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  • Dean Williamson
  • May 31, 2016 01:59:26 PM

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Part time travelers with tips and reviews to help you make the most of your limited vacation time

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How to find the Perfect Stay with

There are a few things you should know if you want to find the perfect stay on and we are here to show you. Read our tips now. The post How to find the Perfect Stay with appeared first on La Vida Global.

Chances are pretty good that you have booked a stay through, or at the very least searched for something. If not then you are either one of those caravan / motorhome addicts who never stay in a hotel room, never left home, or one of the 27 people in the world who don’t have access to the internet.

As serious travellers who get away whenever time and money allows, we are always looking to get the best value for money, especially when it comes to where we sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not looking for the cheapest “roach motel” in the area but we also don’t need gold plated toilet seats, tuxedo wearing hotel staff or to sleep on a bed so soft it may well be stuffed with actual geese. Unless it is discounted to a crazy low price of course.

If you book any accommodation through our links we may earn a small commission. This does not cost you any extra and will still be getting the best possible price.

Why we use

We do search other hotel sites to find the best deals but more often than not the links take us back to or we find they have the best price anyway.

The range of options

We also love that they search beyond just the usual range of hotels, with so many other types of accommodation coming up in the search results. Gone are the days when you had to check different sites for B&Bs, apartments, cabins, etc. Now all the options are on the same screen.

Easy to access loyalty discounts

Every booking website seems to have a variation of loyalty discounts but we like that to qualify on is not only quick and easy but the range of accommodations with a discount applied is quite varied. Not just the most expensive places or the rubbish nobody wants to book.

The program is called Genius and you automatically qualify after just five bookings and have two years to achieve this. From then on any time you search a location the first results shown will be properties with the additional discount.

View your full itinerary

As the main researcher and planner in the family it was quite annoying when booking a lot of hotels for a long trip to go back and find that I had made a date mistake and overlapped some hotels. A waste of time and so frustrating.

Those days are behind me when I book with as it tracks the full itinerary and will even warn you when dates overlap, before you finalise the booking.

If you want to review an individual booking or search that same date range for a new hotel you can access it quickly from the itinerary at the top of the page.

And this section has another helpful addition, a few suggestions on where you may wish to go after the last place you book. Perfect for freewheeling road trips.

Payment options to help your trip planning

Whether you are putting a trip together and trying to get a better idea of the price or just want to hold in in the last room of a great deal on a whim,’s pricing options are the perfect tool for travel planners.

You may find your top pick has a Genius discount but even without this you will often see two prices for the same room.

  • a non-refundable price for those who are definitely going and want to save some dollars.
  • a fully refundable price where you have the option to cancel without penalty, usually right up to just a day or two before your arrival.

Insider Tip : start with the refundable option while you are doing your planning and as the trip approached do a final search for any hot last minute offers and change over to the non-refundable best deal.

How we use filters for road trip planning

There is one big difference between searching for somewhere to stay on a road trip and when we do not have a car available… location. No car means we either need to stay very close to the main area we want to explore, or an area that has easy public transport options to get us there.

On a road trip the location is much less important and free car parking becomes a more valuable criteria. No point saving $10 on a hotel and having to pay $30 for parking!

Having the car gives us that extra flexibility to stay a bit further out, get a nicer place for our money and still be able to get in and out of town when we want to.

Set your minimum review standard has the option of choosing only properties with an overall review score above a certain number. Of course we would always want to stay in a place that people review at least 9/10 but more often than not these places are either the most expensive or way off the beaten track.

Set the level at 7+, or 8+ if the site tells you there are plenty of options for you. Truth be told most places are probably better than the review score suggests as the internet attracts more people that complain that praise.

Decide on your budget for this stay

If there are a few options at the lowest price range it’s always worth limiting the results to just those to see if anything is suitable at a bargain basement price. Sometimes you get lucky.

You will often find these cheaper options are on the edge of town or a little further out. On a road trip this should by no means be a deal breaker. If none of the options do it for you deselect the lowest price range and select the next higher one.

Limit the location to search

There is a couple of ways to do this:

  • Select a location rating score. We do not use this unless we have no idea about the good and bad parts of town, but we prefer to do some outside research rather than letting choose our best location.
  • You also have the option of selecting a specific part of town or a landmark to narrow your search. This can be useful to those who have done that extra bit of research and now know the area they prefer to stay.
  • Use the MAP VIEW option. This is our usual way of searching because of the flexibility. The results update as you move the map around and it’s a great way to start in your prefered area and then expand the area looking for nearby bargains.

Check the options in Popular Filters

This section shows a list of the most selected filters so there is a pretty good chance you will want to use one of them at least. Maybe you want a place that includes breakfast or, especially for road trippers, somewhere that has parking vailable.

Plenty of other options

There are so many more options to limit your search results but to be honest we rarely if ever use them. You can select certain star ratings of the properties but frankly we don’t care about this.

While it is a common misconception that the more stars means a better place this is not always true. Star ratings are based on different criteria in various parts of the world and usually more about the amenities and number of staff than actual comfort. A pool and a restaurant add an extra star but the rooms may be uncomfortable.

Many places do not even have a set rating criteria at all and are allowed to self rate. We prefer to read reviews rather than be guided by an unregulated star rating system.

Another option some may find handy, although we rarely use either, is the property type. We don’t wan’t to limit our search to just hotels when we might then miss out on an amazing B&B or Guesthouse.

The only time we have really used this option is when we want our relax and recharge time and would limit the result to Resorts.

Accessibility Options

A great set of options here for any travellers with limited mobility or other conditions that mean the wrong features in a room could ruin your trip. Need wheelchair access or a handrail in the shower, the option is there.

There are also a couple of handy options here for all travellers especially if you don’t feel like dragging your luggage up flights of stairs after a big day. Simply choose a room on the ground floor or only places that have lifts to higher floors.

Dean’s Top Tip – Read the Reviews

… but don’t believe everything you read! I have been in the travel industry for quite a while now and for a large chunk of that was a face to face travel agent, so I know first hand how petty some complaints can be about hotels. And that is even more obvious online.

