Welcome to my journey.

Welcome to my journey.  I started this site in as a way to capture my pilgrimage, in 2014 to  Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.  I wanted a way to share the experience with the people I love so much, my family, my friends and those I serve.   As I began to build it, I realized I had so many more experiences to share with others of places that humbled me and people who transformed me.  Many of you have heard my my own story of how my cancer brought me JOI (Journey’s of Inspiration).  JOI has taken me to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and camp on the Serengeti, to a week in the Grand Canyon, to the Camino of Santiago, back to Africa to build homes, and recently to Peru to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.  I have also ventured out to Europe on a trip on my own and the most amazing trip to Taiwan with my cousin. 

Traveling and seeing the world is extraordinary.  The ones most dear to me continue to be the ones that I am called by God to do  – to live my faith and serve others. This blog is a work in progress and I will continue to build it with stories of my journeys and the people I have met along the way that have inspired me to be the best I can be – and I hope it does the same for you.

Beun Camino, 我的自由年代, bonne faço,njia nzur, buon mod

 

Image

August 5: A Tour of Lima and Home

A last day was a relaxing day starting with a walk to the ocean to dip our toes in the south pacific.

In the afternoon we had a tour of Lima. Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. I was stunned by the beauty of the architecture of the city.

In a museum there was this kitty sleeping in the midst of all the tours going on around him.  It reminded me of the two I had waiting at home for me and knew it was time to return home

Adiós y gracias Perú por un viaje de tu vida.

Amor y gracias por mi nueva familia.


Image

August 4: To Lima we go

Today was a bus ride to the airport for our trip back to Lima.  Of course had time for one more last stop at an ancient site –Sillustani.  This was actually pre-incas and a burial site.  It was amazing to see the artistry and workmanship of the stone blocks.  The stone blocks were not erected into straight walls but rounded towers. These were.

There was always a small opening at the base, facing east. It is speculated that since the Inca, and presumably earlier people were “sun worshippers” these doors related to the religious belief system that it may guide the departed soul to some kind of afterlife.

Landed in Lima  — with luggage.  We stayed in the Miraflores district of Lima, known for its upscale shopping and restaurants and very near the pacific ocean.  We were treated to a beautiful and wonderful dinner at La Rosa Nautical Restaurant.

Image

August 3: The Island of Taquile

I stayed pretty warm during the night and was awakened at around 530am by the sunrise and sound of a donkey. No need for alarms here. I sat for awhile looking out the window and watched the community come alive. We had breakfast of quinoa pancakes and then our host mama took us to our boats by 8 am.

img_7548-1img_7549img_7551-1

We took a short boat ride over to the island of Taquile. Our day would be spent walking around the island seeing and experiencing local culture. One of the local authorities was there to check us into the island. We would learn there are 20 of these men that volunteer to be the officials of the island. Each day they walk around taking to the members of the community to see if everything is ok. There are no police or firearms but they do carry whips.

The St James (San Santiago) Festival & Taquile Textile Art Fair

There are 2,200 Taquileans living on the island.  They speak Quechua and we were to learn that they live in a cooperative society where all work is done to benefit the community  The local economy bases itself on fishing, potato farming, textiles, and tourism.  The work such as knitting, a male task, and weaving, a female task, is undertaken as part of the daily chores.

We just happened to be visiting during the time of year that they had a festival dedicated to their patron saint, the Apostle James.  It hit me that St. James was appearing again in my life – the Camino de Santiago being the first.  They had demonstrations showing their how they made  their hand-woven textiles, considered the best in Peru.  Taquile´s textile art were proclaimed by UNESCO “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.

When we reached the main plaza many of the community members and the officials were watching and enjoying singing and dancing.

The doorways and arches were decorated with their national flower – Kantuta.

We walked along a beautiful path – the islands only way of getting around.  Our destination was the other end of the island where our boat would pick us up.

But first, we stopped at a wonderful and beautiful home for lunch.

After lunch we were treated to a presentation about the local traditions and customs they’ve preserved for centuries:

No handshake, just coca leaves

When two people meet on Taquile, both parties pull out a handful of coca leaves from the waist bag on the right side and exchange. Chew the coca leaves first, and then you can start talking.

Prove your worth by drinking out of your knitted hat

When a man wants to marry a woman, he needs to prove his worth by drinking water out of his knitted hat. If the hat is knitted so tightly that the water doesn’t drip, he has successfully proved his abilities.

We thought we were in for a “perfect storm” kind-of trip back to Puno – but our captain simply went around it.

Image

August 2: Titi – caca – titi – caca

Waking up in Puno – this is the view from our window.  If you look high to the right on the hill you will see a statue.  This is a statue of a condor.  The condor is part of the Incan trinity: Condor, Puma, Snake.  In these three animals, sky, earth, and the underworld are represented. Condor, we would learn, is the only bird strong enough to fly up to the heavens and deliver messages to God.  Puma has patience and strength. The snake travels to the underworld, and when it sheds its skin, is reborn, transformed. All part of the circle of life.  We would experience this belief throughout our trip in-scripted  in ancient sites, textiles, and modern symbols.

img_7417-3

2017-07-23

Today we met our guide José.  He will be the guide for our Lake Titicaca adventure and we headed to the docks. We were told to buy some gifts of rice, oil and fruit for our family hosts where we will be staying tonight on the Island of Amantani.

img_7434

img_7426-1

It was – again – a beautiful day and we had our own boat, traveling through the reeds towards the Uros Islands.

These islands are man/women made from the surrounding reeds and can each hold around 25 people or a few families. There are about 85 floating islands with approximately 2000 inhabitants.

