Arcadia, Boston and New York (part two)

After not nearly enough time in Canada we headed back to the States. Our first stop was Arcadia National Park in the state of Maine. There was another Trek America group staying at the same campground as us, so once we set up camp (and played a bit of frisbee) we got to know them. They were doing the Great 48 trip, which goes through all the the States except Alaska and Hawaii – in about 80 days…I cannot think of a trip that sounds worse than that to be honest. They were a group of 5 guys and were 3 weeks in… That afternoon there was supposed to be a kayaking trip, but it go cancelled due to bad conditions, so instead we explored the town of Bar Harbour. They ordered pizza for dinner that night, but an Ice Cap from Tim Hortons meant I was feeling too sick from dairy to join in sadly.

Bar Habour

The next day we got up early, and by early I mean 3am. We drove up to a spot in Arcadia called Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunrise over the ocean – the first sport in the US to see it. Afterwards we set off on a hike up the Beehive. This was a clamber up rocks using bars and chains and was a lot of fun. We took the long way down which lead us by a lake. The leaders asked who wanted to jump in but everyone wimped out except Laura, Grace and I. We then continued on back to the van, refreshed and slightly uncomfortable in our wet clothes.

Sunrise from Cadillac mountain

Sunrise

Part of the Beehive Trail

On top of the beehive

I really like puffins, not really sure why, but I have always wanted to see one. So when I heard that Bar Harbour had puffin tours I was adamant I wanted to go on one. Unfortunately, that day all of the boats were cancelled due to weather – so I still have’t seen a puffin. Instead, I went and had breakfast with Seth, Laura, Laura and Ben (the other tour leader). This was a very classic American breakfast place and was exactly what was needed after after a very long morning, and almost made up for not seeing puffins. We then headed back to camp for a bit and attempted to sleep before deciding that swimming in the pool was a much better idea. Later that afternoon we headed back to the park and hung out on the beach for a bit before going for a walk along the coast.

Maine is famous for its lobster, so for dinner that night we decided to cook some. It definitely wasn’t the best lobster I’ve eaten but it was a lot of fun and a fantastic end to my favourite day on the trip.

Getting the lobster for the pot

We said goodbye to Maine the next day and made our way over to Boston. This was a really long drive with traffic and our planned stop for the journey ended up being a non-existent dud. We were staying out of Boston in a State Park, so it was back to being eaten alive by mosquitos (although nowhere near as bad as Algonquin). That night while we were eating our dinner (breakfast for dinner) we heard a noise and saw a raccoon trying to get into our rubbish.

The next morning we headed into Boston. Laura and I decided to make Harvard our first stop for the day, which was a short metro ride away from the centre of Boston. We wandered around campus for a bit before finding a cafe in a student only section and impersonated being Harvard students for a while. Afterwards we jumped on the end of a fully booked walking tour which showed us a around the campus and was actually really interesting. The day continued to get hotter and hotter, and it was incredibly humid. So, by the time we got back to Boston Laura and I were really not wanting to be wandering around learning about the history of Boston. Instead, we went shopping and made a thank you card for Seth as this was our last night of the tour. Later that evening we went out to dinner with the group at a nice Italian restaurant.

The statue of John Harvard – also known as the statue of three lies, as the date is incorrect, John Harvard didnt actually found Harvard University and the statue is not actually modelled on John Harvard

The next morning we packed up our tent for the very last time and made our way back to Newark in New Jersey. There we said goodbye to everyone and went inside to book an Uber. However, when I googled the address of our hostel it said that it was permenantly closed. I then went to search for our booking email and found one that I had missed from the booking company saying that the hostel has closed down. Unfortunately, it was also Gay Pride weekend in New York City and everything was booked out or well over $600 a night. We managed to find accommodation for the rest of our stay in NYC, but nothing for that night. In desperation, we contacted Laura’s cousin Cainneach who she had met only once before (Laura’s mum is from a very big Irish family). Thankfully, he and his wife Kristen were more than happy for us to stay and even had a spare room. So we got a very expensive Uber to Queens. 