I remember reading a review that gave 1/10 on a place that had an overall rating of around 8. The review went on to say the room was clean, the staff friendly, breakfast was fantastic and the location couldn’t be better, and I was waiting for the bombshell that destroyed all the good work.

Well it seems the reviewer was disgusted that the sheets were not changed every day!

Not that the bed wasn’t made daily but the actual sheets not changed. It made me wonder what they were doing on the sheets.

Getting to my point, it is important to learn some tricks on how to filter out the stupid comments and find the imformation that should help you pick the perfect place.

  • I always ignore any reviews by a first timer. Chances are pretty high that an unusually bad review was done by a competitor and a strangely glowing review by a friend. The more reviews someone has done the more credible their opinion.
  • I also read (and then usually ignore) any review that is way better or worse than most others. It’s either lazy reviewing or someone like the dirty sheet guy with an unrealistic expectation.
  • Another thing I have found is to check the nationality of the reviewer. Sure I am doing a bit of generalisong here but Americans tend to review European hotels harder than anyone else, and vice versa. Australians are generally pretty accurate as we just want a good holiday and to tell people what we really thought.
  • Look for trends. A hotel may have a rating over 8 and looks like great value for money, but if the last five reviews are much lower and they all all mention the same issue then it may be time to look elsewhere.

Try it for yourself

Do a quick search for somewhere you would like to go just to see how easy it is?

The post How to find the Perfect Stay with appeared first on La Vida Global.

Through Our Lens – Peruvian Amazon Lodge Experience

On the Tambopata River for a three night stay in a jungle eco-lodge. An experience we never thought about but one that will definitely stay with us forever. The post Through Our Lens – Peruvian Amazon Lodge Experience appeared first on La Vida...

Near Puerto Madonado, Peru.

After flying from Lima to Puerto Madonado we headed out on the Tambopata River for a three night stay in a jungle eco-lodge. It was an experience I never really thought about having but one that will definitely stay with me forever.

The scenery was as vibrant as you would expect in a place well off the busy Peruvian tourist path with wildlife plentiful and varied. From a photographic view the only disappointment was that almost none of my wildlife images are good enough to add to this gallery as they were all taken from a moving boat or with the long zoom of our point and shoot camera without a tripod.

That being said there are still enough shots to create a reasonable sized gallery. Please take a minute to look through these images and we would love for you to post a comment or leave some feedback.

Ready to board the boat on the Tambopata River in Peru

In most cities brown rivers are a good indicator that you should keep out of the water, but in the jungle it just looks like something from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The jungle accommodation is the perfect belnd of comfort and natural

Jungle luxury, complete with only three walls and scary wild animal noises all night. Absolutely perfect for this experience.

One thing that seemed to be proven day after day, jungle sunsets never disappoint.

One thing that seemed to be proven day after day, jungle sunsets never disappoint.

A quite morning on the river's edge before heading off on another day of adventure.

I would often be up exploring before the rest of the group and found it to be such a peaceful way to start each day. I especially liked to wander the river’s edge before heading off on another day of adventure.

The lake itself was so tranquil but the otters and piranhas make you stay on the boat.

After a short jungle trek from the river you are met with the sight of a magnificent lake, hidden from those who only cruise the river. Except for the handful of small boats used by the locals for fishing the lake seems like a calm oasis in the middle of an immense jungle. On closer inspection you find the lake to be home to a playful family of otters as well as a healthy number of piranhas.

Wonderful reflections in the water caught my eye but then I noticed the strange looking tortoise wearing a butterfly for a hat.

While I was scanning the lake admiring the stunning reflections on the water I noticed part of a fallen tree sticking out of the water at one end of the lake. After zooming in I noticed the strange looking tortoise wearing a butterfly for a hat.

Sunset over the Tombopata River was always the perfect time to be on a boat.

Sunset over the Tambopata River was always the perfect time to be on a boat. The sun created the most amazing colours in the clouds and the reflection on the chocolate brown water makes a truly astonishing image.

Head out on the Tambopata River for a three night stay in a jungle eco-lodge. It was an experience we never really thought about having but now we want to share our best photos.
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The post Through Our Lens – Peruvian Amazon Lodge Experience appeared first on La Vida Global.

The big green bus from Cusco to Puno

It may take 10 hours to get from Cusco to Puno on the big green bus of Turismo Mer but is it worth doing or just a waste of a day? The post The big green bus from Cusco to Puno appeared first on La Vida Global.

If you are a fan of nothing more than ticking the boxes when it comes to visiting the world’s most overexposed tourist Meccas, and monuments per minute is how you decide on the success of a trip, then you will will be excited to know you can move from Cusco to Puno in a little under a single airborne hour.

Which means you could literally check off Machu Picchu and the floating Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca in a single, manic weekend. For others who love to travel it also means you will have missed so many less prestigious, but equally as culturally significant places along the way.

Get on the bus.

We didn’t really expect to be using “public” transport on our Peregrine Amazon and Inca Adventure but there we were just after breakfast being shuffled on to an ostentatiously green bus for the ten hour trundle across Peru. I expected this would feel like an eternity.

The big green bus of Turismo Mer

At the unvacationlike hour of 7 am we pulled out of the bus terminal and waved a weary goodbye to the somehow slow paced and yet buzzing collection of streets, buildings and people known as Cusco. It had only been a few days but Cusco felt as comfortable as a heated snuggie and a place of which I have vowed to return.

Once onboard it we had quickly become aware that this was no “chicken bus”. Comfortable seats, snacks available, commentary along the way and the glorious knowledge that we would be stopping a number of times along the way. Not just to give our bodies the chance to try a different position to that available on the bus but to explore and learn about some very significant places in Peru’s history.

Oh, and a buffet lunch to sweeten the deal. Everything you are about to experience this day costs less than 60 USD per person.