It was not until the 90s that the island people allowed tourists to stop at their island. They have since embraced tourism but in their own way. The entire community shares the responsibility dividing the days that tourists can stop among them.

We were shown how the islands are made and how the people lived on these islands.

img_7462img_7456-1img_7476img_7479-1img_7466-1

A very cold ride on a Kon-Tiki boat compliments of Rick and we were back on the boat for a 2/12 hour ride around the peninsula of Capachica and to the isle of Amantani.

img_7484-1

On Amantani, we were met by our host families – our mama’s and papa’s for our overnight stay.  Names were called and I had the honor of joining Matt and Char to stay with a family.

img_7495-1

Our family of fourThe family speaks Quechua and understands a little Spanish and no English  – which proved to be a challenge to communicate but there is always the universal language of charades and children.

img_7543-1

We were served lunch in their kitchen of potato soup, okra, tomatoes and fried cheese. After lunch the three of us met up with the rest of our group to learn about the daily life of these farmers. Life has not changed very much over the 100’s and 100’s of years that these people have lived here. They still were traditional garb and are self sustaining. There are six communities on the island and a school. To our way of life it is very primitive but who is to say?

img_7514-1img_7500-1

There was another amazing experience waiting for us after dinner. We were dressed up in traditional dress and met in the community center for a good ole neighborhood dance.

img_7520At over 13,000 feet just walking up to the center was a challenge much less dancing. We all had a great time dancing together and with our host Mamas.

img_7523

It was very cold at night probably in the 30s and no heating in the homes. But they piled on at least five alpaca blankets on top of our beds that kept us warm.

Image

August 1: A Bus Ride to Puno

We left Cusco around 730am, loaded up a bus and headed out for a 7 hour journey to Puno – with Rick as our guide.

img_7395-3

We made a stop at the archeological site of Pikillaqta. We have been visiting Incan sites and this was pre-incan.  The amazing part of this site is the fact that it has been used since 5000BC

img_7397-2img_7400-2

 

The Sistine Chapel of the Andes

We stopped at St. Peter the Apostle Church, Andahuaylillas. We were not allowed to take pictures inside but the link above takes you to a lovely video. This church acts as a community hub and feeds nearly 400 children a day, an after-school program, library  all supported in part from the fees to see the church.
img_7402-2

We continued driving through the country side seeing small farms being worked by women in tradition garb, cows and Llamas. We stopped at a rest stop at the top of a pass at 14,000 feet – the highest elevation of our trip.  There were ladies selling goods and even a bathroom. You can see the top of the bathroom which had actual toilets and a man with a bucket of water that would come in after you to flush.

img_7406-2

We made it to Puno and we stayed at the Qelqatani Hotel.  It was beautiful and just a few blocks off the plaza.

Image

July 31: A Day in Cusco

Today was a day of laundry, shopping and enjoying the local cuisine. For me, the laundry was all the clothes I borrowed and the first day of wearing my own clothes.

Cusco

Cusco was was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th-century Spanish conquest. In 1983 Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It has become a major tourist destination, hosting nearly 2 million visitors a year. The Constitution of Peru designates it as the Historical Capital of Peru.[2] In 1983 Cusco was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO with the title “City of Cuzco”.  Like many places we visited it is a mixture of the traditional and the modern.

img_7370

img_7359-1

The first tasty experience was in the local market. As soon as you walk in there are rows of ladies waving at you to come to their station to make you fresh juice. It had everything in it. Fruit I had never heard of, vegetables, bee pollen honey and the secret ingredient was dark beer.

img_7365-1img_7366

After enjoying that treat everyone went their ways to explore the market. Rick and I set off to comb the market for food and snacks for our bus trip tomorrow. The market had everything. A isle of breads that were being sold by the local women, an isle of cheeses, rice, beans, fruits and potatoes. There was a isle of raw meat that we did not go down-it is not like Wegmans were everything is sliced, packaged AND refrigerated. Just a huge isle of slabs of unidentified meat and chickens. We bought fruit, nuts, empanadas and sweet bread.

img_7368img_7376

We all met back from our daily adventures for dinner at a wonderful restaurant complete with music and entertainment.

We interrupt these wonderful pics of delicious food to tell you about Cuy.

This would be a good time to tell you about Cuy. What animal sounds like Kweeeeeeee? Give up? Ok, I will tell you, Guinne pig. Guinne pig is eaten all over the area. You can order in restaurants or on the streets. Guinne pigs are pests for the farmers that eat the bread crops so there is an abundance of them. You have heard of Man vs Food.  Well we had Tom vs Cuy  – the brave one amongst us to try it.

img_7385

Ok, then — that’s it for this day……

Image

July 30th: Machu Picchu and the day I get my luggage.

After I good nights sleep in a comfy bed and hearty breakfast we started out early to beat the crowds going up to Machu Picchu.  We caught the bus and back up the winding road. The bus would serpentine up the side of the mountain climbing 3000 feet- with no guard rails and at times having to pass the bus coming down. There were a few of us that had to sit on the inside isle seat and look the opposite way.  Thank you Mr. Tom for being my seat-mate down and up and up and down again – and for always looking out for me the entire trip.

 

 

Machu Picchu

First, we were taught how to properly say Picchu. The first “c”is a hard one. So pronounce it from now on as Pickchew or else you are saying Penis. Instead of saying old mountain you would be saying old Penis — I will leave it at that.  Things you never thought you would learn.

There is so much history and questions about this site. Why is it here, what was it used for and how did they construct this without tools? No one knows for sure but there are theories.  Chino and Omar were our guides explaining history to us along the entire site.  Do yourself a favor and watch some videos on the history of one of the 7th Wonders of the World.  It is truly amazing.  Here is a link to the a National Geographic 101.

