EuroCircle Safari Through Southern Africa, 2015 (Trip with EuroCircle)

TRIP DATES: Oct 24 2015 – return date up to you but most of us will fly back on Nov 4th 2015

3 Countries in one EuroCircle Adventure!
Namibia, Botswana, Zambia

From the Kalahari Desert, through the Okavango Delta, we walk with the San bushmen, visit Chobe National Park, search for the Big 5, float past hippos in a dugout canoe, raft the whitewaters of the Zambezi River or bungee jump down the Victoria Falls! Scared?
Join Eurocircle for an adventure of a lifetime! This time, we are pushing our own boundaries, and challenging ourselves to experience things we have never done before. Are you up for this? $2299 Land only , $639 Single Room Supplement
Airfare: Please arrange your own airfare. Plan to land into Windhoek Airport (WDH), Namibia.
Deposits: Please contact Sherry Kumar

Travel-2015trip

 

This classic expedition showcases some of the best that Africa has to offer. Journey from Namibia, across Botswana and on to Zambia on an authentic African adventure that includes the elephants of Chobe National Park. Meet San Bushmen in the blazing Kalahari and explore the Okavango Delta by dug-out mokoro canoe. We will have an overnight in bushmen huts for an utterly unique experience. This tour is the trip of a lifetime! What’s Included:
• Kalahari Desert visit
• Okavango Delta excursion with entrances, game walks and dug-out canoe trips
• Maun sunset boat cruise
• Bird-watching guided walk
• All transport between destinations and to/from included activities
• 6 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners. (Allow USD190-250 for meals and drinks not included.)
• Air-conditioned touring vehicle, walking, mokoro, ferry
• Chief Experience Officer (CEO)/driver throughout, local guides.

SHORT ITINERARY:
Day 1 Windhoek
Arrive at any time.

Day 2 Kalahari (Ghanzi) (1B)
Explore the Kalahari Desert. Learn fascinating survival skills by the local San Bushmen on an optional walk and choose to enjoy a traditional bushmen dance in the evening.

Day 3-4 Maun/Okavango Delta (2B, 1L, 1D)
Prepare for a 1-night/2-day journey into the delta. Enjoy game walks and traditional mokoro excursions in Maun. Learn the ways of the bush from the local polers. Opt to take a scenic flight over the delta.

Day 5 Nata Area (1B,1D)
Opt for a sunset visit to the salt pans of Makgadikgadi in dry season. Watch the elephants drink from the camp’s watering hole at night.

Day 6 Chobe Area (1B)
Opt to embark on a sunset boat cruise on the Chobe River or on an open safari vehicle game drive.

Day 7 Livingstone (1B)
Ferry crossing into Zambia. Visit Victoria Falls, enjoy whitewater rafting, canoeing, or fly over the falls.

Day 8 Livingstone
Depart at any time.
For the full itinerary, please log into your Eurocircle account and click here

Travel Leader: Sherry Kumar

In 2011, Sherry invited other EuroCircle members to travel with her on her first international journey. That year, members from Brazil, India, Colombia, Peru, Serbia, Greece, China and USA met up for the first time in the beautiful city of Istanbul. Since then, we have visited Peru, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India and UAE. Everywhere we meet, we make wonderful friends from across the globe, and create memories to last a lifetime.
For more information about Sherry and her trips, please log into our forums. To book this trip, please contact Sherry Kumar.

MAP: Living Costs Around the World Infographic

Would you like to know the difference in living costs around the world using figures from the world’s largest database of user contributed data about cities and countries worldwide.
The Consumer Price Index, used to determine the difference in the living costs between countries takes into account the prices of groceries, transportation, restaurants and utilities.
What does it mean? The CPI in the infographic is a relative indicator of a country’s living costs compared to New York. That means that if a country has a CPI of 70, on average it enjoys 30% cheaper living costs compared to New York.

The data was collected by Numbeo, the world’s largest database of user-contributed data on costs and prices around the world, and the maps were created by MoveHub.

