Well its official, we arrived safely into Lima around 12:30 pm after an uneventful flight direct from Toronto.   Surprisingly, Air Canada seems to have upped their game, as we were offered free wine and beer!  In coach!!!  Brilliant!  I also thoroughly enjoyed my brownie (although I can´t say much for the rest of the meal).   I caught up on some movies, like Salt, Despicable Me, and The Kids are Alright.  All decent selections.

We checked into our hotel in Miraflores around 1 am, giving us just enough time to collapse into bed before waking up again at 5:30 am to catch our flight to Puerto Maldonato -the gateway to the Amazon!   Too exciting!

Only 24 more hours until we head to the airport to depart for Lima!  I’m spending our final day in Canada laying out all the clothing and supplies for our departure tomorrow.  In the end we decided not to purchase our own sleeping bags or liners, and instead just rent them once we begin the trek.  Not only is this cost effective – its also lots less to carry.  Yes, sleeping in a rented sleeping bag sounds gross, but as fellow travelers tell me, the Inca Trail hike is so cold and you wear so many layers, that none of your skin even touches the sleeping bags.  I’m just going to tell myself that anyway.  And really, as long as it keeps the creepy crawlies away – I think I’ll be fine!

I’ve laid out the essentials on the bed:  Thermals, meds, money, quick dry gear, undies, water bottles, and soap.  Oh yeah – and did I mention we both got headlamps?!  Apparently its useful to wear them when you’re hiking in the jungle and on the Inca Trail in the pre-dawn hours.  A saleswoman at MEC even told me, “You need a headlamp because you want to see all the tarantulas in the Amazon, don’t you?”  Clearly, this woman know nothing about me.  In that case, ignorance really is bliss!

I’m feeling almost ready.  Still have to clean the apartment (I hate coming home to a messy place), drop the dog off at a friend’s house, and figure out what other supplies I can cram into my backpack!

Hopefully I’ll have time to update the blog once in awhile on the road – and let you know I’m still alive 🙂

I think many travellers are divided on the issue of group tours.  There seems to be a wide variance on the types of tours you can take, and along with that the types of people that tend to take these tours.  Many travelers shudder at the thought of taking a group tour, imagining them to be like your grandma taking a bus to Branson, Missouri, or a huge group of Japanese tourists checking out the Path in downtown Toronto.  As a  teenager, I took an EF tour with my highschool to Italy and Greece.  As a 14 year old, a group tour really is the ONLY way to go, and for me, it was a wonderful introduction into the world of travel.  As adults, Mike and I have done lots of travelling, but have never particpated in a group tour – save for a bus jaunt to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam (if you can count an overnight  boat tour as a group tour).

The worries  that travelers have about group travel are many:

1) Will we have time to do what we want to do, away from the group?

2) Will we be annoyed with the other people in the group, and unable to escape?

3) Will we miss out on the “real” experience of travelling by going from chain hotel to chain hotel on an airconditioned bus?

4) Will we not see how “real” people live, and eat local cuisine?

On the other hand, there are unquestionably lots of great advantages to travelling in a group:

1) Travel arrangements are made for you, and the hotels and attractions are usually vetted and pre-paid

2) You have the chance to learn alot more about the place you are visiting by having a good guide – much more interactive than reading it out of a book

3) There is safety in numbers

4) If you have an issue, the organization will have a back-up plan

Because Peru is such a large country with a wide variety of must-see sites, we knew it would take at least 2 domestic flights, and a great deal of inner-country travel to see everything we wanted to see – and that is a heck of a lot of planning.  Also, we only have 2 weeks.  And to hike the Inca Trail, you are obligated by law to have a guide.  We decided that an experienced tour company would have figured out the most efficient way of seeing all the highlights with the minimum amount of wasted time.  We spent a lot of time investigating different companies, and reading up on the experience of fellow travellers.  GAP Adventures is without a doubt one of the most well-respected tour companies in the world.  They are also a Canadian company, and head office is conveniently located a 10 minute walk from my house.  They have a HUGE variety of tours to choose from, so if you are into active adventures, have kids, want to volunteer, or  take in a cultural festival around the world, GAP seems to have everything covered.

We decided on a trip called Quest of the Gods, which will start us off in Lima, then off to the Amazon Rainforest (COOL!).  Then onto Cuzco, and from there a 4 day hike to see the legendary Machu Picchu.  We will also get a chance to go to Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world.  Altogether a whirlwind 14 day tour.  Exciting!!!!

It seems that every day here we get mistaken for Australians (or Swede’s…see previous posts). Getting mistaken for an Aussie isn’t really a bad thing, because I associate all good things with the nation down under…former British colony, fine weather, and good looking citizens! And being mistaken for one of them is surely much more complimentary than being taken for an American! But even after you tell them you are not from Australia, it doesn’t seem to matter, so I’ve just been going with it.

Typical cab ride in Singapore:
Driver: “So…whey you fra la?” (Translation: Where are you from?)
Me: “Canada…Toronto”
Driver: “OOOH Canada…big place yah. Cold! Haha!”
Me: “Yah, pretty cold there this time of year”
Driver: “You know, our Prime Minister has been to Australia many times”
Me: “Oh really?”
Driver: “Yes, many, many times”
Me: “Nice”
Driver: “Yes, nice”
Me: Silence
Driver: “Australia has great golfing”
Me: “Nice”
Driver: “Yes, nice”
Me: Silence

And often by this point I have arrived at my destination and can extricate myself from the rapidly deteriorating conversation. It simply puzzles me every time it happens. I can’t figure out if it is the nearest frame of reference for Caucasian habitation, or if they are unsure about Canada. Maybe it sounds like Canberra???? That thought just occurred to me…OMG. I might have just figured this mystery out!!!