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Internship blogging

23 Mar

Melissa To and Fro BloggingRyerson University‘s Master of Professional Communication requires all candidates to complete an industry internship. It’s one of the main components that persuaded me to apply for the program. I feel really lucky to have such a great internship position. Since early January, I’ve been interning with Siren Communications, public relations agency extraordinaire. Most of Siren’s clients fall into the ‘travel & tourism’ sector, which is ideal for yours truly. One of my many tasks is blogging and I thought I’d share two of my recent travel tips/advice posts:

Interested in learning the ‘highs and lows’ of Thailand’s crazy capital? Check out: Citified: Bangkok

Need travel advice about Peru’s Inca capital? Check out: Vacation Notes: Cuzco

Have any of your own tips about Bangkok or Cuzco? Leave a comment! =)

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FOMO

23 Aug

Fear of missing out.

Simple enough…

A few days ago, I saw this….

FOMO

It wasn’t the first time I heard about FOMO. When I volunteered in Peru, my housemates threw this 4-letter acronym around a lot. I disagree with the article that FOMO is about the internet. It’s so much more than that – it’s about real life debauchery and seizing the moment. Continue reading

No more 20+ hour bus rides!

13 Nov

WOW. It was one interesting and very LONG journey, but we are finally back in Lima, Peru. The 2500 Km journey up the Pacific coast was painful, but we managed. We took a 4 hour flight that had 2 stops all the way up to Arica, in Northern Chile. I’ve never been on a plane that landed and took off three times before – let alone in just 4 hours, so that was an experience.

Once we got into Arica, we took a shuttle to our hostel and slept for 8 hours, ate breakfast and caught another taxi to the international bus station. When we got out of the taxi, there were a bunch of men asking us if we wanted to go to Tacna. It’s really common to take a shared taxi with strangers across the border, so we got the best price and Stef and I squeezed into a car with 3 other people plus the driver. Not particularly comfortable, but it only took 1.5 hours to drive to Tacna and the border crossing went smoother than if we were in a bus. Continue reading

Ciao Argentina, Hello again Chile!

10 Nov

Mendoza, Argentina Vineyard

I haven’t realized how long it’s been since posting. In the last week, Stefanie and I have taken one 18 hour bus ride, drank too much red wine, took another 7 hour bus ride, crossed the border into Chile, explored Santiago, met up with some friends from Peru and booked a flight to Northern Chile. I’ll start from the beginning… Continue reading

Inca Trail, Peru

27 Sep

Stefanie and I at Machu Picchu

I have never done anything so difficult and physically tiring in my life! Three months after first booking, Stefanie and I finally started the trek to Machu Picchu along the infamous Inca Trail.

We left early Thursday morning with a group of 16 hikers, 2 guides, 1 chef and 18 porters. Quite the team! We booked with the company Llama Path, a sustainable tourism operator. We researched quite a bit beforehand and decided that they seemed like the best fit. It was a little pricey, but overall I am very satisfied with the tour. The guides were knowledgeable and entertaining and the porters had adequate equipment and proper hiking shoes, which is more than I can say about the other porters on the trail. I saw some porters who had only broken sandals to hike in and plastic rice bags to carry supplies.

Stefanie and I were too late to book an extra porter to carry our clothes, sleeping bags and mats, so we had no other choice but to carry it ourselves. I was not thrilled. The guides gave us walking sticks and helped us attach the 3kg of sleeping gear to our day packs…. not an easy feat. We took a group photo at the first checkpoint and set off on the trail. Continue reading

Lake Titicaca, Peru

21 Sep

Reed Boat on Uros Island

Now that I have some free time, here is a glimpse into our weekend trip to Lake Titicaca

After the whole ordeal last Friday, it was nice to get away for a bit. A bunch of the girls from our volunteer house booked a weekend trip to the world’s highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, which divides Bolivia and Peru.

At 9:30pm, 8 of us boarded a night bus to Puno, Peru, the starting point of our adventure. We arrived in Puno at 4am and took a taxi to our hotel for a quick nap and hot shower. After breakfast, our guide picked us up and drove us to the dock where we met our captain and island guide. Our first stop was the Uros islands. Continue reading

Do not go ATVing in a foreign country

20 Sep

This past weekend has been a whirlwind of emotions. Friday, five of us from the volunteer house decided to go ATVing in the mountains of Cusco, Peru. I have never been on an ATV and I was a little apprehensive, but decided to go anyways. Probably from FOMO, a new term I learned from my fellow housemates…. FEAR OF MISSING OUT.

