Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Onward Bound

The numbers weren't on our side today - 1000 meters up and down.  But the trail wasn't going to weave up and down like yesterday, and we had the benefit of knowing what was coming.  We were starting from Totora, at 3600 meters, heading up to Yanama pass, at 4600 meters (around 15,000 feet) and back down to Yanama village, also at 3600.  And all this with full packs.

Speaking of which, after the first 5 minutes, my pack felt like it weighed 60 pounds instead of 30.  My legs were sore and my thighs ached with every step.  But I kept going slow and steady, never running out of breath, and I soon felt better.  Or at least, my legs got numb to the pain.  I took breaks only when nature called, and took off my pack only once, to change some layerage.  Before I knew it we were in the final stretch:

I was setting a personal altitude record with every step, and soon enough we were at the top.  It was cold and windy, so we headed down immediately, took a break for lunch, and then descended the rest of the 1000 meters down to Yanama.

Once there we procured another cheap floor and began the search for donkeys.  We were pretty beat up, and from what we'd heard a day's use of donkeys would be about half as expensive as buying a day's food from a village.  Unfortunately, at this point we were pretty much down to dollars, and it's pretty tough to pay with dollars when the nearest money-changer is 2 days away.  But the kids at the house we were staying (maybe 15 years old?) agreed to take us to Meizcal, a 4-hour walk.  20 dollars seemed pretty steep, so we negotiated to include some snacks in the deal as well.

It was looking like we might make it.  It would be really, really tough, but certainly possible.  We'll never know, though, whether we could've made it, because fate intervened that night.  David woke up with a fever, and that morning said that he felt weaker than he'd ever felt in his entire life.  From Meizcal it would be 2 tough days in either direction to get to civilization, and we didn't know where this illness was going to lead.  So we convinced the boys to take our packs to the top of the pass instead, and returned to Totora.

Despite not carrying packs, the way back seemed much harder than the first time.  We arrived in Totora midday, got in our sleeping bags and promptly slept for about 15 hours, only taking a short break to cook up some ramen for dinner.  The next day we took the road instead of the trail, encountered a bus after a couple of hours, and by nightfall were in Aguas Calientes.

The next day we took the train to Ollataytambo (yes, the train that we had taken pains to avoid the first time), and then took a colectivo to Cusco, on which a girl both drew a picture and wrote a recipe (for peanut milk) in my notebook.

Were we disappointed that we ended the trek?  For sure.  But I think to continue would've been unsafe.  And I got some of the best experiences (and pictures) of the entire trip, so I think it was still worthwhile.

Heading back to Yanama to grab my forgotten sandals, I snapped this photo, one of my favorites of the trip.

The trail back up to the pass.

Obstacles on the way.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shall We Stay Or Shall We Go

We woke up, had breakfast, and considered our problem: we didn't have enough money!  Of course, we had plenty in the bank, but ATMs were a distant dream now.  Between us we had about 100 soles and 20 dollars.  After the 36-sole each entry fee to Choquequirao, that left barely enough to cover our time in Totora, and nothing for any more rest days that we might need.  This wouldn't be a problem, except that the next several days looked even harder than what we just did, and we were pretty beat up.

After a couple of hours of agonizing debate, we decided that any decision was better than none, and that forward progress was surely an improvement.  So we decided to screw the entrance fee - if they didn't let us in, then oh well.  We'd had an amazing, one of a kind experience at Macchu Picchu, so our need to see a lesser known ruin was not as great.  After making the decision, everything seemed better.  David got out the guitar and we sat on the porch playing songs and watching the animals.  He taught me a bit about finger-picking, and I shot the best video I will ever take:

And as if to bless our plans, just before dinner we got a rare wet-season glimpse of Salkantay, a mountain of over 6000 meters.  We would see it only once more on the trek.  Had we known that we'd see it again, however, we might've been a little less gleeful.  For Totora was the only spot on the trek from which a view was possible at all.

The mighty mountain herself

Afterwards, we went in to say hello, and wound up watching them make dinner.  Seeing how a traditional Quechua kitchen works was one of the highlights of my entire time in Peru.  Life was centered around the fire, the focal point of food and of warmth.   Above it lay two rails, upon which were always 3 pots, for a main dish, for rice, and for tea.  Below it was a warm cavity in which the cuyes (guinea pigs) would sleep.  And after the day's cooking, they would set the next day's wood atop the coals to dry out.  When food was cut, the trimmings were dropped on the ground, for the cuyes to eat, and thus little was wasted.  Suddenly one peruvian delicacy made a lot more sense.

