Everybody Loves A Parade


Parades allow people to publicly express themselves in large gatherings, marches, walks or formal processions.  Every Independence Day in the USA there are parades of military might, heritage floats and demonstrations of national pride.  Across this great nation, people gather from all walks of life to express their love of country.  The process is supported by citizens, immigrants and visitors alike.  Standing shoulder to shoulder, people will witness all the displays, listen to the speeches whether in agreement or not, applaud or demonstrate anti-behavior towards all that may go on.  The visiting tourist may not have a clue about all that they see once they encounter a procession but are often drawn to the sidelines to watch in amazement.  It has been my experience in different countries to follow processions, if only to be nosy and to see what was going on.  I could easily tell from all that I saw what type of parade it was, and whether I should get closer or watch from a safe distance.

Besides witnessing the pomp and pageantry of parades stateside on special holidays, if possible, I like to view parades while on vacation.  I was drawn to large crowds of people in Barbados, Ecuador, Greece, Hawaii, Peru and Philippines, respectively, some marching in protest and others celebrating a national holiday or cultural heritage.  On most occasions, it was not a part of my travel itinerary, but a pleasant diversion and an opportunity to mingle with local residents.  So, I never miss standing on the sidelines to capture the event even though I may not understand all that may take place or the reasons behind the cavalcades.  Some parades can present dangerous situations for outsiders.  Tensions may rise and if caught in the heart of demonstrating protesters, the tourist may find themselves outside of their element.  It is always good to stand away from large crowds just in case you may need a quick getaway.  Find or look for a quick route to escape if things turn ugly.

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In Athens, Greece and Lima, Peru respectively, marchers were protesting against government policy.  Police with riot gear were out in full force to keep the peace.  Placard bearing marchers and the masses were shouting slogans as they filed pass government buildings.  I moved along with the train of people for several blocks just to watch the developments as they unfolded.  In both cases, the protests were peacefully carried out although the gravity of the situation was not underestimated by the police but keenly observed.  It was obvious they were ready, and capable of handling any imminent danger.

In Quito, Ecuador and Oahu, Hawaii, the respective processions demonstrated their cultural heritage.  Ethnic groups, dressed in fancy colorful duds paraded down the streets dancing to drumbeats, clapping and stomping.  Floats carrying musical bands, costumed characters, and people waving to the crowds were fun to watch.  Both parades were more festive and celebratory.  It was easy to blend in, enjoy the fun, and to mingle with the sea of people that lined the streets as the participants moved slowly along.  The gaiety from the revelers was contagious, did not present a stressful environment but a relaxing atmosphere.  Still, as a visitor, I was careful, observant and had an exit strategy should a disruptive incident like a fight arise.

In Bridgetown, Barbados and Sagada, Philippines, correspondingly, their parade emphasis was on a national anniversary, much like Independence Day here.  In Barbados, the parade is formal and excitedly anticipated by citizens.  It is well planned, and the main drills are performed at a cricket oval or a horse racetrack (depending on the weather) where residents can go to view in comfort.  Different arms of the public and civil service march pass to the beat of the national police band in salute of the various dignitaries, after which a street parade follows.  Residents follow the procession for miles along the parade route.  Separately, the day I arrived in Sagada; the marchers were made up of some adults but mostly children.  They were dressed in uniform and marched to the music of the school band.  The expressions on everyone’s face was one of pride as they twirled batons and pompoms.  They were celebrating an anniversary and had walked to the town square where they were on display.  Their demonstration was formal and clearly a moment of local pride.  Attendees, most likely proud parents, lined the streets, cheered for the children as they went by.

Community Peeps, everybody loves a parade if only to watch others stand for their cause, celebrate heritage or represent their country’s national honor.  What has been your experience?  If you have encountered a good or bad incident while attending a parade, at home or abroad, please share it with me here.  Write it in the comment box below.

Readers, as usual, I invite you to click follow to receive timely updates, select like to show your love and support.  Share this post on your social media site.  Write your comment in the box below.  Your interest, time and attention are always appreciated.  Thank you for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

Sprightly Quito


We arrived at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport just after 10:00 p.m. tired and hungry.  On our way to the exit we were stopped by an official (customs I believe) and politely asked to follow her into a side room.  My sister and I looked quizzically at each other but obeyed.  The officer immediately asked us how much money we were carrying.  She looked at me in particular and asked me to empty my pockets, purse, money wallet and loose-change bag on the table.  I was puzzled, but complied, all the while keeping an eye on the money (which included a few Barbados dollars).  She counted the US dollars and after a little explanation on the exchange rate for the Barbadian currency we were told we could leave.  I hurriedly stuffed the bills back into their hiding places and went through the door. Was that sinister or what?  No explanations were given and I did not wait around to ask questions in my Spanglish.  I was only too happy to leave, with every red cent.

