Wednesday, July 10, 2019

How I sleep

At Google they teach you how to sleep. I don’t mean in a meeting room, of boredom. I mean there’s an employee training dedicated to sleep efficiency. It’s a part of the leadership education program. To me it sounded absurd at first. But it turned out to be one of the most useful trainings in my life.⠀
The basic idea: nothing affects our productivity as much as the quality of sleep the previous night. Sleepless night at a computer is not an act of heroism, but rather negligence. Want to work effectively? Learn to sleep effectively.
In theory, sleep is an automatic process. But humans are the only mammal who’ve figured out how to deprive themselves of sleep at will. And we hurt ourselves a lot by doing this.
Three facts
▪️ After 24 hours without sleep, the ability to learn drops by 40%. We can’t submit acquired knowledge in the long-term memory anymore.
▪️ Every year on the the day of daylight saving time transition, the number of heart attacks increases by 24%! That night is only 1 hour shorter.
▪ A man who sleeps 5 hours a night, has testosterone level equal to someone 10 years older. Their testicles decrease in size.
There are many other scientifically proven scary facts. But I think you get it. The topic of sleep is no less important than diet and sport. It’s worth digging into.⠀
Here are the key points
▪ We sleep in cycles of 1.5 hours: phases of slow sleep and fast sleep (REM). Ideally, you go through 5 complete cycles, i.e. 7.5 hours of sleep is optimal.
▪️ The most natural awakening is at the end of the cycle, immediately after REM. This way it’s easy. Try our the “Sleep Cycle” app — cycle-aware alarm clock.
▪ Establish stable sleep routine. Get used to going to bed and getting up at the same time. I go to bed at 10:30 and wake up 6:00 every morning
▪️ Avoid: alcohol, caffeine after dinner and irregular workouts in the evening. Regular evening workouts are ok
▪️ Block the blue light from the screens 2 hours before bedtime — turn on the night shift on the phone. I don’t keep my phone by the bed. Wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening.
▪️ Lower the room temperature overnight to 18C.
▪️ If you can’t fall asleep, don’t stay in bed. Take a shower, go for a walk, then come back. Teach your brain “bed = sleep.”
▪️ Measure and optimize. I use a sleep tracker device — Oura ring. It changed my life. In the morning I check the key metrics: sleep phases, heart rate, body temperature, etc. Then I make decisions based on behavior.
For further information, I highly recommend the awesome TED Talk by Matt Walker “Sleep is your superpower”

Monday, June 20, 2016

Vipassana: my 10 days of silent meditation

I came back from Vipassana, a 10 days silent meditation course. It’s amazing. I highly recommend you to go. I won’t lie, it’s hard. There will be a moment when you’ll want to leave. Just stay. The result is worth it.

My primary objective going in was learning to control my mind better. I wanted to tame it, to break a long lasting habit of compulsive uncontrolled thinking and reacting with stress. I wanted to learn to think deeply and systematically. To think less, but better.
Watch this TED Talk for a great 10 min summary on how it works from a scientific point of view.
To be clear, Vipassana is not a “retreat” in a “spa and massages” kinda way. It’s more like a meditation bootcamp. You commit to a brutally intensive course for 10 days in complete isolation. You leave all of your life behind. You wake up at 4am. By 4:30 am you get into the meditation hall and sit still in silence almost non-stop till 9 pm. You eat very simple vegetarian food 2 times a day plus a tea break at 5pm. You are not allowed to talk. No eye contact. No devices. No writing. No sport. No sex. You work really hard. And you get the result.

Breaking old habits of the mind is not easy. For the first couple of days deprived of new information and intellectual tasks my mind went wild. It started boiling like a soup, generating all sorts of random thoughts - from brilliant creative insights to some shockingly dark and disturbing visions. Then, around day 3 I started getting deeper into my subconscious and the insights got more personal: childhood memories, old fears, etc.

On day 4 I hit my lowest point. I was done. I couldn’t focus anymore. I felt tired and depressed. I just wanted to go home. The only reason I stayed was because all my friends who went through it told me this was going to happen and that I should push through it. So I stayed.

It first hit me after the morning meditation session on day 6. For the first time it wasn’t too bad. I sat through it focused and relaxed. And when I walked out of the hall, I breathed in cold air and I felt aware, alive and peaceful. My head was clear. I felt confident and powerful. I felt like I’m in control of my mind. I finally started seeing results. It’s been getting better every day since that morning.

My biggest takeaway from this course is discovering the state of inner peace. Simply knowing this state of balance and harmony exists, gives completely new perspective on my life’s priorities. In this state, you see everything crisp and clear. You are aware of every little sensation in your body as well as every emotion. Making decisions becomes very easy. The questions that have been torturing me for months, suddenly got answers. It’s like I’d been struggling all my life with myopia without realizing it and someone finally gave me prescription glasses.

Most importantly, I learned the technique that I hope will allow getting back to this state regularly. I’ve been practicing daily since I came back, and after a week of work I still feel it. Hopefully, it’ll become my daily habit and I’ll be able to sustain in.

As I mentioned earlier, I highly recommend Vipassana. If you decide to go, here are my 10 pro-tips:

1. Silence for 10 days: don't worry about it. It's actually not a big deal at all. In fact it's kinda awesome.

2. No devices: this is important. Leave your phone home. Don't just leave it in the car, that's a big difference. Not having it there at all helped me a lot. You just know there's no way to get it.