One last surprise awaited us that night.  As we were eating dinner, the family revealed that their little girl had her birthday tomorrow!  We gave her some chocolate, but the real birthday meal was the next day, when she was going to get an entire cuy for herself!  I didn't ask if she got to pick out which one to eat, but I sure wanted to.

Dinner that night was Lomo Saltado, one of my favorite peruvian meals.  It's sort of a stir-fry with french fries in it.  I got their recipe in my notebook, which may be my most treasured souvenir from the trip.  I'll give the recipe, but first, here's a photo and another video:

The kitchen.  Note the thatched roof for ventilation.

The cuyes in the kitchen, munching on some supplementary hay.

And now, the recipe!

Lomo Saltado (with bonus recipe for Salsa Criolle) from the village Totora:

  • Meat, cut into stir-fry sized strips
  • Onions.  Lots of onions.  Julienned.
  • Potatoes, cut into fries.  They peeled the potatoes, but seeing as I don't have a team of cuyes to eat my peels I'd probably leave them on for this application.
  • Tomatoes
  • Oil
  • Mushrooms (or so they told me, I didn't see them used or notice them in the dish)
  • Garlic Powder
  • Ground Cumin
  • Ground Red Pepper (I imagine cayenne would do nicely)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Cook the potatoes in some oil (they didn't use enough to cover, but you could surely deep-fry them too).
  • In another pot, cook the onions in some oil.  They cooked them for quite a long time, maybe 10 minutes.
  • Add the spices to the onions and you have salsa criolle, which is a great side to lots of foods.  Especially great with papa rellena, which is another favorite of mine.  I really, really like this stuff.  Some recipes call for vinegar, but this one didn't.  I'd probably add it.
  • Add a little water to the onions and stir.  I think this was to make a sauce.  It seemed like lots of water at the time, but come a-plating it didn't seem too bad.  I think it got thickened with potato starch.
  • Add the potatoes and the cooked meat and you're done!
You may have noticed that I didn't say how to cook the meat.  That's because, in all the hubbub of salsa criolle, I completely missed it.  But hey, it's meat - you can figure it out.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Lluvia de Muerte

We left Aguas Calientes with high spirits.  We had just had an incredibly lucky day, spending some time alone in one of the most populated ruins in the world.  We walked the tracks back to the hydroelectric plant with a skip in our step, feeling that nothing could stop us.  When we arrived at the plant, there was one combi (small bus), in the process of leaving.  And although it was completely full, the driver stopped when he saw us coming and got out.  He yelled arriba, arriba! (up, up!) and gesticulated wildly into the air.  This could only mean one thing - we were going to ride on top of the bus.  Five minutes later, we were wedged comfortably between our backpacks and sacks of potatoes, with sweet cool air rushing by.  As our road weaved by the raging Andean river to our left, I thought to myself: this is why I came to Peru.

Upon arrival to Santa Teresa, we asked the driver if there were any colectivos (shared taxis) to our starting village of La Playa.  He said no, but that he could take us for 50 soles.  More than our normal price, but seeing as it was Christmas Eve and he'd probably have no passengers for the return journey, it seemed fair.  We agreed and, after driving us to a house where we could buy some ridiculously fresh and cheap bread (20 sandwich rolls for 4 soles, about $1.50), he proceeded to round up his entire extended family to go along for the ride.  As we left town, he turned to me and said "Para peso" ("for weight") - apparently the road was steep and he needed more traction.  Suddenly 50 soles seemed like even more of a deal.

The family appeared delighted to take the journe, and gave our Spanish a test as we headed up the valley.  They also liked us quite a bit, it seemed, seeing as they tried to hook David up with not one but two of the sisters.  An hour or so later we reached La Playa, said our goodbyes, and found somewhere we could camp for free.  After a nice dinner, we used our trekking poles and our combined knowledge of knots to set up a freestanding tarp.  It was a pretty neat structure, kept us dry that night, and I'm quite proud of it.

