Blur: Weekly Photo Challenge

I love the imperfect when it comes to travelling but it bothers me more when it comes to photos. I am no photographer but I do know when a photo is blurred. Beauty in the blur? I am not sure, at least with mine. But as a teacher, I tend to follow rules so I will reluctantly 🙂 submit this picture depicting Blur set in Ollantaytambo, Peru.

How Chamomile Tea Brought Us Closer

Everyone always asks how it was to blend a family with 4 girls. When Chris and I met, the girls were ages 4, 6, 11 and 16. Even though we were living in 3 different provinces, it somehow, always flowed and ran smoothly; simply just one of those “meant to be” kind of things. No jealousy, no fighting (well.. almost none), lots and lots of laughter and many stories to create and now to share.

What I do think is that my arrival on the scene must have been a bit “eye-opening” for Abby, Allyson and Erin. I can be a bit out spoken, opinionated, sarcastic and of course, obsessed with travel to places they might not have otherwise considered. I think (I hope) through the years, 8 have now passed, they have got used to me and my ways. In fact through these ways, we have all become closer.

When you travel as a family even the simple things become more meaningful. One morning at Casa De Wow, when it was still “wow” in our books (read The Night Mom Lost It for later events and how it became less than wow) Abby and I were having breakfast. Of course me, being a tea junkie, was drinking whatever they had on hand… which in this case was chamomile tea. Abby declares she would like to try it.

We take our cups of tea outside to sit on the bench in front of our hotel. It is so quiet and peaceful as we watch a few kids walk to school and adults carrying loads of goods on their backs to market. A simple act and a simple pleasure. As we gazed across to the mountain we could see the ruins on the side. Looking around us, I was grateful for the scenery but more for the moment that the tea and being together brought us.

This became our special routine; morning and night so it was particularly sad when we couldn’t return to the hotel (when it became less than wow) and have a few more teas to share on our little wooden bench.

Abby got some chamomile tea for Christmas this year but I am certain that drinking it together here, in Canada, won’t be quite the same for either of us.

Colombia and Peru 2014 131

This cobble stoned path was our view.

How To Be Cheap and Still Have Fun – Even with Teens

It was our first day in Ollantaytambo, a town in the Sacred Valley in Peru. When we woke up and looked outside our hotel window, we could see these fascinating ruins on the side of the mountain. I headed off early to find out the hours and the cost only to discover that a single entry fee was not possible, but a 3-day pass to all the ruins in the area was the minimum. And then multiply that by 5 and it becomes painful.

Darn! It is our first real day of the trip and I am already thinking finances. Yes, the reality of family travel requires that unfortunately, at least in our case it does.

And I know from temple fatigue (Asia) and church fatigue (Europe) that a pass to MANY ruins in the area would make that our sole focus which might be a bit over-kill with teens in tow. Or so I convinced myself.

I go back to the hotel, a little frustrated, and we find out that there is another way to see ruins in this area; the free way; the less touristy way… super bonus! Noah and Jade are up for the challenge (cousins that never get the chance to do cool stuff together) so I say, “Go for it!”

Now this is feeling perfect again; they leave which gives me alone time with Abby to discover the town at our pace. Together, we go and explore the alleys, the market (her first one which is always jaw dropping as the heads of cows never fail to amaze), and generally get lost in our little town. We go for lunch (and yes, something like this is memorable as we don’t live together in Canada so these moments are even more special)  and after, we run back to the hotel to report our discoveries.

Noah and Jade are tired but thrilled (much better than hyper and bored) as they show us all their pics of their hike without all the tourists. You can tell that this taste of independence in a foreign country means so much more than back home.

Capping off the day at the soccer field that Abby had found, they play a few games with the local kids in the area.

What started off a little rough, ended up to be perfect.

And in the end, the kids all agree that this was their favourite stop on our trip to Peru. And it was cheap, even better for the parents 🙂

The Most Fun We Ever Have Had On A Bike

Ok, the planning changed once we knew that Noah was coming to Peru with us. What thrills us old people and our younger girls might be a big snooze for an active 17year old teen. What to do? Head straight to Ollyantambo, reserve through KB Tambo, head up Abra Malaga mountain pass (14, 500 feet above sea level), put helmet and gear on, get on bike and go down 5 000 feet to the jungle, passing waterfalls, llamas, quaint villages and a lot of other stuff that I didn’t see since you are usually going fast!

In the middle of it, I say to Chris, this is the funnest thing I have ever done. He agrees. The kids agree. Until of course, they go sand boarding down sand dunes. That is teens for you.

Check it out at:

Love Shopping (Overseas) Hate Shopping (Canada)

I have to drag my body to go shopping in Canada… like I have no clothes left to wear, no food left to eat, the house is about to fall apart. However, when we travel, shopping is fun, it is a game, it usually involves some excitement and every now and then a bit of frustration. Have you ever walked away from a negotiation and later wished you had gone back and bought it? I have.

Shopping in certain countries like Morocco, Guatemala, and India involves a sensory overload. There is always something to look at, someone to look at and it rarely gets boring. This is my idea of shopping.

“Noah, what are you looking forward to the most in Peru?” Oh? Crap!

Early on planning our Peru trip, Chris said Abby must see the jungle. Then when Noah, my nephew, joined us later, he also wanted to see the jungle… so the jungle it was.

In fact all he wanted was to see a tarantula and yes, he did see one. An expensive trip to see a tarantula but as a 17 year old guy, that is what works.

Now one thing you need to know is that no jungle experience is ever alike.

I fancy myself to be a bit of a jungle expert… Cambodia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Suriname but nothing prepared me for our one night in the Peruvian jungle.

