This article is from the October 2019 Issue of Forever Young

By Steven Tuck
Photos: Roy Gillespie and Steven Tuck

fyng october 2019 feature 
Sacsayhaman is the largest archeological ruin from the Inca Empire.  Roy Gillespie (left) and Steven Tuck were impressed by the massive main plaza of the once centre of the Inca Empire.  (It seems appropriate that it is “five football fields” in size --- look at Roy’s shirt!)

Editor’s note:This is the third in a series of travel articles of the recent custom excursion to PERU by Roy Gillespie and Steven Tuck, both of Kelowna.

The main attraction in Peru is definitely Machu Picchu (M. P.), and to get there you will undoubtedly go through the capital of the ancient Inca Empire, Cusco, sometimes spelled Cuzco.  Indeed, some of the trails to Machu Picchu even begin near here.  Cusco sits very high in the Andes at about 2 miles above sea level.  If you plan to go to M. P. it will be suggested to fly to Cusco and immediately go down to the Sacred Valley and M.P., which surprisingly enough lies lower and by doing this helps one to acclimatize to try and avoid high altitude sickness.  High altitude sickness, which usually involves being at higher than 8,000 feet, is dangerous and can be fatal.  But more on this later.

Cusco is a modern city with about half a million inhabitants.  We were told about 90% are involved in the tourism industry!  It lies in a valley which is difficult to fly into and most recommend flying in or out in the morning to avoid delays.  It is about an hour flight to Lima on modern 737’s.  Our flights were very comfortable on both Latam and Avianca. 

We stayed at a wonderful hotel --- the Sonesta Hotel located in the historic center of Cusco.  A 4-star hotel, we were on the fifth floor with a balcony and had a great view facing a fountain and park.  A fifteen minute walk from the main square --- Plaza de Armas and Cusco Cathedral.  There are a lot of museums in Cusco --- including the Quechua Museum, Cusco Craft Center and the Centro de Textiles.  The breakfast buffet was terrific (included in our room rate) and we dined there a few times and enjoyed not only the food but also the live entertainment provided by a very talented pan flute player.  (He played other instruments as well and sometimes two pan flutes at a time!)  They provide oxygen for high altitude sickness, too! 

Mira Sol, our guide for the day, met us in our hotel lobby and we spent an incredible day with her, touring not only the city but also the local ruins.  The guides we had were all top notch!  (Thanks again to Anas of Off The Map Adventures for custom building our tour including excellent guides, drivers, some meals, and more.)

The main attraction is higher up from the city and is the center of the ancient Inca Empire, Sacsayhuaman, which many English speaking tourists have come to call “Sexy Woman”!  This fortress is made up of three large terraced walls.  It is still not known how the Inca built this monolith with huge stones at the top of the mountains overlooking Cusco in the 15th century over 70 years.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.  Walking through rock tunnels we saw altars hewn out of solid stone.  We were even greeted by lamas walking around the ruin.  When the Spaniards arrived they used most of the building blocks to build their cathedrals and mansions.  But the site is so huge, it remains the most impressive ruin in Peru just by sheer size.  There is a field, five times bigger than any football field, in the center of the ruin, once a year, a pageant plays out in full Inca costume to celebrate the winter solstice.  Perhaps not only the size of the stones but the fact that they were stacked on top of each other to form very high walls and without anything to hold them in place.  It is extraordinary to see just how each stone was cut and placed with hardly a crack between them.

We also visited the ruins of Quenqo and Tambomachay, the later of which features fountains fed by spring water from higher ground.  We walked up on a trail and learned this was going to be the highest site we were to visit.

This article is from the September 2019 Issue of Forever Young

By Steven Tuck
Photos: Roy Gillespie and Steven Tuck

FYng Sept 2019 Feature1 
 

Editor’s note:  This is the second instalment of Roy Gillespie’s and Steven Tuck’s custom tour of PERU in July. Both are residents of Kelowna.

Our arrival in Lima mid-afternoon was on a very eventful day! Peru was about to play Brazil in THE soccer match everyone was waiting for. Peru never imagined getting to play the TOP team, and expected to lose, but to even get to play them --- WOW this was BIG. In fact, our driver, Jose, told us he could whisk us to the hotel Casa Andina Premium in jig time, as the streets were virtually empty. (The drive normally may take 1.5 hours! And he wanted to see the game himself at our hotel bar!)

