Saturday, October 12, 2019

Update #14 - Peru

October 12, 2019

hey there folks....how is everyone doing??? sorry its been awhile since the last update, but life is always busier when school is in session...peru was my end of the school year trip this past june...we have now been in school again since the last week of july....so life has been going at full tilt.....in the time since i have returned, i have had some fun weekends, celebrated my 50th birthday, visited cuba (which will be my next update - wow!) and have decided this will be my last year in panama.....it is time to move on after this year....so the job hunt is on for another school, in another country.....fingers crossed it turns out well.....i do have some things moving forward, so that is exciting!!!!

as for the trip to peru....i went on this exciting adventure for my friend nadine's 60th birthday...it was a bucket list trip for her and i was sooooo glad i could go with her for it....we had a great time and got really lucky for the biggest festival in cusco, peru just before the winter solstice.....it was an amazing experience....also went sand boarding for the first time in my life....tons of fun!!!! so, on with the pictures....enjoy!!!!


this is the main market in cusco, sometimes spelled cuzco, where you can find tourist things - hats, gloves, sweaters, key chains, chocolate - but also where you can find local goods - fruits vegetables, meats, drinks, etc....you can also sit down and have breakfast or lunch....which we did and it was tasty...rice with eggs and veggies....yummy!!!


these are just some of the potatoes you can find in peru....i was reading that peru has over 3500 different varieties!!!! how crazy is that!!! we had a bunch of different sizes and colors of potatoes while we were in peru....


we were soooo fortunate to be in cusco during the Inti Raymi festival - or festival of the sun...it is the week leading up to the winter solstice - june 24....it was amazing and packed with people....there were days dedicated to dancing (these folks were dressed in traditional clothes for one of those days) and a day for environmental floats and a day for saints to be paraded around the city....the festivities were everywhere and sooooo much fun to experience....


peru is where the incans lived - well actually all of the andes were home to the incans....they were amazing architects and builders...the stone in the middle of the picture is simply amazing....it is called the 12 angle stone...there are 12 right angles that have been cut and matched perfectly in this stone....just incredible...and all of the incan buildings were this well put together....just mind-blowing...


because of the raymi festival, many people came into the city for the festivities....which meant we saw tons of folks in traditional dress with their llamas....which was a great way for them to make a bit of money with the tourists...the rainbow flag you see is the city flag....they are quick to point out it is different from the gay pride flag...but it comforted me that this aspect of the flag does not really stress them out....and it meant we saw rainbows everywhere!!!!


some of the traditional dance outfits were wild...this one was worn by some of the tallest women in the dance group and represented a nest for a stork...not sure if they were hoping to become pregnant or what...but it certainly looked heavy to carry....but they carried it off with style and grace and danced with them on....


of course one whole day was dedicated to machu picchu...the incan town on the top of a mountain....many people walk the incan trail to get there, however we did not do that...we took a bus, train, bus and then walked a bit....it was a very early start, but here you see the four of us about to get on the train that takes you to the town below machu picchu....


here is the birthday girl, nadine, and i on the train to the base of machu picchu....very excited for the day ahead....brought snacks and warm clothes to get us through the adventure....


we made it!!!! this is the famous overlook everyone takes a picture at....so excited i got the shot below with no one really in it...as we were there with about 2,500 of our closest friends....but it is a town so people really just blend in i guess....this is an UNESCO world heritage site and is thought to have been built for the incan emperor pachacuti...the outside world did not know about this place until it was discovered in 1911.....it is sometimes wrongly referred to as the lost city of the incans...but that is still being looked for, as this is probably too small for the empire to have been a city of the incans....


this is the quintessential shot that everyone takes of machu picchu and i am so glad i got it....we also experienced a wedding proposal while we were at this point....so cute...and she said yes!!! it was so cool to reach this point and realize so much has happened before you have been around....history is just amazing.....


this is the whole crew at the overlook....we made it!!!!! once in a lifetime adventure with this bunch and it was great, even though two members had really bad altitude sickness - it is a real thing people! - that we all made it to this point to see this majestic place, rich in history and tradition!!!!


the building in the center of this picture is one of the things i really wanted to see....it is the temple of the sun.....the reason why i wanted to see this is because those windows line up astronomically with the pathway the sun takes on the two solstices (winter & summer)....plus, the building is curved which is rather rare in incan architecture....so the building was of some importance...the platform outside of it may have been used for sacrifices and the part underneath it, which you can see to the right, may have been where they buried important people...it is also where they may have honored pachamama....mother earth....just love this structure....