Stop #1 : The Sistine Chapel of America

What a surprise, we are stopping to see a church. Whether it be Europe or Latin America you will get to the stage where you feel visiting one more church will see you curled up under the alter mumbling “don’t they know how to build anything else?”.

And so in just a blink of an eye (as long as your blinks last for approximately one full hour) we arrive at the quaint but not jaw dropping Andahuaylillas Church. From the outside it looks like the same stereotypical Spanish influenced church that seems to pop up in every small town around here.

Outside the Andahuaylillas Church

But walk through the door and you will find something that sets this Church apart from its many lookalikes. The interior is a spectacular work of art, an incredible mix of the traditional Incan religious beliefs and the newly arrived Catholicism being force fed to the locals.

I have to give props to whichever Spanish leader came up with this plan as it is quite genius. The invaders were having mixed results in trying to convert the locals to believe in their one “true” God, and killing all those who held out was starting to seem a little short sighted. The answer was to “bend” the Catholic beliefs a little for future gain and to show how God was also the boss of the Incan Gods.

The frescoes in this church incorporate a number of the Incan beliefs into more traditional Catholic inspired Bible stories. Links to Pacha Mama, the Incan version of Mother Earth, and the sun god Inti take important, but obviously secondary roles, in many of the paintings.

The idea was that God would be easier for the locals to accept if the two religions could be shown working together. It was a success and certainly made it much easier over time for the Spanish to convince the locals that one god was better than many.

Inside the Andahuaylillas Church

As well as artwork as captivating as anything in Europe there is also a staggering amount of gold in this place which also sets it apart from most other local churches around the Americas.

Another pleasant surprise was that the bus trip also includes a knowledgeable guide to give you the low down on the places we visit for the day. Informative and hard to believe what great value this trip is becoming.

Souvenir shop perused, eyes well and truly filled with stunning visions, photos snapped, that must mean it’s time to hit the road again. Not a bad first place to break up the trip and already more fun than flying.

Stop #2 : The archaeological site of Raqchi

OK so one and a half blinks of an eye on the bus this time, or 90 minutes for those of us with more average eye control, and the next stop is a little known but hugely significant site for the Inca.

Ruins of the Temple of Wiracocha

The Temple of Wiracocha stands tall on this impressive site. Considered by many to be one of the most important trading hubs of the Inca empire, Raqchi ruins not only contain the remains of the Temple but also a dozen attached residential buildings and about 150 storehouses. One could say it was the Singapore pre-Hispanic South America.

Traders from across the continent would converge here to buy, sell and swap. Grains, trinkets, tools could all be found here. To see the storehouses stretching out in the distance again makes you wonder how this empire may have developed if not for those pesky and murderous Spanish.

Speaking of murderous Spanish, we have them to thank for the destruction of much of this important site. The Temple must have been quite a sight in its day, almost 100 metres long and 25 metres wide it was the largest single roofed building in the empire. It also featured a zigzagging corridor inside which represented the relationship between Wiracocha and the Incan cosmos.

A local couple painstakingly add the final details to their beautiful ceramics

So, the Spanish laid waste to this massively significant historical site but at least they left a new church in its place. As we know, they did know how to build churches that look exactly the same and were hardly ever used!

After getting your fill of the reminders of mindless destruction you can visit some local craftsmen, descendants of the original inhabitants, creating wonderful products as they have for generations.

We visited a husband and wife painstakingly painting some beautiful ceramics and couldn’t stop ourselves from splashing a tiny amount of cash on some adorable little Toritos, ceramic baby bulls that look way more expensive than they were.

Stop #3 : Are we there yet? I’m hungry!

Now that our spiritual and historical hunger had be sated our actual bodily hunger decided to force itself upon us. Back on the bus and after a mere 30 or so more loops of the big hand we were shuffled off and herded into a decent little restaurant called La Pascana.

Lunch at La Pascana

While the Michelin star wielding food critics are unlikely to be excited by the buffet on offer it is more than adequate, clean, and best of all included in the price of a bus ticket. Grab an included dessert and water or soft drink and if you still feel like complaining then you will find the llama in the yard next door will be the only one that might listen

Bellies full of better than questionable food it was a case of everybody out of the pool as the next busload of hungry travellers lined up outside the door. Now it was time to get high.

Stop #4 : This place will take your breath away

Seriously… the next stop is the highest point on this trip, the air is thinner than a supermodel and breathing is a challenge. On the bright side the views are quite spectacular and it’s a great place for a llama selfie or to buy a warm hat from the small group of locals who have created a mini tourist market.No visit to Peru is complete with a llama and local photo

Why a warm hat? Well it’s pretty cold at 4350 metres above the ocean and those funky Peruvian beanies are awkwardly cool, in my awkwardly cool opinion.

Not only is the La Raya Pass a stunning piece of countryside, a wide open plain in the style of the old Hollywood Westerns, flocks of llamas grazing which is much less than in the style of old Hollywood Westerns but doubly amazing in that it is on the top of a fairly substantial mountain range.

Possibly the most amazing location for a market in the world at La Raya Pass

Oh, and if that’s not enough to make you start Googling images and telling yourself it is a place you need to see for yourself, it has the widely accepted title of being the starting point of the mighty Amazon River. The distant Chimboya Glacier is where it all begins.

Stop #5 : What a load of bull

Almost at Puno now where we get to have one of the highlight activities of my life, to experience the strange and awesome floating Uros Islands of lake Titicaca. But there is one stop left and it is another interesting sidenote to this long and interesting day.

The little town of Pukará was the home of a major pre-Hispanic civilisation which ruled the roost in these parts for around 2000 years from 1600BC, give or take a year or two. There is a museum here that hosts a pretty impressive collection of artifacts including a largish statue of Hatunñaqac, which roughly translates to the executioner.

The Executioner - I bet he kept the kiddies in line 2500 years ago

So after seeing this nasty dude holding a severed head it should come as little surprise that the description appears quite accurate.

The other fun fact about Pukará is they seem to love there bulls, especially the little ones known as Toritos. I did ask our native Peruvian guide as this stage what I considered a reasonable question.

