Gonzalo’s grandpa has a house in Huaraz and was kind enough to let us stay there for a few days. [Side note: Gonzo's grandpa is seriously awesome. He's been really nice to us and he came out of his study (yes he was studying) to take a shot of Pisco before going back. It's like he's one of us.]
Huaraz is pretty far away – 8 hours by bus. Naturally we paid to go VIP (S/. 5 extra). I have no idea what the normal part is like, but our part was incredible. Big leather recliners. And by recliners, I mean almost 180° reclined. Comfort. Here’s the outline of our seating:
Gonzalo Mauricio (aisle) Me
Austin Steve Stranger
When the door was opened, I was trapped. I didn’t mind. I got a seat off by myself. Delightful. I read most of my book (I bought The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible before heading down here). I also watched the movies on the way – even when it was in Spanish with Spanish subtitles (easier than you would think).
Got to Huaraz and took a cab to the Rotunda – the pizza place that would serve as our home base in town. Free wifi? Score. We were like travelers wandering the desert in search of water. Eight hours is too long to go without some kind of communication with the rest of the world.
Huaraz itself is….well Huaraz is a shithole. No bones about it. Most of the town was destroyed in an earthquake 40 years ago and things didn’t get much better since then. People don’t go there for the town though. They come there for sports and the surrounding hills.
Gonzalo’s place turned out to be about a 20 minute cab ride from the city proper, which only cost about S/. 20 (about $1.30 a person). The place was really nice structurally, it just had a couple of giant spiders. Spiders that knew no fear. The first one turned to fight, not run. I hate when they do that. Clearly we could squash them with minimal effort, but their confidence makes me pause. Maybe they know something I don’t. Aggressive spiders make me think of this <a href=”http://www.cracked.com/article_16868_the-6-deadliest-creatures-that-can-fit-in-your-shoe_p2.html”>article</a>. I checked: the Brazilian wandering spider is found in Peru.
We watched part of The Bounty Hunter and hit the spider ridden hay.
Day 2 -Willkawain
Willkawain are ruins of the Wari of Peru. All the buildings at this ruin were used as burial buildings. All of them. We checked out the main ones and headed up the road to similar ruins (dunno what they were called). There was one in particular that had three little doors on one side of the building. Each led to a different room, but there were little windows that let you see into the others. I was in the far left one looking into the middle when I noticed a sign that said not to go in. Naturally, I intended to break that rule. The best stuff is behind signs like that right? I started to poke my head in when I heard flapping. Hell no. I backed out and told the guys there was a bat in there. Avoid. Avoid for reals. Gonzalo, not to be bossed around, decided to go in anyways. He got one foot in the door before it flew at his face. He ran screaming “let’s get the hell out of here”. So we left.
Instead of walking back on the road we came, we decided to take the “path” down the hill. See the road up to the ruins winds back and forth up hills to make it easier on the combi(s). The shorter path then is straight down the hill. The logic was if we got tired, we could just catch a ride when we crossed the road. Somehow we only hit the road towards the end of our trek. It was pretty fun actually. Got some good pics too (post coming soon: watch the right side).
We got back to town and got a cab to Chifa. It’s a restaurant that serves food that’s a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian. Gonzalo ordered a bunch of food for us to share (which was pretty good). Don’t know what part was Peruvian. It looked like the average rice/noodles/meat Chinese food.
Gonzo needed to submit a song he made for a contest, so he went to the Rotunda. The rest of us checked out the market in town. Pretty average market for Peru, excepting the old lady who carves custom keychains (words) and the guy that paints personal messages on pottery. Those two were pretty cool. Of course I got a keychain with my name.
We got back to the Rotunda and Gonzalo was still working. Or chatting with girls. Dunno. We stayed there for 4 hours. We were trying to figure out the next couple of days and…. you know, I don’t know why we stayed so long. We just did.
There’s this lake near Huaraz, Lago Chinancocha, that Mauricio has been meaning to go to the last three times he went to Huaraz, so that was settled on for Saturday. Sunday was going to be the big hike. That should have been easier to figure out.
When we finally left the Rotunda, we planned on hitting the clubs. Somehow we ended up back in the market. That’s similar to a market right? We wandered around for awhile looking at stuff and were about to leave when Austin said something about being tempted to get a sweater. Back in we go. Austin picked his out, haggled, bought, and wore it in less than 5 minutes. I wasn’t even mad about the delay. The jacket was awesome. Mauricio and Gonzalo, however, took forever.
Gonzalo didn’t want Mauricio to buy the same color sweater as him and Mauricio was being special. Actual conversation:
Mauricio: What do you think of the color of this one?
Steve: I’m not a fan of it
Austin: I like it
Steve: To be fair, I’m kind of biased against brown. But then again, I know Austin is kind of biased for it.
Austin: Yeah, I do like brown.
Mauricio: Yeah, I’m kind of biased against brown too. It doesn’t really look good on me.
Steve: Then why are you even looking at that?
Mauricio: I don’t know.
He kept looking at that one.
We didn’t end up clubbing. That worked out alright, we had a big day ahead of us.
Day 3 – Lago Chinancocha
We got up and went down the driveway to the street where we got on our tour bus. It stopped 5 minutes down the road for pictures with a statue of Mary and baby Jesus with the mountains in the background. I wasn’t really impressed by this. It was basically the view we had from Gonzo’s house and I’m Catholic – I’m pretty used to those statues.
We made another stop in town at an ice cream place and another stop in Yungay. Yungay is a city that was buried in an avalanche in 1970. We got a tour, which was entirely in Spanish. Mauricio stuck by my side and translated the whole time. He really doesn’t get enough credit for the grief he puts up with trying to help us out – me especially (I’m the worst at Spanish). Give him a hug next time you see him. He’ll need it after this trip.
I’m not really sure why we went to Yungay, but eventually we left and continued on to Lago Chinancocha. Elevation 3850 m. The water is crazy blue. As soon as we got there we went out on a rowboat…..and we each got a turn rowing. Being out on the lake in the middle of the mountains made everything look really close. The pictures make it look that way too. Don’t be fooled: the lake actually covers 548.120 km². Not huge, but bigger than the pictures make it look.
