Sunday, July 11, 2010


I had an overnight flight from Lima, Peru to Newark, NJ. It was delayed an hour, so it didn't take off until 11:30 PM (12:30 AM Eastern Standard Time). I discovered that I do not sleep well on an airplane :( I only got about 2 hours of sleep. At least movies are free on international flights, so I watched a couple.

Because of the delay, I had enough time in Newark, but not much extra before the quick flight to Boston. My friend Deb picked me up & we went to lunch. It was so nice to see and hang out with a friend right away!

She dropped me off at Keith's house soon after I was feeling ill from exhaustion & I slept for a couple hours. That first night, my body was in shock from the heat & humidity, so I didn't sleep very well. Last night was good sleeping weather. I am still very tired today, so I look forward to my own bed & a good night's sleep!

It was nice to ease back into being home with Keith. We had fun & I didn't have to deal with all the responsibilities of being home quite yet :) Although, it is nice to be home. My cats have been super-loving. Seeing and eating out of my garden was wonderful, too.

It is definitely different being back in the States. I appreciate many things that I took for granted before I was in Peru. Here are just some of those things:

toilet paper in public restrooms
toilet seat in public restrooms
being able to flush toilet paper (although, I am having a hard time remembering :))
drivers who are soooo much safer!
English spoken all around me
hot water in the shower (although, with the heat, it is still a cool shower)
home-cooked food
computer keyboard that I'm used to
not worrying so much about being safe
being able to drink the tap water
being able to use tap water to brush my teeth
being able to use my phone
having a car
a refrigerator
a comfy bed & pillows
and, especially, friends and family right here!

I am so happy that I had the wonderful opportunity to go on this trip! I feel so lucky! It is nice to go outside of my comfort zone once in awhile so I appreciate what I have at home.

I will post some pictures on facebook over the next few days or so (I have about 1250 to weed through!). Be sure to check there. If you're not my facebook friend, friend request me! If you are someone I do not know directly, include a message. I will put together a physical album for those of you I will see, but it'll take a little while.

Thank you for following my blog! It was fun to reflect on my experiences here (and in my journal). I hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


For all the fear I had of the big city of Lima, it wasn`t bad at all. Granted, I had a Peruvian woman to spend the day with today, which helped tremendously :) Today was a pretty low-key day, which was fine with me. We got a late start, then went to Miraflores, which is a part of town that many tourists go to. We signed up for the Miraflores & San Isidro city tour, then walked around for a little while. We sat up on the top level of the bus, which is open. It was sooooo cold!!! I know that at this time tomorrow, I`ll be dreaming of colder times, but it wasn`t very comfortable today. It is winter & in Lima, which is on the coast, the winter brings lots of clouds & cool days.

It was pretty cool to be up on top of the bus, though. You can see all around, but have to watch out for the tree branches that try to snag you when you`re not looking :) We laughed quite a bit about dodging tree branches. Luckily I had Patty with me, who speaks Spanish (she`s Peruvian and is married to the man who my friend went to high school with), because the tour was only in Spanish. She translated. The coast here is beautiful. There are cliffs dropping off to a little beach, then the sea. Some people were even surfing.

After that, we walked around & got something to eat. Soon I will head to the airport for my overnight flight. Wish me luck! I´ll write tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Paracas - Part 2

I got up this morning & joined all the other tourists in town at the dock to go to Isla Ballestas. This is also known as the ¨poor man´s Galapagos.¨ About 30 of us got into a big speedboat & headed out. They have people go in the morning before the winds pick up and make the rough sea even rougher.

The first thing we went by is called the Candelabra. It is a huge cactus-looking shape that was dug into the sand dunes by the water. No one knows who put it there or what it means. One theory is that it is related to the Nazca lines. Unlike those, you can see these ones without getting into an airplane.

Isla Ballesta is so beaitiful! They are some really big rocks with thousands of birds on them & flying all around them. The rocks have natural caves and arches carved out from the water. There were soooo many birds! Gulls, boobies, cormorants, even penguins! There were other birds that I don´t know the name if. Some of them would be up on the air & dive down int he water to catch a fish...very cool. There were also sea lions on the rocks, and crabs & starfish. It was so cool to see so many birds flying around. On one part of one of the islands, I thought the rock was black. But it turned out that it was thousands of birds on the rock! In the past, they used to collect the guana, but I didn´t catch what they did with it. I guess it can be meters thick...yuck!

