photography travel

Strasburg & Colmar, France, December 2022

I posted photos from my 2022 trip to Paris almost a year after the trip, just at the end of September. I had intended to post about the other part of that trip, to Strasburg and Colmar, soon after and definitely before this years trip.

I failed.

So, here it is, almost the end of 2023 and I’m posting a link to my photos from the 2022 trip to Strasburg and Colmar. More than a year after the trip. Sad. I hope to do better.

In any case, my family and I spent five days in Strasburg as a break from Paris. We spend most days wondering around the old Alsatian part of town, visiting the Christmas Markets.

Between glasses of vin chaud, the local mulled wine, or hot apple cider, we browsed the market stalls and climbed to the top of the Strasburg Cathedral. And we spend a day in Colmar, checking out their markets and drinking vin chaud there.

While Paris was all about visiting museums and churches, something to do every day, Strasburg was for sleeping in and relaxing, no scheduled ticket times.

Oh, and we waked to Germany. We took the tram to the closest stop and then walked over the Pont de l’Europe, crossing the Rhine and into Germany just far enough to catch the tram back. Just to say we did it.

Rose window of Strasburg Cathedral

You can see the few photos I took, mostly of the buildings and especially the cathedral in the Strasburg, France, 2022 Photoset on Flickr [].

photography travel

Paris, France, November-December 2022

I’m setting a new record for delay in posting my travel photos. normally it takes me six months, this time it’s closer to ten. In my defense I had to replace my external storage and, twice, send my Mac for repair. But, anyway. Yea, I went to Paris last year with the family.

Since my first visit, more than twenty years ago, before this blog existed, I have loved Paris. Not the first of course, but I really feel a je ne sais quoi. Walking the streets, sitting in the cafes or visiting the museums. This feeling survives the rude people, the stink of the Metro, the homeless, and the bitter cold we had on this trip. London, New York and Tokyo are the only other cities that I have spent a significant amount of time in that have a similar sort of presence and mystic in my mind.

I’ve seen just about everything there is to see in Paris over my many visits, but this was my daughters first trip. So, we marched our way through all of the sites I think are worth it:

Arc de Triomphe


The Arc [] was our first stop. Seemingly every flight from Singapore to Europe lands at six AM and the hotels don’t want you until two or three in the afternoon. So after dropping our bags at our hotel in the Latin Quarter we hiked down to and across the river, and then up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc. It was cold and windy and the sky was overcast, parils of winter travel, but the Arc is as good an introduction to Paris as any; a Napoleonic monument seated at the intersection of grand boulevards with views of the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur atop Montmartre, the hideous Tour Montparnasse. Notre Dame was hidden by the renovation works.

Tour Eiffel

You have to, the only reason not to visit is just to be contrarian, the Eiffel Tower [] is Paris, dispite the fact that the parisians hated it when it was first built. No one wanted to climb the stairs. There is a new (to me) glass wall that goes all the way around the base of the tower so they herd people through security screening. It ruins all the photos. C’est la vie.

Musée du Louvre


We went to the Lourve [], twice in fact. It’s much too big for one visit. We got really lucky on the first visit, it was on a Friday, they have extended hours and when we made our way to the Mona Lisa [] there were surprisingly few people. Even with two visits the Louvre is overwhelming. We checked off the majors: Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo [], Nike of Samothrace [], Liberty Leading the People [], the apartments of Napoleon III, and much more. So much more…

Musée de Cluny/Musée du Moyen Âge

The Moyen Âge is a smaller museum, less crowded. You feel like you can take your time. But really you go for one thing: ze tapestries. The Lady and The Unicorn [], six large tapestries that are always linked in my mind with opening titles of The Last Unicorn [], the 1982 Rankin/Bass animated movie. Though younger people may associate them with the Gryffindor common room in the Harry Potter movies.

