The Best of Peru’s Sacred Valley And How to See It

What is Peru’s Sacred Valley?  Machu Picchu always grabs the headlines as the Andean destination of dreamers, scholars and intrepid tourists. Retracing the Inca Trail and the steps of the early 20th century explorers who “discovered” the “Lost City”  has become almost a rite of passage for second gen hipsters.

The Sacred Valley is a beautiful sixty-mile stretch roughly following the Urubamba River, filled with Incan history and lore. From the Incan capital of Cusco in the dry Andean plateau (altiplano) it descends, literally, into the high jungle of Machu Picchu.

map of Sacred Valley, Peru

 

To my mind, this part of Peru should not be overlooked.  Done right, visiting the Sacred Valley offers the increasingly rare chance to glimpse and even experience an authentic local culture, built upon ancient belief systems that still resonate today and serve as a touch point to our humanity.

How to See the Sacred Valley

As a baby-boomer traveler, I wanted a thoroughly planned itinerary including hotel bookings, in-country transportation and a friendly face greeting me at each leg.  I’m a pretty intrepid traveler, but the assurance of on-the-ground assistance is hugely important.

I called in the pros.  Yampu Tours. They delivered. Flawlessly.

I knew I wasn’t going to hike the Inca Trail.  Or, heaven forbid, camp. I need a few (say, 4) stars after the hotel name. Further,  I  need local guides, courteous and flexible, yet knowledgeable beyond the prepared text.  I need to trust their knowledge to feel connected to the people and land I’m visiting.

My goal was an experiential, multi-dimensional trip, not just check off bucket list items.

(Note: this is the first installment of a series on my Peru trip with Yampu)

A welcome sight at the train station!

Yampu put together a terrific itinerary.  Trustworthy, local guides who grew up in the area and whose native tongue is Quechan, the ancient language of the Incas.  Throughout the trip, each guide provided his/her soulful backstory of growing up in the Andean highlands. I understood how,  in just a generation or two, traditional lifestyles are now inextricably linked to the modern world.

You don’t get this kind of insight with just any guide. Yampu has found the best.

So, I recruited two friends, seasoned travelers, and we, as a group of three adventurers,  set off.

Moray Cusco Peru
My pals Geoff and Linda with our guide Martin

The “Must Experience” Destinations in the  Sacred Valley

MORAY:  Experimental farming, the Inca Way

The Inca Empire, at its apex between the 13th to 16th centuries, stretched from modern-day Ecuador to Argentina,  from the Pacific coast to the Andes peaks. It’s a harsh landscape with little arable land.

Once conquered, managing a population of nearly 8 million people, scattered over thousands of miles of inhospitable territory, required ingenious military and organizational strategies.  The Incas figured it all out brilliantly.

The Incas excelled in harnessing a region of climatic zones ranging from coastal plains to high desert. They developed agricultural labs such as the one found in the archeological complex of Moray.  The development of sustainable agriculture was vital to their success.

In this amphitheater of concentric circles, the temperature can differ by as much as 27 degrees (Fahrenheit) from top to bottom.  Testing crops in these different micro-climates provided valuable information on successful agriculture production across the Incan empire.

They refined varieties of quinoa in high elevations and developed over three thousand varieties of potatoes. They grew maize of rainbow hues, big kernel stuff, tasty but starchy. It is the basis of a fermented corn brew called chicha de jora.

Peruvian corn samples
An array of Peruvian corn – note how big the kernels are.

I didn’t drink any chicha; a bit strong and sweet for my taste.  However, if you’re into homebrew, here’s the insider recipe.

Chinchero

Chinchero is the mythical home of the rainbow in Andean lore and a handicraft/weaving capital.  I fell hard for the doe-eyed llamas and alpacas.  llama with ear bobs

Even llamas get dressed up in the colors of the rainbow

fluffy alpaca
Hey, there, kiddo. What big blue eyes you have!

The wool from the alpaca is, of course, legendary for its use in fine knitwear.  Here’s a tiny example of goods I bought for grownups and kids. The little mitts are for my granddaughter.

 

alpaca knitwear

Fingerless gloves with llama motif and a wonderfully soft baby alpaca scarf.

Unfortunately, we missed Chinchero’s traditional Sunday handicraft market. This photo essay captures the vibrancy of the marketplace. Indeed, it’s a reason to return!

However, we did see a fascinating demonstration of wool dying with local vegetable dyes.  Talk about artisanal! 

The women explained the process from the start – the fur of the alpaca (left). On the right, the natural alpaca wool ready for dyeing.

Blending the vegetable pigment.

 

 

wool dying in Chinchero
And here’s the nearly-finished product, out of the pitcher of vegetable dye.
balls of wool
Chinchero, the home of the rainbow offers dyed wool from nature’s color palette.  

The Maras Salt Ponds

The salt ponds aren’t an official Wonder of the World, but they should be.  Eons ago the region was a seabed. Volcanic and geo-rumblings ultimately forced the Andes to rise and form the spine of South America.  Meanwhile, seawater was locked within the rock.

It is still trickling out. 

Pre-Columbia tribes harnessed the salty water trickling out of a mountain spring around 200AD. Later, the Incan Empire used this precious commodity trading for cocoa leaves from the jungle.

The stream feeds an ingenious system of small canals that in turn fill thousands of small, vertigo-inducing ponds perched on the hillside. Each basin is about 15 feet square (3 meters) and shallow, about a foot (30 cm.) deep.

Maras salt pond

When a pond is full, the notch is closed, diverting water to another basin. As the water evaporates, the salt is scraped off, bagged and carried in several kilo bags along narrow paths to the cooperative’s depot.  It is hard manual labor done at an elevation of 11,000 feet.