We were almost back to the dock when something hit me...bird poop...ewww! It was brown & disgusting! I almost made it! Luckily it only got on my sunglasses & rain jacket. It wasn´t too hard to clean, but pretty gross.

When I went to get some lunch, I ran into the two girls from Holland who I trekked the Colca Canyon with! So we ate & caught up, then walked on the beach before I had to get my bus. This has happened several times recently. Not sure if I mentioned the Irish couple. They were on my bus back from the Colca Canyon & we chatted at lunch. They ended up on my overnight bus that night, but they got off the stop before me (2 hours before me). Later that night, when I went out to get dinner, I ran into them in town & ate with them. It´s kind of fun to run into people I traveled with before!

My bus to Lima was a little late & a little long, but it was really nice to have someone waiting for me! A friend of mine has a high school friend who is living in Lima. We´ve been emailing & I´m staying with them here, which is nice. I can relax in this big, scary city, which I couldn´t do by myself. They are a very friendly family & I´m happy to have Spanish-speaking people to help me out :)

I can´t believe that I leave on a plane tomorrow night! I will have a post at some point about what I do in Lima tomorrow, but no promises of when :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Paracas - Part 1

I got to Paracas around 11 AM & joined a tour right from the bus station. I went to the Paracas National Park which is fascinating. It is the driest place on rarely rains here. To orinent those of you not familiar with where I am, I am on the coast. Even though it is on the water & it´s cloudy every morning, it rarely rains. So we went out on this road that looks like tar, but is made of salt! Why was it black? Because the rubber from tires has worn off on the salt! This baffled me so much...very cool.

The entire place is sand dunes, but the sand doesn´t really blow around. It has these pebbles on top of it that keeps them mostly in place. Under that is several inches of sandy stuff, then harder sedimentary rocks. There are fossils in the sand from when the ocean covered this area. Here´s the crazy part...absolutely nothing lives in the ground there! Not a single plant or animal. There is no water, so they can´t survive. So interesting!

We stopped at some places along the water & it was so beautiful how there were cliffs falling off into the water. It kind of reminded me of parts on Nova Scotia & PEI in Canada (the cliffs only). And the water is a nice shade of greenish bluish mixed in.

We ate lunch in this tiny town of about 6-7 buildings. These people lived here before it became a national park, so they can still stay there. Three years ago, a big earthquake and tsunami came through this area & some of those buildings were destroyed. Because they are in a national park, they can´t rebuild structures. Of course, when no one was looking, some of the restaurants were rebuilt. But there are only 3 there. Some of the buildings are still there, but aren´t able to be inhabited.

A guy on my tour, who is originally from Sri Lanka, but has lived in Toronto since he was 4 years old, and I walked into the town of Paracas to get a hostel. It was nice to have someone to help with figuring things out. We ended up in a decent place with a room each to ourselves. It´s nice not to share a room tonight :) I forgot to get more money when I left Huacachina & Ica this morning, which was the worst possible place for me to do this. There is only one ATM here & it is inside a building that is often closed...and was when I got to it! The hotel & tour agency for tomorrow are luckily letting me pay tomorrow when the building ¨might¨open! I hope it opens because I leave for Lima in the afternoon!

I hope some of you are still reading my blog. I haven´t gotten any comments in awhile, so I´m not sure. Feel free to comment! Sorry I haven´t responded personally...I don´t know how to through this blog, and many places have had slow internet. But I do love getting comments :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Colca Canyon and Huacachina

I was up at 2:45 AM & off on a bus at 3:30 to see the Colca Canyon. We had to leave so early so we´d see the condors. Ever since I lived in California, I´ve wanted to see condors. But I never made it to the refuge when I lived there. So I was quite excited to see them!