Global Living Costs Map

Travel Impressions – Alex Fildish on His 3rd EuroCircle Adventure

Traveler bio: Born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria, Alex is an IT Consultant who lives in Aspen, Colorado. His career takes him to exotic locations like Dubai and the metropolises of south-east Asia.
Alex has joined two EuroCircle trips thus far, Peru, 2012 and Cambodia & Vietnam, 2013. This year, we look forward to catching up with him in India, 2014.

1. Having traveled with you for a couple of years now, I can safely say that you are one of the most jolly travelers we have had so far. You are always so relaxed and easy-going. What’s your secret for dealing with a big group and a tight itinerary?

Vodka.

2. Peru was a tough journey for most of the members. We traveled two days to reach Machu Pichu, then battled altitude sickness in Cuzco. Yet, you were the only one who was unfazed by the ordeal. How did you keep your cool?

Pisco Sour.

3. Asia was a big change for Eurocircle Travels. Not only was it a longer journey, but our travel style changed to make the itinerary exclusive to Eurocircle members. As a result we spent much more time together as a group. What did you think of the itinerary?

I liked it very much. For me Vietnam with its communist points of interest was the weakest link in the trip. But the boat trip was one of the highest points. I guess there was a good balance.

4. If you could change anything about our trips, what would that be?

I would do some screening on new people. The Asian trip had a couple of “difficult” people, who were not so pleasant.

5. I’m a bit anxious about taking the members to India this year. It’s an even tougher journey, and I’m worried how members will adjust to seeing all the poverty there. Do you have any travel advice for people visiting south-east Asia or India for the first time?

I would recommend if possible to stay away from the slums. The site of misery can be quite shocking for ordinary Americans. If there is no way around it and the slums are a must part of the trip, I would recommend for us to see some movies on the subject. For example the Slum Dog Millionaire or Black Cat White Cat can be a good start. Or maybe if there was one of those euro-circle gathering that includes an hour of a National Geography channel Indian Poverty series preview could help. Even if there is no organized preparation event you might send a link to the group. With the google results of “Preparing for a trip to India” search. You will be surprised what comes up. The list of references goes pretty deep.

6. You are a quite a globe trotter yourself. I always wonder what compels a seasoned, independent traveler to join a group. Enlighten me.

I usually travel on business with some delivery responsibilities. Joining a group of cool people and going to places I have not been before is quite an adventure. Since my wife does not like to travel it would be very difficult for me to find company for a trips like that.

7. What do you look forward to the most from India, 2014?

I am working with a lot of Indian Technology people. In this sense I will be looking forward to learn how to recognize their cast in the society. I guess there might be a way by their names to recognize which part of the country they come from and which cast they might belong to. I am also very interested in the Hindu and Buddhism. My personal philosophy is very much aligned with the Buddhism philosophy. I believe that our souls are borrowed or leased for the period of life time. I will be looking to get more inside while visiting India.

Alexander at Facebook
Alexander at EuroCircle

EuroCircle Travels is an annual program, that takes our members on a global adventure. So far, we have explored the silk markets of Istanbul, trekked to the top of Machu Pichu, raced tuk-tuks in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and sailed down Halong Bay for an unforgettable experience. If you would like more information about our upcoming trip to India, please E-mail Me ASAP!

As a perk for all Eurocircle travelers, we have condensed .pdf travel guides. They are easy to read on your mobile device, and best of all, they are FREE for all Eurocircle members.
To obtain a copy, let me know your destination, and your e-mail address, and I will forward a copy to you. (E-mail Me Your Request with all details)

Looking forward to traveling with you,

Sherry Kumar
E-mail Sherry

Travel Impressions – Alana George on Cambodia & Vietnam, 2013

Traveler bio: Born and raised in Brooklyn, Alana first joined EurCcircle while she worked in Philly in 2006. With her high voltage smile, she quickly became everyone’s favorite at EuroCircle events.