(More detailed info here)

The salt is available at the co-op shop (and across Peru). It has a lovely pink tinge, a very salty taste, and is renown for its curative properties.  It’s high in calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron, used as an effective treatment for skin conditions and swelling.

bag of salt from Maras

(Traveler hack: if you can’t get to Maras, this remarkable salt is available on Amazon.)

Ollantaytambo and the Huilloc Community

Ollantaytambo – Architecture in the Incan tradition

The ruins at Ollantaytambo, built by in the 1400s under the leadership of Incan empire builder Pachacutec (1438-1471), who went on to create Machu Picchu. The ruins are thought to be of religious and strategic importance.

Visiting the ruins is a beautiful precursor to Machu Picchu.  It’s a bit smaller, not as busy and sets the stage for the remarkable engineering brilliance of the Incas.

Further, their engineering expertise is readily apparent.  The Incan ingenious design for interlocking stone blocks gives their buildings resilience in earthquakes.  Seven hundred years and the construction is still “rock solid.”

Incan doorways are a trapezoid shape. Narrower at the top places the pressure on the base of the opening, not the top.

Evident, too, is the very advanced water distribution system.  This remnant of the intricate canal system at the Ollantaytambo pays tribute to the Inca engineering genius.

 

A Huilloc Community Welcome

To my mind, the real value of a tour/travel agency is their ability to connect you with an experience you couldn’t do otherwise.

That is the value-add of Yampu.

Participating in another culture was a hands-on lesson in gratitude and humility.

We visited the rural Huilloc (pronounced “Wee-oak”) community, to participate in Chakra or agriculture.   Roles and dress are traditional, so Linda and I slipped into woolen skirts, hats, and ponchos. Geoff, the guy in our small tribe, donned the male attire.

After introductions, we enjoyed delicious mint tea and a crunchy peanut-like snack.refreshments with the Huilloc community

We joined in dancing accompanied by pan flute and strings played by the men.  Everybody participated: the kids, the teens, men, women.  What first seemed awkward on our part quickly gave away to the graciousness of our hosts.

 

 

However, our visit took us deeper.  Geoff practiced traditional farming with a hoe/plow tool, still in use today to plant potatoes, a diet staple.

 

Linda and I toured the kitchen, where potatoes were on the boil.

local kitchen in Huilloc community, Peru

I was shown how to stoke the fire (blowing through a hollow log). Later, the lady of the house turned me around and, filling a cloth square about the size of a large scarf with the potatoes, she tied it around my shoulders.  I was to carry this to the stream where we had a picnic with the family.

By this time, we were pretty comfortable with one another and chatted as friends do.  Through our guide, we learned everyone’s ages and roles, and they learned ours.

They heard about our grandchildren (and gamely complimented the pictures); we learned the road to their village was recently paved making the weekly 24 km walk to the market far easier.

The kids played, the teen boy talked about his wish for a cell phone (that’s pretty universal) and the young woman spoke wistfully of her upcoming marriage.

 

The elder of the family, with his bottle of homebrewed chicha, poured the first draught on to the ground. It’s the Incan practice of giving thanks to Pachamama, or Mother Earth, for her bounty.

A beautiful, simple expression of gratitude. Grace is such a simple thing – why don’t we do more to incorporate it our 1st world privileged lives?

Lunch, 3 courses, was served in a dining room clearly meant for visitors.  Corn soup, chicken, a vegetable dish and sweet pudding for dessert.  The room was too dark for pictures; the meal simple and delicious.

Prepping to Go

Before I embarked on the trip, I did plenty of research which I chronicled here and here.

Now, with 20/20 hindsight I mostly agree with my pre-trip expectations. Except Peru was more magnificent, more profound than I dreamed.

More attention will be given to the topic of altitude in further installments of my Peruvian adventure, but suffice to say that hydration is super, super important.  Especially if you live at or near sea level.

Here are a few tips for staying hydrated while traveling,  but what about before you leave?  

About a week before departure, I  made a conscious effort to drink at least a liter of water per day, the minimum of what I thought I’d need while in the high Andean plateau.  I landed in Lima (sea level) but then went directly to Cusco and from there by car to the Sacred Valley.   The Sacred Valley ranges from 6,000-11,000 feet, much higher than my home turf.

I arrived in Peru hydrated, and never had to play catch-up.  It proved to be a wise choice.  Drink up, my friends.

bottle of water

(Not Quite) Required Reading

I’m a huge fan of reading up on a destination before visiting.  And not just travel books or online material.  That’s helpful in the planning stage, but not, ahem, the whole story.

To understand a country, to get into its veins, you need their literature, the voice of their authors. For Peru-bound travelers, there’s no better resource than Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa.

Essayist, novelist, short story writer, his work is legendary.

I loved this one, even though I wasn’t traveling to the Amazon.  I found it a thoughtful approach to engaging with indigenous people, a factor very much part of today’s discussion surrounding economic development in Peru.

 

Here are some other recommendations. I carried the Reader with me and found it an invaluable resource in sorting out the tidal wave of information washing over each day.

• The Peru Reader

If you have the time or inclination for just one book before traveling to Peru, make it this one. A collection of essays, short stories, legends and biographies, this provides a look at the diversity that makes Peru so fascinating.

• Turn Right at Machu Picchu

This one is on every list of must-reads on Peru. Focusing on the history of the Incas, it retraces the steps of Hiram Bingham, the early 20th-century explorer. Clever and funny, it will make you glad you’re not planning a modern-day tramp across the Sacred Valley.

