Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'm Back!

Phew! What a trip! It was an amazing, difficult, beautiful, annoying, once-in-a-life-time trip!

We took off the morning of August 1st, and arrived in New York city that afternoon. We spent a few hours walking around, then got some pizza & cheesecake before heading to bed. Early the next morning we boarded our plan and headed to Rio!

We arrived at night, so were unsure about the city until the next morning - and then we were blown away! It's the most beautiful city we have ever seen! I spent some of the time at the conference (which was a nice reminder of why I don't want to remain in academia), but we also did a few tours. We went up Sugar Loaf, saw Christ the Redeemer up close, went to a football match (where the home team won!), saw a samba show, and went on a tropical island tour. Everything was amazing, and Rio really exceeded our expectations! We never felt like we were in danger (like many warned us about), and had an amazing time. I'd love to go back!

After a week in Rio, we headed to Peru (with a 6am flight, we had to be at the airport at 4am - needless to say, we both felt like shit!). Once in Lima, we met up with our tour group to discuss the trip. Everyone was either from Canada, the US, or England, so it was nice to be able to speak English to people (and have them understand us!).

We left Lima and went directly to the Amazon the next morning. We had a two hour boat ride that took us to the lodge, and it was beyond words! The whole time I was thinking "I can't believe I'm in the Amazon!". We did lots of nature hikes/boat rides and saw monkeys, many types of birds (even parrots!), caymans (related to alligators), and insects (no tarantulas or flying cockroaches though - thanks goodness!).

After that, we headed to Cuzco, where we were to acclimatize before beginning the Inca Trail. Cuzco is at 11,600 feet, and it was tough even to just walk around! Since the highest point of the Inca Trail was 13,800 feet, we were glad we had 1.5 days to get used to it.

So - the Inca Trail. Well, I'm going to admit that it was absolutely hell on earth to do the damn thing! The trail was 45 km long, and we did it over 4 days. It was steep, with lots and lots of steps. The second day we went up 1 km in 4 hours, and most of it was steps! I also wasn't able to eat a lot, so I had very little energy. Plus, I absolutely despise camping in a tent, and the squat toilets were the most disgusting things I have ever seen/used. To make matters worse, everyone else in our group was a superstar and were hiking really fast (they all do marathons in their spare time - yup. MARATHONS), so we were always the last ones to reach each checkpoint. Needless to say, I was miserable.

BUT, the scenery was absolutely gorgeous! And when we passed through the Sun Gate to see Machu Picchu below, it was totally breathtaking! Am I glad I did it? I wouldn't say that - I would have much rather taken the train up with the civilized people - but I am definitely proud I did it.

After that, we went back to Cuzco - where I got my purse stolen from the back of my chair in a restaurant (I know - it was the only time I did it on the trip - usually I had it around my body or legs)!! What made it worse was that my passport was in it. No, I don't normally carry it with me, but we were leaving early the next morning and took it out of the hotel safe so we wouldn't forget them. That means we were unable to travel to Puno/Lake Titicaca because I had to have a passport to get home a few days later. At least my camera wasn't in it!!

So, we left the group, flew to Lima, and visited the Canadian Embassy. I was able to get an emergency passport, and we even had time to be able to enjoy touring around Lima.

We left our hotel in Lima on Friday evening (August 21st), and walked in the door to our apartment this morning - about 40 hours of traveling/sitting in airports later.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip...full of memories that will last a lifetime. But, boy am I ever glad to be home!

Best parts: tropical island tour and football match in Rio; seeing parrots in the Amazon.

Worst parts: the squat toilets on the Inca Trail and getting my purse (with passport) stolen in Cuzco.

What I didn't miss about home: people on their cell phones; being on the computer all the time; driving.

What I did miss: our cats; being able to flush toilet paper; showering with a puff; choice of food; choice of clothes; our routine, everyday lives!

I'll do another post with pictures soon - but right now it's time to get some food, and figure out how to replace everything that was stolen!!