Art by Mimi

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Read Don's blog and poems of our year around the world 2011

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Fishing village on Lamma Island, Hong Kong

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Friday, April 22, 2011


We reached Pichilemu by car around 2 PM and I could feel the joy welling up in me. The Pacific ocean! Granted, I had just been there yesterday, but it wasn’t the same. We had gone to Valparaiso to see  Pablo Neruda’s 2nd house on our list. We had found it easily, enjoyed a couple hours doing the tour (this was definitely my favorite of his houses) then found our B & B. We lugged in our bags and got settled in then headed out  for a walk. I really liked Valparaiso, at least the section that we were staying in. We walked all the way into town, going over the hills, down many, many stairs, eating a wonderful fish dinner then walking back home, just in time to see the sunset from a park overlooking the city. Valparaiso is the 2nd largest city in Chile and is a port on the Pacific. There are lots of old buildings from the 1800s that are so ornate and still in use. The city had only one mark against it….the graffiti was out of control. Granted, a lot of it was art, but some was also tagging. And it was everywhere! Every available wall had some form of paint on it. Now, I love graffiti art, I must admit but it really does look bad on walls (like I love tattoos, great art, but it is so permanent and out of place on bodies!) I snapped so many photos of the painted walls that I could make a book! Anyway, I loved it but then it did get tiring, especially when it was on a beautiful Victorian church or other historical buildings.

After a night in Valparaiso, we headed out to Isla Negra, the third and last house of Neruda’s, on the ocean just south of there. It was another wonderful  house. I think I would have been one of his groupies! He was a wonderful poet and a collector of so many interesting things, besides interesting friends: Picasso, Diego Rivera, to name a few artists. He was a politician as well as a poet and loved by his countrymen as well as the countries that he served in.  He has kept a wonderful heritage for Chile to cherish.

We left Isla Negra in the late afternoon after a wonderful lunch on the terrace watching the waves come in. It was beautiful and sunny, the formula for a perfect day.  We drove towards the Pan American highway (I-5) through wine country and the lake district with signs luring us to stay in their “cabanas” but Don was hopeful to head down the I-5 to get to Neruda’s childhood home in Temuco. The more I thought about that, the more determined I was to stay at whatever town we ended up in and NOT ride the 300 miles to Temuco! That was not my idea of seeing Chile and I am a horrible passenger.  Don is a saint to still let me ride with him! We hit the I-5 at dark and we found a hostel in what seemed to be an industrial part of San Fernando, next to the train station. It was clean and the host and hostess were very nice. We were the only ones in the hostel, but as the night crept into the late hours, two other couples showed up and had tea and cookies at midnight. Don went to bed and I stayed up until 2 AM, downloading photos into Facebook. When we woke up, while it was still dark, I confessed to Don that I really did not want to spend two days riding down a freeway, but that he was more than free to go, just leave me here and I will be fine. Don was not feeling real good about the town and didn’t want to leave me so we went to Plan B. Back to the ocean. Yeah!

After breakfast, we went on line and looked at options other than Valparaiso and Isla Negra. There was a town straight west of San Fernando that was on the world surfing circuit. Sounded really nice so we found our I-50 (instead of I-5) and headed west. Again we drove through beautiful farm land, vineyards and small towns. Then we headed up into the mountains (maybe 1000 ft high, like the Santa Cruz mountains)and they appeared to have been planted with pine trees and eucalyptus trees. It was a beautiful drive through pristine forest, all of the same height.  We passed a lot of logging trucks carrying small skinny tree trunks for lumber. Once we reached the top of a ridge, we could suddenly see the Pacific Ocean. It looked wonderful! The air was clean and I couldn’t wait to find a cottage by the sea for the night. We drove through the town of Pichilemu before we found Waitara Cabanas. We stopped and asked for a room and he took us to the end cabin and asked if this was OK. OK? It was better than that. We are about as close as one can get to an autumn ocean. There is nothing but a single lane road between us and the beach. We can hear the ocean waves crashing onto the beach with all the windows and doors closed!  Our” cabana” has 5 beds (just in case we have guests!) in two bedrooms, a living room  and  kitchen. And all for $30,000 pesos!  Looks terrible, I know but it is a little over $65 USD, not much more than we paid for our hostel room in industrial zone San Fernando with no view! I love travelling in the low season! It is brisk, but certainly not too cold. It feels like San Diego in the winter. There are surfers enjoying the waves and the birds are enjoying the strong wind. Ah, it feels so good. Now this is what I call a vacation….not driving 700 miles on a freeway! Thank you Don for being so sweet and taking us to the beach.