• The Lost City of the Incas

The seminal work of Hiram Bingham. You might as well read his first-hand account, written soon after his 1911 exploration that made him famous for “discovering” Manchu Picchu.

The Upshot/Final Thoughts

Peru clocked 3.3 million tourists in 2017.  The growth of international tourism is expected to rise by 8.5% in 2018, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The district government and local communities are only recently awake to the economic benefits of cultural tourism. It is still in its infancy but holds transformational promise.  Plans afoot will inalterably change the character of the place. One hopes the commercial development, based on tourism,  will be thoughtful;  respecting the area’s ecosystems and preserving the inhabitants’ unique heritage.

The economic alternative – migration to the larger cities – threatens to render the region, indeed, “lost.”  And by that, I don’t mean overgrown with vegetation.

My advice: see the Sacred Valley soon.  The cable cars are coming.  The tourist buses will get bigger and more frequent.

Finally, book through an experienced tour provider such as Yampu. You can customize your trip to your liking and come away with a remarkable experience you couldn’t do on your own.

Your Quechan is probably not as good as your tourist Spanish.

N.B. 3 Score & More will receive a slight commission from links to Amazon, at no additional cost to you.

Copyright 2018  Jane Trombley

 

 

 

 

Prepping For Peru Part II


Travel is supposed to be an adventure, right? Whether it’s a place you’ve never been (like Peru) or a destination you visit annually, it’s still an adventure.

I chose Peru for several reasons, key among them:

  • Peru offers a sense of daring enterprise that is reminiscent of “Indiana Jones.” At its center is the real-life academic exploration of “lost civilizations.” The well-chronicled “discovery” of Machu Picchu, in 1911, by Yale historian Hiram Bingham, brought the famed Incan civilization to scholars, adventurers, and now tourists.
  •  From the Amazonian basin to 20,000 foot Andean peaks, Peru casts a mysterious, exotic spell. There is an unmapped jungle, the world’s deepest canyon, sand dunes, 1500 miles of Pacific coastline. And we’re talking a country smaller in size than Alaska. I know I’m just skimming the surface in one trip to the famed Inca region.
  • The flight from North America, though long, does not trigger much jet lag. There is just one-hour time difference from the U.S. East Coast and then only during Daylight Savings Time, which Peru does not recognize. The time difference from the U.S. mainland is no more than 3 hours. That’s a big plus in my book.

Itinerary and Logistics

The big question, especially in the age wide-ranging Google searches and transparent Trip Advisor reviews, is whether a travel/tour professional is really necessary.

I’m in for the help of a travel professional.  I chose Yampu Tours.

As an experienced yet older traveler, engaging a knowledgeable tour company is a must. Especially in a country with a less developed tourist infrastructure. This isn’t France.  

Based on my experience in Argentina with Yampu, I know they will do a great job on the Peru trip.  They already have,  in presenting a customized itinerary for myself and two traveling buddies,  travel insurance options, international and domestic air reservations.

  I don’t want to deal with in-country logistics. I do want train tickets, local guides, time-sensitive admissions (as in Machu Picchu) sorted out beforehand.  Again, Yampu has done all that, and more.

I’m coming upon my seventh decade. Unapologetically, I’m at the age where I feel it’s okay for someone else to vet the hotels, arrange the transportation, provide on-the-ground support when things go awry.  And I think that’s okay.

That said, I don’t want the “Deep State” of Tour Operators. 

Yet, I don’t want every hour filled nor every meal planned. And Yampu gives you plenty of free time.  I do want to know what I’m doing day-to-day, not but second-to-second. I’m looking for flexibility, some time to roam around on my own. Even some “toes up” time.   Check and check.


The importance of friends’ recommendations on Peru

Your own network is the most reliable place to start a trip prep, including the selection of a tour company.

Why reinvent the wheel? Your friends know you, your quirks, they way you live. And you have the same basic knowledge about them. So when they make a recommendation for a restaurant in Lima, for example, you immediately know:

  •  They always choose the most expensive/the cheapest place to eat.
  • Their sense of culinary adventure is close or not so close to yours.
  • Invariably, they will eat at the hotel. In that case, don’t bother.

Friends’ suggestions provide important insight. For example, I’ve had more than one Peru-saavy friend counsel me on remedies for altitude sickness. One recommendation was to take the acclimation process slow — and have this – Altitude RX– on hand.

 Another friend suggested a joint ticket available for same-day visits to the Pedro de Osma Collection (OSMA), MATE, the museum of iconic Peruvian photographer Mario Testino, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. 

All these art venues are located in the quite hip, bohemian neighborhood of Barranco, a seaside quarter once favored by Lima’s aristocracy. Again, Yampu has left the time in the itinerary for me to explore on my own.

The last bit of advice, which I’m taking to heart, is the importance of hydration at altitude.

Hydration must begin beforehand, not once you land in the mountains.

My itinerary will wind through Peru’s Sacred Valley at elevations well above 5,000 feet. To help acclimate, I’m starting now, a week before departure, to drink (or try to drink) 2 liters (approximately 64 oz) of water per day.  


Ahh, the Internet

The internet is the ultimate prep tool. Answers to specific questions about anything.

What’s the weather going to be like in Machu Picchu?

The 2-week forecast. It is very handy when deciding whether to pack the rain gear.

I like details on my destination: time, the distance between stops, phases of the moon…

Really, phases of the moon? Okay, here you go.

What’s the altitude along my itinerary?

Some perspective on Peru’s Andean interior. Nearby Lake Titicaca is at 12,500 feet.

Do I need additional vaccines?