Our driver was anxiously waiting outside holding a sign with my name and we quickly followed him to his vehicle.  The ride into Quito felt like an hour, but probably was no more than 45 minutes.  For a city the size of Quito, the roads were strangely clear of traffic at that time.  I turned and asked the driver where was everybody.  I do not think he understood me, or if he did, I did not understand his response.  We arrived at our lodging, checked-in and settled down for the night.  By now, our total travel time was more than 16 hours, and we were dead tired.  We immediately fell asleep.  Not even the loud party buses (traveling discotheques) on the outside disturbed our sleep.

On our first day we awoke early, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready for adventure.  Our accommodation in the old city of Quito was practically next door to the Basilica, which became our very first stop on the sightseeing trail.  Armed with map, cameras and in my case, binoculars too, we peregrinated the city in tourist like fashion, ooh-ing and ahh-ing as we viewed the historical sites with interest.  One real concern we had for this trip was how well we would adjust to the high altitude, but while that was a factor, the “little” hills proved to be our undoing.  It turned out those “little” hills (to us) were steep climbs.  As we walked, it seemed as if we were moving in slow motion, while everyone strode up and down those streets with ease.  I am not being melodramatic when I tell you there was a hill to climb where ever we went.  Nevertheless, from every vantage point the views, as far as we could see, were simply amazing.

We managed to visit all the major sites highlighted on the map.  Many of them were churches.  After a while, my sister became tired of seeing one church after another and had had enough.  She did not want to see or enter another church door.  I, on the other hand, found the historical buildings interesting and the architecture fascinating.  As we traversed the calles y avenidas (streets and avenues) teeming with street vendors of every kind , we got lost, we crisscrossed, we back-tracked until street names eventually became familiar and we could maneuver around the neighborhood with ease.

Quito26

Quito, Ecuador – Party bus (Traveltinerary)

The following day we headed to the GPS location: 0° 0′ 0″ –  the center of the world. We were not disappointed.  From every geographical location: north, east, south and west, people were busy taking photos standing on the line making sure to capture the symbolic Mitad del Mundo monument in the background. The monument sits in the middle of a square surrounded by cultural exhibitions of beer making, cacao/chocolate processing, Andean products and boutique galleries selling art, ethnic clothing and jewelry, soaps, treats, teas, etc.  It was an educational experience at Mitad’s ethnographic museum where several interesting scientific experiments are showcased.  The scientific demonstrations are a big hit with children and adults.  I had to give up my experiment attempt (causing a magnet to float in mid-air) in order to keep the lines moving.  I did not try “standing an egg on a nail” experiment either, but was satisfied to see someone else accomplish the feat.  It actually works.  We also perused the Intiñan museum where we learned about Ecuador’s early natives, tribes and culture.  In the afternoon we headed over to El Panecillo – another monument, set way up on a hill, towering over the old city as if watching over her.  From walking around the base of the statue, you can see commanding views of the city.  However, it is still worthwhile to visit the museum within the statue and climb to the very top for a panorama of Quito from any angle.

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We took a day trip away from Quito in the Pichincha province to the Cotopaxi province.  We would tour: an indigenous farmer’s market at Saquisili, hike down and up the Quilotoa Crater – a portion of the Quilotoa Loop, visit Toachi Canyon, and finally meet a Quechua family.  For more than five hours we traveled by tour bus along a scenic route which took us through small Quechua communities, over rolling hills, down into valleys and on occasion often spotting mountains like Antisana, Cotopaxi, Cayambe, Chimborazo, and other names I cannot pronounce.  At the first stop – Saquisili, our guide told us the market opens once a week for local farmers to sell their vegetables and other ware.  We were impressed with the amount, variety and freshness of the produce.  Being so far away from a major community like Quito, I wondered what would happen to the unsold perishables, but I am sure they have a system to manage the excess.

Our second stop on the tour was the Quilotoa volcanic crater.  Quick facts:  elevation – 3,914m, location – Pujili Canton, Cotopaxi Province, Parent range – Andes, Mountain type – Caldera, last eruption – 1280)  – Wikipedia

When we pulled up to the quaint Quilotoa community, not many people where around since it was still very early in the morning.  We walked the few meters to the landing vista where you could see clear across the aquamarine lagoon below.  It is breathtakingly beautiful.  Weather conditions at Quilotoa can be unpredictable and we were advised to dress warmly and be prepared for rain.  The day turned out to be clear, windy and chilly. I was excited to begin the hike, but my sister had other plans.  She took one look at the crater below and decided she was not going down that trail.  She opted to sit in the bus with the driver.  I was disappointed and had to cut short our subdued argument so as to not delay the group.  Again, I am learning two things about her – the overly cautious: how stubborn and how wise she is, and me – the radical impulsive: how competitive and impulsive.  Four of us managed to hike down to the caldera in less than 25 minutes, normal descent time is 30 minutes.  Unadmitted, I was a little nervous about the climb to the top (280m vertical ascent) so I started back up the steep trail ahead of the younger, more agile folks in our group.  Of course, there was an option to take a $10 mule ride to the top.  Let me tell you, many times on that trail I considered the ride, but once I am committed to a task I have to complete it (go big or go home).  I prayed a lot.  I thanked God that my sister had the commonsense not to come.  I gave myself pep talks, prayed some more.  It took me more than one hour and a half to reach the top.  I can only thank God who gave me the strength not to faint, but to complete the hike with a half hour to spare.    Yaaay, I did it!

