked during our trip to Hawaii in 2013. There is something so fascinating to me that all these different structures and textures can all be created by the Earth cracking or bursting open.

Exploring the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, which covers a huge area (many miles!) gives a great opportunity to see the different ways in which the surface of the land can be changed dramatically by volcanic activity.

The Lava Cast Forest
This is accessed by driving down a very, very long, dusty and bumpy road that seemed to go on forever. When we parked up we were wondering if the long drive was worth what we were about to see. The answer was obviously yes or I wouldn’t bother writing about it 🙂

You will see from the collage of photos just a snapshot of some of the features, from trees that have grown with twisted bark because they have maybe only one tap root that has managed to get through the lava to find water, so the bark twists to distribute that water. Also in the collage is a ponderosa pine tree which is fire resistant, miles of lava that flooded the area, holes in the ground which look man made but were where trees grew, the lava flow came and the trees burnt away leaving a cast in the ground. There are loads of these holes and they are different sizes and depths.

2015/01/img_0071.jpg

The Obsidian Flow
Okay so I don’t know whether it is because I am a lover of glass but I found the obsidian flow captivating. As we climbed part of the flow the sun came out and it was as if we were walking on a hill made of black glass. There was even a section that was in the shape of a love heart.

2015/01/img_0081.jpg

Lava Butte
This is another feature that we stopped at. I find it really interesting the different colours and the different textures that spew from the ground and this lava butte had really red/russet tones.

2015/01/img_0085.jpg.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

16-17 June 2014

2015/01/img_0070.jpg

I first heard of Crater Lake National Park when I was reading ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. She was walking the Pacific Crest Trail on her own and the trail runs past the lake. It sounded pretty amazing from her description, so I googled it and started reading up about it. With Allistar and I already now being really interested in anything volcano related, following our trip to Hawaii, it got me thinking…’how can we tie in a visit to Crater Lake and do the Pacific Coast Highway in one holiday. After a few weeks, or maybe months, of planning I had our circular route defined. I am posting these entries out of sync so I will post another entry with our route.

Back to Crater Lake….wow!!! The size, the colour, the snow ledges, the mountain views in the distance are all just amazing. The colour of the lake when the sunshines doesn’t look like your typical blue. I have seen Lake Taupo in New Zealand which is also a filled in volcano but because Crater Lake doesn’t have any rivers or streams that feed it and it has just been filled with melted ice and snow it is very clean and clear. Unfortunately we were too early in the season to be able to do a boat trip, which was disappointing but we did manage to upgrade to a room at the Lodge with a lake view. We had been booked in a cabin in Mazama Village, at the time of booking Crater Lake Lodge was fully booked. However, we stopped and asked if there were any cancellations and we were lucky that there was. We had to pay for the room and then they returned our money for our original booking to our credit card later.

There are walks you can take and if open you can drive around the rim. The northern most part of the rim drive was closed but we did all the road we could and kept stopping to take photos. I took sooooo many photos it is crazy but it is just so amazing to see.

In the Lodge, we listened to one of the Rangers give a talk about the building of the Lodge. He was very enthusiastic and told us that many years ago they put fish in the lake and now they are trying to get rid of them, so they allow fishing without a permit so long as you take your catch with you or you use artificial bait. We drank cocktails and had a nice dinner in the restaurant in the evening. When we woke up there was very fine snow falling but later the sun came out again. This was a real treat and made a nice change from the motels that we have been staying at. Not cheap but worth it for a great night/couple of days.

I have included in the collage of photos one of the panoramic shots that has 2 shots of Allistar plus a third image of his head.

Note added later: Cheryl’s book ‘Wild’ is now a movie and I was lucky enough to see an advanced screening at the Inverness Film Festival a few months before general release. There are a few scenes where you can see Reese Witherspoon sitting looking out across Crater Lake and I felt like shouting “I’ve been there” lo

Sun dog and wrong turn to a site we didn’t see!

14-15 June 2014

 

As we pulled into a petrol station we saw people staring up at the sky, it was a bit like a sci-fi movie and I think we part expected to see a UFO. Instead we saw a Sun dog, something we had never seen or even heard of before. We bought an ice cream and starred in wonder with our hands covering the sun but a good view of the ring.

Another natural wonder we saw was a river so clear and an extraordinary colour, I can’t remember exactly where it was but we were heading inland having stayed the night before in Crescent City.

2015/01/img_0072.jpg

We stopped at tourist information near the turning for the Oregon Caves National Monument. After some debate we decided not to make the long drive to the caves, as they were going to be really cold and we hadn’t booked a slot. Now I don’t know what happened but somehow we managed to go the wrong way and we did in fact end up driving the many miles down the dead end road to the monument. When we got there we decided we still didn’t want to go into the caves and so we did one of the hiking trails up to the viewpoint and it was worth the climb for the view from the top. It really felt like we were on top of the world!

2015/01/dscf0575.jpg

2015/01/dscf0569.jpg

Umpqua River Lighthouse

13 June 2014

I don’t know the correct way of pronouncing Umpqua, but I can’t help but think of the rhyme ‘umpa, umpa, stick it up your jumper’…random I know!!!

2015/01/img_0075.jpg

The Umpqua River Lighthouse was interesting for two reasons…1) it is a river, rather than sea lighthouse and 2) there are red lenses, not just clear ones!

The lens is worth the climb up the steps, even if you aren’t keen on heights.

Seal Rock

11 June 2014

We thought we would stop at Seal Rock to have a walk along the beach and look at the alien sea life we found!!!
 

Cannon Beach to Yachats

10-12 June 2014

We checked out after a lovely evening at Schooners Cove in Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach is a lovely town to browse the galleries, jewellers and gift shops. We spent the morning wandering around and saw some lovely art and jewellery made from sea glass.  A stop for a photo of Oswald West (not in collage), then stopped at Rockaway Beach where friendly squirrels were living in the rocks between the beach and carpark!

We stopped at Tillamook Cheese Factory for a quick self guided tour then lunch including yummy ice cream (3 scoops each!!).  Plenty of cheese samples on offer as well, so by the time we left we were stuffed.  After leaving there we got lost trying to find Nestucca National Wildlife Reserve, I am not sure how we got so muddled but it did give me an opportunity to stop at Bob Straub beach for a quick panoramic shot (after scaling a huge sand dune).

Finally we found Nestucca just at the point we had given up looking.  On the drive up to the higher car park we saw some deer, the photos are not good enough to include in the collage.  After we had parked at the upper car park we then walked up the footpath to the viewing station and what a view!

Cannon Beach to Yachats 1

Driving further south down Highway 101 we stopped at Cape Foulweather, Devil’s Punchbowl and it was a bit windy!!

We finally arrived at the Fireside Motel. We stayed here for 2 nights and in hindsight we would rather have stayed 2 nights at Cannon Beach instead. The Fireside has a great location and offered free breakfast cereal or muffins etc. but there was something that we felt was lacking…I suspect if we had just stayed one night we would have been fine with it. We weren’t too close to the sea but had a sea view and it was pretty noisy.

We had dinner at the the Drif Inn both nights!

Cannon Beach to Yachats 2

On our day off from driving south, we walked along the coastal footpath into Yachats and had a drink and cake in the Green Salmon Cafe, we then walked back to the motel and drove to Newport and visited the Rogue Brewing Company and did some shopping. A nice relaxing day and a walk along the coast is refreshing and makes a lovely change from being in the car so much.

Yachats