Typically, tour operators will advise on recommended preventive shots for specific locations. Further, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a wonderfully comprehensive website. Here’s the update on Peru.

I plan to climb Huayna Picchu, towering a thousand feet above Machu Picchu. But what about coming down?

I’ll be that lady coming down on her backside, clinging to the wall.


The Upshot

 I began my prep for this trip with literature. I’ve touched on Peruvian authors and travel writers, read magical stories, fictional histories of the Marxist era of the 1980s, essays, and non-fiction, in an attempt to unravel Peru’s diverse cultural, historic, political currents. Here are my recommendations that have informed my impressions of Peru. Travel, as always, will confirm or dispel the assumptions gleaned from the armchair. Travel does that.

Via con Dios.

N.B. Purchases on Amazon from links herein will generate a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

Feature photo by Tom Cleary on Unsplash

The original version of this article was first  published on Medium.com

2018 Copyright Jane Trombley

Prepping for Peru: How to Make the Most of Your Holiday, Part I

There is no single image that can capture the essence of Peru; it’s more than llamas.

I’m soon heading out on what I’d call the “starter tour” of Peru. Ten days visiting some of the high spots: Cusco, Sacred Valley, Manchu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and, of course, Lima.

I’m going with Yampu Tours, an excellent travel company I’ve used before, traveling to Argentina. 

With Yampu, I experienced  Buenos Aires, the incomparable wine country around Mendoza (and a wonderful city in itself), and the magnificent, awe-inspiring Iguazu Falls.

The Peru trip promises to be special as it’s the home country of Jose Irauzqui, founder and president of Yampu. So when I say they really put their heart into it… I’m looking forward to great, great experiences.

But 10 days is barely enough time to scratch the surface of Peru.

Start with the country’s almost incomprehensible geographic diversity.

Just a bit bigger than Alaska, Peru boasts the world’s highest city (the mining town La Rinconada, at 16, 700 ft), a 1500 mile Pacific coastline, sand dunes of the Huacachina desert oasis, glaciers and dense jungles, and the soaring the Andean peaks surrounding Manchu Picchu.

Kingdom Compass on Unsplash

And the Amazon rainforest. In fact, this region covers over 60% of Peru, the second-largest chunk within a single country. (Brazil has the most).

Zachary Spears on Unsplash

Literature as insight into Peru’s cultural diversity and rich history.

Any of the guidebooks — FodorsEyewitnessLonely Planet, or for that matter, Wikipedia — will take you through the drill, but what’s the larger context?

It’s found in stories.

Mario Vargas Llosa, a prolific Peruvian whom the New York Times dubbed the “elder statesman of Latin America literature.” He is an essayist, novelist, and political activist.

He has the soul of his country in his heart.

His skills brought me to the fantastical reaches of Peru’s Amazonian tribes in the 1950’s: The Storyteller.

His Lima-centered Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is something I’m saving for the plane.

Then there is the grim tale depicting Peru’s grinding stand-off with guerilla Maoists of the Shining Path in the 1980’s: Death in the Andes.

The novel gives us a quick brush stroke, a tiny keyhole glimpse of conflict through the eyes of the characters, both noble and not so much.

I’ve found a probing intellect in Vargas Llosa’s Notes on the Death of Culture.

While not meant to be a “travel book” per se, I find thought-provoking for the serious traveler in our “post-culture” world.

He laments a global sameness, an aspirational materialism stoking the world’s economic engine, the primacy of image over the word. All, he posits, have contrived to change what it means for a society to have a culture.

Culture has little to do with quantity, everything to do with quality. — Mario Vargas Llosa

In travel, culture matters. A lot.


Other Must-Reads for Peru

These provide an insight into Peru you won’t find in travel guides, on Trip Advisor, or even the most informed travel itineraries.

It’s the work you’ve got to do to get behind the brochures.

• The Peru Reader

If you have the time or inclination for just one book before traveling to Peru, make it this one. A collection of essays, short stories, legends and biographies, this provides a look at the diversity that makes Peru so fascinating.

• Turn Right at Machu Picchu

This one is on every list of must-reads on Peru. Focusing on the history of the Incas, it retraces the steps of Hiram Bingham, the early 20th-century explorer who claimed to “find” the lost traces of the remarkable Incan civilization near modern-day Cusco.

• The Lost City of the Incas

The seminal work of Hiram Bingham. You might as well read his first-hand account, written soon after his 1911 exploration that made him famous.

The Upshot

‘If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.’  – James Michener

 

This article was first published on Medium.com

Featured photo credit:  Alexis Huertas on Unsplash


N.B. Purchases on Amazon from links herein will generate a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

Copyright 2018 Jane Trombley All rights reserved.

The Joy of Ferragosto and Life With Intention

Editor’s note: this post was originally published on Medium.com

It’s mid-August. In Italy, the country is on holiday. It’s planned. It’s anticipated, and it’s savored. The pinnacle of the month-long kick-back is August 15th, the public holiday of Ferragosto.

Being Italian, it conveniently coincides with the important Catholic feast of the Assumption of St. Mary.

Long before the Church took control of the calendar and the holidays, the Roman emperor Augustus introduced, in18 BCE, Feriae Augusti a late summer break after the extended period of intense summer labor in the fields.

A planned break after long labor: that’s living by intention.

Apparently not everyone can take August off. But everyone CAN (and does) take a day — August 15th — for a long lunch, copious wine and rest. That’s Ferragosto

In 2008, Italian filmmaker Gianni DiGregorio won “Best First Film” at the Venice Film Festival for this charming portrayal of a man caught in the vise of Ferragosto gone wrong.

