Angela “Red” Wright’s, Travel, Discover and Adventure Blog

If there is one thing, and only one thing that traveling the world has taught me, its love.  Love for culture, humans and differences.  We cannot live in a world that continues to hate, that pushes its beliefs on one another, that tries to put one human above another because of race, skin color, gender, financial status, or who they love.   Love, true love should build us, bind us, protect us and teach us.
Red in Greeece, 2012
Red in Santorini Greece, 2012

We do not take cruise ships with 1000’s of people who stampede towns, and are bad for the eco system and land, cruising is certainly not the optimal way of seeing the world.  Cruise ships are also ruining the eco system, by dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage in the oceans every day  (though there are times when taking a cruise would be beneficial, perhaps your age restricts you, your health or there are places like parts of Alaska that you can only see by Cruise)

If you really want to see a place, you must feel it, touch it, meet the people, dine with them, walk it for hours, understand their history, culture, beliefs.  Travel is a great passion for us and we have had some grand adventures along the way.

In my blog I will attempt to show you the full experience of travel as we know it and as we have personally experienced it over the years.  Also, very important,  the Do’s and Don’ts of travel which include our own personal experiences, good and bad, things we have learned along the way and things we have incorporated into each place we visit.  I will give you reasons why you should and should not do things, people you should and should not travel with, how to pack for your own adventure, embarrassing moments, moments of awe and things you must see!  Also how not to get stuck with tourists who are simply “martini travelers” just checking places off their bucket list and not truly appreciating the experience.

One thing I would like to put forward is that having the right attitude when traveling the world can make your experience so much better. You should not go to other countries trying to Americanize them, or show them how our way of life is better or different from theirs. Show them you are truly interested in who they are, and how their life will affect you and teach you,  not the other way around. If you travel with what some see as an “arrogant American” or as we have seen “European” attitude you can get hurt, you will have a bad time and you will leave a bad taste in the locals mouths. Relax take it all in, see their world, see how they live, understand it, embrace it and by all means, have a superb time.
Not all my stories, experiences or information will be for you, depending on what kind of traveler you are. Though I do hope both novice and experienced travelers will benefit from the information I post.

My travels begin in 1998 with a simple trip to London and Scotland and as you will see my traveling days might never end!!

Please feel free to comment but keep it nice, if you have something mean or rude to say either send it to me in email or just say nothing…  and please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, likes, dislikes,  or corrections at Angelawr@wrightholdings.com

*Disclaimer: Any and all photography on this site, or any other site, in your home or elsewhere, developed or otherwise reproduced, given away, or money received for, that may be in your possession for any reason that was or has been taken by Bradford Wright, is Copyright protected, all rights reserved. All reproductions or selling of private property is illegal and punishable by law; Copyright (1983-2017) Bradford W. Wright Photographer, Wright Holdings Worldwide, LLC. 2016

My husbands email is Bradwr@wrightholdings.com if you want to talk to the photographer himself about any of his prints on our website.

Brad Wright, Salkantay Peru 2014
Brad Wright, Salkantay Peru, 2014

Cheers everyone and thanks for reading and for all your kind and loving support.

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The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador 2016

My husband loves diving in the Galapagos Islands, this is his third trip.   It is one live-aboard that I do not go on with him because the currents are very strong, so snorkeling, though not impossible, is a real challenge.

So he decided to share part of the trip with me this time and do a week of land based stuff before he headed off to the boat and I came home.

We flew Delta airlines from Seattle to Atlanta and Atlanta to Quito.  Not a bad trip, about 13 hours all in all, with layovers.

We stayed a couple nites in Quito and used one day for walking the city.  We went to the large cathedral at the other end of town, and it was fantastic.  I love old churches, their history, the architecture, etc.  quito

This was almost the very top of the cathedral.  It was a great day and an incredible view. Cathedral

I recommend walking all of the cathedral. The stairs to the top on both sides etc.  You get a great view.  Its totally worth it.

We then went to Isabela Island, Galapagos.  It was wonderful.  We had such a great hotel right on the ocean.  Hotel La Casa Marita

  • The only thing negative I have to say about this particular hotel is that the food service is some of the slowest I have ever experienced.  One evening it took an hour and 1/2 just to get our meal.   I think they only have ONE cook for the entire hotel and maybe two servers.  And though I respect its “island time”, this was even to slow for us.  Two evenings of dinner, took over an hour.  If you want dinner quicker, you should start ordering around 5:00.  Not joking.

