WEDNESDAY WANDERING: ON THE STEINBECK TRAIL

In March, I had an opportunity to visit the Silicon Valley area of California. I have visited San Francisco, Napa Valley, Laguna Beach, Los Angeles…, but I never made it to this area. Can I tell you a secret? I was really excited because, as you might recall, in 2016 I wrote a blog post about John Steinbeck’s novel Travels with Charley. This was my opportunity to visit some of the places like Monterey, Cannery Row, Salinas, and… wait for it… The National Steinbeck Center. But, I’m getting ahead of myself so I will start at the beginning of the trip.

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Sacred Valley Days 2 and 3 (or How I Now Own a New Explorer Status)

Days two and three of hiking the Sacred Valley are, quite frankly, a blur. I was trying to enjoy the experience and take it all in, but that proved to be difficult when you feel like you are neither seeing, nor experiencing, nor photographing when you are worried about safely navigating the climb/descent immediately before you. Many times, I felt like I was snapping photos from an automobile speeding down the Autobahn. I returned from the trip with very few usable photos, but hey, I got a torn hamstring as a souvenir. So, given the speed of our travels, I will consolidate these two days into one post. You are just going to have to trust me on this one. Day 2, we traveled about an hour drive from Cusco and hiked the back side of Tipón, where we saw examples of the Inca water channels and impressive stonework.

Sacred Valley II Collage, Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander
Sacred Valley II Collage, Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander
Senor de Huanca, Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander
Senor de Huanca, Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

After that, we met the van and traveled toward Pisaq.  Along the way, we stopped at a beautiful church – Seńor de Huanca. So named after the person who owned the land.  The spot is famous because a meteor landed there.  The meteor remains to this day inside a special room inside the church. It is a magical place and well worth a visit.

And then we were on our way to Pisaq. The Pisaq ruins were difficult for me. As full disclosure about this part of our adventure, there was more than one time I wanted to channel my inner two-year-old child so someone would remove me from the trail. I managed to be an adult and push through…barely. There was one point where we were on a very steep, narrow trail, and, I admit, parts of the trail was navigated on all fours. But I DID navigate it. After what I THOUGHT was a difficult passage, Jay and I reached a somewhat level area where we hugged the mountain stopped to catch our breath (we were high five-ing and celebrating our safety) when we turned the corner and discovered that we had another steep hill to climb. Okay, so this is where I lost it and started chanting, “I can NOT do that!” repeatedly. Maybe even at a decibel level higher than I realized at the time. Did I say, repeatedly?  Jay finally broke the verbal panic-induced trance with the reality of our situation by stating the obvious, “We have to do this because there is no other way out.” For the record, I hate when he unleashes logic on me. And so, this is where the real “fun” began. Needless to say, I do not have pictures memorializing that part of the hike.

Day 3, we started the day visiting the ruins in Ollantaytambo. Sometime the day before, my Fitbit went dead, and I had no way to recharge it.  With all these stinkin’ steps I was taking, I was not even getting fitness “credit”.

In the afternoon, I finally got some quality time in Ollantaytambo to walk around and take pictures. Ahh! This is more like it.

Collage 3 Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander
Collage 3 Digital Photography, © 2015 SuZan Alexander

Before I hit any of these trails, one of the books I read was Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams, in which he references “martini explorers”. When I read that, I scoffed, thinking, right-on brother. Then, it occurred to me that I might be classified as a "martini explorer". Horror! I had justified not hiking the entire Inca Trail, theorizing, to assuage my guilt, that this was my reconnaissance of the trek. By the end of day two, when I enviously; neigh, covetously, sat in a restaurant all stinky, sweaty, hurting, exhausted, sporting hat-hair… watching a group of ladies load up on a Mercedes bus looking all fresh and put together with shopping bags in tow; I know I was looking at them like a puppy eyeing a piece of bacon. It was then I announced aloud, "I want a Mercedes bus. I NEED a Mercedes bus." From here on out (and I feel a bit Scarlett O’Hara-ish about this), I shall be a “martini explorer”. And, furthermore, I shall make no excuses, nor be shamed by my new status as a “martini explorer”, for I have earned it.

