31 Jul

Chilly in Chile

We knew that traveling south in South America would be cold…it’s winter here right now…but we hadn’t expected it to be this cold. San Pedro de Atacama is inland a bit  and, at 2500 meters, is the chilliest place we’ve visited yet.

We got off the bus after dark and set about to look for a room. I’d heard it was expensive here but was still feeling burned when we finally settled on a room with a private bath that cost us 35,000 CH pesos – that’s $70CAD!!! Sure, a lesser room could be had but that included a shared bath that was to be reached by going outside and crossing the courtyard…it’s around –5 here at night!!

Tours are also expensive, but we found one for the next morning at about $50CAD each. The girl explained all that we would do on the tour…but it was in spanish.  I heard ‘Salar de Atacama’ and ‘flamingos’ and that was enough for me…I should have listened more closely.

The van picked us up promptly at 8am, which was good as I had also read that sometimes people just don’t get picked up so I was happy that they showed up. We drove the hour or so through the desert to get to the Salar de Atacama.

It was pretty cool. A huge basin, hemmed in by two mountain ranges, filled with salt flats and briny lagoons. We walked along the salt paths with our group as our guide as he explained about the area…in spanish (I forgot to ask about the English guide). Oh well, we understood what we could and made up the rest.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

The salt paths through the area were so white it looked as if we were making our way along snow paths in Montreal – and it was cold enough to imagine it too. The briny, mineral filled lagoons were even slushy with ice! But the flamingos didn’t seem to mind and I was happy to see them (I was worried there wouldn’t be any in winter).

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

We all climbed back into the van and the guide/driver explained where we were headed to. We didn’t understand a word so just looked out the window as we drove along wondering where we were going.

It appeared as though we were skirting one of the mountain ranges, and we got some terrific views of the snow-capped mountains that make up the border between Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. Then we took a left turn and started to head toward the mountains. Jason started to comment when he could see that the snow line was getting closer and closer…I thought that a picture in the snow might be cool and so wasn’t too upset.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

The road continued to twist and climb through the foothills and, eventually, snow started to show itself on the road. The van pushed  on although it was getting more and more difficult. We continued to wonder where the heck we were going.

Soon enough there was too much snow on the road and the van couldn’t make it any further. The driver got out, shored up the tires with big stones and explained to us that that was it for the van so we’d have to walk up and over the crest of the hill – at least that’s what we got out of the spanish and arm waving that went along with it. The crest wasn’t too far and, thinking there would be a great view on the other side, we geared up with all the hats and mitts and scarves we had and set out walking up the hill.

It was cold, and windy, and icy…but we were up for the adventure. We plodded up the hill to find a park ranger hut. We forked over the 2500 CH pesos each still not sure what for. Just on the other side was a spectacular view of Lake Miniques ringed by spectacular, snow-capped mountains. We headed down to the refuge hut on the shore for a closer look.

As we got further down we could see that there was a trail in the snow that led off into the distance, presumably to another viewpoint. We looked at each other and agreed that there was absolutely no need to see any further viewpoints in this snowy, cold, windy weather – we would be quite happy to take pictures from where we were, thank you very much.

The guide, however, had other plans and explained that it was two kilometers along the path to Lake Miscanti and that the local guide would accompany us to explain all the flora and fauna. He would go back to the van, turn it around and meet us at the other end. At least that’s what I heard.

And so we wrapped our scarves a little tighter, pulled our toques down lower and tightened our jackets to start the walk to Lake Miscanti. The walk wasn’t entirely unpleasant – sure it was cold and the wind was whipping, but the views were spectacular and we were doing something unexpected. All the way though I kept thinking that the walk back up the slope would be a bitch with the wind in our face and the soft snow making uphill progress more difficult…was he really going to meet us at the other end?

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

As soon as we reached the second lake it was clear that there would be no van awaiting us. The small lake sat in a basin surrounded, on one side, by more snowy mountains and, on the other side, by wind swept snow drifts. There was no road, no van, no easy way out.

The path back was just as hard as I’d predicted. The wind was now against us, the path was uphill, and the soft snow made it more difficult to walk. We put our heads down against the wind and trudged slowly upwards, lifting only to see how much farther was had to go.

