2007 SOUTH AMERICA ODYSSEY

Globus

Day -16, Tuesday, September 4 Visa problem
I picked up my Globus trip documentation today, and only now find that I need a Brazilian Visa. Fortunately there is a Brazilian Consulate in Houston, but the Visa will cost $100 and take 5-7 working days (more expensive and much slower than the Chinese Consulate). I take the application over tomorrow (its already too late for today) and hope that it comes back before time to leave on the trip. Globus strikes again, and the trip hasn't even started.

Day -15, Wednesday, September 5 Oops
More things Globus didn't tell us - when I turned in my application for the Brazilian Visa, the very nice gentleman there told me that I should definitely have a Yellow Fever vaccination before going to Manaus/Amazon Jungle. There's a definite Yellow Fever possibility there (and malaria). Since I need one (YF shot) for the Kenya / Tanzania trip I might as well do that now. I'll call the doctor's office tomorrow.

Day -14, Thursday, September 6 Expensive
By the time I get through with the Travel Medicine doctor, 4 shots and 3 prescriptions later (and some OTC items), it's $$$ time. This (and the Africa) trip are getting expensive, but I'll also be set for the Turkey / Egypt combination, and also the Morocco part of that (Spain/Portugal/Morocco in 2009) trip. So what else can come up. Glo-butt. Bah! Humbug!

Day -6, Friday, Septembe 14 Whew! x 3
Wednesday, we 'dodged the bullet' when hurricane Humberto decided not to visit Houston and went ashore far enough east that we didn't even get any rain or wind. Yesterday tropical storm 8 became hurricane Irene, but it's poorly defined and should stay out in the Atlantic, or at least, well away from Miami for the next week. Then today the Brazilian Consulate actually had my passport with visa ready. Now, I think I'm set.

Day -2, Tuesday, September 18 Oh-Oh
There's a new low pressure area developing east of the Florida peninsula - may make for very bad weather for me on Thursday.

Day 1, Thursday, September 20 Board my flight to South America
It will be something like the Antarctic trip. Fly to Miami, sit around for a long while, then a long trip to Manaus. LUGGAGE LIMIT: 44 pounds on the local flights in South America. I've hit this before: the airlines in Russia. 1 time zone to Miami, no additional to Manaus. Flights/schedule change after Glo-butt backed out of a promise made but it's much better with a direct flight to Miami instead of going through Atlanta and a plane change. See end of trip notes.

With a 10:40 departure, I schedule the shuttle for pickup 7:05-7:20 AM to allow for morning rush-hour traffic. I have to be sure to start my Malarone tablets today.

1 American AA2234Houston-Miami10:40A - 2:05P2:255:45

Wow, it's off on time giving me a false sense of what is to come. On American Airlines flights, if you want something to eat, you have to pay extra - candy bars are $3, etc. No meals provided. Only (small) drinks are available free. It's a bumpy descent into Miami - but only very mild compared to what is to come on the return to Houston but I'll make you wait to find out about that. Since the next flight is on a different (Globus) ticket, even though the first flight arrives at gate A7 and the second departs at A5, I have to go through all the hassle of collecting luggage, hauling it to a check in counter, getting a boarding pass, going through security, then back to where I was 2 hours before.

2TAM JJ8077Miami-Manaus (late)7:50P - 12:55A5:0513:15

Day 2, Friday, September 21 Arrival in Manaus, Brazil
Midnight madness flight #1. Although it's a shorter trip than when I flew down to Santiago finally arrive in Manaus at 12:55AM (MIDNIGHT) and go through all the entry formalities. We (don't) have to get photographed and fingerprinted on arrival in Brazil (Glo-butt is wrong again). Don't they trust us Yankee Devils? (Maybe, but not Globus.) Here, they do screen luggage on arrival - that distrust factor. It takes over an hour since they only have one x-ray machine. Do we have a hotel room? After other discrepancies with Globus, I won't bet on it. We finally get to the hotel at 2:15, and to the room by about 2:35AM. It's been a long "day." At least the dinner on the flight was quite good.

