07 Jan

Monday Moment: Violence Near Cusco, Peru

Plaza de Armes, Cusco, Peru

I heard this story  of violence near Cusco, Peru this weekend and I have struggled as to whether I should share it or not.

I worry that stories of scams, petty robberies, and violence will be the nail in the coffin to those who are already nervous about travelling. That perhaps people will decide not to travel instead of understanding that crime against travellers is most often traveller to traveller crime and that it is very easy to stay safe on the road.

But this is a difficult story to ignore and reminds me of the only time in my entire travels that I was truly fearful for my safety.

There was to be a transit strike in Cusco on the day our bus to the Inca Trail was scheduled to leave so the trekking company decided to bus us out of town late the night before to avoid it. Leaving the lights of Cusco behind us, we entered the inky blackness of the altiplano. Peering out the window I could suddenly make out shadowy figures along the side of the roadway. Thinking them to be protestors making their way to the city for the next days activities, we didn’t think anything of it; until a hail of rocks began pummelling the windows of our bus.

Hunching down, I raised my head just enough to peek out the window. Large rocks, shrubs, and tires littered the roadway; various men roamed the sidelines chanting and yelling as they hurled more rocks our way. I crouched lower, shaking uncontrollably as I willed away the stories I had been reading about the Shining Path and their methods of gaining attention and control. I made myself keep my eyes open to avoid visions of the bus being stopped and boarded by such obviously upset, and violent, men. I could only hope that the bus would continue on and that it would soon be over.

Our convoy of buses did not stop. I don’t think they would have stopped for anything. They muscled through and soon we were past the danger, although no one on that bus relaxed until we reached our final destination.

The story coming out of Peru this week is much more serious; the people involved lucky to have escaped with minimal physical injuries although I can’t imagine the emotional turmoil they must be facing.

I share their story, Nightmare In Peru,  not to sensationalize the events, or to scare travellers away from Peru or from travelling, but to be responsible. I don’t want to only report the good side of travel and ignore that things can, and do, go wrong. To be clear; there have been plenty of travellers who have passed through this way in cars and campers, on bikes and motorbikes, without any trouble what-so-ever. Those who have reported Peruvians to be friendly, kind, and generous. These three were obviously terribly unlucky but we cannot ignore that it happened.

I believe that we will never understand the motivation behind such an act but as I read more about Peru, and of the Shining Path era, after my own incident I did gain some perspective around the history and culture of Peru. I think it’s part of travelling; not just seeing the sights and enjoying the food, but also learning about a place, about the history of a place, about what makes it tick and sculpts it into the place that we visit.

I encourage you to not only read the stories from this past few weeks but to also look deeper and research a little more about the area. It won’t change what has happened or what may happen in the future but a little understanding cannot be a bad thing.

 

31 Dec

Monday Moment: Rickshaw Traffic Jam

Delhi Traffic

Tomorrow my friends Kim, Sarah, and Hannah set off on what-sounds-like one crazy, fun, amazing, bizarre, fun, outrageous, and unbelievable journey from Jasailmer in the north of India, to Cochin in the south.

In a rickshaw!!

They will have to find their own way, drive the rickshaw themselves, and repair it if (make that when) it breaks down. Crazy, right?

I’m so jealous!!

Good luck Team Namaste Outta My Way! I can’t wait to read all about it!

What a great way to start the New Year. What are your plans to ring in 2013?

17 Dec

Monday Moment: Frankfurt Rail Station

Frankfurt Rail Station

I love travelling hubs. Those points where travellers come together; the point being to fan out again reaching to the next destination.

Airports, bus depots, and train stations filled with coming and going. Big bags, small bags, suitcases and backpacks. Experienced and efficient, or first timer and unsure; all funnel through with a unified goal of catching that plane, train, bus, or ferry.

Watching people say their goodbyes is as heart wrenching as watching the hellos is heart warming. A constant ebb and flow of coming and going whose balance must be maintained.

10 Dec

Monday Moment: Shobak Castle, Jordan

Shobak Castle, Jordan

There is plenty of old in Jordan. Old cities, old roads, old buildings, old religious sites, and old crusader castles.