If toritos are little toros, are Doritos little Doros? And if so what is a Doro?

She considered this for a moment before turning away. I am not sure if she did not know the answer and was embarrassed or she thought me an idiot undeserving of her time. To this day I am sure it is the former.

The toritos of Pukara adorn almost every building in town

In truth these little bulls seem to adorn almost every roof in the town and symbolise good luck. The locals associate the bulls with the growth of their small community since cattle was introduced by the Spanish.

They are the major tourist trinket in the surrounding areas with almost every craftsman fashioning their own versions of these little guys. I bought a cute little pair, they are pretty cool souvenirs and I helped support the community, sounds like a win-win to me.

Final stop : Try to say it without giggling

And no I’m not talking about Puno but rather the lake upon which it hugs. Lake Titicaca, which our local guide advised us is made up of two words of the local Quechuan language, titi which means Puma and caca which means mount. It is a reminder to them of the felines that roamed the area in the past.

He also advised us the correct pronunciation pushes the two c’s deeper from the throat rather than the usual k sound in English. In other words, he said, titicaca is mount puma while titikaka (how gringos say it) means puma pooh!

The lake is pretty spectacular and it is hard to believe a body of water this big exists this high above sea level, but that’s another story for another day.

Now I need a good lie down

While there is no doubt this day is very long the time simply slipped away. There is a perfect mix of travel and stops with more than enough to do at those stops to keep your mind of the driving part.

Well congratulations Mr and Mrs box ticker for getting here hours before us on your flight and beating us to see the floating islands, now you can move on to glimpse the next thing on your list. Meanwhile I have learned more about the impressive people of old Peru, learned to hate the Conquistadors even more, and have two little bulls as reminders. Not to mention that I did it at a much lower price.

I think I will continue doing things the slow way. You might see more things, but I get more experiences.

We would love to hear your thoughts if you have done this trip or tell us about a time you took the slow way and had a great surprise.

The post The big green bus from Cusco to Puno appeared first on La Vida Global.

Why should I go to the Peruvian Amazon

In a country globally known for it's Inca and pre-Hispanic civilisations, floating islands and mysterious ancient lines on the ground, it is easy to overlook the natural beauty available in Peru. The post Why should I go to the Peruvian Amazon appeared first on La Vida...

In a country globally known for it’s Inca and pre-Hispanic civilisations, floating islands and mysterious ancient lines on the ground, it is easy to overlook the natural beauty available in Peru. We are not usually fans of waking up wild but at least this didn’t look like your run of the mill campground.

To be honest the main goal of our South America trip was to spend some time gazing in awe at Machu Picchu and bouncing on the floating Uros Islands of Lake Titicaca. But it was interesting that out tour itinerary also included a few days in an eco-lodge in the Peruvian Amazon, which sounded a little bit special as well.

It’s a nice way to start a trip, going to a place you really know nothing about and have little idea what to expect. It’s like a version of living on the edge for safety conscious people. And Amazon eco-lodges sound very exotic!

Now before the geography Police come crashing through my front door to read me my right to consult an atlas, I will clarify that there is no part of the enormous winding waterway known as the Amazon River that barges across the border into Peru. We are in fact taking the liberty of including all parts of the catchment area which shall be referred to as the Amazon Basin. Crisis averted!

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

We hopped a short flight from the bustling Lima Airport to the grandly named but substantially less busy Padre Aldamiz International Airport in Puerto Maldonado which is one of the main entry points to the Peruvian Amazon Basin. Next stage, a quick and bumpy minibus ride to the tour office to leave our main luggage and grab our pack down bags.

The luxury section of the docks to board our longboat in Peru

I don’t know whether it was the small children running through the house and trying to sneakily check out our group of interlopers or the many chickens ignoring us to go about their daily chicken business, it could even have been grandma doing the washing in a big tub beside us but whatever it was it was not something you would expect to see in a tourist company office.

Bags packed and tossed onto the roof of the minibus it was time for another 10 minutes of offroad style driving down the streets of the town as we headed our embarkation point on the banks of the Tambopata River.

As you pull up at the main office / giftshop / restaurant you start to realise that things are a bit more primitive in this part of the world. And I mean that in a good way. In many parts of the world when you first arrive and the tour company has a fancy office, fancy uniforms and fancy beverages you may start to wonder how authentic an experience they may actually be providing. But here you get a feeling that this is more about showing you the local heritage and less about becoming a global tourism brand.

The not so luxury part of the docks to board our longboat in Peru

Sailing down the river in my dugout canoe.

Hat and cold drink purchased to combat the blazing sun it was time for the next mode of transportation, and while maybe not exactly the dugout canoe I alluded to in the heading, it was only a step or two above that.

After navigating the “rustic” staircase and jetty we were settled into the longboat. There had been quite a bit of recent rain which had made the river look more like gravy than the pristine blue water you may expect in a rainforest. Seeing this in other parts of the world may make question the cleanliness and have you rethinking your travel plans but here it just seemed to add to the adventure.

For 45 minutes we swept down the river, pausing occasionally to witness some local wildlife or watching the indigenous locals at work. There was also a welcomed local snack of rice and veggies cooked in banana leaves which was pretty tasty. And finally we came upon the front door of what would be our home for the next three days, the Nape Lodge.

The front door of Nape Lodge doesn't give you too many clues as to what lies beyond

Welcome to Hell.

You may now be wondering how things might deteriorate so much to have me jumping to that heading, and the truth is it was an amazing place in every respect.

What I mean is that the local tribe are the Infierno people, a name which translates to their land literally being Hell. Now i’m not religious but if this is Hell then I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

The main area, bar and dining room at Nape Lodge

The first building that comes into view is the communal dining, lounge and bar area where you will take all your meals, meet before heading off on your daily adventures and settle in for a refreshing beverage each evening. From there a path branches off to the individual accommodations.

