Day 3: Golden Circle (continued)

The long days and sleepless nights and trading being ice cold and then swelteringly hot inside (all those layers to keep putting on and off) conspire to make me sleep literally every time the bus moves more than 10 minutes. I want to stay up and see things, I just literally can’t.

We get to the Golden Waterfall. We need to put ice grips on our shoes now; it’s still colder here than anywhere we’ve been and the ground is sheets of black ice. Read more of this post

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Day 3: Golden Circle

The temperatures keep dropping (and will as we travel farther away from Reykjavik throughout the day), but it’s our last full day on the tour and there is a lot to see… Read more of this post

Day 2.5: The Wind Howls

After we all come in from dinner, we stop and chat at the hotel bar. It’s after midnight when I head to bed.

Though I’m in a constant state of exhaustion, though I struggle to stay awake to see this country and hear what our guide is telling us about it every time I’m put on the bus… now that I should, I don’t sleep. Read more of this post

Day 2: Reykjavik, Vikings and Wine

After we return from the Blue Lagoon, we all return to our respective rooms to pull ourselves together and prepare to go out.

A few hours later, we step out for a circuitous walk into Reykjavik for shopping and then a cab ride to the Viking House restaurant and hotel across town. Read more of this post

Day 2: Blue Lagoon

I’m up early to have breakfast- the buffet at the Radisson Blu Saga is quite extensive but, like a lot of places here, on the pricy side (by trip’s end we’ll realize it was among the cheapest options and easily the best value for food we’d seen) but it’s included for us as guests. I’m not generally a breakfast person but plenty of options are provided and I find something to satisfy. Read more of this post

Day 1.5: Northern Lights hunt

We take a tour of Reykjavik but the overnight has taken its toll; I keep nodding off between stops to get out and see things.

4pm: sunset

Just as well; tonight will be a late one as the hunt for northern lights can run until midnight or 1am.

There are no guarantees. If we don’t see them tonight we’ll look again tomorrow, and if not we’ll try one last time the final night. Yesterday they were great, but past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

Still, the conditions are really good: 5/9 on the probably scale and clear skies over the area. We’ll head out past KEF airport into the dark and take our chances.

We pull out in time, scanning the skies even in the city lights. Our bus waits for another. We pull into a city lot for them…

I don’t know how long we wait; I fall asleep. It’s still Day 1, an interminably long day but hopefully worth it. I wake when we move again, the other bus still not anywhere to be seen.

There was just a super moon, and the sky is bright even outside the city. That will diminish how clearly we can see them, though our cameras might get them anyway.

No guarantees that we’ll see anything. Even if we do they could last seconds minutes or hours.

Our bus unloads us and turns off the lights. We are waiting in the dark and cold – oh so cold, even bundled. I’ve got a small tripod for my iPhone and the northern lights photo app loaded. It’s cold in my hands, even thru gloves. We don’t know which way to look, other than up. The second bus pulls in, lights on, unloading.

I start to think, if it could only last seconds, I don’t want to miss it because this bus still had its lights on… and then I have the most wonderful sense of assurance.

We are not going to miss it. God is going to show us this amazing part of His design and He knows that people are still arriving. His timing will be perfect as always.

The bus lights finally go out. We’re all spread out. The guides know what they’re looking for but most of us don’t other than it won’t be as colorful to the eye as it is in pictures. Opposite the moon it seems the sky is doing something, maybe, but maybe it’s my imagination. I take a picture just because I am not sure. I won’t see what I got until later.

Definitely a hint of green there

To our eye against the moonlight and dark sky it looks gray more then green but pretty soon there is a line of it clear across the sky

It could fade away but no, it spreads and more lines join and it dances in the sky and I laugh and laugh because God is sweeter and more gracious to me than I can describe, nor certainly ever deserve. To see it- well even if none of the pics come out I am so grateful!

The pics came out, it seems.

We are out there for hours and when we return they are still appearing in the sky even as close as our hotel.

But it’s cold and we’ve all had long, long days.

Bed will be another blessing.