Cainneach and Kristen and their dog Mercy/Murphy live in a really cool apartment in a very pretty area of Queens called Forest Hills that has more of a London vibe than an NYC one. When we arrived, they plied us with wine and asked if we wanted to go to a night market in Queens. We willingly obliged and had a great time sampling the food and even giving those bubble soccer balls ago. A few bruises later we headed to Brooklyn and spent the rest of the night there. We were also convinced to cancel our accommodation and stay with them for the remainder of our time in NYC.

The next morning, Laura and I got up early and headed to the laundry-mat to do some very overdue washing. While we were waiting we got our very first New York bagels (which we unfortunately didn’t realise we needed to ask to be toasted) and sat outside minding people’s dogs and chatting to random strangers. With our washing finally clean, we caught the train into Manhattan. We had arranged to meet our friend Grace from the trek for lunch. She had spent the morning up the Empire State building so we decided to meet there at 12. It turns out, the Pride parade also started at midday right next to the Empire State Building, so all of a sudden we were packed in like sardines trying to move against 1000s of people. It was very overwhelming and I was pleased to finally escape, but it was pretty cool to see the start of the parade and the atmosphere surrounding it. For lunch we headed to the famous Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This is where quite a few Broadway stars have had there big break and it involves your servers singing and dancing showtunes and pop music inbetween serving you. It was pretty expensive, but a lot of fun. Afterwards, we said goodbye to Grace and decided to catch the subway to the bottom of Manhattan. Unfortunately, the train we got on didn’t stop where we though it did, and we ended up in Brooklyn. Unfased, we changed our plans and instead decided to walk back along the Manhattan bridge which gives fantastic views of the city. By the time we got back to Manhattan it was time to head to the theatre to see Chicago on Broadway. This was really good, they incorporated the band into the musical and Velma was incredible. Then it was back to Queens with a quick stop in Buffalo Wild Wings for some really terrible food.

Making our way through the pride parade

A performer/waiter at Ellen’s Stardust Diner

NYC

I love it when characters break character

View of Manhattan from the Manhattan Bridge

The next day was another bright and early start as we had a lot to fit in. First up was the Museum of Natural History. Last time I was in NYC I didn’t go as I didn’t think I would have enough time to do it justice, and this time we only got through a few of the exhibition halls. There is just so much to see, but it was all fascinating and I will definitely be going back one day. We checked out the animals of North America, The evolution of Man, the gems and the dinosaurs. There was still so much to see, but it got pretty exhausting. We then tried for a second time to get to the bottom of Manhattan and, this time, we succeeded. We jumped on the free ferry to Stattan Island to see some great views of the Statue of Liberty and then headed to the 9/11 memorial museum. We didn’t really get enough time to do this museum justice, but it was very busy and quite pricey. It was interesting, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you only have limited time in the city. The reason we ran out of time is that we had to get back up to Broadway to see our second show off the trip, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This was so good, it was funny and very well done (the oompa loopas were people’s heads with puppet bodies) and definitely worth seeing. We then caught the train back to Queens after a very long and tiring day.

Laura chilling with a mammoth at the American Museum of Natural History

The Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island ferry

View of Manhattan from the Staten Island ferry

The next day was our last in NYC and we wanted to slow the pace down a bit. We had our last NYC bagel in Queens and then explored Forest Hills before taking the train in. In the city, we walked around Central Park for a while before heading to the MET. The MET was not quite what I was expecting, it was more a collection of ancient art than a typical art gallery and it was quite confusing to know where to look – there was a lot going on.

