There is a first time for everything
Exactly what it says. there’s always a first time for everything, because you haven’t done everything once already. so when something arises that you have never done, that’s when one would say this.
Some might say that this whole running all over the world thing is full of first times and you would be right but I have noticed that this trip has more firsts than usual. I could go even further, that my life has been full of first times and I have been known to sit and contemplate what to do that I have never done before.
This 20 day jaunt started with the wedding of my middle child, Shawn to his college sweet heart, Cassie. I knew this day would come the first day I met her. I believe everyone had the same impression of the two of them. My sister, Gwen officiated the wedding and used the one word, delight, to describe them.
Tropical storm, Bonnie, had plans to disrupt the outdoor wedding in Charleston SC but she was no match for the Parker clan. It was decided to leave up the tent used by a wedding the day before but that was only to used like folks use an umbrella, by carting it around. The clouds parted just prior to the ceremony and the rain did not begin again until we were all back at the hotel after the reception.
My only fear I had been, if we were going to make our connecting flight out of ATL the next day. Delta only goes to Santiago Chile once a day and the pricing for the trip had me pick the flight out of Charleston that only gave me 1 hour 15 minutes connect time. I usually pick anything between 2-3 hours but at the time I thought we would be fine.
I called Delta to try to get them to waive the change fee because of the storm but they were not buying that lame excuse. We had to change our flights on the tail end of this trip due to a Mindset visit for Catherine. Mindset is a clinical trail and the first five visits have to be an exactly 3 weeks apart. In this case I used the Zika virus and got the flights changed free of charge.
Needless to say our plane inbound was on delay out of ATL so we sat at the airport bar while I tracked its process. I gave updates to our new friends at the bar that also had tight connections. Plane arrived and departed 30 minutes late and we had plenty of time to get from terminal D to E. They had just started boarding when we arrived at the gate and our plane had a 30 minute mechanical of its own so all was good. More time for a second glass of champagne, I figured.
After the 9 hour flight, which we both slept 7 hours of, we safely arrived in Santiago and for the first time of flying all over the world, for over 38 years, we were in the same time zone after a 9 hour flight. Another hair-raising taxi ride, where I had to give the driver directions and he did not speak any English. Last time that happened we thought we were going to die and that was in Mexico City.
We were a day late for the Marathon Tours and Travel escapade. When Shawn told me about the wedding almost a year ago, I quickly checked my schedule, since I had already planned this trip, but knew then, I could still make it work.
We did miss a day and a half of tours in n Santiago but after all the late night festivities, of the destination wedding weekend, we really needed the day to rest up. There was a great mall nearby and actually did some shopping. Our motto is if we can’t drink it or eat it we don’t buy it. A lot of firsts on this trip. No telling what else is in store in terms of firsts. This was my first child getting married and I am in no rush for the other two. His older brother is still two years away as indicated by his girlfriend, Kelsey. He was 5 years away 6 months ago but she seemed pretty firm on the current time-table. His younger sister is a crap shoot. I will just leave it at that.
We did meet with our Marathon Tour guide, Jacqui and this is our 5th trip with her with another one scheduled to Africa in July. They had a bit of a mishap during the tour lunch, where someone in the group of 50 had her purse stolen from the back of her chair she was sitting in. The restaurant had it all on tape and the person who stole it was using it within mere minutes of the crime.
Nothing is cheap in Santiago and very few spoke English. That was very unusual. Especially at a mall but my pointing skills continued to serve me well. People ask all the time if I speak another language. No, is the answer and I have three good reasons. The first is that I am somewhat dyslexic and learning another language would very difficult for someone like me. However, we do make great pilots. The second is that since it have traveled so much it would be difficult to pick which one. On our last trip to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Helsinki and Amsterdam we were exposed to a multitude of languages. That leads me to the final reason, that my linguistic daughter, Mariah, hates. I have the money and if they want my money they will speak English to me. It does work in most but not all cases and we all figure out a way to make it work in the end.
