Category: transportation

Another day, another long drive. This was the day I accidentally left my wallet in my bag in the trailer! Whoops! It ended up not being the biggest deal, but just slightly annoying. Oh well, live and learn. This was also the part of the trip where everyone was just tried. Tired of rain, tired of camping, tired of lack of showers and flush toilets. Tired of each other. (Thankfully, we all survived the next few days, but barely.)

Most of this day was spent on a dirt road. We stopped at a few road houses for breaks, some lookouts for views, but mainly just sat in the van. And drive. It was sunny, but freezing, as at this point, we were headed to our northern most stop, though thankfully at a lower elevation then Tangle Lakes. I don’t really remember much about this day.

The roads...they never end!

The roads…they never end!

-At one point, we stopped and since I didn’t use the toilet when we woke up in the morning (the walk was too far for me and it was sooo cold) I waited until our first rest stop, but unfortunately, you had to buy something to use the john, so I borrowed $5 from a tourmate for gummies and the loo.
-The dirt road finally ended when Denali Highway met up with George Parks Highway, and we had never been so happy to see a gas station! I waited outside and chatted with a tourmate, when she spotted moose crossing the road! Very cool, as most of the group missed it as they were using the toilet and buying snacks.
-We drove up and passed Denali, into town to stock up on warm clothes for the final 3 nights as some people wanted sleeping bag liners or gloves. All the store outside the park were having “end of the season” sales and the sandals were on sale and I wanted a pair, but since I didn’t have my wallet, controlled myself, which was a good thing. The town was cute, just a bunch of tourist shops, but we needed something like that. We hadn’t seen that amount of people in over a week.

Back to civilization!

Back to civilization!

-We then dropped some of our tour off at the sightseeing flight because even though it was more expensive, the day was just gorgeous, so some people took advantage of that.
-We stopped in Denali to pick up our bus tickets for the following day before finally heading to camp at Carlo Creek
-We put up our tents for the last time! We got to put them up under a sheltered cover, which was awesome, plus, they had picnic tables. So helpful!
-It was a bit a trek to the bathroom, which sucked, but at least the toilets flushed and the showers were free and it was like all in one room, which is my favorite layout.
-We had some meat and potatoes for dinner and the potatoes were so good! Though I had a beer and cut myself grating cheese on the grater (yeah, I’m awesome like that), so no more grating for me.
-Can’t remember what we did at night, probably not much, as it was still really cold (the girls that stayed in the cabin the night before, booked a cabin for all three nights here, they were just done with camping) so probably just huddled by the fire.

Sneak peak of tomorrow in Denali

Sneak peak of tomorrow in Denali

What follows the best day so far on the tour? The worst, at least up until this point. We all got up early, to make the tunnel and then the ferry and it was pouring rain as predicted. No one was in any mood to do anything and I was in no mood to trek to the bathroom or make lunch, so I just packed up my stuff as well as I could and grabbed some granola bars and crackers and hoped for the best. We just threw everything in the trailer, in the worst order imaginable and it barely fit, but we got it closed and got on the road. As we were backtracking towards Anchorage, the guide got a call on his phone that the ferry was canceled. Apparently, this like never happens and of course, it happened to us. Most of us were really looking forward to it, it’s why we didn’t go on the nature cruise or in my case, just an excuse to not be in the van. When the guide got the call, we backtracked AGAIN to a tiny town, so he could get better cell reception and reroute our plans, since we didn’t need to make the tunnel or the ferry.

The road back to Anchorage

I bought a candy bar so I could use the bathroom, which is normally against my religion, but since I didn’t go in the morning, I sucked it up and paid. Whatever, I got some candy out of it too! We piled back in the van and headed back towards Anchorage. Our next stop, was the old and faithful Fred Meyer (with chimes from the peanut gallery, “Haven’t we been here before?”) to stock up on more food. We were finally getting into the habit of what we all liked to eat and what meals were coming up (fish that evening, so a fellow tour mate and I stocked up on chicken) and we knew where everything was in the supermarket, so we were in and out pretty fast. We unloaded the entire van and repacked way better because the rain had stopped and we had more room on the cement of the parking lot to deal with everything. They didn’t have the lunch bag that I bought the previous time, so I and then the rest of the group followed me over to Wendy’s, as they don’t really have them overseas for lunch.

After the morning of backtracking, it was on to some new road! We drove quickly through Wasilla and Palmer, home of the state fair, which we were all enamored with earlier in the week. You would be too, if you had seem some of the events taking place! And there really isn’t anything more American then a state fair. Just based on the crap that is for sale and the food you can eat, it’s everything you picture about America and more, all in one place. But after a week of meeting people and seeing some of the state, we were kind of over it, which was a good thing. We did stop at the Musk Ox Farm, which was super touristy, but I still paid the $11 for the 30 minute tour. I am definitely interested in weird animals! We got the feed them, but unfortunately, they weren’t super active when we were there, but their whole reason for being is really interesting, so it wasn’t a total waste. We then hit some just fantastic scenery and not a car in sight for miles and miles, which was amazing before our stop in Sutton at the Sheep Mountain Lodge for the night.