Musée d’Orsay


The Orsay [] is my favorite musum in Paris. I love the collection, focusing on art from the late 19th and early 20th century. There is something about the transition from classical painting and sculpture to fully modern art that just works for me. I love the impressionist and post-impressionist; the Orsay has a huge collection: Monet [], Van Gogh [], Cézanne [wikipedia.0rg], Degas [], and many more. I love also the sculpture of Rodin [] his student Camille Claudel [], and those of Carpeaux []. The Orsay is the right size, not as massive as the Lourve, not so small as the Cluny. A long lazy afternoon wondering among great art. This time there was a exhibit on the works of Edvard Munch [], we got to see an early hand colored lithograph of The Scream [].

Musée de l’Orangerie

The main attraction in the Oragnerie [] is eight massive paintings by Cloude Monet in his Water Lilies [] series. If you’ve never seen these or the other large format ones that are in other museums, you will be shocked at how large they are. While many of the Water Lilies in museams like the Orsay are ‘normal’ size, typically around 1 meter by 1 meter or so, the eight that hang in the Orangerie are two meters high and range in width from six to seventeen meters. The museum also houses many more other impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.

Musée Rodin


Rodin [] is my favorite sculpture (Dalí comes close), and the Rodin Museum [] in Paris is wonderful place. A quiet garden and manor house that once housed Rodin’s studio, set not too far from the Eiffel Tower. It’s a great escape from the city without leaving the city. You can spend hours wondering around the garden and inside the house. Among hundreds of Rodin’s works; including The Thinker [] and The Kiss [] as well as a cast of the full The Gates of Hell [] (both The Kiss and the Thinker were orginally part of the Gates).

Espace Dalí

Dali Paris [], is a small private museum in Montmartre, devoted to Dalí. There are a number of casts of various images from his surrealest paintings —melting clocks from the Persistance of Memory [], a long legged Space Elephant from The Elephants, Alice jumping rope and more. It’s small, but if you like Dalí it’s a great stop.



Standing in Sante-Chapelle [], one a sunny day, the stained glass windows filling the room with all colors of the rainbow, is one of the most peaceful and beautiful experiences you can have. Of all the churches and other places filled with stained glass I’ve visited around Europe (and other places), there is nothing that compares with Sainte-Chapelle.


Sacré-Cœur [] is beautiful building, a mix of muted orthodox churches —massive ceiling mosaics and almost onion domes— and the classical revival styles. Nothing gothic about it, but, while it is pretty, it doesn’t do it for me, I prefer the gothic architecture of Norte Dame. The best part of visiting Sacré-Cœur is going up to the dome and getting the view of Paris from the very top of Montmartre.

Shakespeare & Co


There are other, larger, book stores just around the corner from Shakespeare & Co [] —though sadly Gibert Jeune closed due to the COVID19 pandemic— but Shakespeare & Co’s focus on English books means I can actually read a book I buy there. And it just feels more cosy. The shops along Boulevard Saint-Michel are massive, Gibert Jeune was 6 stores and Gibert Joseph stretches across multiple locations. Shakespeare & Co is cosy, you can barely turn around in the used book shop. The new book shop is bigger, but still just five irregular shaped rooms, packed with shelves of books. I know this is not the original Shakespeare & Co that published Ulysses, that one closed during the Nazi occupation, but it has the ambiance. I picked up a used copy of Chaucer, The Pardoners Tale edited by Nevill Coghill and Christopher Tolkien.

Catacombes de Paris

“I see dead people”… Well, their bones. Bones everywhere. Millions of bones. I’ve been the theCatacombs of Paris [] before, twice. This trip was all about taking my teenage daughter. She likes horror movies so this was right up her alley. My wife and younger daughter declined to join us, they went shopping and dinning.

Palais Garnier


The Palais Garnier or Paris Opera House, is the very definition of over-the-top architecture. Wikipedia says it’s Second Empire or Napoleon III style, which is not technically baroque but includes many elements of baroque as a revival… But the basic principle seems to be leave no surface unadorned. Statues, carvings, mosaics, gilded mirrors… it’s all there. And somehow it works. Even if you don’t appreciate the aesthetic the exterior and, especially, the interior of the Palais Garnier are awesome and worth the visit. And don’t forget this is where the Phantom of the Opera lived.

In addition to all the sights we visited in the city, we made a few trips out to the surrounding areas. We went to Versailles [] to see the opulent palace of the Sun King [] and Marie-Antoinette []. Actually we had to make two trips, the first day we went we arrived late and the last tickets for the (short) day were sold out. Fortunately we had a few free days so were able to get tickets online for one of those days towards the end of our trip.