In this spoof, the middle-aged son of an aging aristocratic mother is conned into looking after the mums of various others on this holiest of summer holidays.

Here’s the trailer.   And here’s how you can enjoy “Mid-August Lunch” yourself.

(affiliate link)

Everyone in the film, it appears, is living with Intention. Except for our hero, and yet, even he managed it in the end.


In America, we react to August and to life.

We Americans tend to take the latter half of August as it comes, with an eye to Autumn. We tend to start thinking about back-to-school, maybe the last beach trip. We tend to react to the close of summer, rather than celebrate it.

By the time Labor Day rolls around, we’ve circled back to summer: school has already started, the consumption cycle is all about Autumn. It’s the last hurrah. But still, it’s a reaction. It’s not living by intention.

We’re always forward-looking and reacting to what comes our way. Do we plan? Yes, for retirement, children’s education, a house, a car.

But I posit that as a society, we’re lousy at living by Intention.

The commitment to living by Intention

I’ve been troubled by this flopping around, reacting to everything. My life seems chaotic, putting out fires — metaphorically — in every aspect of my life.

It’s draining both physically and emotionally.

I was in this state of depletion when Benjamin P. Hardy’s article really resonated. It was this sub-head that hit me:

Getting out of Survival Mode

Wow, that’s me. Survival Mode. Okay, then.

The subconscious cycle, he explains, blurs the distinction between the body and the mind. We go on autopilot. We react.

I’m not so sure about the morning routine making me a millionaire. Actually, other factors must come into play for that to happen.

But I get his point. I get that living with intention takes conscious effort. It takes conscious effort to effect change in behavior.

I’m sold. I’m on the other side of 65, but I am convinced there are more (again, metaphorical) mountains to climb. I know what I’d like to become. I can see it.

But I’m often either too lazy or too frightened to step out of my very established comfort zone to go for it.

Here’s the 4–1–1: It won’t happen unless I break out of my own self-imposed jail.

It won’t happen unless I subject myself to the uncertainty and accept less predictability.

It won’t happen unless I accept the chance I won’t make it (except I know I will if I try).

Finally, It won’t happen unless I try stuff I’ve never done, explore the unknown. Simply put, the unknown is my vision.

I’m just scared.

Moving forward with Intention

I don’t want to hang the “Closed” sign on my life. Not yet.

I’m taking some of Ben’s suggestions to begin to organize my life around them.

I’m following the basics of his Evening and Morning routine. I can see early on that setting up the following day eliminates floundering; you merely get stuff done because you know what needs to be done.

I won’t do everything, of course. We each need to work this out for ourselves, for our personalities, for our objectives.

That said, I don’t want my life to be a series of random acts responding to stimuli. I want a plan, dammit!

And I am committed to doing new things. Going new places. At least once a week. Getting out of my head.

I’m seeing how organization can keep the nonsense crap from invading my purpose and intention.

I wrote recently about crabgrass and writing. Now I think it’s bigger than that. I don’t want the crabgrass of life to overtake my proverbial garden the garden being my hopes and dreams. My own “garden of desire.”

The Upshot

I want an intentional plan. It won’t necessarily guarantee success. But it won’t mitigate my chances, either.

It’s not over til the fat lady sings.

And this lady is just warming up. There’s another act to unfold.

So here’s to a good break in August. Here’s to Ferragosto. Cin Cin.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


2018 Copyright Jane Trombley  All rights reserved

Gardening & Writing: What You Need to Know

Editor’s Note: This post was first published on Medium.  it is republished here to expand the range of topics on  3 Score & More

Here’s what you need to know.

If you’re a writer and a gardener, maybe you already know it.

There is great similarity between writing and gardening. More than you might think.

Superficially, of course, they are not at all similar. Gardening is, most often, more physically demanding than writing. Writing requires greater, more focused cognitive attention. Most of the time.

Writing and gardening are beguiling taskmasters.

Once in your veins, writing and gardening can become obsessions.

Experience a bit of success, favorable comments on a blog post, publication acceptance of an article and the hook is set.

That buzz you hear are the writing gods at work to lure you to the craft.

The never ending list of ideas, begetting projects, begetting drafts, begetting revisions. And somehow you’re driven to reach for more. The next idea, the next pitch, the next freelance gig.

A delicious tidbit from your vegetable patch? The brilliant peonies lining the driveway? The garden gods have claimed you, probably forever. And there’s no escape. Just try to find the Exit door.

In gardening, the tasks are positively Sisyphean. You’re never done with the upkeep, battling pests, the seasonal repair after a brutal winter or a weather calamity.

Writing and gardening demand a strict production schedule

Both writing and gardening are 24/7 endeavors. During the “season” of productivity, you don’t/can’t stop.

Short breaks are allowed, but not long enough to disturb the rhythm of the process. Calendars are they byword.

There are deadlines in writing, productivity goals in blogging, an editors’ unending requests, a client’s unreasonable timeframe.

Gardening is no more forgiving and likewise calendar-driven. Can’t plant before the last frost (whenever that is if, like me, you live in upstate New York).

In many ways, however, garden’s diurnal tasks of each season are therapeutic. Dependable as the sunrise and sunset. Ancient as, well, the Byrds.

Writing and gardening favor right-brained thinking

This should come as no surprise to you writers and gardeners. Your creative, artistic, intuitive leanings are already apparent. That right brain of yours is on fire.

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

You can “see” the next year’s garden. You can imagine the flow of words.

In both cases it’s work to eke the raw material out to make manifest, in gardens and words, your creativity.