So we had a few activities planned here, first was hiking the Volcano Sierra Negra

Here are some good notes and advice before you hike this Volcano.

NOTE:  It is hot!  To actually enjoy your experience there are some things you need to have and know.

Wear a GOOD hat to keep the sun off your face, neck and chest.  (I always recommend the Tilly hats)  Remember you are at the Equator, the sun is brutal.  There are only a few places with shade on this walk, very few.   So make sure you also have a good sun protection shirt, light weight, but covering your chest, arms etc.   Good hiking boots and socks.  Also bring walking sticks!  Remember this is a 10 mile hike there and back. Good trekking, hiking pants and Sunscreen, sunglasses and chap-stick with SPF.  Also you will need to bring your own water on this trek.  I suggest something like this:  Water Bottle .  If you are hiking with someone, like a friend or a spouse, you will really need three of these bottles between the two of you.  Or two bottles a piece.  You will be glad you had them, you will drink all that water on this hike.  ALSO they provide you with a lunch, (as it was) it was bread with cheese in the middle and some fruit.  I suggest you bring your own snacks, peanut butter crackers, protein meat sticks, protein bars.  (you can bring these items into Galapagos, but you cannot bring seeds, fresh fruit, or cooked items) The hike is not difficult as far as terrain is concerned.  The last 30 minutes of the hike, you are actually on Lava rocks, that part can be brutal and by this time you are hot and tired.  

If you like hiking, this is worth it.  You leave early in the morning and are home around 2:00 in the afternoon, so you have plenty of time to freshen up, enjoy the beach and a few cocktails before dinner.

We also did some snorkeling with white tip sharks and rays and tons of other fish.  This snorkel is about an hour long.  The water is COLD!  I recommend you bring your own wet-suit, fins, mask etc.  (if you bring your own a three mill will probably be sufficient) I used a lava core bottom and a shark skin, short sleeve top.  It was perfectly warm for the entire snorkel and the boat ride home with no issues.  (but you can rent your gear from the boat if you choose)

We also did a morning of Kayaking.  We had a private guide and we got to see some really cook stuff!  Rays jumping out of the water, penguins that came right up to our Kayak, sea lions, etc.  It was really fun.  Even if you have never kayaked before, you can totally do this.  We had a great time.  The waters are pretty calm.  This is about an hour long.

Ecuador was a surprising adventure!  It is modern, clean, beautiful beaches, friendly people, inexpensive.  The food was not exceptional but it was still good.  The wines are nice, and nothing is outrageously expensive.

If you are diving here dry suits are usually the norm.  The water is very cold.  But the diving is for experienced divers.  The currents can be very bad.

I highly recommend Ecuador and the Islands, for a quick getaway or even a honeymoon.  The beaches are beautiful, the ocean amazing.

Cheers!

 

 

The British Virgin Islands 2016

So here we are another adventure under our belts!

Brad and I had a Tekdive show to attend in Miami so we met our friends in Tortola on a Sunday evening.

It was a pretty easy flight for us, Seattle to Miami and Miami to Tortola.  You can land there at the tiny airport and then take a morning ferry to the docks where you boat is waiting.

Let me go back a bit.  In 2004 my husband and I had decided that living on a Catamaran sometime in our retirement years, would be something to consider.  So we went to DC the next year for the Boat Show.  There we fell in love with Catamarans.  Especially the  Lagoon Catamarans.  We have seen them, walked on them, become familiar with them and have been watching them grow and change over the past 15 years or so.    Last year we went back to the boat show to see the Lagoons again, along with 100’s of other catamarans.   This time we knew which boat we loved, its the one we first fell in love with, the 42 foot Lagoon.  What a great boat!  Plenty of room, not to big, built to order.   🙂

We then decided to go ahead and charter this particular boat from The Catamaran company.   We got a great deal!  We spoke with 5 of our friends and when they were all in, we chartered it!  7 days in the BVI’s.   We paid $1200.00 extra the week for a captain, but otherwise we decided that we were all competent adults and didn’t need a full crew.   So for the 7 of us, with a captain and food, it was $4000.00 a couple for the 7 days.  Great deal!

BVI girls

So back to where I was… The Catamaran company handles most everything for you, you decide what food you want on the boat, what booze you want on the boat, and the day you arrive they deliver it all to the boat.   Then you and your friends put it in its place.  Brad and I had a   TekDive USA show to attend in Miami so we met our friends already on the boat.

One couple flew from their home in Texas, to Miami and then to Tortola.  Our other local friends flew from Seattle to Miami and on to Tortola.  You then take a cab to the ferry dock and the ferry to where the boats are docked.