3. Sitting still for hours: this is fucking hard. But that's a skill and you learn it in a few days. In the first day, experiment with all the cushions, benches and other stuff they provide. At the end I found out that the easiest for me is to use the meditation bench (kneeling thing). Some other folks sat cross legged but on a bunch of pillows. Some alternate. Test a bunch of things and find what's best for you. Also bring your own cozy blanket / plaid or something. While at the hall it will keep you warm and comfy. But after you use it there for 10 days, you bring it home and it will be your tested tool, your "trigger" which will help you get back into meditation mode more easily.

4. Lack of movement: this one is a bitch too. They don't allow you to exercise / do yoga / etc. There's a little walking trail though. So I measured 1000 steps on the trail and I made sure I did 10 of these laps every day. My advice: learn good mobility drills to stretch your back, hamstrings, quads, etc. Do your stretches every time you get a chance, as often as possible. Also, bring a lacrosse ball - that was a real life-saver for me. It's like a pocket foam roller. Painful, but the best way to stretch sore muscles.

5. No writing. I'm torn on this one. On one hand I totally understand why then prohibit it. It's for your benefit. Basically, deprived of input info your mind start exploding with ideas. On day 1 I had more meaningful work-related ideas than in the previous 6 months. If you have a pen and textbook it's very easy to just lose yourself to work instead of actually doing what you came for - learning how to meditate…. Anyway, I had a notebook. But i didn’t have a pen. They have sharpies on the shower sign-up sheet. Every once in awhile I’d hide in the shower with my notebook, steal a sharpie and very quickly write down 3-5 very top-level points. Sharpie is too fat and blurry to write a lot with it. So this way I was forced to only do it for as little as possible. But I still got some valuable stuff on paper to remember later. I felt like it was a good balance for me.

6. No sex / mastrubation / opposite gender around. I never thought this would be a big deal. Turns out it’s huge deal starting day 2. Basically mid day 2 I started seeing vivid porn scenes while meditating... they got nastier and nastier and at some point were like the most terrible porn nightmare from a screenwriter of Game of Thrones … No real advice here. Just be prepared.

7. Food. Surprisingly it wasn't an issue at all. In real life I am the opposite to vegetarian, but I loved the food at the center. And I lost so much weight! My advice: bring a thermos mug. Fill it up with tea with plenty of honey during the breaks. You take it with you and leave at the door if meditation hall. This will give you sugar to keep you going during the sessions. Also double down on yogurt and farmers cheese to make sure you consume enough protein.

8. Accommodations / facilities. It's actually really good. Sharing a room with silent dudes keeps you focused and keeps you from breaking the rules - like writing or sleeping through the meditation. My advice here: make it as homey and as cozy as possible. Bring your slippers, your favorite pillow, your pajamas, your potted plant, your stuffed animal, all that. There will be a moment when you'll be ok with sitting... ok with no sex... but you just feel lonely and you'll miss home. Those little things help.

9. Waking up early. You are supposed to wake up at 4am when they ring the bell. Two things here. First, start preparing a week in advance - just start waking up at 5 am or so. I've been doing it for a while before going there so it was easy. And the second: at the last 5 pm tea break of the previous day fill your thermos with coffee. Yes, it's gonna be cold and disgusting in the morning. But it will still wake you up. BTW, it's very tempting to "work from home" for the first 4:30 meditation session. I found that it's much better to do it in the hall. By staying home in addition to all the above you'll be constantly fighting with a desire to lay down.

10. Don't quit. As I said, at some point you're very likely to want to quit. Stay.

Good luck and let all of you experience real peace, real harmony, real happiness!

p.s. million thanks to Dima, Alexey, Yulia, Salar, Lana and Dasha who shared their Vipassana experiences and encouraged me to go.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Vipassana. Woah.

I'm coming back after 10 days of silent meditation. It's likely the hardest thing I've done so far. And maybe the most important one.

10 days of not talking. Not reading. Not writing. No music or devices. Sharing a small modest room 2 with two strangers to whom I've never said a word and who's names I didn't know. Waking up at 4 am and meditating till 9pm. Just me, observing the truth within. Going deeper and deeper every day. Peeling layer after layer. Through pain and aversion.

But the result is so worth it! I found what i was looking for: true me. Inner piece exists. Now I know. And just knowing it gives completely new meaning to life.

My life so far was about desiring stuff and achieving it. It was mostly about pleasing my ego. And once I started to run out of desires, then my fears kicked in. Fears of losing what I have. Fears of not being that awesome. Fears of having no meaning to life and having to live like this...

Now it's all in the past. It's all perfectly clear. Under layers of ego and pain I found this wonderful being full of love and joy. Someone I want to be. Always wanted to be.

I love my job. I love my family. I love people around me. I want to spend my life driven by this wonderful feeling. Life is about love and compassion. It's really all there is. Glowing. Giving love. And that requires maintaining this peace and balance. That means more work. More discipline and mastery over my mind. But now I know it's possible.

I know it won't last forever. That's the most important thing I've learned here: nothing lasts. But now I know what's to stride for. Being in this stat is more important than achieving anything else. Anything at all.

Lastly, to those of you who decide to go to Vipassana: good luck. Stay patient and persistent. It's gonna get really hard at some point. You will want to quit. Don't. Trust me. Just stay. It'll pay off. You'll see.

