A Machu Picchu Morning

Today was the big day, the most anticipated day of the Peru Through the Lens trip. We were all up at 5am and down for breakfast by 5:30am. By 5:45am we were out the door and on our way down the hill by foot to the bus station.

The bus takes about 10 minutes through town and then 20 or so minutes up a steep and very windy road to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The road is barely big enough for one bus, but somehow we squeezed by the first couple of buses that had already dropped off passengers and were on their way back down.

Once through the gates, we made our way to a look out point where everything was covered in fog. Within minutes, the fog swirled around and moved out of the way so that we could see the residential area of Machu Picchu below and beside us. Moments later, the fog swirled back in and covered it all again. The cat and mouse game continued for nearly an hour as we stayed in this one area and enjoyed the mystical and magical presence of being in the Lost City.

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu


Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

Lost Luggage

On April 5th at 6pm I checked my new North Face backpack in at the Halifax airport and went on my way to security and off to Peru! A couple of hours later, we touched down in Toronto and then shortly after, we were boarding again for Lima. With my luggage checked all the way through with Air Canada, I didn’t see it after it was dropped off in Halifax as I didn’t have to pick it up in Toronto.

When I arrived at the Lima airport after a long night of restless sleep, the group of 12 of us headed to pick up our baggage. One by one, each of my passengers hauled their luggage off the conveyor belt and loaded it on to a cart for easy transportation. Round and round the same bags went, not being picked up. A few of my participants had bags that were late getting on the conveyor belt, but they grabbed them and waited for me.

I got increasingly concerned as almost all of the passengers off the entire plane now had their bags and had left for immigration and customs.

Finally, with no more bags coming around the conveyor belt, I let my passengers know to go through customs without me and that I’d be through shortly.

Really? Everyone else got their luggage except for me?
Really? What are the chances that the group leader would be the one without luggage?

Yup … just my luck.

I headed to the baggage claim desk to fill out paperwork. I left my cell number, email and details of the hotel I would be at in Lima for the next couple of days. They said they would let me know when it was located … when that would be? Who knew.

So, off I headed through customs and out to the main area where our G Adventures guide was waiting with my group. He had expected to see me first, not last … and here I was with only one bag, containing my camera.

Thank goodness for having my camera and laptop as carry on as they were the most important part for the upcoming photo tour!

My luggage wasn’t on the plane and there was nothing I could do about it, so off we went to the hotel to settle in. Not exactly the way I was looking forward to starting the trip.

I knew that I wasn’t likely to hear from Air Canada that day as we were the only flight in from Toronto to Lima that day. And, did my luggage even make it to Toronto? Who knew!?

After dropping our stuff at the hotel we did a little city tour, had lunch and headed back to the hotel for nearly everyone who was headed on the optional City of Contrasts tour at 2pm.

I had planned on doing some preparations for the next day’s photo workshop, so I wasn’t headed out on the tour, but now, I had to stay back and make insurance arrangements.

I dug out my insurance information and discovered that the 1-800 numbers were all for within Canada or the US. The next numbers were to call collect to the US. So, I gave the front desk a call and asked them to help me make a collect call. Unfortunately they were not able to. They said it couldn’t be done. I was preparing to head out to a pay phone when I decided to do some internet research or see if I could contact my insurance company by internet.

After a little research on the good ol’ internet I discovered that if I called 108 I would get an international operator. Luckily the first time I called I got an operator who spoke English and she placed my collect call to the insurance company. When someone said hello, the call got disconnected. Go figure! I called back and my operator only spoke Spanish, so I struggled through asking her to place a collect call.

Finally, I was through to the insurance company (Bon Voyage). She explained that if my luggage was delayed by more than 12 hours I could spend $100 for emergency toiletries and clothing. So, as of 6pm that night I could officially go buy deodorant, a toothbrush, etc.

I called my other insurance company as well, but reached the emergency medical department who wasn’t able to help me out with anything related to cancellation and interruption. Then she told me that because it was the weekend I wouldn’t be able to reach anyone at all. That sucked. I never did reach them.

My biggest concern was that if my luggage didn’t arrive by the next day that I might not get it until I was in Lake Titicaca or later.

The next day, we headed out to do my photo workshop, without the cheat sheets and games that I had prepared. Unfortunately the paperwork was all in my luggage. Luckily it wasn’t a huge issue as my presentation was on my laptop, but it did put a little hitch in what I had planned for the day.