Before long it was time to head out. We stopped a little ways down the hill at a restaurant that served cuy (guinnea pig). Steve had already tried some and seemed to enjoy it. His was chopped up and served in rice and vegetables. Kind of like
how chicken is served in Chinese food. This one was a little different. I got a half cuy. They basically skinned it, cut it in half, and baked. I’ll admit, I had a moment of dread when the dish was first brought to me. The poor little guy wouldn’t stop looking at me. I got over that pretty quick though and chowed down. I will never order cuy like that again. Think of the greasiest chicken you’ve ever eaten. Now take it to the level of almost slimy. That’s what cuy is like. (Apparently Steve’s was not like that)
After that, we took the long way home so they could take us to a shop that sells some kind of sweet paste and another that sold pottery (these guys had to be getting a kick back for the business they brought). At least the pottery shop guy made a vase in front of us. Still, I thought we just signed up for the lake. I guess this is the Huaraz version of advertising. Kind of like buying cable tv and still having to watch the commercials.
We got back and were supposed to go to the Rotunda to talk with our guide again about Sunday. We went to the ATMs and were on our way to the market when our guide saw us and came over with us. Mauricio went right back to the stall he stalled in before. Looked at alpaca stuff again. Still didn’t buy anything. We gave the guide money to reserve the tickets and waited for him at the Rotunda. He came back and went over some details before heading home.
Day 4 – The hike
We were on the way out the door when I remembered to get my sunglasses. We were told we’d need them if we didn’t want to go blind on this hike. I checked my bag – no dice. I wasn’t sure what to do. I mentioned it to Mauricio, but he just shrugged and said that sucks. Gonzalo actually mentioned something to the guide and driver. They were concerned. Phone calls were made and the driver’s brother agreed to meet us and bring some sunglasses for me. A little over an hour later we stopped at a seemingly random corner partway up the foothills of the mountains. We got out and saw a boy running up the hill – the driver’s brother. I assumed he was just going to drop off the glasses and run back to wherever he came from so I ran down to meet him. He’d run enough; I might as well save him a few steps. He was going with us. At the top of the hill, he pulled a plastic bag from behind a stone and said breakfast to the driver. I never found out what was actually in that bag or why he kept it behind that rock.
A little further up the road we were stopped by a park ranger of sorts. He was wearing a cowboy hat and riding a dirt bike. He was the Peruvian Chuck Norris – parque ranger. He was there to get our names and the fee to get into the park. Climbing costs extra. We lied.
The road finally ended in a random building and a trail. Once satisfied no one was around, our guide split up our climbing shoes and we took off down the trail. The guide, Milka, more or less ran the trail. We were much slower. It’s easy to get out of breath at that altitude. We walked for ever and ever over giant rocks, thin trails, and silt mounds. Exhausting. We got there and wandered around taking pictures while the ropes were being set up. We finally got to the climbing part. Oh, I forgot to mention. We were climbing a glacier. Let the jealousy flow.
Climbing a glacier is difficult. You wear out much faster than expected. Altitude plays a part obviously, but climbing really does take your whole body.
I’ve got a fear of heights, but for whatever reason I never felt like I was very high in the air. Never any fear of falling – even when hanging by one arm. It just seemed normal. ‘Oh, I slipped. I better put my foot back on the wall.’
On the way home we stopped at a random zipline. S/.10. You bet we did it. It was pretty terrifying standing and waiting for my turn to go. The line had only been there for a month. Hardly tested if you ask me. Steve was a big help here. He kept reminding me how far down it was and how little there was holding me to this dubious rope. It might have actually helped come to think of it. It kept me in the present and not inside my own head.
I went first and Steve filmed it. I don’t know why there is a close up on my butt in the film. I guess that’s what Steve thought was important. The instructions were given to me in Spanish. Mauricio didn’t translate. Maybe I pissed him off
at the glacier. Ah well. I got the idea. Falling on a rope is apparently awesome. I’m getting better at this whole heights thing. I wasn’t scared once I left the platform.
The guide dropped us off in Huaraz at the combi place and we took one to Gonzalo’s. He cooked and we showered. It was necessary. We stunk. We packed up and headed to the Rotunda one last time. A couple of drinks, fries to go, and we headed to the bus station. I finished my book and watched the first part of the first movie – Training Day. Both were pretty good. I closed my eyes and we were in Lima.
This day just kind of was. It was after the birthdays and before Huarez, so we didn’t do much. We got up kind of late and went to spend the day with Raul (Mauricio’s grandpa). He took us to the Indian market (Indian as in native) first. Actually, he dropped us off. Something came up with work, so he had to go. Raul runs an import/export business and another business on the side that buys and sells unspecified things. I’m not saying anything on that. Just letting you know.
The market was a lot of fun. I got to put on my bargaining shoes. I knew what I was looking to buy and compared initial prices in a bunch of shops and tested how easily they backed off their prices. Finally I found one of the items I wanted to buy. The initial price was S/.48. Not going to happen. I offered S/.30. Why not? Honestly, that wasn’t a fair price, but neither was S/.48. She wouldn’t budge. I got Mauricio to help me translate my argument and she immediately dropped to S/.40. Peruvian power. With Mauricio’s help I was able to get it for 35.
That was fun, but the best haggling was when I found a vendor that spoke English. She should have pretended to not understand. This one was for Dad. I’ve been looking for a good one since we got off the plane. This one was perfect. I would win. I offered the usual low ball price. Of course she balked. I told her the best deal I’d seen that day was two soles higher than my offer. I didn’t mention the product wasn’t as nice as the one she was selling. She said if she bought in bulk, that’s the price per unit. She wouldn’t make a centimo at that price. Why’d the other shop offer it then? So she offered one soles higher than mine. No dice. I walked. She came after me and agreed. Ten minutes of haggling and I got exactly what I wanted. Thought you might appreciate the story behind your gift Dad.
Later we went to Bembos again and got ice cream after. This is where Austin discovered Doña Pepa. He went nuts. Bought more from a vending machine immediately. That important. My ice cream had Cua Cua in it (pronounced Qua Qua). I did not go so crazy. I’ve since had Doña Pepa. It’s ok. Some snacks just click with people.