On the bus, everyone slept until the sun started to come out. Then the light revealed mountains and a crazy-windy road all around. We followed the contours of the land, which was a bit nauseating. But it was beautiful. There were mountains, a valley, terraces, llamas, sheep, donkeys and more. As we continued, we finally made it to the canyon. The walls dropped off at the bottom, and you couldn´t see below. This made me very happy that I was about to hike to the bottom, so I could see it all. We stopped with all the other tourists at a spot where the condors fly just about every day. It was so cool to see a bird with a 10 foot wingspan! I didn´t realize that the young ones are brown & the older ones are black & white. Very beautiful to watch flying! I guess they mate for life, and only have 1 baby a year. They´ll kill the other egg before it hatches if there are 2. If the female bird dies, the male will starve himself to death. If the male dies, the female will find another mate! The giude said that an 8 year old condor is old, but they can live to something like 40 years old!

We drove on to Cabanaconde (a town), and had lunch before heading into the canyon. I ended up with another small group...2 girls from Holland, myself, and the guide. The people who briefed me told me to carry a lot of water. So I had about 9-10 pounds of dead weight on my back! But we didn´t need to bring too much else.

The hike down was beautiful! The mountains have the nicest contours that I couldn´t stop taking pictures of! The river at the bottom was a nice shade of emerald green. We could see a few small towns across the canyon. The only way for these people to get to their towns is by foor or donkey. They will climb up with things they grew to sell & resupply in town. This is why water costs 3 times as much as in town (no exaggeration!). In the handful of towns, there are only about 100 people living down there. Part of the reason is that there is one school there, but it only goes through elementary school. When the kids reach high school, they have to rent a room in the small town at the top of the canyon during the week. They hike down to their home for the weekend. More kids are going on to college & not returning to live in the canyon. This is a fascinating way of life to me!

We hiked to a town & stayed with a family. This isn´t what I expected, but it was pretty cool. They have some extra rooms for hikers & they cook you meals. Our room had a wonderful view of the canyon! In the morning, our guide told us to check out the guinnea pigs in the kitches. There were at least 20 of them! And some of them were keeping warm in the bottom of the oven! This is pretty funny since they are there for food.

The second day, we hiked to an oasis at the bottom of the canyon. They have built it up for tourists by channeling the water into some pools. I must admit that it was quite nice to swim there! We were there for about 3 hours or so, so we swam, laid in the sun, ate, and laid in the hammocks. Then we had to climb the 1000 meters in less than 3 hours to the top! It wasn´t too bad, though, because there were switchbacks & we didn´t hike too fast. I was impressed that the altitude didn´t bother me at all.

We stayed in the town at the top of the canyon that night. I thought we were sleeping in the canyon, so I was a little disappointed. It turns out that I ended up with a company that wasn´t the one I was signed up with. That´s why the itinerary was different. I didn´t know this until that night!

The next day, we hiked an hour round-trip to a viewpoint of the canyon that was very nice. It was good to get one last good look. Then we took off on the long journey back to Arequipa. We stopped a few times along the way. One disturbing stop was a tourist trap that had birds of prey that you could put on your head or arm & have your picture taken. I wasn´t a fan of that.

We stopped at some hot springs to soak for an hour, which was nice. We also stopped at the high point of the road at almost 5000 meters! It was cold there! We could see some volcanoes from there, mostly with snow on them (it´s winter here). We could see the one that Juanita was found on, too (the frozen girl).

When we got back to Arequipa, I ran into Kathy, the woman I spent 5 days with in the jungle! We caught up & had dinner, which was really nice. Then I went back to get my stuff at my hotel, take a shower, & repack before heading to Ica on the overnight bus.

I slept much better on this bus, so I felt pretty rested when I got to Ica. I immediately got in a taxi with a Belguim couple & we headed to Huacachina. This is an interesting little town of about 500 people. It has a lagoon in the middle of town and buildings surrounding it. Behind that are these huge sand dunes! I found a hostel, then hiked to the top of one of the dunes. It was pretty steep! When I got to the top, I discovered that the dunes go on & on! It was so pretty.

Except for fact that tourists are ruining the place. There is trash everywhere in the dunes. People take dune buggy rides in the dunes, which I´m sure is bad for them. Some people sandboard, too, which can´t be good. Yes, I know that walking in them probably isn´t great, either.