The boat is roomy, with a large kitchen, sitting area.  There were 4 full cabins and 4 full heads on this boat.   It was the perfect size for the 7 of us.  The fly bridge was large enough for the captain and for 4 or more friends to sit with the captain and gab and keep him or her company.  When Brad was captaining the boat, he loved having people hang out with him up there.   And it has a great view.

Then we sailed each afternoon, usually to a place where we tied up to a buoy, and then we could swim, snorkel, swim to the beach, etc.   Most days we snorkeled, floated on rafts, swam, etc.  Then when we were done we would sail to the island that we would anchor or tie up to for the evening.

Brad and his friend Shawn did some open circuit diving three mornings out of the 7.  The captain arranged for a SCUBA boat to meet us and take the guys and bring them back in the afternoon.  Easily arranged at the Dive shop where your boat is docked.

We had ordered enough food on the boat to be able to have three meals a day for all of us. Plus snacks, fruit, etc.  So we only ate out to dinner one evening on land.  Otherwise the boat is equipped with a stove, an oven, and a grill on the back deck.  Two freezers and two refrigerators.

We all pitched in with the cleaning, the cooking, the chopping, the grilling.   We were a great team.  The 7 of us got along great on this trip and we had a blast.

I totally recommend doing this trip with your friends.   Its easy, inexpensive and you see some of the most beautiful places.

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NOTE: The BVI’s are clean, modern and beautiful.  Remember you will need your passport as it is partially British property.  As I always recommend, take your passports wherever you travel, its just the smart move.   Also, this time of year was not too hot, it was just right.  We did have one nasty day of rain, but it was our last day sailing back.   There were minimal mosquitoes.   But take bug spray and or wipes.  Take sunscreen, take a good hat, and bring your own beach towel or towels as they do not provide that.   There is minimal marinades on the boat, if you want to marinade say your meats, bring stuff for that. Otherwise the boat is pretty well stocked with everything.   You can get long hot showers when you dock if you prefer that over using the showers on the boat.  But there is plenty of water as long as you are cautious about its use.

Its also a great way to bond with people.  You get time to talk, play cards, lay in the sun, drink, eat, etc.   I am so glad we decided to take on this adventure and so glad we got to share it with some of our very dear friends.

Cheers!!

 

Chuuck state (Truk Lagoon) The Federated states of Micronesia

Well here we are done with another adventure.  Wreck diving in Truk Lagoon, or Chuuck state as the locals call it.

We left Seattle on Delta airlines, 10 hours to Narita Japan, another 4 hours to Guam and then 1 1/2  hour flight into Chuuck.

Lets talk about the resort.  http://www.bluelagoondiveresort.com, this is a hard core divers resort.

This is not Wakatobi, https://www.wakatobi.com/resort/intro/ or the four seasons.  It does not have luxury, or fancy meals.  But, its clean, cool and comfortable.  And the ocean views from every single room/balcony, are to die for.

DSC_4837

A little about the resort.  They support both open circuit and CCR diving.  The dive shop is well equipped.  But be warned it does not have AC so setting up, gearing up, cleaning up, is HOT!

We were with Pete Mesley and his group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/258762027472938/

The resort does NOT have a pool. Which might seem like a silly thing to add, but its DAMN hot and the ocean water is very warm.  So having a cooler temperature pool would be nice.  But of course its expensive to maintain, so, no pool.

The rooms usually have two double or full beds, full balcony’s, with a table and chairs, AC units in the room, a large bathroom, linen closet, dresser for your clothes, closet to hang things up.   A small table and chairs in the room a television and phone that do not work, but for some reason are there.  🙂

The AC is a bit cranky, its either to hot or to cold in your room.   We just managed it the best we could.  There are ceiling fans in every room, but they do not work.

They provide a hair dryer, shampoo and soap.

The rooms are cleaned each day and you are given fresh towels.  The linens on the bed are changed once a week.

The resort is well maintained, the grounds are cleaned and mowed each day.

DSC_4814
Blue Lagoon Resort, Chuuck

There are hammocks that you can lay in all around the resort, for a leisurely day of reading, or napping.

The resort needs a few repairs, the tiles in the rooms are coming up, the tiles in the showers are very bad, some of them are coming out, there is some mildew in the showers, but its a hot, humid place, where supplies and repairs are limited.    All in all I was very happy with my stay.