Next stop was Museo del Oro. Or at least that’s what we thought we were in for. It is the museum of gold, but it’s also the weapons of the world museum. We did not leave enough time to see it all. We got the audio tour to go with the gold section, but the tracks didn’t actually match what was in the cases. That was a little frustrating. We quickly realized we didn’t have enough time to listen to all the tracks anyways, so we got over it pretty quickly. I enjoyed the weapons part more than the gold. The entire floor was covered in armor and weapons. I would have been hard pressed to fit anything else in there. There was some cool stuff too: the outfit of the first president of Peru, giant halberds, innately carved handles on pistols and knives. No pictures allowed. Sorry guys. Guess you’ll just have to go to Peru and see for yourself.
Yes, it has been a long time since I posted anything. I’m having trouble being motivated. Sooo here we go again.
After coming back from the beach there was a lot of waking up late and playing Super Smash Bros. It was the loudest experience of my life. This is including 20 person halo parties (16 play at a time). There are 4 of them. It isn’t exclusive to video games. Everything they do, they do so freaking loud. The soccer game was on so loud it was painful. When they talk to one another, they scream. I haven’t witnessed a whisper yet. I wouldn’t have thought that odd until now. It’s been 11 days. Someone should have whispered. Austin is in a similar boat. We’re both at our computers occasionally twitching. (quoted from my personal journal)
The 22nd was Mauricio’s birthday party. We kind of helped set up. We set up a couple tables, then left and played video games. Helping. We got to meet more of Mauri’s family and his high school friends. Pretty good group of people. A lot of the night was devoted to greetings and smiling (no I don’t know what you’re saying, but I’ll smile and nod politely). Lots of pats on the back too (yay sunburns).
It started getting close to midnight (Austin’s birthday) so we worked out a scheme to help him bring it in. Some people wanted to throw him in the pool, but he had his phone in his pocket specifically to keep people from doing that. Instead, we put a candle in an empty beer and got the whole party to sing happy birthday to him (Mafud’s idea). He blew out his candle and we handed him a cold beer. Happy Birthday Austin.
The next day (still Austin’s birthday obviously) we went to a restaurant in one of the clubs the Galdos’ belong to. It’s on the end of a pier so you can look out at the ocean and across to the rest of the city of Lima. This was supposed to be our turn to pay for the Galdos’ lunch, but that wasn’t how this was going down. Hardly surprised here. The big point of this meal was to try ceviche. Everyone we’ve talked to here has talked about how great ceviche is and how we cannot visit
Peru without trying ceviche. Ceviche (Sa vee chey) is raw fish “cooked” in lemon juice. The lemons are different here I’m told. The appetizer we had of ceviche in the middle of fried dough was amazing. The regular ceviche… was good at first. Very flavorful. Hardly noticed the fish texture. I was dicing up the ricotto and eating that with it – no problem. Almost finished the pepper and hit a spicy bit. Intense spicy. Used lemonade, sweet potatoe, even more ceviche to cool it down. After that I really noticed the raw fish aspect of the dish, which made it much less appetizing.
On this day we went to the Palestinian club with Mafud. To become a member of this club, you have to be able to prove Palestinian ancestry or get recommendations from 10 current members. It’s a pretty nice place (no pictures sorry). It has red clay tennis courts, a pool, table tennis, and a very well groomed soccer field. We played a bit of tennis and soccer while we were there. I played Steve and he beat me 3-1. We both played pretty awfully. He played awfully better. I played Mauricio and beat him 6-2. Not sure how that happened. More tennis and then a bit of soccer before heading over to Raul’s (grandparent).
Mauricio’s grandma cooked us lunch - spaghetti, sausage, and chicken. She hadn’t cooked in 40 years. You wouldn’t think she would remember how to cook, but apparently she remembers more than I have ever known. It was fantastic.
We headed out to the mall and bought some souvenirs and what not. We also stopped by a chocolate store that Mauricio claimed was the best in Peru. There was a display case showing most of the candies they had. I said everything. I want everything. So I bought one of each on display. It felt good. Really good. Cost less that $20 too. I love this country.
May 25th (Mauricio’s birthday)
We sang happy birthday at midnight, which prompted the ‘rents to come upstairs and wish their son a happy birthday also. This definitively proved that his parents can here us up here. We suck. I mentioned this to one of the children. The response? ‘So?’
At some point Mauricio decided his birthday would be a day of shopping. We started with Polvos Rosados, which is one of two good places to buy fake games and movies. The other is called Polvos Azules and is apparently the dangerous one. Polvos Rosados had the usual alpaca and trinkets in addition to all the electronics. DVDs there are roughly 3 soles (a dollar). Awesome. I got fight Club, Tropic Thunder, and Inglourious Basterds (that’s how it’s spelled honest). It’s difficult to find movies sometimes because they get renamed when they’re shipped over here. I actually got El club de la Pelea, Una Guerra De Pelicula, and Bastards Sin Gloria. I get the others, but una guerra de pelicula? A war of movie? How does that translate?
Later that day we went to La Bisteca for dinner. La Bisteca is the most upscale all you can eat buffet you will ever see. Right as you come in there’s someone to open the door and a a wall of glass wine racks. You can go up to get as much as you want, but as with everywhere else in this country, drinks are sold by the glass. The food was pretty good: rows of appetizers, a chef for lomo saltado (and like dishes), another for sushi, several for pasta, and a couple for the Argentinian section (assorted meats). I was in heaven. For dessert you can choose between an all you can eat dessert bar (complete with chocolate fountain. Maybe you didn’t read that Chocolate. Fountain.) or one of their special desserts. I went with one of the specials – some kind of chirimoya meringue. A good choice.
This post is over May 2o/21, 2010
We were supposed to meet at Gonzalo’s around noon to go to his beach house. By the time we got breakfast and got ready it was noon. It’s an hour to Gonzalo’s. Good start.
We stopped and picked up food from Wong’s (Peru’s answer to WalMart). By food I mean brats, bread (yeah, fresh bread for brats), juice, and beer. We got to Gonzalo’s, at which point he insisted we stay and have lunch. He promptly disappeared and we waited on the terrace. Lunch was brought for us and still no Gonzalo. He reappeared after we had finished. He had already eaten earlier.
