Airport Rating N/A
Reception of locals ****
The Amalfi Coast is one of the most famous coastlines in all of Europe, located south of Naples and to the west of Salerno. The coastline is most famous for its dramatic cliffside drops that leave very little room for arable land, but create a stunning spectacle. In fact, as with the rest of my blog, the photos in these article are taken with an old school 8MP camera, but still look postcard perfect. Three towns in particular are heavily associated with the coast; Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi, and during my recent trip to Italy, I visited all three.
The Sacred Valley (Urubamba Valley), Peru
The Sacred Valley of the Incas, also known as the Urubamba Valley, is a valley in the Andean Mountains in Peru.
The Sacred Valley, or El Valle Sagrado was formed by the Urubamba River that runs through the area and is located north of the ancient Incan capital of Cusco. The area called the Sacred Valley encompasses the towns of Ollantaytambo, Urubama, Calca, Pisac and Chinchero. The proximity of the river, fertile plains and natural defences made this an ideal area of settlement for Quechua people and it was one of the last bastions of Incan culture before it was conquered by the Spanish.
To this day the area produces a lot of the crops that feed the nearby city of Cusco, but it is making an increasing amount of money from the tourist trade. Trips to Machu Picchu pass through this valley and locals have made a business out of selling everything from Quechuan cuisine to clothing/equipment needed to climb the mountains.
The area of the Sacred Valley is one of outstanding beauty and almost every point looks over a view like something out of Lord of the Rings (the good part, not the fiery hell part). I visited a couple of cottage industries while I was out there, drank some purple corn juice and generally just admired the views. My walk around Ollantaytambo was perhaps my favourite experience. The town has ancient Incan ruins, a small community feel and a landscape unlike anything I have seen anywhere else.
Although most of my hike to Machu Picchu took part in the Sacred Valley, the pictures below cover only the towns in the valley itself.
Firstly; I'm no Mr Universe. I'm not even close, however I'm a strong believer that physical fitness is incredibly important for a number of reasons. Appearance isn't everything, however you can still make some valid judgements about a person depending on their appearance. It takes discipline to stay in shape and if you can't take care of your health, how are you going to take care of your family or anything else?
Physical fitness is also one of the core requirements within Sikhi, infact the second Guru, Angad, ordered that every Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) should have a gym attached to it and although this custom has fallen in some parts of the world, in the UK its still very strong with groups like Lions MMA, Shin Kin and various Gatka Akharas basing classes in Gurdwara gyms. I did Shin Kin when I was younger and then trained for a short while with Lions MMA when I was a little older and have a lot of respect for these groups. A Sikh is supposed to be 'Tyar bar tiyar' (always prepared) and the life of a Sikh is supposed to be geared toward protecting the innocent. It's pretty hard to protect someone else if you can't even protect your waistline.
I tend to go to the gym between 3-4 times a week, train in Thai Boxing and play football. To test my fitness I took part in a Tough Mudder (which I'd recommend for all) and occasionally do medium distance runs for charity. That being said, as a guy of Panjabi heritage, my diet isn't great, although its something I'm actively trying to improve.
I usually get a little cranky when I don't go gym for a few days, so going on longer travels presents a problem. However, during my first extended trip I found that just because you're travelling, doesn't mean you have to skip gym.
Bolivia is a fairly large, landlocked country in western South America that was previously a part of the famous Incan Empire. These days, Amerindians make up a sizable proportion of the country, infact the different native tribes together make up just over half the population and the country is proud of its history and culture.
The first thing I noticed was its relative poverty when compared to its neighbours, although it is a country with a growing economy. Bolivia has a number of unique landmarks and attractions, La Paz, which is the seat of the government, is one of the city '7 wonders' as it is built over 3000m above sea level. Further south are the famous Salt Flats, or Salars in Uyuni, a landscape unlike anywhere else on the planet.
In this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took in the country, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Bolivia, its culture and its attractions.
Peru is one of those few countries that seem to have mastered being modern and traditional at the same time. The majority of the population is Amerindian, with Quechua and Aymara people still speaking the same language as they did during the times of the Inca. There is also a sizeable population of European descent who have brought with them Spanish culture. Unlike other areas of South America, however, the Spanish culture didn't completely replace the culture of the Amerindians, instead it seems to melt into it. When you add minorities from Africa and the Far East, you truly have one of South America's most multi-ethnic countries.