they had quite a few temples and this was the one to the condor....the part of the building you see is shaped like a wing of the condor...and the tree to the left, is one of the only full sized trees they left standing once this place was discovered, to show just how difficult it was to find machu picchu...when it was first discovered it was all trees and vegetation that had to be removed to see what was underneath it....just incredible!!!! if you have not been to this location on the earth, you really should go...it is fantastic.....


this is nadine and i after we have come down from machu picchu....we are celebrating with a passion fruit pisco sour....pisco is a national alcohol, which is distilled from fermented grapes....but is nothing like wine, if you have never had it....later you will see a shot from a pisco distillery....cheers, we made it!!!!


another day of festival in cusco involved the national dish of peru, cui, pronounced quweeee....this is also a dish served in ecuador, so i had experienced it before....also known as guinea pig, this is a roasted cui....you should have seen how many cui stalls were in the square on this day....so many people enjoying this national dish....i however, did not partake ;)


nadine and i hopped a bus 24 hour bus...may be the last time i ever do this....to make it to see the nazca lines....but unfortunately along the way we ran into a farmers protest that shut down the road and made our trip 28 hours instead and we missed the nazca lines...i hope i do get to see them some day, but it was not to happen on this trip...i did see a tuk-tuk like cart that had sylvester and a dolphin on it....my current school's mascot is the dolphin....so i had to take a picture.....


this was a shot from the bus of a lovely sunset picture and the coast of peru....at this point i just really wanted to get off the bus, it was hour 23 at this point....long and tiring....but comfortable for the most part....just not something i am interested in repeating again.....


but once we arrived at huacuachina, the only oasis in south america, we said maybe the 28 hours was worth it....ummmmmmmm....these are the sand dunes and all of the dune buggies in huacauchina...it was a wild location....


here's the pisco distillery we went to....all of those bottles you see on the bar are different piscos...we taste tested quite a few and enjoyed our time here before the last part of the trip in huacuachina....


the sand dunes!!!!! it was incredible and i really had no idea how huge they really were....we dune buggy-ed and sand boarded....some folks used snow boards to do this....and stood up...most of us did not....but these are the dunes around sunset....just lovely....


this was our sand dune buggy....it held about 12 of us and the driver....who was a man after my own heart and loved to drive uber fast down the dunes...it was awesome!!!!


it was also quite sandy, so most of us had something to cover our noses and mouths....not that it mattered once you did the sand boarding...sand just got everywhere....


me and the sand board...this was my last run down, as i wiped out by putting my foot down too early....you can go on your knees or stomach when there are no straps....if it has straps, you can stand and use the board like a snow board....it was a blast!!!!


these are some of the other buggies at sunset....turned out well with the silhouette... it was a great time before we hopped on the last part of the bus extravaganza back to peru....not sure i will do a 24 bus ride again....but the sand buggies and sand boarding were a lot of fun!!!!


this is the coastline in lima, a lovely city, with tons of surfers all year round....it was great to be in cooler weather and to watch them surf from high above.....i wandered around lima for the day and had a fun time in that walk-able, excellent food focused city....maybe some day i will go back....


and for my last shot :) of course, it is me with a beer....the interesting thing about this beer is that it is a national beer with cocoa leaves in it....peruvians chew cocoa leaves to deal with altitude sickness....i got this beer at a tasty place in cusco that served stews, which were perfect for the cold, winter weather....overall peru did not disappoint....machu picchu was incredible, the inti raymi festival was an added bonus and the time of sand boarding got my adrenaline flowing....if you get the chance, i highly recommend visiting....and as always, this post is dedicated to my dad....mulu....

i hope all of you in the northern hemisphere are enjoying fall....please savor some of the color for me...this is the one time of year i really miss the seasons...as the only seasons we have in panama are rainy and dry...enjoy sweater weather for me too.....if you have any questions about this trip, please get in touch and i hope everyone is well and happy.....
peace out....
dani