Left almost untouched, Shobak Castle was my favorite. Without hoards of tourists around it was much easier to imagine this crusader outpost as it was in its heyday. We wandered and scrambled, explored nooks and crannies and ventured down some deep, dark passageways until we scared ourselves and beat a hasty retreat.

It was the enthusiastic stories of fellow travellers that convinced us to make a stop in Jordan. I’m so glad that we did and I hope that I can encourage others to visit also; it’s a worthy stop on any itinerary.

03 Dec

Monday Moment: Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

It’s hard to fathom the amount of water tumbling over the edge of Iguazu Falls in Argentina. As one of the largest waterfalls in the world it is an impressive sight on a normal day. The storms from the days before had saturated the earth and caused the falls to be even grander on this day. Coloured red from the soil, the water had started to take over the surrounding jungle.

Hard to believe that there was a time in 1978 when the falls were completely dry.

26 Nov

Monday Moment: Perfume Pagoda Pilgrimage , Vietnam

Perfume Pagoda, Vietnam

Hundreds of boats, loaded with thousands of pilgrims, make their way toward the Perfume Pagoda outside of Hanoi.

Families come to pray for luck and good fortune. Couples come to pray for fertility.

Men come to pray for prosperity and good luck.And test that faith by playing cards on the way back down. I wonder if they turn around and head back up if they don’t do so well in the game.

Perfume Pagoda, Vietnam

 

12 Nov

Monday Moment: Sari Salesman, Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu, Nepal

Wandering the streets of Kathmandu my head swivelled constantly as I peered into shops, studios and restaurants. It was sensory overload.

I happened to look in this sari shop just as the shopkeeper was unfurling this beautiful turquoise sari for the ladies. Looking at all of all the material at their feet, and the looks on the men’s faces, I would guess they have been at it for some time!

04 Nov

Monday Moment: Carnival Street, Rio de Janeiro

Carnival Street, Rio de Janeiro

Ever been to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro? Yeah, me either, but check out these wild costumes we were able to try on while touring around Rio. Then we had our very own private parade on Carnival Street!

I’m sure it would have been so much better to actually be there during Carnival but this certainly gave us a taste of the pomp, circumstance, and hilarity that must go on during the actual parades.

26 Aug

Monday Moment: Vietnam Moto Taxi

Vietnam Moto Taxi

In Vietnam the fastest, and most economical, way of getting around is the moto-taxi.

Just like regular taxis, moto-taxi drivers hang out on every street corner waiting for customers. We would simply walk up, point at the map as to where we wanted to go, negotiate a price, and hop on the back.

Even if we had all our bags with us; the driver would arrange them around his, and our, feet and off we would go.

My biggest tip for using moto-taxis is to strap the helmet on your head. I failed this step only once and lost my helmet in the middle of a huge, motorcycle-filled, intersection. Frantically, I started flapping my hands in front of the drivers face in the internationally recognized hand signal for ‘I’ve lost your helmet. You need to stop!’ He eventually understood that I wasn’t just waving to Jason on the other bike and pulled over allowing me to run back through the traffic to retrieve it. Good times.

 

 

 

19 Aug

Monday Moment: Wadi Rum Lunch

Wadi Rum, Jordan

In the middle of the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, sheltered only by the rocky outcropping behind us, we scrounged for wood to make a fire and quickly a Bedouin lunch was created. Although this is not how they truly live today it was easy to imagine what life in this red-hued landscape was like in the not-too-distant past.

12 Aug

Monday Moment: Thai Amulets

Amulet Seller, Chiang Mai

I saw men like this all over northern Thailand; sitting at their folding tables selling their wares, usually to other men. I didn’t realize what they were peddling until we happened on a small shop in a temple one day and realized where they originated from.

They are amulets, much like the Saint Christopher pendant that many travellers wear to protect themselves. Thais buy them, or even rent them, to repel bad luck or evil spirits, to ward off sadness or sickness, and to overcome obstacles to good fortune.

Cast in clay, carved from wood, or imagined in silver or gold, they are created by the monks of the temple in the image of Buddha or other revered monks. They are often kept in a small case, held close to the body, and are called upon throughout the day to help the wearer gain strength.

They are bought and sold all over Thailand in temples and, as we often saw, from folding tables wherever they could set up.

Thai Amulets