We fell fast asleep under our plastic shield, and, apart from a dog insistent on getting in, had a restful night under rainy skies.  We awoke to dry weather, but our luck was soon to change.  After a frustrating encounter with a store-owner who didn't seem to get the concept of toll-free phone cards, we decided to hit the trail rather than wait for a combi, which might not even run on Christmas day.

There are two routes out of La Playa - the road and the trail, on opposite sides of the river.  Choosing to take the trail was the biggest mistake we made in Peru.  The village of Totora, our destination for the day, was already about 1400 meters higher than La Playa, and the trail didn't make that any easier as it weaved continuously up and down to avoid cliffs and other obstacles, adding hundreds of meters to our climb for the day.  I recall this being the worst walking of my entire life.  It was raining, I was hungry, and our trail couldn't seem to keep itself level for more than a couple of feet.  To make matters worse, we had frequent views of the gently climbing road across the river.  When we finally did stop for lunch, though, I had what I can confidently say were the best PB&Js I have ever eaten.

David walking on probably the flatest part of the trail.  As you can see, he's wearing his rain pants with no shirt - a style that we both adopted for this day, and a very comfortable one for rainy days that are too warm for a rain jacket.  Even better would've been to wear my rain pants with no shorts underneath, which I did on every other day of the hike.

Shortly thereafter we made it to the confluence of the rivers Santa Teresa and Totora.  After crossing the river we walked up a ways until we encountered this:

I walked up to the edge and looked down, of course, and this is what I saw:

Yup.  100 feet straight down to the raging River of Death (RoD).  Looking back, we saw an alternate path, clearly very new.  Though slippery with mud and very exposed, it led up the hillside to the village of Ccolcopampa, from which we could continue the trail.  With Totora reportedly just two hours away, we headed out on what was one of the prettiest sections of the trek, with many waterfall crossings and sheer drops.  The rain even let out for us, putting a nice end to a rough trek.

Upon arrival in Totora, we found a family that would let us sleep on their floor for 2 soles, and eat meals for 8.  We decided to stay there the next day to recover, and since we didn't have enough soles on us to pay for every meal, we cooked up some ramen with tuna for the night.  After dinner we began to drink with the guys (it was Christmas after all) and found out they had a guitar.  David played a few songs, and I played Rocky Racoon (of course!) to mixed reviews.  We passed out in our sleeping bags on the floor and slept well into the morning, drifting briefly into consciousness for the call of the rooster.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve and Macchu Picchu

Step, inhale.  Step, exhale.  I'm hiking up a dimly lit trail at my cardivascular limit, hoping to be one of the first into Macchu Picchu today.  We awoke at 4 and started hiking at 4:30 - a late start, but we're making up for it by passing people left and right.  As usual, David is far ahead.  Step, inhale.  Step, exhale.

We arrived in Aguas Calientes (the city below the ruins) yesterday afternoon.  In order to avoid the expensive, comfortable, 3-hour train ride, we took a 9-dollar, 6-hour bus ride and two colectivos (shared taxis) to a hydroelectric plant, and then walked 2.5 hours on train tracks into town.  Saved us about 30 dollars each, and the bus ride was fastastic, riding along sheer cliffs through beautiful valleys. No pictures, though, because pictures from buses always suck.

It's 5:30, and I'm at the top.  I find David and we take a seat on the entrance stairs.  30 minutes before opening time, and there's already as many tourists waiting.  5:45, and the first busloads arrive.  10 minutes later, there are at least 200 people waiting, and we begin to wonder whether it was worth it.  But then something amazing happens.  The guards tell everybody to form a line, and we stand up to realize that nobody else had taken a seat on the stairs.  A couple minutes later, the line is fully formed, and we are miraculously, incredulously, at the head of it.

And so we wandered into Macchu Picchu alone, the only sounds our footsteps and occasional words.  Temples and terraces arose and fell out of the morning fog as we stolled on by, experiencing not the detail-obsessed, scrutinized city of a guided tour, but an unassuming, humble pueblo that passed no judgement, nor required any grand significance.  It was what it was, and nothing less.

