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Sundar Narayanan's Travelog

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Peru- Night 1 : Lima Plaza

Throughout 2016, I travelled for work. We closed out 2016 with a family vacation to Peru between Christmas and New Years. 

When you travel so much as part of work, you just want to stay home and relax and wake up late and maybe laze around on a long weekend. It would be a wrong thing to do as it is probably the best time to go spend with family and take in some sights, spend some good times. 

2016 had many defining moments. The most significant one I can think of was when San had an accident and was in the hospital for a few hours getting her head scanned after she hit her head on the pavement.. on my birthday!  Everything turned out okay and she is the same old San, thanks to all the gods I know and don't know. That moment made me realize yet again, how fragile our lives are and how one mistep can change things. 

After that happened I still had to go to Asia with her recovering. So I made a resolution on my return flight. We will go on this trip to Peru and I will try to be the bestest most obiedient hubby on this trip. I almost succeeded. 

We left on Chirstmas eve and came back on the afternoon of New Years day. It was an amazing trip, with great sights, challenges we had to overcome as a family, interesting twists and turns.

Given this is going to be the first in a series of posts, here are some takeaways from the entire trip.

1. We were glad that all four of us were in decent shape. If you are older, have heart issues, are not in the best of shape, have small kids, talk to other folks and travel agents.. if you choose to follow our itinerary. In spite of all the yoga, there were times when I thought my heart could not take the strain. Also given my pores open up so easily, it was very difficult to manage the abrupt changes in weather and what I was wearing. The little one was going through altitude sickness practically the entire time, but she managed to brave it!

2. There is no shame in packing enough food. I was tired of all the curd rice and idly packing to Asia. We were told that there are vegetarian options and food should not be an issue. Not true. Vegetarian food and finding the right food can be a big challenge. So take those Maggi noodles and MTR pongal mixes.. you can thank me later.

3. Use a travel agent. We used Peru Expeditions and a guy by the name of Andres, who we did not meet, but who did an excellent job of co-ordinating things from the phone. When you have a busy schedule with taxi, van, bus, boat and plane rides with tight connections, you don't want to take chances.

4. My family was amazed that I remembered Spanish from College days ( I had taught myself Spanish from Primsleur for two years just to understand lyrics of what I was dancing to.. ) and San actually said "some good came out of all that dancing! We are able to communicate with folks here thanks to your dad!". So brush up on some Spanish! Especially when you bargain for those Alpaca sweaters... comes in very handy. 

Now for the travelog!

We left Christmas eve on a red eye flight to Panama City, spent 4 hours in the Panama City airport which constantly reminded me of Kuala Lumpur's Air Asia area from the recent India trip. You are kind of trapped in an enclosure with minimal options for 5 hours. As usual, something intersting happened.

There was a Copa Airlines lounge. So I went there with my United card and lo and behold, they said they will let me in with one guest. So the little one tags along. She walks into the lounge and goes "so you get to stay in lounges like this on your way to Asia. I have no sympathy for you anymore. This is nice compared to how we wait at the gate!". Told her to hold her thoughts. After 30 minutes of sitting in that leather seat, she said "you are right. it is boring after 30 minutes. they have juice and crackers and stuff and the rest room is nice, but we are still waiting". Told her it gets worse when the plane is delayed and that is usual for China flights. So daddy Narayanan won back a point! 

After that break we flew into Lima. We went to our hotel which happened to be in a very nice area called Mira Flores. The family noticed that there were no english signs anywhere on the 50 minute ride from airport to hotel. I spoke to our driver in Spanish and all those words came rushing back. Suddenly I was mixing Hindi, Tamil, English and Spanish and the kids were like "what is going on in your head"?. then the translate module in my head kind of stabilized and we had a decent conversation.

We were given a little under 1 hour to get ready for a "Lima by Night" tour with a guide. There were lot of folks driven in multiple vans to a common location. Then we split. Practically eveyone went in a big bus that was the "spanish tour" and the four of us and another couple from Kentucky ended up in a small van that was the English tour. Our tour guide told us he has spanish, local Inca and Japanese ancestry and he wove an interesting story line on the history and culture of Peru in 3 hours.