 

 

img_7291img_7293img_7294img_7295-2img_7305-2img_7306-2img_7308img_7307-2img_7309-1img_7313-2img_7316-1

After going yet again down on the bus ride from another demension  – we spent a few hours in the town, met up for a phenomenal lunch and got on a 2 hour train to take us back to Cusco.

img_7336-1img_7331-1img_7345-2

This was no ordinary train ride.

They served tea and dessert, performed a traditional dance and even put on a fashion show of the finest alpaca sweaters (200-300$).  Here is a little bit of the experience.  YES – that is my roomie!

 

And through the entire experience our fearless heroes were planning the next adventure.

img_7346-2

Another 2 hour bus ride back to Cusco and I have clean pants, shirts and not only women’s underwear — but my own!

TRAIN CRASH

No, not ours, but exactly hours later on the very same train there was a collision.

 

Image

July 29th: 4th and final day on trail – 11km

We were woken up at 530am – or early as I told you —  to climb to the top of the campsite to watch the sun rise. Our Wawqi’s were up there waiting with hot tea. With..hot tea.It was a celebration that the hardest parts were over and we ONLY had a 6 hour trek DOWN to Machu Picchu. ONLY! And my feet and legs are barkin. I will never forget all of us being up there  – being together as a f-a-m-i-l-y and being alone in our thoughts at the same time – with new friends and old.  I continued to be blessed and surrounded in my life with people like these folks — crazy?  a bit.  Loving and kind — a lot.

Have I mentioned how much cocoa tea we had?  Oh and check out the wawqi’s headlamp holding the sugar.  I hope one of us left him ours.

Wait till you see this – 

We came down from tea and breakfast was waiting. We had our last breakfast el fresco and the cook made us quinoa pancakes with bananas and kiwi! What a treat and with maple syrup. They don’t have pancakes in Peru and they made it just for us.

This has to be my favorite picture and moment of our trip:

Today our destination was down to the Machu Picchu.  It would take us 5 hours through a vast set of Inca terraces full of swallows and orchids

Omar

Omar was all about the “MOUNTAIN”.  We loved him. He was so knowledgable about plants, birds and was always talking and learning from others.  He was also the one that would teach us about the traditional beliefs and you could feel the deep pride he had for his country and heritage.

Hey — Llama ahead! Yes, we were told to put our hiking poles on the right side and simply pass them.

They don’t call me a Llama Mama for no reason….

img_7196

If you look to the left of the picture in the middle you see some buildings.  Yes, that is what we need to get to for our lunch.

img_7228

But first navigating down the steps…

After another amazing lunch complete with jello.   This would be our last time we would be with our wawqi’s.  We had a thank you ceremony for them and shook each hand, thanking them for their service and presented them with a tip. It was such an honor to do so after seeming how hard they worked to make our experience seamless.

We said goodbye and started the final leg of the trip.  Chino had one more surprise for us.    We got to the Winaywayna sign and he had us look down to the right and face the mountain side.  He then had us all turn around at once to see this:

and this

Winaywayna

The name means “forever young” in Quecha. At this site, the Inca terraced the entire mountainside for growing food, and built a two-level complex connected by a cascade of fifteen baths. Since it is only 3miles from Machu Picchu it is thought that it was a  religious center.  The complex is divided into two architectural sections, with temples at the top and more rustic structures below. As many as 19 different springs carry water to various stone baths located at different levels throughout the characteristic Inca terracing.  We had a few moments to explore and experience the majesty like this pic —

img_7263

And then of course one of us had to make the most of it !!

img_7264

And 2 hours later we reached our destination.  We all stopped on the trail just before the Sun Gate – or Intipunku.  It is believed that this was some kind of control gate for the people who enter and go out of Machu Picchu.  It was a celebration thanks to Izzy for the chocolate. It was a first glance of the site.  If you are wondering what the zig-zag roads are that is the only way up to the site by tourists.  Yes, will tell you about the bus that we took to get down and up again on those roads.

img_7274

 

We would not be touring today but walking past it to get to a bus to take us into town where a shower and bed awaited. We were a bit bedraggled looking group and very pungent as we passed the tourists. A cold beer while waiting in the long line for the bus hit the spot. We took a crazy bus ride down the side of a mountain into town and found our hotel the High Classic. It was quaint and beautiful and most importantly had an elevator

 

Image

July 28th: Dead Women’s Pass: 16kl  

Today was the big day. It was going to be a 11 hour day climbing up and down two passes. I was either going to make the 13,800 foot pass or would be a dead women myself. We were starting from approximately 12,300 which may not seem like a lot of elevation but at that altitude and the rise it was tough. Well, I am writing this so I made it but not without going through some of hardest physical and emotional times along the way.

They woke us up at 5:00am, breakfast at 5:30am and started walking by 6ish. This picture shows the pass we are heading for over my left shoulder. Look for the boob with the nipple.  Oh, sure it looks close enough…… 

At about 9am I reached the pass. Chino was playing music, the family was cheering and my roomie came down to meet me with a snickers bar.  Once you reached the top we received a pin for our hats by Omar.

A quick rest, a few pics and then down we go. We had another 2 hours of a rocky trail before we would stop for some soup.

On the way up when ever a Wawqi was passing us you had to stop  to let them pass – and of course yell out Allillachu Wawqi to them – Hello Brother!  Going down was a bit different because on top of carrying 50lbs on their backs in addition to navigating the rocks they like to run down. We could keep walking but had to stick to the mountain side as they ran by. Just……..unbelievable to see their agility and strength.