It’s about an hour trip to his beach house. On the way there we stopped at this ice cream shop that Mauricio’s been talking about for years. Seriously, this is where Mauricio would like to die – probably from an ice cream overdose. They serve two flavors: lucuma, and lucuma with pecan and chocolate. This is an ice cream shop in the middle of nowhere and it serves two flavors. And it rocks them. Lucuma is a fruit that tastes a bit like caramel, but better somehow. Mauricio always brought lucuma back for us to try and we’d have it on a saltine or something. It was always ok, but down here – down here it’s awesome. Maybe because it’s fresher and not
the paste in a jar type. The whole shop started because this lady loved her some lucuma. She planted tons of trees to support her crippling addiction. At some point, she died and her husband was left with all this lucuma and not a clue what to do with it. Thankfully, he came across lucuma ice cream before figuring out how to weaponize it. (We all know that’s the next step) He opened a stand on the way to these beach houses and popularity grew by word of mouth. Now you can find lucuma ice cream everywhere, just not as good as this guy makes apparently.
The beach house was incredible. Again, words don’t and shouldn’t suffice when photos are available. I’ve switched to using Picasa to post photos because Facebook is more directly trying to take over the world. Facebook won’t let anyone view my photos without logging in. This is good for security, but bad if I want to share with my parents who refuse to get facebook. Also, the uploading is buggy and takes forever. Picasa has a feature that recognizes that an image contains faces and asks you to tag them. After a bit it starts guessing who’s in your
pictures. I’m pretty sure google is using this to tweek an algorithm for image searching. As in at some point you’ll enter a picture of yourself and google will find all pictures of you on the internet. Scary. But I’ll help it along for now for convenience. Short sighted, but there aren’t many awful pictures of me out there (that I know of). Anyways, I’m working on posting the pictures. Keep an eye to the right side – all the links are to my albums full of pictures and -wait for it- videos. That’s right, for the first time, I’m actually getting some videos up. Machu Piccu has video of our tour guide explaining everything, so keep an eye out for that. It’s about 2 gigs of material, so it’s going to take awhile.
At the beach, we ate our food, drank our beer, and sang songs. Oh, and at some point went down to the water. Didn’t get in that night. Everyone we talked to told us one thing: don’t get in the water. The waves were massive, so I kind of get where they’re coming from. Then again, they also always tell us it is going to be too cold for this or that and it turns out to be in the 70′s, so who knows.
Oh, I also tried blood sausage. The taste is good, but the texture reminds you exactly what you’re eating. Unpleasant.
The next day we hit the beach and stared at the waves for awhile. I decided to get some film of the waves capping around 20ft. Of course Steve ran in. I kept filming. Figured if it was the end of him I might as well have proof of how it happened. He came back unharmed.
It was cloudy the entire day except for a one hour window. We were all laying on our towels when it happened. I had put sun screen on earlier, but I kind of half assed it. Well, half torsoed it. I didn’t get my back at all. And I fell asleep on my stomach. It’s almost winter here, which roughly equates to the highest UV index Missouri has ever seen. I’m a little burnt. It looks much
worse than it is.
After that adventure, Gonzalo made us lunch and we headed out again to wander the beach. There were little cliffs of sand that we, like the children we are, delighted in knocking back into the ocean. It’s just as fun as it looks. We headed back to Lima after and hung out at Gonzalo’s for a bit. He has new recording equipment he wanted us to see, which he used to record Austin’s demon voice saying “hello little girl”. I hate that voice. And now it is immortal. Free to bring terror to the hearts of mortals the worldwide.
A little note about all the images and videos I’m posting:
Picasa doesn’t seem to want to post any more pictures. I don’t know why and I don’t yet know how to fix it, so please be patient. The first album is complete. Lima to Cusco should have 17 more and Cusco to Machu Piccu should have 124 photos total. Hopefully they’ll go through soon.
I’m a full 4 1/2 days behind on this blog. Might as well get started:
May 17, 2010
Very very little happened on this day. We got on a plane from Cusco back to Lima and spent the day hanging out at the
house. We met Mauricio’s friend Felipe and went for a burger with him. He took us all the way across town for a burger joint run by a Texan. I felt like we were cheating somehow. We shouldn’t be having American food while we’re here.
May 18, 2010
We started the day by going to Mauricio’s grandparents’ house. We sat and talked and the house was really nice, but there real story here was that we got to see how Mauricio and Jazmine treat tiny dogs. You see, the dogs here (Katana and Urko) are massive. The tiny dog, Pelusa, belongs to Mauricio’s aunt Ursula. While we were at the grandparents’ house, Jazmine was the one “petting” the dog. She beat this poor creature. Think Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Jazmine was apparently the nice one though. More on that in a minute.
We went to lunch at Pardos and had a number of firsts. We had antichucha for an appetizer. Antichucha is cow heart,
and it’s pretty delicious. It has a little different texture, but that doesn’t take away from it at all. It’s smooth, as much as a meat can be. I also had chicha morada – a drink made from purple corn. It tastes exactly like a candy. You know the bags of old fashioned hard candies? It’s the purple oval one with bumps on the face of it. Tasty.
The star of lunch, however, was the pollo a la brasa. Rotisserie chicken with lots of flavor. There was more than we could have possibly eaten in two sittings, but we tried our best. I was weighed down by it for a full day.
After lunch we went to Mauricio’s great grandma’s, his uncle, then his aunt Ursula’s. Pelusa was here again. Poor dog. Mauricio got his turn with the dog. Mauricio, left alone with that dog, would have killed it. I can still hear the dog’s head hitting Mauricio’s leg. Austin and I were cringing. This dog, which took the beating from Jazmine in stride, ran from Mauricio. Ran. And did not return.
After watching that brutality, we decided to see something a little less violent and went to see Robin Hood. We were a little late to the movie. The three Americans went ahead while Mauricio waited for his siblings to get there. We waited for them just inside the theater. The movie had already started, but it seemed like we could jump back in ok. A couple of minutes later, one of the workers came in to ask what we were doing. Turns out we were in the wrong theater. The part that we were watching was over an hour into the film. We got to the right theater just as the movie was starting.