The hike into the Quilotoa crater was the highlight of the day after which we had a delicious meal at a nearby restaurant.  Our third stop would be the Toachi Canyons.  The wide, open crevasses are similar to canyons in Nevada and Utah but on a much smaller scale.  However, there depth and grandeur are nonetheless just as awesome.

The last stop to visit with a Quechua family was vetoed.  By now, everyone on the bus were too tired (except my sister, lol) to fraternize and endure the daunting five-hour drive back to Quito.

Before the cat could lick his ear, it was time for us to leave sprightly Quito.  We had a blast and would like to go again, because there is so much to discover there.  I am not a good photographer by any means, and since pictures can say a thousand words, I will let those I have sprinkled throughout this post speak for themselves.  I hope you enjoy my recollections.  Indicate with a comment in the box below, like or follow.  To find out what other dramas happened as we moved on to Peru stay tuned for subsequent postings.  If you have gotten this far, thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

 

Par Excellence


Flying can be an ordeal at times, especially when you have a hectic itinerary to fulfill as I have on my Ecuador and Peru travels. I chose to fly with Avianca, and I am glad I did. Here are some reasons why.

Their service is world-class. As far as I have witnessed, they approach their jobs with a level of professionalism that is commendable. They handle customers respectfully and patiently. So far on each leg of my travel itinerary, I received patient attention, answers to my questions and helpful directions to where I wanted to go. What happened next is a testimony of an airline crew par excellence.

img_0880I recently celebrated a special day, you know, the kind of date that rolls around once a year, and what we call a birthday.  I boarded Avianca flight 807 bound for Cusco from Lima, Peru. Little did I know that my day would go in an unexpected direction. Captain Luis Palacin, First Officer Christian Crosby, Cabin Pursers Ursula Zegarra, James Ysimura and Claudia Gonzales all played a part in changing the course my day would take.

Captain Palacin directed his crew to invite me and my traveling companion to sit in row 1 of first class. I practically jumped out of my seat and ran up front. As soon as we sat down we were given our drinks (that’s a sure sign that you are in first class). I am sure other passengers may have wondered why we were taken to first class, but they would find out a little later in the flight.

img_0879The flight to Cusco from Lima is just a mere 55 minutes flying time. In less than an hour Cabin Pursers Zegarra, Ysimura and Gonzales, respectively, showered me with attention. Captain Palacin and First Officer Crosby may not have known this but I was already flying on cloud nine even while they were navigating the aircraft high over mountains that made up a part of the Andes Mountain range.

It is not often you will hear your name announced on the aircraft’s intercom by the captain wishing you a happy birthday on behalf of himself and his crew members. It is also not on every flight you will receive a cupcake with your birthdate and a note saying “Happy Birthday” from AV Crew 807. These sentiments were not lost on me. This team went above and beyond what I could ever have imagined for myself that day. It was not a part of my plan or theirs, I am sure, as we certainly did not know each other before then. However, upon learning that it was my birthday, they all jumped into action to ensure the little time I had in their presence would be memorable and lasting. Even fellow passengers joined in offering their wishes of a happy birthday to me as they exited the aircraft.

I am not shy about birthdays and have welcomed them each year since I do not relish the alternative. I want to thank God for blessing me in such a wonderful way and allowing my travels to cross the flight path of Avianca 807 crew members. May God bless, keep and watch over them on all their journeys.  I say thanks to them from the depths of my heart for making my day extra special. I want them to know, it will never be forgotten.

Blog followers and viewers, if you have had a similar experience on this airline or any other, please share in the comment section below. I like to read your comments, receive your likes or thumbs up, or you may select the follow button to be the first to know what I’m up to.  More of my travel experiences throughout Ecuador and Peru will be posted this month. Thanks for reading my blog.

Stay tuned.