There were so many times I would look back and see where I came from.  It was true amazing what Mr. Peru (ask me about that) and I did — I mean we all did.  My F-A-M-I-L-Y.

Down that side of the mountain and then a nice lunch was waiting for us at around 3:00pm.   The goal was to get to our campsite before sundown and all we had left was a more gentle 2 hour hike to our 11,300ft campsite.  It was amazing and a little scary at the same time. It was on top of peak proving the most glorious views. It was very cold and we were tired.

img_7169

We all hopped in our tents to rest and get ready for the cold night ahead. Dinner at 7:00pm, bed by  8:30pm. I did it. We did it, as a family does – supporting and loving each other……um, hate to interrupt this wonderful moment of celebration to tell you that we were just told that we are waking up again early, early, early to climb up a hill to see the sunrise.  La la Salama…….

Image

July 27th: Up With The Chickens

Did I tell you we were sharing our campsite with chickens?  At 6am the Wawqi’s came around with cocoa tea and hot water.  Today’s hike would take us from 8,737 to 12,300 ft. It was a beautiful hike — always up of course.  Wow – it was always amazing to look back to see how far and high you came.  We started at the bottom on the brown mountains just the day before.

Our campsite was always “just a little further”  – but I heard instead of chickens we would have Llamas.  It is hard to see but the little red dot is a farmer with Llamas and we are heading there.

 

My Roomie – Linda

Linda and I were tent and hotel mates.  It was so much of her support and love that added so much to my experience of this trip.  Overnight we would get into our tent and there would always be a break out of the giggles.  We were told that it was going to be very cold this night – down in the 30’s/40’s.  On top of that we had the longest and hardest hike the next day.  We would sit in our tent and meticulously plan out how we were going to keep warm, what we were going to wear the next day and the most important conversation was about how we were going to get up in the middle of the night to pee.  The grey tent was not that far away, but when you have to leave the warmth of you sleeping bag in the middle of the night it is a long and cold walk. Sooooooo, sometimes you just go outside your tent.  I have no idea what time it was, but I had to go.  I unzipped the tent and I hear from Linda “be careful when you pee – it flows towards the tent.  Well that started the giggles.  Then trying to get back in the tent and in the sleeping bag was like trying to stuff the Michelin Man in a stuff sack.  That was it — we both just burst.

 

This is a Linda stroke of genius — she used her puffy jacket to keep her feet and legs warm.

Thank you Pablo – we decided instead to go with Paul’s suggestion of filling our water bottles with hot water as a thermos to keep our feet warm.  Perrrrrrrrfectissssimo.

Image

July 26th: Ollantaytambo and Our First Day on the Trail.

We packed up for the hike and first stopped at archeological site of Ollantaytambo.

This was our introduction to the engineering minds of the Incas. The walls are all built by stone and the further you climb the more amazing the craftsmanship is. In the pic above you can easily imagine how they used rocks to form create the walls closer to you. Well, wait until you start to go up.

As we climbed higher the rock construction would change.  Look at the pics below.  It starts out at the “Wow – how did they get the rocks up here and how did they get the rocks to be seamlessly fit tougher – amazing”

Then you get to the “how the hell” section.

And, then the “that’s impossible it must have been aliens” section.

We made a quick stop at a local store on the way to the trailhead and bought my poles and a sun hat- the last two items I needed to start.

We met up with our porters who were packing up for the trip. There would be 32 of them to support the 17 of us. Chino explained to us that the word porter is not the proper word to use since these people are Quetchwan. The way we were asked to refer to them are our Wawqi – or brother of man. So, from now on you will see me use the word Wawqi

We went through 2 check points where we had to show our passports to make sure they match the names on the permits we had to have to climb. This is a controlled park and only 500 a day are allowed on the trail. Across the Urubamba River and up we started.

Our first surprise from Chino was when we came to the top of a pass. All we could see was a big cliff and a high drop off. He made us turn around lock arms and walk backwards. He had Omar and Edu in back of us for reassurance we would not go over. Yea…..He had us stop, turn around and this is what we saw. It was their way of saying welcome to the Machu Picchu Camino!

After conquering my first height challenge i was feeling pretty good.

When we got to our first camp, Tarayoc the waiki’s were all lined up to clap and high-five us. Needless to say, they were always there ahead of us. Camp would be set up including the food tent, our tents and the bathrooms before we go there.

Inside our tents for two were two thermarest mattresses, our green duffel bags and sleeping bags. The waiki’s would bring a small bowl of hot water and soap to our tents to clean up.

Since this was our first night we had an introductory ceremony where the waiki’s introduced themselves to us and us to them. We presented them with a bag of cocoa leaves, which is a traditional exchange, to thank them for the work ahead.

There was tea at 6pm and an amazing dinner at 7pm of trout and vegetables. It is still a mystery how they bring everything up on their backs for 4 days and serve 3 meals a day for 17 people plus 32 Wawqi’s.  The most amazing group of men.

Image

JOI Goes to Peru

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

I went on another journey of inspiration. I traveled to Peru for two weeks. This trip is to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first JOI climbers to Kilimanjaro. The 08’ers were kind enough to let an 09’er tag along for the trek. The first week included a 4 day, 43 km hike on the Inca Camino through the Andes to Machu Picchu. The second week will be a bit more of a relaxing tour of Cusco, Puno, Lake Titicaca and Lima. Though on a Rick French (Pack, Paddle and Ski) trip there is always a bit of adventure in everything we do. I am writing this after completing the first week and what a week it was. It was one of the most physically and emotionally challenges I have had and filled with some of the most loving, beautiful and spiritual moments too. It is hard to explain the combination of hardship and joy at the same time – but you know me, I will give it try. Let’s start at the very beginning…

The plane trip that would not end —

thumbnail_IMG_6878

The pic from the air is to help tell two stories. The first one is that the trip here did not start out nor end as expected. So, I will tell you the second one first.  This was the first time we saw a glimpse of the Andes.  I was not expecting them to be so grand and of course did not consider that I would be trekking through them in a few days.  They are spectacular from the air and from the ground.