Yet, at the end of the day, creativity is the ultimate right-brain blessing. Don’t take it lightly.

Neither writing nor gardening are sociable activities.

Surely there are sociable gardeners. There are sociable writers.

The intense work to achieve, if not greatness, then respectabilty in these endeavors is a solitary pursuit.

You may have help; you may seek advice along the path to creation, but the blood, sweat and effort is yours alone.

There’s singular ownership. In their heart of hearts, both writers and gardeners know this.

Surely the results of these endeavors are social. The fruits of you labor, your latest post, book, cherry tomato or exploding perennial flower bed is is shared on all forms of social media.

“An phone with the Facebook app open next to Scrabble pieces arranged in the words “social media”” by William Iven on Unsplash

That’s the victory lap. Well-deserved public declaration of the completed task. And, we always hope, public appreciation for the effort.

The accolades are social. The work? Not so much.

In gardening and writing the balance between pleasure and pain is rarely symmetrical

There are moments of intense hard work. Disruption, frustration.

Moments of disappointment, rejection.

Moments of despair, when nothing is fitting or the circumstances have thwarted your every move.

Writing is like that. So is gardening. There are thorns among the roses. And it can all seem unrelentingly shitty.

Photo by Billy Cox on Unsplash

But then,

Moments of victory.

Ah Ha! moments of orgasmic proportion.

Moments when all the knowledge, insight and secrets of the universe have been revealed.

Moments of sheer bliss when the words come together to form the perfect sentence.The sentences weave into the perfect paragraph. The entire piece a symphony of word play and imagery. Your creation.

It’s sheer bliss when the hydrangea blooms like blue/pink/white fists. When, with a glass of rose, a twilight garden walk is otherworldly and the light infused with gold. With help from the Universe, your creation.

The Upshot

Writing and gardening will take a ridiculous amount of time and effort.

Just so you know, perfection in either pursuit is illusory.

It is a noble cause to seek, but manage your expectations. And don’t forget to have fun. Otherwise, it won’t be worth the time or the effort.


All claps and shares are appreciated with #gratitude.

3 Reasons Why Travel is More Important in Retirement

clock at Grand Central Terminal

Editor’s note: this post was first published on Medium

Travel is important at any time in life. Travel gets you out of your shell, your culture, your background, your self-imposed confines.

At a young age, travel exposes you to the world, whether across the state, across the country or around the globe.

Later in life, and particularly in retirement, time seems to speed up, to enter a different continuum. Travel seems more urgent, the experience is more alive and somehow, more profound.

The distance and the destination are not critical, it’s the fact that you’re doing it at all.

Travel in retirement keeps you sharp

You have lots of ways to spend your time and resources once you hit retirement. A trip is just one option. But it keeps you actively engaged in life’s “game.” Regardless of whether you choose a full package such as a tour or a cruise, or more independent travel, the dynamics are similar.

Travel takes you out of your comfort zone. It’s always about the new experience, even if it’s a place you’ve been to before. Travel is fresh, a dash of the unknown. In retirement, that’s an excellent thing. You didn’t retire to sit passively, did you? I didn’t think so.

Being out of your “comfort zone” doesn’t mean traipsing around the unknown. It just means putting a toe outside of your routine and widen the net of experience.

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

The upshot? Your comfort zone — the space you occupy in physical, mental and emotional states — just got bigger. Remember, there are no “foreign lands.”

Travel requires social and communication skills.

You need to interact with people you meet. That runs the gamut from service personnel, fellow travelers of your choosing or locals you meet along the way. You need to be able to communicate your needs and preferences. You’ll want to chat up your seat-mate on the tour, relive the day with your traveling companions (yes, even your spouse!), and discuss where-to next.

All this takes considerable cognitive power, social engagement and, sometimes, “attitude adjustment” (another term for patience).

Just keep your cool. You can do this. You’re not the old codger your children think you are.

Travel keeps you self-aware. When traveling you have a heightened awareness of your surroundings.

As the British-born author, Aldous Huxley famously said,

There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.

Travel in retirement is about keeping those “doors of perception” open, wide open, between the known and the unknown.

This is the best time of your life to explore your “unknowns.”

You have the luxury of unhurried time. It’s one of life’s greatest gifts.

Travel in retirement is a huge part of life-long learning

Life-long learning is not only huge, and travel in retirement makes it fun and actionable.

If you’ve researched your destination, figured out the best way to travel that suited your budget, interests, any limitations, that’s learning.

You can up your tech game: Did you learn at least a phrase in another language, thanks to an app like Duolingo? Did you download a travel app? Did you use Google Maps or some other direction-finding software to get from Point A to Point B?

What assumptions were challenged?

What did you come back knowing you didn’t know before? What “doors of perception” were opened as a result of your travel, or the preparation for it?

That’s life-long learning.

Travel in retirement gives you information and experiences to share.

Coming back from travel, you’re a different “you.” It’s nearly impossible to have a travel experience and not have something stick

Unless you’re like my Aunt Flo. She and Uncle Art traveled the world in retirement, thanks to his life-long career with United Air Lines.

She was the “Teflon traveler” because nothing, and I mean nothing, stuck.They would go on a whim, world-wide on trips with other United-retirees, and come back emotionally void from the experience.

“It was nice,” she’d say. But it didn’t penetrate, it didn’t stick. She didn’t feel it.

I am indebted to my aunt and uncle for my travel curiosity. They took me along on a tour to Scandinavia when I was 15, in the early 1960’s. By luck, some Australian girls my age were on the tour, too. We remained pen pals for decades, long before email. That interaction is still a sweet memory. It stuck.