Musk Ox

Musk Ox at the farm, Palmer, Alaska

Cute Musk Ox, eating at the farm, Palmer, Alaska

Me and the Musk Ox, Palmer, Alaska

Since we had such a terrible night sleeping in the rain, we all voted to cough up $20 each and sleep in the bunk house at Sheep Mountain Lodge, though we did all throw up our tents to air them out of the rain for a while on the lawn. The place was pretty cute. Bathhouse with a sauna for a couple of bucks and a shower for $5 (I think we all skipped that night) and two rooms of bunks, which we split into snores and non-snorers, which sucked for me because I snore, but am a light sleepers, so I had a pretty miserable sleep. Though the non-snorers had it worse, because something was lost in translation and the Russian girl ended up in the non-snore room and apparently she was the worse snorer of them all! The guide thought it was hilarious that we all wanted tents for the rest of the trip, even though we had one more night in a bunk house in a few days, we were all, can we do tents instead? Too funny that we all preferred tents over sleeping indoors. The lodge also had a full service restaurant, with my favorite coffee which of course I got in the morning. They also had a really cool green house with a dead moose inside. The green house was really really warm (of course) and since I was having such a miserable night, I was tempted beyond belief to pull my sleeping bag and sleep there, but the ground was covered in rocks and I didn’t have a blow up mattress. AGH! Hindsight. But the green house was really awesome.

Me and the moose in the green house. The closest I got to a moose in Alaska. Sutton, Alaska

The guide made a fish stew for dinner but I ate chicken and it was delicious! We ate outside with no fire and while it was a bit cold, but ohmigod, so freakin’ beautiful! After dinner, I gossiped with some of my tour mates (it was getting to be that time in the tour were we all talk about each other behind our backs, so elementary school, I know) before the rest of the group crawled into bed and I went into the green house to write for a while before slipping into my bunk and took out my dvd plaver for the first time to watch some tv shows. I got into such a habit this night, that I ended up doing it the rest of the trip. My boss had loaned me a portable dvd player for the trip and the battery life on this this was out of the world, it only died on me once, on the last day. Perfect timing! I am sure I looked a little shady to my tentmate, no porn, I swear!

Woke up to one of the, if not my favorite day on this entire trip. Woke up to absolutely gorgeous weather. No rain, clear blue skies and best of all, a casual day! The guide had to make a run back to Anchorage for sleeping mats and because of that, we had a totally chill day, which after only 3 days of constant living with the same people, we all needed it. The guide was doing a run into town for the people that wanted to go on a nature cruise at 9am, but otherwise, the rest of us were on our own all day. And I loved it. TM and I woke up late and lounged around and made breakfast, took showers and just sat on the porch of the shower house to charge our cameras and phones and read with some of the other tour mates.

View from the campsite in the morning. Seward, Alaska

Some randomness about the campsite:

-Lots of showers, but they take tokens, which you have to buy before hand and there are no refunds. $1 for 2 minutes of shower. Apparently you can toss all your tokens in at the start and just guess how long you have left, but I tossed my tokens in one at a time, so I knew my time and I was under by like a minute. Better then being over! I wish I had known the shower situation before hand because I would have washed my hair at the other place, but it ended up being okay, because the shower situation at the next two places was even worse. So it all worked out for the best!
-Right on the water!
-A bit of a walk into town, took me over an hour.
-Shop is a little disorganized, so don’t count on them for much.
-Tree canopy for most of the grounds, which is good and bad.
-A bit muddy when it rains.

Walking into town, alone the road and the water. Seward, Alaska

So, after taking a few hours and enjoying the sun and charging my phone, I waited for a few of my tour mates to leave for town and I followed them about 45 minutes later. I just needed a nice walk to myself! I ran into one of the girls who went into town with the “shuttle” at 9am (it was like 1pm when I ran into her walking back to camp) and we chatted on the side of the road for a while. She didn’t do much but have a wonder around Seward for the day. I was walking into town to meet up with the group at 4pm to go Heli-Dogging! The walk was a flat 2.3 mile (now according to Google Maps) walk into town and it was the perfect day for it!

View while enjoying my coffee. Seward, Alaska

I stopped at Resurrect Art Coffee as recommended to us by the guide and it was okay. No Kalandi Bros! But it was a pleasant place to stop for a drink and the fantastic view and call my parents. I continued into town and since I didn’t have lunch and I thought we were going to have more fish for dinner, I wanted to eat a big lunch. I ran into another tour mate at a restaurant and stopped in and said hello and she invited me to eat with her, but I passed, said we all need some alone time today, which I think she was happy I said. Like I said, it was a good group, we all gave each other space when needed. I found a pizza place [great pizza, friendly owner (from LA!) which ended up being awesome. The owner who took my order said I looked familer, but of course, where from? Turns out, he was from LA too and had been living up in Seward for over 15 years! But how funny is that. I got a calzone to go, as it was beautiful outside and I wanted to eat it near the water. It was huge, kind of expensive, but really really good. Perfect for the day. I had a wonder around town and into the national parks visitor center for a while. I sat on the dock and read my book until I heard the rest of my group, being the loud people we were on the other side of the building.

