After Slow Travel in Tanzania - We Went Poco y Poco in Peru. You are never too old to travel.

Giraffe on safari Tanzania East Africa.  Photo Sally McKinney for TravelBoldly.com
A giraffe gawks back at author Sally McKinney on her safari in Tanzania. During her trip to East Africa Sally discovered that even in her 9th decade there is a way to still travel and enjoy it. Photo by Sally McKinney
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Editors note: This guest post is by my long time friend and collaborator Sally McKinney. We me met in New Zealand over 25 years ago. A few years later we began to work together as a writer / photographer team on many great adventures. Having Sally share her secrets of slow travel is a great honor for me and for Travel Boldly. I maybe telling tales out of school, but for the record Sally turned 80 this last birthday and she shows no sign of slowing down.  OK, maybe just little. ~JS

New Rules for visiting Machu Picchu Peru. 

After Slow Travel in Tanzania. We Went Poco y Poco in Peru.

Guest Post by Sally McKinney

When I was younger, I traveled all over. Watched leaping dolphins from the deck of a sailing ship. Paddled a dugout canoe. Soared above volcanic lakes in an open-cockpit biplane. Danced under starry skies to throbbing tribal drums.
Zebra Serengeti East Africa. Photo Sally McKinney for TravelBoldly.com
Zebra keep a wary eye out for trouble as they graze.  The 
safari took us through the Serengeti eco-system of East Africa

Then I got older.

As my energy waned, an “If It’s Tuesday. . .” trip became too stressful. Yet, giving up travel made me depressed. All of that changed in 2011, when I was invited to East Africa. While planning this seven-week adventure, I had to re-think my needs. The solution I came up with? Slow Travel!


Two people I already knew would be also be in Tanzania for volunteer work.  One of them was Walter Miya, Tour Director, Safari Arts Expeditions. The other person would be Billy. He was (and still is) a cute, older white-haired guy from my home town.

Village market Serengeti  National Park, Tanzania, Africa. Photo Sally McKinney for TravelBoldly.com
A woman walks through the village market near Serengeti
National Park, Tanzania, Africa. 
Born in Tanzania, Walter tuned into my needs really well. Since my cloudier vision made it harder to find ticket booths, taxi stands, or departure gates, Walter found someone to meet me after a ride on the ferry, bus, or plane. Walter also helped me plan a series of home stays. While staying with middle-class Tanzanians, I could recover from travel fatigue, follow active periods with rest and enjoy leisurely meals.

By living more like the Africans than like a tourist, I learned to


After I arrived in Tanzania, Walter’s large family showed me warm hospitality. In Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Marangu, and Mwanza, I slept on each family’s fanciest sheets in an air-cooled guest room.  Each morning, someone rose early to boil water, then mix hot with cool so I could bathe. Between meals, my hosts offered me snacks and cold drinks.

Mother elephant & calf safari, Tanzania, Africa. Photo Sally McKinney for TravelBoldly.com
A mother elephant and her calf amble by our safari jeep.
Staying with African families—and making new friends—meant more to me than luxurious hotels. For this trip, I could not afford new clothes, so I packed the faded, knit tee shirts and khaki slacks I usually wore.  None of my hosts seemed to mind!


While staying with Joanne and Martin Miya in Mwanza, fatigue from previous travel caught up with me. Each night after dinner, I slipped off to my room, hoping to sleep. Instead, I slapped at a lone mosquito, buzzing outside the net while I lay awake, worrying. . .

Safari Arts  Expeditions Jeep Tanzania African..Photo: Alice Fagin for TravelBoldly.com
Sally, Billy, Walter and the gang from Safari Arts 
Expeditions pose for a photo.

Twenty-seven years before, after a rainy five-day trek with the Maoris in New Zealand, I’d given up camping. After hiking all day in the rainforest, I could hardly sleep on the cold, hard ground. Knowing that, I’d promised Walter and Billy I’d go camping with them next week.

“Camping is the best way to see the animals,” Walter explained. And a camping safari was all I could afford. Yet, how could I sustain my energy if I could not sleep in the tent.  And, how could I possibly help with all the camping chores? Even worse, failing to be a good camper would—quite likely—damage my friendship with Walter. . .and with Billy, too.

During one last dinner with Joanne and Martin (Walter’s father), Martin assured me that Walter’s staff would put up the tents, also buy, cook and serve all the food.  All I had to do was show up, then eat, sleep and ride around in the jeep snapping pictures. How hard could that be?

Antelope on Serengeti Tanzania East Africa. Photo Sally McKinney for TravelBoldly.com
An antelope preens while the herd is at rest on the grasslands
of the Serengeti of Tanzania, East Africa. 
What a difference to have this new information! The day I climbed onto that jeep—and saw Billy sitting across the aisle—I felt great!


Walter told us to rise early next day for a game drive. To help me relax and fall asleep more easily, I took a mild sleeping tablet, washed down with bottled water. Just before dawn, I awoke to chirping birds. The sky was a vacuous gray. Beyond the tents, wild African buffalo grazed on the savanna, lowing like cattle.

