Friday, June 29, 2012

Cruising? There's an app for that.

Berlitz offers a full cruising guide which has route maps and details on 285 cruise ships. It also has information on specialized cruises and cruise trends.

Now, there is an app for that. The ship data is also available for $9.99 as an app for Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Look for "Berlitz Cruise Ships" in the app store.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Visa and Passport Help

If you will be traveling overseas and have questions about visa requirements, an excellent resource is the U.S. Department of State American Traveling Aboard website. You can also get passport information from the State Department's website.

If you have any additional questions, you can check the website for the foreign embassy of the country you will be visiting. A list of these websites can also be found on the State Department site.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Unusual Airport Amenities

My daughter sent me the following link. Nice that some airports recognize the stress of air travel and try to make the long waits go a little faster.

And if I have to be stranded for a bunch of hours, I hope it is at Changi Airport in Singapore.

14 airport amenities that will make you long for a layover

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cartegena, Columbia Ferry to Old City

I was reading on a travel forum that there is now ferry service from the cruise port to the Old City. According to the forum poster, it provided a nice alternative to the taxis waiting at the port gate.

However, I have searched extensively and have not been able to turn up any official site or further information. If anyone can provide details, please post a Comment to this post.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Flying With Only Carry-ons

My husband and I try, whenever possible, to travel with just carry-ons. Flying from the U.S., the typical allowance is two carry-ons: a personal item (like a purse or briefcase) that will fit under the seat in front of us and another bag that meets airline specifications (typically a small rolling suitcase) which will go in the overhead bin.

The only time I ran into a problem in the U.S. was when I was returning from a visit to my Dad in Florida. And it wasn't the airline that stopped me ... it was a TSA agent. I had a very small rolling suitcase, my backpack and a small purse. Nope ... I could only have two bags. So I took my jacket out of my backpack, put my purse into the empty space and, with my two bags and my jacket (instead of my purse) slung over my arm, I was good to go. DUMB!

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to remind travelers to check the carry-on regulations for their return airline. Several years ago we traveled to Peru with backpacks and a rolling suitcase. No problem going south. However, when it was time to check in for returning home (we were flying Lan Peru), we were told all carry-ons had to be 15 lbs or less. While our backpacks weren't weighed, it was obvious our rolling bags were more than 15 lbs and we had to check them.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Our Amazon Voyage - Pictures

We arrived in Iquitos and were greeted with a torrential downpour. By the time we got to the harbor to board La Aquamarina, the sky was dramatic.

The cooler next to the bar was always kept full with beer, soft drinks (Inka Kola, anyone) and water. Help yourself. Water was free. Write down on the Bar List anything else you took. Both of us had Amazonia beer and liked it.

Wildlife could be found everywhere, including my shoulder and Jerry's hat.

Our naturalists - Segundo and Johnny

A local fisherman display and selling his catch to us.
One of the larger villages along the Amazon as we got closer to Iquitos.

The colors caught my attention.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Our Amazon Voyage - More Daily Details - Final Two Days

Friday was to be our hike on terra firma -- some of the high ground that doesn't get flooded. Again we dressed in jungle attire. While hats were not necessary for keeping off the sun, it was suggested we might want to wear them to keep things out of our hair. When we disembarked the skiffs, walking sticks were offered. Jerry and I each took one as we knew the trail might be steep and knew for sure it would be wet and muddy. (This was the walk we had been advised to bring old shoes or sneakers for.)

It was promised to be a slow paced walk and it was as promised. With the heat and humidity I'm not sure we could have moved faster. Our group of 25 was split up in 12 and 13 -- one group going clockwise on the circular trail and the other group going counterclockwise. Each group had a local guide who would go off into the brush, looking for things to show us.

yellow striped frog

leaf mimic lizard

leaf mimic frog
carefully watching our steps

That afternoon we were treated to a towel folding demonstration as we sailed back to Iquitos. As the sun set, we were treated to a glorious sunset.

We are back in Iquitos and this morning we were picked up by a tour boat and taken to see the floating part of the city. Quite interesting with houses and shops that, literally, rise and fall with the water.

Next we are treated to a visit to one of the local schools. As was our previous experience with the children in the area, these children also were a delight. They loved having their picture taken so they could view themselves on the digital camera screen. They took our hands to walk with us.

We were here to lean about a garden project that the children manage ... some really unusual and beautiful flowers. Produce from the garden is sold to help pay for special projects.

Next on the itinerary was lunch and a day room at the El Dorato hotel. I was more interested in shopping, so after lunch, and instead of resting, headed off with a guide to the Artisan Marketplace, an easy walk from the hotel.

Then our flight back to Lima, where we all congregated so those leaving the group (most going onto Machu Picchu) could say goodbye. We also got our Amazon t-shirts and our passes for using the VIP lounge at the Lima airport.