Wood carvings are all over the state. I just love them! Seward, Alaska

We all met up with the cruisers and the guide drove us to the airport for our helicopter ride up to the glacier! After signing our lives away and investing our 401K’s (expensive!!!!!) I claimed the middle group and really wanted to sit in the front, as I had never been on the helicopter before, but the back was really good too. We saw a bear in the forest on our way up, which was so so so cool, exactly how I wanted to see a bear before we landed about 10 minutes later on the ice. The first group was just finishing their run and we got some great pictures from the air of them.

View from the helicopter on the ride up. Seward, Alaska

My first helicopter ride! Seward, Alaska

The Glacier. Seward, Alaska

The first group, from above. Seward, Alaska

Then it was our turn. I claimed the front of the sled and we went about half way around the track before we stopped and swapped places and I went to the back, which was so awesome too. Then one of the mushers took a bunch of pictures of all of us on the sled with the dogs before we got to go to one of the kennels to see puppies. I got to hold one of the older dogs and thankgod, I had a little experience holding dogs, because I got a crazy one! But they were so cute! Then, when the third group arrived, the pilot took us over to the really tiny puppies who were less then a month old and we got to hold them for a really long time. Fresh puppy!

My view from the front of the sled. Seward, Alaska

The sled dogs on the glacier. Seward, Alaska

Me and my group, the dogs on a freakin’ glacier! Seward, Alaska

I think Poppy would be jealous! Seward, Alaska

Holding fresh puppy! Seward, Alaska

We then went back over to the older dogs who were chained up to their houses and some where going crazy with barking and some where just sleeping. I took tons of pictures of the dogs and tried “my angle” to get some of me with the dogs but a lot of them would not sit still! They just want to run, is what I think, which is why they are so crazy when chained up, but who knows. I had a really good time and it was totally a highlight for me. Expensive, but well worth it.

Angel (my bosses dog) twin! Seward, Alaska

After about an hour, we took the helicopter back a different way and landed. I plugged my phone into the wall while we waited for the last group to come back and I said to myself, yes, I know I am going to leave it. And we pile back into the van and of course! We are right in town, halfway back to camp when I yell FUUUUUCK. Of course! I feel so horrible about this, but no one else seems to mind too much. Thankfully, we turn around to go back and we run into more tour mates who were about to walk back from town, so it ended up being a good thing that we u-turned it in town to get my phone. Even better, when I get my phone back, there is an adapter plug attached, which of course isn’t mine but it ended up being another one of my tour mates! How funny! He had plugged in his camera before we went up but forgot the adapter! So going back saved a lot of people and I didn’t feel bad any more.

Wind picking up on the glacier. Seward, Alaska

We got back to camp and unfortunately, had spaghetti and hot dogs for dinner. I was so NOT hungry after the large and late lunch I had, but I still scarfed food down. Rain was predicted the next day and we had a long day in the van ahead of us and certain times we had to meet to catch the ferry on time, so we all got as much together at night as we could before bed.

Silence on the glacier. Seward, Alaska

Another day in the van. After a quick stop in Homer proper for bank and supermarket, we were on the road, backtracking most of our route from the other day, back to Anchorage, but turned off at the Seward Highway. Not sure on the stops we made that day, but I am sure there was plenty, as it was a beautiful, clear, sunny and WARM day. Because it was on the warmer side, this is when the fights for having the window open vs. closed started. I was in the back, where it was boiling hot and I sat most of the day in just jeans and a t-shirt, throwing on my sweatshirt for various picture stops.

One of the millions (?) of really tall, ice covered mountains.

Free lifejacket! There were piles of them at the info board at every lake we went to.

The big stop of the day was at the Exit glacier, near Seward. It was pretty impressive and I always love the signs along the way that tell you how far the glacier was back in the day. How fast it’s receding is insane! We dropped some people off at the glacier to do a short hike, while the rest of us continued on to camp at Millers Landing , so we could arrive in time to join a kayak tour out on Resurrection Bay.

Me and Exit Glacier, Seward, Alaska

We threw up our tents and then went to the office to pay and start the kayak tour. There were good and bad things about this tour.


-The place seemed a little disorganized. People kept getting added to the tour and therefore instruction was very basic.
-They gave us no instruction on “driving” the kayaks. They told us about the foot pedals and in talking with some of my tour mates later, they thought both of them were driving the kayak. Thankfully I had used these kayaks before and claimed the back so I could drive and when I told my mates that, they looked at each other, thought about it and then realized I was right. The guides never told us that only the back drives the boat.
-I shared a kayak with the Russian in our group who spoke little English. When we were out on the water, the guide asked her some questions, but when he realized that her English was minimal, neither guide spoke a word to either of us for the rest of the tour. I think they thought I was Russian also.
-Once we were out on the water, one of the guides lit up a cigarette. Talk about unprofessional!