Central Park

We couldn’t leave NYC without trying Artichoke Pizza again, so we caught the subway back to the Meat Packing District. We ate some more delicoius pizza, then met up with Cainneach and walked along the Highline to the site of the night’s activity. Here we met Kristen and had a drink on a rooftop bar before heading down to line up for Sleep No More. Sleep No More is immersive theatre that is loosely based on Macbeth. It is located in an old warehouse and set over 5 floor with different parts of the play happening over the floor. All of the audience wore masks and wandered around the different levels, each having a completely different experience. It was really cool, but not quite what I expected. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was supposed to be doing and there wasn’t any dialogue (more dance) so I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. But the attention to detail was incredible and I am glad I did it. Each room was decked out differently, one was a child’s bedroom, one was a candy shop (with lollies you could help yourself to), one was a cemetery, one a hospital… and you just wandered between them in near darkness looking at the details or watching the perfomers who would come in and out. Definitely worth doing, but be prepared for a weird night,

And so ends my time in NYC. It is safe to say I love this city and that I will be going back one day. But it was time to move on and return to Minnesota…

Apologies for any typos, it is not easy to blog in your phone!

The Adventures Continue….New York (part one), Ontario and Quebec

After being back in NZ for over a year and a half, I decided it was definitely time for another adventure. It didn’t take long to settle on the states as my next destination (Harry Potter World was what sold it really), but deciding exactly where took quite a bit longer. In the end, I decided to join another Trek America trip with my friend Laura for the first two weeks that would take us from New York, into Canada and back again. This would be followed by a couple of weeks visiting friends in Minnesota and finally, a two week road trip in California with my friend Natalie. Travelling with friends has meant I have had to be a lot more organised than I usually would, but it has been quite nice having everything all planned out (and even paid for) in advance.

Laura and I flew to Newark, New Jersey via LA. It took us over 25 hours from the time we arrived at Auckland Airport until we got to our hotel in Newark, so we were pretty exhausted by the time we got there at 2am local time. We didn’t want to waste our first day in New York though, so we dragged ourselves out of bed at 9am the next morning and caught the train to Manhattan. A friend of mine from Camp Hubert (also alled Natalie) lives in New York now, so she showed us around for the morning. Our first stop was to Artichoke Pizza for some genuine (and seriously delicious) New York pizza. We then made our way to the Highline Park. The Highline was a railway line that was used for tranposting goods in the meat packing district. Several years ago it was donated to the city and turned into a raised park. The whole area was designed so well. The space is very long and narrow, as most railway lines are, but they had incorporated different rest areas and artwork into it, which made for a really nice walk. The gardens were also very “organic” looking, utilising different green plants, rahter than flowers. This place is definitely a contender for my favourite spot in the city. We said goodbye to Natalie and then attempted to find a Target (kind of like the Warehouse) in New York to get pillows to take camping with us. This took quite a while and afterwards we were ready to catch the train back to Newark and relax in our hotel for the night. 

Walking down the highline

The following day was the first of our tour. We made our way down to the hotel lobby bright and early and met the rest of our group. There were 10 of us in total, Laura and I from NZ, 1 from the Netherlands, 1 from Swizerland, 5 from the UK, and our tour leader from Texas. They seemed very quiet, but were all really nice. After some quick introuductions, we all piled into the van and made our way to our first stop of the trip, the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Here we set up camp and made our way down to the lake for a freezing cold swim. The Finger Lakes were made by glaciers retreating, so they are very, very cold. After our swim, the over 21 year olds headed to the Americana Vineyard for some wine tasting. The wine snobs out there would probably not agree with me, but I thought the wine was great. My favourite was called Crystal Lake which basically tasted like grape juice, but they also specialised in some really delicious blueberry wines. Laura and I did buy a couple of bottles, but those are long gone. 
 bit tipsy from the wine tasting we headed back to camp for dinner, where Seth the trek leader was making his infamous “Spoon Burgers”. The way Trek America trips run is that you all put in $10 a day into a food kitty which is used to buy the for meals and things like firewoord and ice. You are in cooking groups and take turns to prepare dinner, with breakfasts and lunches serve yourself. This means that every 5 or so days a supermarket run is made and we divvy up a shopping list and hunt down our grocery items. It definitely save a lot of money not eating out all the time, and it is actually quite nice to cook once in a while. The “Spoon Burgers” had some very odd ingredients, including nearly an entire bottle of ketchup, but they actually tasted pretty good! Laura and I volunteered to do the dishes and everyone else sat and watched us in silence, which was definitely a bit strange.

