Travel Back Thursday – Support

Peru, Travel

One of the most fun purchases I made while in Cusco, Peru cost a whopping 15 soles – so about 3$! There was this older gentleman that was painting in one of the plazas and after much contemplation; I bought one of his little paintings. I couldn’t resist – they are all so colourful here and he was so cute and genuine (unlike the people that followed me around with a folder trying to sell me art!). He belongs to a painting school and his whole family paints! And I actually got a picture of him painting a picture! Made my 3$ totally worthwhile.



Friday, January 7, 2011

Peru, Travel, Uncategorized

I slept very well on the bus last night. I was surprised, actually. The “seat beds” were great even though they didn’t fold down all of the way. I was able to curl up into the seat when I wanted to change positions, which was nice – better than putting my feet up on the seat of the person in front of me like I do when I am in the plane!

The morning passed rather quickly, which was impressive. We watched “UP” and “Letters to Juliet”, both of which I can handle, so I didn’t have any heart attacks there, which was a huge bonus (although UP makes me cry a lot…but that’s better than other reactions!).

We arrived in Lima around 2 pm, which means the trip was actually 23h and not 21. Beats me where we lost 2h along the way – although I had a feeling it was going to be closer to the 24 hour mark than anything else.

Getting our bags was a gong-show. It was complete chaos! The entire bus system was impressive – except for this last bit. I mean, they check our passports at every stop. They do a metal detector scan of hand luggage before getting on the bus. And, the film us as we get on the bus and while we are in our seats! They even have a GPS locator on the bus (to prevent hijacking??!!). So, the fact that we had to yell for our bags with no order or security at all was rather unlike the rest of the experience.

I had cancelled my two nights at Pirwa hostel in Lima when the whole plane thing didn’t work out. I had thought I’d go walk around Lima and then crash at the airport. However, the bus stop was in the sector next to Miraflores and was going to only be a 10 soles ride to the hostel, so I opted for a shower and a bed to sleep in. And, on the plus side, I reserved the same cab driver that took me from the bus station to the hostel for 4am tomorrow morning.

It is really amazing how awesome showers are when there hasn’t been one in a while!! It felt pretty good.

I found a map and got some directions of the area from the hostel guy and made my way down to the beach. It was good to go walking. And, it is so much warmer here; it is the first time I’ve worn shorts to walk around since I’ve been here. The beach was great except for all the people trying to sell stuff!! I wonder if there is a different beach locals go to because all the surfer dudes got on my nerves. And, as soon as they find out I speak Spanish it is even worse because then they just want to keep talking!

The beach was nice, however, the water wasn’t to die for blue or anything. I got some sand, which was my main objective! On my way back up to the main street guys kept stopping and looking at me – I definitely didn’t miss that in the small towns! It doesn’t help that I understand when they say rude things under their breath either! Ah well!! This one creepy guy more or less followed me all the way up the hill, trying to talk to me. I finally decided that I needed to eat in order to get rid of him – so that is what I did!!

I ate at a cute coffee place on a corner, so there was lots to watch. I had this random pizza thing, that wasn’t really pizza at all, but it was good. I was quite enjoying myself until two rather cocky guys asked if the two empty chairs at my table were free! Like, seriously?! Does that work on other girls?! I don’t understand it if it does! Anyway, I said the chairs were free all right and got up and left.

On the way back to the hostel I walked through “John F. Kennedy Park” and visited a little market. I love markets! It is a good thing they don’t really exist at home because I’d probably spend too much money at them! There was this really nice wood bowl there as well as some bronze stuff (for which Peru is known), but I resisted both knowing I don’t really have room in my bag and that I don’t need anything more!!

There were a tonne of cats in this park too!! I could have done a whole photo shoot of cats, if I was into them! It was kind of cute, because they were hiding everywhere…in the pansies, up trees, in the longer grass! It is odd because I remember hearing that cats are bad luck here, which is why I haven’t seen one cat to date! I’ve seen a lot of dogs, but no cats – except here today was the opposite!!

I walked for a while longer in hopes of seeing a grocery store, which I did manage to find! It was a huge one with excellent prices on everything! I had fun looking through it and found some neat things like pre-packaged mini bottles of balsamic vinager and olive oil and bags of coca leaves. I bought a chocolate croissant for tomorrow morning as well as some chocolate milk! All good things.