Monday, July 22, 2019

Update #13 - Panama Road Trip

July 21/22, 2019

Hi all - well, i am hopeful i will get this out to you all before i run out of time and am back on a plane to panama tomorrow.....this summer has flown....some good parts....some amazing parts....some busy parts.....some very difficult parts.....i have been trying to help my family deal with the business stuff in pennsylvania since my dad's death.....it is just hard.....but i also went to peru (machu picchu - a future update), saw family & friends, went to cape may with my mom for a few days away and to a friend's wedding in georgia.....a good, but very short 5.5 weeks of summer.....but now onto the update....and as always...this is written for my dad 💜

this past spring break i actually stayed in panama and took a road trip with my friends laurie and wendy....laurie, i have known since college and this was our first big trip together (hopefully not our last) and wendy, i have known since the ice and she is the one person in my life who has visited everywhere i have been since we met....sooooooo cooooooool.....we decided to check out the country i am currently living in for one more year....speaking of this, if you are planning on visiting, make sure to do it before june 2020....as that is when i will be moving someplace new....not sure where that is, but the job search will be commencing soon.....so let me know if panama is a location you are planning on visiting.....

so our road trip.....we went to three very distinct places in panama besides panama  city...boquete - out in the west, santa catalina - the pacific coast & beach, and el valle - the center of an extinct volcano (which you have seen in my updates before).....plus of course the panama canal and casco viejo, of panama city......it was terrific trip and i think we saw a lot of panama as a country....after the road trip i have also included are a few shots from my long weekend in Cartagena, Colombia and a final few shots from my year of school.....i do not always show a lot of people, but i thought i would end with some shots of people that really helped me make it through this school year...on with the update 😎


our first stop was to boquete....about a 6-7 hours drive west of panama city....it is a completely different climate and where most of the coffee of panama is grown...it is also a retirement enclave for expats (people living away from their country).....i am an expat of the USA....so once there it was amazing how much english and german we heard....so many retirees....which shows that panama is one of the top ten best places in the world to retire....all over panama they have these signs now....can you find all three of us?????


this is the view of boquete from up where the sign is overlooking the valley....green, luscious, clean air and some beautiful mountains....definitely different from the streets of panama city ;)


they were having a flower show when we got there...we were told it was an orchid show, as that is what grows in the rainforests of panama, but most of the flowers were not orchids...just a bit confusing....but very, very pretty with all of the colors...


boquete is also the location of some of the best growing coffee climate in the world...not too hot, a bit more altitude, good amounts of sun and rain....we toured a coffee plantation there called finca dos jefes....which means farm of the two bosses....it is run by a couple who bought the plantation when it was no longer functioning....their coffee is all organically grown....these are the drying racks for the beans once harvested....nice view :)


this is a coffee plant flower....they only flower for a very short time...and smell a bit like jasmine...these folks also grow their coffee in accordance with the schedule of the moon....their coffee is also direct trade coffee....which means they purchase directly from the farmer...no middle-men....this is much better than fair trade - as farmers and pickers do not get much from that agreement, but direct trade works with the farms & plantations themselves to honor the folks who do the work of planting & harvesting coffee...it is a pretty impressive place....check it out - finca dos jefes (click on name to visit their website)....and the coffee is pretty amazing as well!!!


while in boquete we also visited the bee and butterfly farm called boquete bees....it was terrific...we wandered the grounds learning about how they extract honey and then use it in many different ways....the picture above shows our guide and the old style bee farming methods....they still have some like these, but have started leaving hives in tree types that they have on the property...really interesting....they have a set of killer bees on the property....as well as many other types....no, we did not see any of the killer bees....thank goodness.....but they help the whole process, so they are not exterminating them....


the butterfly house was lovely....you can even do yoga there....they have space for the whole process of egg, pupa, larva and adult and make sure the butterflies have everything they need to survive....it was sooooo peaceful....


and then we did a honey tasting.....it was amazing....they produce 40+ varieties, with some added organic ingredients....plus honey wine and honey liquor....it all depends on the flowers the bees help pollinate and get nectar from...and each bee type has its favorite....so each honey tastes different from the one before...it was a lovely experience.....


from boquete, we headed to the pacific coast....santa catalina....there is a national park there called coiba...where we spent a day snorkeling and exploring.....above you see a shot from the island we had lunch on....the snorkeling was fun, except for the little, stinging jellyfish around the first island....you can see the boat we took around the islands for the day right in front....the pther boat is a floating restaurant/bar, but was not open when we had lunch....bummer....it was a 2-hour bumpy trip back into the mainland, but it certainly was beautiful out there......