In 2013, Alana packed her bags and embarked on an epic journey across the globe, and met her fellow EuroCircle travelers in Cambodia. Here is her story:

1. Unlike most of our members, you haven’t traveled much outside the USA. What possessed you choose Eurocircle Travels to Cambodia & Vietnam, as one of your first adventures abroad?

I rarely do what is expected. I was raised like many African-Americans in one of the lowest income areas in New York City. However, my parents come from Jamaica and Bangor, Maine. They taught me to dream big and I could go anywhere my heart desired. Cambodia and Vietnam like me, are diverse and full of life. It just made sense.

2. Prior to joining us in Siem Reap, Cambodia, you took a little side-trip to Singapore all by yourself. What did you think of Singapore?

Singapore was absolutely amazing. It is very clean and people were super friendly. My favorite experience was probably the fish pedicure. I know there are many places in the world that has these, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the one that was in the mall below the Singapore Flyer.

By the way, I won $400 at the Sands Casino – paid for my Singapore trip.
I went to Malaysia for a day as well. It was a great side trip, and I met an Indian family from Australia. They took me around the area with all of the lovely sites.

3. During the trip, you seemed to have a permanent smile tattooed on your face, and you quickly became everyone’s favorite. How do you deal with all the different personalities of a travel group, and manage to have a stress-free trip?

What’s interesting, is before anything, I want to have a great time. The number one rule I say while travelling is “When in Rome, do as the Romans do!”
Why not, we only live once and the more we open up to new people, places, and things, the more enriched our lives will become. Didn’t hurt to have an awesome travel buddy…

4. If you could prepare a novice traveler for south-east Asia, what advice would your give him/her?

Beware, you will have a great time as long as you have an open heart and mind. People are just super welcoming. If you like laying on the beach and not partaking in history and culture, then where we went in South-East Asia isn’t for you. However, if you like to be adventurous, then GO FOR IT!

5. If you could re-live one day of EuroCircle Travels to Cambodia and Vietnam, what day would that be?

Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Such an amazing temple and the history behind it, with over 1 million people once living there is remarkable. Then the place we had our lunch, the little girl who kept peeking around the corner. She was so lovely. I go back to that day often.

6. India (Nov 2014) is probably the most exotic trip I have planned so far for EuroCircle. This will be the ultimate test of what members can endure in terms of being faced with extremes all at once. On one hand you will witness the most extreme poverty on earth, and 15 minutes later, you’ll be standing in the middle of a gem-encrusted palace. What are you doing to prepare?

We saw similar extremes in Cambodia, and I was surprised that I managed not to struggle with the disparity. I know I can’t save people on an individual level. I plan to prepare mentally through prayer and meditation while identifying organizations working in India to raise people out of poverty.

Now the gems encrusted palaces, well, that is right up my alley. But I will be honest I have a script prepared for the elephant handlers, if they are abusive, well let’s just say I will be vocal.

Alana at Facebook
Alana at EuroCircle

EuroCircle Travels is an annual program, that takes our members on a global adventure. So far, we have explored the silk markets of Istanbul, trekked to the top of Machu Pichu, raced tuk-tuks in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and sailed down Halong Bay for an unforgettable experience. If you would like more information about our upcoming trip to India, please E-mail Me ASAP!

As a perk for all Eurocircle travelers, we have condensed .pdf travel guides. They are easy to read on your mobile device, and best of all, they are FREE for all Eurocircle members. To obtain a copy, let me know your destination, and your e-mail address, and I will forward a copy to you. (E-mail Me Your Request with all details)

Looking forward to traveling with you,

Sherry Kumar
E-mail Sherry

EuroCircle Explores Incredible India Trip

Ready to join Eurocircle on another adventure at the beginning of November 2014?

For full itinerary go to the forum:
INDIA ITINERARY
YOU MUST BE LOGGED INTO EUROCIRCLE.COM TO VIEW THE ITINERARY

Last year’s Eurocircle 2013 Trip to Vietnam and Cambodia was a life-changing journey through SE Asia, and its spectacular sights.

This year, we are traveling to Incredible India!