The hotel is a terrific hotel located in Miraflores, a very safe, upscale, touristy neighbourhood. Lima is a city of 9 million people, making up 33% of Peru’s total population. The traffic is usually chock-a-block and crazy! We concluded the “stop” signs which read “PARE” are notices to hit the gas and go straight through as fast as you can! It really seems to be a game of “chicken” and how they manage to avoid crashing more often maybe is attributable to all the crosses hanging from the mirrors in the front windows of the vehicles! Furthermore, pedestrians beware! Cars seem to have taken the right of way. I told my buddy, Roy, make sure there are others crossing the streets between us and the motorists!

Lima is one the food capitals of the world. One review not only calls it “the gastronomic capital of Latin America” but also notes that 2 of the top 10 restaurants out of 50 in the world are in Lima! The reason is associated with the “fusion” of food --- a culmination of many cultures and countries coming together. We have native Peruvian mixing with waves of immigrants from Europe (mainly Spanish) but also West Africans, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, and many more. Finally, the climates in Peru are so varied that many found they could grow their choice ingredients in this new foreign land. Did you know, for instance, that there are more than 3,000 kinds of potatoes and that the potato originated in Peru?

This article is from the August 2019 Issue of Forever Young

By Steven Tuck
Photos: Roy Gillespie and Steven Tuck

feature aug 2019 
 

It has been at the top of my “bucket list” for years, to go to Machu Picchu. I knew my wife would not even consider going because she is terrified of heights! Traveling to the Andes, where places like Cusco are two miles up in the sky, is not something she would do! My buddy and physiotherapist, Roy Gillespie, and I talked about my dream, and he told me he had been there 30 years ago with a friend when they graduated from Dalhousie University. Would he go back again? Sure would. And, as fate would have it, another friend, John Swatridge, told me he had just returned from Machu Picchu and could put me in touch with a travel agent who is a specialist on Peru! I connected with Anas Rana, owner of Off The Map Adventures, and we discussed a budget, places of interest, and he built a custom tour for Roy and I!

Everything Anas planned for us was perfect. We flew to Lima, Peru, via Vancouver and Mexico City, and arrived mid-afternoon. Jose, one of Anas’s drivers, met us at the airport and took us to the Casa Andina Premium hotel in Miraflores, an upscale and very safe neighbourhood in Lima. That first night, Jean Paul, who heads up Anas’s Peru operations, came to our hotel and took us to dinner. We soon learned that Lima’s reputation as a “food capital” of the world was true. Furthermore, that “cerviche” is one of the classical dishes of Lima. It is raw fish that is marinated in citrus to “cook”. Roy being from Nova Scotia joined me in ordering the cerviche with scallops. It was delicious.

But I am going to skip Lima and come back to it. Let’s go forward four days and fly to Cusco where we were met by our guide, Efrain (Abraham) and his driver, Ronnie, who took us from the airport to our hotel in the Sacred Valley. It is part of the acclimatization process to get people used to being so high in the Andes, and actually we went down from Cusco into the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. While we stayed in Urubamba and we were treated to --- of all things --- a pizza resto that evening! It was one of Anas’s favorite spots and was a real local haunt. The pizza really was superb, not like anything we’d ever had anywhere else. It came with the best garlic toast and a side of French fries, that I had seen and longed for from another table. One other thing we learned was that dining in Peru is quite inexpensive. We also learned that potatoes originated in Peru and they have more than 400 different varieties!

We spent a day touring the Sacred Valley and climbed to the top of another major Inca ruin --- Pisac. Pisac features all kinds of architecture --- agricultural, hydraulic, military, residential and religious. But little is known about it as the Spanish never mentioned it in their writings. The view from the top was breath-taking! That night we were treated to dinner at a colonial mansion where Roy, the more adventurous diner, tried guinea pig --- the national dish dating back to the Inca royalty --- and I had alpaca steak. Guinea pig is usually eaten on special occasions, like our Thanksgiving!