We also visited Chartres to see the cathedral []. The idea was to make up for not getting to see Notre Dame, since it was still under renovation and repair after the fire. You can’t go to France and not see a proper gothic cathedral. Unfortunately, Chartres is undergoing restoration and cleaning and the tour of the tower and upper floors was closed. C’est la vie. So we had to settle for the main floor and outside views.

So, yea, a long, packed trip to Paris. We marched back and forth across the city, averaging 16 kilometers a day. We rode the Metro nearly every day; using the old school little blue tickets and enjoying the, um, unique, smell of the Paris Metro while navigating the maze-like passages and stairways and braving the overly aggressive doors on the older trains. We ate fresh baguettes and crescents from boulangeries (I will fight you for the last baguette from Maison d’Isabellein Place Maubert!); Comte cheese and yogurt, raspberries and apples for from the markets for breakfast. We wondered the Latin Quarter and Montmatre. I love Paris.

You can see the full Paris, France, November-December 2022 [] photoset on Flickr.

photography travel

Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea, Israel/Palestine, June 2022

I’ve been visiting Tel Aviv for work since 2007 [], and despite the assertion in that first post that my wife would join me, my family has never been. So, in late May when my boss asked me to go again for work I decided to take the family. It was a bit last minute, but we were trying to decide what, if any, travel to do in the June school holidays. After more than two years of not traveling everyone in my family was itching to get out of Singapore. We travel a lot, Singapore is such a small place that you have to show your passport to go more then 20 kilometers in any direction from 0ur house. The last travel we did was in March 2020, we were two days in Bali [] during the spring school holidays when Singapore decided to shut the border so we had to rush back in the madness of early COVID.

Church of the Holy Sepelchre

So everyone was eager to get out and see some things, eat some different food, breath some different air. Israel has amazing beaches so I booked a place on the beach in southern Tel Aviv, not too far north of Jaffa. Expensive at that height of the summer, a side effect of the amazing Mediterranean beaches, and I didn’t even realize we book the week of Pride, so their is also that. I would have been an experience to watch the parade from our balcony, but for the first time ever the parade was not along the boardwalk. Any other year we would have been in an amazing space to watch the parade but this year they moved it due to construction or something. Oh well. We did try to get to the parade but the public transport was crazy and we were late so we eventually gave up.

Anyway, we didn’t go to see those sights. We hit key required first time in the Holy Land sights. We spent a day in Jerusalem, seeing the old city; the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepelchre, shopping in the markets of old Jerusalem. We even made the trip across town to Yad Veshem.

Yad Vashem

I have to say, Yad Veshem was not as interesting experience as I thought it would be. I think the impact of the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC was much deeper, as a non-Jew I found it much more moving. Yad Veshem came across as too sterile a history lesson, no the personal story that the Holocaust Museum felt like. Also, they would not let my younger daughter go to the museum, they don’t allow kids under 10 to enter, which I must have missed when I booked the tickets. She was 1 month short of her tenth birthday. They wouldn’t budge, so she and my wife had to sit out while my older daughter and I went through the main exhibit. So, maybe I was just not in the mood, I was a bit pissed, both my daughters have been to Anne Frank House, and I don’t see why this sort of history should be off limits to people of any age when accompanied by a parent. This is history, they may not comprehend it but history, good or bad, is not some Hollywood movie that should be hidden behind age restrictions and ratings.

We did the required dip in the dead sea. Mud bath that bobbing up and down for a while then getting the hell out of the heat. It was 35°C in the shade. We opted not to go to Masada where the forecast high was close to 50°C.

Praying at the Western Wall

So we spent most of the rest of the week swimming in the ocean. My kids have been to the ocean in Bali and in Phuket before but the sand and surf in Israel is on another level, closer to Surfers Paradise in Australia —another place they have been but they were 4 years old and 6 months old so they don’t really remember, (mental note to self time to go back). The beach in Singapore is not worth visiting for swimming, if there were ever great beaches in Singapore they were sacrificed to the gods of commerce in the name of progress long ago. The sand is imported from Indonesia and Malaysia and is corse and dirty due to the flotilla of commercial shipping vessels constantly mored off the coast of Singapore. East Coast park is good for a BBQ or a bike ride but the beach is not something to write home about. A pity, we live less than 2 kilometers from a beach, in the tropics, but… C’est la vie.