For full itinerary go to the forum:
INDIA ITINERARY

Once again, Eurocircle members from all over the world will descend upon New Delhi, and begin an 8 day journey (plan to arrive on Nov 1) in New Delhi through India’s Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra & Jaipur). We will explore the land of the Mughals and the Rajputs, enjoy a sunrise visit to the spectacular Taj Mahal, then visit “The Land of the Kings” Rajasthan. Our journey concludes at Ranthambore, for a private Tiger Safari!

On our way, we will taste exotic Indian cuisine, ride elephants and sleep in palaces!

But that’s not all. Travelers with more time, will be able to add on extensions to scenic Goa or regal Mumbai.

All travel will be arranged by me, so please message me directly to book. This year, I am limiting the group to 16 travelers, and since space is limited, please make your deposits early.

I am looking forward to another amazing adventure with you!

Sherry Kumar
EUROCIRCLE
Moving in the Right Circles

To book or make any changes for your trip please contact me (Sherry Kumar) via EuroCircle forums, FB messenger or Email Me.

Finland – Christmas Time in Helsinki

Mom, editor, writer, journalist, Realtor. Heli has lived in London, Dallas, Helsinki and Austin. She recently returned to Helsinki after several years in Austin, TX. She has a MA in comparative literature, and she has been working as an editorial manager in several publishing houses in Helsinki in the past.

In December the Christmas season really gets into full swing around Helsinki. The main shopping street of Helsinki, Aleksanterinkatu, will be decorated by the traditional Christmas lights going back to 1946, and the turning on the lights event is the official opening of the Christmas season in the city. The Christmas window display of Stockmann´s department store is “the thing” to see by children… and adults.

The Independence Day of Finland is the 6th of December. Finns light two candles in each window of their home in the evening to mark this important day. A legend has it that two candles were used as a sign to inform young Finnish men that the house was ready to offer shelter and keep them hidden from the Russians, when they were traveling to Sweden and Germany to become jägers. “A jäger” means elite light infantry, scouts and sharpshooters. Other popular tradition is to enjoy the broadcasting of presidential ball on the night of Dec 6th on the national television.

December is the time for numerous Christmas markets all over Finland, and Helsinki is famous for it´s St. Thomas Market, which takes place at the beautiful Senate Square. With over 120 booths the vendors are selling everything from handicrafts to gingerbread houses, canned food and delicious breads.

The length of the day in Helsinki during mid December is barely 6 hours. Finns are counting the days until the winter solstice on December 21st, when the daylight starts getting longer again. But before that, everyone is waiting the highlight of the year, the Christmas Eve!

To be precise here are the stats for Sunday, Dec 15 2013

Aurinko nousee / Sunrise: 9:19 am
Aurinko laskee / Sunset: 15:12/3.12 pm
Päivän pituus /The length of the day: 5 hours 52 minutes

All photos by Heli Bergius.

The Insider’s Guide to Vietnam – Spotlight on Hanoi

Many people know of Vietnam from history books and one of the most tragic wars of our time for both American and the Vietnamese people. While there are no exact figures, it has been estimated that between 55-60,000 Americans were killed during the Vietnam War, and approximately 1-2,000,000 Vietnamese were killed. Bear in mind that most counts of fatalities for the Vietnam War apparently do not take into account war-related deaths in Cambodia and Laos.

What people don’t know if that Hanoi in Vietnam is considered to be the most beautiful city in all of Asia. The city has two dozen lakes and on the edge of the city the roads dissolve into a maze of winding and narrow wooded lanes.

A majority of the city and people who live in Vietnam get around on bicycles and motorbikes. There are also meter taxis and hired cars that you can take to get around Hanoi and other cities.

Within the north end of the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi is where all of the tourist shops, inexpensive hotel and cafes are located. It is the oldest and busiest as well as most interesting part of the city. This district is also known as the “Old Quarter”, “Ancient Quarter” as well as “36 streets.” The 36 little streets in the quarter are each named for a commodity once sold by all of the businesses on the streets. For example, they are named for medicine, jewelry, fans, copper etc. The more you explore the more interesting stuff you will find such as lacquer ware makers, tinsmiths, tailors.