LIFE LESSON: Before you unleash your hard earned money on a tour, make sure there is a Mercedes bus somewhere in the package. If there is no bus...RUN!! Run hard. Run fast. This is no time to power walk.

Next week, the reward is the end of the trail: Machu Picchu, so until then…

Happy Trails…

Mystery of the Nasca Lines

The Nasca Lines consist of hundreds of simple lines, as well as more elaborate geometric shapes and figures of hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, and even an astronaut. The Nasca Lines are believed to have been created between 500 BC and 500 AD, which only adds to the mystery and intrigue of why, and how, they were created. The Nasca Lines are located in the Nazca Desert which is one of the driest deserts in the world. The lack of rain and absence of wind are attributed to the preservation of the designs, which consist of shallow lines, or trenches, that reveal the lighter clay beneath the pebbles and top surface of the desert floor. The aerial view is fascinating. But, if you go, you have to be on your toes because the figures come up fast and are gone before you have too much time to linger with composition, camera settings and such. My advice is to just start snapping photos without pixel peeping too much and focus on enjoying the view because this plane ride ended much too soon. I could have spent hours up there taking it all in.

Nasca Lines Collage Digital Photography © 2015 SuZan Alexander
Nasca Lines Collage Digital Photography © 2015 SuZan Alexander

(Thank you to our fellow "explorers" for taking the picture of us with the plane (top photo that has been horribly cropped to fit the collage format).)

Next week, we will trade in the airplanes and buses for a boat and head out to Ballestas Island, sometimes referred to as the "poor man's Galapagos". Until then...

Happy Trails...

The Dunes at Sunset

In July, Jay had a wonderful opportunity to work in Peru. It just so happened that the scheduled travel time spanned the week of our 25th wedding anniversary. We had been planning a return visit to Venice to mark our anniversary, but this seemed like an opportunity for a new adventure, so we changed our plans. We postponed celebrating (by 4 days), he added a few days at the end of his scheduled trip, and I flew to join him in Lima for an anniversary adventure in Peru. Jay was in Peru for about three weeks before I arrived. We spent a lot of time on Skype, emailing, etc. getting things scheduled. Finally, it was time to fly to Peru. My plane was delayed, so I actually arrived in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Even in the darkness of night, I could tell Peru was as beautiful and biodiverse as I had read about and I could not wait to see it in the light of day. After a little sleep, I enjoyed hanging around the hotel while Jay worked. We stayed at the San Antonio Abad Hotel in the Miraflores District of Lima. The Hotel served as our "base camp" for the next couple of weeks. I can not say enough about the Hotel, but more importantly, how great the entire staff is. They were very accommodating to our requests and storing luggage for us as we took trips away from Lima.

Dunes at Sunset
Dunes at Sunset

Friday morning arrived and we were off on the first part of our travels. We rode a bus about four hours south of Lima where we stayed at Las Dunas Resort in Ica. Las Dunas is a beautiful and relaxing oasis in the desert. We checked into our room at 3:00 p.m. and where scheduled for a dune buggy ride at 4:45 p.m. It was sunset, so the light was beautiful and we were the only ones out on the dunes. Our driver even stopped and waxed up the boards for us to sand surf down a dune before he took us back to the Resort. I have not laughed that much in a long time. Jay made the comment that he hopes we are taking dune buggy rides for our 50th anniversary. Me too! Twenty-five years have provided a lot of moment where we feel like we have dropped off the edge of a sand dune, but somehow, we always seem to hit the bottom laughing. It has been the best ride of my life - literally and figuratively. And, while the dune buggy ride was crazy-fun, I'm still holding him to his promise of a gondola ride in Venice.

Okay, so I promise, no more anniversary stuff. Next week we are flying over the Nasca Lines. I hope you will come back, because I think it is fascinating and I really want to share it with you.

Happy Trails...