Simcoe, our Siamese, was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) in December of 2011. Since then, we’ve kept her going with quarterly vet visits and subcutaneous fluid injections every other day to keep her properly hydrated. Her previous checkup was in mid March, so working around our travel schedules, we brought her in on July 2nd for her latest checkup.
Unfortunately the levels of Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and Creatinine (CRE) levels continue to increase past healthy levels.
This visit showed a drop in weight as well.
On the bright side, after being high for some time, the weekly Alendronate tablets that were prescribed in May have been effective in getting her Calcium levels down. Our hope is that this trend will continue and prolong the life her her kidneys.
However, the ever-increasing BUN and CRE levels, combined with the weight loss, are a concern. She’s due for another urine analysis and ultrasound to get a closer view into what’s going on internally.
We had this all scheduled for the end of July when something came up. She sometimes gets sniffly, so it’s not uncommon to see crusted “eye goo” build up around her eyes. One day at the end of July I noticed it had gotten quite bad and grabbed her to wash it off. It’s when I got close to her eyes that I noticed it wasn’t “eye goo” that had crusted, she had sores around her eyes that had scabbed over! With no appointments at her regular vet on the horizon, we whisked her off to the emergency vet to see what was going on.
After several hours of waiting, the vet was able to look at the scabbing under the microscope and do a quick culture to confirm a bacterial infection. They also had a dermatologist have a quick look and decided to give her an antibiotics shot to try and clear it up. The next week we swapped out her ultrasound appointment for a visit with her vet to do a follow up. The sores had begun to heal by then and we were just given a topical gel to help it continue to heal. By early August she was looking much better and I left for my trip to Peru, with MJ following a few days later.
When we came home in mid August Simcoe still looked alright, but within a few days we noticed the sores coming back. We were able to make an appointment for Saturday, August 22nd with her regular vet to see if we could get to the bottom of it. The result was another topical gel and a twice-a-day dose of the antibiotic Clavamox. The topical gel seemed effective, but the Clavamox seemed to make her vomit. On Monday, with the guidance of her vet, we stopped administering the Clavamox. On Wednesday I noticed that she hadn’t really been eating, sigh! Another call to the vet and I went over to pick up an appetite stimulant. She finally ate, but there was more vomiting. Thankfully our every-other-day fluid injections ensured that she didn’t become dehydrated through all of this. We brought her in for the final follow up just a couple days ago, on Friday. Her sores around her eyes are once again looking better and she seemed to be eating normally when I left for our latest trip on Friday evening.
I do feel bad leaving on another trip as she’s going through this, but she’s with a trusted pet sitter and I’m really hoping this is finally clearing up. I have a full month at home after this trip so if not we will have time at home to treat her. The strangest thing about all of this is that we have no idea how this happened. She’s an indoor cat, we live in a high rise condo building, and Caligula shows no symptoms, in spite of their proximity and their snuggle and groom-each-other habits. How did she get exposed to something? Why is Caligula fine?
Whatever the reason for all of this, here’s to Simcoe feeling better! Once she is, we’ll finally pick up getting the ultrasound and anything else done.
Our trip to Peru first took us to the cities ofLima and Cusco. We had a wonderful time in both, seeing the local sites and dining at some of their best restaurants. But if I’m honest, we left the most anticipated part of our journey for last, visiting Machu Picchu.
Before I talk about our trip to Machu Picchu, there are a few things worthy of note:
- I love history and ruins
- I’ve been fascinated by Peru since I was a kid
- Going to Machu Picchu has been a dream since I learned it existed
So, even being the world traveler that I am (I’d already been to Asia and Europe this year before going to South America), this was an exceptional trip for me. Growing up our land lord was from Peru, as a friend of his daughters I regularly got to see their home, which was full of Peruvian knickknacks and artifacts. As I dove into history during high school I learned about ancient ruins all over the world, from Egypt to Mexico and of course Machu Picchu in Peru. The mysterious city perched upon a mountaintop always held a special fascination to me. When the opportunity to go to Peru for a conference came up earlier this year, I agreed immediately and began planning. I had originally was going to go alone, but MJ decided to join me once I found a tour I wanted to book with. I’m so glad he did. Getting to share this experience with him meant the world to me.