Late that afternoon, after all the teaching was done and people went their separate ways to practice and explore, my G Adventures leader took me shopping … That’s probably a blog post on it’s own.

When I returned to the hotel, I tried to contact Air Canada baggage at the number they gave me, but they weren’t open on the weekends. Now, not sure what good the number was going to do me when my luggage was lost on a Saturday and I was leaving Lima on a Monday. I called several Air Canada customer service numbers, the baggage claim, the Lima airport … all to get the same information, that it would be closed until Monday.

So, I took to email and twitter. I emailed explaining that I was leaving the next day and wasn’t sure how they would be able to deliver my luggage to Lake Titicaca at a homestay, so hoping to have it before then. Then I started tweeting to see if someone could get me in touch with anyone in the baggage claims department on the weekend. I really didn’t want to take off on the rest of my tour with only one pair of pants and a couple of t-shirts. I was still missing a lot of toiletries and the $100 wouldn’t go far if I had to survive one week off of it.

Air Canada was quick to respond on twitter, but didn’t offer much help, other than that they would get my luggage to me as quickly as possible. Unfortunately that wasn’t helping me find out where it was, when it would arrive or how it would be delivered.

Shortly after my twitter conversation, I received an email from baggage claims stating that my luggage had been found and would arrive in Lima by Tuesday. Unfortunately I was leaving early Monday morning, so I responded and explained the situation.

That evening, I showered and changed into my new clothes and we headed out for our city tour at night, including supper.

When we returned to the hotel at about 10pm that evening the girls at the front desk were excited to tell me that my luggage had arrived while we were out.

Phew! I wouldn’t be leaving Lima without it. What a relief!

Even better, I went upstairs to my room to check it and sure enough it had arrived with no damage and everything still packed away nicely.

Despite the fact that I had to take it to the airport again first thing the next morning, I sure was glad to have it back and have clean clothes, of my own!

Thank you

April 10, 2013

Five days into the 2013 Peru Through the lens trip and I already know that it has been worth it. Only an hour spent on the Uros Islands and at least two of my passengers have stopped to tell me how happy they are to be here, how wonderful the trip has been so far and what a fabulous day tour this has been. And, it’s only about 9:30am at this point.

Then we arrive at our homestay community of Luquina Chico. After listening to some of the local men play music for us and have a quick introducation to the community, one of the passengers comes to me with tears in her eyes and says ‘This is just so beautiful, Shari’ Needless to say, I welled up too and choked back tears.

Despite not feeling well myself, there hasn’t been a day on the trip that I didn’t step outside and say what a beautiful day, I’m so glad to be here. And it is true. It is beautiful and I’m glad that I have the opportunity to experience Peru for a second time.

I am so glad that I made the choice to bring this group to the community of Luquina Chico. It is such a unique experience here with so much to offer. One passenger’s heartfelt tears was all I needed to know that it was the right decision.

A few people had been concerned about the home stay experience, but it was clear once we arrived that the beauty overwhelmed them more than their concerns.

Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca

It could only happen to me

The Peru Adventure has kicked off with a bang, as usual. It just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t have problems right from the get go.

Let me start by saying all is well, and all 13 of us are safely united and at Hotel Antigua Miraflores which is lovely and rich in culture. I truly adore the hotel and will write a post about it soon.

We touched down this morning in Lima at 6:34am, one minute ahead of schedule. We headed in through the airport, through immigration and off to get our luggage. Slowly each person found their bag and headed off to customs. Then, there were only a handful of us around and no more luggage coming down the belt. Everyone from my group had their luggage in hand.

Yup, you guessed it, no luggage for Shari. I don’t even think I got pissed off about it. I just simply said ‘that figures’ and went to talk to the lost baggage people. Of course, we have no idea where it got lost. Did it never leave Halifax? Did it not make the switch from the plane in Toronto to the new plane heading to Lima? No one knows.

So, luckily, I have the clothes on my back (although not really appropriate for the 25 degree weather in Lima, my sweater, my rain jacket and all of my camera and electronic gear. I have a toothbrush and deodorant, and a pair of underwear. I’ll NEVER go on a plane again without a change of clothes in my carry-on.

Am I mad? No, not really. It’s not the first time my luggage has been lost. Although, its a really crappy way to start a 15 day photography tour. No idea why everyone else’s luggage from Halifax made it and mine didn’t, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Guess it’s just another test for me.

I do recall saying ‘Well, if they lost it, they pay for it.’ Thankfully I have travel insurance to cover this. I’m insured, so if I could get in touch with any of them, I’d make arrangements to get a claim started.