-Ohmigod, some of the smoothest water I have ever kayaked on in my life! I know this was an extremely rare day, but it was amazing and totally worth it. I would drive the boat one direction and within two strokes, we were headed that way. Usually it takes 5-10 strokes to change direction. I can’t get over how amazing that was!
-Scenery, amazing.
-Guide explanations were okay. We paddled about an hour and then stopped and hiked to Bridal Falls in the rainforest and it was a really nice break! And then we pedaled back.
-I just can’t get over how smooth the water was.

First look over Seward, Alaska

A short hike into the rainforest after kayaking. Seward, Alaska

Waterfall at the end of the short trail while kayaking. Seward, Alaska

Got back to camp and dinner was being made, though I can’t remember what it was. We just hung around the campfire and chatted about activities for the following day.

View from our campsite in Seward, Alaska.

I woke up in the hostel, took a shower in the full home-like bathroom with the great water pressure and no stress about finishing quickly. I paid for my room, sat in the general living area eating my breakfast and it was just really really quiet. I finished quickly and asked the guy I paid for my room about the bus into town. He showed me the poster that someone had hand drawn about how to get to the closest bus stop with the attached schedule and I figured out what I needed to do to get there. I asked for change for the bus, since it cost $1.75 and he pointed me to a change machine. I hadn’t seen one of those in years and best of all, it actually worked! Another surprise. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to drag my large bag to the stop and really how far it was, so about 30 minutes before the bus came (it was a Saturday, so they only came once an hour) I set off for the stop. It was a lot closer then I realized, so I sat in the bright and sunny Anchorage day and waited. It actually got quite warm! The bus arrived on time and the driver was this really nice hipster girl who showed me how to put my money in and that I didn’t need a ticket as I was only going one way. I dragged my bag to the back and enjoyed the ride into town.

My view while I waited for the bus.

The bus dropped me off at the Transit Center and I had printed out a really good map of the downtown area from the Anchorage Transit website, of all places and walked to the Ramada Inn, which was the joining hotel for my tour that night. Downtown Anchorage is on a grid, so it was really easy to figure out my way around. I walked past the market which I had heard a lot about and looked forward to going after I dropped my bag off. Thankfully, the hotel was only a block away from the market! Even though it was barely 11am when I got to the hotel, I really just wanted to drop my bag in (free!) storage for the day, the front desk said I could check in if I wanted a ground floor room. Sounds good to me! They gave me the name of my roommate and I claimed the bed closest to the window, which ended up being a very good choice. I just claimed the bed and arranged myself for the day and off I went. I highly recommend this hotel. Great location in the center of town, walking distance from everything, free airport shuttle, friendly and very helpful front desk, great lobby inclusive of hanging out and not feeling guilty (as you’ll see later), free computer for limited use, apparently free internet (don’t really care as I can use my phone and I’ll never carry a laptop) and a free breakfast included! Anytime there is a make-your-own-waffle bar, you know the quality is good.

My first stop was the Anchorage Museum which was awesome. A glance at my student ID and I got in for $9 vs. $12! Every little bit helps. The place was really cool and showed a lot about Alaska, why people came, why people stayed, why is it part of the US and not Russia or Canada. There was a lot on the native people also but unfortunately by then, I didn’t get to it until the end of my visit and I was getting hungry . Oh, you aren’t allowed to take large bags in and it took me a moment to figure out the locker system in that you have to put a quarter in them, but you get it back when you open it. YAY! I love that system. So free lockers!

View from the “Sounds of Alaska” room. One of my favorites.

After the museum, I went across the street to the mall in search of cheap food and found it in the form of a food court so I just grabbed a bottle of water and a slice of pizza and people watched for a while. Otherwise, the mall is your typical American place. There is a Nordstroms and JC Penny that anchor it as well as an Apple store right outside Nordies. I couldn’t help but laugh. When I was tying my shoes that morning, I noticed that my laces were starting to come apart and the last thing I needed was them breaking while I was in the middle of nowhere, so I stopped at Payless and grabbed a spare pair for $2 before finally headed toward the town market.

One of my favorite signs, what Alaska thinks of Texas! Too funny.

I had a nice wonder around the market to see what was on offer and get the lay of the land. Unfortunately, I had already eaten lunch, so I wasn’t that hungry for all the delicious food on offer! Oh well, reason to come back. I did have a discover my new favorite coffee though in Kalandi Brothers. So good! They are only in Alaska (and WA, I just checked) and when ever I saw them on my trip, weather I wanted or needed it, I bought a cup. So good! I also got my mom a pair of earrings. I sat on a bench near the bathrooms where there was chalk on the ground for the kids to play with and called my parents, which was actually kind of weird in itself. I can’t remember the last time I was on vacation, like a proper vacation, and had the abilities to use my phone without extra charges. It was so weird! As I was talking to my family, it started to rain, so I took shelter near the bathrooms and continued the conversation like nothing happened.

