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January 27, 2015

Cusco & Sacred Valley

From Lima, we flew to Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire. It's a heavily touristed place, due to the archeological sites and proximity to the Sacred Valley, and also because it's a good place to get used to the altitude if you want to do the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu. I couldn't put my finger on it but there was something of a European small-town feel to the old part of Cusco, although the buildings aren't very European. The altitude was definitely hitting us hard, on the first night I got breathless after climbing into bed.




The Temple of the Sun (Qurikancha), and important Incan temple which the Spanish then built a church into/onto.



Saqsaywaman, a complex of walls on the outskirts above Cusco. Incan engineering/architecture/building was insane.


We were a bit distracted by the llamas though.


Tambomachay, a sort of water conducting system.


View of Cusco from there.


The main square at night.


Sacred Valley (Urumbumba Valley), where there are loads of archeological sites.


Such as Pisac and its terraces, used for farming.



A souvenirs market.


Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley, an Incan town with more terraces in the shadow of a mountain.




Walking down to Ollantaytambo train station...


For the train to Aguas Calientes, the base town for Macchu Pichu!

We visited all the important sites with a tour guide, which I think is worth having in this case so the significance and history of things can be explained. It was really interesting how such large-scale things were built (with all the stones all fitted properly together without mortar) and how carefully calculated according to the position of the sun at certain times.

January 25, 2015

Asian Cup


The Asian Cup is currently on and I never really recovered from the World Cup last year so I've been following it. Helps that Australia's hosting it this year! I went to one of the Socceroos group games in Sydney (vs. Oman), and it was pretty fun. We got surprisingly good seats so it almost felt like I was watching it on TV. I snagged some cheap (bad) tickets to the final next week, which is going to be in Sydney again, so I have all my fingers crossed that Australia wins the semi-final against UAE and makes it through!

This past week of uni was much better than the first, but I'm still so glad it's a long weekend cause I definitely need that extra day. Hope everyone has a good one!

January 22, 2015

Lima

We were only in Lima for one full day, as a stopover of sorts on our way to Macchu Pichu. Because of that I wouldn't say I got a good grasp of the city and its atmosphere, but here are some of the photos.


In the morning we did a tour of downtown Lima.


Jenny noticed that I was matching the buildings around the square.





This was in the catacombs under the San Franciscan monastery, it was a smaller scale of the Paris catacombs.



The Pacific Ocean from Larcomar in Miraflores, one of the more swanky districts in Lima.



Let me explain before you get confused as to why I'm suddenly posting so many pictures of cats. There's a park in Miraflores called Parque Kennedy, and it's home to loads of stray cats. There are volunteers who feed them and help out with their medical care.


There were just cats everywhere. We spent ages here, went off for lunch involving pisco sours, and immediately came back for tipsy cat-spotting.



How beautiful is this one?!


This one walked confidently up to Jenny, curled up in her lap and promptly went to sleep (with claws out).

January 20, 2015

Americas haul

Finally getting the traditional overseas shopping haul post up! Not a lot this time, though. I didn't buy much in South America (I never do for the first parts of a trip, since I don't want to add too much to my luggage), and I didn't get many souvenirs either. I think I've outgrown souvenirs - I've run out of space to put them in my room, and I guess I consider the photos I take as souvenirs.



  • Leopard print sarong. I bought this from a beach vendor in Rio, where everyone uses sarongs for the beach rather than towels. I probably got ripped off for what is essentially a giant piece of rayon, but I guess I will be able to use it as a scarf this winter.
  • Victoria's Secret bra. I just wanted to buy something from VS because everyone talks about VS and we don't have it in Australia. Is that not a good enough reason? It's actually really comfortable and well-fitting.
  • Tommy Hilfiger short-sleeve button down. I love button downs but I didn't have any short sleeved ones for warmer weather! I got this pretty cheap at an outlet.
  • Fossil cross-body bag. I still feel guilty about this, it was a massive splurge by my standards, and bags are not usually what I funnel money into. I had been looking for a small cross-body bag and I'd seen this in Sydney, but had written it off as too expensive. We came across it in Macy's and after some currency converting calculations and a lot of dithering, I bought it. I've been using it every day on hospital placement though, so I guess the cost per wear will work out.
  • La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo - The US version of Effaclar Duo is benzoyl peroxide based, rather than salicylic acid based like the one you get in the UK/Europe/Australia. Benzoyl peroxide is more effective on my blemishes, which stopped responding to salicylic acid when I was about 14. I'm not sure why it's different there (is benzoyl peroxide less restricted?) - I probably should've stocked up. From what I understand, the US one is more of a specific spot treatment while the other one is more used to prevent and unclog.
  • Revlon Colourburst Balm in Sultry. My lips have been too dry to wear the only lipstick I own (MAC Russian Red), but I'd been missing being able to wear some colour on my lips so I got this matte balm. It's not very moisturising itself, but I can wear it for a while without needing to smudge proper balm on top.
  • Rimmel mascara. I needed a new mascara and this was cheap.
Okay, so I guess I omitted the multi-pack undies and socks I bought at Costco, but that is just too unglamorous for even this old blog. Also note that this is the first time I haven't come back with something from UNIQLO, ha!

