Thursday, October 25, 2007

Neck deep

I've been swamped at work of late with two big projects on the go. The first has been ongoing since the summer and has been frustrating in that the project lead is out-of-province and we conduct much of our meetings by phone. Add to this the fact that there are umpteen stakeholders that must be consulted at various points and I wonder if the damn project will ever wrap up. My main responsibility is to do the number crunching and as decisions around what the inputs will be are made, unmade and then made again as feedback rolls in, I've been trying not to freak out as our date to present the business case is finally set and I wonder if we'll get done in time.

My role in the second project is just beginning to ramp up as I joined the team last week. It's a steep learning curve as they are working on the third phase of the business case and more times than not I've felt super-dumb this week.

Oh, and the meetings! I'm neck deep in meetings. I was told earlier this week that one's profile can be measured by the number of meetings one's invited to, and if that's the case, I'd rather be a nobody because while meetings can be useful, it's hard to find time in the day to do any real work when you're in a meeting or preparing to go to a meeting during business hours. This is why I've been bringing work home the last few nights.

I actually brought work home tonight, but I forgot an email that had all my notes on it...I don't know how I could have forgotten it since I brought everything that was on my desk home with me. I was in a rush to leave after meeting with the consultant until 6:30 tonight. I triple-checked my file folder and my notebook and it's not there. So I'm beginning to wonder if I might have recycled it by accident...which would TOTALLY suck eggs!! Grrr!

So...instead of working, I've decided to give in and just chill for the rest of the night. I've only one meeting tomorrow, and the consultant I've been working closely with won't be in the office so I should be able to breathe a bit easier. Keeping my fingers crossed that I placed the email in my desk drawer by mistake...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lima: City of Kings

My bad for posting about my Peru trip so late. I was waiting for wL to compile all the photos from our various cameras, but it's taking him longer than I would have expected to catalogue the photos - he likes to be thorough - and since he's off on a 2 week trip to the Middle East, I suspect I'll have to wait even longer before that CD is forthcoming.

So, without further ado...

We arrived in Lima after midnight on the 16th of August and found out from our cab driver that an earthquake had struck about an hour after we had left Toronto. The quake registered a 7.9 on the Richter scale and caused significant damage. We didn't know at the time what to think - as we drove through the city towards our hotel in Miraflores, we didn't notice anything unusual. There seemed to be electricity as evidenced by the bright lights of the many casinos en route, and the roads appeared to be in good repair.

We found out the next day after our friends came to pick us up in a van for a private city tour that the epicentre was about 150km southwest of Lima although aftershocks were felt in the city centre. They had arrived several days earlier and were in the market at the time negotiating the price for a painting when they felt the ground undulate. Thankfully, CC, who had grown up in Lima, was with them, so they knew what to do. How lucky were we to have missed a quake by 1/2 a day? I don't know what I would have done.

Our first day was spent driving around in a van, with CC acting as our tour guide. The original plan included a stop at the Museo de la Nacion,an anthropological and archaeological museum dedicated to the study of the art and history of the aboriginal people of Peru, but it was closed to check for possible structural damage, so our tour stopped at the Plaza de Armas, which has been declared a world Heritage site by UNESCO. Around the Plaza de Armas stand the Palacio de Gobierno, the Cathedral and the Archbishop's Palace, the Municipalidad, and the Club Union.

The Municipalidad
The Archbishop's Palace

The Archbishop's Palace - detail
The Cathedral

The Palacio de Gobierno

Lover's Park at Miraflores and the arts and crafts market not too far from Chinatown with its many colourful storefronts selling alpaca goods...

Cuzco: Ancient Capital of the Incas

After spending a couple days in Lima, we left for Cuzco, which may be the "gringo" capital of South America given that it stands at the head of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and it is the starting point from which many begin their trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, including yours truly.