IMG_6933

The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world and the only ones taller are the Himalaya Mountains.  I have never experience such majesty and beauty.

The part of the flight story is that our 7am flight was cancelled out of Rochester.  They shipped us up to Toronto for a 6 hour layover.  When boarding the flight from Toronto to Lima they would not let us the flight because American Airlines never issued us a ticket.  Once we got that figured out we got on the flight and sat for 3 hours.  Finally taking off we got to Lima at 530am instead of 1030pm the night before – just in time to meet the rest of the group for our flight to Cusco. Oh, wait it gets better.  We land in Cusco and no luggage.  I did not get it until a week later.  Yes, with all my gear, clothes, boots, you name it.  Ended up borrowing a little bit from the group and buying at local markets to get me through the trek. So the outfits you see me wearing on the trek are not of my choosing.   It was awful but got through it.  So enough of that.

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

Chino

We arrived in Cusco and met by our guide Chino – real name is RRRRRRRRRRubin.

Chino would be our main guide for the first week.  He became everything to us, our tour guide, our trek leader, our historian, our supporter, our cheerleader, our problem solver, our friend and family.  We were also joined by Omar and Edu other wonderful and amazing guides that I will introduce to you later.

Pisac Citadel

First stop was Pisac Citadel – our first Inca site.  We quickly learned that there are 1000’s of Inca sites across the country with only a small percentage discovered and accessible.

IMG_6904.jpg

Pisac, a word of Quechua origins, means “partridge”. Inca tradition dictated building cities in the shape of birds and animals, and as such, Pisac is partridge shaped. The Inca ruins included a military citadel, religious temples, and individual dwellings, a cemetery and overlooks the Sacred Valley, between the Salkantay Mountains.

The “ridges” on the hillside are called terraces and we would soon see them everywhere. These terraces are how they developed farm land on mountainsides. The terraces leveled the planting area, but they also had several unexpected advantages. Here is a great site to learn more about this farming technique.

IMG_6907 (1).jpg

It is hard to see in this pic but this is the side of a very steep mountain next to the site.  It is a cemetery.  If  you look hard you can see holes in the side and steps leading up to them.  You can’t tell from the pic, but there are 100s of them.  When people died they were embalmed with local herbs, put into a fetal position and placed in the side of the mountain. The mountains were their father and the earth their mother. This way they would be reborn.  We will come to learn how important the spirit of nature was part of the culture and part of their souls – an apparently mine.

After a lunch of llama — yes, you read that right we went to the Villa Urubamba.  Exhausting first day but already an amazing journey.

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

We were up early and went to the archeological site of Moray.

It was a fascinating to learn just how advanced the Incas were. Yesterday, we learned about the terraces.  This site showed the terraces in circles. The full purpose behind these concentric terraces isn’t fully known. However, it is widely believed that these ruins were once an agricultural laboratory. Each one of these terraces are a different depth, design and orientation to the sun, wind and temperature. These different micro climates at the different levels allowed them to study wild vegetation.

From there we walked to help get acclimated to the elevation and low and behold we came around the corner and there was lunch and the grey tent. For all my Kili climbing friends this will look so familiar and brought back such wonderful memories.

We even got a demonstration on how to use the grey tent since this would be our bathroom for 4 days on the trail. After lunch Chino “schooled” us about our days ahead and what to pack.

We then went to the Maras Salt Mines. This is an association of 350 families. Each of these pools are fed by an underground spring that starts to fill the bottom ones by a series of channels As they get filled rocks are placed to stop the flow and the next one is filed and so forth. It can take from 7 to 20 days to harvest the salt depending on the winds.

The Market

We stopped at a local market to see the Wegmans of Cusco.

So my luggage is not going to be here in time for my climb. We started looking for sweats, a jacket and underwear. Have you ever tried to shop with a group of people especially men for underwear and pants? You are lucky if you haven’t. I was also lucky – more then you know, and blessed.  My lady gang of Linda, Linda and Char formed a pride around me, kicked the men to the curb and found me some things to wear.

Chicha

After that experience, Chino took us to a Checharina where they make Checha of course. It is a traditional drink made of corn. They also had a flavored one of strawberries which was much tastier.

Our last meal was at a wonderful restaurant in town called El Huacatay. Then home to pack for the trip.

We were given one small green duffle that we could fill with what we wanted to have on the mountain.  The porters would carry these along with our sleeping bags. Since I did not have one I needed to rent one from the touring company. We also would carry our daypack and that was it for the next 4 days. The rest of the luggage would be waiting for us when we returned to Cusco the following Monday which for me…….we still did not  know where mine was.

 

Image

 Xie Xie Taipei 

What is bubble tea?

I am glad you asked. It is one of those must try items in Taipei and we we’re not going to leave without tasting it.  So, Thursday before our flight we went to seek this drink out.


Bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea-based drink invented  in the 1980s- of course the 80’s.  Most bubble tea recipes contain a tea base mixed/shaken with fruit or milk, to which chewy tapioca balls and fruit jelly are often added.

The first sip was quite the surprise when those jelly-tapioca-chewy-thingys hit your mouth. It was a nice send off for us as we depart on our 20+ hour trip to Chicago.

