Monday, June 26, 2006
This has nothing to do with skiing, or even Peru. Forgive the disgression. I would like to announce that I have the best boyfriend possible. There are many reasons to justify that statement, here is just one. When I got back from Peru to Alan's house there was an envelope in his room that I could tell was for me, inside where two tickets to the Kenny chesney concert Saturday night at Qwest stadium (I decided to take Alan)! We were 8 rows back from the satellite stage that Kenny sang on and a couple seats off of center. I was thrilled. We could see so well & Kenny was an incredible performer. Also performing were Blaine Larson, Dierks Bentley, Big & Rich (with Cowboy Troy), Gretchen Wilson, and Uncle Kracker appeared for his duet "when the sun goes down" with Kenny. First Beverly Hills & then a Kenny chesney concert- I am getting back into American culture quickly.
Homemade chocolate chip, craisin, and walnut cookies.
A fridge door filled with various flavors of Yoplait yoghurt.
A four poster bed with clean, soft, white sheets & comforter.
But somebody stole my pillow.
Clean towels and hot running water in the bathroom.
My brother going to work in a... tie(!?).
Watching anime movies with my sister.
My mom making salad for dinner.
Eyeing those new ultra-light pedals I saw in my dad's shop.
Wondering if he would notice if they disappeared.
Getting to ride my road bike again.
Having access to kayaks, rowing shells, roller skis, ice skates, bicycles...
It is good to be back in Wenatchee!
Friday, June 23, 2006
Home (closer this time)
I survived my flights and now am in Seattle, WA once again. Sunday night I will be back in Wenatchee... my real home, but anywhere with a bed and shower works for me!
Wednesday night in Mexico City was an ordeal. We arrived at 6 PM and spent the next six hours haggling with various airlines to get a flight that night into LA or a hotel for the night. I do not want to go into details, it was agravating and in Spanish. Finally we made it to a free hotel, courtesy of LanPeru, at 1 AM. They told us that our meal vouchers were only good in their restaurant, which was closed, and not for room service. Cammie then had a stellar performance (partly acting, partly truth) and convinced them to give us free room service since we were so pitifully hungry. I tried to help but was having a hard enough time trying not to laugh at Cammie to say much. We ended up getting free dinners of spicy chicken mole, Mexican hot chocolate and dessert (flan for me, chocolate cake for Cammie). After eating cheaply for an entire month, high quality food tasted so good. I do not usually like flan, but I thought I would try it since I was in Mexico and if there was good flan anywhere it would probably be there. We enjoyed our short stay in luxury and four hours of sleep before returning to the airport at 7 (actually 7:30 because we had a taxi fiasco, again, unpleasant) to fly to LAX.
Once in LAX we took awhile to adjust to the high cost of everything, called Cammie's friend, Jamie ($ 0.50 for a phone cal!?), and had her pick us up and take us to her apartment. Finally we got to relax in somewhere familiar, shower and change clothes. We went to Trader Joe's and bought lots and lots of VEGETABLES (what could be more exciting?) and made stirfry and strawberry spinach salad for dinner. After a month of avoiding most vegetable for fear of getting sick this was the high point of the day. We also had chocolate chip cookies and ice cream for dessert, since there were no chocolate chip cookies in Peru.
Now I am in Seattle, still a little surprised that everyone speaks English and still translating things between English and Spanish in my head. Coming up next I have the GRE general test next weekend and then a cross country drive to Wisconsin to meet up with the rest of the CXC Ski Team.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Home (kind of)
We made it back to The Point Hostal in Lima this morning. It feels good to come to a place where we have stayed before, kind of like coming home: we know where the bathrooms are and how the door locks work and what food we like to order. We spent the afternoon shopping... our one real shopping trip this whole month and we did not even spend very much in US dollars. Plus we have become proficient with using the colectivos so we spend much less on taxis than we did the first time we stayed in Lima. As much as I have enjoyed Peru, I am looking forward to being really, truthfully home!
Monday, June 19, 2006
Get ready... to travel!
Here we go, it looks like a busy travel schedule for the next couple of days... four flights in four days with three consecutive nights spent in three different countries. First we take the night bus to Chiclayo tonight. Tuesday we fly from Chiclayo to Lima. Wednesday we fly from Lima to Mexico City, where, due to the airlines rescheduling our flights, we have a 30 hour layover. Thursday we finish the flight to LAX from Mexico and Cammie gets to stay there and I get to spend the night in the airport. Then bright and early Friday morning I fly up to Seattle. I still have not figured out how to get from Seattle to Wenatchee, first I am going to try to make it through my international travel!