On the way home I saw this guy have a fight with a police officer on the street! There were sure a lot of people watching – don’t know if that means it happens all the time or rarely, but it was odd to see (guess that means I don’t go out much if that is something I’ve never seen before, eh?!).

When I arrived in my room at the hostel there was this Brazilian guy there who was rather interesting to talk to! He is from Buenos Aires and talks with a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish which made it slightly challenging to understand! He liked to talk, however, which always makes it less awkward!! It amazes me how many people from Brazil I have met on this trip. I’d say the majority have been from South America, with Brazil winning by a long shot. I don’t know if that is because it is their summer holidays or because the money is on par, but it sure makes me work on my thinking process when speaking Spanish!

It is kind of sad that I am going home tomorrow. It has been a good trip and there is so much I haven’t done yet in Peru! It is been a good start, however! And, I know I have seen and done the mandatory things here, which is a good thing!

Yeah for the 15h on the plane tomorrow. I am soooo looking forward to fruits and veggies when I get home! 🙂



Thursday, January 6, 2011

Peru, Travel, Uncategorized

I spent the morning walking around Puno. I was actually trying to find a bookstore so I could buy a book that would help to pass the time over the next couple of days in busses and planes. I wonder what the litteracy rate is in Peru. It was very challenging to find bookstores – in Spanish or in English!! I found the libraray and a museum, both of which were rather interesting. I finally found someone that actually knew a bookstore existed in Puno and made my way there. They had three books in English – two about the Incas and one by a Spanish author. For 3$, I decided it was a good thing!

I had an awesome ice cream cone for lunch while sitting in the plaza. I don’t think any of the locals actually work! They just all sit with their friends in the central plaza all day! It is amusing to watch. There was a wedding today at the Church, which was interesting to watch. They had a bunch of coloured confetti thrown on them and then they walked around the plaza. It was interesting.

Early afternoon I made my way over to the bus station and found this lovely seat on the second floor – where I’ll be until Arequipa. Thankfully, there, I’ll get to switch to the first floor and the big seats!

Should be an interesting sleep!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Peru, Travel, Uncategorized

We woke up early because we had another island to visit. We took the boat to Taquile island. The lake was really rough this morning. The waves were huge and water was splashing over the windows and everything. I was really glad I don’t get sick easily!!

This island was much smaller than where we spent the night, and the dress was definitely different. Everyone here has a dress code to identify each other, of sorts. Males all wore hats: red if they were single and half red and white if they were married. Single girls had big coloured pom-poms attached to their braids or their black shawls, and married women have black pom-poms. It was kind of interesting to learn.

We hiked up to the top of the island where the central plaza is located. They had a collective market where all the communities on the island brought their crafts to sell. I bought a bunch of bracelets – I couldn’t resist the cute little girl selling them to me at at 1 sole each, it was kind of fun!

We walked up a path of sorts to a family where we all had lunch. They made us trout from the lake as well as kinwa soup and rice. The trout is actually Canadian – well, it was introduced from a Canadian species once upon a time, in any case.

To get down the other side of the island there were something like 200 stairs! I found out that it is much easier to do stairs that are dry and without a backpack! And, the views were pretty awesome.

Down on the beach, there were ladies collecting sand in large rice sacks. There were also guys using hammers and chisels to break off pieces of rock. I am thinking they used these things to make their walk-ways everywhere on the island (which were very well done!). It was amazing to see people having to do that to get their building supplies.

The three hour ride back to Puno was a little bit tedious. Thankfully the water was much calmer, but it was still a long ride. A couple of us were trying to figure out why three hours was the magic number and we think it was because the boat driver gets paid per time on the water or something along those lines. We could have taken much less time to get back, but oh well!!

When I got back to the hostel the shower was pretty awesome! I was in a room with three guys from Buenos Aires, however, and not going to lie, they smelled pretty bad and were super messy! Oh well! Only one night!! Makes life interesting.

I found out at this point that the plane I booked from Juliaca to Lima for tomorrow decided not to fly! Somehow, I was not surprised. At least I got an e-mail saying they would reverse my payment! So, that was fun. The wonderful lady that works at the hostel called the bus station for me and thankfully they still had seats available on their 3pm, 21h bus to Lima, so I took a tuc-tuc down to the station and managed to get a “bed” seat from Ariquipa to Lima, which is the 15h overnight bit! I lucked out there! The second floor is just like a normal bus and I think that would be a long ride like that!!