Our trip from Cusco began very early on Friday morning in order to catch the 6:40AM train to Aguas Calientes, the village below Machu Picchu. Our tickets were for Peru Rail’s Vistadome train, and I was really looking forward to the ride. On the disappointing side, the Cusco half of the trip had foggy windows and the glare on the windows generally made it difficult to take pictures. But as we lowered in elevation my altitude headache went away and so did the condensation from the windows. The glare was still an issue, but as I settled in I just enjoyed the sights and didn’t end up taking many photos. It was probably the most enjoyable train journey I’ve ever been on. At 3 hours it was long enough to feel settled in and relaxed watching the countryside, rivers and mountains go by, but not too long that I got bored. I brought along my Nook but didn’t end up reading at all.
Of course I did take some pictures, here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157657450179755
Once at Aguas Calientes our overnight bags (big suitcases were left at the hotel in Cusco, as is common) were collected and taken to the hotel. We followed the tour guide who met us with several others to take a bus up to Machu Picchu!
Our guide gave us a three hour tour of the site. At a medium pace, he took us to some of the key structures and took time for photo opportunities all around. Of particular interest to him was the Temple of the Sun (“J” shaped building, center of the photo below), which we saw from above and then explored around and below.
The hike up for these amazing views wasn’t very hard, but I was thankful for the stops along the way as he talked about the exploration and scientific discovery of the site in the early 20th century.
And then there were the llamas. Llamas were brought to Machu Picchu in modern times, some say to trim the grass and other say for tourists. It seems to be a mix of the two, and there is still a full staff of groundskeepers to keep tidy what the llamas don’t manage. I managed to get this nice people-free photo of a llama nursing.
There seem to be all kinds of jokes about “selfies with llamas” and I was totally in for that. Though I didn’t get next to a llama like some of my fellow selfie-takers, but I did get my lovely distance selfie with llamas.
Walking through what’s left of Machu Picchu is quite the experience. The tall stone walls, stepped terraces that make up the whole thing. Lots of climbing and walking at various elevations throughout the mountaintop. Even going through the ruins in Mexico didn’t quite prepare me for what it’s like to be on top of a mountain like this. Amazing place.
We really lucked out with the weather, much of the day was clear and sunny, and quite warm (in the 70s). It made for good walking weather as well as fantastic photos. When the afternoon showers did come in, it was just in time for our tour to end and for us to have lunch just outside the gates. When lunch was complete the sun came out again and we were able to go back in to explore a bit more and take more pictures!
I feel like I should write more about Machu Picchu, being such an epic event for me, but it was more of a visual experience much better shared via photos. I uploaded over 200 more photos from our walk through Machu Picchu here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157657449734565
My photos were taken with a nice compact digital camera, but MJ brought along his DSLR camera. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he ended up with.
The park closes at 5PM, so close to that time we caught one of the buses back down to Aguas Calientes. I did a little shopping (went to Machu Picchu, got the t-shirt). We were able to check into our hotel, the Casa Andina Classic, which ended up being my favorite hotel of the trip, it was a shame we were only there for one night! Hot, high pressure shower, comfortable bed, and a lovely view of the river that runs along the village:
I was actually so tired from all our early mornings and late evenings the rest of the trip that after taking a shower at the hotel that evening I collapsed onto the bed and instead of reading, zombied out to some documentaries on the History channel, after figuring out the magical incantation on the remote to switch to English. So much for being selective about the TV I watch! We also decided to take advantage of the dinner that was included with our booking and had a really low key, but enjoyable and satisfying meal there at the hotel.
The next morning we took things slow and did some walking around the village before lunch. Aguas Calientes is very small, it’s quite possible that we saw almost all of it. I took the opportunity to also buy some post cards to send to my mother and sisters, plus find stamps for them. Finding stamps is always an interesting adventure. Our hotel couldn’t post them for me (or sell me stamps) and being a Saturday we struck out at the actual post office, but found a corner tourist goodie shop that sold them and a mailbox nearby to so I could send them off.
For lunch we made our way past all the restaurants who were trying to get us in their doors by telling us about their deals and pushing menus our way until we found what we were looking for, a strange little place called Indio Feliz. I found it first in the tour book I’d been lugging around, typical tourist that I am, and followed up with some online recommendations. The decor is straight up Caribbean pirate themed (what?) and with a French owner, they specialize in Franco-Peruvian cuisine. We did the fixed menu where you pick an appetizer, entree and dessert, though it was probably too much for lunch! They also had the best beer menu I had yet seen in Peru, finally far from the altitude headache in Cusco I had a Duvel and MJ went with a Chimay Red. Food-wise I began with an amazing avocado and papaya in lemon sauce. Entree was an exceptional skewer of beef with an orange sauce, and my meal concluded with coffee and apple pie that came with both custard and ice cream. While there we got to chat with some fellow diners from the US, they had just concluded the 4 day Inca Trail hike and regaled us with stories of rain and exhaustion as we swapped small talk about the work we do.
