sábado, 3 de noviembre de 2007

Goodbyes in Lima

My last day in Peru was extended due to a delayed flight departure time. This was perfect timing because Jorge and Jessica had just arrived in Lima and I was able to have dinner with them at their favorite Lima restaurant, T.G. I. Fridays! It was nice to end my trip by getting to say goodbye in person to my wonderful friends who made my trip so much richer by hosting me and introducing me to the local culture and people in a way I never would have experienced as a tourist alone.
A big thanks to the whole Ordonez family!
Sandra, Jessica and Jorge
Plaza in Central Lima
Park at the end of Larco Avenue in Miraflores
LarcoMar, oceanfront shopping below the park! (Starbucks included)

miércoles, 17 de octubre de 2007

One More Day in Perudise

Huascaran Mtn
Hiking Buddies: Heiko, Jen, Manu and Pieter

Lake 69

After four beautiful days in the Cordillera Blancaaaaahhh and an eight hour bus ride today, I am now in Lima at the home of Jorge's sister Sandra. I had a great time in Huaraz and surrounding mountains. It was very sunny and fairly warm each day. Olazas Bed and Breakfast was my base in Huaraz and a great location to meet other adventurers. I hiked with four others guests, (Pieter from Holland, Heiko from Germany, Jen from NY, and Manu from DC(the other Americans are both living in Lima)) on Sunday to Lake 69. Lake 69 is a gorgeous turquoise gem at 4550m(14,980) just below Chacraruju Mountain also very close to Huascaran Mountain,the highest peak in Peru at 6768m (22,200ft). It was a challenging ten mile hike, but very rewarding with views of amazing glacial peaks, waterfalls and Lake 69. The only explanation I learned for the name of the lake was from our taxi driver, he said it was the 69th lake that the Spanish discovered in that area.
Chacraruju Mountain

Pisco and ??? Mountain

Monday I relaxed in the central town of Huaraz with views of many of the snowy peaks. Yesterday, Jen, Manu, our guide Julio Olaza and I went on a thrilling mountain bike ride. We started by climbing for about 5km up near the base of the mountains and then made a fast descent of about 20 km or more along a gravel road passing by many rural farms and homes on the way back to our guest house. I saw one snowy peak that was shaped much like Mt. Rainier! Julio knows Joe Simpson, the main character in Touching the Void which was actually set in the Cordillera Huayhuash a little ways south of the area I was staying and playing in.

Tomorrow I will have one day to explore the capital and do a little more shopping before catching a red eye to Miami. Sandra and I planning to go to a great little cevicheria for lunch so I can sample the national dish, ceviche or lime marinated fish. I am due to arrive in Seattle at midday on Friday. My vacation has been a lot of fun, but I am also looking forward to being back home.

Pictures will be ready soon.....

viernes, 12 de octubre de 2007

Monkeys, Macaws, Tapirs, Oh My!

I just returned from my jungle tour at the EcoAmazonia Lodge on the banks of the Madre de Dios River (Mother of God). The Madre de Dios is a tributary to the Amazon and from Peru it flows into Bolivia and then Brazil. It was interesting to be near the headwaters of the Amazon which until now I had only seen at the end in Belem, Brazil. I was added to a tour group made up of all Germans and a couple from Lima. I spent more time practicing Spanish with the Peruvian couple and a couple of German girls living in Arequipa.

The first afternoon we visited Monkey Island across the river from our Lodge. There we saw at least four different types of wild monkeys. The first kind were very small, maybe 10 inches high, with orange heads and mostly black bodies. I took some short video footage of these and the large monkeys with my camera. I´ll try to post those after I get home. We also saw larger black and light brown monkeys. It was fun to watch them catch bananas from our guide and swing or jump from tree to tree. I was suprised to see how much they use their tails for holding on to branches.

