Thursday, July 24, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Here's the link to the one album i was able to load. Its all of Arequipa, Colca and a little bit of the trip to Puno. For some reason the pics are a little mixed up, but there they are. I'll try to load more in a day or two. Machu Picchu at 5 AM.
Arequipa, Colca, Puno Perú
We finally made it to Cusco, I'm just going to make a brief update on whats going on and I still cannot load pictures..whatever though.
We did the homestay on the island in Lake Titicaca two nights ago. It was really interesting and I'm really glad we did it, they fed us traditional food which mostly consisted of 4 or 5 different varieties of food and we had a fiesta on the island and they dressed us up in their traditional clothing.
We're in Cusco now and did a tour of the sacred valley yesterday. We saw our first true Incan ruins and they were amazing. The holy grail is tomorrow though when we depart for Machu Picchu at 6 AM. We're doing a city tour this afternoon and have spent some time in museums this morning. Cusco is a really pretty city with lots of very narrow cobblestone streets set alongside the hills.
I haven't decided what comes after Machu Picchu and it's scary that this journey is over in 5 days! There's lots to do here though so I don't think I'll be at any loss for entertainment.
I'll try to post pics from the hostel tongiht, its going to be like 200 pictures though probably so no guarantees. Hope all is well!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Perú, Perú, Perú. We traveled the day after I last updated from San Pedro, Chile to Arequipa, Perú; a ride consisting of only about 15 hours of bus travel but for some reason we were unable to find a direct bus from Calama (the largest city to San Pedro) to Arequipa. We rode the 8 hours overnight from Calama to the border town of Arica, Chile. To get from Arica to Tacna, Peru you have to take a collective taxi from the bus station in Arica to Tacna. A guy followed us around when we got to the bus station until he was able to rope us into his office where he sold us the taci and the connecting bus ticket from Tacna to Arequipa for about 24 US. He sat us in his little 90's model Chevy car and told us to wait while he went to find more people to fill the taxi. The parking lot was pretty sketch and it wasn't exactly a comfortable spot to be alone. I must say we weren't exactly sure what we had gotten ourselves into in the beginning though we had read that what we had done was pretty much the standard. We were relieved when a younger Chilean couple cam and got in the car with us. The 2 hour journey went off without any hitches, fortunately, and he dropped us off at the bus station in Tacna with our bus tickets. For some reason we decided not to exchange any of our money in Chile and when we arrived in Tacna there was no power so we couldn't use an ATM and it was a Sunday so we couldn't go to a Cambio leaving us broke by Peruvian currency standards. I had to use the bathroom pretty badly and there was a lady sitting outside charging for its use. I watched her and ran past and used the toilet and then tried to leave but she forced me to stop. I ended up having to concede my sole remaining granola bar as a form of payment. Barter systems suit me anyhow.
The taxi guy charged us a little more than what he paid for the tickets and we ended up getting on an economico bus, meaning it was the cheapest one we could take. We had front row seats both on the bus and for our introduction to Peru. At every small town we stopped at 7 or 8 people would run on the bus shouting and selling everything from avocados to sodas to fried chicken (the chicken venders made sure to point out that their chicken was cold). When the bus started going again it was a mad dash to the front to bang on the door seperating the driver and the passengers in order to try to get off the bus. A few times they just rode to the next town.
After a few chuckles and wondering where the hell we were we finally made it to Arequipa and fond our way to our hostel. We sat around the hostel the rest of the day to rest up and drank coca tea, a very welcome respite. Although we were a little afraid of where we had placed ourselves on the journey we still remained wary of what was going on and were in control (for the most part) of what was happening to us, so mom and dad don't worry. haha.
Our first ful day in Arequipa we walked around for a bit and found the Santa Catalina Monastary. The monastary was built in the 16th century by a wealthy Spanish woman for nuns of rich families. The nuns, once having entered, were never allowed to exit and had to follow strict rules such as only cutting and washing their hair 7 times a year. There were once hundreds living within the walls but now the number has dwindled to about 30. The monastary resembles a small city with is narrow streets and housing complexes and tons of rooms. The monastary's walls were painted in bright blue and red hues following its opening to the public in the 1970's. We spent about an hour and a half in the place finding every room we could possibly find and just doing some straight up exploring; pretty fantastic place.