The city of Hanoi is very compact making it easy to get around for sightseeing. While in Hanoi go to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the most visited and revered site in Vietnam. This shrine was built on the edge of Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh delivered the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Vietnam to more than half a million countrymen in 1945, after Japan surrendered.

Note: Ho Chi Minh, real name Nguyen Tat Thanh (1890-1969), Vietnamese Communist leader and the principal force behind the Vietnamese struggle against French colonial rule. On September 3, 1969, he died in Hanoi of heart failure. In his honor, after the Communist conquest of the South in 1975, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh was the soul of the revolution and of Vietnam’s struggle for independence. His personal qualities of simplicity, integrity, and determination were widely admired, not only within Vietnam but elsewhere as well.

You can continue on to the Ho Chi Minh Museum which is Vietnam’s most important architectural achievement. It opened in 1990 to commemorate Ho’s’ centenary. The exhibit’s chronicles his busy early years.

Your tour should continue on to the Van Mieu known as the (Temple of Literature) and Quoc Tu Giam (National University) which offers much serenity once you are through its towering gates.

They make one of Asia’s loveliest spots and show some of Vietnam’s most amazing religious structures and historical treasures. There are great pools filled with Lotus that are blooming and date back to 1076.

These are just some of the amazing sites that you will see in Vietnam and Hanoi

Relocating to Finland – Guide for Expats

If you like unspoilt nature Finland is a great choice for you. Despite being one of the largest countries by area in Europe, it is also the most sparsely populated with only an estimated 5.4 (2013) million inhabitants. There are around 180,000 lakes dotted about and the Finns like to make the most of the short summer months by spending as much time as they can by the lakes or by the sea. (the number is larger if you could very small lakes) They pass the time fishing, sailing, swimming and hiking in the regions that some might consider fairly remote. Finland is bordered by Sweden on the west, Norway to the north (only the tip of FinlandO, Russia to the East and Estonia to the south. Estonia is across the Baltic Sea.

Language and culture

Finnish is the commonly language spoken in Finland. Swedish is also spoken on the coast and especially in the southern parts of Finland but only about 6 % speak it as the native language. Very very small minority part of Finns speak Sami (saame in Finnish) which is related to the Finnish language. However, the Finns really don’t understand it and hardly anyone even recalls sami has an official standing in the Finnish constitution.

Religion

The main religion in Finland is Evangelical Lutheran (Christian – Protestant) – over 80 %. The Russian Orthodox is the next biggest religion (Russian heritage). Finns can not really be described as “religious” even if they study religion in school – they study all the religions, not only they own.
Sport and leisure

Finland offers a wide variety of activities for winter sports fans including downhill skiing and cross country skiing with many trails networking the country. Fishing is a favorite pastime as well as water sports during the summer. Many of the lakes and sea may be frozen between November and March but the fishing continues! With the vast forests in Finland many people like to hike. During the autumn when the leaves change color and summertime with the midnight sun, one will discover different faces of Finland.

Driving

The usual rules of Europe apply when driving in Finland i.e., seat belts are mandatory front and back. Do not drink and drive. The Police can pull you over at any time and if you are over the limit, you risk going to prison. Passports, driver’s lisence and other relevant documents must be carried at all times, headlights must be used on roads outside of the towns at all times. In addition, also in the towns headlights must be used in wet, dull or misty weather, the national speed limit on highways (moottoritie) is 100kph, 80 – 100kph on main roads and 30kph in the cities as a rule.

Public Transport

Public transport in Finland can get expensive. There are good bus services, but many people prefer travel by rail. There are different kinds of service by train with the local commuter trains, the intercity trains and the superfast trains the Pendolino which has restaurant facilities.

Communication

Finland is known for its excellence in telecommunication with digital fibre-optic fixed line network and a wide coverage for mobile telephones.

There is a national radio and television company which is funded by license fees and there are two private media companies with national TV channels. The national company Yle has four channels. Although satellite and cable is possible in Finland it is not common.