(This part is an optional pre-tour package. The regular tour starts in Rio.) Welcome to South America's largest and most populous country. Rooms are ready for immediate check in at 2:15AM! After some time to rest (none?), meet up with the 11 members on this part of the tour (Tour director "Zeca" Cordeiro; "local" guide: Prakash) for guided city sightseeing of Manaus to view the vestiges of its glory days during the rubber boom. Our first stop is the famous OPERA HOUSE (nice), built in 1896 with materials imported from Europe. Next, visit a bustling LOCAL MARKET (ho-hum) abundant with local foods and wares. Finally, late in the evening, visit the MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCES (owned and operated by Japanese company). We have to rush through - it's actually after their normal closing time. Hotel: Tropical Manaus Resort & Convention Center - 2 nights (nice, and they have a small zoo on the grounds with a beautiful jaguar) (B,D)

Day 3, Saturday, September 22 Manaus - Amazon Jungle
Off early to board our boat to cruise up the Rio Negro (tributary) arrive at the Ecopark Jungle Lodge situated on the banks of the Rio Negro inside the Amazonian rain forest - nature and game preserve which will be our (somewhat primitive) home for the next two nights. Accompanied by a naturalist later this morning, enjoy (??) a guided JUNGLE WALK (2 1/2 hours of 95 degrees and 99.999999999% relative humidity) giving us a "demanding" introduction to the flora and fauna that thrives in the Amazon. After lunch (I settled for 3 bottles of water to try to recover), depart the lodge in a motorized canoe to visit a Caboclo's NATIVE AMAZON VILLAGE to learn about their traditions, costumes, and culture.

Later this afternoon it's time to recover. This evening we venture back out on canoes with our naturalist into the flooded forest to appreciate the sounds of the jungle at night, with the possibility to spot small alligators (and mosquitoes and other nightly creatures - but NO mosquitoes any time on this visit!!!). Good dinner this evening.

Hotel: Jungle Lodge - 2 nights (The Lodge uses "EcoNotes" for currency - buy them at the main desk and use for all purchases.) Very basic facilities - electricity by local generator which is turned on only part of the time. No electronics (one phone in the office) - termites have eaten/destroyed the wooden shelves in the bathroom, etc. (B,L,D)

Day 4, Sunday, September 23 Amazon Jungle
Today, our "Meeting of the Waters" tour passes by the impressive British-built Custom House and the floating port. CRUISE along the chocolate-colored Rio Negro to its confluence with the yellow-gray Rio Solimoes, where the two rivers form the mighty Amazon. For four miles the differently colored bodies of water flow side by side and never mix! After lunch (good) on a floating restaurant on the river, explore a JUNGLE ISLAND (if the water level is not too low) with native flora and fauna. (B,L,D)

Day 5, Monday, September 24 Amazon Jungle - Rio de Janeiro
This morning we try our hand at Pirahna fishing (wasted 2 hours)! Then visit the MONKEY JUNGLE RESERVE where researchers work to rehabilitate captive primates and reintroduce them to the jungle. Here, we will have the opportunity to see a feeding of spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, woolly monkeys, and Capuchin monkeys.

Depart the Ecopark and get lunch at the airport. Zeca got our boarding passes through a Manaus contact yesterday. Fortunate! The toy computers TAM Airlines use are down and anyone who doesn't already have a boarding pass is in trouble - they are having to write them by hand and hope that there are no conflicts (3 or 4 people with the same seat assignment?) Midnight Madness #2.

3TAM JJ3745Manaus - Brasillia (late)4:20P - 8:113:512:06

More toy computer problems. The "Trash 80" on the plane is confused about the temperature in one of the luggage bays. The 30-minute stop over in Brasillia turns into over 2 hours. Some Brazilian 'pop musicians' aboard pull out their instruments and lead us in a musical commentary on TAM Airlines.

4TAM JJ3827Brasillia - Rio (late)10:17 - 11:581:417:38

Thus the supposedly mid-afternoon flight brings us after midnight (hotel at 1:30, bed a bit after 2) to fabulous, sweltering, rainy Rio, the playground of South America, to join up with our Brazil vacation. One more time zone on the first flight; now two hours later than home. Hotel: $$$heraton Rio Hotel & Tower$$ (5 night$, $$Horror$$) (B)

Day 6, Tuesday, September 25 Rio de Janeiro
Overcast, gloomy, windy, windows rattling. Not a day for the beaches. Excellent breakfast (I miss those later). Today is a free (= totally wasted) day in Rio to do laundry (the Sheraton can't afford stoppers for the sinks, so doing laundry is a bit difficult).