Note to self: Andrey, if you're reading this you're most likely are miserable. And it's probably hard to believe, but hey: inner peace exists. Maybe it's only possible when fully disconnected, but it does exist. The calm, happy you is waiting inside. All you need to do is to walk the path to meet him. You know it takes 7 days or so, 10 hours a day. You can only walk alone. But man... this shit is real! Truly yours, The Best Version of Andrey. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Tripping with Shamans in Peru 2014

All photos: here

18 april
Got AA business class via Dallas
Really nice and comfortable 11 hours
Arrived to Lima at midnight
It's hot and the city is covered with mist
Taxi to Westin hotel was 90 sol / 35$
Hotel is the tallest building in the city with 30 floors. All brand new and modern.

19 april
Woke up at 11am, nice fish carpacci brunch at the hotel. Pricey (60$ total)
Got a fancy hotel limo to the historical center.
Walked around, following the Lonely planet walking tour route.
Some colonial architecture, but really dirty and chaotic.
Doesn't feel dangerous though.

Usual stuff - a few cathedrals, a couple of spanish ruins and lots of shoe stores (like... many)
After we were done with the route, went ahead and wondered around the crowded and dirty city market. Feels like Russia in 90's. That's what Cuba will be like once they're done with communism.

Got a cab to Miraflores district. Completely different vibe - nice modern residential blocks. Feels like SF Marina.
Got lunch and Pescadores Capitales. Amazing fish place. The menu is hilarious: every item is a story. How about "angry octopus and shy shrimp are dancing while potato and tomato are the audience"?
Had a few awesome cevice and a fish soup all for 110$

Walked back to the hotel, nice walk took an hour.
Had dinner at a dull touristy place booked by the concierge.
Packed our stuff.

20 april
2:45 am - let the adventure begin
Left the hotel at 3:15, got on the plane at 5:00
Nice flight, LAN is ok
Landed in Pucallpa at 6:15. Tiny rural airport. Like old Sochi.
Monica, maestro's assistant, met us at the airport
Got a fun tuk-tuk ride to their 'office'
Office is a shithole on the outskirts of Pucallpa. No asphalt, small dirty house.
We're hungry. No food around. But there's wifi!
Used google translate to negotiate with Monica. Payed 2000$ in cash for 10 days.
I found an unlikely source of food in the house nearby - got some crackers and bread from a little grocery store.
Out limo is here: old toyota bearly fallibg apart, covered in mud with two yong dudes.
Dropped my brand new backpack into the the mud of the trunk.
Crazy 2 hour ride on a dirt road with holes and bumps and tuk tuks, heading south-east.
Finally got to a tiny village on a bank of a river where we were handed to an old dude.
The old dude takes us up the river in his long boat.
The river was rich brown color. No alligators or dolphins spotted.
Got out at some random forest where two other young dudes take our backpacks.
Really sleep deprived by now.
Hike through the jungle for 1 hour. Crazy hot and humid. Guides walk fast!
Got to Mayatucu! A lonely village in a valley hidden in jungle on a bank of a crazy (boiling!) hot river.

Checked into a empty dirty little house with mosquito nets and anti-jaguar cage instead of windows.
There's no toilet or even water in the room. There's no electricity either - they only turn on the generator for a couple of hours in the evenings. The toilets are located outside and there's a bucket with water from the stream for flush. Instead of a shower and/or laundry there's a stream not far away with buckets and stuff behind a shade for some level of privacy. You can pour water on yourself using a jar provided.

Met local crowd - nice mix of european, canadean and latamerican folks.
The first two folks we met who speak English well were Lorena and Rosa. Really nice and adequate girls, both Spanish in their early 30s. Lorena is based in Geneva and holds some management position at a cancer research foundation. Rosa is a mother of 2, film director and producer, married to some known peruvean director. They arrived a few days ago and gave us a brief intro to Mayantayacu.

Had lunch - way too healhy: no salt, no sugar, no mean, no oil, no nothing. My body is a temple indeed. Everyone was excited about tiny ugly tasteless piece of fish we got this time.

Relaxed at the hammack in the ceremony hall till the evening.

Tania didn't sleep. Too bad.

Had dinner (just as humble). 

Tania's freaking out. Looks like a nervous breakdown to me. Can't sleep. She's afraid of jungle, mosquitos, etc But mostly mosquitos since she didn't get the yellow fever vaccine. She cries. I fall asleep. Jungle law.

21 april
Purging day (yay!)
Our purge begins at 7am, no breakfast.
We get into the ceremony hall: us two and the Canadian girl with avatar-like blue skin.She used some local fruit that wouldn't come of for days, apparently good for your skin.
We each get a vomit bucket and a mattress.

Let the vomiting begin!
We drink a shot of liquid tobacco - a black thick substance in a wooden shot glass. 
This drink sets the new bar for the word "disgusting". It's 500 cigarets sunk in water for days.
Nice quiet morning. We're kneeling on our mattresses. Other folks sit in front of us, observing, kindly smiling at us. Public vomiting. Awkward.

We need to drink water. A lot. 5-6 liters of water in an hour.
I've already done 2.5 liters, but can't throw up.
The dude gives me one more shot of tobacco. 
I drink and i vomit. Not too well, but, hey, it's a start!
Tania does the second shot too and she goes too.
We continue drinking and vomiting. People casually hanging out at the lounge watching us.
This sucks.