Electricity

Electricity in Finland is 230 volts and 50 Hz and the plugs are the European two pin. Few people in Finland use gas now and most households are dependent upon electricity. The electricity in Finland has recently been deregulated so that the prices of consumption are competitive.

Climate and Weather

Many people who are not familiar with northern Europe think that Finland is a land of ice and snow and that it is always freezing cold. This is not so at all. The long summer days are frequently warm with temperatures reaching 20c in the height of the summer (in the last few years Finland has had extensive heatwaves with super high temperatures for weeks). In the winter temperatures can plummet to minus 20c from December to mid March and, in the depths of winter the sun struggles to make an appearance at all up in north. Even in Helsinki a December day is short with sun light – the sun rises around 9 am and goes down around 3 pm. The weather is much more temperate usually in southern Finland than in Lapland.

Visas and Immigration

A valid passport is required by all nationals except for EU members with a valid ID card. Visas are not required by EU members or nationals from Australia, Canada or the US for stays of up to 90 days within a six month period. Prospective expats from the EU must apply for a residence permit if staying longer than 90 days.
Pets

Expats taking pets to Finland should ensure that the animal has a microchip which complies with ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation). The pet should have the pet passport as required by the EU ruling 998 which states that the animal must be shown to have been vaccinated against rabies and other diseases by a licensed vet at least 30 days prior to travel.

Currency

The currency in Finland is the Euro.

Health Service

Finland has a very good public health service which is funded via taxes and supplemented by health insurance. Anyone who has lived in the country for more than four months must contribute to the health system (via taxes).

Education

Everyone must attend school from the age of seven for nine years until 16 (9th grade) when students need to pass an exam on order to enter for post lower secondary education to higher education (high school 10-12th grade = lukio in Finnish) or to a vocational school. The applications are made through a centralized system. The public school system is one of the best in the world if not the best. All Finnish teachers have university level education and teaching is a respected profession. Even kindergarden teachers have masters degrees.

There are an International school, Russian School, French School, English School and many Swedish speaking schools in Helsinki.

Buying/Renting Property

Buying property in Finland is not difficult and can be processed via the Bank and a Real Estate Agent without the need for a lawyer. Sometimes it is advisable to use the services of an attorney/lawyer who can look into the ‘nitty gritty’. Foreign nationals are permitted to purchase property anywhere in Finland except for the province of Ahvenanmaa.

Coming to America

During the 1980s, I lived and worked in Germany (I’m originally from England, however). I had 6 weeks paid vacation, and always made good use of it. My then boyfriend and I frequently visited the USA for 4-5 weeks at a time, discovering its beauty and its vastness, and with the generous vacation time we both had, we were really able to explore and get to know the areas we visited. In my wildest dreams, I never expected that just a few years later, in the mid-1990s, I would be actually living in the USA!In 1993 I left Germany and joined a cruise ship based out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Whilst there I met my husband, and two years later joined him in Florida. At that time, I couldn’t imagine ever going back to a cold climate or a dull, grey city.

The sun and sand was all I needed. After 11 years in Florida, during which time becoming a US citizen (whilst retaining my British citizenship….), we moved to Atlanta. We’ve now lived here for 6 years, and Atlanta certainly does have a lot to offer. Now, the reason I brought up the vacation time at the beginning is because one of the things I want to touch on about life in the US is the very sparse vacation time. Whilst this doesn’t apply to everyone, the general norm is 1-3 weeks. In my current job, I get one week. One week!!! It’s barely enough time to get unpacked…

After being here for so long, I’ve also learned that sun and sand does not a life make. There is nothing in the US that really compares to a Paris, or a Rome, a London or a Berlin, even though New York is a close contender and I hear San Francisco is very cool. There are times when I yearn for the cobbled streets of a quaint village with the local pub, the butcher and the bakery, or for a big vibrant city that I can actually walk around. I would love to be able to hop on a bus, train or tram to go shopping, or to go to an appointment, or even to get to work.

