Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Maple Crew Visit Peru (Part 4)

The Maple crew is currently in Peru, embarking on some land travel while Maple sits out the hurricane season in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  Here are some more thoughts from Iris (8 year old, Grade 3) about her trip to Peru.

Machu Picchu

Q:  In your last post you wrote about what you’d seen in the Colca Canyon and saw Condors.  Your sister shared some details about Lake Titicaca.  What have you been doing since then?

A: We  have been to the Rainbow mountain and Machu Picchu.

Q:  What was the most memorable part of your visit to Machu Picchu?

A: When we went to Machu Picchu, it was very cloudy.  We could not see the city of the mountains.  After a little while, the clouds cleared away and we were looking at the sacred city.


Q:  Why does Machu Picchu exist?  Can you tell us a bit more about its history and discovery?

A: It was a vacation home for the Emperor  of the Incans.  The site was chosen because it had stone for building and water for drinking.   It was built 1450 and the Incans stayed there for 80 years and then left when the Spanish began conquering the Incans.  Machu Picchu was rediscovered by an American professor named Hiram Bingham who was searching for a lost city of the Incans.  He may have been searching for hidden treasure.  A Peruvian named Agustin Lizarranga found the site before Mr. Bingham in 1902 but he did not make it famous.  When it was discovered, the buildings had no roofs, the walls were falling down, and were covered by the jungle.

Machu Picchu - 1912 - Wikimedia Commons

Machu Picchu - 2018

Q:  You mentioned a rainbow mountain, can you tell me more about that?

A: The rainbow mountains were far away from Cusco.  We had to get up at 4 in the morning to go there.  We took a van part of the way to the mountain and then had to hike for about an hour to the mountain.  We did not go all the way to the top of the mountain because it was steep and the altitude was very high.  The mountaintop is more than 5000 meters above sealevel.  It snowed while we were hiking.  My dad went to the top and took pictures.  The mountain’s real name is Vinicunca, but it is called the rainbow because it has lots of different coloured rocks and sand.  The colours come from the minerals in the rock.  Yellow is sulfur, red is iron, and green is chlorine.  After seeing the mountain we walked back to the van.  I accidentally left my sweater where we had lunch, but the tour guide picked it up for us and I got it back after we went to Machu Picchu. 

Vinicunca - The Rainbow Mountain

Its cold above 4500 meters!

Q:  What are your plans for the next part of your trip?

A:  Right now we are in Lima, tomorrow we fly home, I am really excited to be back at Maple.  I miss Maple, but we have to get up at 3 in the morning for our plane.  I am grumpy when I wake up early so tomorrow I will probably be grumpy and I will probably get yelled at.  But at least we’ll be heading home.


Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Maple Crew Visits Peru (Part 3)

The Maple crew is currently in Peru, embarking on some land travel while Maple sits out the hurricane season in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  Here are some more thoughts from Ella (11 year old, Grade 7) about her trip to Peru.

Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Q:  In your last post you wrote about what you’d seen in Arequipa.  Your sister shared some details about the Colca Canyon, hiking and seeing Andean Condors.  What have you been doing since then?

A: Since then my family and I went to Puno to see Lake Titicaca. The word Titicaca means “stone puma”. Lake Titicaca is at an altitude of 3800 meters. While at Lake Titicaca we went on a cultural exchange which included a trip to the Uros Islands which are floating islands made of reeds, an overnight stay with a local family on Amantani Island, and a brief stop at Taquile Island.

Q:  What was the most memorable part of your visit to Lake Titicaca?

A: The most memorable part of Lake Titicaca was seeing the floating reed islands. The reed islands have to be anchored or else they might float into the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca.

Reed Island supporting 3 families, Lake Titicaca, Peru


Q:  Why do the reed islands exist?  Can you tell us a bit more about how the islands are made and what life is like on the islands?

A: The reed islands exist because the Uros people were trying to escape war between tribes in pre-Incan Peru. The islands are made by stacking layers reeds on top of floating root blocks. In the beginning there are five layers of reeds but as time goes on the reeds rot and more layers need to be added to keep the island from sinking. The reed islands can last up to 45 years if they are well cared for. A big island can house up to 10 family’s while a small island can only house 2. The houses on the reed islands are entirely made of reeds. On the island they have to cook out in the open, they use the reeds as their fire source. The clothes on the reed island are very similar to the clothes on Amantani Island. For a bathroom they build separate islands to use as bathrooms. When you go to the bathroom the reeds will soak up your waste.

Q:  You stayed overnight with a family on Amantani Island, that must have been an interesting experience.  Can you tell me a bit about what that was like?

A: Staying over night in some ones house was an interesting experience. We got a bedroom to ourselves but the bathroom was outside and you had to dump a bucket of water into the toilet to flush it. The kitchen was small and did not have a sink or many counters.  The meals at the house were very tasty and filling.