The first thing I noticed after entering our room was that there appeared to be an entire wall missing. I wasn’t sure if this was due to cost saving measures, poor design or if they were just waiting on a window shipment to arrive. Whatever the reason we would be sleeping under a roof, protected by what I hoped was an industrial strength mosquito net, but otherwise completely open to all of the bushwhacking animals that inhabit this jungle.

Luckily the Tarantulas stayed outside our cabin

After a bit of an evening orientation walk where we had the chance to experience some more of the native fauna, including an impressive firefly display and a more disturbing tarantula display, it was time to settle in for our first night.

The sun had now set and the noise of conversing with our new travel companions ended. As we turned off the light and lay under our protective netting the jungle came alive. It seemed every creature within miles was now welcoming us to their home. Not just crickets and the other usual suspects but nerve wracking noises from God knows what. And above everything came the tremendous boom of the Howler Monkeys reminding us who was in charge around here.

Our cabin at Nape Lodge seemed to be missing a wall

I got some wild, wildlife.

Should be a good day today, waking up to the most incredible natural alarm clock I can imagine, a bit of a river cruise, some fishing on the lake, a leisurely walk through the bush. Sounds so peaceful, kinda like a wellness retreat!

The day turned out to be an incredible opportunity to spot the local birds, fish and animals. Now seeing animals in a zoo is cool sometimes if they are looked after well and you may not have seen them before, but seeing animals in the wild going about their daily routine is far more impressive.

During the boat ride along the river there are times when you just don’t know where to look. The scenery is untouched and beautiful, the brown river, lush green vegetation and clear blue sky so stunning that no Photoshopping could ever improve it. And it seems there is wildlife to see around every bend in the river.

Parrots eating clay to combat the deadly toxins in the seeds they eat

We witness the unusual sight of dozens of Parrots eating the clay of the riverbank, obviously not very tasty but better than dying from the toxins in other parts of their diet. Apparently the clay absorbs the toxins present in some of the seeds they eat allowing them to pass harmlessly through the bird’s system.

A few hundred metres later we notice another similar but birdless section of muddy riverbank which looks someone has emptied a big bag of green leaves, that is until the leaves start shimmering and flying off as if caught in a nonexistent breeze. It takes a while to realise it is actually hundreds of butterflies and is another unexpected moment of magic.

Not leaves but butterflies on the bank of the Tambopata River

After spotting a few distant Howler Monkeys purveying their kingdoms from the treetops we came upon what I now consider to be my Peruvian spirit animal, the Capybara. We are both pretty chilled out, have less than flattering body shapes, a unique vocal repertoire and can sleep anywhere! They are more social than me though and eat their own dung, so maybe not exactly the animal I should brag about being like.

The Capybara has to be the cutest rodent in the world

After about an hour we docked further down the river and it was time for a bit of a short jungle hike. Now sometimes you can just enjoy the sounds of nature and other times you have to answer the call of nature, so luckily we found a toilet in the middle of the jungle. It does see a bit out of place but location was not the unusual thing, the inclusion of a machete beside the door made this feel like the most adrenaline fueled ablution I had ever experienced, wondering what man eater I may need to defend against.

The "just in case" machete is kept near the door of this jungle toilet

A quick stop at a local native camp for some freshly picked bananas and another 15 minutes of hiking found us at the edge of a tranquil and beautiful lake. Now there are some places you go and think you have found peace and quiet but this place, in the middle of a rainforest, is on a whole other level. We were here to do some fishing.

I love having the chance to learn about the history of a place or to experience the traditions ways of the locals and here was getting better and better. We learned the way the natives fished this area for generations, letting your baited hook gently hit the surface of the water, which to a fish is like some potentially tasty morsel falling from the trees above.

Our luxury fishing boat for a day on Tambopata River

After getting lots of nibbles our guide eventually caught the fish of the day, an terrifying Piranha! (Pause for dramatic effect) Well, not really terrifying as it was a slightly smaller than my hand, but after watching a demonstration of this little guys biting power I wasn’t going to be making fun of his size.

Our guide held the fish and put a leaf up to its mouth, an audible snap of jaws and there was a perfectly cut piece of leaf missing. Next time you are using a hole punch at your office it should give you a good idea of how a Piranha operates.

Fishing for Piranha

Fishing adventure over we cruised around the lake for another hour or so, an incredibly relaxing experience for everyone except our tour director Vanessa who was desperately trying to get cell service to confirm something on the next stage of our trip. We were woken from our meditation by some noise in the water about 20 metres from our boat.

I had read earlier that a family of sea otters are sometimes spotted on these tours and it was our lucky day. Just the two adults at first as they summed up our threat level but after disappearing for about five minutes they reappeared with kids in tow. It really brings out the child in you to watch an animal family playing together in the wild and this was like nature’s answer to Disneyland.

Sea otters in the wild look so cute until they tear a fish apart

After they left it was time for us to do the same. Reverse hike, reverse boat ride and back to the lodge for a late afternoon rest before dinner. Oh, and speaking of dinner, turns out the guide kept the Piranha and had the chef prepare it for us. Now a hand sized fish between nine people means a pretty small serve but I can now add Piranha to the list of obscure things I have eaten, and before you ask, it doesn’t taste like chicken.

And let’s not forget the bonus late night boat ride where we went spotlighting the local Caiman. It’s a bit scary seeing the glowing eyes on the bank and then hearing the gentle splash in the dark, you know that means there is now at least one more of the nasty looking guys in the river with you now.

Needless to say, none of us felt any urge to put our hands outside the boat and check the water temperature.

That’s how it’s done in Hell.

A new day once again opened up with nature’s unforgettable combination of a glorious sunrise over the jungle and the sounds of the animals and birds getting ready to do it all again. Today was about the traditions of the Infierno people and i was looking forward to finding out more.

Part of the area surrounding the camp has become a garden of sorts, now hosting a wide selection of the plants local natives have been using for generations as part of their bush medicine.