All, in all, the kids enjoyed the trip. They enjoyed it so much they said, “lets go every June!”. I’ll have to work on my boss about that one.

One last note, I will get flack about the title and featured image of this post; “Israel/Palestine” will please no one and irritate some. But until there is a mutual peace between the people who call it one and the people who call it the other I’ll stick to calling it both.

You can see the full Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea, Israel and Palestine, June 2022 [] photoset on Flickr.

photography travel

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 2019

Back before COVID19 locked us all in our home countries we went to Amsterdam for a holiday. We also took a two day side trip to Billund, Denmark just to visit the Lego House [], but more on that in another post. Amsterdam was the right combination of close to Billund and decent flights. Copenhagen was another option but Amsterdam won out.


We arrived quite early in the morning, before 6AM in Schiphol, a day after my mother and sister. After dropping our bags at the hotel room our first stop was the bakery on the corner for fresh stroopwafel []. Thus began a recurring theme for our period in Amsterdam: breakfast confections… maybe that’s not the right work but we had stroopwafel, proffertjes [], icing sugar coated waffles, and even vegan pancakes at Mr. Stacks [].

But it was not all eating. We did some sight seeing. Actually we did a lot of walking to see things. Based on my iPhone we did 118km walking over the week and a half we were in Amsterdam.

Some of our sightseeing agenda was based on what I already knew about Amsterdam generally and from my time there in 2001/2002, but a lot of it was based on watching various travel videos, mostly on YouTube. We all sat around in the months leading up to our trip and watch different “best of” videos. It’s how we discovered Mr. Stacks, among other things.


One of our favorite sightseeing activities is museums and Amsterdam has some great ones. On this trip we visited:

  • The most important museum we visited was, without a doubt, The Anne Frank House []. I remember reading the book as a teenager, I truly believe the world needs to remember the atrocities of the Nazi’s and the bigotry of ordinary people which allowed the Holocaust to happen. I’m not Jewish, I’m not religious at all, but the story of Anne Frank, her family and the 17 million other Jews, Poles, Russians, Romani, Freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Serbs, Slovenians, Homosexuals, Disabled, Spanish Republicans and who knows who else [], must be told, over and over again. It is more important today than at anytime since the end of World War II, as xenophobia and racism seem to be on the rise again. Bigotry seems to be the default mode for most of humanity, us and them, the in group and the out group. Without constant reminders, humanity has no humanity. It’s important to remember and to teach our children so they can be mindful and hopefully live up to “never again” as we keep failing to.
  • The Rijksmuseum [], where you can see The Night Watch [] by Rembrandt and many other Dutch Golden Age paintings. THe Night Watch was under renovation at the time of our visit, you could see the painting but it was inside a giant glass box and there were people working on part of it. It was kind of interesting to see it under renovation and I’m glad they didn’t take it off display fort he renovation. Though the things my kids seems to like the best was sitting in the Research Library where you have to sit quietly. Interesting…
  • The Van Gogh Museum [], filled with Van Gogh paintings… duh. Lots of self-portraits and sunflowers; also people eating potatoes []. A very good museum, love the way you ascend year-by-year up the building. The audio guides were included in our ticket price and were very good. I forgot that The Starry Night [] is actually at MOMA.
  • NEMO [], a hands on science museum for kids. Good for a full day of play. Bubbles, Rube-Goldberg machines, earthquake simulation room (very cool), water works to play in. We could have gone two days I’m sure.
  • MOCA, a small museum located in the Museamplein, near the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum. Like MOMA but Contemporary. Exhibitions on Banksy, Daniel Arsham and Yayoi Kusama as well as a general collection of contemporary art pieces. I got tickets to this one without consulting anyone else as I wanted to see the Banksy.
  • Body Worlds. Not, strictly speaking a museum, but an exhibition on the human body using actual human (and animal) bodies and body parts that have undergone plastination []. The smaller Amsterdam exhibition was not as good as the one I saw two in London two decades ago. Partly it was just smaller, but also the layout in a small, multi-story building and all the rooms being painted black made it feel less open and like it was trying to creep you out. In London it was a huge open space and all white and bright. My kids thought it was too creepy.