We did a brief stop (didn't get out of van) at a place called Huaca Pucllana which was an archaeological dig site. Apparently Lima is built on one large burial ground and there are sites like this cropping up everywhere and the folks today prefer to have their city develop instead of become pockets of archeological digs.

Initially the van did not stop anywhere in downtown plaza area as there was no parking and it was Christmas day. Most main streets were deserted, but the Plaza was a different story. 

It had a street fair atmosphere that evening. 

Then we walked through 300-400 year old streets. Every building was amazing. Just look at this door knob on one of the buildings! 

Or the balconies. They were really ornate and had different roots w.r.t. where they originated. 

Then we visited two chuches that were very popular in that area. It was a good thing to visit Churches that were hundreds of years old and get to say a prayer and take some pictures. 

There is San walking in.. These Churches were amazing.. they were just the starting point. Over the next 5 days we would visit so many old Churches (mostly photography not allowed) which had so much gold and silver and amazing paintings in them it was breathtaking!

We continued to drive past the Plaza and things were winding down. This was shot from the moving van..

Then we walked through a few streets in the Plaza which were restricted only to pedestrian traffic. The narrow roads were full of shops, with really inexpensive goods, but we had to keep walking. We did stop at a bakery to have some paneton bread which is a must have delicay on Christmas (Peruvian tradition) but the bread has Italian origins in Peruvian culture. The bread was delicious!

and before you know it, you are in the Plaza. It was full of people. There was a large nativity scene on one of the buildings, a tall light tree and steet vendors selling things to kids. We had a great time wandering around and our guide was nice enough to click a family picture!

The gold plated water fountain in the middle of the Plaza was beautiful. We kept thinking, why dont we create these beautiful things today? Why did we stop 400 years ago or so? Even in India, you see the palaces in Jaipur and wonder why there are no new palaces which are being built that might last a few hundred years at least...

Remember, the default water you will get there contains gas. We learned that the hard way. So you have to explicitly say "Agua sin gas" before buying your water!

Once we were done walking around the plaza, it was time to head back to the hotel. We had a busy schedule for day 2 per tour guide. on the way out we saw four santas playing different instruments and folks getting portaits with the four santas.. Given Jr. is a saxophone player, captured this for her!

This was the last picture clicked on way back. There was a lot of traffic and our van was at a stand still. So I made a request to the guide and we both ran to the end of the street to get this pic and we ran back to the van just as the light turned green. 

It was an evening well spent and a unique evening at that, it being Christmas! 

The next morning we had to wake up at 3:45AM as there was a flight to catch from Lima to Cusco.

Day 2 post to follow! 

ps. There are also wide pano photos and videos that were taken on every day on the iPhone. Will be posting the collection of Pano Photos on a separate page.

pps. "people photos" goes to FB! 


Camping 2016- Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

We started the once a year Camping trip with the cousins four years ago?! Even the blog comes up with a sketchy timeline. 

The last camping trip to SugarLoaf was in 2013,  and in 2014 we went to Big Sur. Last year don't remember camping and this year we made it again to SugarLoaf. By now we knew the drill.. What to expect and how to prepare better. 

Given this is our first trip without the Sienna, we packed the Prius..

squeezed in everything we need and pitched the tents..

went for a great hike, but took a wrong turn with the two folks leading the hike (me and Anu) supporting each other's hypothesis that we were on the right track only to find out 2 miles later that we were going to end up on the other side of the freeway. Note to self : Always trust the sun, better than trusting your self! 

we got some beautiful views on the hike 

with the setting sun casting nice shadows

the waterfall had no water in it given it was almost fall when we went there.. 

we saw lizards, deer and one snake and that pretty much summed up the fauna sightings


we thoroughly enjoyed the camp fire in the cold September night

The kids had Sunday morning classes and we did a rush job of wrapping up the tents before the sun was out and were on our way back nice and early. Next year might bring us a two day camping trip.. who knows?!