On that Serengeti morning, we bounced along one of Tanzania’s roughest roads. Barely awake, and craving a second coffee, I gazed out the open window. A rosy, crescent sun seemed to float behind an acacia tree. Using a monopod (that also worked as a trekking pole), I steadied my camera to shoot a gawky giraffe.

Ever-smiling cook, Elisante Hambu. Photo Sally McKinney for TravelBoldly.com
The ever-smiling cook, Elisante Hambu.
Driver Charles Msaky spotted a leopard napping on a branch, half-hidden in dappled shade. Through the windscreen, I saw elephants cross the road—single file—as if on parade.

Using impressive tracking skills, Walter and Charles took us to watch a pride of lions. I felt privileged, wondering how many people in their lives ever get to watch lions in the wild, tending their cubs. . .then go back for breakfast.


The cook, Elisante Hambu, served delicious food, using many locally-grown fresh vegetables. Those healthy meals—plus copious amounts of bottled water-- helped sustain my energy. For exercise, I’d already asked Walter to take us dancing (my favorite exercise back home). Surprisingly, he took my request

Walter Miya, Safari Arts Expeditions serving food. Photo Sally McKinney for TravelBoldly.com
Walter Miya Tour Director, Safari Arts 
Expeditions serving food on safari.
Back in Arusha, a group of us rode one night to a local club. Masaai attendants, wrapped in red-checked  blankets, waved us into the parking lot.

“Not a tourist place,” Walter assured me. “This is where middle-class Africans go.”

When I looked around, I saw that Billy and I were the only “mazungus” (white people/foreigners) in the club. Even so, many of the other guests stopped by our table to say “Karibu” (welcome in Swahilii). After I downed an icy gin and tonic, the hot drums of the African dance band enticed me onto the dance floor. Walter, who is perhaps half my age, danced like a wild man that night. Kicking his long legs askew, he rocked his lean body, whipping those “dreads.” Clearly, I could not keep up with
him. . .but it was great fun to try.

Makonde band Tanzania African.Photo: Alice Fagin for TravelBoldly.com
Makonde band lends its African rhythm to our safari. 
Photo credit Alice Fagin


Before leaving Tanzania, Billy and I dined on Indian food at the African hotel. “Where shall we go next?” Billy asked. Secretly pleased, I had no ready reply. “I’ve always wanted to see Machu Picchu,” he continued. Not quite sure whether this was an invitation—but eager to be prepared—I began reading about Peru after we got home.


Machu Picchu Incan Ruins Peru. Photo Sally McKinney for TravelBoldly.com
Machu Picchu is a place every traveler seems to long to visit.
Even if you are in your 80s. Sally says that's not an excuse to 
miss one of the great travel destinations in the world.
By the following summer, Billy and I were ready for Peru! My biggest worry: whether or not I’d be able to climb around the ruins of Machu Picchu.

While planning that day, I applied the Slow Travel principles I’d learned in East Africa. The night before, I visualized success—then got eight good hours of sleep. Next morning, taking a later shuttle to the ruins allowed me to eat a leisurely breakfast (and tap the energy from this food.)

Our excellent, English-speaking guide worked out a suitable climb/walk/rest pace for me. My monopod was not allowed at the site, but the guide found me a bamboo hiking stick!  At the top, we enjoyed marvelous views. Sitting on a wall, I drank water and munched energy bars. While Billy hiked on to the Sun Gate, I relaxed with a “power nap” on a grassy terrace.

Caretaker's hut  Machu Picchu World Heritage site Peru. Photo Sally McKinney for TravelBoldly.com
The steps leading up to the caretaker's hut at 
Machu Picchu World Heritage site, 
Climbing down the treacherous, rubble-strewn steps was the toughest part. Much safer to go slowly, go cautiously, I decided. I used the bamboo pole for balance and, now and then, grabbed the forearm of a helpful stranger.


Wherever did I get the idea I had to “retire” from travel?

After the shuttle ride back to Aguas Calentes, we had much to celebrate! While Billy drank cerveza, I sipped a pisco sour. On the menu: papa rellena, fresh grilled  trout, Peruvian pizza, sweet flan. When the Peru Inkas began to play—hot and fast—I could have danced with joy. Poco y poco, we had conquered Machu Picchu!


Sally McKinney Masai guards Tanzania, Africa. Photo Sally McKinney for TravelBoldly.com
Sally McKinney poses for a photo on her trip to Tanzania,
East Africa with her new friends, the Masai guards. 
Sally McKinney never dreamed that at age 80 she'd be living in Bloomington, Indiana, dancing twice a week at the local pub, and learning to cook with spices and herbs. . .while trying to book a holiday cruise around the Galapagos on a 50-foot sailboat. 

Over the years her travel articles and photographs have appeared in publications across North America and around the Pacific Rim. Travel in 47 countries (so far) has given her a unique appreciation for life on this planet. 
After writing all those articles--plus six travel guidebooks--she's now working on a memoir about how travel experiences have encouraged personal growth. In occasional pieces for ExploreDance.com, HighOnAdventure.com and now TravelBoldly, she encourages travelers to value diverse cultures, sustain the natural environment and support local economies. 

Here's her advice to other travelers who've grown older. "Even if you're losing your eyesight, don't lose your adventurous spirit. Keep traveling!"

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