A Travellerspoint blog

Machu Picchu

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View 40 K Miles, 6 Months on Equatorials's travel map.

On Machu Picchu, Wikipedia tells us:

"The Incas built the estate around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction."

A tourist attraction indeed. Tourists are catered to in all respects, and there are many ways to get to Machu Picchu. Dave and I went the taxi, bus, train, shuttle option to arrive, and the shuttle, train, bus, walk option to depart. This was Dave's second visit to Machu Picchu and my first (despite my visit to Lima, Peru, in 2001). Here is our day memorialized in pictures, including our hike of Wayna Picchu:

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Llamas provide lawn mowing services at Machu Picchu.

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Here's the view of Machu Picchu from Wayna Picchu.

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Here's the view of Machu Picchu with Wayna Picchu in the background:

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Dave relaxing on the train...

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And then, yes, this really happened. We must have taken the cheap train on our return leg somehow (or the really expensive one) because the staff entertained us by first dancing in the aisles in a costume to loud Peruvian music (check out the passengers' eyes below, representing the whole train's surprise to this event) and they next provided a fashion show, after which our fellow female passengers bought wraps for hundreds of dollars.

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Posted by Equatorials 15:51 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Buenos Aires Uncovered

Buenos Aires, home to 3 million, and European in flavor, was a delight.

We got off to a rough start in this city. We were minutes away from not being able to board the flight from Jo'burg to Buenos due to reciprocity fees that now must be paid in advance by USA citizens (discovered as we were handing our tickets over at the airplane gate), a fellow hotel guest's black backpack was swiped (and swapped out with another boring black pack) in the lobby as the guest's back was turned, and a kid pulled a 2" knife on Dave & me for a bit of Dave's Diet Coke (the kid won and we stayed - physically - unscathed).

It does not just take two to tango. It takes two good dancers to tango. Dave & I took a simple lesson and even this was too complex; our feet were amiss and we could not even master the tango face (attempts below). The dancers that we saw on stage were ridiculously entertaining, rubbing in Dave's and my faces how far we are from doing anything close to truly resembling the tango.

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As we walked through the city we got the sense that health care reform must be going on here too. Argentinians are not happy with their president, Cristina Kirchner, and from what I can tell this happens when a leader tries to insure people's health. Guess Cristina will be on Between Two Ferns soon.

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Evita, lover of all, loved by all. Never you mind the bit of fascism at she and her husband seemed to have, No one else seems to mind, making for hot tourist attractions like her tomb in its unusual cemetery and elements of her wardrobe.

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Dave and I had our own victim; Ice cream cones. We didn't take any pictures of our prey as we didn't want to make you jealous (never mind that we always ate the cones too quickly) , but you can see their divine home.

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Posted by Equatorials 12:39 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Cape Town, A Tale of Two Cities

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Cape Town is chic, modern city with tons of sights to see. And was recently named the New York Times #1 place to visit for 2014. Do you know what's even better than Cape Town? Cape Town with a coupon! Well not really a coupon, but pretty close. Due to market dynamics that I don't understand but to get to appreciate, the South African Rand is down about 20% to the dollar. That means an already good value city is that much more affordable.

Before we get to the fun stuff, we must remember the brutal history of apartheid.
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In Cape Town proper that means a visit to the District 6 Museum and the Bo Kaap neighborhood. District 6 was a immigrant, poor neighborhood that was eventually designated by the government to be for whites. The non whites were forced out and had to give up their businesses and homes. The area was eventually razed, and whites began settling the area.

The Bo Kaap neighborhood was designated for the Cape Malay people. It seemed to be a potpourri racial designation where you had some Asian ancestry, and a skin tone that didn't let you be black or white. They were at least allowed to live and stay there and the neighborhood has a funky, cool vibe to it. As someone from the US, it's hard to conceive that the government would both assign a legally binding race to a person, and then designate places where those races could live.
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The neighborhood was also the start point for the New Years Eve and Carnival parades, where colored bands would wear colorful dress and play until they reached the other side of the city.
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The other place to contemplate the reality of apartheid in Cape Town is Robben Island, a penal colony where both hardened criminal and political prisoners were kept. It seems to have picturesque views...
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Until you find out more about the conditions here.
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As a tourist, we still get to take the same boat used to ferry prisoners over to the island. Once there, a former prisoner details what life was like for the political prisoners on the island.
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Oh yeah, It was also "home" to Nelson Mandela for over 15 years.
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This is his cell on the island along with the limestone quarry he was forced to work in. The limestone dust created lifelong breathing problems for Mr. Mandela