When we arrived at the ATV location, we were each given an ATV and shown how to maneuver the beasts. After 10 minutes of practice, the guides gave us these documents to sign detailing that if anything happened to the ATV, we were responsible for the damages… hmm. It took me 10 minutes to decide whether to sign. It sounded a little strange – so I bombarded the guides with questions and after everyone had already signed and were waiting on me, I signed (my savings account) away and we hit the trail. Continue reading

Caminar Falso in Pisaq, Peru

17 Sep
Pisaq, Peru Terraces Ruins

Pisaq Terraces

Sorry for not updating, I have been so busy volunteering in Cusco. Last Sunday, I went to a little town outside of Cusco, called Pisaq. I went with Stefanie and two girls from our volunteer house. We weren’t really sure of our game plan once we got there. An ex-housemate of ours had said there was a nice hike where you could see some old ruins without having to pay to get inside the official area. There is also a large handicraft market in Pisaq that we wanted to check out at the end.

Once we arrived into Pisaq, we trotted along ‘taxi alley’ to see how much it would cost to take us to the start of the hike. The unanimous answer: 5 soles each ($2) plus another 40 soles just to get into the ruins. There was no such thing as this ‘free hike’ besides walking along the side of the road and catching a glimpse of the Inca terraces, which were used for agriculture. Basically, we’d miss all the fun stuff if we didn’t enter the official ruins.

We kindly said ‘no thank you’ to the taxi driver and walked away trying to think of a new plan. About 2 minutes later, the driver pulled up near us and claimed it was possible he could get us pass the control point without paying. Now, before you all freak out, it was much less dangerous than it seems. Essentially, the taxi driver took us up the road and asked if one of the local children could show us the way. Unfortunately, none of them did but they did point us in the right direction – a man named Ciro. Continue reading

Photo Update – Cusco!

10 Sep

Our seat, table, bed for 21 hours from Lima to Cusco, Peru

My first time trying coca tea. They have bagged varieties as well as loose leaves.

Our first glimpse of Cusco, Peru. It was pretty dusty.

Continue reading

Cusco at 3400 metres!

7 Sep

We arrived in Cuzco early Saturday morning after a grueling 21 hour bus ride from Lima. The ‘puke bus’ was true to its name and a few people were quite sick throughout the journey. Thankfully with the help of two doses of anti-nausea and a lot of water, Stefanie and I managed to avoid vomiting – although there were a few close calls. To pass the time, I watched 4 movies, played Bingo and slept and then FINALLY we reached our destination.

Our first day in Cuzco was spent napping, reading, and drinking coca tea. Coca tea is nature’s remedy for altitude sickness, headaches, temperature sensitivity (it’s cold here!) and pretty much anything else. Coca tea is brewed from the same plant they make cocaine from – so, apparently if we need to take a drug test anytime soon… we’ll fail! You don’t experience any sort of ‘high’ though. We’re also drinking plenty of water.

By nightfall, I was feeling much better and had a great night’s rest. Stef, on the other hand, was vomiting all night. Poor girl. It took her an extra day to adjust, but she is feeling much better now. I feel pretty weak and tired, but the fresh air is quite nice. Walking around Cuzco will take your breath away – literally! Continue reading

Landing in Lima, Peru

3 Sep

ruins near Miraflores (Lima), Peru

I made it safe and sound. Stefanie and I arrived in Lima’s airport at around 10pm. It was late so we decided to order a taxi from our hostel to pick us up. They had a sign with my name on it and everything. I felt special! So, we met up with our driver and hit the streets of Lima. It was pretty flashy – there was even a fire dancer in the middle of the street. I was actually surprised about how cosmopolitan it felt.

I am staying in Miraflores, which is a safer, more upscale neighbourhood of Lima. It’s near the beach and has a cute park in the middle where vendors sell popcorn and children play. I really enjoy the area. It’s very friendly and familial- although someone did ask me if I wanted ‘blow’ which I politely declined and continued on my merry way with a little more speed than usual.

Stefanie standing next to the life-size replicas at the ruins

I didn’t have any major plans for our stay here. The reception recommended some ruins within walking distance – so I decided to checked it out. The site was very interesting and I definitely recommend it. Basically, an ancient civilization (before the Incas and Mayans) built temples where they would perform rituals and human sacrifices and worship the moon and ocean. Every 20 years, they would cover the temples and build a new one over it. The temples are solid throughout – no rooms or passage ways. They are very common in Lima, but this particular Waccah (I think that’s the correct spelling) began being excavated in the 1980s. Before that, it was simply a hill in the middle of the city. These people were very small compared to modern day humans. They were so tiny, I felt like a giant standing next to the life-size replica.