The restaurant serves three meals a day.  The menu is pretty large and they will make you most anything.   But after a week or two you will get tired of eating fish, and what I called “meatloaf burgers”.  They also offer many Japanese choices on the menu which were quite nice.   All in all, the fish is fresh, the coffee hot and the staff very kind.

*NOTE:  You need to be respectful of the locals when you are at the resort.  Try to stay covered up while in your bathing suit.  There is no need to wear a skimpy bikini.  And when you are in the dining room you need to have shoes, and be covered up.  Its inappropriate to go shirtless, (men), or shoe less, or wear your bathing suit in the dining area.  Wearing a tank, or a dress over your bathing suit is fine.  But if you are not dressed appropriately, they will ask you to leave and or change.  Just show respect.  

There is wi-fi in the lobby.  As you can imagine it is “the coconut telegraph”.  Its very slow and if there are multiple people using it at the same time.. well, good luck.

The water is safe to drink, BUT they do give you filtered water in your rooms in Tupperware containers.  You do have a small refrigerator in your room so you can put that in there and keep it cold.   I recommend using bottled water for brushing your teeth, drinking etc.  You never really know…

There is also a small “store” near the front desk. You can buy items like gum, Tylenol, toothpaste, etc. they do have a few bottles of booze for about 60.00 a piece.

You are allowed two bottles of liquor a person into Chuuck.  I highly recommend buying those at Duty Free in the Guam airport.  That way you can have it in your room for cocktails, or after dinner.

There is an outdoor bar at the resort, and for some reason those drinks are a bit cheaper than the dining room.

There are a few mosquito’s, but surprisingly, not as many as we expected.  You might do well with some bug wipes, or bug spray.  But there is no need for malaria medicine or anything like that.   There are tons of birds around and they do a pretty good job of gobbling up those nasty bugs.

Have fun, relax, get in some great dives and you might even meet some new people and make new friends.

Cheers!  Now enjoy my slideshow!!

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Na’ia M/V and The Kingdom of Tonga 2015

Well here we are with another adventure under our belts, and man what an adventure it was!!

We took Air New Zealand out of Vancouver, straight flight, 14 hours, into Auckland.

And just a shout out about Air New Zealand.  It was one of the best airlines I have flown.  The business class section had amazing food, drink and cabin crew.   The beds lay totally flat, and they make your beds for you.   Great comfy beds, pillows, etc.   If you have a chance to fly it, do it, I highly recommend it.  Even the economy cabin looked comfortable enough to manage for a long flight.

We then took a short flight also on Air New Zealand to The Kingdom of Tonga.  Tonga is near Fiji.  It has over 170 islands.  It is the only Kingdom in the South Pacific.   We stayed in a hotel there before catching our Dive Boat Nai’a.  The boat picked us up at the hotel at 2:00 pm the next day.    Another site for Nai’a, to help you understand how this adventure works.

This boat was amazing, one of the best of the dozen or so liveaboard’s, sail, yachts, etc. that I have been on.    It had a great crew, the rooms were spacious and really nice.  The showers big enough to move around in, plenty of room for your things in the room.  The beds were pretty comfortable, nice pillows, good lighting, plugs, places to hang your clothes, shelving, drawers, etc.  Even a place for a large suitcase if you need to bring one.

AC in the rooms which works really well.

Three great meals a day, plus plenty of snacks, drinks, coffee, wine, booze (extra price) water, ice, fruit.  (but if you want salty you might have to bring your own chips or crackers, there were not any on the boat.  Mostly just sweets, carbs, etc.)

There is a huge dive deck, with room for 16 divers.   This was not necessarily a dive trip, as we were really there to see the Humpbacks,  but they did have dives every afternoon and the divers said they saw some really great stuff most days.

Humpback Whale, Kingdom of Tonga, 2015
Humpback Whale, Kingdom of Tonga, 2015

The whales come to this spot in Tonga to give birth, it’s a nice protected, quiet area and they are plentiful.  There are only two places in the world you can swim with these whales, and Tonga is one of them.  You cannot dive with them, but you can snorkel with them.  The laws are pretty strict these days, so as to protect the whales and make sure they are always comfortable an in peace.

Here is how it works:  The boat moves everyday to spots they think the whales are, and we usually spot them off the bow of the boat every day.  Then if the whales seem to like staying in that spot, we say, “let’s go swimming” and we put on our wet suits, grab our cameras and snorkel gear, and on the skiffs we go.

The skiff drivers are very skilled at spotting the whales and keeping us in a spot where we can get in the water with them.  Once we spot them, we put on our masks and grab our cameras and slide off the sides of the skiff like a seal, slippery and into the water.  We stay together as a group and slowly swim over the whales or near the whales.  No need to be fast or quick or kick madly, the whales need quiet and slow movements.  They are very large, peaceful animals.