Day 1: Departure Iceland

The flight is at 7:35. International: advice is to get there three hours ahead. 4:35pm. But my car has picked its moment to beg me to get rid of it and so between the unfamiliar rental car and the unfamiliar route to Dulles, I give myself plenty of time. I’d so rather be checked in, reading at my gate, than stressing about it. Read more of this post

Revisited: my visit to Machu Picchu

Yes, I went, but what did I think of it?  It’s a jumble of impressions. Their ancient architecture is amazing; sidebar jokes about it’s because they had spaceships to aid the process. Read more of this post

Day 4: Final tours and departure

This morning’s tour takes us above the city. Our first stop is the Cristo Blanco, a small replica of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer Statue, which I’d seen in the distance on our way to Cusco a few nights ago. 

There are also three crosses up here overlooking the city. And an entire retinue of police. It’s their Labor Day and there are apparently fears of demonstrations at key points in and around the city.


Saqsaywaman (which only sounds like “sexy woman”) is estimated to have been   built at the height of the Incan civilization, The sheer size of the stones is amazing.

Three tiers of stones in three nested zigzag or lightning patterns. Both sacred symbols to the Incas. The lowermost stones tower 10-20 feet up, to give a sense of scale.

We also visit Q’inqu, Poca Pocura, and Tambomachay. 


At each one, our guide talks about the spiritual meaning of the Incan structures and symbols, and how these are expressed today. 

Then it’s time for a final lunch together as a large group (one of the few times we’ve all been together vs exploring in smaller subsets). Funny moment: three people have a newer model Fitbit that reminds them to move every hour. They get their alarm, and a whole group of us dance in our chairs to “get our steps” – laughing at ourselves as we do it. )

And then begins the long, long, long trek home again, at first all of us together from Peru to Colombia, a few headed elsewhere but most still together as far as Miami, and then the group splintering as we have different flights to other cities. 

This was my first tour with Gate1, and I had a great time. It was very well done and reasonably priced to boot. 

But of course the part that really makes a trip special are the people you meet along the way. 

Love you guys!  God bless!


Tour Day 3: Cusco

Today’s tours – all of which I’ve signed up for – attempt to share with us an authentic (less “touristy”) Peruvian experience. 

The morning starts (after a quick breakfast) with a healing ceremony. A Peruvian healer in traditional dress joins us. He speaks the native language, while our tour guide explains the what and why to us. (I am reminded a bit of the idea of bringing first fruits). The culture here is a mix of Catholic faith, introducesd in colonial times, and the Incan polytheistic faith. But we will learn more about both later. 

First, we have a tour of the local marketplace – not the plazas of kiosks for tourists, but where the locals buy their fruits, vegetables, meats and medicines. Our guide walks us through, letting us try select items and chatting with the various vendors. 

From there, he takes us to the local cemetery, on the way talking about various traditions and festivals (including All Saints Day) that are celebrated. At the cemetery he hires a couple of local boys to assist us in cleaning and decorating a grave (a Friar). We visit the church nearby, discretely joining Mass for part of the service. 

Then we have a local cooking demonstration and lunch (while a parade goes by), before heading back to the hotel to collect others for the afternoon tour. 


In the afternoon, we visit the central plaza of historic Cusco, essentially encircled by cathedrals and basilicas (the largest and oldest built by the Dominicans, others by the other orders that came over the years), each one built over the footprint of the Incan temples that stood when the conquistadors arrived. The same would have happened to Machu Picchu if they’d known it was there. 


We visit the basilica, large and ornate, built to Spanish standards but using local artisans – elements of their influence (or protest) in artistic decisions – Jesus before Pilate surrounded by “Roman” guards in clearly conquistador dress; a last supper where Judas has the face of Ferdinand Pizarro and a cuye, rather than a lamb, is served. 

After the churches, we walk through the town, our guide pointing out differences between Spanish and Incan architecture, side by side.  Then we visit the temple of the sun, a restored Incan site and museum. 


That evening, two groups of us join a local family to share a meal in their home. They prepare common dishes; we help serve, handing out plates or clearing — as guests rather than patrons. It’s a lovely if unusual meal, and we make ourselves eat, appreciatively, even what isn’t most pleasing to our palate. 

Even the cuye, which is, in my opinion, simply horrid. Fortunately it’s a delicacy so we only got a small piece to try to begin with.