I made my way to the central plaza where I managed to finally mail a couple of my post cards! They are pricy suckers, so hopefully no one is really expecting any!! 🙂 The plaza was nice, but Cusco was nicer! The churches here are pretty, but the atmosphere isn’t the same as it was in Cusco.

Dinner was fun because I ran into the Calgary guy from my boat trip as well as one of his friends that is from Australia, who I had met up on top of the mountain at Amantani. All three of us headed off for pizza and beer for dinner. It was very fun to talk to them about all of their travels and neat places they have been. I am excited about a trip that that Aussie has done – she went and hiked something like 335 days on El Camino de Santiago, which is the pilgrimage through Spain. You stay in Monastaries and hike about 25km a day. It sounds totally awesome! I am thinking that is a must-do in the future. (I think that is the walk that Jill Campbell did – the painter that mom and I like on Salt Spring)

Off to sleep – hopefully a good onebecause I have a feeling my next couple of nights are going to be interesting!



Tuesday, January 4, 2010

Peru, Travel, Uncategorized

There are about 11 of us on the two day tour of Lake Titicaca. We all got picked up from our various hotels/hostels around 8am this morning before heading off to the boat. When we got to the dock there were many shops selling bags of pasta, sugar, and flour. The families that we would be spending the night with on Amantani Island are purely vegetarian and welcome the bags of supplies from Puno from all the tourists! I ended up getting a bag of pasta – at about 75cents per bag, I thought that it was doable!!

We had about a 1/2 an hour ride on our boat (which was more like a grey-hound bus set-up with a sitting area on the roof) to get to the floating islands of Los Uros. I don’t know the whole story behind why these indigenous people started building these floating islands, however, I think it has something to do with escaping the Incas on land back in the day.

The islands were pretty cool. They are completely built out of reeds that grow in the lake. We arrived at the islands and the locals showed us around their island. I forget how many independent islands there are among the floating islands, but there were definitely quite a few. Each island has their own President that gets elected for one year terms.

After a brief explanation of how to build a floating island, we were taken to each different house on the island. They too are built out of reeds, however, today they are synthetic reeds so that they don’t have to be replaced every six months. That fact worries me a bit because it makes me wonder if these people are living there by choice or because all of us crazy tourists come to visit? I know that tourism is really important to support small communities like these ones, but it kind of made me think about their lives.

We took a reed boat from one island to another within the community. The reed boat is basically like a boat in Venice, except that it held a few more people! Here they tried to sell us their handicrafts. They were beautiful, and it was cool to actually see them working on them, but I know that it wouldn’t look like much when I got them home!

We then took our lovely greyhound boat THREE hours to the Amantani Island where we would be spending the night. It is a natural island that is comprised of 4000 residents that are divided into 10 different communities. We were all divided up into groups of two or three and a local family took us up to their house. And when I say “up” I mean UP! Everything is up hill here!! So, we followed the little girl in our house, named Nely, up to our family where we would be spending the next few meals and the night. Oh, and it was kind of cool because I was with another Calgarian in our family! We actually went to high schools that were right next to each other. Small world, eh?!

We had kinwa (or Quinoa) soup for lunch as well as fried cheese and rice. I love the cheese here. I guess when there is no meat in the diet, they must get most of their protein from cheese.

After lunch we walked up the mountain on the island. As I said, things are always up! It was only about an hour hike up to the temple at an altitude of 4152 meters above sea level. We walked around the temple three times with coca leaves because that is the tradition (or something along those lines…). We sat up on the hill until the sun went down. It was rather beautiful to see the sun setting over the lake and mountains.

Dinner was basically the same thing as lunch. I don’t suppose there is much variation when all the food is grown on the island and includes only kinwa, potatoes, and other grains. After dinner we were both dressed up in the local dress in order to go over to the disco. I had a big green skirt, a hand-made waist band and a big white blouse. The outfit was finished off by a black long scarf that the ladies wear over their heads. Not going to lie, I felt like I was dressing up as a nun!!

We walked over to the dance hall, or school, in the complete dark. The island has no electricity. Each house has one solar panel that gives them a few hours of light in the evenings. The cooking is done over a fire. It is all really impressive.

Anyway, we danced for about an hour until we had kind of had enough! There was a lot of dancing in circles and arms swinging! Our house mother is very strong for her small size!!

It was a pretty cool day, however! It was neat being totally absorbed into their family.