It can be a bit scary and or daunting the first time you are close to them or they come at you.   You have to really be calm and follow the instructions of your leader.

This is one of the most magical things I have ever experienced.  It was very emotional for both my husband and I.   Its very hard to explain.

Take a camera, and or a GoPro or a water camera of some sort.   Just remember that sometimes the water will be very choppy and it will be hard to not only see the whales, but even hard to take a photo of them, even though they are very large creatures.  And the visibility is not always perfect.   Sometimes it will be hard to see anything.

*NOTE : make sure your camera, big or small, is clipped to you, strapped to you in some way.  Perhaps a float and wrist strap.  Getting in and out of the skiff and the choppy ocean can easily take that camera away, and then, bye bye, no more whale shots.

Sometimes there will be that one person in the group that tries to ruin the shots for everyone.  Trying to be the first one out of the boat, swimming ahead, kicking wildly.  It’s not necessary to be “that person”.   Take your time and remember there are plenty of you on this trip, who have all paid the same price to see the whales.  No one person is more important than the other.

And remember these are huge creatures and if they feel threatened, they will let you know.

The water is a bit chilly (around 72 degrees) and the wind on the skiffs can make you pretty cold.  I recommend 5mm wetsuits or 7mm or Lava core or Shark Skin.  (of course if you are an experienced diver you will most likely know what you need in that temperature water)   The wind can get pretty cold especially when you are wet and since you are snorkeling you are on top of the water, which, if its sunny is fine, but not everyday is sunny.

We didn’t have the best weather, the waters were very choppy and the wind was merciless.   There were days where we didn’t get in the water at all because it simply was not safe to get on and off the skiffs or from the boat to the skiffs.

If you are not an experienced snorkeler this might also be difficult at first, especially if the waters are choppy.  You have to just hang at the top and stay with the group.  Don’t try to swim it, don’t try and kick too much, the choppy waters might make you anxious but the leaders are pretty good at keeping the group together and safe.

*NOTE: I highly recommend light snorkel fins instead of your heavy wetsuit/dry suit fins.  It will def. make the experience easier. 

Getting back on the skiff can be tricky.  You have to pull yourself out of the water and launch yourself back into the skiff.  If you have bad shoulders, or are perhaps a bit overweight, or don’t have much athletic ability, this exercise could be difficult for you.

*NOTE: when you pack, whether you have been on a liveaboard of not, here are some recommendations.   Two or three bathing suits, as you will likely get in and out of the water a few times during the day.   Wet suits, 7mm, 5mm, LavaCore, Shark Skin, or something of your liking.  But the water is cold so be sure not to underestimate that.  Lounge wear, skirts, shorts, pants, sarongs, and of course, a sweatshirt or jacket of some kind, as the wind is very cold on deck.  A light rain jacket just in case.  We did have many days of rain.   You are allowed to wear shoes on this boat so flip-flops, or tennis shoes are fine if you want them.   Sunscreen, hat, kindle, and or books, music, etc.   There may be days when you are on the boat all day and never see a whale or never get into the water, so you will not want to be bored. 

 

 

 

Cusco, Lima, Pisco, Salkantay, Machu Picchu, PERU! 2014

Summiting Sulkanay with horses Peru, 2014
Summiting Salkantay with horses, Peru, 2014

Oh my what a trip this was!  We were in the jungle, the dessert, summited 15,200 on the mountain. We rode horses through the Andes mountains, rode dune buggies, went zip lining, and even white water rafting!   It was quite and adventure! Peru is a fascinating place.  Different than I expected.  I will tell you a few things about our journey, give you some advice, and let you ask as many questions as you want. Here we go…… First of all knowing a very large amount of Spanish will be very helpful on your journey to Peru.  Most people speak some English but it can be frustrating in some places, especially restaurants. Signs, drivers, hotels, airports, etc. are all in Spanish.    I suggest you brush up on your Spanish before you arrive.

Peru is very dirty.  You cannot drink the water, or even let the water touch your lips in the shower.  All water consumption must be bottled.  Some high end hotels will have filtered water and ice, but be cautious, always ask before you just start drinking from the tap or order ice in your drink.