The next morning we all met in the lobby at 5:30 am for our 8:30 flight to Easter Island. That is the real reason for us to come to Santiago but it was strange to arrive and depart a major city such as this without touring it or all least running its streets.
There must be about a dozen of us that have crossed paths over the last 18 months and that includes, Mariellen, from Boston. We met her in Dublin and she had a few drinks with us when we were there for the Boston marathon.
She had a tight schedule with the birth of her two grand babies just a few days prior to this trip. The had picked out names for the two and the decision of who got which name. They went to the first one and asked how do you like the name Dvyn and she threw up. So the second one is now named Dvyn.
I am sure we have been on a A330 before but not in Business Class since it was a 6 hour day flight it was once again my first experience with Windows that auto tint. They also have great mood lights that change color during the Latam flight. We did go back in 2 hours in time on this flight.
Yet another first has taken place during this trip. Usually I come up with a title to each blog before I start writing. I let a few days transpire and I get a feel of the trip and then come up with the title. I did start writing this after 4 days into the trip but had no idea what the title would be and still have not nailed it down but I am sure it will have something to do with “FIRST.”
We are headed to Easter Island to run a half marathon. We have decided that halves are much more fun and I am sure we will make a similar decision between 10k’s and 5k’s when I am 80. We have someone on this trip that has over 500 marathons but for the life of me I can not understand why. Presently she is still in Santiago, I understand she had an ear infection. They don’t fly to Easter Island every day of the week so I hope she makes it in time for the marathon.
Our goal was to run a marathon in all seven continents and all 50 states but have modified that goal as time goes on. Now, it is to run at least a half marathon in each of those categories. More so, now, it is to run a race of some sort in as many countries as we can. Right now Easter Island will make continent number 5 and country number 21. We will finish up the year with country number 24 with the Havana Cuba half marathon in November.
Marathon Tours actually gives out a separate medal for all that finish either a marathon or half marathon in all 7 continents but not a combination of the two. Since we are not doing full marathons for a while we will go to New Zealand to get me a half there since Catherine already did the half in Australia while I did the full there. Rules, Rules, Rules. This ones seems a bit arbitrary, but it is what it is.
Easter Island is a place all to its own and did 1 and 1/2 days of tours there. The tours included a visit to Orango where we learned the history of Birdman. We even got to see some structures on Anakena beach. One can not come to Easter Island without seeing Anakena.
Back in the day competitors would swim out and fight to the death and then bring an egg back to shore.
How did they do that
Final approach to Easter Island
The races there were somewhat unique. They had the typical marathon and half marathon on Sunday but also had a trail bike race the day before, either 35 or 70K. The day before that there was a triathlon, either sprint or half Ironman distance. I am sure there were some that did all three but stuck with the plan to run the half marathon and went horse back riding to the highest point on the island on one of our free days.
The hotel we stayed at the, Hanga Roa Hotel, was more of a resort and another first was the fact that this hotel did not have TV’s in any of their rooms. There were some interesting restaurants nearby. One that we ate at did not have any electricity that day so we ate by candle light and flashlights.
There was a very unique outdoor opening ceremony where they blessed all the participants with an offering of ground pit, cooked meat and vegetables. The race is called the Rapa Nui Marathon and for all races they limit the total field to 250 participants.
It was a great race and once again I did not wear a watch and was able to take a lot of great pictures. It turns out we got third place in our respective age groups. We were both very happy that we did not do the full since everyone that did it said it was very challenging and right now in life I am preferring enjoyment over challenging. They do not have a time limit for the marathon which is unusual and was able to walk in with, Cheryl, who was the last one on the course. Another first, I might add.
Cheryl at the finish
Third place medals, above, out our back porch
Of Course Catherine found a dog at the finish
The next day we flew back to Santiago for a true touch and go. We were at the Holiday Inn at the airport for exactly 6 hours. 4 am wake up and back in a plane to Lima Peru with a connection to someplace I had never even heard of before called, Cusco Peru. I had sweaty palms during the mountainous approach to the airport.
