Friday, 29 October 2021

Machu Picchu - part two - on our way


We flew in to La Paz for the start of our journey. La Paz in Bolivia is the highest city in the world at 12,000 ft.The idea was to begin at a high altitude and over seven days travel by coach visiting interesting places as we slowly dropped down towards Cuzco in Peru. This meant we would be more acclimatized to the altitude by the time we started the strenuous part of our trip. Cuzco is still high at 11,000 ft and the highest point on the Inca Trail is about 14,200ft.

When we arrived at our hotel we were immediately offered coca tea and given coca leaves to chew (very bitter!) to help alleviate altitude symptoms, and yes, that is where cocaine comes from! All hotels along our route offered the tea and our local guides always had leaves which they offered to us. In that form it is only a mild stimulant. I don´t think the coca really helped me as the first night I kept waking up short of breath and with a bad headache and I was nauseous for several days but the symptoms slowly wore off over time.

This is our group on the first day, at Tiwanaka, a pre-inca archaeological site. I am third from left at the back. Every day as we headed towards Cuzco we stopped at fascinating places made all the more interesting as we always had a local guide to show us around and talk about the sites. Most of them spoke Portuguese, thank goodness.

 At Tiwanaka.

On Ilha do Sol (Isle of the Sun) on Lake Titicaca, I´m on the left. The island has some pre-Inca ruins and we had a lovely long walk before returning to our boat. These are two of the island´s residents.

There are some other islands on Lake Titicaca at Puno which are truly fascinating. The local inhabitants, the Uros, have created floating islands made out of reeds on which they live in reed houses. It was most disconcerting to step off the boat and feel the 'ground' move beneath your feet, it yielded as you walked. I kept worrying that my feet were going to go through the reeds and I´d end up in the lake. I was also feeling very queasy that day which didn´t help.

A Uros lady selling trinkets to the tourists. They are a very colourful people. I think those were her children. Imagine the risks with toddlers on a floating island! If they were mine I´d probably keep them tethered lol. I presume the Uros main source of income must be fishing. One of the striking things about them was their very rosy cheeks, especially the children, and runny noses. 

To be continued...

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Machu Picchu - part one - the beginning

In 2004 I went on a group adventure to walk the Inca Trail in Peru to Machu Picchu. I have to say that it was an amazing experience and one of the most enjoyable, toughest and memorable trips I have ever been on - apart of course from the Camino de Santiago which is a totally different kettle of fish. Everything was meticulously arranged and planned by an eco-travel agency whose owner came with us as group leader. There were ten of us in the group, only one of whom I knew beforehand apart from the leader. Happily we all ended up getting on very well which I think was very lucky.

We met for the first time at a briefing dinner where things were explained to us in more detail. The whole trip would take fourteen days, four of which would be on the Inca Trail itself. Porters would carry most of our stuff, do the catering and we would be camping along the way. Without electricity or plumbing we were told toilets on the trail were the 'drop' variety and showers  (if there were any) would be cold water from a mountain stream. Some of the group insisted they couldn´t live without showering and washing their hair every day and looked down their noses at me when I said I was going to just use baby wipes for four the end of the trail it turned out nobody had showered haha.

The Inca Trail is hundreds of years old and runs from near Cuzco in Peru to Machu Picchu over high mountains. It was used by running messengers to carry news throughout the Inca empire. Apart from the steep climbs and descents one of the main difficulties is the altitude. Reaching heights of over 14,000 feet the air is thin and altitude sickness a real danger. Strenuous activity when you feel you can´t get enough oxygen is difficult and you have to move slowly. Our local guide carried a small cylinder of oxygen for emergencies and I saw more than one person (not from our party) being taken back down the trail on horseback to lower altitudes. Age and fitness do not seem to make any difference, a young and fit athlete is just as likely to get altitude sickness as an older and less fit person. Just as well as I was nearly sixty then. You can only walk the trail as part of an organised group.

To be continued...

Monday, 25 October 2021

Tailbone tale

Many, many moons ago, actually when I was about fifteen I took up horse riding. There was a riding school near where I lived and I used to go there for lessons.

My instructor was a former cavalry officer and his teaching method was somewhat unorthodox, to say the least. Instead of deportment I learned how to somersault off a horse and how to rise to a standing position on the saddle while the horse was walking. I can still remember the movements necessary to rise to your feet on a moving horse while using the metal hoops on a special saddle. Not knowing any better I just followed instructions thinking this was a normal riding lesson. 

