Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

Machu Picchu Peru, September 2016   1 comment

Presenting Lari’s latest episode of
“Hawaiian in Peru”
Lari with Lois Kuge
September 1-19, 2016

Last year, Lois asked me if I’d like to go to Machu Picchu, and I said yes. So I found this smarTour for September 5-15, and we both signed up. Our tour group had only 23 of us, and everyone was congenial and fun to be with. The weather was perfect, sunny with blue skies and cool breezes. Most of us took meds to prevent altitude sickness. They provide coca tea for high altitude, but I did not want to take it since it is high in caffeine.
We had beautiful and convenient hotels in all locations and our guides were very knowledgeable. We stayed high up in the Sacred Valley in a small village called Yucay. The first day, we went to several villages in the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Urubamba and Pisac. We saw how the people lived in a kancha (condo) with dirt floors with guinea pigs running around inside. We shopped at the Wednesday market in Pisac, where we bargained for all kinds of crafts and gifts.
The next day, we took a train to Agua Caliente, the small village next to a river at the base of the mountain, then caught the shuttle bus by many switchbacks up to Machu Picchu. It was amazing! We spent hours walking through the ancient city, visiting the Sun Temple, the room of the 3 windows, the room with 2 mirrors that reflect the stars and universe, the 2-window temple and more. The construction made of granite rocks was precise and earthquake proof.
We took a train to Cusco, where we stayed for two days. Our hotel was near the main square and we had free time to walk around the old town to shop, eat and enjoy. Lois and I had guinea pig for lunch one day and we bought soft alpaca wool -Lois got a sweater and I got a scarf.
An all-day bus ride south took us to Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Our hotel was on the shores of the lake and the next day, we walked down to the pier where a boat was waiting to take us for the day’s adventure. The first stop was a floating island home of Uros Indians. Kantuta has 7 families on their little island with 7 houses. The head of this island is Nestor. Everything is made from Totora reeds which grow profusely in this area of the Lake. The island, their homes, their beds, their boats, are made from the reeds, which also can be eaten, used for medicine, and toilet paper and much more. We learned how they built and maintained their floating reed island and how they live. They took us on their reed boat to ride around to see other floating island villages in the area, and when we bid farewell, they sang us songs. It was the most fascinating and fun visit ever! Next, our boat took us to Taquile Island where we trekked up from the pier to the village and had lunch prepared by a native family. We had quinoa soup and trout with potatoes and rice. They also entertained us with song and dance.
The next day we flew to Lima where we had a half-day tour and free time to walk around and shop near our hotel. After a farewell dinner, it was time to go to the airport for our flights home.
I took the tour from New York so that I could visit Yvette and her family before and after the tour. I enjoyed being with the kids and even went to see The Color Purple on Broadway. We went to the Bronx Zoo, took the PATH across the Hudson River to Jersey City for Sunday brunch, and I gave Yvette and Erik a date night. We also had lovely picnics in the back yard with friends from Gateway complex where they live.

Lari’s Top Six:
6. The unique cuisine such as guinea pig and alpaca
5. People in our tour group
4. Villages in Sacred Valley
3. Cusco
2. Machu Picchu
1. Uros floating islands in Lake Titicaca

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Llama and their cousins Alpaca, who are smaller and provide soft wool for clothing.

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Our smarTour group at Machu Picchu.

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Guinea pigs are raised in their houses for food.

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Lois and I ate guinea pig for lunch in Cusco

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We are riding the train to Agua Caliente on the way to Machu Picchu.

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Here I am in Machu Picchu!

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Close-up of the genius construction that is earthquake proof.

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Cusco’s cathedral at the Plaza de Armes (main square) is composed of 3 churches

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The amazing floating islands of the Uros Indians are built from reeds that grow in Lake Titicaca.

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The island we visited had 7 families and 7 houses. This is the family I visited and I bought some of their crafts.

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They took us on a boat that they made out of reeds and we saw other floating islands.

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This is the welcoming arch on Taquile Island.

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This is at the Sillustani Archeological Complex where they built funeary towers.

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I visited Yvette and her family in New York before and after Peru.

Posted October 1, 2016 by lariyasui in South America

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Cuba and Miami in January 2016   2 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiian in Cuba”

starring: Lari

January 8 to 16, 2016

I decided that I wanted to go to Cuba before it changes with tourism opening there. So my friends, Marcus and Linda in Kansas City said they were going in December 2015, and I wanted to join their tour, but it was filled. I started looking for another tour and found Gate1 going from Miami in January, 2016, I asked a few traveling friends, who said no or had already been there, until Tom and Tyke from Fort Collins said they wanted to go with me. Yayy! Tom,Tyke, Marcus and Linda are part of “Roger’s Hiking Club” that met in Croatia 10 years ago. We named our group as such because they all knew that Roger hates to walk or hike, so it was all in fun.