The second day we walked a few kilometers through the jungle to Apu Victor Lake. Along the way our guide stopped to explain the unique characteristics of the different trees and plants. Some of the trees had spikes to protect them from predators, others had a symbiotic relationship with fire ants for protection. One of the fruits we saw is traditionally used for ink to make tattoos that last one week. Many of the people in the group got tattoos, but not me. We arrived at the lake to enjoy a quite boat ride to spot birds, butterflies and turtles. We saw Great White Egrets, Horned Screamers, Blue Monarch butterflies and a butterfly sitting on a turtles head! Afterwards, we rested on a lookout platform high above the lake.

We also visited a local family to learn about their native traditional ways of living. At the end of the day I walked around the gardens near the lodge and saw breadfruit and guava trees which reminded me of Jamaica. While the two German girls and I were sitting on the concrete staircase down to the river at sunset yesterday, the local tapir, a big but friendly animal about the size of medium pig with a funny nose walked up behind us in the dark. Thankfully I had heard he was friendly and you could even pet him, so we were not very fearful.

In a few hours I catch a flight to Lima and then a will catch an overnight bus to Huaraz. Huaraz is in the heart of the Cordillera Blanca, White Mountains of the Andes which have the highest peaks in Peru. I plan to spend four days in that area day hiking with groups of other travelers.

martes, 9 de octubre de 2007

Walking with the Incas

I am back in Cusco after a visit to the Sacred Valley to see many small and/or partially demolished Incan ruins and an amazing visit to Machu Picchu today. The smaller ruins seemed impressive until I arrived at Machu Picchu at sunrise after walking up from Auguas Calientes (Hot Water or Hot Springs) in the wee hours this morning. MP is situated in a semi-tropical cloud forest set high on a mountain surrounded by the sharp bend of the Urubamba River and even larger mountain peaks. Compared to most ruins in Peru it is in excellent condition, this is because of it´s remote location and the fact the Spanish Conquistadors never found or destroyed it like most of the others.

I was travelling on my own yesterday and today and was plesantly surprised and blessed by the wonderful people I met along the way. The first person I encounterd at a ceramics studio in a small museum was Lucho Salvero, a ceramic artist who is reviving Pre-Columbian pottery work. He is self taught through studying ancient pieces of pottery and much trial and error. He makes the most beautiful pots and vases all by hand. It is amazing how symetrical they are without even using a wheel. He is trying to teach others these techniques to revive the ancient techniques and quality of ceramics in Peru and around the world. He also learned a lot and worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico for many years.

My second aquantaince was Sonja, a high school math and German teacher from Germany. She is on sabbatical from her job for the year and is spending six months in South America. We were seated next to each other on the train up to Aguas Calientes, the town nearest Machu Picchu, yesterday and realized we were both travelling on our own and had similar interests in visiting MP today. We decided to hike the 6 km up an Incan staircase to MP early this morning to arrive at sunrise instead of taking the tourist bus. It was tiring, but worth it. We were able to take pictures from the most famous viewpoints before most of the other tourist arrived and then we joined a guided tour of the more notable sites. Afterwards we walked about an hour south on the Inca Trail to the Sun Gate where you first see MP if you are hiking in from the trail. We really enjoyed travelling together and share a similar sense of humor, so it is too bad our plans will now take us in opposite directions. I also met a couple from Australia on the trip to MP who are archeologists and museum curators or administrators working briefly in Peru last year and part of this one to help preserve archeological treasures.

Since I last wrote, I was also able to visit many of the museums and cathedrals of Cusco as well as enjoy walking around in the daytime. I met a returned Peace Corps Volunteer friend of Jessica´s who she served with in Macedonia. He is here with a tour group this week. I have really enjoyed getting to know Jorge´s parents, they are very welcoming and have a great sense of humor. It has been fun to learn to greet everyone with a kiss next to the cheek and realize the warmth of the Peruvian people.

Tomorrow I get to visit the Southern Jungle to see many types of monkeys as well as other exotic birds and animals for a couple days.

sábado, 6 de octubre de 2007

Cusco by Day

Here I am on one of the famous side streets of Cusco which is a great example of Spanish buildings constructed atop Incan foundation walls. These stones are massive and the joints are so tight. Around the corner is the most famous 12-sided stone.

