Armchair travel: P.E.I.'s Nicole MacKay and her dad do South America

Some people can't fathom taking a road trip with their parents even from P.E.I. to Moncton, let alone halfway around the world — but seasoned traveller and P.E.I. resident Nicole MacKay just returned from a trip with her father to South America.

'Being able to share this experience with my dad and having these memories made everything I saw special'

The sun rising on the island of Isobela in the Galápagos Islands, caputred by P.E.I. photographer Nicole MacKay. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

Some people can't fathom taking a road trip with their parents even from P.E.I. to Moncton, let alone halfway around the world — but seasoned traveller and P.E.I. resident Nicole MacKay just returned from a four-week trip to South America with her 54-year-old father, Al MacKay. 

"I work as a radiation therapist at the P.E.I. Cancer Treatment Centre, and it makes you more aware of how fast your life can change," 28-year-old MacKay said. She's also a professional photographer, shooting mostly weddings on P.E.I. 

"This is one of the main reasons I wanted my dad to join me on this trip — you really do not know how much time you have."

MacKay agreed to share their trip as part of CBC P.E.I.'s ongoing armchair travel series. 

'More aware of the world'

She's travelled extensively the last five years, MacKay said, but it wasn't easy to cajole her father into joining her. 

Nicole MacKay and her father hiked to the top of Rainbow Mountain in Peru. 'It was the hardest thing that we have ever done and so happy that we got to do it together!' she says. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

Nicole MacKay beautifully captured the striated colours of the famed Rainbow Mountains in Peru. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

'The first hike we did up Hyanu Picchu which is the iconic mountain you see in all of the photos,' of Machu Picchu, says Nicole MacKay. 'When we got to the top, we sat and looked over the ancient city and reflected on our trip together so far.' (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

Scenery in a small town of Aguas Calientes, Peru. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

"It's changed me as a person," she said. "I am more aware of the world and what types of living situations and lifestyles others are in. I thought that it would be a great time for my dad to experience what I enjoy doing so much — seeing the world."

It took her a few months to convince him, including a power point presentation of what he would see when he was there, but he finally gave in to her, she said. 

'Having these memories'

First, they went to Peru for about a week, staying in the towns of Ollantaytambo, Cusco and Aguas Calientes — also called Machu Picchu. Then they went to Ecuador, visiting Guayaquil and the Galapagos Islands, and finally to Brazil, touring Rio de Janeiro as well as Manaus. 

'We enjoyed getting to know the local people,' says Nicole MacKay. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

Terraced salt ponds in the Cusco region of Peru in the Andes mountains. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

Peru's top tourist site is the ancient Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

The ancient terrace fields in Moray, Peru, created by the Inca people thousands of years ago and still in use today. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

"There was no one favourite thing for me. Being able to share this experience with my dad and having these memories made everything I saw special," she shared. 

The two did enjoy meeting people from all over the world while experiencing another culture. 

"We enjoyed getting to know the local people and learning more about how they live," she said.

Highlights galore

In Peru, climbing Rainbow Mountain together in a storm, finishing at an altitude of more than 5,000 metres, was a highlight, she said.

A giant tortoise in Santa Cruz, Galapagos. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

They might look like seagulls at first glance but check out those bright aqua feet! The Galapagos Islands are home to the blue-footed booby. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

A cable car took Nicole MacKay and her father to the top of Sugarloaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where tourists can take in the beautiful views. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as the sun breaks through the mountain mist. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

In Galapagos, swimming with hammerhead and white-tipped sharks while snorkeling at famous Kicker Rock, the remains of a volcanic cone, was their favourite. 

The two slept in hammocks in the middle of the Amazon jungle in Brazil, she said. 

"We were given our own hammocks to set up with mosquito nets which would cover us. Luckily, we set these up under a hut made from dried leaves which saved us during the intense amount of rain that started to fall at 4 a.m.," she recaled.

"I can honestly say that our guide was the only one who had a good night sleep. 

Her father contracted altitude sickness during the trip, which "was the worst part for both of us," MacKay said. 

'Could have been done cheaper'

She would "most definitely" recommend this adventure to other travellers, she said.

'Overlooking one of over a thousand slums in Rio de Janerio which they call favelas,' says Nicole MacKay of this shot. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

Rio de Janiero, Brazil, on a misty day, is overlooked by the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, voted one of the seven new wonders of the world in 2007. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

'A typical house on the Amazon river on our way to the Amazon Jungle in Brazil,' says Nicole MacKay. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

"This trip could have been done cheaper if you were on more of a budget, but it cost roughly $1,500 a week," she added.

The two took a boat trip through the Amazon jungle. (Submitted by Nicole MacKay)

Have you been on an interesting trip lately and taken some great photos you'd like to share? Email or tweet @SaraFraserCBC.


Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a bachelor of journalism (honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email