Robin Hood is ok, but I wouldn’t see it in theaters if you haven’t already. The whole movie’s purpose is to set up for a sequel. Still not bad though.
After the movie we went to a little dinner to meet the parents for a snack. I was still stuffed from lunch. Clearly I had to get something, so I opted for a milkshake. Steve and I went over to check the selection and they let us sample different ice creams. I think they would have let us try every single flavor if we asked. Went with guanábana – tart fruit. Very good. Try it if you ever get the chance. After that we headed home and hung out.
May 19, 2010
We did almost nothing on this day. We were supposed to leave from here at eleven to meet with Mauricio’s friend Gonzalo at noon, but we were quite a bit later than that. We didn’t leave here until a little after noon. That’s how things go here. We picked up supplies from the store and headed his way. When got there and Gonzalo was still sleeping. No need to feel bad for being late. Gonzalo is a special character. He plays a ton of instruments, has a little head with lots of hair piled on top, and he laughs like a madman. (Drives like one too) We went out to get tickets for Huarez and he parked half on the sidewalk because there weren’t any parking spaces. A moment later the cop came inside to told Gonzalo he needed to move his car. Gonzalo told him he’d be there in a minute and turned his back to the cop – and the cop just left. Apparently that’s ok here. We got our tickets and headed to a McCafe in a shopping center nearby. It had actual dishes – weird I know. After that we wandered around a bit looking at the various stores. Everything’s pretty similar to what you would expect in the U.S. So many clothes stores solely for women and the occasional other store with something interesting in it. Nothing interesting enough to buy though, so we headed to Mauri’s grandparents’ before calling it a night. The next day we’d be heading to Las Lagunas de Puerto Viejo.
This day was 23 hours long for me.
It started at 5:30 in the morning for a shower. No man should wake so early. I had first shift, so when I got out of the shower I had some time to kill while Mauri took his shower. I stared at my iPod. I didn’t know what else to do. Breakfast went better, and by the time Rolando (our contact from the travel company) came and got us, I was ready to go.
Rolando walked us to the “train” station. At the station, we got on a bus. Yep. That happened. It isn’t their fault; the landslides from last month have rendered the train useless at this point. The bus took us two hours away to the train that could make it to Aguas Calientes. The ride up was pretty interesting, we got to see parts of Cusco and the neighboring countryside that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Unfortunately, I was very sleepy. Despite my best efforts, I kept falling asleep. This wouldn’t be a problem, but I refused to lean against the window. I really thought I could stay awake by power of mind alone. I was tragically mistaken. I kept falling over onto Steve. I’m really sorry Steve.
The train station was much easier to stay awake in. I sat next to Austin and across from Steve and Mauricio. We talked the entire way up. (the exception being Mauricio – he was being antisocial/super gay) We sat near the angriest woman I’ve ever seen. The entire day (I saw her on Machu Piccu as well) she looked like she was having the worst day of her life. It was like watching the first part of Office Space for a day.
I ran down my camera battery on the train out and unfortunately left all my batteries in Lima. All 18 of them. On theway in was a professional selling batteries for S/. 15.00. Mauri said definitely don’t do it. Way too much for batteries of course. So I offered 10 and was shot down. So I walked. Mauri immediately asked me why I didn’t buy the batteries. He said it was a good deal and that he had told me to buy them. Thanks. (I did eventually get batteries for 10).
Machu Piccu itself was amazing. Nothing I could say here will ever properly portray the views, smells, and sounds. I’ve posted all the pictures from the start up to the end of Machu Piccu on Facebook. Links will comes soon on the right side of this page. You should be able to view without logging in (you’re welcome Parentals). I took videos of the tour guide explaining everything as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to have those loaded soon. (links also on the right)
I will say that after the tour, we went to see the Inca Bridge. As it turned out, this is only a path out the back of Machu Piccu that has overgrown and parts had fallen down. The “bridge” is a part that the current curators put boards over. Seriously. That’s the whole thing. The path was pretty cool, and the pictures we got on the way were priceless, I just would have appreciated a bit of truth in advertising. On the way there and back Mauri and Austin were having some special moments. Less than pleasant banter. It was funny, but there was that moment were I wondered if someone was about to be thrown off the ledge (Mauricio – because seriously, who do you think would win that battle).
We got on the bus from Machu Piccu back to Aguas Calientes and got some dinner. Dinner was fine, but I think it’s time to discuss Peruvian drinks. First of all, you don’t drink the water. Ever. That means there are no water fountains and there isn’t a free drink anywhere. We get a bit thirsty. I completely understand that part. The part I don’t understand is the foam. Almost everything we drink has foam to it. The pisco sour makes sense – it has egg whites in it. But when our waitress brought us our lemonade, it was 80% foam. How does that happen? Mauricio claims it’s the ice. He says that is what happens when you blend ice with lemonade. Anyone else ever had that combination turn into 80% foam, not very cold lemonade? Yeah, me either.
So anyways, after dinner we decided to go grab a couple beers. We walked past the local restaurants with no problems. Almost no problems anyways. Steve, some crazy how, attracts professionals. As soon as he came within 30 ft of a restaurant, professionals would start yelling “happy hour”. It’s like he has some kind of drinking aura. Of course he loved it. I did too really. All the different people competing for our business. It’s good to be so wanted. Mauricio got really stressed by all of this. He can’t think with people yelling at him and choosing a bar is a very thought intensive process for him. It didn’t help that Steve was repeatedly yelling “Guacamole and Queso” in the background (one bar was offering such nachos). This was before any of us had started drinking. Steve is a special dude.
We went with the bar offering Cusquena (our fave beer) for S/. 7.00. Not a bad deal for a bar. We got up there and we were given the small beers (330mL). Unacceptable. Mauricio chatted with the waiter and got those beers for S/.5 and had him agree to S/.7 620mL beers. Way to go Mauricio. (He felt bad for this, it was almost at cost for the bar). We had a great time there. Everyone there seemed to be judging us, even though we hadn’t drank much. Roughly a liter and a half per person. It just looked bad because the waiter never took bottles away. At the end, we helped them carry away the bottles and left in search of a good deal on pisco sour. We ended up coming back to the same bar, just at a different table. Apparently that place had all the deals.