Please don’t be like dear Aunt Flo. Make travel “stick.”

The Upshot

Let travel make you a more interesting person.
Travel doesn’t need to be far, or exotic. It needn’t be expensive. But the experience will make you a more interesting person. You’ll have more to talk about. Even pictures to share.

You’ll even have bragging rights.

And the best part? Travel in retirement emboldens you to do more.

So, where are you off to?

Photo credit: Jane Trombley

Walking the Dorset Coast: Here’s What You Need to Know

backpack on Southwest Coast Path, Dorset

Editor’s note: This post was published originally on Medium.

Dorset, like all of England, is a haven for walkers. It pairs fitness with some of the most idyllic scenery on earth. There is terrain to suit every fitness level and every quest for an aerobic challenge.

About two hours by train from London, Dorset combines aquamarine sea vistas with the pastoral beauty of Shakespeare’s “blessed plot.”

In a nation acutely aware of those blessings, a good bit of Dorset is designated as an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

This coastal walk is part of the famed Southwest Coast Path, which in its entirety is 630 miles around the western tip of England.

Photo courtesy: https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/south-west-coast-path

This 5-day stint covered the “Jurassic Coast” — from Lyme Regis to Lulworth Cove, beyond Weymouth — a total of about 45 miles.

Photo credit: Google Maps

Topline Tips

Plan, Plan, Plan!

The success of any hiking or walking trip the trip is defined by variables such as weather, trail conditions, the unforeseen injury. Mitigate any possible downside of the unexpected with a plan.

Winging it is good; I love on-the-fly. But I also like knowing where I’m going to lay my head each night, and how my luggage is going to get from point A to point B. There is enough drama and adventure on the trail.

Organize with a professional

Self-guided tour companies provide structure and guidance that takes the guesswork out of the experience.   Encounter Walking is a very professional provider.

When we got stuck along the trail, befuddled by the map the second day out, there was a phone number and a helpful voice at the other end.

When to go to Dorset

Mid-June which, despite an early heat wave, gave us the untrammeled beauty of early summer. That said, all the places in the northern hemisphere are lovely in September/October.  Dorset glows at that time of year.

However, the Dorset coast is a tourist magnet. High summer, July and especially August, is the ‘season’ so set your expectations: packed restaurants, impatient crowds, increasingly frazzled staff.

“Shoulder” seasons are highly recommended. Late autumn would be stunning.

What to expect in Dorset

  • Terrain — The maps/itinerary are very clear as to the difficulty of the topography. Most fall into the “mild” to “moderate” range with some steep patches. While the “ascent” is not remarkable, the long, slow climbs are challenging.
  • A good part of the trail leaving Lyme Regis is along the beach, under the famed Jurassic Coast cliffs. It makes for a pebbly, unstable ground underfoot, slow and tiring. This section is also stunningly beautiful, and it’s possible to pick up a fossil or two if you’re eagle-eyed.
  • Weather — Coastal weather is often fickle but, it’s important to understand that this walk is very exposed to the elements. There is little shade from the blazing sun, little protection from rain and wind.
  • Facilities — are few and far between on the trail. Be prepared if necessary, to “go” behind a dune or other secluded spot. As ever, good trail etiquette is “carry in/carry out” so, be prepared!
  • The trail runs through private pasture land. At points, you’ll be next to, or in some cases among, sheep or cattle.
Photo credit: Jane Trombley

It’s a very different concept to American hikers/walkers who would not dream of “trespassing” on private land. In the U.K. it is permissible. There is an unspoken pact with the cows: you leave them alone and they leave you alone.

Photo Credit: Jane Trombley

What to bring to Dorset

  • Maps/guides Maps/guides If you work with a comprehensive trip organizer, you’ll have a precise itinerary, essential phone numbers, general maps. The trail is well marked, so additional material (like the famous British Ordnance Survey maps) isn’t necessary.
  • Proper gear This is more than a “sneaker” walk; bring good quality, lightweight hiking boots. You’ll cover a range of terrain, from muddy pastures to pebbly beaches.
  • A good, comfortable backpack. Even though you’re just out for the day, you’ll need more than a “fanny pack.” Find a comfy, small backpack; the kind with the mesh holders for water, or other things you want handy, is a plus.
  • Snacks because nothing is worse than being hungry on the trail. Or, hitting lunchtime with no lunch in sight. Have protein bars, hard candy (chocolate melts), maybe an apple.
  • A walking stick is one of my necessities. I use a telescope model that fits into luggage for overseas flights. It helps with balance, getting over difficult terrain, and is as useful uphill as downhill. They are easy to find at outfitters; the good ones are pricey.
  • You need to be prepared for varying weather conditions: rain gear, shorts, long sleeve shirts, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen. If your luggage is transported daily you needn’t carry all this stuff. Having it with you means you can be prepared for any weather.
  • Tissues for a runny nose and for when nature calls. Small plastic bags with a “zip” closure for tissue storage until you reach a trash bin. Pre-moistened wipes are useful and take up little room. Bring insulated, refillable water bottles. It’s imperative to stay hydrated, and buying water along the trail is an annoyance.

Highlights of Walk, Lyme Regis to Lulworth Cove.

Lyme Regis

We started this adventure in Lyme Regis, spending a few days at this durable seaside resort. For well-heeled Londoners in the 19th Century, Lyme Regis was a “go-to” summer destination.

Photo credit: Jane Trombley

Jane Austen, author, and a frequent visitor captured the vibe in Persuasion when she wrote,

“A very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better.”

It’s as true today as it was back then. Below, the garden path she was said to have strolled.