My view at the market, drinking coffee, chatting with my parents. Rain came about 5 minutes after this picture was taken!

After that, I was a bit tired and wet, so I just went back to the hotel to relax. I didn’t really want to sit in the room as besides the bed, there wasn’t really anywhere to sit and the lobby was so nice. I cuddled up in a chair near a window and read and wrote for a while before someone came up and asked if I was part of G Adventures tour that was starting. I said yes and met my first tour mate! We chatted for a while before someone else came into the lobby and over heard us talking and joined us and before I knew it, I was meeting my roommate and tentmate for the first time! Both were lovely and we talked for a long time as more and more of the group joined us before the welcome meeting.

We were all present for the welcome meeting except one person and we got an overview of the following two weeks before breaking for dinner, which we all ate at the bar attached to the hotel. I had the nachos and they pretty much sucked, but at least the company was good. Most of the group was pretty jet lagged and even though I wasn’t, I didn’t want to OD on the group too fast and I wanted to take advantage of the hotel room while we had it, so I came back to the room and took one last shower and packed up my bag for the following day and snuggled into a real bed for the last time.

Alaska – My 39th State

I am going to format my recent trip to Alaska a little different then normal. Instead of writing by topic, I am going to write out whatever the hell I want in chronological order. There will probably be some sort of topical relation in the post, but essentially it is going to be a day-by-day take on what I did, saw, stayed and ate. On a personal note, I am sort of getting away from travel blogs. I comment less because I am caring less. Everything is sponsored these days, which is just annoying and I am getting more into reading personal lifestyle blogs, which is kind of hilarious as I have neither a life nor style. ANYWAY.

So yeah, if I forgot to tell you, I went to Alaska for my summer vacation this year. It was sort of a last minute thing as I wasn’t sure I would be able to afford it, with the dog and all but around May I started getting depressed that I wasn’t going to do anything this summer, so I booked another G Adventures tour to Alaska, as I wanted to keep it local and on the cheaper-ish end side. Yeah, cheap did not end up working out too well, but at least I stayed semi-local (didn’t have to worry about being international and only one time zone and flight away). I wanted to be lazy for this trip. I wanted someone else to take care of the details. I didn’t want to have to be aware of everything all the time. And this trip was perfect for that.

Typical street in Anchorage. They speak ENGLISH!!!

After I booked my tour, I knew I wanted to essentially arrive and leave as close as I could, no dicking around for extra days in the area, just in case someone went wrong, like I did last year in Peru when by the end, all I wanted to do was come home. I found a decently priced flight on Alaska immediately for the exact days and times I wanted, so I bought it only to find out the following week that the exact same flight went down in price by $20!! GAH!!! Not the end of the world and since I bought it directly from Alaska, I qualified for a voucher refund, which I processed, so now I have $20 to spend on Alaska or American in the next year, if I spend it at all. Oh well! Just a little annoying, but it could have been worse.

High tourist season in Anchorage.

Since I left during rush hour on a Friday, my parents dropped the dog off with me first at boarding and then dropped me off at the FlyAway bus because they didn’t want to drive me all the way to the airport, which I was fine with. As long as they picked me up, as my flight back was arriving around 6am. Kill me now! Bus was fine and I had to check luggage for my one-time-a-year. On the Alaska website, it says that if you have an AAdvantage credit card, you can check one piece of luggage for free and since I knew the check in counter would have no idea about this, I brought a print out of the website, but thankfully I talked the guy into it and checked my large bag for free! I noticed the tag he attached had the code MTF and I was like, wait, that doesn’t look right. I check the boarding pass he gave to me (without even checking my ID! Love that LAX security) and see that it was not my name. I tell him and he apologizes profusely as that is the person in front of me’s information, it was printed twice. THANKGOD I always know my destination airport code (ANC) and I checked my ticket before leaving the counter. Lesson of the day!! Security was a bit of a clusterfuck, but what else is new. I had plenty of time to go and grab food, but who knew a baked potato would take nearly 30 minutes to cook! T6 just went through some changes and now there are charging stations at every seat, which is great, so I sat and charged my phone and ate my dinner before boarding. Since all I had for bags was something that would fit under my seat, I was in no rush to board, what’s the point? I waited until last call and finally boarded only to find someone who only spoke Spanish in my seat. She kept yapping away and I was like, Yeah, I don’t understand you, you can shut up now, thanks. I roll my eyes, knowing she is wrong and I go back to find an attendant and tell her the situation and the attendant rolls her eyes and says, Yeah, I told her 11F, NOT 11A. I say, no worries and we cause a huge jam up in the aisle, but hey, not my fault. The thing I like least about this whole situation is that someone has been sitting in my seat, keeping it warm and unlike the general population, planes are ALWAYS too hot for me and the last thing I want is to sit in someones warmed seat. Gross. But everything the works out.