On the way back, I walked by a house with makeshift barbed wire (i.e. cement layer on top of a concrete fence with shards of glass bottles sticking out from it) If that won’t deter a robber, I don’t know what will!

Today, I tried tampales for lunch. We bought them at the grocery store because Stefanie said she had tried one back in Costa Rica. They are made of meat, corn and other ingredients and then wrapped in banana leaves. You are suppose to boil them, but our reception recommended we just microwave them – so we did and they were terrible. Never again! The chicken was actually decent, but the orange mush was NOT. I threw the rest in the garbage and ate a chocolate bar to last me until dinner, but that was also a disaster so we decided to just give up and eat out. We went to this diner-style sandwich shop with fresh fruit smoothies. YUM! It was a wise choice.

Lima ruins (old meets new)

Now, I’m  just taking it easy at the hostel. I think I’m going to try some Pisco Sours tonight – Peru’s signature drink. Tomorrow, I am leaving for Cusco – a 21 hour bus ride through the Andes and up, up, up! I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

13 days before South America

19 Aug

I am one day past the two week mark. I am becoming more excited, but nervousness keeps creeping in. It’s not like I am completely new to this whole travel thing (as I’m sure you can tell), but every destination is different – every situation is novel. So, I guess I’ll have to embrace this feeling with an open heart and get a move on things.

I am trying to upload my Europe photos to Flickr, but for some reason, it doesn’t want to play nice and keeps shutting down my iPhoto. If there is anyone who can help out, it would be MUCH appreciated!

Stefanie has been in Toronto all week and we’ve been going over possible itineraries for our backpacking stint in South America. It took some blood, sweat and tears – well, maybe not tears but DEFINITELY sweat (from no A/C) and blood (due to a bike accident) to get a super duper awesome destination list going. I’m sure you’re all excited to read it! This isn’t in order, but is listed by country to make things a little bit easier. I linked some fun photos as well.

PERU
Lima / Miraflores,
Cuzco & Sacred Valley
Arequipa
Puno & Lake Titicaca
La Huacachina
BOLIVIA
La Paz
Rurrenabaque (Amazon Basin)
Sucre
Potosi (Highest city in the world)
Uyuni (salt flats)
CHILE
San Pedro de Atacama (driest desert in the world)
Santiago
Arica
ARGENTINA
Salta
Puerto Iguazu
Buenos Aires
Bariloche

I’m also thinking about traveling through Patagonia in Argentina to see some marine life, but I’m not entirely sure where to go between Buenos Aires and Santiago. I have about two weeks to get from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Lima, Peru, so there is room to take some interesting side trips and wander. I’ll be updating a few more times before leaving – so stay tuned!!!

The Countdown Begins

5 Aug

I’ve let this blog sit for a while now, but it’s time to rev her back up again. In just 3 1/2 weeks, Stefanie and I are jet setting (once again!) to a faraway destination. As you may have read from my previous blogs, we will be taking 20 hour bus rides, spying on alpacas, canoeing the Amazon River, sipping wine in Chile, eating steaks in Argentina and hiking pristine landscapes in South America all in 10 1/2 weeks. At least, that’s the plan and there is definitely more to it than that – which is the very challenge I’m dealing with as of late.

You think after a few gos, one would coast through planning their next backpacking trip. Well, not for me. I find it so much more difficult! Maybe it’s the type of trip I’m dealing with or maybe it’s the length of time I have – either way, planning my South America adventure has been more stressful than fun. The continent is massive. Look on a map. Now, take the distance from Windsor to Toronto (3 1/2 hours?) and compare that very distance between two cities in Peru. The only difference is that in Peru, it will take you 3X as long to drive. The roads are awful and there are lakes, mountains, desert and everything in between. The distances are so vast. From what I have figured out so far, I’ll be taking a few flights. I don’t know how many 23hr bus rides I can handle, especially if they are anything like the ones in Costa Rica!

When planning, I like to hash out ideas with people – get a second opinion, you know? With Stefanie on a road trip to the east coast of Canada, it’s hard to ask for her input. Thankfully, Stefanie is visiting Toronto for a week after her road trip. I hope we can get some things organized – at least a general route and a rough itinerary. The rest I can figure out on the road/in the plane.

I’ll update on how the planning goes. This week, my main concern is paying our volunteering fees (room and board, administration, etc.). I’ve decided to stay with a family one week and the volunteer house another. I’m super excited to try this out, but insanely nervous. I have ZERO experience teaching English, unless you count helping my little brother read. I need to think of some fun activities. Stefanie and I both agreed that we want to teach little kids! Mostly because we feel they won’t judge us. HA! Any suggestions of fun children’s games will be much appreciated!

The South American countdown begins folks. 27 days!!!

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