The main beaches: Copacabana, Ipanema, and even Le Bron are at least two miles from the hotel. We're out a long way from them. So it's a wasted day otherwise. Bah, humbug and other words. This evening, meet our fellow traveling companions (now up to 27 of us) for a WELCOME DINNER (only fair). Drive along famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches to the base of 1,300-foot SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN. Ascend by cable car to its summit, from where we savor (invisible in the dark) spectacular vistas of the city while toasting our upcoming vacation with caipirinhas, a favorite Brazilian cocktail. Then, enjoy an only fair dinner at a popular local restaurant. Due to the late (traffic delays and the bus was in a wreck before it got to the hotel causing an over one hour delay) arrival at the mountain, we have to make another try for it later. Finally back to the hotel about 10:30 (B,D)

Day 7, Wednesday, September 26 Rio de Janeiro
Even gloomier weather and the surf is still high. With a different bus and driver, today is dedicated to touring the sights of Rio. Begin with a visit to the statue of Christ the Redeemer crowning CORCOVADO MOUNTAIN, a rounded peak rising 2,300 feet into the fog and clouds from the bay below. Take the not-scenic-due-to-clouds cog railway ride to its top, where a 360-degree panorama affords occasional views through the clouds. From here proceed to bustling downtown Rio traffic. View the Sambodromo and visit the CATHEDRAL. This evening it's off to a Churrascaria for a feast (feast??, of a few small tidbits) of barbecued meats marinated and roasted over charcoal in true Brazilian style. I'm still hungry. Then, experience a SAMBA SHOW (SUPER!), where the sheer vitality of this country explodes in a colorful extravaganza. Finally back to the hotel a little after midnight. The show was the only good part of the day. (B,D)

Day 8, Thursday, September 27 Rio de Janeiro
We finally get something interesting: enjoy an optional trip to historic Petropolis, once the site of the former summer palace of emperor Dom Pedro II and now a mountain resort. . Take the scenic drive over mountains and through valleys to the picturesque mountain village of Petropolis. On this half-day excursion, we see the summer Palace and the Old Cathedral, as well as charming village squares and elegant mansions. They have a replica of Santos' early airplane on display near the center of the city. Very nice tour. The scenery on the way is the best yet. Later back to Rio and get a second chance of going up the mountain. Much better views this time. Even some sunset pix that may turn out. (B)

Day 9, Friday, September 28 Rio de Janeiro
We can enjoy a Guanabara Bay cruise, offering spectacular views of Rio and its beaches. It turns out to be a fairly nice cruise - just enough waves to make it interesting. Sunny, but lots of haze. We are stopped and boarded by the Maritime Police who want to check the papers of the crew and other items. Otherwise, it's another un-necessary wasted day in Rio. All this could be done in 4 days/3 nights, not 6 days/5 nights. Grumble, grumble, growl and gritch! This afternoon why not participate in the optional jeep tour to visit the Botanical Gardens, with its splendid orchid exhibit, and Tijuca National Park to view native flora and fauna. No thanks - and I'm glad I didn't go. Those who did got caught in a significant rain storm and came back to the hotel totally drenched. Evening at leisure. Probably a good day to do more laundry - 1/3 of the trip is done. (B)

Day 10, Saturday, September 29 Rio de Janeiro - Iguassu Falls
Another gloomy start after a very rainy night with lots of thunder and lightning. Forecast is for more to come. I miss the good breakfasts at this hotel. While waiting to board our bus for the airport, there's a huge crash as a large window (about 8x10' of thick glass) next to the door into the breakfast restaurant either falls out or is knocked out by something. Glass is everywhere. Not quite bad or loud enough to panic us, but quite a bit of 'excitement.' At least something to wake us up this morning.

Even as we arrive at the airport, the flight is marked as 30 minutes delay, and it gets worse. D***-TAM strikes again.

5TAM JJ3153Rio - Iguassu Falls (late, as expected)11:55 A - 2:00 P2:05

A flight from Rio, with an inedible snack in flight, takes us to IGUASSU FALLS. Experience the clouds of spray, the incessant roar, and the surrounding luxuriant tropical growth that make this an unforgettable natural wonder. Spend the afternoon enjoying the magnificent panorama of waterfalls from the Brazilian side. Our local guide (Nuxa - very nice) introduces the spectacle of this two mile-wide torrential downpour, with some cataracts as high as 250 feet, which is nothing short of hypnotic. Lots of Coatis around begging for food. This is definitely the better side to view the falls, though the view from the other side is closer (and wetter). Toucans in the trees. Decent dinner included. Nothing to see or do around the hotel. Hotel: Bourbon Cataratas (B,D)

Day 11, Sunday, September 30 Iguassu Falls - Buenos Aires, Argentina
6 AM - light breakfast (not much choice). Off at 9. Stop for shopping then cross the border. It's a long walk to the falls viewing area, then a train (long wait for it), then more walking. By the time we get to the actual falls area, we only have about 10-15 minutes. Enjoy a closer perspective (get wet from being right in the spray) of this natural phenomenon this morning with a walking tour of the Argentine side of the falls. We're here a bit over 2 hours for only 10-15 minutes of viewing. Walk/train/walk back to the bus. Then on to Iguassu International Airport for our flight to Buenos Aires.