On the way back to the train out of Aquas Calientes, we headed through a series of stalls (think shops in an open market) that were covered in plastic. It was very Dexter (show about a serial killer). Mauricio, who had concerns about us walking down a skinny street in broad daylight (seriously), thought there was nothing wrong with this. He may have been a little drunker than the rest of us.
On the way to the train, Rolando called Mauricio to tell him that the person who was going to pick us up at the train station had been in an accident. They would not be there when we got off the train. Another representative from the travel agency was in Aguas Calientes to help us find another way. After a couple of phones calls, she came back to us with this gem: There will be a man with a white station wagon. His name is Victor. He will be waiting for you.
As ridiculous as this sounds to most people, this seemed alright to me. We were getting more information than we ever got before from this agency. I didn’t even know we were to expect someone to pick us up from the train station. I thought we’d get back on a bus. So we went to the train. On the way there, Steve got distracted talking to a couple of girls. He loves friends. We managed to pull him away for a bit, but he pulled his own and convinced us to go back and talk with them. Americans the pair of them. Seemed pretty nice. They got on a different part of the train, and immediately Steve gave me grief for talking to one of the girls. As though I was at fault. I talked to a girl HE started talking to and HE insisted that we all talk to. How rude of me.
On the train Steve immediately began looking for a new friend. We were sitting across from a couple of kids who spoke Spanish. He tried asking where they were from in English and Spanish. They acted confused and soon after spoke to the guy across the aisle in Spanish. They knew. Ah well, don’t talk to strangers. Especially Steve. A blonde brit showed up shortly after and Steve had found his friend. She was nice, though not terribly interesting. I just had to resist telling her to release Ireland and slipping into a British accent. Mild success on both. Don’t think she noticed.
After the train ride, we actually did get in line for a bus. Apparently this one just didn’t take us all the way to Cusco. While in line, Mauricio said something about Austin being obsessed with the word baby. This was hysterical to the brit in line ahead of us. (where did they all come from?) She was traveling with a rag tag group that she and her guy had picked up along their drunken tour of the world. These guys had seen some stuff, I just doubt they remember much of it. They tried to tell us about La Paz, Bolivia and started doing this weird, awkward laughing. Kind of like Beavis and Butthead if anyone can remember back that far. Things did not get less weird. Brit’s guy asked us to do caps and pulled a pint of rum out of his pocket. We each had a cap full. (That’s caps – I didn’t know that before he poured it either) Definitely wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t see him break the seal right before pouring mine. We started loading the buses and Steve turned and said “Thank goodness we didn’t end up on the bus with those guys” That’s when the workers told us they did in fact have four more seats for us. They just happened to be right in front of the oddball group. I stayed up for a little bit to help out Steve, but the girl kept asking questions and forgetting that she had just asked them. That drunk. So I slept.
The bus stopped and there was indeed a white station wagon operated by Victor waiting for us. We got in and some other guy got in the back of the car (trunk area). We later learned this guy was Victor’s cousin, but at the time there was no explanation. Some guy just got in the trunk and we were supposed to be cool with it all. I sat in the middle in the back and slept sitting up. Or so I thought. Apparently on every turn I flopped sideways like a dead body. Oh, and spent a half hour sleeping on Austin’s back. I’m really sorry about that guys. I honestly had no idea. Apparently they thought it was funny enough to not wake me up.
We got back to the hotel in one piece and passed out after having lived more in one day than we had in entire weeks back in the states.
This post is about May 15th, 2010. We woke up and had breakfast as usual, then went back to the rooms to decide what to do for the day. My guide to Peru turned out to be very helpful. (Thanks Sarah and Matt!) It had a list of the museums in town and a map to show us how to get there. (If only I’d realized that the day before) We settled on el museo Inka and headed out. It started out kind of slow. Mostly old rocks that everyone insists was a very useful tool for the ancient people, but still just looks like rocks. ‘It’s thousands of years old!’ What rock isn’t?
After the first couple of rooms, it started to get interesting. The whole museum is located inside an old Spanish house. And by house, I mean mansion. So the person who lived there was an important person for the Spaniards in a time when they were doing what they do (oppressing and killing Incans). And now? Now the people have taken the house from the Spaniards to put a museum dedicated to the people being oppressed. Like a big middle finger to Spain. I like Peru more and more every day.
The thing that really turned the museum around for me was Mauricio explaining the back story behind the pieces we were looking at. My own personal tour guide. They didn’t let us take pictures in the actual display areas (sorry). So you’ll have to be satisfied with my description, of which there will be none. Mostly it was just fun to hear how it all came together. As an example, here’s the gist of the mythological origin story of the Incans:
So there are these four brothers living in caves. At some point they realize living in a cave sucks, so they decide to find new land. On the way out the door, they asked one of the brothers to go get their pet rock back in the cave. He went in and they trapped him there. See, he was a powerful magician and magic is scary – especially if it’s your flesh and blood. So they trapped him there and he became a stone monster.
On the way there, they realized they were close somehow and asked the next brother to stay there to protect the land they hadn’t found yet because mountains are dangerous and land needs protecting. The remaining two went to the land and were driven back by the natives. The second to last brother flew like a condor to the land and turned to a stone monster as soon as he touched the ground.
The last brother, being the most reasonable apparently, went and talked to the natives. His wife taught them agriculture and weaving and the natives liked them. They let him lead them and thus were the Incans.
After the general history of the early people and early Incans, there was a display of mummies. They definitely buried people alive and now have them on display. Yep. Everything after that was of colonial times, showing how the Spaniards treated the locals. Cliff notes: Poorly. They treated them very poorly.
After the museum, we went to see the Hatan Rumiyoc, a twelve sided stone that serves as the cornerstone for an Incan
palace. (palace gone, base wall remains). I don’t know why it’s important. Here’s a picture of us standing near it anyways. Oh, and I touched it. Apparently you aren’t supposed to do that. There should be a sign.