Be sure to bring all the emergency medicine you will need on your trip.  (after bite, epipen, Cipro, Benadryl, band-aids, Neosporin, Z-pack, etc.)  There is an abundance of bees and wasps there, so make sure if you are allergic to stings you are prepared.  I was stung by a wasp and not only did it hurt like a MoFo, I was lucky that I was not allergic to the sting but some people are and you must be prepared.  There is not place for emergencies in Peru.

Be careful where you eat.  If you have a guide let the guide recommend some good restaurants, safe restaurants for tourists to eat at. Refrigeration is a problem in Peru so sometimes the meats will not be as cared for as you are used too.  We travel a lot and we are very careful about what we eat and where we eat and we were sick more times on this trip than anywhere else in the world. Do not eat the salad, or the vegetables or fruits that have not been peeled, or cooked.  They wash these things with their filthy water, and just like my advice in Egypt, you will get sick if you are not cautious about that.

You will need to have your yellow fever shot and you will need to take Malaria meds while on this trip.  There are TONS of bugs, we were bit several times.   And these bugs are nasty!  Huge welts, blood, itching, like no bugs I have ever seen.   Make sure all your vaccinations and meds are up to date before you travel here.

*ALTITUDE: This is NO joke!  When you arrive in Cusco you will begin to feel the difference as your breathing slows down and you are having trouble taking a breath.  While we did not get Altitude sickness, we did have a few nites and days where we struggled with the altitude.  We took some medication with us that was prescribed by our doctor, Acetazolamide, it really works!  Also drink the Coca tea.  It is very helpful as well.  I suggest you drink it in the morning and before retiring in the evening, or right after dinner. Your first nite in the high altitude, you should eat a light meal, and have Coca tea, and then take a sleeping pill and go right to bed. Keep yourself hydrated, plenty of water and electrolyte tablets as well.   Do not do any activities your first nite or day.  Your body needs time to acclimate to the altitude.  Relax and think carefully about your breathing.  Some people get very sick, nauseated, light headed etc. You will find even the smallest activities, eating, walking, showering to be difficult at first.  Take your meds, take things slow and eventually your body will acclimate. Be very cautious about your alcohol intake, you will find that even a small drink, or one beer will quickly go to your head in that high altitude.

*COCA TEA It is NOT Cocaine.  It comes from the Coca plant.  It would take you chewing on a thousand Coca leaves to get the Cocaine effect from them.  The tea is very helpful for the altitude.  It has a bland hay taste to it.  Most hotels and restaurants serve it as a local and regular drink.

*TOILETS There are very very few public toilets in all of Peru.  Even if there is one, you will end up paying 1 solace for the privilege of its use.  People literally just pee in the streets, or in the bushes.  The country smells very much like urine and fecies.  Even at monuments and ruin sites like Machu Picchu, there is only ONE public toilet at the beginning of the site entrance.  If you have to use the restroom while you are there, you will either have to go all the way back to the front or you will have to just pee in the bushes that are there on site.  Its all very odd.   Also carry your own TP and hand cleaner.   If you do end up finding a toilet it will not have the necessities like TP. We spent many long hours in cars, and on boats and if you have to pee you either have to pee off the side of a boat or ask them to stop so you can pee in the woods.

*HORSE BACK RIDING We used Mountain Lodges of Peru as our source for this trip.  They were a great company and the lodges were wonderful.  I will post that in the next paragraph: I know many people hike these trails, and some take bikes and some do Horses.  We decided to take the horses through the Andes mountains.  I cannot emphasize enough that horseback riding is NOT, NOT, NOT for beginners.   You must have advanced knowledge of horses and horse back riding before you do this trek.  The trails are STEEP and narrow and muddy and filled with large rocks, boulders, water, debris, etc.  The drop offs are very deep and the horses are not very well behaved. The horses do not like to listen to commands, they only like to follow the front horse or the horse in front of them.  They are not trained very well in commands.  There are NO smooth trails to ride on, you will be on super rocky passes for many hours and many days.   The horses seem to know the trails but because they are not very well behaved it can be scary for some. 

They also are not very well footed so sometimes they will walk very close to the edge without even caring since all they do is watch the horse in front.  AND if the horse in front starts to run, trust me, your horse is now running.   All things you need to be aware of. The saddles are not the kind you might be used to.  They have no “knob” on the front.  They are flat and some are very small.   If you are not steady in your core and on a saddle this might be more than difficult for you. I suggest good hiking/riding boots.  You will also need a good water bottle, I suggest a soft one, it will be banging against you leg for hours, as they suggest you hook it to the saddle, so a soft water bottle is less abrasive on your legs.  You will need a small day pack that can hold extras, like toilet paper, hand wipes, sunscreen, hats, gloves, scarves.  You can put your rain gear and heavy coat and camera gear in the saddle bags.  Their size is sufficient for those items. The company will provide you with a helmet that they strongly suggest you wear.  I also strongly suggest it.  If you were to fall off this horse, you will want your head protected. They will provide you lunch and snacks along the way, but carrying a few snacks of your own is not a bad idea.  Peanuts, cookies, crackers, fruit, are all good ideas.