What is next for Chris? The team has a game against Czech Republic on Friday and South Korea on Saturday and then the final games where they will compete for a medal. There is a great explanation here.

It was truly an honor to be here for the first week of the games rooting on the Hawkeyes and the whole Team USA.  Tapei could not have been a more gracious host.  And, to experience this with my wonderfully, beautiful, and amazing cousin was priceless. We both leave with a new found respect and admiration for the country, its culture and most importantly its people.

 Xie Xie Taipei

Image

A Day of Unexpected Adventures. 

During the game on Tuesday night, a women wearing a Cubs tshirt came in to watch the game and sat in our section. Well, you can guess who jumped up to meet her (Mar is from Chicago and a high fan).  Turns out she and her husband are from a suburb of Chicago and now live in Taipei. They left their careers in the states to experience teaching abroad and now both teach at the Taipei American School.


She invited us for a tour of the school the next morning which just happened to be a few blocks from the stadium where Iowa was playing Japan.  What an amazing facility.  They have 2300 students K-12. It is an American-based education but as they describe it with a global perspective where the best of east and west is presented.  Well, you can guess who jumped up to ask questions about the opportunity to teach abroad (that would be me).

USA 5, Japan 11

We did not get the win but because we won the first two games we still advance to the medal round. The games are live here in Taipei but are not being streamed to USA for what we have been told-political reasons.


Celebrity Moms

After the game we headed up to the athletes village to meet the boys and take them out to dinner. While waiting, folks would come up and ask for their picture taken with the Baseball Moms!  They were even interviewed on local TV.


We all met up and enjoyed a wonderful dinner together hearing all about their experiences as the athletes.



It was such a great day filled with unexpected adventures making it a bit hard to think about heading home.

Image

USA 13 Russia 3

The morning we spent navigating other venues and events. (There is a great story of our adventure that we decided not to make public for our self pride sake-but get a glass or two of wine in is and we will tell you the whole story).

The game on Tuesday was a night game starting at 630pm. We were thrilled and anticipated the coolness of the night. Did I tell you how freakin hot it is here??? Ok, to be fair it did drop to under 90.  The game was at a different stadium which we brilliantly navigated ourselves to-we are so proud how we mastered the MRT and a little help from Uber!


The Iowa alumni was out in full force to root on the boys to their victory.  When it comes to sports, it really doesn’t matter what country you are from- there is respect shown for the dedication and effort.



After each game we go and wait for the boys to get on the bus. There are 3 Moms, a cousin and an Aunt here so at least three boys get warm hugs, encouragement from family.

But we aren’t their only biggest fans. The ex-pats and locals come to meet the boys and show their support, ask for autographs and take pictures. So, so cute and a thrill for the boys.

Image

Taipei 101

No, this is not a quick lesson on all things Taipei. Though if you would like one here is a link. The Taipei 101 is the name of the tallest building in Taipei. It was actually the tallest in world until 2010!


It used to have the fastest elevator in the world, traveling at 60.6 km/h and got us from the 5th to 89th floor in 37 seconds.

You can see the stadium where we were for opening ceremonies!

Most of the city is located in the Taipei Basin, an ancient lakebed. Chris had Monday off and the team was going to site seeing so we decided to catch up with them. We were able to have lunch with him at where else:


We decided to check out one of the famous night markets.

Shilin Night Market

This is one of the biggest and most famous of the many night markets in Taiwan. It was filled with stalls of food, clothing and more cell phone cover shops then you could count. It is where most of the locals will do their shopping with the typical malls that we know of filled with high end designer stores.

MaryEllen and I being the adventurous foodies fell in love with this snack so much that we are bringing some home for all to try. You won’t be disappointed.

Ok, kidding of course.

Image

Did we tell you how hot it is yet?

Second longest and hottest consecutive days over 90. Plus, 100% Humidity makes it feel over 100. We sometimes go into stores just to stand in front of their fans.  We had a beautiful Ice Angel take pity on us in a store and offered us ice for our drinks.


TyphoonSeason 

Heto came in at the south end and brought a much needed breeze to us in the north. Chris has had two night games where it dipped to a low low of 83…….and of course with the humidity.  It is a sweating palooza!

Image

Mastering the MRT and the First Big Win

Sunday we decided to master the mass transit system to take in some culture on our own. BUT,  first a stop at our favorite International Buffet to see what the serve for lunch. Oh, my, my, my…..I think you get the essence.


Ok-back to mastering the MRT.


It is probably the cleanest, easiest system we both have tackled outside the US-and quite frankly inside as well!  It reminded us more like an airport shuttle system, but complete with lovely music and free WIFI! (And no urine smell, garbage or people begging for money)


We were also “schooled” on how to properly queue up-I am sure this would work in the NYC subways.

 

 

Only when the cold season comes, then we know the pine tree and the cypress are the last to lose there leaves.

Guess who says that?


Confucius Temple
This temple was the largest and most ancient of China’s Confucius temples. It is located at the original site of Confucius residence, it has grown over the course for some 2,000 years and serves as a blueprint for Confucius temples in every province of China.

Play Ball!

The first game was played against Hola! Mexico at  the Taipei Tianmu Baseball Stadium. 


Chr​is led off the game as the first at bat, with

​​

a local alumni crowd cheering him on.


At the end it was a W!!!!!!!

Image

Opening Ceremonies- Olympic Style!

Wow, what an amazing event. The games are the largest sporting event ever hosted in Taiwan and they certainly kicked it off in Olympic style. The sold out Taipei Stadium is a 23,000 seat venue and was walking distance from our hotel.

After navigating through the crowds to find will call we found our seats and we’re thrilled to find a present at our seats.