Ella grinding quinoa to make flour.

Q:  Can you tell me a bit more about the culture of people on Amantani Island?

A:  On Amantani Island the people all wear very beautiful outfits. The men wear very colourful ponchos. The women all wear plain green skirts and a very colourful  blouse with an elaborate design on it. They also wear a thick belt that overlaps the blouse and the skirt. then they wear a shawl over top of all their other clothes. On Amantani Island they found a way to preserve potatoes for 60 years. The way that they preserve the potatoes is they put them on top of a mountain in the winter. then when the potatoes are frozen they stomp on them until all of the water has been squeezed out of them the potatoes. To eat the dehydrated potatoes all you have to do is rehydrate them. Another interesting fact about Amantani Island is that the husband in the family makes all the clothes for the girls and the wife makes all the clothes for the boys.

Dressed in traditional clothing for welcome party.
Ella dancing with our host family.


Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Maple Crew Visits Peru (Part 2)

The Maple crew is still in Peru, enjoying some land travel while Maple sits out the hurricane season in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  Next up to share some thoughts on Peru is Iris (8 years old, Grade 3).

Suri Alpaca

Q:  What kinds of things have you done in the last few days?
A: We went hiking in the Colca Canyon it was 10.5 km downhill then we took the bus back the next day. The Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world.  It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. We also went to an Alpaca museum. We got to feed the alpacas and llamas. We also got to pet the alpacas. Yesterday we went to see some condors.  We saw some condors but not many. The Andean condor is the largest bird in the world.

On the trail...
About 1/3 of the way.  That's our trail stretching out around the mountain.

Andean Condor in flight.

Q:  What was the most interesting to you?  Why was it the most interesting?
A: The Alpaca museum because I love alpacas and llamas, they are cute.  Do you know there are four different types of Llamas: vicuna, guanaco, suri alpaca and huacaya  alpaca. I like the suri because it has long hair.

Llamas, Alpacas & kids - oh my!

Baby Llama!

Q:  What did you not enjoy and why?
A: The hike because it was long and tiring.  My feet and legs hurt A LOT at the end.  The hot springs at the hostel at the end of the hike felt great.

Hot springs apres hiking.

Q:  What are you most looking forward to next and why?
A: Lake Titicaca with the floating reed islands because it will be cool to see.

The Maple Crew visits Peru

The Maple crew is currently in Peru, embarking on some land travel while Maple sits out the hurricane season in the Rio Dulce Guatemala.  After a long hiatus from posting, we’re kicking thigs off with some thoughts from Ella (11 year old, Grade 7) about Peru.


Q:  Where are you right now?
A: Right now I am in Arequipa, Peru.  Peru is in South America.d

Q:  What was your first impression of Peru?
A; When we first arrived in Peru it didn’t feel very different from any other country that we’d been in. I think that because we travel to so many different places, nothing seems too weird, every city feels pretty normal.  We had arrived in a city so it looked and smelled like a city.

Q:  What kinds of things have you seen so far in Peru?
A: So far we have seen a catacomb that was underneath a church in Lima, we didn’t have an English tour guide so we didn’t learn all the details. We also went on a small 6 seater plane and got to look a the Nazca lines. The Nazca lines are pictures in the sand that were made by the Nazca people between 500 B.C and 500 C.E. To make the Nazca lines the Nazca people would scrape the red sand and rock off of the surface to expose the gray rocks and clay underneath. The Nazca lines can only be seen from the sky so you couldn’t take a car to see them. Today we went to a museum about the Incan people and we learned about the sacrifices and how they only sacrificed children because they were innocent and pure.

About to go flying
On the Flight Line

The Monkey

The Spider

The Tree

Q:  What was the most interesting to you?  Why was it the most interesting?
A: The most interesting thing that we have done so far was going to the Incan museum because I learned that to the Incans being sacrificed was an honor since they believed that you would be living with the gods. I also learned that to sacrifice them they would climb to the top of their sacred mountain and give the children and alcoholic drink that would make them sleepy, then the would club them on the head so that the skull would break and that is what killed them.  The first child that they found was a 12-14 years old. They decided to name her Juanita after the archeologist that found her. We got to see her skeleton and it wasn’t what I expected.  She was as big as a 5 year old even though she was fourteen. Two other children were found on the same mountain and all of them had gifts around them.

The Library
Library - Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi

The Catacombs
Catacombs - Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi

Q:  What do you have planned for the rest of your trip?
A: For the rest of our trip we plan on going to Machu Picchu to see the ruins at the top. We are also going to see Lake Titicaca which has floating reed islands on it.

Q:  What are you most looking forward to and why?
A: I am really looking forward to going to Machu Picchu because there are some ruins of a city at the top which were only discovered in 1911.

So far the crew from Maple are holding up well, and enjoying the sights, smells, sounds and history of our first South American stop.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

“…we have lost all what money can buy and replace.”