Hopefully Cammie and I have a good adventure in Mexico City to make the layover worthwhile. Any ideas on a good way to spend a day there?
Mancora & Bartering
I somehow ended up having a bit of a classic vacation in a beach resort town called Mancora. The original plan was to hang out in Chiclayo but we arrived and went to the small nearby coastal town where we thought we wanted to stay but did not get good vibes so we checked out a museum and caught a bus North to Mancora.
I have been learning to surf and have collected a lot of scrapes and bruises from getting bashed by the waves, my surfboard, and ground into the sand. The waves are big and difficult to navigate, but my surfing has improved 500%. Yesterday I did not last long in the ocean because the waves were twice as tall as the people surfing in them and you can only get beat up by such waves before going back to the sand.
So aside from using half a gallon of sunscreen and getting fresh fruit juices on the beach I have managed to collect some jewelry since everyone here sells handmade jewelry. The guy who gave us surfing lessons when we first got here also makes jewelry to sell & he showed us his artwork this morning & we both bought a couple things. Then when we were sitting on the beach a lady came over and asked us for some peanuts. We had a big bag that we had bought in Yurimaguas and since we did not want to carry them anymore we were trying to eat them. We told her to take as much as she wanted and she offered to trade us some jewelry for the bag of peanuts (apparently peanuts are not very common here since they need to be imported from other parts of Peru). So I got a pink shell bracelet & Cammie got some earings and I think everyone was pleased with the trade.
Then I started thinking about the value of other goods in a small coastal town that really only produced seafood and shells. So I decided to try and barter my hammock. It was easy; someone offered to exchange gifts and I picked out a necklace and they got the hammock and I think I by far got the better deal.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Kuelap is undergoing restoration. It was exciting to see the archeological digs and house restoration in progress. It made me wonder about the ethics of restoring and reconstructing ruins, should you leave them to crumble, overgrown with trees or rebuild or reinforce the walls and clear away the dirt from the floors so the buildings are more like their original splendour?
Cammie models with some intricate stone work that represents the feline eyes of the Chachapoyan Puma God. This stonework is fancier than anything found at Machu Picchu. In fact the only thing that Machu Picchu had that Kuelap did not was hordes of tourists! Cammie and I were the ONLY tourists at Kuelap this morning.
I am practicing grinding corn like the ancient Chachapoyans did in Kuelap. Behind me is a Cuy home; a narrow, hollow wall that seperated the kitchen from the house where the guinea pigs lived close to the hearth until they were baked in it. Or more likely fried since everything is fried down here. (Cammie and I tried Cuy when we where in Cusco. I have also eaten Alpaca which apparently has the same nutrient content as beef but half the fat.)
Cammie's knee swelled up from the rough (and I mean rough) trail the first day so we rented her a horse for the downhill trek today. I am leading the horse while our guide had wandered off to use a telephone.
I love the geology around here. This is a view from Kuelap. The rocks are mostly sedimentary with colors ranging from blindingly white to oranges, reds, purples and pinks.
The Plaza de Armas of my new favorite Peruvian town. This photo is also taken half a block away from discovering the deliciousness of the Panificadora bakery.
After a week in the jungle I was glad to be in more familiar countryside. The area around Chachapoyas reminds me of the East side of the North Cascades. From a distance the hills look the same and the vegetation looks the same. There are patches of different greens where different crops are grown. Here they mostly grow corn and coffee. (I picked a coffee bean off of a tree and ate it, well sucked on it and then I spit it out!) Looking closer, however, the coffee plants and occasional palm tree remind me that I am actually in an exotic locale. Many of the other plants and flowers are similar to the plants near home. One of the most exciting moments of our 3 day trek was finding lupine! Then I looked closer and realized it was growing on a vine-y shrub. Oh well, it was definitely lupine flowers and leaves.
I just discovered the most amazing bakery yet in Peru- The Panificadora San Jose in Chachapoyas. Cammie and I split a pineapple cake and a blueberry cream cake for, um, afternoon dessert and are planning on going back for "dinner." We also had the coconut cake from there on the first day of our trek when we were standing in the rain near some ruins and our guide, Carlos, pulled out three slices of cake. It suddenly made being wet not such a bad thing. They make a lot of pound cake type cakes here. The best are from the bakeries like Panificadora where they are really tall and they cut thick slices. They also use a special, carmel colored goey sweet cream on many of their pastries that is delicious and not quite like anything I have had before. The fanciest, most expensive desserts here cost just under a dollar.