After the monastary we checked out of our hostel and went to a small hotel that Marc (the guy I've been doing my internship with at CAT Travel) helped work out for us. We then met our guide who gave us a half day city tour including...a trip to the monastary. We were a bit disappointed but we learned a lot more having an informed guide lead us around. Our tour then continued to the main plaza where the cathedral is located. The cathedral has been destroyed several times by earthquakes and then rebuilt. Its not all that impressive but they did have an interesting carving of the devil underneath a pulpit. Odd. We then continued to another smaller church which has 4 huge elaborate golden altars and memorials of Saints. In the back of the cathedral there was an ornately painted domed room. The room is a kaleidascope of different colors and veyr beautiful drawings done by the indians of the area, unfortuntaly we were unable to take pictures and it was pretty breathtaking.
That night, based upon recommendations from our guide, we went to a restaurant that is supposed to serve the best cuy in Arequipa, a very traditional dish of the area. We ordered ourselves some cuy chactado and a beer with a German girl we had randomly ran into that we met in Chile. Cuy would generally be considered a pet in the US but in Peru, as the natives will tell you, ¨Cuy es muyyy rico¨or Guinea pig is very delicious! Haha. Guinea pig. Cuy chactado is the guinea pig whole including the head and the legs. When we ordered our waiter told us that we were very brave and then asked us if we had seen the movie Predator. Not a good sign. The cuy came out whole with its jaws broken apart and its teeth still intact, and supposedly looked like the aliens from Predator. It wasn't the best thing I've ever had, the texture and taste were very similar to chicken only it was much harder to eat. Anyhow, I tried it and now I can add that to my list of odd things I've been adventerous enough to try. The food in Peru is much better than Argentina though, mainly because its spicy.
After our big day we took a tour to Colca Canyon. Colca is the second deepest canyon in the world and is situated in the Peruvian Cordillera. We stayed in a very nice hotel outside of Chivay, Peru called El Refugio. The hotel sits along the Colca river in its own little ravine and was an extremely nice place to take in the beauty of the area and relax. The hotels guide took us that night to the local hotsprings and we sat around for a while and sipped on the national drink of Peru, Pisco Sours (though the Chileans would argue that Pisco Sours are their creation).
The next day we had free to ourselves. In the morning the hotels guide took us to some ruins near the hotel and explained that it had once been a thriving city until the arrival of the Spanish who forced the people out of their homes and burned the city so that they could never return. Some of the tall natural brick houses still stand silouetted against the mountains. The guide explained a lot of the history and pointed out the pre-Incan terraces that were built into the sides of the mountain.
After the tour we walked into Chivay, which was about a 30 minute walk from our hotel. We hung around in town for a bit and had some more Coca tea and bought some souvenirs. The coca leaf is very popular here and people chew it to battle altitude sickness. The tea is pretty tasty and they also make candy and baked goods out of it. The leaves are of course from the same plant as cocaine and are illegal back home. Whatever.
We spent the evening in our hotel reading and writing and preparing for the early tour the next day which began at 630 AM. We met our guide that morning (that morning techinically being this morning) and took the 2 hour drive out to the Cruz del Condor where one can see a huge group of condors flying around. They come out about 830 every morning and disappear about as fast as they appeared to hunt in the mountains. They return everyday mid afternoon. It was pretty cool to see the graceful birds soar effortlessly through the canyon. We then hiked a little bit away from the veiwpoint and saw the deepest par of the canyon which is over 1300 meters deep at its most extreme. We ate some cactus fruit at a nearby stand that tasted a lot like kiwi and then continued on and met another bus to head to Puno which sits on the shores of the great Lake Titicaca which is the highest navigable lake in the world. Titicaca means grey puma in the native language and it is considered a navigable lake because it can host the sailing of huge ships meant to transport goods between the different shores. On the way we saw a pretty cool rock formation and were able to walk through it as well as a bunch of flamingos.
We're in Puno now and we're going tomorrow morning on a 2 day tour of Lake Titicaca which includes a homestay with a family on one of the lake's islands. Should be really interesting.
The computer I'm on is crappy so I can't load photos to facebook but hopefully that'll come soon. Thanks for reading all of that if you actually stuck around... Miss y'all!
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Through talking to the couple from Texas we found out about a stargazing tour that night. We got back to San Pedro and booked the tour and headed out to the small observatory outside the city. The desert here is so dry that clouds very rarely form and the conditions are near perfect for star watching. The man who owns the telescopes is French and speaks Spanish, English and of course, French. Our tour ended up being in Spanish and was very very enjoyable. He told us all about the stars and pointed out tons of different constellations and planets. We then got to look through the different telescopes at Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, a star cluster, a nebula and a high resolution shot of the moon. They even let us take pictures of the moon. Here's the one I got on my camera
After the tour they gave us hot chocolate and told us a little bit more about the stars. We then went to dinner with the Texans and got to bed early as we were leaving for a tour of the geysers at 4 AM.
