Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Once in a lifetime heatwave"

We arrived in Vancouver yesterday. It is sizzling.

The air is so charged with heat there is a possibility we may be able to fry an egg on the stovetop tomorrow morning without turning the element on. The pancakes will likely require the normal cooking method to be employed.

A7 of the Vancouver Sun has a quote from Environment Canada meteorologist David Jones. He says: "Five consecutive days with temperatures over 32 C .... We're going to do that this week. That's only happened three times since 1880".

This is the kind of humidity that means you can focus on nothing bar the fact that you are sweaty (possibly smelly) and require cooling agents... incessantly. Round the clock vigilance.

So far we have employed the usual methods such as swimming (Kitsilano has a 137m pool!), eating spicy food (specifically wasabi), drinking cold and hot beverages (the theory being that if we drink hot tea it will make us sweat more and dissapate the heat).

We are enjoying the sunshine, however looking for rental accommodation and finding it both pricey and inconveniently "just taken" is starting to wear a little thin.

Mustn't grumble though, better just to sweat this one out, as I see from the metservice and frixo websites that tonight in Wellington it will be 7 degrees, and tomorrow in Slough it will (actually) be drizzly. Incidentally today's high for Slough is listed as N/A. Perhaps that just means no one cares, seeing as everyone's probably in Swindon on 'oliday.

Mrs R

Monday, July 13, 2009


We met 3 Australian girls at our language school in Cuzco a couple of weeks ago. They became friends when working for Outward Bound in Canberra, so needless to say they are top sheilas!

We were very interested when they told us about a local yoga class they had been to led by an American guy who takes his troop up into the hills to perform their asanas out in the open. On Saturday we made our way to Plazoleta San Blas along with Erin Turner, a friend from med school, and about 17 others, to get a taste of this experience for ourselves.

Al took us up a long pathway winding out of the city and into the tranquility of the bush beneath the dazzling highland sunshine. The bush was tranquil but I was breathing like a racehorse when we emerged in a shady glade of eucalypts at 3500m up in the sky! The location was wonderful, a flat piece of land at the foot of The Temple of the Moon, an Inca ruin carved into the local boulders. We had walked past typical ramshackle housing and sweet barefoot Peruvian children on the way, firmly placing us in the Andes, but sitting down on the grass under the trees and idly tossing away the gumnuts which prodded my bottom like peas through a mattress, we were transported to Australia and the land of Snugglepot, Cuddlepie and the Banksia Men. As I closed my eyes to begin the breathing relaxation at the start of the class, the scent of the bush was invigorating.

Al is a mild mannered and gregarious fellow, whose teaching voice and lilting Californian accent is ideal for yoga - gentle, clear and specific. His spanish instructions rapidly endeared him to the new members of the class as he sought assistance with remembering difficult terms and took time to relate a few simple tales about friends from home and their yogic feats of strength and determination.

He took us through a hatha yoga sequence, focusing on balance and stretching, rather than the cardiovascular blitzkrieg of asthanga yoga that I´m used to from years of attending the fantastic Gaura Yoga loft in Wellington. I quickly reminded myself of the importance of taking everything at the recommended pace, as I was barely in ¨la plancha¨ (the plank) for 5 seconds when I realised that the thin air was not going to make this a fun day for my muscles if I tried to recreate a sea-level class! Al spent time telling us about his friend´s website worldplank.com which entreats visitors to improve their lives by taking 1 minute a day to hold the famously dificult position. He joked that he had a watch with him, and we would all do a 60 second plank today, before giving a wee chuckle and letting us down from our ever more shaky poses!

As I stood in trikonasana gazing up at my top thumb, the sunlight twinkling through the waving eucalyptus leaves and the birds chirping merrily amongst them, I felt pleasure at the realisation that life for everyday Peruvians, which is normally so hard, could be this peaceful. During the class a number of local residents passed by on their way to town, walking along the tracks that have been byways for centuries. We are forunate to have a series of fantastic tracks cut through the New Zealand bush for walking and running, but people of countries like Peru and Guatemala have similarly beautiful routes as their daily thoroughfares, without the need to seek them out for the purpose of getting out from amidst the noise and haste.