More photos from Aguas Calientes here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157657449826685
After our leisurely lunch, it was off to the train station. We were back on the wonderful Vistadome train, and on the way back to Cusco there was some culturally-tuned entertainment as well as a “fashion show” featuring local clothing they were selling, mostly of alpaca wool. It was a fun touch, as the ride back was longer (going up the mountains) and being wintertime the last hour or so of the ride was in the dark.
We had our final night in Cusco, and Sunday was all travel. A quick flight from Cusco to Lima, where we had 7 hours before our next flight and took the opportunity to have one last meal in Lima. Unfortunately the timing of our stay meant that most restaurants were in their “closed between lunch and dinner” time, so we ended up at Larcomar, a shopping complex built into an oceanside cliff in Miraflores. We ate at Tanta, where we had a satisfying lunch with a wonderful ocean view!
Our late lunch concluded our trip, from there we went back to Lima airport and began our journey back home via Miami. I was truly sad to see the trip come to an end. Often times I am eager to get home after such an adventurey vacation (particularly when it’s attached to a conference!), but I will miss Peru. The sights, the foods, the llamas and alpacas! It’s a beautiful country that I hope to visit again.
We started our Peruvian adventures in Lima. On Wednesday morning we too a very early flight to Cusco. The tour company had recommended an early flight so we could take a nap upon arrival to help adjust to the altitude, indeed, with Cusco over 2 miles high in elevation I did find myself with a slight headache during our visit there. After our nap we met up with our fellow travelers for our city tour of Cusco.
The tour began by going up for a view of all of Cusco from the hillside, where I got my first selfie with an alpaca. We also visited San Pedro’s Market, a large market complex that had everything from tourist goodies to everyday produce, meats, cheeses and breads.
From there we made our way to Qurikancha, said to be the most important temple in the Inca Empire. When the Spanish arrived they built their Church of Santo Domingo on top of it, so only the foundation and some of the rooms remain. I was happy that the tour focused on the Inca aspects and largely ignored the Church, aside from some of the famous religious paintings contained within.
More photos from Qurikancha here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657421208352
We then went to the Plaza de Armas where the Cusco Cathedral lords over the square. No photos were allowed inside, but the Cathedral is notable for the Señor de los Temblores, a Jesus statue that is believed to have halted an earthquake in 1650 and a huge, captivating painting by Marcos Zapata of a localized Last Supper where participants are dining on guinea pig and chicha morada!
That evening we had the most exceptional dinner in Cusco, at MAP Café. It’s located inside Museo Arqueologico Peruano (MAP) which is run in association with the fantastic Museo Larco that we visited in Lima. Since this museum also had late hours, we had a wonderful time browsing their collection before dinner. Dinner itself was concluded with some amazing desserts, including a deconstructed lemon meringue pie accompanied by caramel ice cream.
More photos from the museum and dinner here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157655109721514
Thursday started off bright and early with a tour of a series of ruins outside of Cusco, in Saksaywaman. This was the first collection of ruins in Cusco we really got to properly climb, so with our tiny group of just four we were able to explore the citadel of Saksaywaman with a guide and then for a half hour on our own. In addition to the easy incline we took with the tour guide to walk on the main part of the ruins, which afforded our best view of Cusco, we walked up a multi-story staircase on the other side to get great panoramic views of the ruins. Plus, there were alpacas.
Beyond the main Saksaywaman sites, we visited other sites inside the park, seeing the fountains featured at Tambomachay, the amazing views from a quick stop at Puka Pukara and a near natural formation that had been carved for sacrifices at Q’enqo. The tour concluded by stopping at a local factory shop specializing in alpaca clothing.
More photos from throughout the morning here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157657034040428
We were on our own for the afternoon, so we began by finally visiting a Chifa (Peruvian-inspired Chinese) restaurant. I enjoyed their take on Sweet and Sour Chicken. We then did some browsing at local shops before finally ending up at the Center for Traditional Textiles. They featured a small museum sharing details about the types and procedures for creating traditional Peruvian textiles, as well as live demonstration from master craftswomen and young trainees of the techniques involved. While there we fell in love with a pair of pieces that we took home with us, a finely woven tapestry and a small blanket that we’ll need to get framed soon.