So the tour started in Miami, and I booked two extra days there and contacted my friends Gary and Peggy from Orlando, to see if I could visit them, but they said it’s too far for me to drive, so they drove down to Miami, picked me up and I booked a nice AirBnB place for us three to stay in for 2 nights. It had two bedrooms, a bath, living room and a kitchen and was very convenient. We went to Fort Lauderdale to take a nice relaxing boat ride through all the fancy waterfront mansions, had lunch and that night we went to a wonderful Cuban restaurant for dinner. The adjacent bakery was a big hit with me and Peggy. The next day we drove down to Coral Gables and visited the Coral Castle built out of limestone/coral boulders by a very eccentric man from Latvia. They dropped me off at the airport hotel where the tour group was meeting.

We only had 3 days in Havana, but it was enough and the tour was less than $2000, including all meals, one night in Miami and the charter flight from Miami and back. There were 38 people on our tour and we met at the Crowne Plaza Miami Airport hotel for briefing. Being only 90 miles from the Florida coast, the flight to Havana was only 45 minutes long. The weather was not the best, with light rain on and off the entire trip. But the downpour was on the day we left, so we felt lucky. All of our meals were wonderful! They served mojitos before each lunch and dinner, with unlimited rum!

First day: the bus took us to Revolution Square, but everyone was fascinated when we saw the old cars parked next to the square. We took photos around the square, but mostly of the old cars. Then we drove along the Malecon, the highway along the ocean with a seawall where people hang out every night and the waves crash and splash over the wall. We had a fabulous lunch at El Literol right across the Malecon. We went to a cigar and rum shop to purchase our gifts to take home. We were allowed $100 in liquor and tobacco to take back to the states. So I bought $100 worth of cigars for my cigar-smoking friends here. Then we stopped to have margaritas at Floridita, where Hemingway used to hang out at the bar. After checking in to the hotel and a short rest, several members of the Old Style Car Club came to pick us up for dinner. We got to ride a red ’57 chevy convertible to dinner! After dinner, we went to San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, located in the municipality of East Havana, a UNESCO as World Heritage Site, where every night at 9 pm, a cannon goes off with a loud boom!

Second day: We spent the day in Old Havana, walking from St Francis Square to Army Square and to Cathedral Square. After lunch, we visited an art gallery barber shop owned by Pepito, who also started a barber school and a playground. For dinner we went to the Magic Flute on the 10th floor building next to the American Embassy. We had salsa lessons and a wonderful dinner there. Fun!

Third day: We drove outside of Havana to Santa Barbara Catholic Church, where they have a day care for toddlers and serve lunches to the elderly. We went to Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drinking spots, and also visited his home, where he lived for 21 years. After the tour, we enjoyed fresh squeezed cane juice and did a little shopping. After lunch, we went to “Fusterlandia,” the bizarre studio of artist José Rodriguez Fuster to see his amazing artwork all around with mosaics and even his neighbors’ homes were decorated in bright colors. His work is similar to Gaudi in Barcelona. After dinner, we went to Buena Vista Social Club night club show. It was very entertaining. The star was 80-year-old Tete Catura.

Last day: our flight back to Miami was delayed by 7 hours, so we spent 9 hours in the airport, which is very small and has hardly anything to eat… only ham and cheese sandwiches. People missed their connections in Miami, and had to stay overnight there and go home the next day. I had already reserved a motel near the airport, and so I checked to see if they had a room for Tom & Tyke, and the only room they had left was a suite for $150, so we reserved it. When we saw the room, we laughed so hard, because it was so raunchy with red lights, mirrors and a huge jacuzzi in the room. We all flew home the next day.

Lari’s Top Six:

6 Beautiful, old, and colorful architecture

5 Riding the red ’57 Chevy convertible

4 Salsa dancing lessons

3 Jose Fuster’s colorful home/gallery/studio

2 Pepito’s Art Gallery Barbershop and Barber School

1 Mojitos with every meal

*PHOTO CREDITS: Some of these photos are courtesy of Richard Brzeczek of Palm Beach, FL who has a fancy camera and graciously shared his photos with me.

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Gary & Peggy Gentry drove from Orlando to Miami and took me around the city to eat and play.

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Gary & Peggy took me to Fort Lauderdale on a relaxing boat ride along the waterways enjoying the lovely homes and huge yachts.