Monday, June 12, 2006
I relax in my hammock on the barge between Yurimaguas and Lagunas. It was already a sea of hammocks when we got there, but in S. America there is always room for one more!
I found a frog. Okay, I did not find it, Jose found it. We could not spot the animals nearly as quickly as our guides. Cammie did find a toad as big as her face and another frog as big as her thumbnail.
Cammie fends off aggressive little fish in the river near our camp.
In the National Reserve of Paracas. Cammie and I chose to walk instead of pay for a tour by bus or boat. These sand dunes were the only thing other than sand that we saw. But it was still a good walk and I got to run for an hour. So I was covered in sand, standing on the dunes, but pretty happy.
Jose caught this fish the last morning. He let it live all day in the bottom of the canoe. Here it is still alive with some of the kids that live near the entry point to the park. It was shoved into the back of the Mototaxi and was finally dead by the time we reached the house of Jose.
Cammie paddles up the River Yuriyaca with our guide Jose, looking for monkeys. We also saw a black leopard on the second to last day.
We were paddling innocently up the river when Jose slowed his canoe, put down his paddle, and, like lightning, grabbed this guy out of the shallows.
Jose caught a crocodile for us one night. This is just a baby, a couple of months old. Do not worry, we did not eat him, I put him back in the water.
Cammie tries out the taxi of the jungle- a modified motorcycle with room for 2 to, well 6 by Peruvian standards, in the back.
I found a monkey to play with while wating in Lagunas for the barge. Another tourist on the boat pointed out to us that he was probably recently captured from the forest. So do not support illegal animal trade and go buy a monkey for a pet, even though they are cute.
I would like to say that I went into the jungle a girl and emerged as a woman. But that would be overdramatic. Cammie and I spent 5 days in the National Reserve of Pacaya Samiria, traveling by day in dugout canoes and camping near the river yuriyaca (which is Quechua for black water) by night. They did not have very high expectations for tourists... they were not even going to give us paddles, they expected to lie in the canoes and rest all day. Luckily we figured this out before departing and demanded paddles. We had two capable guides, Jose and Democrito, and two canoes with a guide in the front of each canoe and girl in the back.
The second day my guide asked if I knew how to steer and I showed him by competently manuevering through some tight snags in the river and then told him not to paddle for the rest of the way to camp, which was only about an hour. I think he was impressed, but he still was convinced that Cammie and I were unable to get in and out of the canoes by ourselves or carry our bags. We spent the night at a ranger station and even had a bed and a porch to eat on.
The third day we went for a jungle walk instead of canoeing. During our walk, Jose told us all about the medicinal properties of the trees. Most of which I believed. I was a little sceptical about the tree with the bad spirit which you could use to kill someone. Here is how it would work: If Joe killed your baby girl, you would take her clothes, cut a patch out of the stomach of the tree (the tree had a huge bulge about head height), tie the patch back on, then Joe dies with a huge stomach like the tree. But then we reached another stream, had a snack of crackers and oranges, and got to fish.
Jose had a string with a hook and a small dead fish in his pocket and he cut a stick to make a fishing pole. Cammie and I each caught one fish of the same species. Jose and Democrito caught a bunch, and much faster. Cammie and I also killed the fish by bludgeoning them over the head with the blunt side of a machette. We were not very good at it, but I got it down to two strokes by the next day. Then we strung the fish on a piece of vine and I carried them back to camp.
We swam and washed clothes back at camp. Cammie and I had a little tripidation of swimming because there were a myriad of small fish that were used to getting fed fish guts off the dock and they would come nibble at you. And since the water was a dark brown, we could not see anything underwater. We also had seen crocodiles, anacondas, electric fish, and other scary things in the same river. But we swam anyway.
Then it was time to clean the fish. The two Cammie and I caught were still alive (after about three hours out of water and a lot of head clubbing). We vowed to be swifter killers next time. First we descaled the fish, then we gutted them and fed the guts to the little fish that had been trying to eat us earlier. Then we made slits down the sides to rub salt into. We ate them for breakfast the next morning after they had been seasoned and smoked in a banana leaf. So we ate a lot of fish on the trip. Almost every meal was fish, rice, potatoes or yuca and plantains. I decided that boiled plantains are delicious and I should start making them when I return to the States.
We spent two days paddling back up the river, with our canoes a little bit lighter. The last day we left camp at nine and in a canoe (4 hours). Back at our starting point we had one last lunch together (spaghetti, white rice, potatoes and plaintains; this was not a low carb trip) and took a Mototaxi back to Lagunas (20 minutes). Then an overnight barge to Yurimaguas (12 hours). Then inside a truck cab to Tarapoto (5 hours). Then a bus to Pedro Ruiz (7 hours). Then a car to Chachapyas (3 hours). Then we were worn out, had to pee, and it was raining.