The flight is fine as it’s an 8pm-1am flight and almost everyone sleeps EXCEPT for the person in the aisle in my row, who keeps his light on the whole time. At least it wasn’t behind me, but it was still annoying as hell. Why do I always end up in that row? Same thing happened on my 10000 hour flight to New Zealand 5 years ago. We land, it’s nice and cold, my bag comes out and I go out to find the taxi line to take me to my hostel.

These wood statues are everywhere! I love them.

Originally, I was just going to crash at the airport. I didn’t want to pay $150-$200 for a hotel room for one night and since it was peak season and I waited until like 2 days before I left to realize this, all the hostels were booked. But I finally found the Spenard Hostel nd booked a bed to crash in for like 7 hours. I’d just have to suck up sharing a room for a few hours, I knew it wouldn’t kill me, plus it was close to the airport. What’s the worst that could happen? The taxi line, or lack there of at ANC is a clusterfuck. There is no order and everyone just runs for the first one, so don’t stress. Everyone will get one eventually. I chatted it up with a pilot for DHL in line, who asked me if I was headed downtown (I was not) because I think he would have given me a lift if I was. That would have been awesome as that is how my sister gets into NYC every time we visit. Anyway, I finally get a cab, chat with the driver and make it to my hostel in record time.

I’m a sucker for a fun sign. And I hate Starbucks.

The place is really quiet and there is a note for me and I find my room and the light it still on. I hit the jackpot! There are two sets of bunks, but there are completely empty except for one made up bed for me!!! $25 and I get the whole room to myself. SCORE!!!!!!!! I dress for bed and snuggle in for a cozy, quiet night sleep.

Used: Lifetime

I love a good window seat. Really, who doesn’t? Slightly more space under your seat, enough to jam everything up against “the wall”, a plastic hole to check out the ground below and a very hard up-right bed to sleep on. What could be better? Thought I have written about my recently acquired loved for Group C (aka the middle seat) on Southwest I really don’t mind the middle seat when flights are around an hour long, give or take On my flight home from Peru last year, I was given an aisle seat on 2 out of 3 legs which the check-in counter couldn’t change. Oh well, it wasn’t a red-eye and hell, it wasn’t a middle (especially for that 5+ hours flight from SAL to LAX), I’ll see what this fuss is about.

I kind of get why the aisle is awesome. As someone who has minor issues with their knees, I love the aisle for the space is offers. If no one is coming, I can stretch out as much as I want. And for the snoop in me, I love spying on what people are reading, listening or talking about.

But the biggest downside to sitting in an aisle seat (and even middle perhaps) and why I make an awesome window seat companion is my ability to “hold it”. I have the art of using the loo down to a science, especially when I fly. And on flights less than 10 hours, I usually just hold it the whole time. The moment they start to board the plane, I use the restroom and the first thing I do when I get off is find a loo. On long flights, I like to think I am considerate and I can’t remember the last time I had to ask anyone to get up, I just use the loo when the others in my row get up, to ease the process. Heck, I’ll even get up and go when the others do, even if I don’t really have to go, just in case!

My chart for what should be legal uses of using the toilet whilest sitting on any of the internal seats.

Flight time 0-4 hours – ZERO times, just fucking hold it.
Flight time 4-7 hours – 1x
Flight time 7-14 hours – 2x
Flight time 15+ – 3x (no more)

Anymore then the above and you should be required to sit on the aisle.

On my 5+ hour flight from SAL to LAX the person at the window got up TWICE. The first time, I just rolled my eyes, but went with it. But less then two hours later, they got up again and I nearly lost it. I hate sitting and standing and worse, settling back into a warm seat (ewww), I wanted to punch them. Are you fucking kidding me? If you have to pee this much, sit on the fucking aisle. Note: I never pee’d once during the whole flight.

Moral: Is this rant too petty? Guess what, I don’t care. We all have our weird pet-peeves when we fly (don’t really care about paying for ticket changes or paying for checked bags, I could write two posts ranting on those complaints! Hey, watch for those posts coming eventually!) and this just happens to be mine. And fun family side-note: My dad, who LOVES the window (he and my mom got into such a fight over the window when leaving New Zealand, that my sister and I just left the airport, not knowing when I was going to see them again and they barely noticed) has had to give it up recently on long flights because he needs to stretch every hour and use the loo more. He is aware of his needs and changed his wants for your comfort. Too bad more people couldn’t be like that.