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We had Cuban dinner at Versailles, but wait! they also have a bakery! We could not resist…

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Coral Castle is a stone structure created by the Latvian American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin located in Leisure City, Florida.

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This bus took us all over Havana and more.

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The famous Malecón (officially Avenida de Maceo) is a broad esplanade, roadway and seawall which stretches for 8 km (5 miles) along the coast in Havana.

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Revolution Square was our first stop on the tour in Havana with Tom & Tyke from Fort Collins, CO.

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This was our first sight of the old cars at Revolution Square.

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Revolution Square

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Andrew, our tour director.

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They took us to a tobacco and liquor shop, where we all bought cigars and rum. We are allowed only $100 worth of both.

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I did not buy any rum, but just $100 worth of cigars for my friends back home.

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The Havana Old Style Car Club picked us up at our hotel to drive us to dinner at La Moraleja.

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Tom, Tyke and I chose a red ’57 Chevy convertible! It was so much fun to ride!

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana Plaza de Armas (army square) with book sellers.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana street scenes.

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Old Havana-Pepito’s barber shop art gallery.

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Old Havana -Pepito’s barber shop art gallery.

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Lari gives Liz a massage.

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Our local tour guide, is Iris in the middle enjoying sugar cane juice at Hemingway’s home.

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Hemingway house, where he lived and wrote books for 21 years

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Hemingway’s custom made boat was built in Brooklyn for $7,400 and sleeps 8.

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Salsa dance lessons were fun!

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Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and wild kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster, in Jaimanitas, at the northwestern edge of the Havana.

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Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and wild kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster, in Jaimanitas.

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Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster, in Jaimanitas. He remade the neighborhood in his own image, so other houses on his street have his creations.

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While walking Old Havana, a cold coconut drink was in order! I was the first to get one, and I was finished when this photo was taken.

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Melia Cohiba Hotel Habana Club for Buena Vista Social Club fabulous show!

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Melia Cohiba Hotel Habana Club for Buena Vista Social Club fabulous show!

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Buena Vista Social Club: the star was 80-year-old Tete Catura.

 

Posted April 22, 2016 by lariyasui in South America

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Roger & Lari’s Galapagos Trip   Leave a comment

ROGER AND LARI’S 2010 WINTER VACATION

“Galapagos Islands, Equador”

Starring US, OF COURSE

Dec 1 to 14, 2010

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Nancy Eastlund, of Sun Tours Hawaii in Aiea, invited us to join her group on this Celebrity Xpedition cruise package. She went in 2008 and reserved several cabins for 2010. So we decided to go on this adventure to Equador to see the islands that fascinated Charles Darwin. We used our AA miles to get there, so we saved a bundle on airfare. The 10-day Celebrity package includes 2 nights at the JW Marriott in Quito, Equador before the 7-day cruise and one hotel night after the cruise. It took us 2 days to get there and another 2 days to get home, for total of 14 days.

The flights were a killer… we had to fly through Miami to get to Equador on 4 flights  w/3 layovers to get to Quito and 3 flights/2 layovers to come home. Quito, Equador is a UNESCO world heritage city. It is high on an Andes plateau, at 9,000 ft altitude. Quito has a population of 1.1 million and they were celebrating their annual Founder’s Day. All over town, we saw many colorful Chivas, open-air buses with bands playing music on the top and filled with families celebrating the holiday. The heart of the city is the Plaza Independencia with a huge cathedral built in the 1500s.

Celebrity flew us from Quito to the Galapagos on a chartered flight and as soon as we landed on Baltra, buses took us to the ship just minutes away from the small airport. We were greeted by sea lions sunning on the dock w/more barking under the dock. Because the ship holds only 90 passengers, it was intimate and informal. We checked into our comfortable cabin, which would be “home” for a week while cruising among the islands. We headed directly to the dining room for a wonderful buffet lunch and back to our cabin to unpack before going to muster stations with our life jackets. We had our very first tour that afternoon. We were enchanted by all the wildlife we saw on our first day: sea lions, iguanas, frigates mating with their bright red chests ballooning out, and more.

Blue footed booby

Our daily routine: we had one tour in the morning and another in the afternoon and for each tour you get to choose either a long walk or a short walk. We would board the zodiacs called pangas in groups of 16 with a naturalist who explained the flora and fauna on each tour. Every time we returned to the ship, there was beer and wine and snacks waiting for us followed by lunch or dinner after cocktails. We always had time for a 2-hr nap after lunch before the afternoon tour. All meals, drinks, transfers, snorkel gear, tips and tours were included in this all-inclusive deluxe package. We were spoiled!