Problem number 2. Although I have all of my emergency travel insurance contact information, I’m not able to make a collect call from the hotel. Not sure if it isn’t possible or if the person at the front desk doesn’t know how, but right now … I can’t get in touch with Insurance. Both insurance companies I deal with have 1-800 numbers for within Canada or US, but if you are outside US, you have to call collect. Apparently that’s not so easy from here.

When (if) they find my luggage, they’ll send it to my hotel here in Lima, if it is found today or tomorrow. Otherwise, I continue on without it and they’ll send it to catch up with me wherever I may be. Unfortunately, there are limited options for it catching up with me. For example, if I don’t get it by Tuesday, I won’t get it until Friday because there are no airports in the middle of the lake. Go figure!

So, here’s hoping it arrives tomorrow morning. Not to mention the fact that my printed materials for my photo workshops tomorrow are packed in that luggage. I have my power point slide show though, so I’m not in a panic. I just don’t have my fun game for participants and their cheat sheets.

It’s 4:15pm here now. I did some internet research and discovered that I need to dial 809 in order to make a collect call. The operators only speak Spanish though, so I’m glad I spent seven weeks in Dominican Republic learning Spanish this past summer!

I have a claim started and as of 6:30 local time tonight (12 hours after my flight), I can buy up to $100 worth of emergency clothing and toiletries to get me through. So, tonight, I will be doing a little shopping! If my luggage gets returned, I just have a few extra ‘souvenirs’ from Peru. If it doesn’t get returned, I’ll have clean clothes.

Travel Tip 1: Always pack a change of clothes in your carry on!
Travel Tip 2: Never travel without insurance.

Now, I’m off to take some photos of this beautiful hotel that we are staying in so I can post about it. It’s simply lovely.

One Sleep to Peru through the Lens 2013

For all of you out there who have been waiting for me to start blogging about my Peru trip this year, the time is here!
I was up before the sun this morning in an effort to get all of my last minute things done. On top of my list is clearing off my laptop and hard drive so I have room to store this year’s photos. As I write this, I’m transferring files from my hard drive to my desktop computer … multitasking! Yay me!

There’s been a whole lot of change and excitement over the last year in my life. I won’t go into great detail as I’ve written other posts about it, but here’s the nitty gritty …

In Feb 2012 I went on a three week adventure to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and then on to lead Peru Through the Lens 2012 … a photo tour that was so much more! I had no idea that when I embarked on the first photo tour that it would have such an impact on me. I spent 11 weeks traveling from February to September of that year (adding in Dominican Republic) … and then came home, got sick and changed careers. Whirlwind 2012!

What’s even more amazing to me is that I am not the only person from the Photo tour who had life changing affirmations! Maybe it was the magic of Machu Picchu, the wanderlust from traveling or just the demographic of people who participated last year … but many of us saw life A LOT differently on our return to Canada.

This year as I head off to Peru in just one sleep! Yikes! I feel like I’m looking at it with a brand new set of eyes. Last year I was stuck. I was complaining of being on a hamster wheel and just spinning without going forward in my life / career. This year I seem to have most of it together. A new career as an Adventure Travel Specialist, better health (knock on wood that continues) and just as much vision as I’ve always had, but I seem to be able to articulate it better.

So, here’s to my next adventure … starting in approximately 36 hours … I’ll try not to be such a klutz at the airport this year! (you should read it, you’ll have a good laugh!)

Oh yeah … I’ve also scheduled the 2013 Art Show & Fundraiser for May 25th. Details will be out soon, but put it in your calendar now! Come see all of the participants work from the 2013 trip and support community, artists and the Planeterra Foundation!

Pisac ruins, Peru
Pisac ruins, Peru

Peru Through the Lens Info Session

Date & Time
Wednesday, January 9th
7pm – 8pm
Please RSVP here

The Adventure Travel Company
5552 Kaye Street, Halifax, NS

April 6 – 20 – Trip Itinerary

If you are looking for an adventure and have a passion for photography, this is the trip of a lifetime for you! It’s a trip for hobbyists, enthusiasts and passionate photography people just like you!

Want to know what makes the Peru Through the Lens photo tour special and if it is a good fit for you? Come join us at our info session for detailed itinerary information including plans for this year’s special portrait project.

The idea is to be surrounded by people who love adventure and photography, to have just enough structure to be safe/organized, but lots of free time to explore Peru and capture beautiful photographs.