We went to lunch at Tratoria and it was fun. There was some kind of political parade that walked down the street right outside the window. Dunno what is was about, just enjoyed the show. The food was pretty slow getting to us and the check was even slower. When the change finally came back, Austin was shorted S/. 10.00. One of my favorite instances of moments away from snapping (we’ll call them break points) of the trip. It was a twofer. Austin was ready to kill everyone in the restaurant and Steve could not stand sitting still for the sake of sitting still. Austin’s is always a calm, quiet stare that lets you know he’s about to go rogue ninja. Steve physically twitches and looks around. Think heroin addict. So much fun to watch.
Later that day, we went to take pics of the monastery near our hotel and ended up going to a restaurant claiming to have the best cappuccino in Cusco. We got cappuccinos, then lemonade. Poor waiter. That’s when Mauri decided he was hungry. He ordered a meal after we finished our drinks, so we waited and watched him eat it. Thanks bud. We didn’t have anywhere to be, so it wasn’t a big deal at all. I just feel the world should know how his mind works.
Sorry I haven’t updated in awhile. Keeping up with my journal and sleep is hard enough. We visited the Galdos’ fabric factory. The factory is full of machines working full board to make high quality materials. The second floor houses the clerical and design portion of the company as well as houses the many awards the company has earned (best textile company in Peru several years!) Their company is crazy successful and very legit. Unfortunately this means I can no longer make jokes about Mauri’s dad being a drug lord. (To be fair, a fabric company does sound like a front right?)
On the 14th, we flew to Cusco first thing in the morning. We checked into our hotel (pretty sweet one) and sat down to write in our journals and take naps. Steve decided to wander around town a bit by himself while I stayed and wrote.
Well, I finished writing and there was nothing else to do, so I wandered about too. I was minding my own business taking pictures like a good tourist when I was accosted by two ladies in traditional garb to take their picture. This was quickly followed by the llama being shoved into my arms for another photo that I was completely unprepared for, followed just as quickly by the request of a tip. I could easily have just walked away, but I approved of their spunk. Unfortunately though, the lowest bill I had was S/. 10.00. Not going to happen. I asked for change and they produced a couple soles, some centimos, and two American quarters. “Is real. Is real money” they assured me of the quarters. Either they have no idea I’m American or they have no idea where the coin comes from. I have a tough time believing the first.
I finally convinced them they weren’t getting that ten soles and they left me be. From there I wandered from shop to shop testing out my Spanish skills. Apparently I have none. Really the first few shops were the shakiest. I definitely got laughed at a couple of times, but after that I started to get the hang out it. It’s been awhile since I’ve had to use Spanish for anything. Had to knock off quite a few cobwebs.
I was later hassled by another of the street vendors (I like to call them the professionals). This one was selling paintings he had made. 80 soles per painting. I bought two fro 35 total. Later we would consistently be bothered by professionals selling similar paintings for a sol a piece. It hurt every time.
After buying the overpriced paintings, I decided it was time to head back to the hotel. Austin and Mauricio were napping until 11:30, so I had plenty of time to head back and catch a lil nap myself. Trouble was, I had no idea where the hotel was. No matter, I know a little Spanish. I asked for directions. Got myself a proper map and everything. No good. I started walking and quickly realized each street has several names, not all listed on the map. I decided it would be a good idea to ask for directions every once in awhile to be sure I was heading in the right direction. If you didn’t already know, let me explain to you that people suck. They either didn’t know the answer or delighted in giving me the wrong directions. Each person sent me in a new direction. I finally reached the San Augustin after 45 minutes of wandering. I stumbled up the stairs to the third floor to find my room (308). The sign said rooms 369 – 383. Huh. Must be the wrong side of the building. Went to the first floor and couldn’t find another way up. Apparently I was in the San Augustin International when I really wanted the San Augustin El Dorado. Common mistake. My map was remarked and I set out again for my hotel. Fifteen minutes later I made it completely prepared to kiss some butt. If they guys had woken up and found me missing with no way to get a hold of me, I would find angry people waiting for me. I walked into the nap room (306). It wasn’t locked, lights off, slight snore. Score. They were still napping.
I was a little light heading from wandering Cusco for an hour. Towards the end of my journey I was hitting points where I had to slow my pace to keep my head. High altitude sucks sometimes. The tea in the hotel is complimentary and made from coca leaves (also used in coca cola and cocaine). Coca cola is the only company allowed to import coca into the U.S. The tea is called mate de coca and it’s supposed to help you adjust to the altitude. I was downing this all day.
Pretty soon the guys were up and it was time to head to lunch. We went to this place called Paititi. The place was great. Way too nice for the t shirts and jeans we were wearing. The back wall of the restaurant is part of the one of the walls built by the Incans. This is pretty common throughout the city. When the Spaniards came to Cusco, they decided it was much too nice to keep. They destroyed everything and built their own stuff on top. Now there are bases of Incan work worked into buildings everywhere.
The waiter brought us complimentary pisco sours to start our meal off. Pisco is an indescribable Peruvian booze. A pisco sour has pisco, lemon juice, jarabe de goma, and egg white. Usually the drink is topped with drops of amargo de angostura (sour stuff). This is the basic drink that every Peruvian comes to love. With good reason too, it was pretty tasty, despite the egg whites. (Mauricio swears it is because of the egg whites).
I was still pretty light headed coming into lunch and was getting worse as time moved on. By the time the food got to the table, I was burning up and not at all hungry (you know something’s wrong there). I said to the guys “I know this is weird, but I’m going to roll up my pants.” Steve heard “I’m going outside for some air.” I must have been a little quiet. I started to explain myself, but felt it was easier to just go outside. Our waiter stopped me on the way out and asked if I was alright. I said I was alright, just getting some air. I think I said the first part in Spanish, the second in English. I moved past him out the door and to the left. I just needed to sit down. Before my butt hit the ground, the waiter was there. H refused to let me sit there. He called a lady who brought me a chair to sit on. That’s when things got weird.