In two hours when we're done we all feel very much clean.
We are exhausted. Pass out at the hammock.
In an hour i feel like purging some more - go and vomit more. This time i feel better and fall asleep on the mattress near my bucket.

I see weird visions. It's half dream half hallucination. The core idea being: leave your pride behind, be humble.
We had lunch and then i fell asleep again for 3 hours.
No dinner today. Waiting for 9pm when the ceremony begins. 

Everyone gathers at the ceremony hall on the very same mattresses with the same buckets.
Maestro selects a doze for each of us. Tania and i get a beginner's doze.
The drink is not too bad. Especially comparing to the tobacco.
The light goes off.
For half an hour or so everyone's quiet.
Then shaman's start singing. It's really beautiful and super positive.
I get some visions when my eyes are closed. Pretty colorful and nice. Very mild.

More or less a shroom trip. But it's very interactive and feels "wise". It's not about laughing and socializing but rather an internal dialog with some entity. It gives me some ideas, main one being "unity" - you and all other living things are part of the jungle. 
I feel really comfortable and calm. I see visions - colorful glowing plants and animals all swirling and dancing with beautiful grace. Jungle is one huge organism, breathing on it's own. I ask "but how come animals are killing each other?" and the answer is "Eating another animal is not an act of violence, it's the ultimate form of appreciation. See, the wolf choosing this particular rabbit for lunch accepts this rabbit as a future part of it's own body. Some muscles of this wolf in the future will consist of what now is a rabbit. It's like a talent acquisition deal. Ultimately they both are still a part of the jungle."

At some point Tania goes to maestro and asks for the second round. WTF?! I was hoping to take it easy this time. Ok, i go too.The trip continues. Still pretty positive and mellow.

At 3 or 4 am we went home and fell asleep.

22 april
Knock knock. Who's there? (7:00 am) - dude brought two shots of muddy something. Way to start a day. Nothing is disgusting after tobacco.

At breakfast everyone's discussing their experiences.
Turns out some folks had pretty intense trips unlike us.

Maestro is giving Tania and me two bottles of black liquid. It's a medicine they say - mixture of three herbs to help bones, blood and overall immunity. We make a shot. Nothing is disgusting after tobacco.

After breakfast i fall asleep in the hammock.

Lunch. More sleep. I'm sleeping all day long. Unlike Tania. She's sleep deprived and freaking out again. 

We go for a hike. Hiked up the hot river to find a place where you can swim. Appatently there's a cold water place up the stream. Saw a snake and a naked chick from our camp on our way there. Tania is not afraid of snakes or chicks. She 's freaking out about mosquitos.

Didn't make it to the swimming spot, went back. More sleeping before dinner. Tania's finally asleep. She's much better at dinner.

At dinner one of the Spanish ladies acts weird - approaches me and tells me something about smell... Her friends asks her to shut up. She says she'll talk to me later. Weird. Makes me feel uncomfortable.

We go to bed early. It's not very cozy at our hut.

23 april
I woke up several times this night. Around 5am i hear dogs barking and sound as if someone was nocking on a door for a long time. And then some screaming or singing far away. I smell trouble but convince myself it's nothing.

We wake up and on our way to the shower we meet two girls looking worried.

Turns out there was trouble. Rosa who acted weird last night is going crazy. Literally.

She didn't sleep for the last two nights, walking around, talking nonsense, grabbing other people's stuff and putting it into different places. They had to lock her in her room that night. She was kicking the door and screaming - that's what i heard.

Maestro is not here, but they called him and she should come soon.

Rosa keeps wondering around and talking nonsense. She's talking on the phone (there's no reception here at all). She's telling me and Tania that shaman's calling us to give some skin treatment (he's not here!)

Lorena, her friend is really upset. She's crying. I ask her carefully if maybe she wants to call Rosa's husband but looks like she still believes in miracles that maestro will come and somehow magically fix stuff.

Marin, the 43yo Canadian lady colored in avatar blue, believes that some more ayuasca will help Rosa (sic!). I think they should take her to psychiatrist asap.

We did some exercising and hanged out at the spa. Feels good. 

After lunch things went worse. She's still wondering around, getting aggressive. She threw a glass in one of the girls trying to help her. After that she hit her head and is bleeding now. Talking nonsense, screaming. Everyone's waiting for the shaman. The atmosphere at the lounge is really depressing. I'm not happy.

We decide to go for a hike. Walked for an hour or so. Nice.

Shaman and his wife finally came at 5pm. They have Rosa some juice obviously stuffed with trancvilizers or sleeping pills or something and she instantly fell asleep. Everyone feels relieved.

We had a dinner and went stargazing on a lawn. Beautiful clear sky. Went home read some books and fell asleep. 

In the night the wind started howling and a storm came. Apparently our washed clothes will not dry.

24 april
Ok, I'm not enjoying this shit. Fuck this.

Didn't sleep well, it's hard to relax when there's a storm outside, hostile insects inside and a mad person wandering around.

Rosa woke up 5 am or so and initially appeared a bit better but later became apparent she's still fucked up. Not as bad as yesterday, but still very far from normal.

At breakfast we decide we should leave tomorrow. Both Tania and I feel relieved. We talked to Shaman and his wife with Norma translating and looks like they'll arrange a transport for us tomorrow.It's pouring cats and dogs outside. Not sure the car can get through.