*LODGES Mountain Lodges of Peru:  Each evening after long days in the saddle we stopped at these lodges for hot tubing, and dinner and sleep.  These lodges are beautiful, well maintained and clean.   I suggest highly that you use the hot tub every night after you hike or ride, it will help soften the muscles and help you relax and sleep. The lodges have big beautiful rooms with full bathrooms and large comfortable beds.   The food in Peru is always good and these lodges were no exception.  Full breakfasts, large lunches, (unless u get a paper lunch on the trek) lovely dinners, with desserts.  They have full bars, (though with the altitude you might not drink too much) In the mornings you get coffee, tea, juices, eggs, bacon, whatever you want. They always have snacks out, like crackers, cookies, fruit.  If its chilly they will have a nice fire going. Most everyone speaks English and the hospitality is really wonderful. You wont be disappointed.

Whistler, Canada

We decided to take a drive to Whistler!  It was the perfect 4 day weekend away where we didn’t have to fly and we could take our time driving the beautiful roads and scenery in our convertible.

It is about a 4-5 hour drive from our home to Whistler, depending on traffic and the Border Crossing.  We have Global Entry to the return trip was a breeze, we didn’t even have to sit in line at the border.   It literally was a 3 minute trip across the border for us and other Nexxus or Global Entry holders.  Wow!  That made it so much easier and nicer for the drive.

We stayed at the Crystal Hotel in the village,   http://www.crystal-lodge.com/hotel.   It was really nice.  We had a large room, with a couch, a small kitchenette with a microwave, coffee maker, sink and plenty of glasses for drinking wine, water, booze etc.  It had a large television, a king bed a large bathroom a safe, most of the usual stuff.  The hotel was clean and well-kept.  The beds were very comfortable.

It is 22.00 a day to park your car in the garage, but its safe there and that seems pretty standard.

Being right in the village is great because you come out of your hotel and there you are in the midst of things.   There are tons of restaurants for breakfast, lunch, dinner.   You can choose to spend little or a lot on any of those things.  There are plenty of Starbucks in the village, so you wont be short on your coffee or tea or scone.  🙂  *And to answer a question from a reader, YES there are several Starbucks in the Village.  Don’t worry you wont be without your Latte!  🙂

There are a few restaurants in the center of the village that seem to be hopping.   It’s nice because you can order a drink or food and just sit and people watch or a show that might be going on in the center.

There are lots of shops for souvenirs, jewelry, clothes, just about anything you need/want.   You can buy booze, food for your room, there is also a couple of pharmacies.   There is plenty to do at Whistler even in the summer.  You can take the peak to peak gondola ride to the top of the mountain and have lunch while looking over the peaks.  Its amazing!

You can hike, there is bike riding, and there is still plenty of skiing and boarding to be had at the top on the glacier.

It can be a bit chilly so I recommend a wrap or light sweater in the evenings.   The wind is a bit cold but for us it was fine because we live in the Pacific NW so we are used to the temps.   I brought one pair of jeans, two pairs of shorts, a couple of cover up shirts for sun coverage while on the open lifts and while walking around or hiking.   I brought GOOD hiking shoes, also a dress pair of shoes, some leggings a couple of nice blouses for dinner.  It’s a pretty casual place but there is always room to dress up in the evenings if you chose.

You can do river rafting, and bear watching and zip lining as well.  We took the 2 hour bear tour.  They pick you up in a land rover and you share that very small car with 6 other people while driving up a mountain trying to see bears in the woods or by the side of the road.   *I do not think its worth the 200.00 for this tour.   We mostly just drove around, played magical chairs in the car and in the end saw only one small bear on our way back to the room.  Honestly we could have taken our own car up around the roads to find the beard ourselves.  I don’t recommend this tour, but that certainly is up to you.

The prices are reasonable for a place like Whistler.   There are a few very expensive restaurants but we chose a more casual weekend.