Always the most enjoyable part of any yoga class for me, we ended the 90min session in shavasan, the corpse pose, which involves lying on your back and trying not to think of anything while you also try desperately not to fall asleep! The ability not to think of anything is deemed an important skill for the yogi, though I have decided after years of trying that for me the latter is enough, and that whatever thoughts stroll into my head during such a enjoyable time should be allowed to develop and then flutter away! I need higher expectations. A higher taste perhaps.

We walked around the ruins of the Temple after the class, and listened to descriptions of the Inca carvings of puma, condor, snake, llama and monkey, by a representative from the Instituto de Cultura who´s job it is to wait on the sunny outcrops for wandering tourists to come by and be enlightened by him. What a life!!

After a leisurely stroll back down the hill we complemented the sustained exertion with a delicious and simple meal at the hare krishna vegetarian cafe near the plaza where we began. The spices, textures and the accompanying tea all put me in mind of the Gaura Yoga loft in Vivian Street, and the rejuvenation that comes from eating good food after vigorous exercise, in the company of good people.
Mr R

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wonder this.

There are seven "official" wonders of the world. What you maybe didn´t realise was that there is another man-made creation possibly of less classical antiquity but nevertheless wonderous and that is the thermal baths of Aguas Calientes.

According to www.rediscovermachupicchu.com the baths have "water 42 ºC warm, which has curative effects, good for people who have problems with bones and joints, muscle pain, very good for those who suffer of kidney-related affections. The water is sulphurous and comes from deep underground. Like Japan, Hungary and New Zealand are famous for their hot springs, so is this little Peruvian town!"

The curative nature of the baths is a selling point BUT what they should be saying is that this is your one opportunity to enjoy (?!?) a huge warm bath in chicken broth... with strangers! Seriously this is the only way I can describe the experience. It was as if they used Maggi Chicken stock instead of chlorine to disinfect the water. Add to this a dozen Germans, two and a half dozen Peruvians, two young French students and two New Zealanders and you have yourself a well seasoned soup!

Bon appétit!

Mrs R

¡Machu Picchu!

Machu Picchu is deservedly one of the seven wonders of the world. It is hard to capture the wow factor with a camera but we tried anyway...

Mrs R

Saturday, July 4, 2009


On Sunday afternoon we sat in the Plaza de Armas and spent a couple of hours observing tourists (eating icecream, reading their travel guides and taking photos) and watching families. Mothers and fathers sat on the sidelines whilst their young children took centre stage, racing each other and feeding rice to the fat pigeons.

There was a small boy, no more than seven years old sitting about half a metre to my left. Every so often he raised his eyes to watch two slightly younger boys run up to the steps where we were sitting and then back to the bench where their family was.

Resolutely he dropped his head and continued with his task. From a tatty jean backpack he took a small handful of rice. In his free hand he held a long and narrow plastic bag which he had opened by blowing into the top. Carefully funnelling rice into the bag, holding it up to check progress and sometimes to compare the portion of rice with a completed bag, he worked patiently.

Judging there to be sufficient rice he tied a neat knot at the top of each bag and delicately placed the completed parcel over his thigh. Quite proudly he smoothed his hand over his growing pile of thin rice filled bags, now numbering six.

After a time he zipped up his bag, tossed it over his back and got to his feet hoisting his grubby blue pants up as he did so. The bottoms were brown with dirt and torn.

Eyes on the younger boys he gingerly started towards them, the rice parcels swinging from his hands. Half way he stopped. The boys had started a new game which involved balancing with two hands and one foot on the ground, trying to get their free leg higher in the air than the other could. The boy with the rice watched for a bit, made to walk towards the boys´ parents, hesitated and then dropped to the ground to have a try himself.

For the briefest moment he was playing in the sunshine, smiling, looking for recognition at his aerobics.

Focused again he began making his way around the Plaza, offering his rice and exchanging a bag for 50c. Children younger than him tore into the plastic, dumping the rice on the concrete and staring dumbstruck as the pigeons feasted.

Watching this young child go about his business with precision and concentration belying his young age pulled at my heart. What broke it was seeing the expression on his small face moments after his face alit with a smile, one leg cocked in the air.

I saw a look of wistful reflection combined with a simple shoulder shrug, an outward acknowledgement that work could not wait, not really, not even for a chance moment of play.

Mrs R