We had been walking for days (well actually minutes 🙂 and we were dripping in sweat. Everything was beginning to look alike… like a lot of green, a lot of brown and a lot of heat emanating from my body. We are trekking through the jungle with our National Geographic Explorer group members (well no, actually just wannabes) as they try to block us from any sighting of anything… even if it was a dumb bird – no disrespect to birders… but family C is not a birding family. So we get to our oasis (some open air cabins in the middle of nowheresville) and we learn that we will be leaving again in an hour for our outpost for the night.

WHAT??? Whining like a baby, I have a subtle melt down as I don’t want to pack up for a night’s venture deep in the jungle to see some kind of huge like pig thing, local to the area.

But as a true trooper, I suck it up and head out with our family and the National Geographic explorers to find this place where we will bunker down and sleep. Well it is getting dark and darker and even darker and we are not there yet.

Our guide stops us and asks if we want to take a bathroom break behind a tree a few steps away.

Well.. no .. not really… I will wait for a better opportunity. However that never comes.

Before I know it, we have crossed some river and we are at the tree house… a tall.. very tall… set of stairs leading up to a wooden floor high above the jungle. At this point, the guide informs me that we will be there until 6am the next morning and once we go up, we can not go down…


It is 6 pm and you expect me to stay up there for 12 hours with the bladder of a somewhat older woman?

So I scramble and negotiate and this guide is refusing to let me go to the bathroom as I had my chance. Am I back in Grade 3? Much to his amazement, I refused to listen and wandered off to go before I hiked those stairs.

We get to the top and it turns out that the other keeners from our group are already happily set up for the night leaving the family of 5 a spot for 2 tiny children… which we have only one of them. We try to fix our mosquito nets which fall on our heads while we are told we have a few moments to eat and talk before it will be quiet for the rest of the night.

12 hours of quiet, lying on a wooden plank and the 5 of us on top of each other, waiting for a pig like animal to appear!!!!

Who signed us up for this one?

Well, of course, Noah (laid back.. like really laid back) is happily announcing that the meal is actually really good as we look on with wonder how he is managing to haul it back while we are severely stressed and thinking about the lack of bathroom opportunities high above the jungle.

Then we are told no noise and within minutes, this pig like animal appears and we see it. So now it is like 7pm and we have seen the animal so what do we do for the rest of the 11 hours? Well if you are Noah and you have your phone, it will surely now go off telling everyone that Siri is not available!!! After a major bout of laughing on the part of the C family, we are probably going to be voted off first and I am so willing to abide by that. In the meantime we try to find a place to put Abby so we will get at least 5 minutes of sleep. This means politely shoving her onto Jade and Noah’s mattress (loosely used term) much to their protests. Only God knows how we slept that night or tried to as the time literally felt like it stopped.I know that I personally spent the night planning all future trips to take place far away from South America in more civilized areas like Southeast Asia.

At 6am we wake up to find out that Noah has lost his iPhone somewhere. Looking around and fearing the worst, I say to him that it might have fallen through the cracks and be who knows where in the jungle. Again, Noah, laid back, says that that is okay he will find it. WHAT? Thank goodness, after a few moments of heart pounding stress (I am thinking of all the precious photos) it is discovered under the mattress.

We were the first ones out of there and gladly oh so gladly walked back to the open air cabins that now looked like the Hyatt to us.

This, I swear, is my LAST JUNGLE EVER!

You Can’t Plan These Memorable Moments

We were returning from San Pedro to Santiago Atitlan by boat on Lake Atitlan. Jade had her camera (or was it an Ipod… who knows?) and the girl beside her was checking it out. Before you know it, they were communicating via technology, pictures and hand gestures. Neither spoke each other’s language but it was one of those moments that for Jade stood out.

A similar experience just happened this summer in Peru when Noah, Jade and Abby went to the local soccer field with a ball and ended up playing with and against some local kids. This again stands out from the rest of the planned activities… learning a little about others as you travel makes meaningful moments.

The Top Thing To Do in Peru – Teens Give Thumbs Up

Okay, so we drag ourselves to Huacachina, Peru for our kids!

You do these things as parents… the desire to stay in a little oasis surrounded by sand dunes where they can pop from the swimming pool to the dunes in seconds was high. So they diligently dragged these old sandboards up the dunes in the heat to come down again.

And did they love it… yes!

There was a lot of laughing, some screaming, some frustration but overall the consensus was that it was worth the time to get there. They even went out in a sand buggy over the dunes which I am sure was terrifying, but in their eyes tons of fun.

Definitely a must do if you are under 48 years old!

Chris and I enjoyed reading by the pool, watching them in the dunes, and finding great pizza to eat.


The Chicken Place

Have you ever done all that research to find the perfect place to eat then you are too tired to hunt it down?

Instead, you wander aimlessly around until something hits you and you feel you have to enter.

In this case, it was the chicken place opposite the plaza that had all the cool fair like games going on.

We were hungry, I had teens to feed, and not a ton of money to spend. Hence, the chicken place full of locals looked like the ideal stop. We walked in and found that we were the only tourists… well at least we think we were. There was a small salad bar (not for us though… sigh… so hard to give up salad when we travel) and lots of chicken, fries and pop, including Inka Kola, otherwise known to us as bubblegum pop. So we ate there and Abby of course, being the smallest, always managed to get the biggest piece of chicken!

And for the price of the meal, we also got free soaps on TV which were amusing despite not being able to understand them. Watching the local Peruvians watch the soaps became our entertainment.

And did we go just once? Nope, as usual, when you find a gem of a place (read: cheap) to eat, you go back, many more times! Especially when you have hungry teens 🙂