We spent one night there at a clearly boutique hotel called, Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel. Since we are now at over 11,000 feet they pump oxygen into the rooms and even provide walk around oxygen bottles for anyone that needed them. They recommended chewing coco leaves and coco tea but my preference was the coco beer. Yummy
The restaurant we ate at that night served Guinea Pig so with another first in the book I did partake. I even had a piece of Alpaca which I must admit was a bit chewy. The pig was tasty but there was not a lot of meat on the bone and I had only wished it had come with an apple in its mouth. I did not have any ill effects from the altitude but did find myself catching my breath from time to time.
We did a half day tour of the city and got to visit the Inca fortress of Sacsahuama, Sexy Woman. Another example of how did they do that with the huge stone walls that surrounded the area. We got the opportunity to walk thru a tunnel that was completely dark and was told that it had cleansing properties. Mariellen told me I need to go thru twice so I gave her a high-five for that remark, but she could only reach my elbow.
Tongue and groove, how did they do that
Sexy Woman below
Cusco behind us
I think someone should come up with a contest to award the first group of folks that can move a similar size boulder from the mountains 40K away with only the tools that were available back then. They say that Cusco is the oldest city in South America at over 3000 years old.
Presently I am on a very bumpy and curvy 2 hour bus ride to the train station and then on to Aguas Calientes where we will start our tour of Machu Picchu. The train ride is 90 minutes. That should be an experience. Wow, is the only word I can think of to describe the train ride. We were basically following the Urubanmba river all the way with mountains on either side. We crossed the starting point of the Inca trail and saw a few folks taking the 4 day trek.
The train stop was within walking distance of our hotel called El Mapi by Inkaterra and it was smack dab in the middle of everything. As I always do, I turned on CNN and there I learned of a terrorist attack in Tele Aviv. We were just talking about how great our trip was when we were there in February and how we want to go back when we go to Petra next year. Not so much now. This is another place that we have visited during our 18 month trip that has come under attack.
The next morning we were once again up at the crack of dawn to wait about 45 minutes for the scariest 30 minute bus ride known to man. 27 busses run the mostly one way switch back dirt road up to Machu Picchu. It is a dance they all do as they go up and down and how they do run into each other is a miracle itself.
Switch back road up to Machu Picchu
You would think that they area would be somewhat behind in time being so remote but I guess the constant flow of money to see one of the 7 wonders of the world has brought all the technological devices to track everything you could ever want to see. All of the folks on the trains busses and venues in the area are all well dressed in fashionable suit and ties or scarfs. Of course there were plenty to buy all the junk you don’t need. When you leave the train station you have to go thru the area like the Grand Bazar in Istanbul.
Catherine at the train station
Little known fact, the 7 wonders of the world have changed over the years
The Seven Wonders of the World has historically been a listing of seven sites known to the Ancient Greeks as the most notable locales in their known world.
Since then, many have developed lists of the “modern” Seven Wonders of the World. The only list that really stands out and has stood the test of time for more than a decade is the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, developed by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The Original Seven Wonders of the World
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
The Seven Wonders of the Modern World
Empire State Building
Golden Gate Bridge
Netherlands North Sea Protection Works
Natural Wonders of the World
In 1997, CNN announced a listing of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World…
The “New” Seven Wonders of the World
On July 7, 2007 (7-7-07) an organization announced a “new” set of the Seven Wonders of the World based on online voting from around the world…
Chichen Itza, Mexico – Mayan City
Christ Redeemer, Brazil – Large Statue
The Great Wall, China
Machu Picchu, Peru
Petra, Jordan – Ancient City
The Roman Colosseum, Italy
The Taj Mahal, India
Only two left in bold
The first day we did a tour of the main structure and the walked into the clouds of Sun Gate. There we got some great views but must say that the hike up is not for the weary. At the top is where the Inca Trail ends and we would see a lot of people coming back down to catch the bus back down to Aguas Calientes.