Photo credit: Jane Trombley

The town’s other claim to fame is being the epicenter of England’s early proving ground for the Evolution vs Creation debate, raging in 19th C intellectual circles.

Mary Anning (1799–1847), a self-educated fossil hunter and collector, was eventually credited with the first discovery of the plesiosaur, who roamed these parts during the Jurassic era. In her time, Mary endured intellectual and gender bias by the more “learned” men at the British Museum but now has her due.

Heading out

We left Lyme Regis, walking along the shoreline and up across the “Golden Cap” toward the town of Eype.

It was a strenuous 9 miles in scorching heat, with gorgeous views but no relief from the sun.  It was a relief to find this welcome sweet on the pillow at the hotel.

hard candy from Eypes Mouth Hotel

Ever Onward

Day 2 Eype to Abbotsbury an eleven mile stretch of easy to moderate terrain, but difficult underfoot on the pebbly beach.

Photo credit: Jane Trombley

Walking under the dramatic cliffs, but no fossils to be found.

Photo credit: Jane Trombley

Day 3 took us from Abbotsbury to Weymouth, thirteen miles over easy terrain. Here the challenge here was the lack of amenities: no rest stops or places to buy lunch. We were slower than planned, and should have anticipated the need to carry a sandwich. Live and learn. Snacks filled in. Water was crucial!

Photo credit: Jane Trombley

Weymouth was all the rage during the 18th C. reign of King George III. The Georgian architecture and graceful promenade along the shoreline tell the story of a luxurious bygone era. A bit faded, but with very good bones.

Today it’s a bit forlorn, bravely trying to regain its long-gone glamour.

Photo credit: Jane Trombley
  

Day 4, Weymouth to Lulworth Cove. It was a strenuous thirteen miles to Lulworth, but perhaps the most dramatic scenery of all. The highlight is the spectacular limestone arch known as the Durdle Door. The steep incline covering 1.25 miles or so is worth the slog.

Photo credit: Jane Trombley
Photo credit: Jane Trombley

The highlight is the spectacular limestone arch known as the Durdle Door. The steep incline covering 1.25 miles or so is worth the slog.

It’s where England could be mistaken for the Almafi Coast.

Lulworth is a charming town and in mid-June geared for the upcoming tourist season.

Photo credit: Jane Trombley
Photo Credit: Ann Savage
Photo credit: Jane Trombley
Photo credit: Jane Trombley

Lastly, who doesn’t love a place that loves dogs?

Photo credit: Jane Trombley

In the end, who doesn’t love a place that welcomes dogs?


2018  Copyright Jane Trombley  All rights reserved.
Note: This post contains some affiliate links, through which I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. 

It’s summer and that means travel…

It’s summer, and do you know what your plans are?  NO PLANS?!  You need Ideas!  So head on over to 3 Score’s Travel News page.

Food tours in Dublin, Cruise ideas (and bargains!), the ultimate list of travel essentials.

Get some ideas, get your essentials, and off you go!

Updating the Travel Page

travel brochures

 

All I can say is Mea Culpa.  I’ve been AWOL on the 3 Score Travel News Page.  For far too long.

But beginning today, it’s back with an update.  If you have been thinking about an Alaskan Cruise, it’s not too late to book for this summer or early fall.

And, Scout’s honor: I promise to keep it up with timely tidbits.  But I also promise not to share every airline horror story.  We’ve all seen enough of those.

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis? Here’s How to Have The Best Travel Experience

If you suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), you know travel can be a challenge. But it doesn’t mean you’re stuck at home!

With the following pro tips, and proper RA management, the best of travel is there for you.

Quick Facts About RA

  • RA, disease of the auto-immune system commonly affecting joints in fingers, wrists, ankles, knees and joints.  It is a chronic condition, meaning it can “flare”  or recede.
  • Over a  million people in the U.S.are diagnosed with RA, predominately women. It  is most commonly detected in the prime travel years, between the ages of 40-60.
  • Curiously, RA is symmetrical; it affects joints on both sides of the body. With pain or stiffness in your right knee or ankle, chances are you’ll feel it in on your left side, too.
  • With treatment and self-care, traveling with RA is very manageable. So, pack your bags and book that adventure. An RA diagnosis doesn’t mean you can’t see the world!

Managing RA When Traveling

For solid advice, we turn to the experts in the video below.

Dr. Grace C. Wright, a noted Rheumatologist and  Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at New York University’s Langone  School of Medicine.

With her is Maria an RA patient, sharing her experiences as a traveler with RA. Maria  has built a successful company and active lifestyle and wishes to be presented by first name only.

5 Top Tips for Travelers with RA

  • Stay hydrated!  Make sure you have a water bottle handy at all times, especially in dry conditions (such as long flights).
  • Get comfy!  Use a neck pillow, stretch out, get up and move around in a plane or train as soon as it is safe to do so.  Frequent rest stops while driving long distances will help keep stiffness at bay.
  • Rx: plenty of rest. A good sleep routine is very important!  Time changes can disrupt your sleep patterns, so use the first few days to get into a good sleep rhythm.
  • Balance exercise and rest. In addition to a good night’s sleep, be sure to balance rest and exercise. It’s easy, when traveling, to push onward to that next shop, the next museum.  Schedule rest periods during the day, to help manage joint inflammation when walking.
  • Warm/cold therapies.  As Maria notes in the interviews, a warm soak can work wonders when traveling. Heat, or massage, will serve to reduce minor inflammation. Cold therapies such as an ice bag, will help relieve more acute pain and inflammation.

The Upshot: RA?  So what?

Choose your destination and safe travels!

 

© 2018  Jane Trombley