Until recently tribesmen would have to search long and hard to find some of these much needed and highly valued plants, but due to modern medicine now finding so many of the properties of these plants incredibly useful, the locals have been given grants to collect and grow some of these traditional varieties.

The Nape Lodge in the Tambopata region of Peru

We were led along a path with snaked through jungle, many of the plant species were labelled and the guide explained the uses of each even getting us to try some of them like a mouth numbing leaf which has been used by the natives as an anesthetic for centuries.

One of the plants on offer had no volunteers after we were told it was the local’s version of Viagra and all the men were concerned about any potentially embarrassing occurrences. Not sure if any quietly asked the guide for some to take back to camp or sneaked back later that day but I wouldn’t have been surprised!

The afternoon was learning about traditional hunting, what they hunted and the weapons and tools they used to get the job done. There was even the chance to try your hand and using the native long bow which proved one thing to all of us, if we were left to hunt for our own food we would all have died from laughter or starvation. It is way harder than it looks but at least I (barely) hit the target unlike many others.

Every sunset in the Amazon is better than the last

Everyone out of the pool!

It was hard to say goodbye to this place as the final morning dawned, a bittersweet moment for me. I had loved every minute of this experience as it had pushed me out of my comfort zone and usual travel style but I also felt I had seen it all and it was time to go. I am just not the kind of sit around and relax type of guy.

Not enough people get to experience the amazing privilege of spending time in an unspoiled part of nature, which is sad for them but good for nature. It is something that I can not recommend enough. Learn about the locals, help support their communities and enjoy the Amazon Rainforest before “civilisation” cuts it all down.

There was one special surprise Mother Nature had in stall for us before we jumped back on the boat to Puerto Maldonado. An hour before departure four of us decided to have one last walk through some of the tracks around the camp and what a reward we got for our efforts.

A group of about 60 Black Spider Monkeys came from nowhere and started swing through the trees above our heads. We kept quiet and just took in this unbelievable experience, almost forgetting to reach for the camera at all. I took a few snaps that turned out blurry but I don’t care at all. Sometimes it’s much better to be there in the moment rather than look back and your amazing photos and I can assure you the images in my memory are crystal clear.

One of about 60 monkeys that came to say goodbye at the Nape Lodge in Peru

The backstory.

We had the opportunity to do this as part of an Amazon and Inca Adventure with Peregrine Adventures, we were not sponsored in any way and had never really considered organised group tours, but I can think of no better way to experience Peru than with a small group of like-minded travellers and and excellent local guides.

Speaking of our guide, if you are looking and doing anything in Peru and would be interested in a personal guide then Vanessa and Marek from Adventurous Travel Guide are the people you need to get in touch with. Vanessa was our Tour Director on this trip and nothing was too much trouble for her, they are both highly qualified and experienced and based in Lima.

Where was the place you have been that got you closest with nature?

The post Why should I go to the Peruvian Amazon appeared first on La Vida Global.

How to Survive a Midlife (Travel) Crisis

They say that travel can help cure a midlife crisis, but what can you do when you are having a midlife travel crisis? The post How to Survive a Midlife (Travel) Crisis appeared first on La Vida Global.

It’s (mid)life Jim, but not as we know it.

Just about everyone has heard about people having a midlife crisis, buying inappropriate sports cars, looking for inappropriate replacement companions or throwing away a perfectly good life and taking off on some ill-founded journey.

Which creates a timely segue into my next finding in my search to discover how to cope with my current state of mind. A quick search for “midlife travel crisis” reveals over two million results with a heavy focus on explaining how travel can be the perfect remedy for the classic midlife crisis.

That should help, right? Wrong!

What if you have a midlife travel crisis? You have found yourself in a place where you don’t really know how you should travel, where you should travel, you worry about getting the most from the remaining active years you have, you worry about the other commitments you have in life????

Sorry, I think I need a bit of a lie down.

What’s wrong with me? I loved to travel.

We travelled as a family for almost 20 years. An amazing period where we visited over 20 countries, ate weird stuff, met great people and did some really cool things you can only really do when you have a child in the party (without looking like a couple of creepy old people).

There was a rule when we planned our trips, everyone gets to pick a couple of places we would all have to go to, whether we thought we would like it or not. To be honest some of the things junior chose during the planning stages had me regretting the “one in all in” policy. But some of these places ended up being the most fun parts of our trips.

But now we are in transition, life as I have grown comfortable with has been shaken like the proverbial Polaroid picture and I have been left a broken man. A shell of my former world travelling, upbeat and fun seeking self.

It certainly didn’t seem to hang around long enough to have been 12 months, not 52 weeks, and certainly not 365 days, but 2015 is done and dusted and the new year already starting to fly by.

Lie down and tell me all about it.

Well Doc, I think it all started when junior took her first trip without us. I was excited for her as it was the beginning of her move into the world of travel writing as a solo act. How amazing to think that we had raised a daughter so confident and determined that at just 18 she was working hard to build a business and off to explore more of the world.

But once we had watched her head through the big doors at Sydney Airport without us the slow fall to crisis began. And as I went through the rollercoaster ride of wishing I was there when she sent amazing photos, to having to talk her down during an anxiety attack she had at LAX. (the least she could have done was to have her breakdown at a more convenient time than 2am my time)

I was envious that she was living her dream while Pauline and I continued to work, pay bills, and be stuck at home looking after our family dog.

That’s OK, you will be back together soon.

Or so I kept telling myself. I was starting to feel that I was kidding myself thinking things would ever be the same again. It was finally dawning on me that from now on we were less likely to be family travellers and more likely to be empty nesters, a travel couple.

How do you do that? From my time as a travel agent the only empty nesters I seemed to discuss travel with were doing river cruises or coach tours. Old people watching the world go by through a window is how I saw them and I wasn’t ready for that, or was that just the way things go after the transition?

Junior, or the Wandering Donut as her tens of thousands of followers and friends know her, just kept getting offer upon offer to travel while mum and dad stayed home and watched her incredible adventures unfold.