We had been camping inside our own house for a good two months in summer, with nothing but plastic sheets to separate us from the elements. That was like training for the real camping trip.  Given the new routine with the kids growing up to practically adult sizes, we are definitely investing in some decent camping gear starting next year!

Until then... 


All work and no yoga, makes me a ...

No. Don't bother filling up that blank!

Will tell you. Very tired is the right answer.

A light post to end the day..

Had worked on this picture over the weekend. It has potential for more editing..

Behold, Gotham.. err. Pittsburgh! 

More Pittsburgh pictures over the weekend.. 


Niagara Falls

This travelog is long overdue! During the summer, we made a trip to Pittsburgh to visit my Sister-in-law, the local family matriarch! 

As soon as we settled in, there was a trip to Niagra falls. It was a good 4 hour drive to the falls. We spent a good 5 hours there and drove back by 10PM after a dinner stop at a Travel stop Pizza hut. Did not realize how long it has been since I had Pizza hut pizza! 

It was a nice drive along lake Erie with my niece and her hubby who also joined us. I remember her as a small kid of 5 or 6! Now she is married and is running a family. How time flies! 

We had a greally great time as we went on the Maid of the Mist to see the falls. Some of the pictures are from the 5D. Then at some point the lens got completely wet. It is a weather proof lens but it was practically getting drenched. Given waterproof and weatherproof are two different things, decided to switch to the iPhone. 



My niece was limping by that time because her knee was acting up. So the five of us went on to see Hurricane ridge at the Cave of the Winds. The kids loved it so much that they wanted to go back and stand in the falls again and again. 


Finally when we could no longer breathe, we turned back towards the parking lot. The air is so heavy with the mist that you walk but feel like you are drowning. 

The last time we visited Niagara falls was at least 10 years ago. I am trying to dig out the old photos and videos. Not sure if the little one was born or not during that trip. 

In a few years we plan to go back, to the Canadian side and stay till late in the night to see the falls with lighting! We are at a stage where the kids are comfortable taking care of themselves, there are no diapers to change, no feeding breaks.. we should capitalize on this phase while the parents still have energy to go on hikes, lug suitcases etc.

The trip was all the more fun as daddy Narayanan explained the family tree on the fathers side starting from kid 1 to kid 12 over a one hour period.

It was a big hit with Jr. !

On a final note, what is a post on Niagara falls, without a video?!

Niagara falls continues to be a big hit with the family! Cannot wait to go back!


A weekend in HDR among other things...

Last weekend my sister in law visited us and we went on a local bay area tour of sorts. While the people pictures end up on Facebook.. the Nature pictures and select pictures of me.. end up here! 

There is always an incentive to write a blog post to chronicle local travels, no matter how many times we have visited the place, if we have something new to show.. 

 While editing the pictures where yours truly is smiling, one thought kept coming to my mind.. I look like someone.. but it is not my dad. Six seven years ago, I used to look like a carbon copy of my dad when he was that age.. this time the smile was different. The percentages of "knowingness: sarcasm : resignation" was different.. It was like the basic composition of my face had changed to a different part of that ternary phase diagram. After staring at it for a long time, it struck me! 

I am slowly turning into the next version of my only maternal uncle aka "Ambi Mama"! At first I thought, it must be the receeding hairline, but NO! There is more to this than hairline. Going to take a shot of me with my rudhraksham and towel and match the color balance and you will see soon.. 

As always.. one thing leads to another and before you know it, a post that started off as a weekend in HDR suddenly changed to my facial resemblence to Ambi mama.. Let's get back on topic.. 

 HDR pictures.. 

 This was really one beautiful evening to be out there. Full moon, perfect weather and most important of all, great company! 

This time I took my camera, but did not have the filter kit.. Next time we visit, going to throw a dark ND filter in front of the lens and take a longer exposure shot to blur the waves.. 

That weekend hopefully starts off some travel with family and is a harbinger of better pictures to come this year!