These were the words I woke up to this morning, written by Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of the tiny island nation of Dominica as the category 5 hurricane Maria ripped through his home and his nation.

While hurricanes are a fact of life in the Caribbean, weathering a category 5 storm is not something to treat lightly as we’ve all seen following the devastation of Hurricane Irma just over a week ago.

Satellite view of Maria approaching Dominica early morning, September 19, 2017.

I cried a little for Dominica today.

We visited this jewel of a tropical island in April this year and fell in love almost immediately.
Dominica bills itself as The Nature Island and it certainly delivers.  When we arrived in April we were greeted with the view of verdant forests spilling over mountains and valleys tumbling to the sea shore as if in a rush to be the first to splash in the inviting waters of the Caribbean sea.

Almost too perfect: Dominica

Two thirds of Dominica is covered by lush tropical rainforests with a mix of vegetation that includes towering trees, rambling vines and local food sources including breadfruit, passion fruit, mangos, star fruit, bananas, plantains, almonds and others.  The island lends itself to the purest forms of eco-tourism with dozens of marked hiking trails of varying difficulty traversing the crenelated landscape.
The incredible tropical rainforest and vistas inspired our imagination and fueled adoration for this, one of the poorest Caribbean island nations (with a per capita GDP greater only than Haiti and Jamaica).

Exploring Trafalgar falls, one of dozens of fresh water falls and pools in Dominica.

Indian River - a diverse mangrove ecosystem, home to birds, crabs, fish and incredible fauna.

Rolling valleys and crests of tropical rainforest - paradise found.

Rainforest hikes, surrounded by natural beauty preserved by a thoughtful nation.

Another waterfall and swimming hole buried in the depths of the rainforest.

Hope this little guy weathered the storm as well.

Maria was a category 5 hurricane when it passed over Dominica, with winds in excess of 160 mph.  So far there is not much concrete news out of Dominica but based on the damage done by hurricane Irma to Barbuda, Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, the BVI’s and USVI’s, and the Turks and Caicos, I fully expect that Dominica will be reeling under the combined weight of flooding landslides and massive damage to infrastructure and buildings on the island.

With more than one third of the labour force in Dominica employed in the agriculture sector, and agricultural exports accounting for nearly one fifth of the GDP of this tiny nation, there is no question that Maria will have a lasting impact.

At this time, we are hoping that the world doesn’t overlook Dominica and offers the necessary support to recover, much the same as Dominica did when they pledged nearly $1 million US to assist with recover efforts following Irma.

We will continue to watch the news come out of Maria's aftermath and are looking to see how we can help make a difference for a country and island that captured our hearts and feeds our dreams.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Facing My Fears

The first time I ever snorkeled was in 2012 when Darryl and I vacationed in French Polynesia.  You would not believe the fuss I made over this, okay, well maybe those who know me would not be surprised by the fuss I made.  But the idea of putting my face in the water and breathing is completely counter-intuitive for me.  So I basically would hold my breath with the snorkel in my mouth and then come up sputtering.  It was pathetic.  I finally got a hang of it thankfully, but not without testing D's patience.

So you can imagine that the idea of scuba diving never was on my radar.  There is no way I would ever consider being far below the surface without being able to easily raise my face to breath if needed.  Well, here I am now, with my Open Water certification in hand.  Hard to believe that I pulled it off.  Some of the skills were a huge stretch for me.  The idea of taking my mask off under water, swimming around and then placing the mask back on my face, struck fear in my heart.  But I did it!

But this is not all about me.  Doing the scuba lessons with Ella, was one of my proudest mom moments in my nearly 11 years of this parenting gig.  Like mom, like daughter, Ella had some reservations about doing the scuba diving, but she was motivated enough to let us sign her up.  She also had to stretch her comfort zone to get this done, but she did it with amazing maturity and confidence.  She was a rock star in seeing it through.  I could not be more proud of Ella!!!  I can't wait until Iris turns 10 and we can actually all go as a family exploring the Ocean Blue from below the surface.

Darryl, Ella, me and Sherrie with our phenomenal instructor, Lucia at GoodDive.
Ella was not always keen for the walk from the dive shop to the water with the tank, but she did it with dear Lucia giving a helping hand.

One of the last skills we had to master, an emergency ascent, here Ella made it look easy.

Sherrie and I chilling on the bottom.

Of course Darryl would take out his regulator for a smile, not me, still like to keep my oxygen close at hand.

Ella giving the "all good" sign like the champ she is.

Ok, so I always look pissed off in these pictures, but I suppose why should my expression change from land to sea.

Darryl usually had the camera, so a rare picture of him.

I can't get enough pictures of Ella doing her thing!  So proud!!!

I love this picture of Sherrie, if you can read her slate it says "Did we pass?".  (We won't point out that she is giving the wrong hand signal!)  ;)
Ella and I as we near the end of our final dive for our certification.