Monday, January 3, 2011

Peru, Travel, Uncategorized

Today was pretty awesome. I love trains, so that is what made today particularly great. I found the train station with no problems at all really, which was a good thing. When I arrived and showed the staff my ticket, I was treated like royalty! Already, I was impressed. I was taken to a special “first class” lounge for the passengers that were taking the Andean Explorer train (which is run by the Orient Express). It was like walking into the Banff Springs Hotel Lobby! There were old pictures of the train on the walls, carpeted floors, and big plush chairs. As well there was a small band playing local music while we waited to board the train! I was already impressed.

Inside the train was total luxury! There were big armchairs for seats and each set of chairs had a table which was covered with a white linen tablecloth. There was a vase of flowers and a lamp on each table too! The interior was all dark wood (beats me what kind, really) and all the hardware was brass. Throughout the day, one of the staff members was walking around with a cloth to shine all the brass!!

The staff were all dressed to the nines with black uniforms that had a gold stripe down the leg and around the cuffs. It was pretty classy. And, all of the staff’s English was impeccable! It was very impressive!!

When I got on the train one of the waiters/hosts/staff asked me how many people there were in my party and because there was just me, he lead me to a table and chair that was just for one! It was great – until a wealthy Spanish-speaking lady had a FIT that I was not in my assigned seat. It was appalling, really! She got so mad at me and at the guy who sat me because I was not where I was supposed to be. What was really amusing was that the seat they put me in actually made it easier for her party of four to be together – I would have been in the middle of their group had I not been moved to a table just for me. It was quite a scene she created, which was awfully embarrassing for me considering I was just following what the staff asked me to do! In the end, they moved the “lovely lady” and her group to another car all together, which was fine with me! However, she said to be before she left “Now it’s okay – don’t worry!” And I really wanted to tell her a little more than the fact that I was never really all that worried!!

We left Cusco at 8am and it took a while to actually make our way through the city. I was impressed with how far it extended, actually. It was neat to see all the locals waving to the train. This train leaves every day at the same time and I had the feeling that some locals waved to it every day at the same time and from the same place. There was lots to see along the way. A tonne of little towns and many hills and mountains. I had fun sitting at the back of the train where it is open to the air in order to get a good view of everything.

Lunch was awesome. It was a 3 course meal that included a bunch of options. I ended up having this amazing spinach soup, chicken and rice, and some mango dealeo for dessert. It was very filling and very good food. They also served tea just before we arrived in Puno which consisted of small finger sandwiches and cinnamon tea! Everything was awesome!

There was a family of three from Australia as well as another couple from Australia that were sitting just in front of me. I totally eaves dropped on their entire conversation for about the first hour as both groups were traveling for about 6 weeks and had done some neat things while they had been here. The kid of the group was sitting by himself, so when I got really bored I went and talked with him for a while. It made me feel really old, actually! I still think I am in my teens – until I try to have a conversation with a 14-year old guy – then I realize I really know nothing about being a teenager anymore!! He was rather easy to talk to, however, because he’d been to a tonne of places with his parents. They seemed to take months off at a time to go to various contenents. Seemed pretty cool to have covered most of the world by age 14!! (I found out later that the dad is a lawyer…) Later on we played this awesome card game called Shithead (nice name, I know!), but it was really fun! And, I actually managed to win one hand which was great because they were all really good at it!

We stopped at one little market which was located at the highest point of the journey – somewhere around 3600 meters or something like that. We are very high up here!! This was the first time the sellers were pretty pushy. I didn’t find that at all yesterday in Cusco. Here, however, they really wanted to sell us things! I guess I would too if I only had 2 chances a day to sell anything. I didn’t buy anything at all but I did get the best picture ever! It is my money shot of the trip – a close up of a mom with her baby on her back, both of whom are looking directly at me! And, I didn’t have to pay for it because she didn’t even realize I was taking the picture because she was sooo busy trying to sell me a sweater. Made me happy!!

The lake looks awesome. I haven’t spent any time there yet because by the time I got into Puno and found my hostel (which is in a great location), it wasn’t really recommended that I go anywhere other than the few restaurants nearby. I’m okay with that, however, because I booked my hostels in Lima and my flight to get there as well as booked my lake tour for the next two days! Now my challenge is to try to fit all of the shopping from yesterday into my backpack! Should be interesting!



