Lake Titicaca

the top 5 that did not disappoint

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So we’ve written a post about the top 5 places that underwhelmed us, then we wrote about the top 5 unexpected places and now is our top 5 that was everything plus more than we expected. We should also qualify that we have had lots of “overwhelming” moments on our travel but we narrowed it down to our top 5 for this post – which wasn’t easy.

5. Galapagos Islands

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The place where Charles Darwin came up with his evolution theory.

The place where there is abundance and diversity.

The place where animals and humans can swim together and walk together.

The place we would recommend to everyone in a heartbeat!

4. Uluru

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In the centre of our home country lies the monolith that is ever so famous. It wasn’t only seeing Uluru itself that made this the most jaw-dropping memory we have in Australia, but it was the entire experience itself; seeing Uluru during the day, seeing Uluru changing colours, watching the sunset, being under the stars in the red centre, understanding more about the Indigenous Australian culture and beliefs.

We published a photo essay recently on Uluru if you want to see more photos.

3. Yellowstone National Park 

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Being the first National Park in the world and with 9000 square kilometres to explore, one cannot really not pass up the opportunity to visit here. We visited in October and we had snow – lots of it. And it only made the scenery so romantically magical.

We were able to catch glimpses of different wildlife, we visited Ol’ Faithful Geyser and we were mesmerised by the sweeping landscapes and colours.

This is one of the first places we ever visited that as soon as we left, we said, “We’re coming back here again!”

2. Lake Titicaca

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Floating reed islands? The minute we heard about these many years ago, we knew we had to visit it one day. And when we finally did, we fell in love. It didn’t matter that we were 3000+ metres above sea level and that every few steps we felt out of breath. Because as we stepped on the reeds and realised that we were actually walking on a floating island, the moment was ingrained in our memories forever. Looking around us, we saw the local residents waving to us in their colourful sweaters – welcoming us to their home. On this planet, there are plenty of unique places to see and this is one of them.

1. The Hanging Monastery

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In the side of the cliff, 50 metres above the ground, there stands the monastery/temple that conjures up images of ancient China immediately.

This is the first place that we have visited in the world that brought tears to our eyes. We were so overwhelmed with emotion, peering upwards at it that we did pinch ourselves to see that we were really awake. Then walking through it was another thing altogether – held by what look like only wooden logs – we prayed that it was still architecturally sound. We held our breath when we saw it and we held our breath when we walked through it.

There you have it – our TOP 5 places that met and exceeded our expectations. Any surprises?

There were a few others that were close contenders such as Machu Picchu, Neuschwanstein Castle, Carcassonne, New York City…… plus many more!

Where have you been that you had high expectations of and it delivered? 

Leave us a comment.

sailing the highest navigable lake

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Reading up on altitude sickness and how it randomly can strike someone freaked us out a little before we went. We spent hours researching and reading up on everything we could about altitude sickness – it wasn’t going to ruin such a huge chunk of this Peruvian adventure. So we understood that there is less oxygen at higher altitude and symptoms of altitude sickness included light headedness, lack of appetite, nausea, drowsiness and shortness of breath on exertion. One friend gave the advice: “Don’t let your head dip below your heart”. Others were telling us just to take it slow. So we heeded their advice when we landed in Cusco (approximately 3,400 m.a.s.l). There would be NO exertion whatsoever. So walking to the carousel to pick up our luggage, we were probably taking one step every second. Maybe we were being extreme but we were not jeopardising our health being frantic unnecessarily. We did have a few people at the airport and approach us and ask whether we needed a doctor, which we thought was very amusing.

Our transfer guide instructed us to relax in our rooms for at least 2-4 hours before actively exploring the city and to also dose up on coca leaves or coca tea. Little did we know that coca leaves derive cocaine. Thank goodness we didn’t bring back the delicious teas and lollies! But they certainly worked a treat for suppressing any symptoms of altitude sickness. Now to explain some of the symptoms, let us give an example. There was one day where we walked up 10 steps (or so maybe) and when we got to the top, we were so out of breath that when we talked, the words came out as if we were spluttering from crying. It was the weirdest sensation ever. It took twice as long to get a sentence out because we were catching our breaths….

The highest altitude we reached was at La Raya on the train from Cusco to Puno where it was about 4,300 m.a.s.l. And getting off the train and back on the train was exhausting, not to mention the temperatures at this height was windy and freezing.

Women of Uros welcoming us
Women of Uros welcoming us

And Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at approximately 3,800 m.a.s.l. and we were able to sail on it! Well, more like speed boat to Taquile Island and Uros. Uros are the floating islands – the islands built on totora reeds. This is our biggest highlight in Peru! The population is about 1000 people and there are homes and schools and about 5-6 families per “island”. We saw their homes and how they lived and even got a trip between the islands on a reed boat. To our surprise, we heard that some of them had satellite TV hooked up to their reed homes.

Visiting the Uros Islands is one of our favourite all-time travel experiences. This was a very cool way to finish our time in Peru. The Peruvian people are so warm and welcoming and we are blessed to have had the opportunity to visit this country.