However, although we were keeping ahead of the other tourists through our naturally fast walking, we soon realized that we weren't, in face, the only visitors.  At first we saw two dogs, chasing eachother through the ruins.  Then something resembling a squirrel, some hummingbirds, and even a snail, crawling lazily up some ancient Incan stonework.  And it was the animals that gave me a true glimpse of the ruins at their most normal, as the city they once were.  Because dogs and birds don't know that they're living in a wonder of the ancient world - to them it's a city like any other.  They go to the bathroom, try to procreate, and hope for scraps of food from these curious ape-like creatures with cameras around their necks.  And, while I enjoyed Macchu Picchu for the wonder that it is, it seemed much more real when I viewed it from a more pedestrian angle.  For this reason, the animals were one of the coolest parts of the ruins - and one of the most photogenic.  I have more pictures, but here's 3 from the day:

A squirrel-like thing in a traditional Inca-shaped window.

Our companions strolling casually along a terrace.

Well, I had to get at least one picture of myself, didn't I?

Next time, the adventurous ride from Aguas Calientes to the first village of our proposed trek.

P.S. For those reading these in real time, note that they are several days behind.  We are now in Huaraz, in the northern andes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A New Plan

It was our first morning in Cuzco.  We had fresh minds, freshly showered bodies, and a new plan.  We would find a tarp to replace our tent, ship the rest of the tent to Lima, and go backpacking anyway.  Our route?  Take a bus and two taxis to a hydroelectric plant near Macchu Picchu, hike in on the railway tracks, and backpack several days to another ruin, Choquequirao, and eventually end up in Abancay, 5 hours northwest by bus from Cuzco.  With no time to waste, we sprang into action.  After a delicious lunch of avocado sandwiches and french fries, we set out to find a South America Explorers office to buy a topographic map.  We accomplished this easily enough, and proceeded to what proved to be the most challenging part of the entire day:  buying a tarp.

You see, in Peru, you don't go to any old hardware store and buy a tarp.  Things are much more specialized here.  In Peru, you have to go to a Plastiqueria.  Not knowing this, we asked around with little luck, until we spotted a street vendor with a tarp over his goods.  We asked him where we could buy one, and he pointed us towards Mercado San Blas.  From here on out it was tarps, tarps, everywhere, but not a piece to buy.  We asked vendor after vendor, got conflicting directions, and finally made our way to Mercado Wancha.  There, amongst a maze of sandals and fruit, we found the plastiqueria.  I imagine it as a wonderous place, full of plastics of all shapes and sizes, but all I remember is one 3x3 meter piece of beautiful blue that we got, after all of the trouble of finding it, for about $4.

Tarp in hand, we gathered together our unnecessary baggage and headed to the post office.  Our tent, my juggling balls, and my steripen (no sense carrying two water purifiers) went into a box barely large enough for the tent alone.  After cramming it all in, our very helpful attendant proceeded to wrap it with about half of a roll of packing tape:

Now that all of the time-sensitive tasks were complete, we set about some relaxation.  We found some cord for the tarp and a rain cover for my pack (which proved to be absolutely essential), had dinner, stopped by the coca shop for some tea and a rather nice conversation with the lovely polyglot who runs the place, and, on a coca-induced spree, spent an hour in an internet cafe, writing collectively 12 emails and 3 blog posts.  We went back to the hostel, cut the tarp to size, and went to bed.  Not bad for a day in which we also bought groceries and medicine, went book shopping, spent 10 minutes on a see-saw, and petted a baby alpaca:


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our luck runs out

All good things must come to an end - even bus nirvana.  We arrived in Cuzco late, said goodbye to Shanna, and hailed a taxi, only to realize that we didn't have the poles for our tent!  We raced back to the terminal and found the bus, but they were truly gone.  It had been two buses since we last used them, so they could be anywhere in Peru by now.

Not wanting to dwell on things, we set out for the district* of San Blas to find a hostel.  But while the views were as beautiful as promised, almost none of the hostels were open that late, and those that were had jacked up prices since the Lonely Planet was published (this has proven to be a common theme).  We finally found a double room for 25 soles each, which I suppose is only about 9 USD - still more than we're used to paying though, and about half my daily budget.  We got our room and promptly hit the sack, hoping for better luck in the morning.

*District is really a strong word.  Cuzco has a small-town atmosphere and is generally pretty walkable.

Bus Nirvana

There are a lot of things for tall, lanky gringos to dislike about Peruvian buses.  Ear-splitting cumbia music, champion Peruvian bus-sleepers cranking their seats down into your knees, and inexplicably closed windows when temperatures soar (and somehow everybody else on the bus is wearing several layers).