Itinerary Planner

Travel Conniptions


A week from today, my travels to Ecuador and Peru will begin.  This will round out all travels for 2017 (see ‘Coming to a Place Near You’ page on http://www.traveltinerary.com) and I will be able to add them to the list of countries visited.  The itinerary planning and research for these destinations have been extensive having read everything I can on both countries.  After perusing other travelers comments and tips online, and talking with Ecuadorian friends, I had to concede (more like have a travel conniption) that I simply cannot do all the things I would like to do, or go to all the places I would like to visit within the allotted time-frame of my air ticket.  Consequently, I had to make some changes to my plans.  It would mean trimming the itinerary in a way that would afford me the most bang for my buck.   Hence, The Galápagos Islands would become the “fall guy” because of time constraints, but Machu Picchu would remain on the must-see list.

The terrain of Ecuador and Peru does not allow for easy over-land travel.  Internal flights are available but can be pricy for non-nationals.  To capitalize on multiple territories, I purchased an open-jaw ticket, which in this case, is heavily bundled with travel connections, but the price could not be beat.  Since I chose the low-priced ticket at the expense of much-needed travel time, flexing on the itinerary then became my next priority (see tips on ‘Itinerary Planning’ page).  Once committed to a budget, one has to be willing to alter plans, if necessary.  This is the way it works for budget travelers who do not want to break the bank, figuratively speaking or literally, but instead, wishes to enjoy as much of their destination as do their wealthy counterparts who spend heftier sums.  Currently my budget is on track and well below the allotted self-imposed spending limit of $1,500 per country.  I must interject here that this amount goes a long way in some parts of the world than in others.  More spending power is available to me on this trip than would be on a similar trip to Europe.  Still, if properly navigated, travels can be had within the budget you set.

“He who will not economize will have to agonize.” – Confucius

While I may forego The Galápagos Islands at this time, God willing, I hope I will get another opportunity to revisit Ecuador on a longer timetable.  The flight schedule as it stands below promises to be quite hectic.  To date, I have received one airline change to the ticket schedule since purchase. I hope there will be no further changes.

New York → Bogotá, Colombia
Bogotá, Colombia →Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador → Guayaquil, Ecuador
Guayaquil, Ecuador →Cuzco, Peru
Cuzco, Peru → Lima, Peru
Lima, Peru → New York

Following the pre-travel checklist posted last month has served to:  keep my plans on track, keep travel essentials in view and keep travel acuity of the region high.  Below are my last to-dos before I jet off to find the spot where I can stand on the GPS location – latitude: 0°, 00′, 00″ known as the middle of the world.

Week 4
Pack travel bag
Confirm flights
Check weather conditions
Give copies of itineraries to family members
Print boarding passes

Am I excited about the adventures ahead?  A resounding YES!  However, I do have a few reservations.  Will I acclimatize in time to accomplish all the hiking I would like to do?  Will my plans be sabotaged from altitude sickness?  Will I enjoy the food in either country as appetizing as they look?  I am no Bourdain or Zimmern, I draw the line on what goes into my body temple.  So, no guinea pig thanks (pun intended).  Will I feel safe walking around at night?  Only time will tell the answers to my questions.

To all my blog peeps in WordPress, LinkedIn, Google+, stay tuned as I bring you the most impactful experiences and scenic photo shots.  As always, I love to read your thoughts/recommendations on my post.  Please write your comment in the section below.  Shy?  You can select the buttons:  follow, like, thumbs-up, or email to convey your encouragement.

Keep it real all.

 

 

 

Ecuador and Peru Pre-travel Checklist


The countdown is on!

On my projected vacation page ‘coming to a place near you’, I have selected Ecuador and Peru as the destinations to close out my travels for 2017.  I am now 43 days away from fulfilling that plan.  I have chosen Ecuador specifically to visit the Galápagos Islands, and Peru to visit Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley.   I can barely wait to see nature’s wonders in this part of the hemisphere.

I can feel the pressure building as I start to compile a checklist and gather all my must-haves to take with me.  So, to help me manage my anxiety and excitement I will follow a simple plan.  I’ll prioritize what I need to focus on each week as the departure date draws nearer.  Here is my checklist of all that I must complete prior to leaving.

Week 1

  1. Purchase round-trip airline tickets
  2. Plan budget for travel expenses, namely:  food, tours, entrance fees, etc.
  3. Research mandatory medical requirements, if any i.e immunizations
  4. Pre-purchase entry tickets for Galápagos Islands and Machu Pichu

Week 2

  1. Plan detailed daily itineraries for each country
  2. Research local transportation – bus, train, plane, donkey (Lol)
  3. Choose tour operators in both cities
  4. Book lodging (AirBnB/hotel)

Week 3

  1. Arrange for a house sitter
  2. Pay all bills coming due in my absence
  3. Shop for items (raincoat, bug spray, hat, light jacket/sweater, etc.)
  4. Gather maps, guide/reference books

Week 4

  1. Pack travel bag
  2. Confirm flights
  3. Check weather conditions
  4. Give copies of itineraries to family members
  5. Print boarding passes

Did I leave anything out that may be important to this trip?  Tell me if I did in the comment section, and I’ll let you know if it has been added to the list.