6Lan Argentina LA4033Iguassu Falls - Buenos Aires3:50 - 5:40 P1:50

It's not TAM, so it's on time but they wrecked my luggage: one handle torn off and the other is loose. Zipper pulls loose or missing. One wheel rattles. I have to buy new luggage when I get home. LAN's response: it's not our responsibility for such damage.

After arriving at our central hotel, no promised orientation walk to acquaint us with the "Paris of South America" and its wide boulevards and outdoor cafes. The orientation is my walk to find a working ATM (while avoiding many pan-handlers). Finally find one that works. Evening at leisure. At least the weather is good. Hotel: $heraton Buenos Aire$ - 4 nights (B)

Day 12, Monday, October 1 Buenos Aires
Huge medical convention in the hotel. Thunder, lightning, heavy rain overnight.

(Repeat) Our (cold, wet, light rain) included sightseeing this morning starts in La Boca, a colorful district and site of the city's first port. Take a short walking tour of this unique neighborhood at the mouth of the river and then on to San Telmo - famous for its late colonial buildings and a popular gathering spot for artists. At the Plaza de Mayo, see La Casa Rosada (the President's Pink House) and the METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL, housing San Martin's Mausoleum. Drive past the ornate Colon opera House before reaching THE CEMETERY OF THE RECOLETA (City of the Dead - except for dozens of well-fed stray cats), the burial site of Eva Peron. Savor the atmosphere of this cosmopolitan capital on the included evening excursion: dinner featuring Argentine steaks and other specialties topped off by a flawless performance of Latin America's most sensuous dance-the tango (Hooray! They recently enacted a No-Smoking law and I can actually get to see the show. Nice, but not great, dinner.) (B,D)

Day 13, Tuesday, October 2 Buenos Aires - Uruguay - Buenos Aires
Today, visit another South American country-Uruguay. Travel by CATAMARAN to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Colonia de Sacramento. Nothing to see as we cross the wide river which takes about an hour. Founded by Portuguese settlers from Brazil in 1680, this small town held a strategic position as a smuggling outpost for transporting British goods across the Rio de la Plata into the Spanish colonies throughout the 17th century. Today its charm lies in its narrow streets and colonial buildings. Enjoy a guided tour and excellent lunch before returning to Buenos Aires in the afternoon. Our guide (Alejandra) tells us that since there are no movies, amusement areas, etc. and limited TV, the main entertainment for the residents is sitting on the porch in the evening gossiping about the other neighbors. It's a small town so 'everybody knows everybody.' (B,L)

Day 14, Wednesday, October 3 Buenos Aires
Nice morning for a change. Clear, cool, etc. Off at 10 for a 75km drive NW of Buenos Aires to estancia Santa Susannita. Enjoy an optional excursion to the Pampas: Fiesta Gaucha. Experience the atmosphere of Argentine country life as we visit an estancia (ranch). Get acquainted with the lifestyle of the gauchos and enjoy a barbecue lunch and the warm hospitality of our hosts before returning to the city. This turns out to be a big/huge commercial operation. Because of this, it's more a circus than a visit to an Estancia like I enjoyed in southern Chile on the Antarctic trip. Too bad there weren't other options for the day than sitting around in the hotel. Time left today to explore the downtown shopping gallerias where the locals hope we will spend all our money. The weather is back to gloomy as we get back to the hotel. Such a "commercialized" presentation, too bad I couldn't have skipped it, but it's an all-day excursion. Alternative would have been to just sit around the hotel.(B,L)

Day 15, Thursday, October 4 Buenos Aires - Bariloche
Beautiful morning. Off at 9 to the airport, but the flight is, as expected, late. The plane isn't even here by the time we are supposed to leave. Finally ...