But on the road from Arequipa to Cuzco, we found bus nirvana.  After our Jamie Fox movie had ended (entertaining despite being in spanish with spanish subtitles), and the menu had looped several times, I finally worked up the courage to walk up to the front of the bus, open up the DVD player cabinet, and turned it off.  To my surprise, the bus crew made no response - no second movie, no rush to put on music.  Silence reigned.

And then it happened.  A quechua woman stood up in the back and began to sing.  We were rolling through beautiful Andean highlands, past rivers, mountains, and herds of llamas, listening to beautiful traditional songs in a bus with 2 open windows.  Add to that our awesome new friend Shanna*, and we had truly achieved bus nirvana.

*From New Hampshire, she used to live in Cuzco and was visiting friends there.  We had a lot of great conversations, and she had some helpful advice about Peru in general.  She also said she would read the blog, so Hi Shanna!

The Search for Peanut Butter

It's 8:45 PM.  I just survived the hike up from the bottom of the world's second-deepest canyon, swarms of sinister midges, and a 6-hour bus ride back to Arequipa.  I'm sunburnt, my legs ache with every step, and for the past 24-odd hours my stomach has been trying to tear itself in two.  In short, it's time for a bed and some PB&J.

We enter the grocery store and find some PB without too much trouble.  But there's a problem.  Between us we have 30 soles, just enough for the hostel.  Against my worser wishes, we decided to hold off on the PB and leave the store in search of a place to change some cash.  We find one in short order, but they're out of soles!  They say they'll have some in an hour.  So we decide to go to an internet cafe to buy some time.

When we return to the square, the money-changer is closed!  So much for an hour.  But we won't be foiled.  We find an ATM, withdraw some soles, and walk back to the grocery store, only to come to a horrible realization - it's closed!

Dejected, demoralized, and in desperate need of some pepto bismol, I return to the hostel.  Once inside, I have a stroke of inspiration.  I rush to the guest fridge and begin to search.  On the second to bottom shelf, all the way in the back, amongst countless half-empty bottles of yogurt drinks, I find a single, mostly eaten jar of Peter Pan PB, and some strawberry jam.

Who do they belong to?  I don't care.  If they show up I'll pay them 20 soles for one simple, delicious sandwich.  Besides, it was in the refrigerator, and anybody who knew what Peter Pan was wouldn't put it in the fridge.

Update: It's several days later, and in Cuzco I finally found some local, organic peanut butter (At Gato's Market in Plaza de Armas).  Yay.

El Cañon

Cañon de Colca is big.  Really, really big.  There's really no other way to describe it.  Pictures don't really do it justice, although mine will try.  The only way to appreciate it is to try to walk down it, and be engulfed in its massiveness.  From the viewpoint at the top, you can see the river, and it doesn't look that far away.  It's not until you've descended an hour and the view has barely changed that you begin to comprehend its size.  You realize that the tiny boulder you can see on the river's bank is probably at least 50 feet wide.  You notice your knees shaking from the strain of walking 1000 feet downhill, and as if to taunt you, a condor floats effortlessly by.  I didn't get a picture of the condor, but here's the view from partway down:

After another couple of hours, we finally made our way down to the bottom.  Solicitors greeted us immediately with offers of swimming pools and beds, but we had priorities.  We walked through the little community, past the pools and bungalows, until we found a path down to the icy cold river.  A quick dip and some clothes-washing later, we walked back to the bungalow with the nicest solicitor and got ourselves a campsite here, for about $1.50:

After a quick swim (much warmer than the river), a nice nap and some dinner, we were searching for good avocados from the trees around the campsite when we saw the owner and a worker irrigating their terraces.  It was very cool, and fascinating to watch.  They had an irrigation stream running right by the topmost terrace, and an empty one running down through all of them.  They built a quick sandbag dam below the top terrace, then busted the upper dam, flooding the terrace with water.  When it had enough, they moved the sandbag dam one level lower, and let the water flood the next one.  It was a very cool way to irrigate a lot of land with only a few sandbags and a shovel.  The owner said he plants all sorts of vegetables for the dinners and lunches he cooks up for guests.  It was an awesome experience to watch traditional agriculture in action.