At the Qoricancha Museum in Cusco I saw the intricate joint connections that the Incas used to fit the stones together.

Plaza de Armas

jueves, 4 de octubre de 2007

Cusco at Night

Cusco is a beautiful city even at night, which is all I have seen it by so far. Jessica, Jorge Jr., Jorge Sr. and I walked around the city tonight. The Plaza de Armas in the center of town looks very European. It has two cathedrals, many shops with beautiful balconies built on top on Incan stone walls and a wonderful fountain in the center. The city is very much alive at night. This seems true of many foreign cities compared with those in the USA. I´m not sure why, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that most people don´t own or drive there own cars and therefore must walk to do errands and socialize after work.

Today we visited the ruins of Sillustani with many interesting funeral towers of immense smoothly carved stone blocks. We stopped at Raqchi which was a large and impressive townsite. Raqchi has some of the tallest remaining ruins, three stories high with adobe walls on top of stone foundations. Our final stop before Cusco was at Picquillacta ruins an even larger administrative complex of huge dimensions, but most of what you could see where stone walls from one to two stories in high in varying conditions.

I am feeling much better today and was able to enjoy the long but interesting car trip which brought us through the altiplano and over the highest mountain pass I have ever crossed: 4330m or 14,200 ft. Basically, it was like driving to the top of Mt. Rainier! Jessica was driving and said the car started lacking power as we reached the top.

I´m not sure that I´ll be able to post many pictures while travelling, but definitely will find a means of sharing them with you afterwards either in person or via a photo website.

miércoles, 3 de octubre de 2007

First Days in Peru


Hello from Puno, Peru on the shores of beautiful Lake Titicaca!

I arrived in Peru yesterday after spending one lovely day in Copacabana, Bolivia with a half day boat tour to Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) where many indigenous people believe life began. With only one hour on the island, I hiked up the Inca Stairs and saw great views of Isla del Luna (Island of the Moon) and other parts of the rather large island. Back in Copacabana, I had a lovely dinner of trout and got to walk around their very beautiful cathedral with its white walls and green tiled domed roofs. It is a very relaxing little town on the southern shores of Lake Titicaca (think on the scale of our Great Lakes).

When I woke up Tuesday morning and prepared to take the bus to Puno, Peru (where my friends Jessica and Jorge live) I realized I had traveller´s diarrhea even though I had eaten at a very nice restaraunt and only drank bottled water. It has been slowing me down a bit and taking away my appetite, but Jorge´s sister is a doctor in Lima and she recommended some medication to help me get better.

Jessica, a friend from college, has been living here for two years and speaks excellent Spanish. She and Jorge are expecting their first baby, a boy, in February. They are very excited and like calling each other Mama and Papa already!

Today I was feeling a little better and so Jessica and I took a boat tour out to the Islas Flotantes (Floating Islands). The islands are made of reeds, piled upon dried reeds and almost continually replenished to keep the islands dry and above water. Some of the islands noticeably move under your feet. The Uros people were forced to create these new homes for themselves centuries ago when they were driven from there homes by the Incas. They even make very beautiful boats out of tightly bound reeds with animal like heads on the bows.
Reed Boat

Tonight we went out to a very nice dinner here in Puno. There were live musicians and dancers who put on a show typical of the Aymara indigneous people, those from the region of Southern Peru and Bolivia. It was very good. I also tried Alpaca prepared in the traditional Peruvian dish of Lomo Saltado for the first time and really enjoyed it. Alpaca is like a very tender and flavorful beef.

Tomorrow we will drive to Cusco stopping to see many of the lesser visited Incan ruins along the way. Jorge is from Cusco and is excited to show me around his very popular home town. His parents have a house in Cusco and in the Sacred Valley where we will also stay before I take a tour to Machu Picchu on Tuesday.