Now we are in Chachapoyas, staying in a really nice hostel right on the Plaza de Armas which we got for almost half price, because it was too expensive for us but they wanted our money.
Tomorrow we leave for a three day trek, so again, it may be awhile before I blog again.
That is right, I no longer have hair! I got a haircut today in Chachapoyas and my head is once again basically shaved. Cammie also got a haircut and now her hair is above her shoulders and very cute! It is a little scary to get a haircut in a foreign language, but a good way to experience daily life.
Monday, June 05, 2006
I woke up this morning and stepped out of our hostel to complete chaos in the streets. Nope, no political upheavel, just a market. (The Presidential elections were yesterday and it looks like Alan Garcia is currently winning with about 53%.) The streets were filled with brightly colored umbrellas over all types of goods for sale- fish, underwear, fruit, spices, grains, dish soap, batteries, canned evaporated milk, machettes, anything you could picture in a normal store.
In preperation for our ten hour boat ride down river (although I do not trust anything people tell me anymore so it could be anywhere from 6-20 hours), Cammie and I wanted to buy some food. I thought a bunch of jerkey would be a great option. Unfortunately, the piles of jerkey had hooves sticking out with fur on the legs and I decided to avoid it. Do not think that we are being food wusses though; I have probably eaten almost every edible part of a chicken since I have been here. There is frequently chicken feet in our soup, or someone else's foot. Sometimes it is difficult to tell what animal we are eating. This morning for breakfast we found an aisle of food booths and bought the typical jongle dish which is rice, chicken, and olives wrapped in a banana leaf. It is pretty good, but again, you get weird pieces of chicken.
Upon arriving in Lagunas we will try to find a guide to take us on a trip into the jungle. I do not think that there are internet cafes in Lagunas so it will probably be a couple of days to a week before I can write another blog! But do not worry, I will still be safe, just out of reach.
I am trying to play a set of pipes that a vendor is trying to sell me (I did not buy anything). Looking on is a little girl selling dolls that we were playing with. I am also sporting my new alpaca wool poncho and hat.
A couple of Whitman Alumni hanging out on the top of Waynepicchu: Laura Valaas, Sarah Schoen, Jayne Borman.
I am practicing my yoga on a Machu Picchu wall. The walls had stones jutting out to form steps so you could go easily from one terrace to another.
When you see a sign like this on a bike ride... and you are already over 10,000 feet in elevation... you should be worried.
Where am I?
I am not even really sure where I am. Here is a summary:
Thursday and Friday nights in Pisco.
Saturday night in Tarapoto.
Sunday night in Yurimaguas.
Monday night (hopefully) in Lagunas.
We are planning on taking a river boat this afternoon to Lagunas and exploring the joungle from there. Our boat, the Eduardo 6, is departing at 3 this afternoon. Or 4. Or 2. The times do not seem to be set, so hopefully they do not decide to leave before we get there.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Another brush with the upper class
We decided to go to the National Reserve of Paracas, a little South of Pisco. We took a colectivo down there for 1 sole (exchange rate is about 3.4 soles to the US dollar). A colectivo is a really, really run down small bus or large van that is cheap (and slow). This was our first time figuring out how to take one, so we were quite proud of ourselves, next we will probably try one of the three wheeled taxis that have been everywhere in Ica and Pisco (but not other towns). So we fended off all the people trying to sell us tours to the park that is on a peninsula and decided to walk. After two hours of walking through costal desert we made it to the information center. Then the wind started picking up more and more and we were stuck in the middle of a desert, not wanting to venture outside because of all the sand in the air. A car pulled up with a bunch of people and after they looked around the center we asked them if we could get a ride back to town with them. They agreed and two of the guys sat in the trunk and let us sit in the seats.
When we got back to Pisco, they declined our offer to pay for the taxi. During the ride they were really nice and did not try to hit on us or steal anything. After dealing almost exclusively with lower class people, it is quite a shock to interact with an upper class citizen and not be harrassed in some way.
Sleeping on a bus
Sleeping on a bus is uncomfortable. That is all I have to say about our 20 hour bus ride from Cusco to Ica. Groggy and moody when we got off the bus in Ica, we stayed far about three hours before taking another bus to Pisco- just long enough to get a meal and see a really cool, but expensive (US 3.50) museum.
Pisco is much nicer and we decided to pay for a flight to the North of Peru instead of taking another long distance bus.