Inside was a bottle of water, cookie, flags, postcards and a program. The atmosphere was truly electric and we were surrounded by parents and fans from all over the world. Though, as a westerner we stand out and we find ourselves looking for others or anyone that we can communicate with. On the street we saw a couple go by and MaryEllen yells out “Hey, English speaking people! Can you help us with directions?”

The flag was raised, anthems song accompanied by the Taipei orchestra.  The venue erupted with the first march of the athletes

Just before Canada was to be announced we received a txt from Chris saying that there is a riot outside and they are not going to let the rest of the athletes march. We looked up and all we saw were flags coming in.

There was a protest going outside and the decision was made not to put the athletes in any danger. We were so sad and upset but grateful for the care they had for our boys and girls. Less then 15 minutes later we got another txt saying they are going to let them march.

And to see a birds eye view from the athletes perspective they captured the moment. Guess who was front and center.   Take a look at this video:

http://www.snappytv.com/tc/5545822/3606927

Our Chris is the one yelling “Whoo”!

“Sometimes the best things are worth waiting for,” FISU president Oleg Matytsin said in his official speech. “No one can stop our students.”

The show told the story of how the island of Taipei was formed through its ancient history and up to modern day-all through song and dance.  One of the highlights was when a Taiwanese professional baseball player Chen Chin-feng (陳金鋒) lit the Universiade flame.  The games have officially begun.  Go USA!

​​

Image

Taipei in 5 hours- Go!

On Friday, the USA delegation put together a tour of Taipei which was a whirl-wind highlight tour of the city but gave us a great sense of the city, culture and history.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hal

This memorial hall was originally established to commemorate Chiang Kai-Shek and host promotiona activities.  Going through the hall we wished we paid more attention to world history! He truly impacted what this region is today!


In addition to the CKS Memorial Hall, the National Opera House, and the National Concert Hall were built on the same site. We were impressed to hear that when a major Broadway musical or opera is playing inside the venue, they put screens outside so that the citizens who cannot afford a ticket could experience it.

National Palace Museum

The National Palace Museum has a permanent collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks, making it one of the largest of its type in the world. The collection encompasses 8,000 years of history of Chinese art from the Neolithic age to the modern. the collection were moved to Taiwan to prevent their desecration during and after the Chinese Civil War.

History of Buddhism engraved on back

It was amazing to see the artwork and sculptures of these artifacts dating 4000 BC – yes, 4000 BC. Our tour guide said that he had a job that was to take someone back and forth every day to the museum for a month so he could go through the museum in its entirity. So, you can see we only saw the highlights given the 2 hours we were there – but it was enough time to truly be inspired by the depth of this countries spiritualism, artistry,  knowledge, and craftsmanship.

Maokong Gondola

We took a gondola to visit the Zhinan Temple high in the mountains. It was a temple centred around the idea of “three religions and five houses for life guidance” to create five key themes on the grounds.

It conveys the unique blend of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism found in local culture through the five houses of parents, children, siblings, spouses and fortune and virtue.  

The culture is very tolerant of various religions often sharing places of worship.  Our guide explained that the top theee religions are Toaism, Buddhism, and Christianity.

In the evening we went to the opening ceremonies, but just had to dedicate a separate entry to it.

Image

Welcome to Taiwan!

It was a flight to Chicago, a 4 ½ hour flight to Vancouver and then a 12-hour flight to Taiwan. I traveled here with my cousin MaryEllen to support her son and my secon cousin Chris Whelan and the Iowa Hawkeyes in The 29th Summer Universiade

The Universiade is an international sporting and cultural event which is staged every two years in a different city. It is only second to the Olympic Games. More than 9,000 student-athletes and officials from over 170 countries. I did not even know this existed and not even sure what to expect – but expect this to be another amazing journey of inspiration.

We are staying at the Westin Taipei and experienced our first taste of the hospitality of Taipei when we arrived – a not towel and orange juice when we arrived.


We picked the Westin because the USA delegation is headquartered here. There is someone here throughout the day to help with directions, tickets, food choices and to explain the importance of 7-Eleven. You can do anything there-pick up your tickets, buy an MRT card, pay your water bill and tuition – but no slurpies!


First night of beef noodle soup – a must eat in Taipei. Beef and noodles in broth — how much can it mean to a city? For Taipei, so much that it has an annual festival of its own devoted to the dish.


We struggled to stay awake past 8pm – but wanted to try and get on schedule, of course we both were up around 3am chatting and doing email.

OH – and we found out that breakfast was included – and not just a bagel and instant coffee, but an international buffet, filled with many recognizable and not so recognizable dishes. But, oh so good.

Image

Soaking In Every Last Moment….

Vilasari to O Logoso, October 19, 2016

Today was a 14 mile hike that started out in the mist of a silent trail through the hillside. It wasn’t eerie at all, but very comforting. Someone said it was like walking through a cloud and being hugged by God. 


The trail took us up through beautiful farmlands and sun came out to lift the fog away. 


The trail is much quieter and has a different feel. Not many pilgrims go on after Santiago so the towns and services are all a bit smaller. Here is our Albuergue and town for tonight. 


A nice meal together, just being, and anticipating a big and final day tomorrow.   (And the battle of the snorers-I swear I purr)

Image

22.4 miles, Yup You Read It Right. 

Santiago to Albergue Vilasari, October 18, 2016

My dogs are not only barking, but howling!  We left around 7, with the first 1/2 hour walking through the quiet empty streets of Santiago. 


We quickly found a place open serving cafe. They aren’t typically open but on the Camino route you can find them open this early for pilgrims.  We walked out of town and looked for the familiar yellow arrows and markers. 