Wine tasting

Setting up camp

The Finger Lakes were just a quick stop on our way to Canada, so the next morning we had to down our tents and pack up the van. Our first stop was the American side of the Niagra Falls. While the falls are neither the highest not the largest falls in the world, they are still very impressive. They are actually three falls, Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and American falls. They are also receding by an impressive 70cm a year. We took the Maid of the Mist boat ride to the bottom of the falls and got soaked from the mist coming off of the falls. We also tried this weird space-age icecream called “Dip not Dot”, which was tiny balls of (I think) freeze dried ice-cream. 

At the bottom of the falls

In our fabulous Maid of the Mist attire

Our second night was to be spent in the outskirts of Toronto, so after the falls we made our way there through some very slow traffic. My friend (yet another Natalie), who used to live in my flat in Aukland, is from Toronto so she picked Laura and I up and took us to dinner that night in Burlington and showed us around the area that she lives. Once we got back to camp we were pleased to see that the awkwardness seemed to have broken and everyone was hanging out and playing games (and talking!)

The next day we drove into the city and spent the day exploring the city. First stop was the Kensington Markets, which are a collection of Bohemian shops. Unfortunately we were there a bit too early for the shops to be open, but it was still a very cool and colourful neighbourhood. We then split up into smaller groups and Laura and I hung out with Saskia (from the Netherlands) and Mike (from the UK) for the day. We stopped at the Toronto sign first and got some stereotypical tourist pictures before heading to the underground mall. Because Toronto gets so cold in winter, they have a whole city under the streets that means you can go in between stores without having to go outside. After the mall we found a rooftop bar and made ourselves at home for a few hours, drinking giant bucket margaritas. We then headed to the waterfront, passing through Grafitti Alley on the way. Here we relaxed for a bit before meeting back with the others to go and watch a baseball game. The Toronto Blue Jays were playing the Tampa Bay Rays. Unfortunately the Blue Jays lost, but it was still a fun game – even if it did drag on a bit.

One of the stores at the Markets

Saskia and I on the rooftop bar

Graffiti Alley

At the Blue Jays game

The next day we got up bright and early and headed to Algonquin, a provincial park in Ontario. We arrived early afternoon and quickly set up camp before heading off on a hike. It was a really pretty area and nice to get out for a walk. That night was my groups turn to cook and we made a Thai green curry – not the greatest, but edible. We also got savaged by mosquitos the entire time at the park.

Group shot on the hike

Seth making S’mores

 The next day we headed out for another hike in the morning before a canoing trip in the afternoon. The highlight of the canoing trip was, without a doubt, that we got to see a moose. The guide said they aren’t too common to spot on trips, so we were pretty lucky. When we got back to the rental place Laura and I decided to go for a swim in the lake. Back at the camp Laura’s group cooked up some pasta and then we headed to bed to escape the mozzies.

More hiking

Moose!

Canoeing to the moose

Next up was Montreal. This was a very long drive and we stopped in Ottowa on the way, so once we got there there was not a lot of time left in the day. Here we were staying in a hostel, so we didn’t have to put up a tent! Laura and I were sharing a room with Grace, who was also our canoing buddy from the day before. Because this was the only place on the trip that we were staying in town we decided to go out. We started off with the pub crawl that the hostel had organised, but after spending an hour at the first bar and not getting served we split off from the group and started out own pub crawl. Slowly our trek group split off and went to bed, until it was just Laura, Seth and I. We ended up watching a band perform and didn’t get home until 4.30.