So ends the day to day report of our trip. I am planning on posting some additional photos and videos over the next couple of days. Hope you enjoyed reading.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Our Amazon Voyage - More Daily Details - Continued

Thursday (continued)
Thursday afternoon was our visit to a shaman or maestro. The shaman's home had been flooded out and the village mayor took us to the home that was hosting the shaman until the waters receded. All 25 of us, plus both our guides, packed ourselves into a room that ended up being hot with no breeze. For some of us, including myself, it was a difficult hour. Towards the end I was beginning to feel queasy and I thought it was the shaman's smoke (see video) but once outside Jerry insisted I drink some water (I was soaking wet). That took care of the queasiness ... I was getting dehydrated.

Johnny, one of our naturalist guides, explained what the shaman does. There were samples of plants and roots curing in bottles and they were passed around for us to smell. There was no question that Johnny thoroughly believes in the shaman's skills. (He and Segundo, our other naturalist guide, will be spending several months with the shaman to transcribe his knowledge into a book.)

After the explanations, and a question and answer time, the shaman blessed Johnny and each of us received the same blessing as the shaman worked his way around the room.

As we started to leave the village, the mayor came after us in his boat. He had almost forgotten to show us something.

He had found a baby capybara in the jungle ... apparently its mother had been killed ... and he was raising it in his home. It was placed in the bottom of our skiff and, because it was no longer going to be returned to the jungle, we were allowed to handle it. I have seen them full grown and they aren't very attractive but, like any animal, the baby was adorable.

That night we had a power point presentation on the geographical diversity of Peru.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

More Videos From Our Amazon Cruise

(Note: Videos don't always come through on email subscriptions. To see the videos, go to the actual post by clicking the post title.)

Our first day out of Iquitos, sailing on the flooded Amazon River.

When we started out on our excursions, the guides were in a hurry to get us to our destination ... some small tributary along the Amazon. Note the muddy brown water. I'll point out, later, the mirror-like black water we also saw.

Once we got there, the skiffs slowed to a crawl as we searched for wildlife and listened to the sounds of the jungle.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cruise The West Coast of Africa

Found some information on cruises that sail along the west coast of Africa. Thought my regular readers, some of whom I know are pretty adventurous, might be interested in reading about them.

Actually, the concept of West Africa cruising is kind of new to the word of travel. With this type of cruise you can discover this under-explored area of the continent with ease, while uncovering West Africa's unique and varied historical, cultural and natural landscapes in comfort and in style.

There are three itineraries available in April 2013 that will allow you to visit 10 African nations. The itineraries combine activity and leisure including, bird watching with naturalists, local market visits, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and visiting the birthplace of voodoo.

You can learn from the ship's experienced staff, including historians, anthropologists and ornithologists

And you will also have the opportunity to explore unreachable coastlines and traditional villages via a fleet of Zodiacs including the Bijagos Archipelago off the coast of Guinea-Bissau

Interested in more details? Click on the link below. Book by June 30, 2012 and save up to 25%.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Our Amazon Voyage - More Daily Details


Kitchen and eating area at station 1.5.
This was the day to actually enter the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve. We stopped at Ranger Station 1.5 which is staffed by volunteers, living in very spartan conditions. It provided a potty break for those in need.


Our second stop was Ranger Station 2, a much more substantial structure. We had lunch there, brought from the ship. We were all very hot and very thirsty and I did something I don't usually do ... I had an ice cold beer. Tasted great!

In between our visits to the ranger stations we saw and heard red howler monkeys and horned screamers ... huge birds with very loud screeching calls.

We returned to La Aquamarina in time for siesta. Afterwards we had a cooking lesson. I forgot the name of what we made but it was partially cooked rice mixed with raw egg scooped onto a leaf and then added was a hard boiled egg, chicken, olives and a bunch of spices -- all tied up in the leaf -- and everything boiled for 30 minutes. Everyone had a chance to get a scoop and taste it at dinner that night -- very mild tasting. We all did a good job tying the leaf closed -- nothing came apart in the water.  :)

We left at 6:30 a.m. again to make our first village visit. This was only the third time La Aquamarina was stopping here. I had brought a box of school supplies and our guide told me I had brought enough for the entire school. It was delivered to the head man of this village. I was pleased of course.

We visited the home of one of the families and learned about their life from the woman head of household. Her husband is the second most important man in the village and he was out fishing. We were honored (and I mean that literally) with a visit from the village matriarch. The two women had such stunning features, I couldn't stop taking pictures.

The highlight of this visit was the children. All along the river, in this village and another village we visited, the children were all laughing and carefree. At the school, our guide, Johnny, led the children through some impromptu singing. He was wonderful with them and, based upon all the laughter, the children loved it too.