7Lan Argentina LA4346Buenos Aires - Bariloche (late)11:25 - 1:53P2:28

Today fly south to Bariloche in Patagonia on the shores of fjord-like Lago Nahuel Huapi in the heart of Argentina's Lake District. We get a false sense of the area as we arrive at the airport. It looks more like western Wyoming - rolling scrub desert with mountains nearby. But by the time we get into town, it's undergone a major change. Now it's cold, wet, drizzle, and lots of trees, etc. Arrive in the early evening, with time to enjoy a leisurely stroll (if you don't mind the weather) through the picturesque town center. See the city hall and the clock tower in Municipality Square, and the famous chocolate factories - special for Choco-holics. Hotel: Panamericano Bariloche - 2 nights (B,D)

Hotel: another large convention, this time it's representatives of many world natural heritage sites, national parks, wildlife areas, etc. The hotel is jammed, and noisy. As for the room a) street noise; b) loud rattling door and window (wind storm); c) no light switch to turn on the light in the bathroom (even the bell-boy doesn't know how); d) have to manually re-set the ball-cock in the toilet each time it's flushed; e) industrial strength sand/toilet-paper definitely not the best room on the trip. Maybe a bit better than the jungle, or maybe it's a tie. At least it's not hot and miserable - just cold, wet, windy, etc.

Day 16, Friday, October 5 Bariloche
This alpine resort boasts some of the most glorious scenery in the country (so says the propaganda). Cameras ready for today's chairlift ride to a lookout point at extremely windy CERRO CAMPANARIO but the best part was "meeting" a super friendly orange tabby-cat. Pet him, and he adopts me for the visit. Too bad I couldn't take him home with me. We want to capture the vistas of surrounding lakes and Andes Mountains peaks. The tour continues with a leisurely drive around the Llao Llao Peninsula, see Santa Eduardo Chapel, Lago Moreno, & Lopez Bay. The occasional rain turns to snow as we get back to town. Snow fall overnight but it doesn't stick - not quite cold enough. (B,L)

(Dodge the bullet #1: weather report from Buenos Aires - heavy storms forced closure of the airport today for over 4 hours. Worst storm in over 10 years. We 'got out of Dodge' just in time.)

Day 17, Saturday, October 6 Bariloche - Puerto Varas, Chile
One hour time change - back to one hour later than at home. Set out today for our memorable ANDES LAKE CROSSING! There will be 8 parts: 5 by "bus", 3 by boat.

Link 1: Take a bus to the boat landing.
Link 2: Board a boat for the CRUISING across Lago Nahuel Huapi to Puerto Blest, the first leg of our journey. Time for a lunch break (rescheduled).
Link 3: Then proceed by coach (wouldn't make it even as a broken down school bus) on a twisting, muddy, rutted "road" through pristine wilderness adorned by emerald lakes, thick pine forests, and snowcapped peaks of the Andes Mountains.
Link 4: Another small lake.
Link 5: more of that "bus ride," stop for Chilean border. They have had lots of snow in this area in the last few days.
Link 6: short bus ride (2 minutes).
Link 7: Look out for soaring Osorno Volcano as we cross the very small Lago Todos los Santos by CATAMARAN. Light snow fall.
Link 8: final bus ride (nice bus) on to Puerto Varas. Take pictures of the thundering PETROHUE RAPIDS and skirt the southern shore of Lago Llanquihue on the way to Puerto Varas.

SUPER view of the Osorno Volcano. Drive to our hotel along the rosebush-lined streets of this lakeside resort. Very nice hotel in a great setting - but nothing nearby to walk to. We're running late - dinner isn't until 8:45. At least we have (my favorite) local guide, Marcela, with a great personality and very knowledgeable. I wish she were going to be with us for more than just the one day. This has been one of the best days of the trip. Hotel: Cabanas Del Lago (B,L,D)

Weather note: southern South America has been having the longest, coldest winter in 40 years this year. Buenos Aires, Bariloche, Puerto Varas, etc. seeing major effects.

$100 entry fee into Chile - make sure that the receipt from the 2004 trip is in the passport so I don't have to pay it again. As it turn's out, they don't even check for it, or ask for the $100. Have the rules changed????

Day 18, Sunday, October 7 Puerto Varas - Puerto Montt - Santiago
Our morning tour of the nearby seaport of Puerto Montt (repeat) in Chilean Patagonia takes us to the harbor brimming with fishing vessels and along a busy waterfront lined with seafood stalls. Transfer to the airport for our (on time!) flight north to Santiago.