We finally crested and were able to head downhill towards the van. Sweet relief it would seem except that the wind on this side of the hill was even worse. It blew at an unrelentingly steady force that sometimes made standing upright difficult, and it was bitingly cold making me think more than once that my right cheek might suffer a little frost bite.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Back in the van we did manage to laugh a bit and vowed to listen more closely to tour descriptions before saying yes and, although I never thought I’d be warm again, I’m glad that we did it.

That wasn’t it for the tour though – these people pack a lot into a day! We stopped for lunch before heading onto a canyon/valley of note and another small town before heading home at sunset. Quite frankly though, we were done and only half-heartedly participated.

When we got back to San Pedro de Atacama we wandered the streets of the small town looking for a restaurant with a fireplace where we settled in for a great dinner and a bottle of wine. Finally warm again we relaxed an enjoyed the evening.

29 Jul

Technical Difficulties!!!!

Sorry for the dry spell in posts … apparently Chile’s main service provider Telefonica is not letting us see or put up new posts to the blog. We will be in Argentina in a few days so expect a slew of new stuff then.

Of course there are ways to get a short note posted (thank you proxy servers).

23 Jul

What Goes Up Must Go Down: Colca Canyon Trek

We start the Colca Canyon trek descent in the early afternoon. A dusty, rocky, steep trail that switchbacks down the 1000 meters to the bottom. One thousand meters…that’s one kilometer straight down.

Colca Canyon, Peru

After climbing the heights of Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail, there was nowhere to go but down…to the bottom of the deepest canyon in the world…Colca Canyon. Okay, full disclosure…there is a deeper canyon (by about 40 metres) but it’s a little further away and more difficult to get to…for my purposes, this is the deepest.

The top of the canyon is dry, scrubby desert…the bottom holds the Colca River and is warmer and lusher. We reach the bottom inn about 3 hours and are impressed by the bamboo dining hut and adobe buildings that will be our home for the night.

Colca Canyon, Peru

Colca Canyon, Peru

I’m even more impressed by the beer that is available as the only way in and out of the canyon is by the trails that zigzag the walls – there are no cars here, only donkeys to help with transportation. But tourism is a major industry here and tourists like beer…so beer is brought down.

The next day is even more impressive as we hike along the bottom of the canyon to reach the oasis a couple of hours away.

Here there are terraces of adobe and bamboo huts, palm trees and…swimming pools! The spaces between the huge boulders littering the site have been dammed and swimming pools created. It is a hot, sunny day…we waste no time in digging out our swimming togs and claiming a spot by the pool for the afternoon.  Our first summer-like activity since leaving home.

Colca Canyon, Peru

The next day starts before dawn for us as we start the hike back up in the dark to avoid baking in the sun. I have said that I think we can do it in two hours and so we set a pace to try. Zig, zag, zig, zag, zig, zag…up and up we go, slowly reeling people in and passing and we trudge slowly toward the top.

Colca Canyon, Peru

One thing we have going for us this time is that we are not at nearly the altitude we were for Dead Woman’s Pass a few weeks earlier so our lungs and heart are not protesting nearly as loudly.

We crested the top at one hour and fifty eight minutes. Pretty happy.

Colca Canyon, Peru

Trekking the canyon was cool. Seeing people living there makes me wonder how they do it…up and down those trails so often. Our guide, Patricia, says that the locals can make it up the trail in 45 minutes…seriously, that is impressive!

19 Jul

Lake Titicaca

When Jason first saw Lake Titicaca on the map of Peru all those months ago, he  giggled like a schoolboy and said that we had to go there.

It definitely has a name that makes us all laugh and the joke is not lost on the locals. The lake is shared by Peru and Bolivia…Peru says the first half of the lake is Peruvian and the last half is Bolivian…Bolivia, of course, says exactly the opposite.

Lake Titicaca, Peru

Besides its giggle-inducing name (which actually means ‘stone puma’), Lake Titicaca has a few claims to fame:

  • It is the highest altitude navigable lake in the world.
  • It is home to the ‘Floating Reed Islands of Uros’.
  • It is home to Taquile Island, famous for knitting and weaving.

We took a day long tour to see the best that the lake had to offer.

I was somewhat hesitant to visit the reed islands as I knew that they would be very touristy. But with the adage that ‘it has to be touristy for a reason’, we thought we’d have a look.