A short while later, I got a nice sunset picture, and then it was time for bed.  The next day could've been a grueling hike up with some stomach pain, but I just went slow and it really wasn't that bad.  I picked up trash along the way as well, which helped boost my spirits.  And on the bus ride back out, I finally got some good lighting to take pics of the canyon.

The canyon at sunset.

From the bus.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Arequipa bus timeline

If you haven't already, you may want to read Catching the bus to Arequipa, the tale of our hectic run across Lima to get on what should be our only overnight bus of the trip.
5:45 - We embark!  Noticed as we left that Lima has traffic cops (in little Inka Cola branded cylinders) to supplement their traffic lights.  Interesting.
6:15 - We begin watching TED talks on my sansa fuze with the splitter.  The combination was brilliant, as we were able to watch some intellectually stimulating stuff and then talk about it afterwards.  We both particularly enjoyed Mike Rowe (if "Dirty Jobs" fame)'s talk.
7:00 - The Peruvian panpipe music has begun to loop.  God help us all.
7:30 - They just handed out bingo cards.  This is going to be awesome.
8:00 - After a half hour of frantically attentive ears, 41 squares filled and one false bingo call (we didn't know you needed to get ALL of your numbers to win), we are now masters of the spanish numbers between 1 and 75.
11:30 - On my way back from the bathroom, noticed a little girl sleeping across two seats.  Her mom was sitting on the floor in from of them.  Sweetest thing I've seen in a long time.
12:40 - Riding through some sweet little desert canyon.  It's been several hours since dinner.
1:30 - We forgot our oreos in Lima.  Still been hours since dinner.
2:30 - Don't want to think about food right now.  Also, our bus driver is now cutting all the way into the oncoming lane during left turns.  We seem to be in good hands; I'm going to try to get some sleep.
5:45 - Sunrise, and about an hour's driving through a really awesome cliff-hanging section of the Pan-American Highway.  The windows were really fogged up, so I don't have any pictures, just memories.  They mentioned desayuno, but I don't see any breakfast around yet.
7:00 - The trash, all of the trash!  Maybe it's sleep deprivation, or the 13 hours in the bus, or the 10 days in Lima, but I can't keep my positive outlook about this right now.  There's trash all over the sides of the highways here.  It's about time I get off the coast.  I'm hoping in the less developed parts of the Andes that they will have more respect for the land.  I hate to end on a downer, but it's the truth, and it does affect me, so I should report it.  (Ed: On a positive note, I did see someone picking up trash later on the journey, and I have heard a lot of Peruvians complain about it)
10:47 - Arrival!  Finally!  Tomorrow we go into one of the deepest canyons in the world.  Tonight, we sleep!

Catching the bus to Arequipa

Pounding footsteps, big backpacks and frantic askings of directions - it was a scene straight out of The Amazing Race as we tried finding our bus station with 10 minutes to spare before it left us behind in the dust and dirt of Lima.

We had begun the day with a search for a headphone splitter, an item that we predicted (rightly) would be immeasurably useful on the journey.  We wandered the streets for a shop and when we finally bought one (for the mean price of 3 US dollars), it was 3:30 and we had an hour to get halfway across Lima and catch our bus.  We flagged down a taxi and, in addition to our driver seeming confused about where our destination was, he promptly got a ticket for picking us up in a bus-only zone.  But it was all good - within minutes we were speeding along at 5 mph in the expressway traffic jam, between throngs of people trying to sell everything from ice cream to cowboy hats.

This is what rush-hour looks like in Lima.

We decided to pay our cabbie the 20 bucks for his ticket, and with 15 minutes to spare he dropped us off next to the bus station.  Or so we thought.  We looked around and quickly realized that we were still about a mile away from our destination.  What happened next is a testament to the effectiveness of Lima's bus system.  We approached a bus travelling in the correct general direction, yelled out the name of the street we wanted, and when he nodded yes, we got on.  We moved for what seemed like barely a minute before he told us we were there, and after a few more minutes of asking for directions in our pidgin (but seemingly intelligible) spanish we arrived at the station - only to find out that our bus got cancelled anyway!  But we got free tickets on a better, faster bus which left an hour later, so it worked out amazingly well in the end.  The new bus was an "Imperial class", which meant bigger seats, free meals and the finest in Cruz del Sur promotional video playing on the TV - not a bad deal for 16 bucks each.  And we had an hour to plan our next move while we waited:

Be sure to check out the timeline of the bus to Arequipa as well.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Miscellaneous photos from Lima

Here are a few miscellaneous photos from my time in Lima, that didn't warrant a full entry.