All of this, AND the expertise of a well-established professional photographer at your disposal for the whole trip. Workshops, Tips, tricks, shop talk and lots of opportunities to be fully immersed in your passion.

This is a fantastic opportunity to see Peru through your lens and share your passion for photography with others.

Highlights from Participants for Peru Through the Lens 2012

After a successful 2012 Peru Through the Lens tour, I asked participants to provide me with feedback about the trip so that I could continue to improve it for the 2013 year. Today, as I reviewed that feedback to see what I haven’t yet done, that I need to do, I reminisced while reading through each respondent’s highlights.

Here are participants responses to the question:
What were your top five favourite experiences or places of the Peru Through the Lens Photo Tour?

Lori’s Highlights
1. Meeting and making new friends
2. Tombs at Sillustani (optional excursion during free time near Puno)
3. Machu Picchu – for the personal physical accomplishment & the view
4. Lake Titicaca – specifically Taquile Island
5. Pisac ruins

Pachamama Beams Down by Lori Cammerota
Pachamama Beams Down by Lori Cammerota

Kristie’s Highlights
1. Puno
2. Home stay at Ccaccaccollo and community of Taray
3. Machu Picchu
4. Hot springs at Aguas Calientes (optional during free afternoon)
5. Markets (Cuzco, Puno, Ollantaytambo, Pisac)

Machu Picchu by Kristie McDougall
Machu Picchu by Kristie McDougall

Monika’s Highlights
1. The time Shari took to teach me about photographing using manual and using the histogram on the back of my camera
2. Seeing the ruins at Pisac
3. Lake Titicaca – including Taquile Island, the homestay at Luquina Chico, and the floating islands
4. Having the time to see the Ollantaytambo ruins the second day in the morning (optional during free time)
5. Ruins at Machu Picchu early in the morning
6. The sense of community that was established with our tour group early in the trip

Pisac Terraces by Monika Bigelow
Pisac Terraces by Monika Bigelow

Diane’s Highlights
1. Machu Picchu
2. Cusco
3. Puno
4. Uros Floating Islands
5. The Flat topped island at the Chulpa Tomb ruins in Sillustani (optional tour during free time, near Puno)

Sillustani by Diane Slaunwhite
Sillustani by Diane Slaunwhite

Andrea’s Highlights
1. Homestay at Ccaccaccollo
2. Machu Picchu
3. Uros Islands
4. Luquina Chico Homestay
5. Taray Dance Festival

Ccaccaccollo Family Photo by Andrea Robinson
Ccaccaccollo Family Photo by Andrea Robinson

Ed’s Highlights
1. Seeing Machu Picchu at the end of the trip. It was the icing on the cake for this Peruvian adventure.
2. Home stays…both of them – Ccaccaccollo & Luquina Chico. This truly gave me an insight into the Peru culture and gave me a perspective on life that I would not have gained from looking out of a bus window or simply sitting in coffee shops.
3. Visiting the Uros floating islands and meeting the community who live there.
4. The photo project of taking family portraits. It was touching to see how many of these families were so excited to have us take pictures of them. When I showed my “Mami” and “Papi” the pictures I took of their community they both began to weep with joy. It was quite an emotional experience for me.
5. Making new friends with the group that I got to travel with. They were all fun and I learned more about photography from interacting with each and every one of them.

Ccaccaccollo Family Photo by Ed Robinson
Ccaccaccollo Family Photo by Ed Robinson

Sarah’s Highlights
1. Uros floating islands
2. Machu Picchu – It was great getting there early to sit and take in the vast beauty.
3. Taquile Island – tough active day but lunch with the million dollar view made the struggle worth it.
4. Pisac – so much beauty and history
5. Cusco architecture

Uros Islands by Sarah L. Hill
Uros Islands by Sarah L. Hill

As for myself, my highlights were:
1. Machu Picchu – Please read blog post Lost City, Found Self and you will understand.
2. Puno – The impromptu carnival street parade some of us saw during our free time and visiting the market to buy vegetables for our home stay families.
3. Luquina Chico Homestay – The parade of welcome music by the local men, dancing with the locals, helping make fried dough, photographing the locals at work (fishing & sorting fish), my little home stay sister Deanna, who cried when I left.
4. Uros floating Islands – The history of these islands fascinates me!
5. Homestay at Ccaccaccollo – challenging to communicate with our families because they speak Quechua, but feeling warmly welcomed. Enjoyed the volunteer family photos & meeting so many people of the community.
6. (I couldn’t just have 5!) Taray Dance Festival – A complete authentic travel experience. It was not a tour, nothing planned, just going about a day the same way that the locals do. Except this particular day was a local dance festival.