9:42 pm edt 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lake Titicaca, Peru

Lake Titicaca, Peru

I must admit that I had never heard of Lake Titicaca (Lago Titikaka) before coming to Peru. There are two very impressive things about the lake. It is the highest navigable lake in the world, at an elevation of 12,500 feet! (It is a bit hard to catch our breath here.) The second thing is that the lake has a group of people, the Uros, who have been living on floating reed islands for over 600 years.  So I was pretty excited about seeing this famous lake and people who live on it.

We had taken an extra day in Cusco to recover from our Huayan Picchu hike and were so disorganized that we forgot to arrange for transportation to Puno, the largest city on the shores of Lake Titicaca. That night we went on line and looked up the train leaving Cusco and couldn’t figure out the schedule so we set our alarm for 5:30am and arrived at the train station before it opened. They did have two seats left for that morning and by 8:00am we were chugging out of Cusco on the Peru Rail Andean Explorer. It was a great trip, seeing snow capped mountains, raging rivers, flooded plains, Incan ruins, and Peruvian shepherds with their sheep, llamas, alpacas or cows. The train was a luxury train, with wingback chairs and tables, an observation car, a Peruvian band that played music for us, and we were served  two meals and as many drinks as you wanted to pay for. I think my favorite part of the journey, other than fabulous scenery, was going through the towns. Two of the towns had set up markets right on the train tracks and as we rode through, the sellers would grab their wares off the tracks and replace them as the last car went by. Most of the children would wave as we went through, but a few boys threw water at the last car that was an open car, hoping to get us wet. Boys are the same around the world! The train ride was 10 hours long and it flew by! We arrived in Puno by dark and to save time, we just took a hotel near the boat we had hoped to spend the night in, but they had closed for the night.  

 The next morning we went by boat to visit a couple of the floating  islands. There are about 70 islands and have names, like Isla Santa Maria, Isla Winay Pacha, Isla Cuchichuyma, each island representing one family group. The islands were made over decades by the reeds that are so prevalent in this area of the lake. As the reeds die, they fall into the water and new reeds grow out of the decaying ones, never sinking to the bottom of the lake. Over the years, the root system of the reeds become about 2 meters thick, all the while, floating on the surface of the lake. The Uros throw reeds over these thick root blocks to create an island that they can build their homes, that are also  made of reeds.  Their houses are made in the old way, with wood or reed floors, reed walls and roofs, with a reed mat for a bed. The surprise was the TV in the corner and light on the ceiling. They found out about solar electricity! And there is plenty of UV rays at such a high altitude. There was ground near the islands so they did raise pigs and cows for food. The Uros women would take the fish the men had caught or their handicrafts to the markets on the weekends to barter for grains and other foods they can’t grow.  What an amazing place to live. So simple and uncomplicated!  The fear is that this is the last generation to live on these islands because there is no way to earn a living other than from tourism.

Tonight we are spending the night aboard the Yavari, an 1862 ship that was at one time part of the naval fleet of Peru. This boat was made in England and shipped  in over 1000 parts, and once it reached Peru, it was hauled from the ocean, over the Andes, to Lake Titicaca by mules and men. It took 6 years to arrive and then another 4 years to assemble it! The original engine was fueled by alpaca dung.  The ship is a historical museum, and only 6 passengers can stay on her, which helps fund the restoration project. It is a bit pricier than we have been spending on lodging , but it is going for a good cause and we are getting to sleep on a piece of history.

The dark clouds have gathered over  the lake but no rain yet. We have had another beautiful day in South America!

1:35 pm edt 

Machu Picchu

Wow! and then another Wow! I had no idea that Machu Picchu was such an amazing, well preserved city. I thought it would be ruins with carved rocks tumbled down here and there, barely able to make out the ancient buildings that once glorified these already breathtaking mountains.  If I had been the Incan ruler at that time, the location alone would have made me feel like the king of the world. Our visit to Machu Picchu was wonderful, but I think that the highlight was our hike on the mountain Huayan Picchu near the ruins.

We left the coastal desert town of Nasca, elevation 100 feet  by a 15 hour ride by bus and we climbed to 11,920 feet elevation at Cusco, the oldest on-going city in South America. Then after two days of acclimatizing, we took a 1 ½ hour taxi ride (cost about $20) to Ollyantumpo, then another 1 ½ hour ride on a train to Machu Picchu’s closest town of Aquas Calientes. We felt like we were ready for Machu Picchu, pinching ourselves that we were really here. We found a room at the rustic Rupa Wasi Lodge to stay in, up against the mountain. The original building used to house an archeologist who worked for 10 years on Machu Picchu. We had made a good choice.     