Of the two cities I visited, I liked Cuzco best. Lima was too big and crowded with her 8,000,000 inhabitants - Cuzco seemed far more friendly and quaint - but that's probably because it's so touristy. My bias may also be due to the fact that we spent a couple extra days here after our 4-day hike of the trail - the skies were blue, the temperatures warm and we explored at a leisurely pace, which was a welcome change from having spent the last few days trying to keep up on the trail.

Plaza de Armas with The Cathedral in the background

One of many streets with their smooth, Incan-made walls that remain to this day

We spent part of our first full day visiting Santo Domingo (below), the Catholic church built on the remains of what was once the centre of Inca society,The Golden Palace and Temple of the Sun.

The central courtyard of Santo Domingo

And finally, on our way up to the San Blas district, where you'll find a concentration of little shops that sell local carvings, paintings and ceramics, as well as many affordable restaurants:

Urubamba Valley

The Urubamba River was of great significance to the Incas and this is clear from the many sites they built nearby. Our Gap Adventure truly began here with a tour of the Urubamba Valley. Our bus left Cuzco and drove towards Sacsayhuaman, or, Sexy Woman (below), if you prefer, the ruins of a sanctuary and temple to the sun.

Our next stop was at the village where our porters, or "angels" are from. We stopped to feed the llamas and alpacas and had the chance to buy handmade crafts made in the ancient tradition.

View from the bus

The next scheduled stop was at the ruins of Pisac, which are perched on the mountain 30 km north of Cuzco:

We had lingered too long at Pisac, so by the time we arrived at Ollantaytambo, the sun was just beginning to set so I have few pictures to share... :(


Update October 25: There was an article in today's Star about the Sacred Valley of the Incas, which is what the Urubamba Valley is also known as, and it covered all the sites in this post and more. Click here for more information if you are so inclined.

The Inca Trail

This is the part of the trip in which I lack photographic evidence - I know it looks like a lot here, but there was so much more to see! I was the slow poke in our group of 7 on this hike. Manny, our guide - bless him! - kept me company as I huffed and puffed along the trail: "Remember, don't compete, just complete!"

We camped for three nights along the trail and there was no electricity so I had to conserve my camera battery for Machu Picchu.

Passage along the Inca Trail is strictly regulated in order to preserve it: A maximum of 500 visitors per day are allowed onto the trail - and this includes porters, who are not permitted to carry more than 25kg. According to Manny, the split is 40% visitors, 60% porters. The porters were truly our "angels" since they carried all our supplies along the trail including the tents and sleeping bags, all the food, the propane tanks to cook with and our baggage. All we had to carry was a day pack with essentials for the hike like water, snacks and camera.

Our hike began at Km 82, Piscacucho at 2600m. It is at this checkpoint where everything the porters carry along the trail is weighed. I must confess that anything beyond getting through the checkpoint is a blur to me. I can't remember if this leg of the trail was particularly steep, or whether it was uphill or downhill. I can tell from the few photos I took that we hiked pass a small ruin and spied the snow-capped Cordillera Vilcabamba, affectionately known as Veronika's Tears, in the distance before settling for the night in Wayllabamba.

Day 2 was my hell day as the trail was mostly uphill to Warmiwanusca, or Dead Woman's Pass at 4200m, the highest point of the hike. Here's the fairly innocuous start:

Yellow Orchids also known as "Dancing Queens" along the trail

...and here's the view from the peak of Dead Woman's Pass:

After the uphill battle that was Day 2, it was pretty much all downhill on Day 3, which I found MUCH easier. I also relaxed a bit and took more pictures - mostly of the flora of which there was plenty, as you'll see, and more ruins:

A Tatinger (sp?) I caught resting on a branch

Amidst the Cloud Forest

At the top of one of the many steep flights down the trail



I don't remember what this flower's called, but it reminds me of a very leggy insect

Finally, the last ruin before Machu Picchu, Winaywayna, or Forever Young, which was not too far from our final camp site:

More fuschias


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