Ccaccaccollo weaving by Shari Tucker
Ccaccaccollo weaving by Shari Tucker

Interested in joining in the fun and discovering your own highlights? Join me for Peru Through the Lens 2013!

Did you know that I Did THAT?

When I sat down to start making a list of all of the fun, unique and adventurous things that I’ve done in travel since 2006, I was quite amazed at the list. Check it out!

** Updated Jan 1, 2016 – updates still in progress

Dominican Republic
White water rafting – Jarabacoa
River kayaking – Sabonita
Latin dancing – Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, La Romana, Cabarete and Sosua
Photos of Not for Profit School “Dominino” – San Luis district of Santo Domingo
Botanical Gardens, Santo Domingo
Visited Banos salt mines and the only sand dunes in the Caribbean.
Puerto Plata Teleferico (cable car) – 2555 feet – the highest cable car and manicured gardens in the Caribbean.
Horseback riding through rivers on Christmas Day 2014
Danced Merengue, Salsa and Bachata in a local barber shop – Santo Domingo
Survived local transportation in the form of carros publicos, guaguas, tour buses & moto conchos

Homestays – Luqina Chico & Ccaccaccollo
Lake Titicaca Boat Tour – Lake Titicaca
Rowed a boat made of reeds – Uros Islands
Volunteer Family Photographs – Ccaccaccollo
Incan Ruins – Machu Picchu, Pisac, Ollantaytambo
Hot Springs – Aguas Calientes
Train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu & return to Cusco
Ate local delicacy – guinea pig

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands
Lava tunnels – Santa Cruz Island
Snorkeling & swimming with wild sea lions – near Santa Cruz Island
Charles Darwin Centre – Santa Cruz Island
Boat tour & hike of the highlands – Floreana Island
Dolphins – Floreana Island
Teleferico (cable car) – Altitude 13 280 ft – Quito
Old town Quito private city tour – Quito

Old town Warsaw night tour – Warsaw
Packaging and delivering wishes to terminally ill children – Southern Poland
Majdanek Concentration Camp – Majdanek

Berlin Zoo – Berlin
Bradenburg Gate – Berlin
Checkpoint Charlie – Berlin
Train from Berlin to Warsaw

Rapelling & Snorkeling in cenotes – Mayan Riviera
Zip lining – Mayan Riviera
Tulum Ruins – Mayan Riviera
Snorkeling with sea turtles and sting rays – Mayan Riviera
Coco Bongo – Playa del Carmen
Chichen Itza Ruins
Learned to surf – Sayulita (2015)
Horseback riding

Bayou swamp tour – New Orleans, LA

St. Pierre & Miquelon
Zodiac boat tour – St. Pierre
Wild horses – Miquelon

Catamaran & snorkeling – Varadero
Swimming with Dolphins – Varadero

Costa Rica
Cable car & Rain forest Zip lining – Arenal
Leatherback turtles laying eggs – Tamarindo
Black sand beaches

Masaya (active) Volcano tour – Masaya
Granada Islets boat tour – Granada

Sea do tour & snorkeling – Dockyard
5 day cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines – Boston to St. Georges

Hot Air Ballooning over Cappadocia at sunrise
Learning (trying) to make pottery
Horseback riding through Cappadocia at sunset
Visited Troy / Gallipoli and Anzac
Visited Aya Sofia / Blue Mosque / Galata Tower

Swimming with sharks and rays
Climbing waterfalls
Listening to spoken word poetry from our local guide in the jungle
Jungle horseback riding

Snorkeling off Koh Phi Phi Islands
Travel from Malaysia to Thailand overland (train / bus)

The Philippines
Learned to dive
Visited the chocolate hills
Saw Tarsier monkeys
Learned about sand bubbler crabs
Snorkeling at _______________
Visited El Nido – Island hopping / snorkelling
Tried a bite of crocodile


Visited Iguazu Falls
Street Art Tour


Felt an earthquake while at dinner

Visited the islands with the church / museum



Treno Sto Rouf Dinner Theatre
Street Art Tour

Hiking through abandoned villages

Visited Halong Bay
Learning (trying) to make pottery
Agent orange museum ??

Visited Angkor Wat

Singapore flyer ride