I also started to learn show jumping and it was here I came unstuck. One day my horse refused the jump and I went over the bars on my own. I landed on my bottom and this was the beginning of a long saga of pain and the end of my riding.

Sitting down was very uncomfortable and I would get a painful spasm when I stood up again. I ended up having to carry a doughnut-shaped cushion around with me to sit on for months. Eventually the pain lessened but never really went away.My parents ignored the whole episode and I never saw a doctor!

When I left home and went to England to study nursing I eventually saw a doctor about the pain and it turned out I had broken my coccyx (tailbone) and it had twisted round and re-set itself curving out instead of in, which was what was causing the pain. I had to have surgery to have it removed. Amputation of the coccyx was unusual enough that my case was used for teaching purposes and more than once while in hospital I had groups of medical students crowding round my bed and admiring my derrière, not much fun when you are a shy eighteen year old!

Saturday, 23 October 2021

All done and dusted...



So, here´s the lad, bathed and trimmed...a bit wispy in parts but I don´t think he looks too took hours but we both survived!

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

No jaboticabas!

Well I can´t say I´m surprised. The jaboticaba tree has been stripped bare before the fruit had a chance to ripen properly, even down to the tiny green inedible ones. Human nature, hey... here is what they look like when ready to eat - photos taken at the farmers market

Reminds me of the tale about a pizza party where it looked as if there wouldn´t be enough food to go around so some people helped themselves to three slices in order to guarantee their 'share' while others took just one slice in the hope there would be enough for all.

In other news, I´ve just had my booster vaccine, Pfizer this time, thank goodness. My arm aches a bit but other than that all is well.

I spent most of the day yesterday trying to trim Toby. Since his last session at the groomers when he came home trembling and limping there is no way I´m taking him back there. The clippers are a bit frightening to use but I am slowly getting the hang of it (thank goodness for YouTube!) and I use scissors on the awkward bits. He seems to be taking it fairly well although he doesn´t like his paws being touched. His well being is more important to me than his appearance, which is just as well as a Yorkie trim is quite complicated.

Monday, 18 October 2021

What´s it for?

I have been asked more than once what this is for, as if every piece of "pottery" needs to have a function. It is made from porcelain, unglazed and inspired by sea life/fossils/coral. It is about the size of a small plate. It does not have a function, any more than a painting does...although I suppose at a pinch it could be used for straining spaghetti...after all Jack Lemmon used a tennis racquet for the same purpose!

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Hair today...gone tomorrow!

Talking about tempus fugit, when I was young my hair was always much admired - it was long, thick and wavy and a deep auburn in colour...sigh...those days are long gone. Now it is gray (which I don´t really mind) short and disappearing at an alarming rate. I´m not particularly vain, don´t bother anymore with make-up now that I´ve retired and stopped disguising grey hair ages ago, but I really, really don´t want to end up with a pink scalp showing through a few wisps.

My dermatologist says my hair loss could be an after effect of Covid or stress from lockdown and self-isolating etc or the stress of having had three operations in the space of less than three years. She initially prescribed a lotion which left my hair feeling stiff and with a yellow tinge but has now changed that to some tablets. Unfortunately I think the hair loss started before the recent concerns and is something I will have to come to terms with. I am not a happy bunny!

Thursday, 14 October 2021


 This is my first dog, Snowy. I must have been about twelve when this photo was taken. He was only a mutt but I loved him dearly. Sadly my father decided we had too many dogs (we had three at the time) and suddenly one day without prior warning they had all disappeared. He said he´d given them to a friend of his who had a farm, including my Snowy and I never saw him again or even had a chance to say goodbye. I was absolutely heartbroken, needless to say. 

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Tempus fugit

My youngest son has just celebrated his 46th birthday, next son up was 50 in September, my daughter is 51 and my eldest, sadly no longer with us, would have been 53 now. Between them they have presented me with 10 grandchildren, some of whom are already university graduates...

When did all this happen? Time has been playing games with me as I´m sure I´m not old enough to have adult children let alone middle-aged ones - and the grandchildren, well...