Lake Titicaca, Peru

Turns out the islands are touristy, but the inhabitants are so enthusiastic and proud of their homes, that it was all worth it. We were first greeted by the island presidents wife, Francesca (the president was out fishing for the day and so could not greet us himself). She showed us to a small seating area and proceeded, with our guide as interpreter, to demonstrate how the islands were built. It was a well practiced routine, yet she was enthusiastic and played back and forth with our guide.

Lake Titicaca, Peru

She explained that the islands were built to avoid incoming conquerors. They now number more than 40 islands each housing 7-10 families. The roots of the torta reed are used to make the base of the islands and the rest of the reed is used to top the islands, creating a spongy, floating mass that can withstand an amazing amount of weight.

After the demonstration, each of the women on the island took a group back to their homes to show us around. Francesca proudly showed us around her cozy one room home. She then pulled out some traditional clothing and offered to help us dress. It was fun to try the clothes on and I can see how they stay warm as the costume was made of wool and quite heavy.

Lake Titicaca, Peru

Our tour of the floating islands finished with a ride in a traditional reed boat. As we were rowed around the small harbor we got a closer look at some of the neighboring islands. It seems that ‘keeping up with the Jones’ is just as prevalent here as it is at home…each island had bigger and better homes, or more elaborate structures to show off to the tourists…a funny realization here in the ‘middle of nowhere’.

Then we were off, further into the lake, to Taquile Island. The people of Taquile Island are world renowned for their knitting and weaving. UNESCO has recognized their work as some of the best in the world and inhabitants have traveled around the world teaching and displaying their wares.

It is the men of the island who knit, and they do it as naturally as having an ice cream. They can be seen, in traditional dress, walking and knitting, talking and knitting, drinking and knitting…always with their wool and needles in their hands…it’s a little strange quite frankly. Apparently boys learn to knit as young as 5 or 6 and then perfect their craft as they grow. The results are beautiful and are as perfect and ornate as machine knit fabric.

Lake Titicaca, Peru

The women of the island weave and their work is as beautiful as the mens’ knitting. The colors and scenes are amazing and the artistic quality is evident. I had been admiring Peruvian textiles since arriving and decided that there could not be a better place to invest in a piece. We found a traditional woven mens belt depicting scenes from the island – it will look great framed on our wall when we return.

So, now we can giggle and say that we have visited Lake Titicaca. It was a great day…I’m glad we didn’t let the touristy nature of it keep us away.

14 Jul

How To Just Let Things Happen In Puno

I’d heard that Puno was the asshole of the earth. People said ‘don’t stay there, just head to the islands’. I figured it couldn’t be that bad.

We took a tourist tour bus from Cusco to Puno. On board was a guide who explained all the sights along the way. We stopped at four historical/cultural sights plus had lunch at a local buffet restaurant. It was a good deal and I would recommend the newer, and cheaper, Tourismo Mer over it’s more expensive counterpart.

The views from Cusco to Puno were amazing. We were, again, in the altiplano with the valleys alternately widening and narrowing as we weaved our way through the mountain tops. We could see the terrain change as we reached higher and higher altitudes where farming is no longer possible and only the high plains grass can grow – suitable only for ranching. Cattle and llamas are king here.

Puno, Peru

Puno, Peru

We thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Taking the bus during the day makes all the difference in the world!!

We arrived at the Puno bus terminal with no plans,  no reservations and no clue. We hadn’t been able to find anything suitable (read…cheap) on line, and talking to people in Cusco had also provided no clues as to where to stay.

Our plan was to taxi to the main square and start circling until we found a place to stay. Then, Micaela found us. She started showing us pamphlets of hostels and hotels and listing all their amenities. Once she learned our price point, she pulled out a listing and convinced us to take a look. We went with her to the hotel and found that it more than met our needs and decided to stay…at much less than the posted rate.

Once we were settled on a place to stay, Micaela pulled out her Lake Titicaca tour pamphlets. We told her what we were looking for and she easily found us a tour in our price range for the next day. Easy, shmeasy.

When were we leaving Puno, she asked us, and would we need bus tickets to Arequipa? Why yes, we would need bus tickets, we said telling her when we wanted to leave and, again, our price range. She immediately hooked us up with bus tickets for the day following our Lake Titicaca tour. (What’s more, on the day, she came and picked us up and helped us negotiate the bus terminal).  She was a veritable one stop shop for Puno, Lake Titicaca and Arequipa!