We set our alarm for 3:45 AM so we could be at the bus station at the latest by 4:30 AM. We got dressed, packed one backpack for the day, and quickly walked in the dark to the bus station, just a 3 minute walk. We were surprised that we were not the first to arrive at 4:20, considering the buses leave at 5:30 and the park opens at 6. The bus ride was a little nerve-racking, with the single lane road cut out of the side of the mountain. Many hairpins later, we arrived at the gate of Machu Picchu. We lined up, hoping to be one of the lucky 400 who would be able to climb up Huayan Picchu (or Little Picchu) to be able to look down on the  ruins. We had heard about this hike and had got caught up in the adventure of it and didn’t read any information on the hike. It is just as well that I didn’t, because now I can BRAG that I climbed up (and then down) thousands of  steps, on the side of a very steep mountain.  I am not an adventurer at all, and this was more of an adventure that I ever would have done, if I had known.  The climb was rigorous and there was many times the possible risks (and my sheer fear) of falling off the side of the mountain. (I must interject that I have a fear of heights so what was I doing here?) There were areas that we walked on a trail that had no railing and the drop was 2000 feet below! There were rock stairs, which were sturdy and safe, but all I could think about was: “Do I really have to go back down these stairs, once I get to the top?”  Once I reached the top of Huayan Picchu, I could barely look down over Machu Picchu, and the 360 degree views of the mountains and deep valleys surrounding us. We opted to go to the Caverns instead of returning the way we came up. It was an extra hour and a half hike but we were glad that we took it. The Temple of the Moon, set in the caverns were so well executed, it seemed impossible that they were all hand carved. The hike was through the jungle side of the mountain and was lush, with wild flowers, birds and gorgeous views (at this point I was too tired to be afraid of the heights) The trail was not as dramatic as the climb up, with large stairs that we jumped down by the hundreds and a couple handmade ladders we descended.  We were very proud of ourselves for completing the entire trail, the trail where Incans once walked to worship their gods.

Machu Picchu is one of the modern 7 Wonders of the World and now I see why. The village is fairly large, with agricultural terraces on one side, temples and houses on the other. The buildings are made of hand hewn stone, some fitting like puzzles and others more roughly built.   There was a very complex water system still in use today. Machu Picchu has the only remaining Sacred Stone from the Incan era that the Spanish settlers did not destroy. The view from  anywhere on this mountain is spectacular! The photos I had seen of Machu Picchu do not do justice to this wonderful peaceful ruin of the Incan empire. I am so grateful that we were able to see it.

1:31 pm edt 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lima, Nasca and Cusco
We spent three days in Lima, staying at a wonderful hostel called 3B Bed and Breakfast in the Barranco district. It is an artists part of town, not far from the beach and we felt like we were back in San Diego. We took walks looking at the old buildings that were being rejuvinated, either turning them into hostels, museums, or leaving them as beautiful homes. We went to one house (Osma) that had been turned into a museum. The art was old religious iconic paintings that were impressive but not what caught our attention. Every room in this huge house had different floor, wall, window and ceiling treatments. The house was certainly worth the visit and entrance fee. The other surprise was a bar that we happened upon, that was again, an old house that was completely redone, with very modern art treatments to the walls. One room had gallon jugs filled with colored water with light illuminating through it. Or the wall that had a few tastefully placed dry grass coming out of the wall, a couch that extended up the wall from the floor and scissor pants hanging from the ceiling, It was a wonderful eclectic art collection. We ventured in to Lima just one day, to look for a museum of comtemporary art. There is one in the making, but not open yet. We did enjoy seeing outside of the beautiful palace and other huge old government buildings. But it is a city of close to 10,000,000 people so it was crowded, noisy, dirty and just not our cup of tea. We felt more comfortable in Barranco.

We took the early morning bus to Nasca to see the lines the Nasca people had drawn in the desert pampas that still were visible by air. They were discovered by a man in the 1930s as he flew over and woman, Maria Reike, in the 1940s spent the rest of her life working on them, trying to figure out why they were made. Don flew over them, but I prefered to look at three of them from a tower, 40 feet in the air. Don said he had never had such a crazy flight before. Glad I stayed on the ground!! But they really are impressive and we later had a guide take us to see the Palpa Lines, just a few miles away that were scrapped into the hills. My theory of the lines is that there was an ancient artist that ran out of paint and canvas and used the desert as his medium.