After a lesisurely sleep in the next morning, Laura and I headed out to explore Montreal. Our first stop was to climb Mont Royal for a view of the city. After quite a few stairs we made it to the top for a great view. There was also a communal piano at the top so we hung out here for a bit listening to some incredible pianists. After here we made our way to the old Town which has a very Europeans vibe to it (or a very Northern American vibe according to the Qubecqois people we met). On the way back to the hostel we grabbed some really delicious poutine from a dodgy looking liquor store. For those of you who aren’t aware of this particular delicy, it is essentially fries covered in gravy and cheese curds – and it is seriosuly good. That night we had dinner at O’Noir, which is a dark restaurant. This means that you are eating in the pitch black, you cannot see you hand in front of your face. The staff are mostly vision impaired, so are very good at navigating the restaurant. This was definitely a unique experience, when I first got in I freaked out a bit, but once you got used to the surroundings it was a lot of fun. Some people opted for a surprise meal so they had no idea what they were eating. I wasn’t that brave, but I did have surprise dessert. The food was really good, and noone had any idea if you you were eating with your hands. Win-win all around really. Laura, Grace and I decided to walk back to the hostel after dinner. On the way we passed a street art festival and a free concert. Montreal was buzzing and a really fun, exciting place to be during the summer.

View from Mont Royal

Walking through the old town

The following day it was on to Quebec City, our last stop in Canada. On the way we stopped at the Mont Morrency falls and had a very sweaty climb to the top.  It was back to camping in Quebec, so we set up camp and had burritos for dinner. The next day we headed into Quebec City and wandered around the old Town. Quebec felt even more like Europe than Montreal and it was a nice city to look around. That night we came back into the city for a ghost tour, which took us around the city and shared some of the stories of it’s history.

Inside the old town

The tour guide for our ghost tour

And that is where I will leave it for now. Apologies for any mistakes, this was typed on my phone which is not the easiest thing to do. Next stop: Maine.

Sunset in Quebec City

Return to Peru, the States and NZ

I’m back in New Zealand now and the last year feels more like a dream. If it wasn’t for the tan-lines and mosquito bite scars I could almost be convinced it was one. It is crazy how little has changed and how easily normal life becomes the reality again. I’m not quite ready for this reality though and have booked tickets to Europe for 2 months time – so their will be more posts after this one! My last blog left off in La Paz, Bolivia from where I took a seriously long bus to  Arequipa, Peru. First I had to get back to Copacabana, then cross on the water taxi again (I asked a stranger where the toilets were after I got off the boat and somehow ended up in a bathroom in the middle of a naval base). Then it was an overnight bus until we finally made it to Arequipa.

Getting back to Peru signified the start of my homeward stretch. I suddenly had a deadline and a number of places I wanted to visit in that time. The city of Arequipa was first on that list. Arequipa is a beautiful city surrounded by volcanoes and is nicknamed the white city, due to the frequent use of volcanic stone in buildings. I arrived here at 5 am and, while I would have dearly loved to sleep, my limited time meant I had to make the most of the day. My first stop was to a museum that housed the Ice Maiden Juanita. Juanita is a a frozen sacrifice victim from somewhere between 1450 and 1480. At the time of her discovery in 1995 she was the the best preserved example of an Inca “mummy”, although more well preserved “mummies” have been found since. Unlike most mummies around the world, Junita and those like her were naturally preserved so all of their internal organs, hair, skin and clothing remain intact. The first stage of the museum was to watch a fascinating video about Juanita’s discovery. In 1990 the volcano Sabancaya began erupting and continued doing so for the next 8 years. This caused the Ice cap of neighbouring Mount Ambato to recede, exposing long hidden Inca burial sites. Juanita was found in the crater of Ambato, having fallen in a few weeks earlier with the collapse of her grave. Unfortunately the veil covering her face had moved, meaning that while the rest of her body was perfectly preserved, her face had dehydrated from exposure. Juanita was carried back to Arequipa and a further expedition uncovered two more frozen bodies on Ambato – although these were lower down the mountain and thus less well preserved. Juanita was likely drugged with Chicha (maize beer) before being struck on her head and buried in her frozen grave. The second part of the museum showcased the artifacts found with Juanita and the other two children. It was incredible to see the detail in these items, especially the fabrics which you don’t often see in such perfect condition. The last stage was to see the frozen mummy. Unfortunately I came a few weeks to early and Junaita was at the university for several months undergoing tests. Instead there was another “mummy” on display, this was a lot less preserved than Juanita and more mummy like than human like but still very cool to see. The best examples of preserved Incas are in Salta and I heard from other travellers that these just look like children who have gone to sleep.