It was getting into the evening now and we decided to go find somewhere to eat. On our way out of the hotel we inquired at the front desk if there was anywhere nearby. He pulled out a card for a restaurant on a side street and said it was good. Having had such a good day of taking whatever came our way we decided to try it out. Again, another good recommendation and we had wonderful meal of soup and alpaca.

Although we didn’t see much of Puno beyond the lake, I’m learning that sometimes it pays to just go with it…let people help. If we know what our parameters are for an item or experience and the person is offering something within those parameters then why would I not give it a shot? I can always say no once I see what is offered and, it just might make it easier on me…I don’t always have to do it the hard way.

11 Jul

Machu Picchu

The history of Machu Picchu is a mystery. Was it where the great Incan Pachacutec instructed his people to hide during the Spanish invasion? Was it the great economic center of  the Incan culture? Or was it built as a prison to house those that had committed heinous crimes?

Machu Picchu, Peru

In it’s current state it is a beautiful reminder of what the Incan culture must have been like. In it’s former state it must have been an imposing city in the mountains. I lean toward the theory of economic center but with all the amazing temples it must have been even more than that.

The Incans ingenuity and precision is astounding. The site looks to have been built from the remains of a long ago rockslide. There is evidence throughout the site of fallen rocks being incorporated into several buildings. The ‘quarry’ area consists of rocks in their original position, some have carving work, others appear to be in the process of being split or shaped.

Machu Picchu, Peru

The buildings and stonework are stunning displays of form, function and astounding astronomical and geographic knowledge. Stones are placed, or carved, to match exactly with the sun’s winter and summer solstice positions or to line up along the ordinal geographic lines. Seeing a rock carved into the shape of the Incan Cross and then shown, using a compass, that the points of the cross face due north, south, east and west, I was amazed at the knowledge that the Incans must have had.

We had seen Inca stonework in Cusco, but here it was on a much grander scale. Entire temples built using massive stones, stacked upon each other as if they were made to be that way. No mortar, no mud…just intricate carving until they all fit together.

Machu Picchu, Peru

And how did they do all this work with no modern machinery? It’s impossible for me to imagine how many people must have worked and lived on the site. Even when teeming with tourists, I don’t imagine the number of people on site matches the number of those that must have lived there.

Machu Picchu, Peru

It  was amazing to just wander around the site and take it all in. It was even better having walked the same path that the Incans walked to get there.

09 Jul

Inca Trail Trek

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

Having not done much trekking in my life, I can’t say where the Inca Trail Trek rates in terms of difficulty. What I can say is that with a porter to customer ratio of 1.4 porters for every customer (plus a chef and two guides), I have to think that this might be on  the cushy side…and it was still a lot of hard work!

Due to an impending strike in  Cusco, we left the night before we were scheduled to leave – sneaking out of town under the cover of darkness. About an hour into the trip the road became littered with rocks and tires as protesters realized that buses would be trying to leave early. Our little convoy suffered a few thrown rock blows as we pushed our way through at top speed. There was no damage other than a few frayed nerves of those of us on the bus that are not used to that kind of welcome. The driver, guides and porters on board just took it in stride. We arrived at camp in the middle of the night and settled in for a short sleep.

I awoke the next morning eager to see where we were. Pushing open the tent flap all I could see were towering mountains, a slight hint of frost on the ground, and the sun just starting to rest on the peaks. I could tell right then that the next few days were going to be amazing.

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, a porter appeared with hot tea and another brought a bowl of hot water and soap for me to wash up with. Seriously…cushy I tell you! I drank my tea, washed up and packed up the few things I was responsible for in the tent (the porters dismantle and carry everything except my personal belongings). Breakfast was served in a large tent and would have been considered decadent at sea level, never mind in the middle of nowhere at 3300M.  First, coffee and chocolate with bread and jam. Then chicken crepes…seriously!

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

Breakfast was our first opportunity to meet the rest of the trekkers that we would be spending the next 4 days with. As we laughed and joked our way through breakfast, and finally got  around to the introductions we realized that this group was going to get along just fine. In fact, in the end, I would say that it’s likely that we couldn’t have done it with a better group of people. I don’t think I ever heard a negative word throughout the whole trip. Some had hiked and camped before, for others this was a first – all were eager and willing to do whatever it took. We all hiked at a similar pace, chatting and laughing our way through. Thanks to all of you (if you’re reading) for making it so much fun!