8Lan Chile LA280Puerto Montt - Santiago1:50 - 3:25 P1:35

Note on the back of the airplane seats: "LIVE vest stored under your seat" Don't let it bite you!

Perched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes, Santiago has evolved as the country's political, commercial, and cultural capital. Tonight dinner at the hotel. As we arrive, we see a huge crowd of teens with cameras gathered in a roped off space just outside the hotel. It turns out that the rock band INCUBUS is here for shows and there is this big mob of their fans waiting for a chance to see them. They are still there as we finish dinner - and we've heard several major cheers going up as one or another of the band members is seen through the hotel windows. (Yes, they have a convention here too.) Hotel: $heraton $an Cri$tobal Hotel & Tower$ - 3 nights This is the "poorest" of the three Sheratons on the trip. It needs upgrading. (B,D)

Day 19, Monday, October 8 Santiago
(Repeat) Step back into the 16th century as our local Guide traces the city's history and heritage. Start at La Moneda, the official Government Palace, and nearby SAN CRISTOBAL HILL with its landmark statue of the Virgin Mary. Our tour ends at the Plaza de Armas, the main square, with a visit to the 18th-century CATHEDRAL. The afternoon and evening are at leisure. This afternoon excursion to the Undurraga Winery has to be re-scheduled. There's some kind of time conflict there. When we get back to the hotel, our room key-cards don't work. Someone in Registration fouled up and put in the wrong departure day. This evening, we may join a Chilean Folkloric Dinner Show. Nice show and dinner. (B)

Day 20, Tuesday, October 9 Santiago
The day is free for independent activities. We can take advantage of an optional excursion to the beautiful coastal region west of Santiago. (no thanks - been there, done that.) Drive through the undulating hills of Chile's wine country to the historic port of Valparaiso, and continue along the coast to nearby Vina del Mar. This seaside resort with palm tree-lined avenues and lovely villas truly deserves the sobriquet "Pearl of the Pacific." Tonight our Tour Director hosts a typical (poor) FAREWELL DINNER, a finale to a great touring adventure (for those not going on to Peru). (B,D)

Day 21, Wednesday, October 10 Santiago - Lima, Peru
This morning offers a rescheduled optional excursion to the Undurraga Winery, one of the oldest in Chile (no thanks - been there, done that), where we learn how some of South America's wines are produced.

(This next part is an optional post-tour segment. The regular tour ended last night. 20 of the 27 go on to Machu Picchu.) Enjoy a long wasted day at leisure in Santiago before flying to Lima for an overnight. If nothing is planned for today, why not fly on to Cuzco? Another wasted day. Not many days yet, but I need to do some laundry.

9Lan Chile LA530Santiago - Lima8:00P - 11:05 P4:05

Another Midnight Madness flight! One hour time change. Now on Houston time, at least for a while. By the time we eventually get our luggage and to the hotel, it's well after midnight. This hotel is "money mad." The room is loaded with mini-bar, toiletries, and a huge selection of souvenirs, all with price tags attached. I'm surprised they don't have a metered toilet paper dispenser. Hotel: Los Delfines (Dolphins) (B)

Day 22, Thursday, October 11 Lima - Cuzco - Sacred Valley
Early departure for the airport at 7:15. We were in the hotel for only 6:30. At least the breakfast was decent.

10Lan Peru LP71Lima - Cuzco10:00 - 11:15 A1:15

On time flight for a change. Wow! Fly to Cuzco and high altitude (11,050') problems, the impressive Andean city that was once the capital of the Inca Empire. The altitude and lack of oxygen causes a problem for many, including me. (Note: this definitely eliminates any possibility of a Himalayas extension to any India trip.) Lunch included in town - with musical entertainment. For lunch: Alpaca steak. Spend the day in the Sacred Valley of the Incas with a visit to the Inca baths of TAMBOMACHAY and the semi circular Kenko amphitheater with its stone altars and labyrinth of passages. Stop at the ancient site of Puca Pucara before reaching the TEMPLE OF SACSAYHUAMAN, perched on a hillside overlooking Cuzco. It still remains unfathomable how and when this fortress of gigantic stones-with some blocks weighing more than 350 tons-was built. Continue to Pisac, an old mountain village, where we will have the opportunity to visit a home, meet some of the locals, and experience their way of life - and see a bunch of Guinea Pigs that they, like many others, raise for food. Also, enjoy free time here to shop for local wares such as alpaca sweaters and blankets, jewelry, or hand-painted ornamental dishes and vases.