Used: 2011

When booking my trip, since I had such little time but wanted some form of control to my travels, I mixed up my tours and went with two companies. Because of that, it meant having to book my own airfare from Puno/Juliaca back to Lima before coming home. Since I had never been to Peru before and don’t know anyone that has been lately (or travel there with time restrictions), Google was my buddy in finding ways to get back to the capital. At the time of my planning, there were three airlines in Peru that ran the Puno-Lima route. The official airline of Peru, LAN as well as two local airlines, Peruvian Airlines and Star Peru. In checking the prices, LAN was easily three times as much as the local carries. LAN was crossed out immediately. And the only reason I picked Star Peru over Peruvian was based on cost. And thank god I picked Star! A week before my trip, I got an email from GAP saying that Peruvian had ceased flying due to inadequate regulations or something like that. GAP didn’t fly with them (we flew with LAN) but they emailed me, just in case my other travel plans in Peru involved flying with them. Very helpful. And thankfully, I wasn’t flying with them! But because Star Peru flies within Peru only, they had some pretty strange ways of doing business. Granted, I flew last year and my mom and sister are flying on them this year, apparently things have changed already in the span of one year and I’ll note the differences.

Exiting the plane in Lima. Note the constant overcast sky!

Last year, I booked my ticket online, about 4 months before I was to fly. I got a what looked like a very basic confirmation email a few days later and apparently they only billed my credit card US$15 to hold the reservation. I emailed the office in Miami (their US office) to find out if my reservation was processed and within 2 days, I got a confirmation from the office in Peru, saying my reservation was confirmed and instructions to pay the balance of my ticket once I arrive in Peru. I wasn’t too worried about this as I gave myself plenty of extra time in Cusco and Lima to figure this out. I had read on their website that the office at the Lima airport was open 24 hours, so when I landed at the start of my trip in Lima, I found my name on a sign and the rep from GAP asked if I could wait until the next plane arrived, so we could share a taxi into town. I said it was fine. I sat down for a few minutes before I remembered that I had to pay my balance to Star Peru. I went to find the rep and tried to tell him what I wanted to do, but he didn’t understand what I was trying to say at all (you would think more tourists would have this issue) but I gave up, knowing I would have time in Cusco to deal with this. When my mom bought her ticket for this month, it took a few cycles, but she was billed in full so she won’t have to find a local office once she is in Peru to pay the balance.

In Cusco, I had a map to the office and thankfully the town is so tiny and the office is on a main street in between the center of town and the airport, that I saw it when we first arrived so I knew how to find it after my tour ended. After the Inca Trail hike, I had one day to essentially “run errands” which involved paying the balance of my ticket. It was very easy! Since I had my confirmation print outs, barely any language was needed to communicate and I quickly and easily paid my balance. The whole transaction was quaint. Thankfully, they took credit cards for this part in person!

The following week was my flight and it was easy peasy. I got to check my HUGE suitcase for free. What I didn’t know at the time, was that the flight wasn’t nonstop. We had about a 20 minute flight from Juliaca to Arequipa, which was probably the shortest flight I have ever been on in my life. Even though I was assigned an aisle seat, the plane was dead empty (seriously, maybe like 30 people on the Southwest-size jet) so I had the whole row to myself and moved to the window. But then in Arequipa, the plane filled and I moved back to the aisle. Thankfully, I shared my row with some English-speaking tourists who didn’t say a word (the only reason I know so, if their guide books were in English, but I don’t know what country they were from) but the person across the aisle from me, let her daughter run wild around the airplane after we had taken off and I was so scared that the kid was going to pull the door open. Seriously, shit like that would NEVER happen in the US, the attendants would scream at the person to hold on to their kid, but in Peru apparently, anything goes. The plane was full on the flight back to Lima and we got served a box of snacks! YUM!!!! There was no entertainment, but for slightly over an hour, who cares.

Star Peru’s “gate area” in Lima. On the runway!

When we landed in Lima, unlike when I left on LAN for Cusco, it was like Star Peru was too cheap to rent a gate, so we exited onto the runway, which I don’t mind at all. We then jammed on a bus for a quick ride to the gate and spilled out right in the baggage claim. I grabbed my bag and spotted the sign from the hotel I was staying at in Peru for my last few days. This was the only time on the entire trip (except in official capacities) that my name was spelled correctly. Very nice!

Exiting the plane in Lima.

Moral: Unless the airline has total shit reviews and track records, try the local flights! They’ll usually be way cheaper than the national and international carriers, plus you’ll interact with the locals more. Thankfully, all the employees on Star Peru spoke English, so it was a non-issue, but the customers were way local. Have you ever flown on a local carrier you were impressed or disappointed in?

Used: 2011

I love tiny airports! They are easy to navigate and you rarely have to worry about missing your flight. Puno was a perfect example of it. Trusting the collective to get me to the airport on time was a fine decision. Since I knew the airport was tiny, pretty much everyone in my collective was going to be on my flight. I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Check in was a breeze and even though I flew on Star Peru, a local internal airline, the agent spoke English. Not that there was much to say. I checked my bag and then was pointed to the next window to pay my s/9.50 exit fee. No communication was even needed there.