One of the many ice cream trikes here in Lima.  There are also larger trikes of a similar design for selling fruit or other wares.  They're all single speeds with unreasonably high gear ratios for the weight they're carrying.  I also saw one with no seat!

Street jugglers in Lima.

Some late afternoon relaxation along one of the major highways in Lima.

The local kids slacklining.  I don't think I'll bring the slackline along for the rest of the trip, but it was cool to do a couple times.  The kids all learned my name, and for the next couple of days would call out "Hola, Nick!" and ask me when I was going to set it up again.

A taxi-cab beetle.  Lima is full of old beetles; in fact, I'm collecting pictures of them.  This is my favorite so far.

Picarones.  Kind of like a sweet potato donut, with a honey sauce.  Pretty tasty stuff.  Other notable meals so far include pollo a la brasa (charcoal broiled chicken), and anticucho (cow's heart).  Delicious, delicious cow heart.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pachacamac: The universal temple

Also, alpacas! Well, one alpaca. And it was in a pen. Next to the museum cafeteria where all the workers and guides were eating lunch. So not exactly in the wild, as it were. But my first! So a picture was necessary.

The museum this time was for the ruins at Pachacamac, the day's adventure. Pachacamac is unique in that it was a collection of temples used by 4 different cultures over a period of about 2000 years. Not only that, but they all worshipped the same gods! I don't have much to say about the place, other than that it was pretty cool to be in a place that was used for such a long time. Even the ancient buildings in Rome weren't used for that long, unless you count them being used for building materials in the dark ages.

And now, photos!

The peruvian hairless dog, agreed upon by Peruvians and tourists alike to be ugly as sin.  Nice mohawk, though.

A several-hundred year old tapestry, preserved remarkably well by the desert.  I have t-shirts in worse shape than this.

Our guide, who was pretty cool.  Asked me a lot of questions about american drinking games.  I did my best to explain beer pong in spanish.

The moon temple, where the woman were housed.  Before being sacrificed.

The bunch of us on top of the sun temple, the location of said sacrifices.  Far left is Sofia, who is a student, and her uncle Hermando, a retired miner.  They've been incredibly nice and accomodating, and I've learned a hell of a lot of Spanish in the past few days.

And that's that for Pachacamac.  Tomorrow, David arrives and the adventure will soon move into the Andes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Last Supper, con cuy

In downtown Lima, there is a monestary, now a museum, called Monesterio de San Francisco. It contains intricately carved wooden ceilings made of thousands of interlocking pieces, which hold themselves together with no glue. Kind of like a way more badass version of those lock-together hardwood floors. It also had catacombs full of 25,000 people (all apparently rather short, judging by the ceilings).

But what made the biggest impression on this irreverent gringo was the painting of the Last Supper. Created centuries ago by a peruvian artist during the time of Spanish rule, it has a devil on Judas's shoulder, children running around all over the place, and in place of the bread, guinea pigs. Yes, you read that correctly. Peru is awesome.

Unfortunately, pictures were prohibito, so I don't have any for this entry. Next time.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Peru Day 1: The Flight

The flight was, surprisingly, quite comfortable. I got an exit row seat and had tons of leg room. I almost gotten stuck in fort lauterdale, though! They said the plane was too heavy, and then started calling out names. Thankfully they only kicked a couple people off.

My seat companion for the first leg was a michigander who looked to be in his 40´s, and said he was retired (for 5 years) and now just played the stock market on occasion to make money. Said he lives 6-8 months a year in jamacia, and that he just got back from Thailand. Kept talking about the woman in these places, and how cheap the massages are. Also talked about how in Michigan, he lives with his girlfriend in the same town as his ex-wife. A real character.

One final surprise awaiting me in Peru: upon touchdown in Lima, the passengers erupted into a round of applause. After that, things were uneventful; I found the my ¨host family¨ (family of one of my mom´s coworkers) right away, and though traffic in Lima was crazy, I sat safe and comfortable riding shotgun on the way to the house.