Thankfully, we were allowed to leave Robben Island without too much trouble and enjoy next the beauty of the area. In Cape Town, that starts with Table Mountain.
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Pretty obvious where the name comes from.
Luckily, we were renting a studio from a cool family just at the base of the mountain. We could start hiking after we rolled out of bed.
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It wasn't the easiest hiking in the world, but after finishing Kili, it made for just a sweaty morning.
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The views from here were unlike any others I've had from a natural point. It was like the mountain was built to show off the city down below.
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It even gets a rolling cloud layer in the afternoon called its Table Cloth.
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We did cheat and take the revolving (!) gondola down.
Cape Town has another natural attraction you amateur navigators might know about, the Cape of Good Hope.
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Before the Suez Canal was built, anyone trading between Asia and Europe had to pass around it. It's a stunning place where you can see both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
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Lastly, we did enjoy the epicurean delights this city has to offer. Both a trip to wine country
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which at the end of, Ashley was feeling pretty good. (As was my wallet, at 11 rand to the dollar some of those bottles are less than 5 bucks at the winery)
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And we hit up the Saturday Market at the Old Biscuit Mill, which has a Farmers Market and local restaurants selling some excellent food as you stroll through.
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This Saturday grocery run, let us pack an excellent picnic of local wine, olives, breads, and cheese to the Botanical Garden for a Sunday summer concert of (ironically) a USA band, Civil Twilight.
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We loved Cape Town and dreamed of living there. But it wasn't all rosy; Luckily, I never found out what this is.
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Posted by Scatman 19:59 Archived in South Africa Comments (3)

Fall of the Water

Welcome to South America

36 hours of round-trip bus riding to and from Buenos Aires + a 16 hour day of sightseeing = Iguazu Falls

Is it really worth it you may ask? To sleep so many night on buses? Are these cataratas so great?

Yes, Niagra Falls are big and spectacular when lit up at night. Yes, the the Road to Hana has myriads of beautiful waterfalls (and Dave and I seemingly stopped for each one of them on our March 2012 drive, culminating with the Seven Sacred Sisters). But Iguazu has a few unique traits like:

Even rowdier boat rides taking you directly under parts of the 2.7 km of falls (the Brazilian tourists in particular kept our boat lively & screaming)

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Devils Throat, causing a misting shower, magnetically attracted to mascara and unprotected electronics

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Full Moon Walks and glowing silver water (romantic)

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The surrounding rainforest, and all its 2000 plant species and its very shy animals (no jaguar sightings here; where's Simon when you need him?). Much to our (ahem) mature-delight we had some bird watching; check out these hard to spot Toucans and also a Cayman!

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& some not so shy animals to fend off (Yes, I'm talking about you, coatis)

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A chance to see unique animals in refuge at G├╝ira Oga once you've overindulged in the falls (Dave and I did this in lieu of forking up $ to see the Brazilian view of Iguazu on a second day)

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Valentines Dinner spent with 5 Germans (including an astronomist) & 3 bottles of wine, also used for an astronomy tutorial

And of course a wrap up of a really long bus ride (aka the second half of the 36 hours) where we could dream of Iguazu Falls

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Posted by Equatorials 21:05 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Zanzibar: Post Kili/Safari Respite

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Such were the conditions we faced on the South East of Zanzibar:

Crystal clear waters combined with tides that wouldn't cooperate.

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Alluring warm water with a jelly fish ready to snafu your swimming plans.

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Bike rentals and an unmistakably hot sun on dirt roads with waving children watched by their very covered mothers (Zanzibar is Muslim).

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Running on the beach while locals farmed and dried seaweed. And then eating hungrily afterwards.

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Fast wi fi, complementing sought-after wedding planning and 2 weeks worth of untouched sports articles.

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Skipping the Super Bowl in the name of sleep, a wise choice.

A butterfly farm with fluttering little beauties that would not stay still for the camera.

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Overall, we relaxed a lot. Dave got stung by two jellyfish with 8-9" lashes to prove it along his back and arms, and called for me to get out of the water while he was getting stung to ensure I didn't have the same fate. (Yes, he is that chivalrous.) Overall, we stayed active while simultaneously wi-fi-ing and reading books.

Next we moved to Stone Town on the West Coast, where we ate at the night market and took a spice tour, seeing such highlights as their vanilla and cinnamon spices. We also toured historic slave caves and cells, which were depressing but, I felt, important to see. We swam along fishing boats and planned our Capetown adventures.

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Posted by Equatorials 21:29 Archived in Tanzania Comments (6)

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