Outside the Puno/Juliaca airport

Security was easy and hey, if you wanted to enter and exit, you could do it as much as you wanted, just had to pass security every time. I was a bit nervous going through security, mainly because I didn’t know what was past it, anywhere to eat or buy stuff, just in case, so I waited until my plane was scheduled to about to leave to go through. Turns out, that wasn’t even an issue because we were delayed for about an hour. Ah, the Peruvian way! Thankfully, we got to wait in the terminal instead of on the plane, so that was nice. Another favorite thing about small airports (or airlines) are the jetways! There are none and you have to enter and exit the planes right on the runway. I totally love that. All the flights in Puno, even LAN, have entrances and exits on the runway.

Don’t you wish all airports could be this empty?

Moral: Small airports are great when traveling in a new place. The lack of flights means you’ll never miss yours and they might board in a different way, which is always fun. Thankfully, since most airports in less developed nations cater mainly to tourists, you can be guaranteed that someone will speak English and have good clean (English!) signage as well. And the bathrooms will be clean and stocked with toilet paper. What is your favorite small airport?

Used: 2011

Since I am not really a tour person, I split my time in Peru up into two different tours, just in case one of them went bad. I went with a worldwide known company for my Inca Trail tour but in figuring out what else I wanted to do in Peru, I found a local company that could organize my time in Puno. Edgar’s Adventures is a full service agency for all things Puno and I had them put together a package for Lake Titicaca, hotel and transportation for me.

They booked me on the Turismo Mer bus service from Cusco to Puno, a ride that takes about 10 hours and makes lots of tourist stops along the way. Sign me up! At first, the communication on my ticket was not very good until I found out that I really didn’t have a ticket, just show my ID at the office. Thankfully, they had my name on a list (spelled incorrectly, but it was fine as this was not an air itinerary and they accepted me anyway).

Animals and the runes, Peru

Couple of things about the bus. There are a bunch of different companies and they all pretty much make the same stops and are the same price. If you can bunch it all together in a tour, it will probably end up being cheaper. I know my ticket was. The seats are assigned and at first I was on the aisle, sitting next to this HUGE German man and I groaned the moment he sat down. THANKFULLY the bus was not full (there were actually two buses leaving at the same time, to the same place) and the moment we pulled away, I spotted an empty ROW and bolted for it. So thankfully, I had an empty row for the entire trip. And because there were two buses, what would have been even better is if they split the group into English and Spanish speakers. It was a full on tourist bus, but that doesn’t mean that tourists don’t speak Spanish! I would say my bus was split and I’ll just assume that the other bus was split too. What if they just separated us and then the guides wouldn’t have to repeat everything twice? That would be too easy. While the bus was full service, attendants coming around and offering drinks and bread for free, I have to say BRING TOILTE PAPER for the rest stops! I hate using facilities on my transportation and pretty much all our stops were BYOTP.

Raqchi, Peru

I have the worst memory when it comes to the stops (we probably stopped about 5 or 6 times during the day) but here are the ones that made an impression on me:

– Andahuaylillas: beautiful church that they are in the process of restoring in the middle of a cute little town. Very interesting as this is quite far outside of Cusco, so everything in town centers around the church. So European!
– Raqchi: A total tourist trap of a village. Mainly runes, but interesting for that aspect of it. Just don’t get pulled into the shops and you’ll be fine. Love that the locals bring and farm the animals right up next to the runes. It’s all just so different from regular life.
-Lunch was buffet, which meant you got to eat as much as you want. Typical chicken and rice and veggie dishes, nothing much to write home about, decent as always. Good bathroom at this stop!
-We then stopped at a high peak, but I was so tired, that I didn’t get out of the bus. There wasn’t much to see, it was more of a rest stop in the middle of some beautiful scenery, surrounded by women who had set up shop on the side of the road. Luckily, I was sitting on the side of the bus that faced the mountains and had a beautiful view, so I just took some pictures through the window, which was fine for me. I was just pooped.
-Just the ride through the countryside was very interesting, seeing the locals wash their clothes in the river. Just something you don’t see in America anymore and you kind of can’t believe there are still people in this world that live that way. But there you go.
-Like everything in Peru, we arrived in Puno nearly an hour after we were supposed to, but my contact was thankfully still waiting for me. Apparently this happens pretty much every day.

Beautiful scene, with stuff to buy of course! Peru

Moral: The reviews on the tourist buses are mixed (vs taking a “locals” bus). Since my time was limited, I didn’t mind at all, plus got to see some more stuff (even though I was a bit ruin’ed out at this point) but I can see the downside if you are long on time but short on funds. They are kind of pricy for what they are, but I am really glad I took one instead of flying, at least on this leg. I budgeted the time for this and it’s a very common route and lots of buses take it and as far as I can tell, they are all pretty much the same. I think they all stop at similar stops, so the only difference was the price or quality of the bus. And I had no problems with the quality and service on Turismo Mer. I would recommend them for anyone traveling this route in the future.

Scene from the bus, Peru

More scene from Peru