But it was not always stuffy museums, we got out of town to see some amazing things too. We went to Haarlem, and spent a day wondering around it’s medieval center. Quaint red-brick buildings and streets surround it’s cathedral. A nice sleepy town to spend an afternoon in, enjoy some food and walking. Unfortunately it was a wet day, light rain off and on all day, when we were there so we didn’t cover much other then the main square around the cathedral.


Out other excursion was more successful. On our first day in Holland, we took the train an hour out from Centraal station to Zaanse Schans, famous for its windmills. From the train station it’s a 15 minute walk to the riverfront where the windmills sit. And you get to walk past a chocolate factory. Smells amazing, looks like it’s straight out of Willy Wonka, of course you can’t see the Umppa Loompas, they stay inside.

We visited a couple of windmills along the Zaan river. Two of them were actually working: De Kat [], a dyemill crushing chalk to make dies for paint, and De Zoeker [] an oilmill, roasting and crushing linseed for oil. Their was a presentation inside De Zoeker showing how they use various mechanisms to transfer the wind power from the mill stones to hammers and other tools using various mechanical means. The oil from the linseed’s pressed at De Zoeker can, and is sometimes, used to make paint with the dye from De Kat. The inside of De Zoeker looked and smelled a lot like my grandfather’s shop/barn. The smell of oil and wood and sawdust.

There was also a few shops/exhibits in Zaanse Schans, one making Dutch cheeses, Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm, and one making and selling traditional Dutch wooden clogs: Kooijman Wooden Shoe Workshop []. The cheese did not interest the kids so much, but the wooden shoes were a hit, especially the giant ones you could sit in outside.


I also managed to meet up with two friends while in Amsterdam, one planned meeting and one random chance. Both are, funny enough, ex-colleagues from working here in Singapore. The planned meeting was with a recent ex-colleague who is dutch and moved back to Amsterdam a few years ago. We met up for an afternoon drinking in a pub. We didn’t drink that much, but we managed to stretch it out for about 6 hours and he ended up missing a flight for work because we took too long. Oops.

The second meetup was completely random. I posted about it at the time [], but, in brief, an Irish, ex-colleague who worked with me in Singapore, before moving to Russia, happened to be in Amsterdam for a conference and we managed to meet up for a evening of good beer and great food. Absolutely random and the best, if not only, reason to still have social media.

You can see the full Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 2019 photoset [] on Flickr.

photography travel

Cuzco, Peru, April 2019

More than a year ago, in late April, and into early May 2019, my mother, my youngest sister and I went on a bucket list trip: to see Machu Picchu [].

Machu Picchu is one of those places that has been in the “oh my god I have to go” since I was a kid. We watched a lot of National Geographic specials when I was young (back in the pre-cable days when we had four channels: ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS.) I’m sure I first came across Machu Picchu on one of those specials. The many shows on the story of Hiram Bingham‘s [] expeditions and the mysteries of Machu Picchu as well as the possible connection to the Indiana Jones movies, all of which were favorites in my house growing up, added to the mystic of Machu Picchu putting it near the top of my must-see-in-my-lifetime list. While I’ve checked off a lot of places on that list between my life in the US, my time in Europe and living in Asia, Machu Picchu was my first Central or South American site.

I flew via Amsterdam, 31 hours in total to get to Lima. I met my mom and sister in the airport there and took a short flight to Cuzco. The landing in Cuzco was an experience, because of the mountains all around Cuzco the plane makes a sharp banked turn and drops rapidly down to the runway. It’s a bit of a roller coaster.


We met a representative from our tour company at the airport and they dropped us at our Hotel, right in the center of Cuzco city. We spending the remainder of the first day walking around just to get somewhat acclimatised to life at 3000 meters above sea level. At that altitude climbing the steps up one level to our hotel room had the same effect as jogging a 100 meters or so. We had to work for the coffee we had at a second story café in the main city square, Plaza de Armas del Cuzco.