Tonight we turn off the road as we get to a cluster of broken down houses. Travel a mile or so down a twisting road, and find a beautifully landscaped nice hotel area perched on an Andean mountain side. It's not quite as high as Cuzco, but still high. The walk up the mountainside (78 steps) to the room is quite a "chore." This altitude (9915' here) is a definite problem despite my workouts on a treadmill. Stay in the Sacred Valley, dinner at the hotel. Hotel: Casa Andina-Private Collection - 2 nights (B,L,D)

Day 23, Friday, October 12 Sacred Valley - Machu Picchu - Sacred Valley
Visit the Inca Fortress of OLLANTAYTAMBO this morning before boarding a train (not the luxury train Samantha Brown rode on the Travel Channel show) for a short journey through the lush Urubamba Valley (only 9260'). Then transfer to a motor coach for the ascent to legendary MACHU PICCHU (at a "low" altitude of "only" 7800' - way below that of Cuzco), "The lost City of the Incas." Our local Guide (Angel) will bring us closer to the mysteries still hidden in these amazing structures. WOW! It's great!! At a lower altitude than the last 20 hours, it's not a problem to get around, and Angel does a great job of guiding, and timing our walk segments. WOW! Definitely the highlight of the trip. WOW! And I'm extremely glad that we had a great local guide since walking around by ourselves - we would have known almost nothing about what we were seeing. THANKS, Angel.

Later this afternoon, return to the Sacred Valley, the hotel, and that climb up the mountain to my room (more tiring for just that than for the whole day at Machu Picchu since it's 2100' higher at the hotel). Dinner service tonight at the hotel is VERY slow. (B,L,D)

Day 24, Saturday, October 13 Sacred Valley - Cuzco
Journey to Cuzco where we will learn more about the Incas on our guided tour with visits to the imposing CATHEDRAL and the SANTO DOMINGO MONASTERY. I wish Cuzco were at a lower altitude. High altitude meds and Coco-tea just didn't help enough. It's a fantastic place to wander around and see the sights, but I'm limited. Growl, grumble, etc. Tonight enjoy dinner at a local restaurant accompanied by ANDEAN FOLKLORIC MUSIC. The hotel is fantastic - a tie with the Puerto Varas hotel for my favorite. It's built in the style of the old Spanish haciendas - open courtyard surrounded by rooms, etc. If only it weren't in Cuzco at 12,000- altitude, I could really enjoy staying here. Hotel: Libertador (B,D)

(Dodge the bullet #2: weather report from Machu Picchu - heavy rain and wind forced closure of the upper part of the site for much of the day today. I wouldn't have wanted to be in even the lower part during that. Again, we 'got out of Dodge' just in time.)

Day 25, Sunday, October 14 Cuzco - Lima
Escape from the 12,000' high altitude "almost prison." After a nice breakfast:

11Lan Peru LP22Cuzco - Lima11:15 - 12:351:20

A short morning flight returns us to Lima (and away from any altitude problems) where sightseeing focuses on its colonial heritage. See the 18th-century SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY with its unique cloisters, the Government Palace, and CATHEDRAL situated around the vast Plaza de Armas. Then a short drive to visit the seaside suburb of Miraflores. Later, tour the GOLD MUSEUM (nice, could have spent more time here), with its dazzling collection of pre-Columbian gold jewelry and fascinating artifacts. Definitely a "wind down" day and time to re-pack for the tortuous trip home. At least they hotel had some apples on the front desk - surprise - free. One apple = dinner. Also, we won't have to worry about the 44# luggage limit on the trip home. Hotel: Los "Get-All-Their-Money-We-Can" Delfines again - 1 night. (B)

Day 26, Monday, October 15 Lima - (almost) Houston
Up at 5:15. Breakfast at 6, bags out at 6:30. On the bus at 7. LAN computers don't talk to (alliance partner) American Airlines, so I have to go through the re-check-in hassle in Miami. Also, they don't have all the Globus info in their reservation system so we all have to do individual check-in procedures and that takes a long time. Eventually ... (B)

12Lan Peru LP0510Lima - Miami10:50A - 5:305:403:30

Time zones: one hour later in Miami - for a while - then back to Houston time as I finally get home.