4 AM in San Pedro de Atacama in the dead of winter is not a fun time. When we woke up it was probably about -9 degrees celsius. We got on our tour bus and headed out to the geysers just before dawn, where the temperature still read -9 celsius. It was FREEZING, but totally worth it. The geysers are the highest in the world. In the world, our guide told us, there are just over 1000 geysers, half of them located in Yellowstone. The field here is home to 40 of those 1000. I know I keep using the words ¨incredible¨and ¨beautiful¨but thats just how it was. The tour then took us to the thermal pools which were anywhere between 25 to 40 degrees celsius. We almost didn't get in because it was still bitter cold, but decided it was the only time we might get to do something like this and took full advantage of it. Although it sucked getting out, we were much warmer once we got our clothes on than we were before we got in the water. The tour then took us through the valleys to a small village where we sampled llama meat. It was pretty tasty, I must say. We say a wide array of flora and fauna in the area and overall it was a great but tiring tour.
Tonight we get on a bus to head to Arica in the far north of Chile to cross into Peru. This will probably be the longest and hardest leg of our trip but we should be in Arequipa by tomorrow night. We'll sleep on the overnight bus tonight, hopefully, though the bus won't be the lap of luxury we've come to know in Argentina. Here's the same link to the San Pedro de Atacama Album I've put up on facebook but I've loaded a lot more pictures from the tours in the last two days:
San Pedro de Atacama
Hope everyone is well, miss y'all!
Friday, July 11, 2008
Salta was pretty incredible. We took a tour of the surrounding areas and went to the Salinas, or Salt Flats, which were pretty incredible and huge. The bus tour took us around a pretty big circuit that included stops along the way in a couple small villages as well as Purmamarca, which is famous for its 7 colored hill. Unfortunately the lighting was not right for views of the hill, but the surrounding countryside was an array of greens, maroons, reds, and browns. It was beautiful. We also went to the salt flats in the area which were formed as the sea dried up in the area. The area is pretty far from the ocean now but at one time the land was deep beneath the water. There are a ton of man made pools in the area that they put water in and then extract the salt out of once the water evaporates.
Thursday we got up early and got on the bus to Chile. Where we're at now is extremely dry and is pretty warm during the day but gts VERY cold at night. The temperature can range from anywhere between -20 celsius at night to 20 celsius during the day. None of the buildings have heating and you have to bundle up pretty well if you want to even think about sleeping. The village is gorgeous though, its all adobe and dirt streets and very laid back. The people are very friendly and its a really nice place to take a stroll. Today we´re going on a tour out to watch the sunset on the Valle de la Luna. The surrounding desert is one of the driest in the world and is supposed to resemble the moon in its landscape. Aside from the small town that we're in, its petty barren, just a lot of rocks and steep mountains in the surroundings. Tomorrow we're taking another tour in the morning to watch the sunrise over the geysers...pretty exciting...
Thats all I've got for now, but here are the links to the pictures I took in Salta and the couple that I've taken so far in Chile, more to come on those.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
We then went to the Museo Archeologico where they have three mummies from Incan children found in the mountains. The mummies are chryogeniccaly (spelling) frozen and maintaned. They only display one at a time and it was quite a site to see. The children were sacrificed during religious celebrations and chosen for this sacrifice based on their flawless beauty and physical characterics. It was a bit weird to see the mummy they had on display, the child was seated indian style (for lack of a better description, sorry) and looked as though it had died yesterday. They were discovered in 1999 and are believed to be over 500 years old. Pretty incredible.
Tomorrow we're doing a 15 hour bus tour of pretty much this whole region including the salt flats. The next day we're leaving at 7 AM for San Pedro de Atacama Chile, so I'm not sure when I'll be able to update again, hence this quick update...
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Here it is, it's a bit rough but it should give you an idea of what we're trying to accomplish.
Leave BA for Salta
Arrive Salta 4pm
Full Day Salta
Bus to San Pedro de Atacama leave 7 am arrive 3:30 Geminis
Full Day San Pedro
Full Day San Pedro
Bus to Arica to Tacna to Arequipa
Arequipa- museum, town tour
travel to Puno arrive AM
lake titicaca- overnight bus to cusco
Emily (travel buddy) back to BA.