We started our site seeing on the second day, touring some of the main sites in and around Cuzco. We started just opposite our hotel at the Convent of Santo Domingo [] which is built on the ruins of the Inca Coricancha or “the golden temple”, possible their most important temple. Much of the colonial architecture of Cuzco is built right on top of Incan and pre-Inca buildings, incorporating the large stones with no mortar in their foundations.

We took a car up into the hills around Cuzco to see some of the more Inca sites: Sacsayhuamán [], Tambomachay [] Puka Pukara [] and Qenko []. All cool sites and considering Tambomachay and Puka Pukara are located at 3600 meters above sea level a good warm up for hiking at altitude. We returned to Cuzco in the afternoon and toured the Cusco Cathedral [] where of course you can’t take photos of the amazing interiors…


The second day we explored the Sacred Valley on our way towards Machu Picchu. We saw the salt ponds at Maras [], which were very cool. Our guide said there were over five thousand salt ponds but I’m sure he meant five hundred. Still it’s an impressive site, in use for salt production for hundreds of years before the Inca.

Nearby the Maras salt ponds we visited the Inca ruins of Moray []. This was one of the coolest ruins we saw, they look like some sort of arena or man made craters in the earth. A series of concentric terraces built into a couple of large natural depressions. As explained by the guide, the best guess is it was made to create a “microclimate” to better grow specific crops at higher altitudes than they would normally grow.

We finished the second day at Ollantaytambo [] which competes with Puka Pukara for the best name of the ruins we saw (Machu Picchu is too well known). The ruins of Ollantaytambo are a series of massive terraces going up the side of the mountain known as the Terraces of Pumatallis, a large temple complex including the “Wall of the Six Monoliths” which is made up of six Stonehenge sized blocks, and several Inca storehouses.

The next day we left Ollantaytambo and made our way to Machu Picchu. We entered the city in the afternoon with clear skies and bright sunshine, and met our local guide who took us around for a few hours as the sun went down. Our guide was great, explaining a lot and letting us indulge in our photography for as long as we wanted. And the ruins of Machu Picchu were amazing. The lowering sun casting shadows of the still standing walls of store houses and temples and residences across the grassy plazas. Sheer drops down to the Urubamba River which hourshoes around Machu Pichu.

While we explored the city we saw the requisite llamas, including a baby llama and my sister had an up close encounter with one hungry llama that tried to eat her camera lens when she was changing lenses. Llama spit, yummy. We also saw several viscacha, a type of rodent which looks something like a rabbit, but with a longer tail and short ears. They are quite cute running across the ruins.


One of the cooler things we learned from our guide is that while the jungle has been cleared from Machu Picchu, since Hiram Bingham first brought it to the attention of the outside world in 1911, no re-construction is done. There has been some rebuilding due to earthquakes over the years, but only if a stone can be identified as fallen since the Bingham’s expeditions using the photos from the expeditions, is it replaced.

Machu Picchu shuts to visitors at sunset, so after a few hours we made our way down to Machupicchu Pueblo or Aguas Calientes [] the small town in the valley below the citadel. The town is full of tourist hotels and cafes and restaurants. Basically a clean showers, cold beer and hot food for people who hiked the Inca Trail. Also a steady stream of busses up and down the switchback road up to Machu Picchu.

We woke up very early the next morning to take one of the buses up to Machu Picchu to catch the sunrise. Alas, despite waking at 4AM and being on one of the first few busses we didn’t get to see the sunrise. It was cloudy. Low hanging clouds hugged the tops of all the mountains surrounding Machu Picchu. On the plus side we got to see Machu Picchu with clouds rolling through the city so we got both the sunny and cloudy experiences. We decided to spend our full day taking some of the hikes.


First we hiked several kilometers back along the Inca Trail towards Cuzco, several hundred meters up to the Sun Gate, Inti Punku. We got to trek through the cloud forest with clouds rolling up and down the slopes, we walked in and out of the fog. By the time we got to the Sun Gate there were some breaks in the clouds creating a dappled effect on the city below us.