You couldn’t bring cameras so these are off the internet. The first photo is Juanita, you can see her face is not so well preserved. The second is one of the Salta mummies for comparison.

Later that day I went on a free walking tour around the city. This one was supposed to take two hours – it took four. We had lost most of the group by the end, but for those who lasted the distance there was chocolate, Arequipan potato, and pisco sour tasting! We also had a friendly stray dog accompany us for most of the walk.

This is a park designed for children, but it is locked to the public most of the time.

The walking tour included an Alpaca farm/manufacturer

At 3am the following morning I left to go on a two day hike into Colca Canyon. Colca Canyon is several hours out of Arequipa and is one of the deepest canyons in the world – at twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. It is also where the Amazon river starts. Being 3 am, we all tried to sleep on the way there until our first stop, where we stumbled bleary eyed out into a frozen vista and snapped a few quick photos before retreating to the warmth of the van.

The next stop was a quick breakfast of the usual jam and bread and then we were on our way to Cruz Del Condor. Colca Canyon is home to the Andean Condor, a huge bird with a wingspan of over 3 meters. Cruz Del Condor is a lookout point over the canyon where you can watch these magnificent birds playing in the thermals.

It was then time to start our hike. My group consisted of our guide Honorio, two Americans, Maia and Rob and one Brit, Becky. None of our group new each other at the start and we all got along great, making this one of my favourite hikes of the trip. On the first day we walked down into the canyon and then along it until we reached our nights accommodation – a place called Oasis. This meant the following day was all uphill. Honorio was in a bit of a bad mood and powered off at an unmaintainable pace. Maia and I decided to do our own pace until we stopped for a halfway break. After this Robert was really burnt out though and struggled for the rest of the climb. In the end we left Honorio to wait for Robert and us three girls made our way to the top to wait for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is where we stayed the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking  over the canyon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped at the market on the way back and i met this guy (Andean Eagle)

I made it back to Arequipa that afternoon and then had another 5 am start for my PeruHop bus. I needn’t have got up so early though, because the bus was 2 hours late. The journey to Huacachina took the whole day, not aided by an hour stop at roadworks. We had very bad timing , we were at the front of a very long queue so a few minutes earlier we wouldn’t have had to wait at all. We were trying to make it to a viewing tower that overlooks three of the Nasca Lines before the sun went down, and we only just made it – getting there just in time to watch the sun set. We then continued on to stop in the town of Huacachina for the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lines

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASunset over the lines

Huacachina is the only Oasis in South America and it was seriously awesome. Huge sand dunes and seemingly endless dessert wrap a small lake surrounded by hotels. Our hostel was unfortunately not an Oasis however, Huacachina is known as a party town and even though this was not a night that the nightclubs were open, people had clearly still been in a party mood judging by the revolting state of the bathrooms the next day. It definitely took top spot for worst hostel on my trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Oasis

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went on a Pisco tasting tour – I wasn’t a fan

While beautiful, Huacachina is known most not for it’s Oasis but for sand boarding – or probably more accurately the insane dune buggy ride before and after sand boarding. A group of 8 of us were strapped into the back of a dune buggy and our truly loco driver proceeded to hoon around and over the sand dunes. Racing up with out being able to see what was coming up and then  jumping off the top. It was absolutely terrifying, I was screaming a large portion of the time. The closest thing I can compare it to is like being on a roller coaster, with the sudden drops, changing path and seeming like you are going to hit something. Except unlike a roller coaster, you are not on pre-determined tracks with impeccable safety, you are in a roofless car, driven by a driver who has to have a few screws loose, surrounded by other roofless cars with other borderline crazy drivers who you only just keep missing. Terrifying, dangerous, but oh so very very awesome.

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Dune buggy coming over the dunes

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After the thrill ride I was very hesitant about going sand-boarding, especially as you had to go down head first. I took a bit of convincing, but as soon as I was on it I realised it was actually pretty tame and you don’t go nearly as fast as it looks.