The difference is, is the the markers begin to count down the miles that you have to do to make it to the ocean. 


It was a very long day, a lot of ups and downs but the day was a beautiful day for hiking. We came across this wonderful water fountain for pilgrims to soak their feet. It was cold, but refreshing and helped us with the last 5 k. 


Our Albuergue was in a tiny town-an alburgue, cafe and……..yup that was it.  Going to sleep at 9 was not a problem.  Oh yea,  short day tomorrow, only 15 miles…on Ricardo Francais time now. 

Image

Santiahhhhhhgo

Santiago, October 17, 2016

It was a sleep in and rest day……and guess who I ran into in front of the Cathedral?  This guy is everywhere!!


We met up with Rick, Kevin, Donna and Lainy. Had a wonderful time getting acquainted and heading out to the ocean in the morning. Going to try and make the 4 day trip in 3-which means 18 to 20 miles tomorrow. You’ll know when I do, if I make it!

Buenas Noches

Image

Train to Santiago 

Burgos to Santiago, October 16, 2016

Today we left for Santiago on the train. It will take us about 7 1/2 hours to get there-the same distance it took me 3 weeks to walk on my first Camino.  My feet are enjoying the rest and It is nice to sit and watch the scenery go by. I recognize the stops: Astorga, Leon, Pomferada….and take the opportunity to read my blog posts when walking through the towns before. 

We will be meet up with Rick and his fellow pilgrims tomorrow. 

Image

2 1/2 Years, 200 miles in 2 Weeks

San Juan Ortega to Burgos, October 15, 2016

Burgos is the end of the beginning and I now go onto the beginning of the end. It was May 19, 2014 when I last was here and it seems like only yesterday. 


The walk in the morning took us through Atapuerca. 


The Archaeological Site of Atapuerca is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. The earliest human fossils and tools known in Europe were found in the nearby caves. The site was inscribed by UNESCO in 2000.

Here is a video on the findings. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=g5gMuMJYe60

Their are memorials built outside the town to signify the importance of the findings and honoring our ancestors. 

It wasn’t that much farther that I got my first glance at (almost ) final destination. 
The city of Burgos is magnificent with the cathedral at its center.

 The Albuergue was  conveniently located nearby as always. It was one of the most modern one we stayed in. The cost was only 5 euro but the view of history outside our window was priceless. 


The evening turned out to be one of my most favorite moments. All the women that I had been hiking with off and on for the last two weeks magically appeared and we gathered for one last time. We were from Germany, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland and the United States. Strong, beautiful and inspiring.  I could not have asked for a more perfect way to celebrate my little moment of history making in my life. 

Image

From Wheat To Woods

Beldorado to San Juan Ortega, October 14, 2016

Today was a long 15 miler but the terrain changed so much it made it enjoyable. 


The trail went through a few small towns, and I mean small. Some of them with inhabitants of 100 people. At one point I came over a hill and heard Elvis music. I can upon this area with stumps of wood to sit and rest. 

On a women selling fruit water and of course wine. 

The nights albergue was in a monastery built by Saint John of Ortega himself, with the help of his friend and fellow saint, Domingo de la Calzada, around 1142 as a help point to the pilgrims. 

It had two rooms with 50 beds, a little cafe and a church. Mass was at 6 and the priest invited pilgrims to come up a read the readings and prayer of the faithful. When you walked in you could get a copy of the mass in your own language to follow along as the priest said the mass in  Spanish. So, when the pilgrims  came up to read it was said in their own language. It was truly wonderful. 


A simple meal was then served and off to bed before the lights go out at 10am sharp. 

Image

Hey! Hay

Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado, October 13, 2016

Happy Anniversay Mom and Dad!

Today was a 14 mile hike through a lot of wheat farms. A lot of them.  


This was one of many stacks we saw. 


The weather turned to rain for the first time. So, guess what we couldn’t make?  A euro if you got that one. 

One of

Image

Did You Hear The One About The Chickens In The Cathedral?

Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, October 12, 2016. 

Today’s 13 mile hike was through beautiful farmlands and vineyards. We are now in the La Rioja region, renowned for its superlative wines. And I will attest to that!  In fact, Kings and noblemen were proving the Camino through this region as early as the 11th century as a means of exporting its famous wine and wares through Europe-and a way to attract artists and stonemasons to build all of the amazing cathedrals and monuments I have been seeing along the route. It was in this region where the defeat of the Moors happened which gave a great boost to Christianity and by extension, the Camino de Santiago.  


Okay, I know you want to here about the chickens.   Well, The story goes that in the 14th century, a German 18-year-old named Hugonell, from Xanten, goes on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with his parents. A Spanish girl at the hostel where they were staying makes sexual advances toward Hugonell; Hugonell rejects her advances. Angry at this, the girl hides a silver cup in the German’s bag and then informs the authorities that the youth had taken it. Hugonell is sentenced to the gallows, in accordance with the laws of Alfonso X of Castile.

The parents sadly decide to examine their son’s body, still hanging on the gallows, but suddenly hear his voice –he tells them that Saint Dominic has saved his life. His parents quickly make their way to Santiago de Compostela to see the magistrate. The magistrate, who is at the time eating dinner, remarks: “Your son is as alive as this rooster and chicken that I was feasting on before you interrupted me.” And in that moment, the two birds jump from the plate and begin to sing and crow happily. 

And as early as 1350, it has been documented that there is  a cock and a hen in the cathedral. 


I could not get a good picture of them because of the light so I found one to show you up close. 


I have a great punch line for my headline, but since my Mom reads this blog I leave it just between us chickens.