Go, have fun, see the sights, walk the village and bring your camera.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

We took a week to visit this amazing Island!!  For me this was my first time, for my husband it was his third.  He was doing more CCR diving and I was snorkeling, hanging by the pool, writing, shopping and meeting some great new friends!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Cayman

We took United (which we hate flying BTW) from Sea-Tac to Dulles and Dulles to Grand Cayman.  Same route coming home.   It was long for us but for others it was only a few hours, like if you are coming from NC.. easy flight!

Grand Cayman June 2013
Grand Cayman June 2013

Grand Cayman is the largest of the Islands.  We stayed at http://www.cobaltcoast.com/  this place is incredible!  It is clean and fun and seems to attract a great crowd.  Its not cheap but nothing in the Caymans is.   But if you have the means and you have the time its def. for you.   They have a great Dive Shop, Dive Tech, http://www.sportdiver.com/worlds-best-diving-resorts/cayman-islands/2012-world%E2%80%99s-best-diving-resorts-cobalt-coast-dive-resort–  which is one of the top dive shops at one of the top Dive Resorts.

The rooms at the resort are large.  They include a living space, with a refrigerator, a table, a couch, a chair and plenty of space to use your laptop.  Plenty of plugs to plug-in your batteries, phone etc.  You have free Wi-Fi, it’s a bit slow but it works.  The Wi-Fi works best in the bar and eating area but not great in your room.   The rooms have large beds, a large bathroom and they even include, soap, shampoo, extra towels and blankets if you need them.  The rooms have AC and fans so they are very cool, which is nice esp. at certain times of year.  There is also a pool right outside the rooms.   You basically walk out your room and there you are at the outdoor dining area.   Breakfast is usually a buffet, with eggs, potatoes, fruits, breads, jams, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast, coffee, tea etc.   You can also order off the menu but its all pretty much the same.   Lunch and dinner are menu items and the selection is wonderful.  And everything, is fresh.  I loved the Mahi-Mahi Fish tacos they were a huge hit with me.   They also have fresh soups and specials each day for lunch and dinner.  You will never lack variety and you will not be disappointed.

** The plugs in the Caymans are the same as the states, no need to have an adapter.

The all-inclusive package includes three meals a day, and 5 alcoholic drinks a day.  (the alcohol program is not a rollover, so it’s a use it or lose it kind of drink deal)

The dive shop is located right there at the resort, out your room and there it is.  They support snorkeling, open-circuit, CCR and CCR tri-mix diving.  They offer courses as well as private instructors.  You can also get your Lion Fish hunting license and go out with one of the DM’s and kill the Lion Fish (Lion Fish do not belong in the Caribbean.  They have NO natural predator there and they are eating up the life)  So Lion Fish hunting is highly encouraged.  DONT worry they have recipes for them not so they can be cooked and eaten safely.

I also did Sting Ray city!!  It was so amazing.  Though some people still have a false belief about Sting Rays, they really are amazing and HARMLESS creatures.  They do not kill, they do not hunt, they do not bite, they do not point and aim their barbs at you.  They are incredible creatures.   You can either go out on a small dive boat and dive to the bottom, 10 or 12 feet and sit on the bottom so they swim around you.  Or you can snorkel above them, and they will come up to greet you, or you can take another tour where you stand in the water up to your waist and the Sting Rays just swim around you.   It really is a neat experience.  They are soft and fun and inquisitive!  You should def. do this its worth it.  I think it costs about 30.00 a person.   The dive boat will have tanks and towels and water.  But you need to pack up your own gear to take with you, including snorkels, fins, BC etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stingray_City,_Grand_Cayman

We took one day to go shopping.  We did not go to Georgetown, as if was my first time we went to Camana Bay instead.  Its pretty swanky!  It has lots of expensive shops but the courtyard was neat and they had a lot of great restaurants.  We met our new friends from Colorado and NC there after they spent the day on 7 mile beach, and we had drinks and dinner and there was even dancing!  It was great fun. http://www.camanabay.com/

All in all my experience there not only had deep meaning for me as it was, years ago the first time my now husband bought me my first piece of jewelry, it seemed like a great place to spend our anniversary.

It was hot, so you don’t need much.   A few bathing suits, cover ups, sarongs, sandals, flip-flops, some sun dresses, sunscreen, a hat or head cover esp. if you are going to snorkel for long periods.  You probably don’t need a lot of make-up as you will sweat it off, and it wont really be worth it to fix your hair as you are usually dripping in sweat!  🙂   So headbands, cute head pieces, rubber bands, scrunchies are a must!  Sunglasses don’t forget those!

I loved it and I am excited to go there again.  If you want a fun, sunny, beautifully friendly place to vacation this is the place.