I often miss the lifestyle of Europe, quite different from here. But could it be that the grass is always greener? When we get visitors from England, they comment on how lucky we are to be able to live here. They talk about the space, the cleanliness, the trees, the food, the laid back vibe. They comment on how affordable everything is, and how we would never be able to afford this kind of lifestyle “back home”. And after 2-3 weeks of enjoying every moment, they head back home, always reminding me to come and visit.

I would love to. If I only had more vacation time…

by Vicki Cimkentli (Linkedin profile)

Impressions of Peru

It was a long awaited journey, one that took almost a year to plan, but Eurocircle’s second annual tour abroad, culminated into a week of physical and emotional upheaval. It wasn’t an easy voyage, as Peru proved to be a land of great geographical and cultural distances, but after enduring high altitude sickness and physical exertion to make an early morning trek to the top of Machu Pichu, we all agreed it was a journey we will never forget.

Planning an annual trip for EuroCircle, an organization largely made up of diverse, experienced world travelers isn’t easy. For the most part, as a group, we have seen it and done it all, so selecting an itinerary that would be stimulating and rewarding is always a challenge.

Let’s just say, that Peru and its national treasures did not disappoint. From our first day in Lima when we were welcomed into the Casa Diez Canseco by its illustrious owner for a scrumptious lunch and a personal home tour, we were always greeted warmly and experienced genuine hospitality.

The real journey began when we embarked for Machu Pichu, a destination that proved to be much more remote than we all expected. The first obstacle to this elusive peak was our descent into Cuzco. At 11,000 feet above sea level, this town knocked us all down to our knees, as approximately six hours into our arrival, most of us started to feel the effects of oxygen depletion.

From extreme nausea, to vertigo, confusion and massive headaches, our travelers spent the first day acclimating to the high altitude. Luckily, we rested at the breathtaking Sonesta Posadas del Inca, a beautiful 18th century monastery surrounded by lush gardens, delicious food and yes, oxygen tanks.

Upon recovery, we descended down into the lush Sacred Valley, where we were greeted by friendly llamas, alpacas, and vicunas. It was amazing to feed and play with the calm and gentle animals, but the respite was too short.

Without a moment to spare, we boarded a bus and set off for Ollantaytambo to visit the famous Inca stronghold built from immense blocks of stone. The climb to the peak of this fortress lead us to spectacular views of the valley below, and a great appreciation for traditional Inca architecture, still in use by the locals.

Another circuitous journey through the Andes, across the desert landscape and through the lush jungle, lead us to the moment we had been waiting for. The road to Machu Pichu was vigorous and demanding, but it was well worth the effort. As we climbed up the slippery steps and the rocky terraces, the scene that appeared before us was breathtaking.

A lush, green vista illuminated by the setting sun seemed almost eerie, with a ghostly silence that was almost unsettling.

At this point we had all heard the legends of the mysterious Incas who built this city, in the depths of the Peruvian jungle, high up in the clouds where no mortals could find it. But none of us was prepared for the high we all felt knowing we were standing at the top of the world.

In front of us was a never-ending panorama of green forest and mountain terraces that swirled down into the canyon below. As we looked down through the clouds below us, we wondered how the Incas managed to drag the massive blocks of stone up the narrow pathways to build a city in the sky.

In the end, we all took a deep breath and tried to find a moment of solitude to appreciate this beautiful scene. Some of us pushed ourselves even further, passed the vista of Machu Pichu and dared to walk the treacherous Inca bridge that skimmed the side of the mountain peak, trying not to look into the chasm below. It is amazing how a few hours among the clouds, and outside our own element, changed our attitudes and our personal energy.

They say Machu Pichu has mystical qualities, and I think each of us noticed and appreciated them in our own way. Some of us came here to simply see another wonder of the world, while others came to appreciate the ancient history. A few of us embarked on a personal quest to see and feel what the legendary tales spoke about, and after speaking with a few of the travelers, I think a few of us actually found it.

And now, on to the next adventure.

Sherry Kumar