View on our way up to Sun Gate and Thriller was able to make the trip
Thriller found another friend
The second day we were once again in line at 6 am for the ride up the mountain. This time we took the most difficult hike I have ever done up to Machu Picchu Mountain, which is also called the APU Hike. The planes I use to fly had APU’s, auxiliary power units, wish I had one for the hike. You actually had to sign a book as you entered and sign out when you get back down. Not quite sure which was the scariest since some of it was extremely steep and some of it was on very narrow cliff face trails.
There I had to face my demons of a very rare condition called, high-place phenomenon, where one wants to jump off bridges or cliffs. You don’t have suicidal tendencies and they say no one with condition has followed thru. Not sure how they actually know that. Turns out Jacqui has the same condition.
I huffed and puffed like a freight train all the way up which took over 90 minutes, In some case I was on all fours and tried not to look down the cliff face. On the way down I almost got a headache from concentrating so intensely. Last time I concentrated that hard was back in my days as a pilot in training when you had to take off in the simulator in mountainside terrain fully loaded and lost one engine and the other one was on fire.
Made it to the top 10,000 feet
View from the top, it was kind of funny since I have seen similar sites from my pilot’s seat.
The train ride back to Cusco was like no other. Once again very scenic but this time they threw in a dancing devil routine and full fashion show. This time it was 3:30 train ride to connect to a 30 minute bus ride back to the Aranwa Cusco Boutique hotel. This is going to make for a very long day. I am so looking forward to a rest day tomorrow.
Our own devil and the two conductors that also did the fashion show
Back in Cusco we did absolutely nothing the night we arrived back at the hotel and pretty much stayed in bed right up to dinner that night. We might have found a Irish pub before dinner and were able to have another first. I will let the picture below do the talking.
The next day was another travel day but first we had to see the festivities. They have been celebrating all month and over the weekend they took the celebration to the streets. It is a really big deal to them and was a lot of fun to watch. We were also able to take a tour of the nearby church called, Basilica cathedral. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures inside and I highly recommend the audio tour that last 45 minutes. All you have to do is leave your photo ID.
We were off that afternoon back to Lima, Peru for a night and then the next morning early am to RIO. In Lima we stayed in the Miraflores section which is supposed to be a safe part of town and I am glad we did. When we arrived and departed there were people everywhere. I thought leaving at 6 am we would be fine but traffic jams had already started with buses and cars filled to the brim. Buses here are like in Panama City, Panama but not as colorful. They are more like large vans and are plentiful.
Two flights later we were in RIO and made sure we made full use of the 24 hours we were there. Got into the hotel in time for happy hour at the Executive lounge and then moved to the lobby bar to partake in a little know shots called, cachaca, com mel. The cachaca is the name of the alcohol and com mel is with honey. Honey sinks to the bottom so bottoms up takes awhile for it to run down the glass and therefore down the hatch.
We did run into others at the bar that were watching the NBA finals and a couple that were very interested in our nomad story. The lady felt that we should find a sponsor for our adventure. I tried to explain that we are too busy enjoying ourselves. Never know and as I have learned anything is possible. The next morning we were up and went for a run to Ipanema beach. Catherine loves the song by Frank Sinatra and it started to play as part of her play list while we were there. How Ironic.
No time for another Irish Pub
We did not want to leave so did not leave the area until 2 plus 30 before flight. the normal 30 minute taxi ride took one hour and now that there is a new terminal at the RIO airport by the time we got to the gate they were already boarding our flight. I thought the agent that checked our bags head was going to explode trying to understand our lifestyle. It was fun to watch.
We both slept right after they feed us all the way back to ATL. Catherine had a Mindset appointment that went well that morning. Good thing our good friends at the Courtyard Marriott were able to find us a room at 8am so we could take showers before the appointments.
On June 12th I started my third year after open heart surgery and wrote about it called, 2 years. Our next trip leaves tomorrow where we are headed back to Florida to pick up our motor home, “The Crib”, for 16 days. Strange to learn that it is in Fort Pierce, which is where the Orlando shooter was from. We hope to make it to the keys for a week and stop by MIA and see some people I use to work with at UPS.
As you know Mohamed Ali passed away during our trip and I will close out this blog with the following picture.