They brought red liquid and splashed it on my face and hair. They poured it on my hands, had me rub them together and breathe deeply through my hands. It was like a poor man’s inhaler. I can’t explain the smell. It was potent, less as a smell, but more as a sensation in my lungs – warm. It opened up my lungs somehow. It made about as much sense happening as my explanation. They also brought me a plant to rub between my hands and breathe as well. This smelled a bit like Vix. One more treatment of the red liquid and they let me return to my seat. I don’t know if it was the treatment or the public embarrassment, but I felt a little better.
We spent the next couple hours wandering around shopping. There’s a lot of really cool stuff down here. Of course you have all the alpaca sweaters, jackets, hats, ties gloves, and scarves, but also lots of little ceramics and wooden knick knacks. They’ve got chess sets of the Incans versus the Spaniards, Indiana Jones hats, llama topped letter openers, and Nazca lines coasters. If there’s something you want from here, leave a comment.
After shopping was nap time, which I sorely needed. I woke up around 5:45 to Mauricio and Steve putting their drinking boots on. The hotel bar had a happy hour starting at 6. S/. 18 for two pisco sours. For a hotel bar, that’s pretty good. Those two had one normal and one made with grenadine (supposed to be the girl version of pisco sour). Austin and I just had the one normal one as neither of us were quite up to drinking speed yet.
Next up: dinner at Bembos. This is the Peruvian equivalent to McDonald’s, or a step above it. The food definitely has a Peruvian twist to it. My burger ( the huachana) had eggs and sausage on top. Pretty good still. When you order food, you can make your burger larger or get a larger fries and drink. Never do either. I got the bigger burger and almost ruptured my stomach. So much burger! Steve got the bigger fries and drink, which turned out to make a slight difference in size, but not enough to justify. I had Inca Kola with my meal of course. That’s one of the big sodas down here. They have a lot of the usual (coke and pepsi), but they are made differently. Less sugar maybe? Doesn’t really matter, I don’t typically drink brown sodas. The Inca Kola taste has been compared to bubble gum, which is fair, but doesn’t really capture what’s going on with it. You’ll just have to try it for yourself to understand. You can’t see it well, but the plate on the lower left square above the guy with the red hat is the gaucho order. Cowboy. It’s a hamburger patty and a hot dog, served with a side of fries. Reminds you of home right?
After dinner, we went in search of cheap local booze. Total immersion requires that we try all aspects of their culture Mom. We picked up a fifth of some decent Pisco and juice to mix it with. The juice is where it’s at. I got a liter of pear juice for S/. 2.70. Less than a dollar gets you a liter of the best juice you’ve ever had in your life. And it’s everywhere. I love this place. We also picked up orange juice to mix with. Orange juice is a lot different here – it isn’t as processed much, so the taste is vastly different. I would put it on par with the difference between drinking grape soda and grape juice. It’s that much better. Unfortunately, pisco isn’t really meant to be mixed like that. Pisco sour is ok. Pisco orange juice is piss. It wasn’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t good.
Booze gone, it was time to hit the clubs. I’d been looking forward to this for some time now. I’d never been clubbing, even in the states. On the way there, the professionals were out in force. These professionals specialized on getting you into their boss’ club. We were walking with one of them when another came to me and said don’t go to his bar, it’s gay. Come to my bar.
Yo: Is it less gay?
P: Yes, many women.
Yo: What bar is this other guy taking me to?
P: The gay one.
Almost worked. Rolando (our tour company contact) had suggested Ukuku’s, so we were pretty set on going there. There was a pretty good live band and tables set up in front of it and pretty much everywhere there was room. It felt crowded without having many people in there. I was not a fan. For me, the right bar either:
A) is full of people having a great time on the dance floor
B) has areas secluded and quiet enough that you can actually talk to the people next to you.
This bar was neither and we moved on. On the way to the next one, a professional walked towards us with his hands in his pockets. When we got close, he pulled his hands out of his pockets and showed us his palms. One had weed and the other had what I assume to be cocaine. We said our well practiced No gracias very quickly. He put his hands back in his pockets and kept walking. Never broke stride. Professional.
The second bar, the Mushroom, was pretty cool. Second floor had a quieter bar area with comfortable seating where you could talk (which we did for awhile), and the third floor had a dance floor full of people. It was pretty fun. The crowd there wasn’t great, lots of rudeness and running into each other unnecessarily, but you’ll have that from time to time. Leaving there, a guy asked me if I wanted cocaine, I did my no gracias, but Austin did the much, much better thing. He pointed to Steve and said “El es tu hombre”. (He’s your man) The professional b-lined to Steve and I kept walking. Steve of course loved hearing someone say he’s anyone’s man for something right up until cocaine was mentioned. Well played Austin.
The last club we hit up was one giant dance floor with great music and a better light show. It was awesome. The four of us went in and dance like men. Granted, we probably looked like four very gay men, but damn it if it wasn’t a great time. Alright, this post is getting ridiculous. More to come later.
For whatever reason I can’t get my computer to recognize my SD card……which unfortunately means no photos for you yet. No matter. Tomorrow we wake at 2 a.m. to get ready to go to Cusco. Should be a great time. Today we wandered around Lima a lot. We visited the travel agency to pay for our trip tomorrow. Seemed really weird to see that people would be traveling other places for vacation.
We also stopped in at a clothes store run by a friend of Mauri’s mom. We got to go into the back area that only friend’s get to see. Lots of nice clothes, but for whatever reason we all settled on getting matching boxers. We’re an odd group.
They’ve been feeding us pretty well here. I’m not sure what anything is called, but I may never leave here for the food alone. (They also have a med school 10 minutes from here)
Well, time to get a few hours of sleep. Tomorrow will be un dia grande.
Hola mis amigos! We made it to Peru without major incident. We got in a little after four this morning and got to Mauricio’s a little after 5. His house is beyond gorgeous. Pictures will follow soon. So far today we’ve taken a nap and had breakfast with the family. I’m trying to keep up with their Spanish, but I’m pretty sure the first week or so will be a lot of smiling and nodding. (We asked them to speak in Spanish so we could get better). Mauri’s in the shower now, but soon we’ll be heading to his grandparent’s house. His family is amazing as always. We’re trying to think of ways to show our appreciation while we’re here. Any thoughts?
Also, we’ve started keeping our journals. I”m trying to post pics of where I was writing. Be ready to weep with jealousy.