Sunday, January 2, 2011

Peru, Travel, Uncategorized

I had such a great day today!! I woke up a little earlier than I would have liked because my room was right beside the eating area. It ended up being okay, however, because I had a lot I wanted to see today!!
Breakfast was typical, but I met a girl from Brazil traveling alone who offered to walk around with me today. As it turned out she knew practically every other person from Brazil that we ran into, but it was nice to wander about with someone.
She had the Lonley Planet Peru guide so we followed the walking tour in that this morning, which took a couple of hours. It was nice and relaxed. I saw some markets and many churches. I love visiting churches, especially when it is Sunday and there is all the singing and organs and all that! And, the markets were pretty neat. There was one where only locals really go becasue it is like a huge restaurant. Each vendor has tables and families come to eat on site because, apparently, the food is really cheap there! Ohhh…they also sell huge chunks of meat! When we were going by the “cow” section a huge chunk of cow fell off the table onto the floor beside me! And then, the lady asked us to pick it up!! Things I don’t want to know about my meat before I eat it!!
We stopped for an ice cream (about 70 cents!) and enjoyed the sun. I really like Cusco. It is the third largest city in Peru, but you’d never know. It feels like a little European town more than anything. The central plaza is relatively large, but there are a tonne of churches, museums, and green spaces. It is pretty awesome. The only thing that is different that keeps throwing me off is the fact that about every 5 seconds someone lights fireworks and I have a mild heard attack. Apart from that, I quite like the city!
The Brazilian group I had spent the morning with decided to eat lunch, so I left them and decided to shop! And, shop I did! I had so much fun!!! The exchange rate is decent at about 1:3 Dollars to Soles, so everything is a good deal. I don’t even know what I got, really, or where I will put it all!! I got all Keating christmas presents for next year as well as stocking stuff for my family! I also bought another pair of those lovely coloured pants (pretty much the same as the ones that I got in Guatemala!). I couldn’t resist! At 9$, it was just too much fun!! And I wanted something clean to wear on the train tomorrow – so that was my other justification. I did manage to hold off on any more carpets, tapestries, and tablecloths, thankfully!!
One of the most fun purchases I made was a whooping 15 soles – so about 3$! There was this older gentleman that was painting in one of the plazas and after much contemplation, I bought one of his little paintings. I couldn’t resist – they are all so colourful here and he was so cute and genuine (unlike the people that followed me around with a folder trying to sell me art!). He belongs to a painting school and his whole family paints! And I actually got a picture of him painting a picture! Made my 3$ totally worth while.
After I was more or less shopped out (Ie I ran out of soles and couldn’t find an ATM! :)), I decided I should eat lunch/dinner. I sat in the centre of the plaza for a while contemplating where to go while attempting to make my ankle stop pulsing for a minute!! I decided on a place called Papion where I had an awesome pizza and a Cuscana Beer for a grand total of 22 soles. This will go down in history, I am sure, so take note – It was really good beer! I may never say that again, so pay attention! I can actually see how people find beer refreshing – which was an odd thought to me until now! And the extra bonus was that it really helped with the pain for a while! It doesn’t take much for me, does it?!
Then, I decided I should have a massage. Seems like a good idea for about 12$ per hour! I found the lady that tried to sell me one earlier today and I had an excellent hour and a half (pretty good for 12$!!). It was cool because I opted for a “mixed massage” which apparently included Shiatsu, Inka massage, Reflexology, Sweedish massage, and reducing massage! I don’t even know what half of those mean, but I had a nice head massage, and the hot stones, and pressure points in my back and feet and it was pretty fun!!
I thought I was done my shopping, but then on my way back up to the hostel I managed to find a sweater and a shrug-type thing that I just couldn’t not get! I know I totally went all out today, but it was sooo much fun! And I think I spent about 85$ total, so whatever! Yeah!
It was such a fun, relaxing day!! The only part that wasn’t that good was just about as I reached the hostel! I was walking up the hill and this poor little dog just about got run over by a cab! He ran out in front of the car and the wheel almost got him! He dodged under the car and back out the other side – where the rear wheel almost hit him again. There were about 10 of us that saw this on the sidewalks and we were all in shock! He seemed okay, however!! The dogs here seem to actually have breeds, unlike all of the cross-breeds in other places I have visited. And, they are definitely not as scary as the dogs that I saw in Antuiga!
Well, I have to go figure out how to pack all of my stuff for the train tomorrow. I have a cab picking me up at the bottom of the stairs tomorrow morning at 7am. I am sooo looking forward to the train! It is going to be another awesome experience. Yeah!