We hang out in the hammocks reading books. Rosa is wandering around still acting out. She tries to communicate some ideas to us, warn us of something like "don't do the second shot of auyasca, if they give you - pretend you drink it, and spit it out instead" or "follow the good smell", etc. Creepy.

We hang out at the spa and read books. Tania decided not to participate in the ceremony tonight. I'll probably still do it.

Dinner time. Reading books in the hall. Rosa is here with shaman. She's inadequate. The talk about her getting better is bullshit. I don't feel easy about the ceremony.

After some discussion with Tania i decide not to do it tonight. Fuck it. There are nicer places and companies for trippin'. Like Nik's backyard. They are preparing the mats and vomit buckets in the hall. Fuck, they're going to have Rosa there too! Wow, that's going to be fun...

We read books, listened to Spotify and went to bed. Feels good to be usual.

25 april
We wake up around 6am. Had a good sleep, thanks to earplugs.

There are sounds coming out the ceremony hall and some folks at the entrance. 

We go down to the stream to brush our teeth and see that Rosa is rushing around the hall, stomping her feet and screaming out of her mind. Poor maestro and his wife are there with her. They don't look happy anymore.

Rosa sees us and screaming "Ivan, Maria be carefull". She tries to warn us. She's getting scared and paranoyed and thinks shaman and others are danger.

We go to get breakfast. Lorena comes in. Looks like she can't take it any longer. She's saying "i need to get out of here and get Rosa out of here too". Apparently after the ceremony she's completely out of control, she's attacking people, kicking, screaming, think's she's being held hostage, etc

I finally get Lorena to listen. I'm telling her that the decision maker is Rosa's husband and that she can't take responsibility for Rosa. She has no right for deciding for her and whatever she decides will at some point bite her in the ass.

She agrees that we need to call Rosa's husband. Thanks god we rented a satellite phone for emergency situations.  Emergency it is.

After breakfast we find Rosa's iPhone and ask maestro to turn on the generator (phone's out of juice). We find her husbands number in the call log. We go up the hill and make a call. The rain is pouring the reception is bad. After countless attempts, we finally get through. Lorena explains the situation, he's booking the ticket for tonight. Should be in Pucallpa at 7pm.

The rain is so bad, i don't think the car can get here.

Tania and i hang out at the lounge for the next couple of hours. Suddenly Norma comes and tells us that if we want to leave today we can go right now by foot - a group is heading out to take Rosa and Lorena to Pucallpa. Fuck yeah we want to go. By foot. Through the rain and muddy jungle - we don't care at this point as long as we can get out today.

They actually going to carry Rosa. They helping her out of the maestro's house. She's so weak, she can't walk. They put her on a stretcher and tied her up with a sheet. Four guys are carrying her. She's screaming nonsense, spitting, tries to fight the folks who are carrying her... Lorena walks by holding her hand for some time but at some points slips and falls down in the deep mud. She gives up.

The weather is not good for a hike. The water is pouring down our plastic ponchos and our feet drown in the mud. We slowly advancing through the jungle. Rosa is singing and screaming and grabbing random branches and trying to hit the folks who are carrying her. Definitely the craziest hike we've ever done. 

Sometimes the trail is really steep and since its very muddy it's insanely slippery. I fall down a few times, all covered in red mud. I have no idea how these four guys can carry her. 

At some point she becomes too aggressive. She's trying to stand up and fight the carriers. Tania and i think it's time. We take out a long scarf Tania's got from the village specifically for this case. I take the scarf and tie up Rosa's hands. Feels weird to do this to a lady not in a context of a racy game.

We're finally getting close to the river. The last decent was truly insane - just a bloody muddy slope straight down. I fell and slid not being able to stop until i grabbed a tree. Tania is somehow much better at this - she didn't fall once.

We wait for a boat. Rosa's shaking now, she's cold. We cover her in our rain ponchos but she's all completely wet.

The boat comes and makes a mind-blowing maneuver to turn around in a narrow river. We get on board.

We dropped Rosa and Lorena at some medical station in the little village where we got off the boat. Last time we say Rosa she was calmer. I guess they gave her some shot to calm her down. 

We hugged Lorena good bye and got into our car to Puccalpa. Two tickets Back to Normal, por favor.
Tiny old Toyota struggling on an narrow gravel road. Once we get stuck and i have to get out and push. Not afraid of getting dirty at this point.
We get to the office, get the refund for 4 unused nights and change the date for our flights to Cusco - leaving tomorrow.

Get a mototaxi (tuktuk) to the central Pucallpa and searching for a place to stay.
Found a decent large buisnessy hotel Ucuyali River Hotel - clean sheets, shower, tv and laundry service - feels awesome! We eat sweets from minibar and drink Coke - fuck yeah!
Turns out in a hurry we forgot a bunch of cloths in our house back in the jungle - oh well :(
We get a shower, express laundry, a pizza at a place nearby, enjoy the WiFi in the room and fall asleep.

26 april 
Leaving 5:20 to get on 6:50 flight.
Get to Lima, grab a tea at the airport and continue to Cusco.
It's sunny, but the air is cold and think as it should be at 3300m above the sea.
We pick a hotel right at the airport - JW Marriott supposed to be good. Go there, book a room with a view rigt from the computer at the lobby.
Getting our first decent lunch in a week - I finally get a steak and Tania's getting a chicken. Hardly finishing it after 2 weeks of meatless diet.