Red-shirted Baldie and sea lion

The Galapagos islands were formed by shield volcanoes just like the Hawaiian islands. Active volcanoes are located in the northwestern islands. The Galapagos has 2 seasons: the dry season from June to December and the wet season from January to May. The islands are located on the equator, but because they get the cold Humboldt current from the south pole, the weather is cool and comfortable in the dry season. The waters are quite cold, so Celebrity supplies wet suits for snorkelers.

Chicken skin moments when we all shut up and were in total awe: On Floreana Island on Tuesday, we were disappointed that the salt marsh had no flamingos. But on Wednesday, on Bacha beach, Santa Cruz Island, we spotted 6 flamingos flying and when we reached the pond, we were happy to watch them feeding. On Thursday, we were on our way back to the ship on our zodiac when a large group of dolphins swam next to us. It was so amazing to be so close to the beautiful creatures. Then on Friday, we were at Dragon Hill on Santa Cruz Island, and were lucky to see 6 more flamingos feeding in the pond. On Saturday, buses took us up to the highlands of Santa Cruz above the town of Puerta Ayora, where we walked through open fields and saw, close-up, many tortoises. They are such peaceful, ancient creatures.

Most lunches on the ship were buffets down in the dining room or hamburgers and crepes up on the 4th deck. But on Thursday, we had a huge BBQ buffet lunch out on Deck 4. Unbelievable… all you can eat grilled lobster, huge shrimp, beef, pork, chicken, fish, salmon, salad bar, and dessert bar. They also served lobster 3 times for dinner. As I said, we were spoiled indeed.

The entertainment was very casual. They had one professional musician on board who played keyboard and piano at various times of day and evenings. The naturalists are very talented, and they performed salsa music for us to dance to. We also had a talent show night on Thursday and karaoke night on Friday. It turned out that I was the only passenger that participated in the talent show with my hula performance… the rest were the crew who played music, sang and danced.  Karaoke night was fun with many people singing.

This truly was an adventure of a lifetime. We don’t see ourselves going back there, but the Galapagos is not to be missed.

Roger’s Top Ten:

10.         We used our AA miles to fly to and from Equador and flew 1st class on our flights home from Quito. We usually fly economy/coach… no class… so this was a big hit!  Big, wide, soft recliners where the food tray sits flat and not inclined due to my six-pac (more like keg) abs.

9.         The cruise ship Celebrity Xpedition holds only 90 passengers. Everything was first class and everything was inclusive… food, beer, wine, bottled water, hard liquor, tips, etc. etc. Our bill was ZERO at the end of the cruise, but we did give extra tips to our favorite staff. The ship’s crew made me feel like a king!

8.         I went snorkeling 3 times and swam with or saw oodles of different kinds of fish (visions of pulehu, sashimi, baked or fried), manta rays, sea lions, sea turtles, penguins, marine iguanas, sand sharks, but no eels. Never thought I would snorkel anyplace better than Hanauma Bay. I felt like Jacque Cousteau.

7.         The inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands were extremely friendly. Marine iguanas, sea lions, turtles, land iguanas (which were bigger and more colorful than the marine variety) would be lying all over the place and you had to literally step over or walk around them. Same with the birds.. they were so tame, they almost posed for photos. Pelicans would land on our zodiacs and sea lions would just plop on and off.

6.         The only mean vicious creatures were some biting flies on one of the islands. They bit right through my shirt… making me very itchy with small welts like mosquito bites.

5.         Tortoises don’t really like us, because they hiss and retreat into their shells when we went close to them. Long time since I found an animal that I could race with and win.

4.         Thanks to Darwin, we got to visit and see all these animals. Blue-footed boobies, red chested frigates, whose chest expands like a big red balloon when trying to find a mate. Blue herons, pelicans, mocking birds, ground finches, tree finches, oyster catchers, yellow warblers, flamingos and so much more, which I don’t know the names of, and I cannot spell anyway.

3.         All in all, plenty walking but by far, one of my most memorable vacations. A guy we met said to go to South Africa for real wild animals and no need to walk since you can’t outrun those animals, and besides, they’ll eat you. So go on a safari and ride vehicles for protection. That’s all folks…

2.          P. S. (porgot something) –This trip is highly recommended. ***** (5 stars)

1.          P.P. S.S. Did you know Lari can dance the hula? She did the hula for a passenger talent show and had everybody in awe. She’s a bigger fake than me!

Lari’s Top Five:

5. Making new friends on the cruise

4. The delicious food and drinks on the Xpedition

3. The knowledge and friendliness of our naturalist guides

2. Seeing such a wide variety of wildlife

1. Being so close to the wildlife (but cannot touch them

Posted December 20, 2010 by lariyasui in South America

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