Had my travel life fallen to the level of travel agent to the stars, destined to live vicariously from afar but never actually get back in the saddle? Sorry about the mixed metaphors.

As a growing community Living la Vida Global is always looking for contributions from travellers with something they want to share with the world. And to that end we have a number of categories available for writers to contribute.

Annus Horribilis Travelus.

I was a late bloomer when it came to travel with little or no experience until into my twenties. It wasn’t until my late twenties, after Pauline and I got together, that I really started to become an international man of mystery. Well maybe not so much of a mystery but it sounded much better than international man of mediocrity.

We worked hard and travelled often. Even when junior burst onto the scene a few years later the hits kept coming on the travel charts. Our goal was to have a short trip one year and a much longer trip the next, a plan than worked out very well for quite some time.

So in 2016 when junior hit the road alone, Pauline and I did still manage an amazing trip of our own but I think this was due to us having a big reason for it.

We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at Machu Picchu so it wasn’t really a difficult proposition to enjoy our first real couples trip. But I knew something was still wrong due to the number of times one of us would mention how much Dana would love to be with us here, or how she would have been all over some crazy food item we found. Or that before we started heading home we were already discussing a plan to come back as a family in the future.

2017 was the year that finally broke the time camel’s back and plunged me into crisis. The first year in almost 30 that I did not travel at all. Dana had her adventures and Pauline even joined her for a week or two in Bali at one stage but dog and I stayed home for 365 very long, adventureless days.

Wayan Sudira, our favourite Private Guide in Ubud

Things can only get better.

OK so that year is finally done and dusted, 2018 will be so much better. Is what I mistakenly believed. I interviewed for a new job in February which meant any travel for the following 12 months would be very unlikely.

With that in mind I decided there had to be some travel and so I found the cheapest option which also happened to be Bali. I had no real interest in Bali ever, but my girls convinced me to give it a go.

I spend four days there alone, which somehow did not even manage to live up to my extremely low expectations, before Pauline joined me for another week. This extra week was much better but I still kept feeling it would have hit a higher level as a family trip.

Back home, got the job, no more travel for me in 2018. Meanwhile Dana spent two weeks leading a tour in New Zealand that I designed and booked for her, plus an additional three months in Europe, which I also had the “pleasure” of putting together for her.

So 2019 will have to be the year I get my travel mojo back surely.

Oh… so where were we?

That’s right, I was talking about a midlife travel crisis. Dr Google does not seem to have any pages dedicated to this phenomenon but I am sure (or at least I choose to believe) that I am not the only person to suffer from this condition.

I have been through some of the causes :

  • lack of travel after a long period of consistent adventures.
  • watching other family members, particularly your offspring, travelling without you.
  • having to plan travel for others while staying home.
  • transitioning travel styles due to family circumstances.
  • being middle aged.

Here are some of the symptoms :

  • delusions that your grown child will continue to want to endure family vacations.
  • questioning the purpose of your travel.
  • indecision about where you could possibly go for a grown up holiday.
  • wondering how you could still get away with visiting a theme park or candy factory on your trip without a child to deflect attention from you being a big kid.
  • finding mostly illogical reasons why you can’t travel. e.g. what if my aging parents get sick, our dog will miss us too much, nobody will be able to collect our mail, the grass might get too long, you will miss Aunty Marge’s birthday (even though you barely know her and have never celebrated with her before).

Here are the remedies :

  • get someone else to plan a random trip and, in the words of one of my favourite travel bloggers Contented Traveller, let serendipity take over.
  • read other empty nester blog posts and hope to stumble across a gem of wisdom.
  • sit down with your remaining travel companion and try to remember what you loved about travel before your child turned that world upside down.
  • try to recall any time during your family travel when you thought to yourself, “I would really like to come back and experience this again as a grown up without a small human with a short attention span cramping my style”.

Isn’t there just a pill I can take?

There may not be anything a doctor can prescribe that can ease you through this midlife travel crisis, and excessive alcohol may help a little in the short term but is just going to reduce your available travel funds when you finally break through to the other side. I am beginning to think that maybe I am just overthinking this and all I really need is a holiday.

But on a somewhat serious note, which is about the best I can offer, it really is getting me down and putting me into a state where the longer I have to wait for my next trip the more difficult I find it to decide where to go.

The only thing I can say for sure is that if I decide that my next vacation should be with other old people watching the world through a bus window then I am on a slippery slope. The only thing left after that would be buying a caravan and towing it around Australia. And if I get to that stage all hope is lost.

Have you been through the pain and frustration of a midlife travel crisis, or are you now concerned that it is approaching you too fast? We would love to hear your stories and thoughts and hope you will share in the comments.

The post How to Survive a Midlife (Travel) Crisis appeared first on La Vida Global.

Short Breaks – Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane is a great place for visitors and families alike and with on average of 283 days of sunshine a year, it has earned its place as the capital of the glorious Sunshine State of Queensland. “Special Guest contributor Janine from Your Local Families Magazine is the authority on Southeast Queensland, so when she suggests […] The post Short Breaks – Brisbane, Australia appeared first on La Vida...

Brisbane is a great place for visitors and families alike and with on average of 283 days of sunshine a year, it has earned its place as the capital of the glorious Sunshine State of Queensland.

“Special Guest contributor Janine from Your Local Families Magazine is the authority on Southeast Queensland, so when she suggests that Brisbane is a fantastic but often overlooked place for a short stay we listened. And you should too.”

Where is it?

Why would you go?

Brisbane is often overlooked by travellers as it doesn’t have the ‘big ticket’ items like the ‘Sydney Opera House’ or the golden beaches of the Gold Coast, or the reef off the coast of Cairns. And just north of Brisbane is the equally impressive Sunshine Coast… so why stop in Brisbane?

The answer is simply for the opportunity to engage in some genuine Aussie lifestyle that is both slower paced and authentic in its connection to community. From the Cultural Precinct on the South Bank to the skyline views from Mt Coot-tha to the seaside suburbs that boast family picnic areas and playgrounds, Brisbane has been named the ‘liveable city’ for a reason.