Spenser Back to BA
The last couple of days after Machu Picchu are going to be a bit awkward as she's leaving and I'm hanging around a couple days, but I will be able to find some things to do. That's the plan for now, a lot of it will probably change as we go and figure out plans don't really work so well, but we do have to be in Ollantaytambo on the 21st to catch the train on the 22nd to Machu Picchu as we've already bought our tickets. I don't think it will be hard to find a place for quick updates and a few pictures so keep checking back…
Thursday, July 3, 2008
I finished my last class Wedneday. I'm quite confident that I didn't fail a single one of the five I took this semester. Can you believe that? I can't. A whole semester in Spanish, and I held my own. I do have one 'final' this Friday but I got a high enough grade on the midterm that I don't have to take the test, just have to show up and get my grade for the class. I can't believe I've already finished school, if this isn't obvious enough. I'm not ready to leave Buenos Aires, but I'm not actually leaving until the end of July. What am I going to do with the rest of my time here, you ask?
If I haven't already told/bragged/talked to about it, I am for sure going to go on the backpacking trip I talked about earlier. Three countries, 70+ collective hours on a bus, countless historical and majestic mountains/ruins/valleys/deserts—and memories. The trip is going to be a bit of a hike and a whirlwind journey, but I've recently been reminded of this little itch I have to travel. We leave Buenos Aires next Monday the 7th of July for Salta in the northern province of Argentina. This first leg is a 20 hour bus ride, and hopefully the longest (I'll know for sure in a couple days, there might be one more 20 hour trip amongst the other smaller ones). We are taking another nice bus on this journey to spoil ourselves before we reach later legs of the trip where buses have a bit of a reputation for being not quite as nice as buses from Argentina, to put it nicely. A few days after Salta we're heading to San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile. Atacama is the driest desert in the world and its Valle de la Luna is often compared to the surface of the moon. I believe it's even been researched and practiced on for future journeys to our moon. The desert has volcanoes, salt flats and flamingos. Yes, flamingos. ¿Qué sé yo?
After Atacama we will then continue on to the northern border of Chile and Peru at Tacna/Arica. If all goes well at the border we will then continue on to Arequipa to spend a few days. Arequipa is home to Colca Canyon which contains the first and second deepest canyons in the world; though I believe the first canyon is rather inaccessible. We will be most likely doing a two day hike through Colca to see the sites there.
From Arequipa we will head to Puno, Peruvian access to the highest navigable lake in the world and largest in South America, Lake Titicaca. A couple days will be spent at Lake Titicaca then we will continue on to Cusco. We hope to be in Cusco around the 19th of July, barring any unforeseen delays and/or mishaps.
The absolute highlight of our trip will be our journey to Machu Picchu from Cusco. Explanation unnecessary.
My traveling buddy will fly back from Cusco the 24th while I will be staying by myself to hopefully do some more adventuring the region until the 26th. I have been crossing my fingers the entire time I've been in Buenos Aires hoping that something along these lines would happen. I'm incredibly excited about this trip and its going to be an absolute dream. I will be updating as often as is possible from locutorios, or internet cafés, from each destination and will of course be loading tons and tons of pictures. It's weird how small technology makes this world.
Recently not a lot has been going on other than finishing school. I finally made it out to a market outside of the city called La feria de los Mataderos (The Butcher's market). It definitely had a lot better and more carefully crafted goods than did most the typical bubble-gum booths in Buenos Aires. I'm a bit disappointed in myself for not having bought a few souvenirs early when the stuff was novel as opposed to falling ill to the normality complex.
I went to a dialogue last night that an organization my host mother is in put on. She's in a women's business club and the dialogue was between a priest, a rabbi and an imam. The talk lasted about an hour and a half and they talked about peace in today's world. It wasn't exactly the liveliest of dialogues and the rabbi and the priest both left early for one reason or another. Either way it was still interesting to see such a thing in a really fundamentally Catholic country.
My study abroad advisor was in town touring COPA last week and Kristin (the girl from SU who has been here a full year and has become one of my better friends here) and I took her to get a drink at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericana de Buenos Aires, or MALBA. Sue, our advisor, was equally impressed with the way our program works and the people running it. If anyone, ANYONE, is thinking about studying abroad in a Spanish speaking country I HIGHLY recommend this program. It has been absolutely fantastic in every way shape and form that was within their threshold of power. Never overbearing but always an extended hand. Back to MALBA; I love that museum. It makes me wish we had more big spacious museums with rotating exhibits where I live. Austin has its fair share that I've actually yet to explore but I will definitely be making more of an effort when I get home.
People are gradually leaving Buenos Aires from my program, one by one. It's a sad sight to see but it's also incredibly exciting to see how far we've come and the good friends I've made along the way. Thick and thin there is nothing in the world I would have traded for this semester. I'll make a more emotional and heartfelt entry about things I'm going to miss/not miss/fondly remember/other observations when I return to Buenos Aires after the trip and then have to leave for real for real. Tune in, it'll be a good one.
I'll post an update a day or two before I leave with a pretty detailed itinerary for those interested. Other than that ¡Chau!