The hotel is very central. We wonder around Cuzco - beautiful little streets, colonial architecture, feels much like old Europe (Prague or Rome). Not at all like Lima. Inca walls are blended into colonial buildings. 
We book a dinner at the fanciest place in the city MAP cafe. Really awesome top notch restaurant inside a "Museum of Art Pre-columbian". This could be easily in London or SF. The kitchen is amazing. And pricey as well. Highly recommended.

27 april 
Woke up early both feeling a bit dizzy of the high altitude air.
Got a decent breakfast at the hotel. Had a planning session on what to do next. Decided we stay in Sacred valley, do a day trip to Machu Picchu and spend the last 3 days chilling at an hidden ocean beach resort Mancora almost at the border with Ecuador.
We book our next posh hotel in the Sacred valley (Tambo del Inka) - supposed to be super luxurious. Also booked train tickets to Machu Pichu for Tuesday.

Got an email from Lorena. They are still in Pucallpa, Rosa is in the hospital all doped. She's still insane :(

Beautiful sunny day outside but morning is cold.
Going to see the Inca ruins today. The main one - the ancient temple complex Qoricancha which was then converted into a catholic cathedral is just 5 minutes walk from our hotel. 
We try to get in, but it's Sunday and the mess is going on in the cathedral. Cool happy music, lots of people, ends up with a street parade with firecrackers and all.
The entry to the museum is only 2-5pm on Sundays.

We hike up the second main ruin which is the Saksaywaman fortress overlooking the city. 
It's a beautiful hike, only 30 min from our hotel. The ruins are surrounded by amazing green lawns really clean and tidy.
The walls are like nothing else we've seen - huge monolithic granite boulders (some 100 tons in weight!) are connected so perfectly, one can't put a sheet of paper or a blade between them! There's no filler between them either - just a perfectly matching edges. This doesn't look like something created by a civilization which only had bronze tools and no steel. We spend 1.5 hours wandering around.

We get down and grab a lunch at another top place here - Limo, right on the main square. 
Amazing food. I'm having a roasted Guinea pig, local speciality, which turns out to be amazingly delicious.

We get a short break at the hotel and head out to Qorikancha again. We hired a guide for 30 sol (10$). It's totally worth it - unbelievable Inca ruins inside a of what appears to be a catholic cathedral from outside. All mysterious and shit. It's funny how some parts of those walls are reconstructed in our days with all the technology we have and it's still obviously not as good as the original. You can easily see the seams are not as perfect, etc. I'm starting to believe in the speculation saying these we built by some far more advanced civilization thousands of years  before Incas and Incas just found them and occupied the abandoned city much later.

We get a dinner at the final cool spot which is called Ciccolina - italian fusion. We all exhausted and not too hungry, so not too impressed this time. But still can recommend it - decent place.

I spend the evening on the phone with LAN airlines, changing our tickets to add the flight to Piura - the airport nearest to Mancora.

28 april 
In the morning we went to the Inca museum to see those weirdly shaped sculls, which look like aliens to me. 
We check out (thanks Marriott!) and get a cab to the Sacred Valley. 
A beautiful road surrounded by green valleys and mountains. 
It's cool to see how authentic are all these farmers around: they indeed wear all these colorful Peruvian clothes and funny hats while taking care of their potato fields.
Tambo del Inka hotel is mind-blowing. It's literally one of two best hotels i've ever seen. Amazing interiors, super cool spot overlooking the river and crazy awesome food. We're blown away.
We take a cab to the Olayantayambo - the biggest Inka ruins in the Sacred valley. Take a guided tour and walk around. Pretty.

Back at the hotel we hang out at the spa (which is amazing) and then get a dinner at the hotel restaurant. Gosh, it's good!
I get a Guinea pig again and get a series of foodgarsms. It might be well the best meal we had so far in Peru.
Go to bed early tonight - need to leave at 6 am tomorrow to catch out train to Machu Picchu.

29 april
Wake up at 5am to get a breakfast and some coca tea and jump into a cab at 6.
Because of all the tourist busses the traffic on the narrow streets of Olayantayambo is quite slow. But we make it on time.
The little tourist train to Machu Picchu is super cute: little clean cars with panoramic roof, really comfy seats.
We spend the road chatting with a russian-american couple next to us. The guy works as a GM at Toshiba but he's also a hypnotizer and does street shows for fun. 
It's cloudy and rains a bit when we get to the station at 8:30. We jump on the bus and head off up the crazy narrow steep winding road.
We enter the sight.
Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu.

Ok, it's magnificent indeed. 
Like nothing we've seen, actually.
Yes, it's grey stones and green lawn around which is not too unusual, but those Incas knew how to pick a spot with a view! It's the ruins themselves, but the blend of manmade and the natural beauty surrounding.
We take lots of pictures.
At some point we get to a very distant spot with an amazing view of the whole thing at the end of one of the terraces. We hang out there eating sandwiches we stole from the hotel and watching National Geographic film about Machu Picchu on Youtube.
After a couple more hours walking around and inspecting in detail every ruin we realize we were overambitious planning to take the 6pm train back... It's noon and we're obviously done with archeology and exhausted and would love to go back to our awesome hotel. (I know, i know, i'm no Indiana)
We managed to change our tickets for 1:30 PM at the station and happily departed back. 3 hours is just enough to  explore Machu Picchu and take all the photos possible.
Spent the rest of the day enjoying the spa, getting massages, watching Friends on TV and indulging with amazing dinner.