It may not have the iconic reputation of some other Australian cities but should you plan a short stay in Brisbane?

How much time do you need there?

If you are travelling as a family with children, you can easily spend a week in Brisbane and not see everything there is to see. If you are independent travellers or travelling with friends or partners, I would suggest that you should add at least 3 full days in Brisbane to see the best this city has to offer. If you have more time, and you like to revel in the slower pace of life, I would suggest more time in Brisbane.

When spending a minimum of three days in Brisbane you can break that down into two days for the Cultural Precinct and South Bank and one day for your choice of one of the many animal parks or wildlife centres.

(Hint: Steve Irwin’s world-famous Australia Zoo is a 1 hour drive north of Brisbane!)

Brisbane nightlife options offer something for everyone

How do you get there?

Most people arrive in Brisbane on their way to somewhere else. As such, there are many roads that lead to Brisbane. You can catch the long distance coach from Sydney in the South, or indeed from Cairns in far north Queensland, and this is the most popular way for the multitude of backpackers that pass through.

Equally you can catch a domestic or international flight into the modern airport.

Brisbane also boasts its own luxury cruise terminal at Portside, Hamilton welcoming ships from P&O and Royal Caribbean (amongst others). There are many ways for visitors to arrive into Brisbane!

Once in Brisbane remember to take a ride on a council ‘CityCat’ – the public transportation along the river, for just a few dollars or the ‘City Hopper’ which run between northern suburb of New Farm and South Bank and is always 100% free!

What are the “highlights”?

The highlights will vary depending on whether you are here with family or friends. Our tips are:

  1. Cultural Precinct

Here you will find the Queensland Museum, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the Queensland State Library, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and the Sciencentre. The first three are free to enter and beautifully air-conditioned (you’ll know why that is important if you are in Brisbane in summer!) There will be surcharges at times for specific exhibits.

Brisbane is home to some wonderful museums and galleries with something for every member of the family.

  1. South Bank Parklands

Across the road from the Cultural Precinct are the South Bank Parklands. The Parklands have been fully developed into a visitor’s mecca of activities including swimming, sun-bathing, strolling along the boardwalk, listening to music/bands and of course taking a spin on the Brisbane Wheel.  There are pubs, restaurants and markets all suitable for visitors and locals alike. You’ll get a great appreciation for the true Brisbane lifestyle in anyone of these venues.

  1. The City Botanic Gardens

You may think ‘seen one botanic garden, seen them all’…. But these gardens are magical at night! The Brisbane City Council has installed fairy lights on the trees and other fauna across the city and the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens are worth the short walk across the Goodwill Bridge from South Bank Parklands. If you are stopping in Brisbane for even one night, add this installation to your list!

The Brisbane Botanic Gardens are magical to experience at night

  1. Visit a Zoo or Wildlife Park

Brisbane has a tonne of larger and smaller zoos and wildlife parks either in the city’s suburbs or just a short drive away.

Larger zoos include:

  • Australia Zoo
  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Smaller wildlife parks include:

  • Walkabout Creek Wildlife Centre
  • Daisy Hill Koala Centre (it’s free!)
  • Bribie Island Butterfly Centre

What can you eat?

The other awesome thing about Brisbane’s outdoor lifestyle is our outdoor eating opportunities.

The most iconic place to eat in Brisbane is the Breakfast Creek Hotel in the northern suburb of Hamilton. It is situated on the beautiful Brisbane river so after your meal you can go for a stroll around the boardwalks and head over to roam the grounds of Newstead House. You’ll probably need to ‘walk it off’ after the meal you are served at this hotel!

If you prefer to stay closer to the city try the Eagle Street Pier that is quickly becoming a premium foodie destination. Burgers, pizzas and cuisines from all over the world come together in a mish-mash of tastebud heaven. From super pricey extravagance to budget burgers, you’ll have something to suit your budget.

If you really want to get into some foodie culture in Brisbane, then do check out the Eat Street Markets. The sheer variety of cuisines on offer is staggering. They’re open every weekend and they’re an absolute hive of food, drinks, entertainment and goods from cultures all over the world. It’s truly impossible to accurately describe the ‘Eat Street’ vibe unless you’ve been there – it’s fun, it’s loud, it’s chaotic and it’s amazing.

The food scene in Brisbane is growing and diversifying at a fantastic pace.

Where should you stay?

From backpacker’s hostels for a few dollars a night to extravagant hotels costing hundreds of dollars a night, like most places, Brisbane is spoilt for choice in terms of accommodation.

If you are not staying with friends who live locally, then we suggest that you stay in the CBD or close to it. This is where most of the action is, so it makes sense.

We love Royal on the Park Hotel & Suites for their iconic, true Brisbane vibe and their location close to the Botanic Gardens in the city centre. Their pricing is reasonable, and they have an awesome pool (with a poolside bar) as well as a great breakfast buffet.

Alternatives to the city centre would be South Bank hotels, Airbnb’s and hostels. You can’t really go wrong with the location of the city or South Bank in Brisbane.

Brisbane has a great variety of accommodation at prices well below those of the more famous Australian cities

How is the walkability?

Brisbane is very walkable. The city centre and South Bank are completely flat, and the footpaths well maintained. Being a modern city, there are not cobblestone streets. There are also trails for the blind to follow in the city centre. Out in the suburbs the walkability will vary. Some areas are very hilly and steep, others are flat. The seaside suburbs are mostly flat with lovely walking routes along the beaches.

Brisbane is a city which can easily be explored and enjoyed on foot

It’s just our opinion.

Brisbane is a gorgeous city to visit and to live in. Despite not having the large tourist attractions of other areas in Australia, it is worth pulling up here for a few days and taking time to envelope yourself in its lifestyle. Whether it is the city, the bush, the ocean or the views, Brisbane has it all and if you miss this city from your itinerary, you will miss out on truly knowing a significant part of Australia!

The post Short Breaks – Brisbane, Australia appeared first on La Vida Global.

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