here we are - laurie, wendy and i....hanging on the beaches of the coiba islands....it was a stunning day....relaxing and we saw some great life while snorkeling...i am hoping to get back to this region to dive this year before i leave panama....i would really like to do this in january when the manta rays are jumping and whale sharks are around....fingers crossed....


our last stop before heading back was el valle....one of my favorite locations in panama...a town that was built in the crater of an extinct volcano...we spent on morning birding with one of the best guides in all of panama...here you can see our crew with mario the birding guide!


do you see the birds???? where??? look at twelve o'clock to spot them....my favorite spots of the day was a pair of toucans we followed up the valley....such cool birds....ad a green headed parrot hanging around having breakfast....


and then it was back to panama on good friday....a few days before easter....panama's main religion is catholic, hence the pope's visit earlier this year...so on good friday, no one in the country is allowed to purchase/sell alcohol....except restaurants or hotels if they choose to sell any....this is from our road stop on the way back to the city....no beer for you!!!!


of course we had to visit the canal....and even though i have been here a multitude of times, i learn something new every time i go...it was a beautiful day and we watched quite a few ships go through the locks....the engineering of the locks is just mind-blowing....this is a shot of the first set of locks of the old set....adjacent to the pacific ocean....


we also went to some of the areas where you could see all of the city....as you can see it was/is the rainy season....which is happens in panama approximately for nine months....but the skyline is still fabulous to look at....


here's a shot of laurie in the old town, casco viejo, of panama city....these are the "bones" of an old church there....they have definitely been working to make this part of a panama city a tourist destination....but like the gentrification all over the world....this has good results and not so good results....but overall it was a great visit....


one last shot of the three of us from the beaches of santa catalina....we had a lovely trip and fun traveling together....here's to the next destination....


here is a picture from this past year's science team....we were dressed for pink shirt day at my school - which is an anti-bullying day that was started in canada, when a boy was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school...other kids saw it happening and came to school all wearing pink shirts the next day to stand up to the bullies...this has continued around the world and now pink shirt day is a yearly tradition at many schools including ISP.....


my last quick jaunt of the year was to cartagena, colombia, to meet up with my friend genevieve before she left the area to teach elsewhere.....it is a lovely, beach side city...the old section is quaint and beautiful to stroll through....lots of art and artisans there and bars, restaurants and cafes to hang at....it was a great little get away.....


we had sundowners at the famous cafe on the wall of the old city...lovely views and a huge colombian flag....what a fun, but hot place to wander in and explore....


this is genevieve and i toasting her next big adventure...she is headed back to the continent of africa...i hope to get in a visit...but much of it depends on where i end up next...cheers!!!!


we spent a day on one of the islands off of cartagena....we were some of 80 people in total on this beautiful island where we went snorkeling and had lunch and swam and lounged around...it was terrific...look at that water color!


i figured i would also include a shot from one of my last classes of the year....the picture credit goes to one of my students....this is what happens when you drop pure sodium metal in water...it is extremely reactive!!!! i love this shot....


this image is one of the last pictures i took in panama....off of my balcony...i really do get amazing sunsets and love this view....the pointy buildings are also really fun to watch during a lightning storm...simply incredible...panama was saying "hasta luego" to me for the summer....


and what would an update be without a beer shot....here i am with my good friend spicer on his last day in panama...him and his wonderful family are moving to bali to work there in the coming year...i will certainly miss our discussions at rana with our beers about science, books, music and life...i wish him & his family all the best and to the rest of you i say "cheers to wherever you are in the world"!!!

and so there you have it...my road trip and some others from panama and colombia....it was a crazy school year, with lots of travel and fun....but also the passing of my dad....i have one more year in panama and really do enjoy parts of this country.....soooooo if you are planning on stopping by, you have until june 2020 to do so....just let me know.....

i do have one more update to get out, which i will try and do before school starts next week...as all of you know, i run out of time more quickly then...it was of an amazing bucket-list birthday trip for my friend nadine....we did peru & machu picchu....simply incredible on so many different levels...fingers crossed that gets done sooner rather than later....

remember, if you have any questions about this update....send them my way.....
hope you are enjoying your summer/winter wherever you are and thanks for joining me for my latest update....and as always, this is dedicated to my dad 💚

peace out....dani