From the cuisine to the sights, Peru has a lot to offer. Whether its modern Lima with its Skyscrapers in Downtown or the bars and restaurants in Miraflores, or Ollantaytambo with its beautiful snowcapped mountains and preserved Incan culture, Peru certainly has a little something for everybody.
I didn't get to explore the northern part of the country and I heard amazing stories about Arequipa, however, here are my 5 favourite things about Peru.
South East Asia or South America. These two parts of the world have seen an explosion of popularity over the past decade and for most people the decision of where to visit first is often a difficult one. In this entry, I'll try and rate each of the locations on factors that are important to the average person and come up with an overall rating.
Things to consider
Before I get things started, its important to note that my experiences over the two locations will vary. I spent more time in South East Asia, and it was also the place I decided to visit first. There are important locations missing from both locations. I didn't visit Laos in SE Asia and I didn't visit Colombia and Argentina in South America. Personally, I feel that Argentina is a significant omission due to the size of the country and the number of things to see and do. Ratings and experiences are also very subjective, my experience could be significantly different from the experience of others so I'd bare this in mind when you make your decision.
Finally, a comparison between the two locations isn't an exact science. The phrase apples and oranges comes to mind. Peru and Brazil have completely different cultures, speak completely different languages, yet for the purpose of comparison they have been lumped together under a loose 'South American' category. This entry is a subjective rough overview of my experiences and can form part of your research into each location.
I was ridiculously underprepared for my trek to Machu Picchu, but I made it to the site in one piece. Looking back at the trip now, I realise there were probably a few things more important than others, and possibly a couple of things I could have done without.
Airport Rating ***
Reception of locals *****
San Pedro de Atacama bore the brunt of the consequences of my cancelled flight. Having planned to spend a whole day there with a night tour of the desert, I managed to reach the town 12 hours later than I had originally planned, meaning for me, it was more of a resting place as opposed to a town I could explore.
As I mentioned in a previous entry, the flight cancellation had meant that I had to switch my three day salt flats tour to a one day tour. The three day tour would have slowly worked its way down Bolivia and into Chile, reaching San Pedro in small manageable journeys. As I had switched to the one day tour, I had to make one long journey from Uyuni to San Pedro via Calama.
Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals *****
The cancellation of my flight in Peru had a knock on effect that lasted about a week covering my time in La Paz, Uyuni and San Pedro de Atacama. In Uyuni I had booked a three day salt flats tour. The tours are world famous and take in the salt flats, lagoons and active volcano's as they work their way down to the Chilean border. However, as I had been delayed by two days, I had to cancel the three day tour and rebook onto a one day tour. The tour operators were very helpful, offering me alternative dates and when this wasn't possible, refunding me the extra money that I would have spent on the longer tour. It wasn't ideal, but I figured it was better than nothing.
The plane from Cusco to La Paz was small, but the one from La Paz to Uyuni was tiny. You couldn't actually stand up in the plane and the spaces for the carry on luggage were very small, but did the job for what I had with me. Although the plane could probably seat about 40-60 people, there were only 5 of us on the plane. I had struck up a conversation with a French guy who was living in Dubai. He had a two week holiday and the salt flats were on his bucket list of things to see. I had read nightmare stories about the turbulence on this flight, especially with smaller planes and as I sat down, there was a sick bag right in front of me so I was prepared for the worst. The journey, however was very smooth. As with Cusco, the scenery when flying out of La Paz was phenomenal. Large mountains in the distance surrounded the plane and from every angle the view was more impressive.
Airport Rating n/a
Reception of locals *****
It's one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and one of the most famous archeological sites in the world. It was after visiting Angkor Wat on the other side of the world in Cambodia that I had begun to plan a trip to South American to see Machu Picchu. The Incan site has seen a growth in popularity over the past decade and it's something that I have personally had an interest in from an early age after reading a few books on pre-Spanish civilisations in South America.
There's a few ways to get to Machu Picchu. The most simple and easiest way is to get a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and then a 20 minute minibus to Machu Picchu. For the more adventurous there are a number of different hiking options. The most famous is the 4 day 3 night Inca Trek which involves walking the same path that the Inca's did to the famous site. However, you can also take 2/3/5/7 and even 8 day treks that either cover the same path and different distances or completely separate paths.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.