Our time in Cusco concluded with a meal at Senzo, which had been really hyped but didn’t quite live up to our expectations, especially after the meal we had the previous night at MAP Café, but it was still an enjoyable evening. We’d have one last night in Cusco following our trip to Machu Picchu where we dined at Marcelo Batata, but the altitude sickness had hit me upon our return and I could only really enjoy the chicken soup, but as a ginger, mint & lemongrass soup, it was the perfect match for my queasy stomach (even if it didn’t manage to cure me of it).
More photos from Cusco here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657024948969
The next brought an early morning train to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu!
After the UbuCon Latin America conference that I wrote about here I had a day of work and personal project catch up with a dash of relaxation at my hotel before MJ arrived that night. Monday morning we were picked up by the folks at Viajes Pacifico who I had booked a tour of Lima and Cusco with.
It was the first time I used a group tour company, the price of the tour included all the hotels (selected by them) as well as transportation and entrance fees into the sites our tour went to. I definitely prefer the private driver we had in Mexico for our honeymoon, and we’re putting together our own itinerary for our trip to Japan in October, but given my schedule this year I simply didn’t have the time or energy to put together a schedule for Peru. The selected hotels were fine, but we likely would have gone to nicer ones if we booked ourselves. The tours were kept small, with the largest group being one in Cusco that was maybe 14 of us and the smallest being only 4. I wasn’t a fan of the schedule execution, we had a loose schedule each day but they wouldn’t contact us until the evening before with exact pickup times and it was unclear how long the tours would last or which trains we’d be taking, which caused making dinner reservations and the like to be a bit dicey. Still, it all worked out and it was great to have someone else worry about the logistical details.
On Monday we were picked up from our hotel in the afternoon for the schedule Lima city tour, which began at El Parque del Amor (Love Park), a beautiful seaside park in Miraflores with lots of flowers, a giant sculpture of a couple and lovely view of the Pacific Ocean. From there the tour bus did a quick drive around the ruins of Huaca Pucllana, which I had really hoped to see beyond just the windows of a bus – alas! And then on to the rest of our tour that took us to the main square in Lima where we got a tour of Basilica Cathedral of Lima which is notable not only by being the main cathedral but also the tomb of famous Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro. I learned that during excavations they discovered that his head was buried in a box separate from his body. The cathedral itself is beautiful.
More photos from the cathedral here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657445084381
Our next stop was the Convent of Santo Domingo. The claim to fame there are the tombs and related accoutrements of both Saint Rose of Lima and Saint Martin de Porres. They had an impressive library that spanned not just religious books, but various topics in Spanish and Latin. The convent also had some nice gardens and history of these places is always interesting to learn about. I think we may have gotten more out of them if were were Catholic (or even Christian).
More photos from the convent here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657445106491
That evening we met up with a friend of mine from high school who has lived in Lima for several years. It was fun to catch up over a nice Peruvian meal that included more ceviche and my first round of Pisco Sours.
Tuesday was our non-tour day in Lima, so I got up early for a walk down by the ocean and then up to the Artisan Markets of Miraflores (the “Inka Market”). I was able to pick up some tourist goodies and on my way to the market I walked through Kennedy Park. We were told about this park on the tour the previous day, it’s full of cats! Cats in the flowers, cats on the lawn, cats on the benches. Given my love for cats, it was quite the enjoyable experience. I took a bunch of pictures: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657420782972
I made it back to our hotel shortly after noon in time to meet up with MJ to go to our lunch reservations at the famous Astrid y Gaston. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Lima. We partook of their tasting menu which was made of over a dozen small plates that each were their own little work of art. It was easily one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
After lunch, which was a multiple hour affair, we made it to the ruins of Huaca Huallamarca just before closing. They have a small, single room museum that contains a mummy that was found on the site and some artifacts. They let you climb the mud brick “pyramid” that seems to have active archaeological digs going on (though no one was there when we visited). Definitely worth the stop as we rounded out our afternoon.
More photos of the site here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657376822346
Our early evening plans were made partially by what was still open after 5PM, which is how we found ourselves at the gem that is Museo Larco. Beautifully manicured grounds with lots of flowering plants, a stunning array of Peruvian artifacts dating back several thousand years with descriptions in multiple languages and a generally pleasant place to be. I particularly liked the exhibits with the cat themes, as the cats were an ancient symbol of earth (with heavens the bird and snakes below). Highly recommended and they’re open until 10PM! We didn’t stay that late though, we had dinner reservations at Brujas de Cachiche back down in Miraflores. With a focus on seafood, the menu was massive and the food was good.
More photos from Museo Larco here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157657420797692
That meal wrapped up the Lima portion of or trip, we were up before the sun the next day for our flight to Cusco!
And more photos more generally around Lima are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157657029669660