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Rainy Sunday

Today is overcast, wet and dreary...what to do? I had planned to go to the market to buy a plant, probably a cyclamen which I love, but I don´t feel like traipsing around in the rain. So I decided to be virtuous and batch cook something for the freezer and what better than a one-pan Mexican quinoa dish. I love Mexican food.

This dish takes far longer to prepare the many ingredients than it does to cook so it kept me busy for a while but it is done now and cooling before I divide it up into portions and freeze it. Smells good!

It is now nearly midday and I am still in my pjs. Oh dear, never mind, one of the joys of living alone is you can occasionally be a slob if you feel like it, but I think I´ll have a shower now followed by a spot of lunch. Then this afternoon, since it is chilly, I believe it will be duvet and Kindle time. I certainly know how to live!

Friday, 8 October 2021

Treasured item

I pinched this subject from John at Going Gently. I liked his idea of showing one´s most treasured possession. This is mine.

I know it looks very nondescript but it is actually a Stone Age flint knife, several thousand years old.

I found it years ago when I was on holiday with my husband. We were walking along a hilly path near Robin Hoods Bay in Yorkshire when I saw it lying on the ground in front of me. Intrigued by its shape I picked it up for a better look. I thought it looked rather like a flint knife but I was sure I must be mistaken and that it was wishful thinking on my part. After all, it was just lying there on the surface, on a well-used public footpath. I put it in my pocket and after the holiday showed it to my tutor at Manchester University where I was taking an extra-mural course in archaeology. To my surprise and delight after showing it to a colleague he confirmed that it was indeed a flint knife.

How it came to be on the path was anyone´s guess. Maybe it washed out of a bank or worked itself to surface, or even was dropped by someone who had found it elsewhere. I will never know. As someone who is fascinated with prehistory, it is certainly my one of my most treasured possessions. I try to imagine who made it, the people who used it all that time ago and it leaves me awestruck.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Jaboticaba (or jabuticaba if you prefer)...

This is a jaboticaba tree. There doesn´t seem to be a translation, but it is sometimes known as the Brazilian grape tree.

The fruit looks just like a grape and is such a deep purple it is almost black. The skin is not edible but the whitish pulp inside is nice and sweet and can be squeezed out into your mouth as you split the skin. Although it is eaten fresh it doesn´t keep or travel well so is also used to make juice, jams and jellies.

What is different and interesting about the jaboticaba is that the fruit grows not in bunches or clusters on branches but individually on the trunk of the tree.

These are still green as they haven´t ripened yet although you can see some beginning to change colour. I´ll try and get another photo when they are ripe as they look even more striking, although it is a question of timing as the residents here strip the tree pretty quickly when the jaboticabas are ready!

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Good news? Not really...

I read in the news today that a large number of countries, including Brazil, are being taken off the red list later in October. Quarantine will no longer be required for fully vaccinated people traveling to the UK from these countries. Hooray, lets break out the champagne...I had been hoping to spend this Christmas with one of my sons in England.

There is just one little problem that hasn´t been mentioned. The UK only accepts vaccinations given in the UK, Europe or the USA. I am fully vaccinated and about to have my booster, okay mine is the Coronavac vaccine which is not accepted but my daughter who has had both Pfizer shots here is also classed as unvaccinated. So anyone vaccinated in a former red country traveling to the UK will still have to go into quarantine. There doesn´t appear to be any logic in this new ruling.

Friday, 1 October 2021

Plastic water bottles

I try and avoid using plastic whenever possible although nowadays it is not always easy. At least with regard to water bottles I don´t have to worry. My daughter gave me this bottle which I can fill at home and take with me when necessary.


I don´t understand why people feel the need to buy bottled water if they live in a country where the tap water tastes ok and is safe to drink. For example, when I go walking in Spain I never buy water as what comes out of the tap is fine and all towns and villages have public water fountains where you can fill up as you walk through. If the water is not drinkable there is a notice which says so.

Unfortunately here the tap water has an unpleasant mouldy taste and I´d rather not drink it. I buy my water in a 20 litre bottle which is reusable. The chap who delivers it takes the empty one away for re-filling. Our tap water is fine for showers, washing and dishes, etc, and I´ll use it for cooking things which are going to be strained but for tea, soups and stews I´ll use the bottled water because of the taste.

A bottle like this lasts me about ten days and costs around three pounds which I think is good value for money.