After another death-defying ride back to Huacachina we hopped back on the bus and on to our next destination, Paracas. Paracas is a coastal town and gateway to the Ballestas Islands, which are also known as the “poor man’s Galapagos”. These islands are home to penguins, sea-lions and marine birds and every 7 years bird poo, known as guano, is collected from them to be used as fertilizer. They were our first stop, and to be honest the tour was a bit disappointing. We were crammed onto a tourist boat and drove around the islands. I was on the right side of the boat and as everyone would stand up to see, and the driver only went one way, I could not see anything most of the time. On the way there we past a shape carved into the hillside known as the Candelabra and we saw dolphins – so not all bad!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALa candelabra – noone knows who made this

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWharf on the Ballesta Islands

After a lunch of incredible ceviche we spent the afternoon at Paracas National Reserve, which was a really lovely, wild spot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAParacas national reserve

We were then on our way to Lima, with a stop on the way to check out a cool old mansion and explore the slave tunnels underneath it.

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Back in Lima I didn’t get up to a whole lot. I managed to catch a cold from one of the guys on PeruHop so didn’t feel like exploring too much. I was reunited with a good traveling friend from Ecuador and we spent our few days together exploring Miraflores, getting pedicures and buying a few last souvenirs. Right by our hostel was a park that was filled with stray cats. Local groups feed and care for the cats and in an average walk through the park you would spot 50 to 70 cats. It was awesome, people having picnics or sitting chatting would be patting a cat or even have one on their knee. On my final walk through the park I came across a free walking tour and decided to join them. This was mostly through historic centre where I had already been, but we did arrive just in time to see the changing of the guards at the presidential palace. This was quite the display, there was a very good band playing to one side and the soldiers slowly pranced, with high kicks and flamboyant sword movements in time with the music. The whole thing took around 20 minutes and was very professional.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALook closely and you’ll see some very high kicks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcatacombs at the San Francisco convent

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis park is full of cats

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The next day I flew to New York via Ft Lauderdale, Florida. The flight was slightly delayed so myself and an Aussie guy were moved to the front of the plane to ensure we would make our connecting flights (seat 1A – sadly no first class on this plane though). When we got to Florida though, a lady at immigration told us to go into the wrong line and we spent 40 minutes waiting. When I finally got to the bag check the lady there told me to run. I did make it, but only just – the passengers were just finishing boarding as I raced in behind them.

New York is an incredible city and I will definitely have to return to see it properly, 24 hours was just enough to become completely enamored with this city. There is a reputation surrounding New Yorkers that they are rude and impatient, but I found everyone very helpful. You only had to look slightly confused on the subway and someone would come up and offer help. With a bit of help I got from the airport to my hostel and saved myself $70 in taxi fares. My first venture was to Times Square and I spent the rest of my afternoon shopping and exploring and booked tickets to see The Lion King that night. The musical was incredible. The costumes, the music, the sets, the cast. I wanted to see a whole lot more musicals after that but at $100+ a ticket it wasn’t a possibility.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATimes square

The next morning I’d planned to do a whole lot of touristy things but I was feeling pretty ill. Instead I spent the day at the beautiful Central Park, walking around and even having a nap at one point. I was surprised at the number of children there were in the park, there were several school groups that had been bused there from other boroughs to play and i even saw a 6 seater pram.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACentral Park

From New York it was on to Denver to visit my camp friend Erena. Spring had arrived in New York but hadn’t quite made it to Denver. Erena’s car was covered in snow when she came to pick me up. Erena is studying at the moment so in between classes we explored Denver.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI spent a day in Boulder window shopping, this was the hills above Boulder

One day we walked to the top of this

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the top!

Denver was a fantastic to end my trip and it was great to see Erena again, hopefully she will be in NZ sometime soon.

Next stop New Zealand!….and then Fiji!

Jumped off the plane at LAX…

Made it! LAX is nowhere as near as scary as everyone had made out, there were no guns or dogs, and they didn’t actually check any of my exit info! Auckland airport was more scary, they made me unpack my bags and took my jar of marmite (didn’t think about it being a liquid). LA is definitely different from NZ, on the ride from the airport we drove past a lot of poverty and a lot of mansions – and the middle class looking houses all had bars on the windows!