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

After breakfast we started in on the hiking. The first day of hiking wasn’t too strenuous – fairly level with a few ups and downs. Our guide, Marco, stopped us at various points along the way to tell us the history of, not only the trail and the ruins along the trail, but also of the Incan people and their struggle to survive. Marco was passionate about his ancestors story and, as time went on, we realized that he was not just telling us stories that come from guidebooks but that his knowledge was much deeper. He had not only spent time at university studying but had also spent time in the mountains with the Incan descendants and so had a unique perspective on the area.

We hiked a total of 14KM the first day reaching camp just before the sun set over the mountains and valley and the cold really set in. We enjoyed a ‘teatime’ snack and then relaxed a bit before dinner was served. Seriously a lot of food – I was worried I might gain weight while trekking! After dinner we settled into our tent to play a little cards before heading off to sleep…the next morning would come early.

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

The second day of hiking was advertised as a doozy…and it didn’t disappoint. Up and out early, our first half of the day was to climb 900M to Dead Womans Pass. As our group was dominated by women, we only hoped that it would not be one of us that would the the Dead Woman at the end of the day!

We could see the pass from our starting point, taunting us to see if we had the mettle. We were a determined group though and, heads down, we trudged our way slowly passing others along the way. The scenery was breathtaking, but difficult to take in  as taking my eyes off the uneven trail for even a second surely would mean a twisted ankle…or possibly worse (I had seen countless casted arms in Cusco the previous week).

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

As the trail climbed upwards it got steeper and, as the air grew thinner with every step, breathing became more and more difficult. My legs felt like lead for the last push but I just kept putting one in front of the other until I could see the post at the top and then, with a burst of energy, I finished it off. Adrenaline is a beautiful thing, and I jumped around like a madwoman hooting and hollering.

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

Then it was down the other side – a 600M drop along a beautiful stone pathway cutting down into the valley below. If I thought this was going to be the easy part, I was wrong. Controlling those floppy, leadened legs was an exercise in concentration. However, breathing was definitely easier giving me an opportunity to chat with a trekmate about his travels as we watched the scenery go by.

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

Lunch was at the bottom of the valley and would have been much more relaxing if the next climb had not been fully in view, taunting us as we enjoyed our meal. The afternoon saw us climb another 400M before dropping into another valley that was more jungle than scrub. We crossed the valley to find our campsite overlooking a set of astrological ruins as well as a stunning valley. Fog set in just as the light faded lending an eerie feel but also providing some insulating warmth. After 16KM of hiking through two passes, it didn’t take much of the special ‘rum tea’ to send us all off to bed!

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

The following day was relatively easy. Four hours, down almost the whole way – a reported 2000 steps. I didn’t count but my legs were more sore from this than from any other part of the trek! The end of this hike found as the last point before entry to Machu Picchu. It was here that all the groups on the trail, and from other trails, congregated to wait until dawn for the big reveal. There were hot showers to be had (and desperately needed, let me tell you!), beers to be quaffed and a restful afternoon to be enjoyed.

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

Our 3:30AM wakeup call came very quickly. We packed up in the dark and rushed through our breakfast to get on the trail….and wait. Not far from camp there is a gate that is not opened until 5:30AM, so the 200 or so  trekkers from camp all lined up waiting for the time to come.

At last the gate opened and we all rushed through, eager to get to the Sun Gate before the sun broke. The one hour hike was not strenuous but was made more difficult by the intense darkness. Looking back I could see a snake line of headlamps slowly making it’s way through the terrain I had just negotiated – reminded me of night riding and how the whole world is only the 5 feet ahead that the lamp illuminates.

Inca Trail Trek, Peru

One last push up and suddenly we were there…we passed through the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu was laid out before us. It was kind of surreal. After all that work we had finally made it.


07 Jul

The Porters of El Camino Inka

Inca Trail Porters, Peru

I can hear them well before the sun rises. They are up breaking camp, preparing for the day, making us breakfast.

They each carry 25 Kg on their backs over the same trail that I struggle to negotiate.

They leave after we leave, pass us on the trail, and arrive at camp before us.

They applaud us as we leave camp, and again as we enter camp at the end of the day. Seriously, they applaud us.