30 april 
Got an email from Lorena: they managed to get Rosa back home. She's still weak, but seems to be doing better. The well know Lima psychiatrist thinks she'll be fine. A curious thing is that he says he has a huge respect for auyasca. He thinks it can be very good for some people, but people with certain brain conditions (apparently Rosa has a history) should avoid it. Anyway, it's great news, makes us happy.
Got a breakfast, checked out and left by a taxi at 9:30. Were at the airport at 10:45. 
Did some souvenir shopping, flight got slightly delayed, but we made it to Lima on time for our connection to Piura.
Landed at Piura at 5:10. It's hot here.
The taxi dispatcher told us it's cheaper to rent a car for 4 days than to get a taxi. I know, but still too lazy to drive 2.5 hours each way. We're getting a cab for 90$.
Got to the Casa de Playa hotel after 2.5 hours drive. It's humble, but it's very nice here - the bungalow is literally on the beach 30 meters away from the waves.
Good night moon. Hello tiny flying bloodsucking creatures. I bet you're happy to have us here.

May 1st 
Got a breakfast.
Doing nothing all day, just hanging out at the beach right in front of our bungalo, swimming in the ocean, eating amazing fresh seafood, watching Netflix and having sex. Just awesome. 

May 2nd 
Just the same as May 1st. 
Loving this place. It's super chill, the sea is warm the beach is clean and there aren't many people around. 
Total relax.

May 3rd
Hanged out at the beach in the morning.
Ok Mancora is now officially on my TOP3 best beaches list.
Got lunch, packed and left back to Piura by taxi. Time to head back.
3 hours by car to Piurra, 2 hours flight to Lima, 6 hours flight to Miami, 6 hours flight to SF. 
Home sweet home.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Путешествие по Британии - дневник поездки

Мы путешествовали по Британии 2 недели на машине, в Ноябре всей семьей, включая моих родителей и двоих детей. Проехали около 1500 миль и посетили все ключевые точки в Англии и Шотландии, включая Peak District, Lake District, Edinburg, Fort William, Loch Ness, Isle of Skye. Все получилось очень круто!

Все фотки смотрим тут

View Road trip 2012 in a larger map

Взяли классный семиместный Volvo XC90 на прокат.
Выехали по М1 в сторону Peak District около 2х часов дня.
Приехали на ферму Crinch Farm на закате, прикольная такая ферма.
Поужинали в местном пабе Horse and Jockey, родителям понравилась английская кухня.

День на ферме
Отличная солнечная погода
Прогуливалась по полям, смотрели на животных
Маша и я приболели - ставили горчичники, много спали днем
Путались купить удочки и порыбачить - но все магазины закрыты в воскресенье
Вечером погулялись еще час по окрестностям.
Ужинали в местном (типа блатном) ресторане "Peacock" - чудовищно.

Позавтракали и расплавились: 340 фунтов за 2 комнаты х 2 дня
Выехали в сторону Lake District
Решили по пути заехать в замок Conisborough castle
Жуткая погода - дождь и туман
Пообедали в китайском ресторане по пути - славное место
Но вообще british midlands производит убогое впечатление
К 4 вечера приехали в lake district - красота
Вселились в суперский коттедж на территории кемпинга quet site
Купили в местной лавке хлеб, сосиски и барбекюшницу
Мы с Таней пошли на 6км хайк вокруг холма
Классный виду, но на обратном пути стемнело и мы немного заблудились
Вечером делали барбекю на газоне у коттеджа и вообще замечательно по-семейному скоротали вечер.

С погодой повезло - ни дождя ни тумана и даже с просветами солнца изредка
Отправились еа машине на рыбалку в сторону Esthwaite water trout fishery
По пути смотрели красоты местной природы
Невероятные виды озера Ulls water - дорога прямо у воды, а вода как зеркало в котором отражаются яркие осенние цвета листвы
Заехали на водопад Aire Force
Отличная прогулка по лесу по пути к водопаду
Всех поразила огромная ель диаметром около 2,5 метров (см фотки)
Димка был заворожен видом водопада - всю дорогу, и вверх по ступеням и вниз, отважно протопал сам
Далее ехали через горы по узеньким дорогам и необыкнвенным видам в сторону рыбалки
Ехали очень долго, маленькие дорожки очень утомительные
Мельком увидели Windermere - местный центр цивилизации
Рыбалка на небольшом озере Esthwaite, дают лодку с мотором и удочки
На воду пошли с папой, таней и машей. Димка и бабушка остались на берегу
Ничего не поймали за 3 часа, зато очень замерзли
Назад поехали в объезд по большим дорогам 
Еще один удивительный вид на озеро Thirlmere (с островком) на закате - пожалуй самый красивый
Домой приехали без сил. Поел макаронов, попил фервекс и выключился на диванчике в гостинной.