After several schedule changes and revisions ... If I were to use the original Globus routing, my homebound flight would not arrive the same day as advertised . See above. Also they had originally, and repeatedly, promised a room at the "Red Roof Inn" including transfers for the overnight in Miami and then backed out of their promise. So rather than sit on the floor at the Miami airport for a while, and have a 2-flight route to get home, we found out in time and changed part of the air (do it ourselves Houston<->Miami) and it becomes almost 16 hours shorter (and 2 less flights/airports) and about $160 cheaper. At least it was supposed to be 16 hours shorter but with flight delays.

The American Airlines flight is 15 minutes later than originally scheduled giving me a bit more time to make the connection. Since I have to get my luggage, go through Customs, and then check in for the next flight, it takes a while. (Complete new check-in since it's on a different ticket and LAN doesn't talk to American - though they are supposed to be able to do so.)

13American AA2192Miami - Houston9:00 P - 12:15A4:1513:25

Due to weather in Houston, US National ATC issues a ground hold on all Houston bound flights, so we miss our take-off time slot and 'go to the back of the line.' Then at 9:40, the hold is lifted, but MIA ATC can't get us an immediate take off time so ...

Day 27, Tuesday, October 16 Home, finally
As we get close to Houston, we go through the air turbulence resulting from those storms. The plane is bounced around more that any flight I've been on before (almost 300). When the flight attendants are told to take their places for landing (in the back of the plane), they both have to "walk" down the aisle on their knees. The plane is still in motion at midnight, so it's now officially a 27 day trip.

The luggage made it here. Whew. Now after a long wait for the shuttle (weather and late planes messed up their planning), and a long trip home (I'm #8 for drop-off on the shared van ride), home at 2:25 AM, and too tired to sleep. It's been quite a trip.

Selected pictures
Click to enlarge




OPTIONALS:
Rio Petropolis yes $49
Rio Botanical Gardens Jeep Tour no $56
Rio Guanabara Bay Cruise yes $45
Buenos Aires Fiesta Gaucha yes $65
Santiago Chilean Folklore Show yes $63
Santiago Chilean Coast drive no $45
Santiago Winery Tour no $49

HOTELS
MANAUS 2 nights Tropical Manau$ Re$ort (MD) nice
AMAZON ECOPARK 2 nights Jungle Lodge (BA) very basic
RIO DE JANEIRO 5 nights $heraton Rio Hotel & Tower$ (D) nice but isolated
IGUASSU FALLS 1 night Bourbon Cataratas (F) poor food service
BUENOS AIRES 4 night $heraton Bueno$ Aire$ Hotel (SF) nice but $$
BARILOCHE 2 night Panamericano Bariloche (F) problems room, food
PUERTO VARAS 1 night Cabanas Del Lago (F) excellent
SANTIAGO 3 night $heraton $an Cri$tobal Hotel (D) poorest Sheraton
LIMA 1 night Los Delfines (SF) grumble!
SACRED VALLEY 2 night Casa Andina (SF) beautiful, isolated
CUZCO 1 night Hotel Libertador (MF) fabulous, but altitude
LIMA 1 night Los Delfines (SF) THAT place again. More grumble!

TEMPERATURES (pre-trip estimate):
City Sept. Oct.
Manaus 91-75 91-75
Rio de Janiero 75-64 77-66
Buenos Aires 64-46 70-50
Santiago 66-43 72-45
Lima 68-57 72-57

AIR TRAVEL: (actual, not as originally scheduled)
1American AA2234Houston-Miami10:40A - 2:05P2:255:45
2TAM JJ8075Miami-Manaus7:50P - 12:55A5:0513:15
3TAM JJ3745Manaus - Brasilia4:20P - 8:113:512:06
4TAM JJ3827Brasilia - Rio10:17 - 11:58P1:417:38
5TAM JJ3153Rio - Iguassu Falls11:55 A - 2:00 P2:05 snack
6Lan Chile LA4033Iguassu Falls - B. A.3:50 P - 5:40 P1:50snack
7Lan Chile LA4346 B. A. - Bariloche11:25 - 1:53 P2:23snack
8Lan Chile LA280P. Montt - Santiago1:50 P - 3:25 P1:35snack
9Lan Chile LA530Santiago - Lima8:00 P - 11:05 P4:05dinner
10Lan Peru LP71Lima - Cuzco10:00 A - 11:15 A1:15snack
11Lan Peru LP22Cuzco - Lima11:15 A - 12:35 P1:20snack
12Lan Peru LP0510Lima - Miami10:50A - 5:30P5:403:30
13American AA2192Miami - Houston9:00 P - 12:15A4:1513:25
.Total Travel Time:.37:3048:51