I stayed my first night in Hollywood, and they don’t call it that land of fruits and nuts for nothing, there are a lot of homeless people here and unlike the homeless people in Hamilton, these guys come up to you and are a lot of them are quite scary – I saw one guy try to snatch a girls bag and then yelled abuse at her when he didn’t get it. I did give money to one homeless guy – he asked me for 47c, it was so specific and he was really genuinely lovely (I did give him more than 47c…I think). Everyone here seems to be smoking weed as well, apparently it’s illegal and this is all for “medical” use though.

After I checked into the hostel I went exploring and found a wax museum, it was pretty average and they were not very lifelike. Later on I realised that there actually is a Madame Tussauds here and I’d gone to the budget version. I also walked along some of the walk of fame, which was right outside my hostel and checked out the handprints outside the Chinese Theatre. The tour operators are insanely pushy and you basically have to avoid eye contact with them or you are stuck listening to them for 10 minutes (like those dead sea beauty product places you get at malls). I got stuck talking to one on Monday and he managed to convince me to go on one of those cheesy Hollywood Stars Homes tours. It was actually pretty fun, (our tour guide was an aspiring actor) I found taking pictures of the gates of famous people pretty pointless but it was cool to see all the super mansions and get a bit of a tour of Los Angeles. I saw George Clooney, Christina Aguiera, and Ellen’s houses among others. They also have a massive estate with heaps of houses and a witch’s house that are owned by the city and are solely for use in Movies. The tour also included viewing the Hollywood sign. Originally the sign was put up in the ’20s as an advertisement for a realestate development and said “HOLLYWOODLAND” a landslide destroyed the “LAND” shortly after and they decided to strengthen and keep the “HOLLYWOOD” part. There was also a great view of the city from the Hollywood Hills. Obviously the photos you normally see of the sign have amazing zooms as this was the closest viewing point to the sign and it was still pretty far away. After the tour I checked out the proper Madame Tussauds. This one was definately better and there was a lot more to see, but I’ve decided wax museums are a bit weird and creepy. My pass to the first wax museum also included Ripley’s Believe it or Not and Guinness World Records, the latter was boring but Ripley’s was interesting – saw lots of creepy deformed animals.

Witch’s house – solely for the movies

Xtina’s House

Home of the stars

View from the Hollywood Hills/Hollywood sign

Madame Tussauds’ Beyonce vs Hollywood Wax Museum’s Beyonce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday afternoon I caught the train down south to Carlsbad to visit Shelley (who was an exchange student in my uni halls), her husband and their 9 month old baby Tanner. This involved lugging my stuff quite a few blocks to catch the subway which took me to the train station. Definitely going to need to get stronger if I’m going to cart my bags all through Central America! People on the train/subway are very friendly when I’m carrying my bags, and everyone was wishing me luck and asking where I was going – did get into a too long conversation with a harmless weirdo though.

Carlsbad is pretty much how you would imagine California, big houses, palm trees and the ocean. The weather was amazing and I’m wishing I could stay longer in the sunshine before heading to the colder Minnesota. In Carlsbad I went to a baby music class with Tanner and Shelley, Tanner is super cute and such a smiley happy baby. Later that day we went to finalise their purchase of an RV. I had a look inside of some of the massive over the top RVs as well while I was there. The next day they took the RV to the beach for lunch while Kyle surfed. These guys have got life sussed – so jealous they get to live here all the time!

Living the Dream

Right now I’m back in LA, but too tired to go do anything tonight…and the shuttle is picking me up at 6am for the airport tomorrow!! I have a few hours before the camp picks me up from Minneapolis so I might check out the Mall of America, which is the largest mall in the states and even has a theme park inside, crazyness!

American Food I’ve Tried so Far:

  • Cinnabon (waaay to sweet – yum though)
  • Soft Pretzel (Amazing!)
  • Philly Cheese Steak (or a version of it, so yum!)
  • Root Bear (yuck!)

Xtina's house