This article is from the July 2019 Issue of Forever Young

By Christine Davis

feature july 2019 
 

It’s program director and general manager Kirkland Shave that describes our week at Mountain Trek as an “optimal life experience”. With a name like Kirkland you’d expect him to be a mountain man and you won’t be disappointed. From his knowledge, about everything seemingly, to the tips he provides for using the hiking poles, which initially feel like a strange extra appendage, not to mention his passion for the program and a healthy lifestyle, his presence at the retreat is invaluable. 

Shave built the program almost 20 years ago when in 2000 the then-owner asked him, a kinesiologist and dietician to change it from the recreation/wellness facility it had been since 1991. Shortly after, the former park ranger hired head guide and fitness director, Cathy Grierson, who was a fellow park ranger he’d known for many years. 

That program is built on five tenants: Nutrition, fitness, detoxification, sleep and stress management with a goal of changing your metabolism from a catabolic or destructive state to anabolic or constructive metabolic state. Each tenant is addressed each day in everything you do and discussed in great length during daily lectures lead by program facilitators.

The Mountain Trek lodge can accommodate up to 16 guests each week, most of whom I found were travelling solo, though we were joined by one married couple and a father-daughter duo. Everyone is there for different reasons, I find out, not all of them fitness related.

It’s easy to form bonds with other guests as you’re all immersed in the experience. 

We all get up at 6 a.m. each day, meet in the dining room for ginger tea and a small smoothie to break our fast before hitting the lake-view yoga studio for a much-needed morning stretch that’s followed by breakfast, served at the dining room’s large harvest table. We choose different seats at each meal to mix it up – even forcing the pairs to separate once we’re a little more comfortable with each other.

This article is from the June 2019 Issue of Forever Young

By Steven Tuck
Photos Terry Tuck and E FUN TOURS

2019 june feature 
Looking across the Douro River at Porto from Vila De Gaia, where the port cellars are not just aging the port but also awaiting your tasting visit.While waiting in a Calgary airport on route to a show in Winnipeg, Fred Penner is considering writing a how-to book for travelers.

Our introduction to Portugal was via TAP (Portugal's airlines) from Toronto to Lisbon.  Comfortable, lie-flat reclining seats; great service; wonderful food and wines.  In fact, from the welcome sparkling wine to the best cabin service, the staff were tops.  The main meal after take-off was:

  • Cauliflower and Cumin Soup with Croutons

    with a choice of

  • Grilled Tenderloin (my choice, and done to perfection!) with Cranberry Sauce, Polenta, Beans and Peas
  • Grilled Salmon (Terry's choice and a little dry) with Pesto Sauce, Roast Potatoes and Tomato 
  • Pappardelle Pasta with Mushrooms, Green Asparagus and Tomato
  • Dessert was a selection for Fresh Fruit, with Coffee, Tea, Espresso Coffee and Chocolates

Of course the wine list was a good selection of Portuguese wines: white, rose, sparkling, red, and of course port!  Beer, liquor, and soft drinks available all the time.  I chose a red from the Douro --- Altano Reserva.  Created mainly from Touriga Nacional grapes with a small amount of Touriga Franca, from vineyards in the Torto river valley.  A complex and profound red, with a bouquet of blackberries, cocoa, spices and some floral notes.  I love a full-bodied red, and this was fresh and with a persistent after-taste.  I looked and found bottles in stores in Portugal and it was my choice for the trip!

After a little sleep (it was an overnight flight) we had a light breakfast.  Yogurt, jam, fresh fruit, bread and pastry selection, and of course fruit juices, tea and coffee.

It was one of the best flights we've ever had and we could not have had better food or service!

Our landing in Lisbon was a gorgeous, sunny day and the view coming into the airport over the Atlantic Ocean was truly a spectacular bird's-eye perspective of the city we were going to eventually visit.  But not before finding our way through customs, passport control (entering the E.U.) and finding the Metro train lines --- which was easy to do --- and getting the subway to one of the main train stations --- Oriente, just 3 stops --- to catch the high speed train to Porto.   We did this with time to spare, meeting a nice young lady from Burlington, Ontario, who was traveling solo and also heading to Porto.