After hiking back to the city we went around the other side of the summit of Machu Picchu to hike the shorter trail to the Inca Bridge []. This part of the Inca road system was more dramatic, with sheer drops down two or three hundred meters to the Urubamba River below —with no railing. The Inca were crazy, the Inca Bridge itself is a few planks of wood spanning a few meter gap in a section of the path which is just half a meter wide and running along a vertical rock face.

That night we took the train back to Ollantaytambo and then a car back to Cuzco arriving quite late. The next day was May day so we just chilled in the city and explored some of the sites. Unfortunately the market we wanted to see was not so busy. We did walk around the San Blas neighborhood but many shops were closed for the holiday. So we just had a lazy day, which was just a well as we had booked an adventure for the next day with a 2 AM pick up.


Our last adventure started pre-sunrise as we caught a bus to drive 4 hours southeast of Cuzco to hike Vinicunca [], the Rainbow Mountain or Mountain of Seven Colours. A couple of hours on the bus and we stopped for breakfast at a small lodge off the highway. After breakfast we got back on the bus and started to climb up one lane gravel roads. We started about 3,700 m.a.s.l. meters above sea level and over the next hour we climbed a thousand meters up these gravel roads hugging the rising mountains. When we stopped at the parking lot we were 4,700 m.a.s.l. at which point some people are already experiencing altitude sickness to the point of vomiting. Luckily no one in our group was vomiting.

From the parking lot it’s a 5 kilometer hike up to the summit of Vinicunca —which is actually a pass, the lowest point around to cross over the Andes in this region. The foot of the pass is 5,000 m.a.s.l. and then it’s another 36 meters to the very top of Vinicunca. The first part of the hike is a relatively gentle rise, it takes most of the first 4 kilometers to go up, maybe 230 of the 336 meter elevation change. Even though the lack of oxygen means that even this shallow rise makes you out of breath if you go too fast. Everyone goes at different speeds depending on their fitness and age and our guide, who does this every day, went back and forth making sure everyone was ok. I’m not sure if he needed to use it but he carried an oxygen bottle just in case.

My mother, sister and I went at a slow pace and didn’t have much issues with the first 4 kilometers. The last kilometer was much steeper and we were stopping to catch our breath and let our muscles re-oxygenate regularly. At first we were stopping every 100 meters, then every 50 and soon every 10. By the time we got to the last 100 meters we were playing the “10 more steps to that rock and then we will rest” game. And the last 40 meters is a dirt stairway. By the time we got to the top we were going one. step. at. a. time. But we made it to the 5,000 m.a.s.l.. And I did make it all the way to 5,036. An Amazing view, with the colours of Vinicunca on one side, the red valley spread out before you and snowcapped Ausangate wrapped around behind you. (I wrote about this in brief before.) []


And that’s about it. We had one more morning in Cuzco for some shopping and then started our return. Flying to Lima and waiting hours for our next flight, where we had to stand in the ticketing lobby for a few hours as they only open the desk three hours before the flight and we had about 6 hours between the flights from Cuzco and our international flights. I came back the way I went, 22 hours via Amsterdam to Singapore, not including the 4 hour stopover in Amsterdam or the 6 hours in Lima. But it was worth it to knock Machu Picchu off the bucket list.

As a last note: it’s always hard to title these travel posts… I started using the city or region and then country and then the month and year long ago. For the most part that has served me well, but there are a few holes in the logic. For example, a trip to multiple major cities or countries — say a trip to Amsterdam with a short side trip to somewhere in Denmark. Do I make two posts? Or keep it as one under “Amsterdam, Denmark…”? I’ve split this type of trip up most times, but that means sometime ending up with a set of photos and a post that are quite small. On this trip I chose Cuzco which is both the city we started in, though we spend nights in two others places, and also the name of the administrative region of Peru that almost everything we went to see was in. So should it be “Cuzco, Cuzco, Peru…” or “Cuzco Administrative Region, Peru…”. Anyway, it’s a minor thing. It’s also a good problem to have, a first world and privilege problem given the cost of this type of travel. So, I’m lucky to have to try and figure it out.

You can see the whole Cuzco, Peru, April 2019 photoset on Flickr [].