Thanks for the well-wishes for uni from the last post guys <3 I'm already feeling a little less panicked and settled in.

January 18, 2015

2015



This is my 2015 diary from Muji, which Wai Lam kindly bought for me in Melbourne (it slipped my mind to look for a diary in the US). I've been using Moleskines for the past four years, but they're expensive and I feel like this cheaper Muji one has everything I look for in a diary - monthly views, and then weekly views with the days down one page and a blank page facing for general reminders (because what if your to-do list stretches over the week?).

Last week was my first one back at uni, and it was intense. I'm going into my last two years of med school now so I'm going to be at hospital for most days of the week, and the majority of the time I don't really know what's going on. I may or may not have cried a bit from exhaustion as I drove home last Thursday... wish me luck for this week.

January 15, 2015

Rio de Janeiro

Oh, Rio. I think I was looking forward to this city most out of all the places we were to visit in South America, and it was even better than I hoped it would be. I'd been wanting to visit Rio de Janeiro in a while but it was always one of those hazy dreams you don't think will ever materialise for real. I realise I'm gushing without really explaining why I liked Rio so much, so I'll try and take you through it.


On the train up to see Christ the Redeemer. I feel like Rio parallels Sydney a lot. I can't say they're similar because Rio feels so Brazilian and Sydney is so Australian (does that make sense?) but there's the beach culture and the way the urban areas slot into the natural scenery so well.


I was really excited to see Christ the Redeemer. It's really not that much up close, but I've always loved the way it looks over the whole city. The evening when we arrived, our driver pointed it out to us as it came into view for the first time and I wanted to cry.




The view of Sugarloaf Mountain.


On the same afternoon, we took the cable car up to Sugarloaf but the weather had turned on us.


It was still beautiful, though, and there's Christ the Redeemer in the distance.


The next day we visited Rocinha, which is the largest favela in Rio (and apparently in all of Brazil). Favelas are shanty towns or slums, and there are many surrounding Rio, exemplifying the wealth disparity that exists. They have a reputation for being generally unsafe (e.g. if you've seen the movie City of God, which I did not watch before I went to Rio). We visited with a guide; tourist visits to favelas have become popular recently, but I feel like it's important to choose the guide or company carefully, making sure they're directly involved in and giving back to the community they're showing you.



Rocinha was built on a hill and has pretty great views of Rio.


My impression of Rocinha was that it was just a community of normal people, who might not be as well off, going about their daily business. Honestly I didn't feel unsafe there, and our guide said that the only problem with going there alone would be getting lost among all the alleyways that aren't on any map. I'm not sure if this only applies to Rocinha, or to other favelas as well.


I didn't think we'd be spending much time at the beach, since we have beaches in Sydney, but just look at it...


We spent the afternoon at Ipanema. Sorry Bondi... I think I have a new favourite. (To compare, we spent the next afternoon at Copacabana, which is also nice but much more touristy).


I don't even like coconuts but it felt right to buy some coconuts to drink.


It was interesting to see the difference in beach etiquette between there and in Sydney. More people use chairs and umbrellas in Rio (you can hire them from stalls on the sand), and apparently it's against the social rules for men to lie down on the sand, so you see them just standing around. There are also loads of beach vendors in Rio, selling almost anything (the next day on the beach I bought a caipirinha which almost knocked me out). Jenny and I also greatly enjoyed watching well-tanned men in short shorts playing beach volleyball.


The next day we did a walking tour to downtown Rio.


It had the same vibe as most downtown areas of most cities.


Close to downtown is Lapa with the Selaron steps (Escadaria Selaron). Selaron was the artist who decorated these steps with the help of donated tiles over 20 years. Unfortunately, he was found dead on the steps in 2013, in what were apparently suspicious circumstances.




Feijoada, a Brazilian dish with black beans. I like the flavour of it, but I generally dislike the texture of beans.

Not staying for longer in Rio is one of my biggest regrets of 2014 (along with not buying a selfie stick for this trip). I feel like these photos don't show how great the atmosphere is, which you feel even just walking down a street. Cariocas are also so nice and so good looking. To be honest, I was a bit concerned about safety in Rio, because it has a bit of a reputation for violent crime - I'd read about people's experiences and advice such as "prepare by carrying cash you can easily hand over to a mugger so they leave without taking more or hurting you". We didn't run into this ourselves - I guess we did have our street smarts turned up a bit higher than usual, but there's really not much you can do if someone's threatening you with a knife. Honestly, I've felt more unsafe in parts of Paris or Rome, but maybe we were lucky. Luck or no luck, I am definitely going back, because it's now on my list of favourite cities ever.