They are, in a word, amazing and I am in awe of the work that they do.

Watching the porters on the trail it is easy to see that there are many levels of support. Many carry their loads in a traditional manner tied to them in a way that I can’t figure out and that looks precarious at best. Some wear only leather sandals cushioned with dried grass that they gather on the trailside. Some travel alone, others in small groups.

Inca Trail Porters, Peru

The porters of Llama Path seem to have a sense of camaraderie and look to be well supported in the job that they do. They all wear a uniform that, at first, seems a bit much but, in the end, shows that they are well dressed and taken care of. They all have decent clothes to wear, good shoes on their feet, and a backpack on their back that best carries the load. They travel together, in a pack that is impressive to see coming and going.

They typically are native Andean men, made of sturdy stock with strong backs and legs, who do this work for a little while and then return to their villages with the money to support their families. They are all kind, smile easily and have a good rapport with the  tour guide, often laughing and joking with him.

Inca Trail Porters, Peru

Inca Trail Porters, Peru

They work hard but also have plenty of downtime when the work is done. Then they can be found chatting in small groups, checking their cellphones, playing soccer if there is room, or sleeping just about anywhere a body can lie down.

We are grateful for the work they do, realizing just how difficult this trek would be without them.

We take to applauding them loudly as they pass us on the trail. It’s the only way we know to show them how much we appreciate them and the work that they do. Well, that and the handsome tip we all eagerly gave at the end of the trail.

Inca Trail Porters, Peru

05 Jul

Playing Fair While Learning Spanish

fairplay-logo It’s easy to find a Spanish school in Cusco, they are a dime a dozen. It’s more difficult to find one that offers a great program, is flexible, and gives back to the community. We found that, and more, at FairPlay.

Run by John, a Dutch fellow, and his Peruvian wife, FairPlay is a not-for-profit organization that offers single Peruvian mothers a chance to learn how to teach their language to others while they gain the self confidence they need to gain control over their own lives.

Talking to John about how the program is set up, how they choose the women and how they support them during the process, we knew that this was the school for us.

We set ourselves up with a four day, four hour per day, program. Two hours of grammatical teaching (one on one, each with our own instructor) and two hours of practical teaching out in the community (again, one on one).

The payment plan was also appealing. We paid an administration fee to FairPlay and also paid them 25% of the per hour teaching fee. The other 75% of the teaching fee we paid directly to the teachers – there is no wondering where the money is going…it passed directly from my hand to the hand of the teacher.

I met Eliana on the first morning for our practical lesson. I was nervous as I wasn’t sure how much I remembered and John had explained to me that, although the instructors speak English, they are not permitted to – they must speak to me in Spanish only.

Fair Play Spanish School, CuscoI needn’t have worried. Eliana was kind and gentle and spoke to me slowly, in simple Spanish. Along with hand gestures we were able to understand each other. She took me to the San Pedro market and we wandered for two hours learning the names of all the different products while we also learned about each other.

Next came the grammar lesson with Josee. I was still a little nervous but the practice with Eliana had helped. Josee gave me my grammar exercise book and we started learning all about the building blocks of Spanish. She, too, would only speak in Spanish but she was excellent at finding ways of explaining concepts and words to me – I was thoroughly impressed.

Fair Play Spanish School, Cusco, PeruJason and I were able to spend the next three practical lessons together doing things that we would never had been able to alone as his instructor, Carmen, and Eliana took us further afield to explore Cusco.

The first day together we hopped on a local ‘combi’ bus to climb the hill to Cristo Blanco. The next day we headed further out to Tipon where they took us to a local Cuyeria to try the local specialty…guinea pig.  The last day we visited a local market on the edge of town and then slowly walked our way back. It was amazing to be able to visit local places and realize that I did it all in Spanish.

Cuy in Tipon, Peru

Santo Blanco, CuscoThe grammar lessons also continued and Josee managed to get me through the two basic levels of Spanish structure. She was so kind and generous –  patiently explaining things over and over again and helping me to slowly, slowly, slowly get my thoughts across in Spanish.


FairPlay offers a great program that, not only teaches Spanish in an interesting, fun and effective way, but also helps those in the community. These women obviously enjoy what they do – they are great teachers and great mothers who now have the self confidence to stand on their own and an opportunity to show their children how it’s done.