Sunday evening we hopped onto the bus for a 15 hour ride to Cusco, the entrance city to Machu Picchu.  It left at 9 PM so it wasn't long before we were all asleep. The road goes from sea level to well over 14,000 feet in short time. There were hundreds of switchbacks which were navigated by a very talented driver! We really didn't get to see anything unti the next morning when the sun came up and we were out of the desertous mountains into lush green mountains, with llamas, sheep, dogs and crops of corn and coca. The women wore full gathered skirts, hats on their braided hair, and babies in their colorful shawls. The mountains were awesome, absoutely striking. There were waterfalls and rivers, with snow on the tallest peaks. It was a two lane road and we were on the second deck of the bus and it looked like we were on the edge of the mountains, so it was quite breathtaking, even though I knew we were in good hands. Coming over the mountain into Cusco was also amazing. It is a city of over 320,000 people, their homes made of red clay blocks, with red tile roofs. There are a few beautiful huge old churches, with and near several squares. We are staying in another wonderful hotel (I love Tripadvisor!) in the San Blas barrio. The streets are only 10 feet wide, paved in river rock. The houses and hotels are white with the red tile roofs with lots of balconies and hanging plants, surrounded by delicious restaurants and lots of little shops full of handmade clothes and collectibles. We love Cusco!! We walked up to a ruin Sacsayhuaman that is mind boggling. They built this area in 1100 AD and the rocks they cut are huge. How they moved them into place and built walls with them is amazing. We spent the day acclimatizing to the 11,200 foot elevation by roaming around the ruins all afternoon. We left only because the black clouds were thundering and we didn't want to get caught in a rain storm, that never did materialize. We had a hard time finding our way back to the hotel, but we didn't mind the wondering one bit. It is a beautiful city, prettiest one in South America by our vote!
2:02 am edt 

Friday, April 1, 2011


What a wonderful place to visit. So far, this is the top of our "Best Place we have Visited" list. First of all, I must tell you how we ended up going to Galapagos. We flew into Quito, Ecuador from Trinidad. We had a good night's sleep in an old hotel in the old section of town then headed out to find Klein Tours, a tour agency across town. Klein Tours was fantastic! They had room for us on their cruise ship leaving tomorrow from Baltra, in the Galapagos Islands. They scheduled our flight from Quito, to Guayaquil to Baltra. We were up at 4:30 the next morning and to the airport by 5:30 to catch our flight, (that was 2 hours delayed!) We arrived in Baltra all ready to go. After a short bus ride, we got in dinghies and sped to a beautiful white ship. Our room was on the main floor, with two porthole windows and plenty of room for our king size bed and us to tumble around in. Within just a short time, after all the introductions and instructions, we were off to our first island to explore.

We visited 6 islands, seeing wild life up close and unhindered. We saw giant tortoises, yellow land iguanas warming themselves on our path, lizards of all sorts, friendly birds with very little fear of us, and plants only found in Galapagos, hermit crabs, grasshoppers, etc. Our daily schedule was a wake up call from a beautiful, sweet voice (Kyra) at 6:45 am, breakfast at 7 and on a dinghy by 8 to our first island. We would have an informative hike seeing wildlife for about 2 hours, then a swim or snorkel then return to the ship for lunch. After a couple of hours, we would be back on the dinghy to another site, or island, for another hike and swim. On our return to the ship, we would eat a delicious dinner, have a lecture about the next day's events then have another event, like an ice cream social, star gasing, and a skit (Don and I played the pirates!). We planned this trip to Galapagos on a ship so we could relax but there really was very little down time! Once we got a taste of what to expect on each island we visited, we didn't want to miss an excursion! This might have been a cruise but it was unlike the usual cruise. There were only 43 people aboard (capacity is 100) so we got to know almost everyone on board over the 5 days. We were divided into 3 groups for the dinghy: Albatross, Booby, and Cormorant. We were the Boobies (yes, we saw Blue-Footed Boobies nesting in cliffs) and Zavier was our Naturalist/guide, a real knowledgable Galapagon with a flair for telling stories. Thank you Zavier for a great experience in the islands.

Would I recommend a visit to the Galapagos Islands? YES! It is a wonderful experience for every age. We enjoyed the many countries represented on the boat, mainly couples, but there were three families, their youngest was 4 and the oldest not more than 10. The children were delightful and enjoyed every aspect of the experience, building sand castles on every beach we landed on. It was all in all a memorable excursion! My favorite island was Fernandina. It was a wet landing (the dinghy lands on the beach and we jump into about 1 foot of water and walk to shore). It was like being dropped into a zoo exhibit. There were mother and pup sea lions chasing each other, male Cormorants fighting over a female, bright red Sallylightfoot crabs bringing color to the black lava environment, a sea turtle swimming in the tide pools, aquatic iguanas by the 100s, brown pelicans, Galapagos sea gulls and Giant Frigates flying overhead, and on and on. It was a wonderful feast for the eyes and ears. We must have spent at least one hour on the lava rocks just watching the animals go about their day. We were thrilled when a mother sea lion we had been watching swam up to the rocks we were on, and bellied up to our group, only a foot away, and looked up at us, cocking her head to one side, trying to figure us out. Then her little pup, sideled up to her mother, and did the same, not a sense of fear at all. He seemed to be checking out the kids to see if they might come and play. It was wonderful!

My recommendation......go to Galapagos and experience nature as we wish it could be everywhere.


10:00 am edt 

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Welcome to the website


Mimi Lamp


It all started here, a little gallery in Idyllwild, no better place on earth. Or so I think.  My husband Don and I are on our way around the world this year. Watch my website for new drawings, sketches, watercolor washes of places we visit.

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