Погода жуть - туман и дождь
С утра упаковались и выдвинулись в сторону Шотландии
По пути решили заехать на Римскую стену и форт, сделав небольшой крюк до Housteads
Осмотр форта под дождем и ветром
До руин от парковки надо идти в горку по полю минут 10
Замерзли, но детям очень понравилось
Дальше пр а69 и а68 ло Эдинбурга
По пути пообедали в жутком отельчике Handrian в богом забытом месте
Атмосфера аутентичная, но рыба была не свежая
После обеда еще полтора часа до пересечения границы Шотландии в горах
На горе жуткий туман, зато когда спустили появилось солнце
Природа совсем другая - много деревьев, лес вдоль дороги
В свете опускающегося солнца виды необыкновенные
Приехали в Эдинбург, вселились в Albyn b&b - роскошный дом с суперскими комнатами. Нас очень впечатлил. Хозяин очень мил.
Ужинали в Итальянском ресторанчике за углом - цены Лондонские, качество нормальное, но не поразительное
Почему-то вспомнился Дублин

Погода не плохая, без дождя и даже с просветами, но прохладно
С утра отправились в замок Эдинбурга
Пошли пешком через город, минут 20
По ощущениям - странная смесь Праги, Дублина и Лондона
Взобрались на гору с замком, ходили по нему 2 часа с аудиогидами
Очень понравилась экспозиция с королевскими артефактами (корона, меч, скипетр)
Из замка открываются классные виды на весь город
В 13:00 с близи видели как выстрельнула пушка
Перекусили в приятном ненапряжном кафе в бывшем соборе St Giles а ныне фестивальном центре
Отправились на такси в порт смотреть на бывшую плавучую резиденцию королевы - яхту Britania
Музей поразительный - можно везде ходит и почти все трогать
Реально передается атмосфера быта королевской семьи - они еще 10 лет назад этим всем пользовались!
'Яхта' на самом деле - целый трехпалубный теплоход, на полный обход с аудиогидом ушло часа полтора
Это с начала неочевидно, но  результате мне показалось -  это один из самых стоящих музеев в Британии
Домой пришли без задних ног около 6ти. 
С трудом заставили выйти поужинать в ближайший индусский фаст фуд и легли спать.

На улице - мороз и солнцне, 4 градуса
Выехали из гостиницы
Родители, Таня и Маша пошли на тур по старинной улице - Mary King's close
Мы с Димой отправились в зоопарк
Зоопарк - бестолковый. Единственная достопримечательность - панда, на посещение которой надо записываться заранее. Мы записались но в результате опоздали и так ее и не увидели. Димке очень понравились носороги.
Тур по Kings close вроде всем понравился
После обеда поехали в сторону Fort William
По пути заехали в замок Sterling. Очень впечатляющие виды.
Дорога через высокогорье, попали под снег!
Заехали в магаз и накупили кучу еды - прямо как в Финляндии
Вселились в коттедж, рядом с городком и с великолепным видом прямо на Ben Navis - самую высокую гору в UK.

Пришел Олень и настал день Ээээ
Сидели дома, смотрели на гору
Сходили в церковь с мамой
Много ели... Блинчики, борщ, плов ммммм
Проспал 13 часов подряд.

На улице дождь, но тепло.
Перевели время на зимнее.
Ходил в зал, а машка с дедушкой - в бассейн.
С Таней и папой поехали на Loch Ness
В часе езды на север - замок Urquhart. Стоит прямо на озере.
Замок был взорван, от него мало что осталось, но вся экспозиция очень классно сделано.
Погода гораздо лучше - солнышко.
Бродили по развалинам замка, фоткались у озера.

Поездка на остров Skye
Решили в один день съездить туда и обратно всей семьей
Выехали в 9:30, через 2 часа уже пересекаои мост
По дороге - незабываемые виды: огненно оранжевая трава, скалы, водопады...
Проезжали дамбу и замок, стоящий на воде
Сам Скай очень похож на западное побережье Ирландии
Ехали по побережью океана
Останавливались на смотровой площадке у скал - очень впечатляющее зрелище
После Portree, главного города на острове, дорога становится (!) однополосной :) благо встречные машины очень не частые.
Еще впечатлило место у моря с сотнями каменных башенок - не понятно кто это сделал, но я уверен что не люди.
Объехали круг и на обед приехали в Portree
До дома добрались к 5:30 вечера
Что-то уже всем хочется в Лондон. Пересытились.

Выехали из коттеджа около 10 утра
К обеду доехали до пригородов Глазго и сходили в с детьми в аквариум и пообедали
К вечеру добрались до замка Augill, где мы остановились на ночь.
Офигенное место - настоящий замок, с гостинными, каминными и тд. Куча детей бегают сами по себе и играют. Машка была в восторге.
Нам достался целый отдельный флигель. На втором этаже - вместо гостинной отдельная комната с большой белой ванной посредине. 
Чашка чая, печенюшки, плюшки - просто класс.
Все достаточно восхитительное.
Классный бар с самообслуживанием. Для детей - кинотеатр.
Вечером был 'званный ужин' - все гости отеля за одним длинным столом. Дети в это время самостоятельной толпой играли в гостинной - класс!
Все в восторге.

На хелоуин решили вернуться в лондон.
Все уже устали и к тому же у нас не был забукан отель на эту ночь.
Позавтракали, погуляли вокруг замка и тронулись в путь.
Поехали по М1 - 6 часов. Это был единственный реально длинный перегон за всю поездку.
Успели точь-в-точь к началу trick and treat в машкиной школе.

Полезная информация

2. адреса всех отелей где мы останавливались:

Что вышло по деньгам?

аренда авто и бензин
еда в магазинах
еда в кафе
входные билеты в замки и тд 
ИТОГО: 5000 фунтов на 6 человек на 2 недели.