I can´t believe that I leave in just a few days! I have been having a wonderful time, but I am ready to go home and have familiarity and ease of life again :) I look forward to a comfortable bed, a comfortable pillow, home-cooked meals, and English...perfect English :)! But until then, I have a few more days to take advantage of.

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July!

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Yesterday was more of a day to get things done in Cuzco. It was nice that it was much quieter than when the festival was going on. There were still a lot of cars and horns honking, but the crowds weren´t there, which was nice. My watch doesn´t work any more, so I had to suck it up and buy another one.

That night, I went on an overnight bus for about 9 hours to get from Cuzco to Arequipa. As nice as Cuzco is, I was happy to change the location for good. The bus was pretty comfortable with reclining and comfy seats, but I only slept okay. I got to Arequipa at 5 AM, then went to my hotel to sleep for awhile.

After that, I went out into the city. Arequipa is the 2nd largest city in Peru & is pretty nice. There is lots of white stone that the buildings are made of, which make it look clean. The Plaza de Armas (central plaza) is very nice. There is a huge fountain in the middle that they were cleaning this morning. This afternoon, I found out why. There were hundreds of pigions everywhere! And people feeding them & letting them get on their arms. It was crazy! But I guess they had to clean all the bird poo :) The buildings all around the Plaza have stone arches, and the cathedral at one end spans the entire block!

I wandered around and went inte the cathedral, another church, some old mansions that are now being used for other things, a couple parks, a market, and a couple museums. I picked all free things but one. I went to a really cool museum that has a real frozen body that was sacrificed to the gods over 500 years ago! It was only found in 1995 by two climbers (it was on a 20,000 foot mountain). The body is of a girl about 14 years old, and she was of the Incan times. She was sacrificed to the gods. The journey to get there took about 3 months, because she went to Cuzco, then the Arequipa area, then up the huge mountain.

They said she fasted before she was sacrificed so that the sedatives would work faster. They gace those to her, then they hit her above the right eyebrow, fracturing her skull & killing her. Then they put her in the fetal position and buried her in a traditional hole in the ground. Before she was found, she had been exposed and rolled down the mountain a ways. She was very well preserved, though. When the climbers found her, she had only been exposed for 15-25 days.

The climbers later returned to see what else they could find. They found 2 other bodies, as well as pottery, textiles, rocks specially places, grass they planted for camps, etc. The whole thing was fascinating, but I coulnd´t even imagine!

Arequipa is a nice city, but I feel like I´ve seen it in the day :) I leave tomorrow morning at 3:30 AM to trek the Colca Canyon...ouch! But I guess all the companies do that. I think it´s so we hopefully see condors at a specific spot. The trek isn´t what I thought it would be. I guess I don´t camp...I´ll be staying in hotels or bungalows or something each night. Ah well. It´s supposed to be amazingly beautiful. The canyon is said to be the 2nd largest in the world (the deepest is 150 meter deeper and close by here in Peru). It is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon! I´ll be in touch after your long holiday there in the States. Enjoy the 4th!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Jungle - Part 2

Day 3: We didn´t have to get up too early, which was nice. We took the boat an hour down the river, really in the rainforest. We went to some ¨Project¨that starts with a T. It is some sort of environmental program to save the and educate about the rainforest. There are trails there & we walked, again, seeing lots of animals and birds. We got out to this thing called a ¨Canopy Walk,¨which is a crazy bridge 42 meter high & 90 meters long. It has 6 inch wide metal for you to walk on, a metal wire for a railing, and netting between the 2 to help you not fall. It swings a little & is pretty nerve-racking as it starts to incline up into a huge tree. But when you get up there, you are in the canopy of the forest & can look around. It´s pretty cool!

The bugs were surprisingly not bad while I was in the jungle. I wore long clothes and bug spray, just to be sure. When I was in the canopy, there were these wierd bees that look & act like black flies in the worst season in NH. You can´t kill them, because that´s when they will sting. They were really annoying! But at least that was it :)

We ate a delicious lunch there, then took our afternoon break. Then we went to an animal rehabilitation center very close to there. Now, we are 1 hour 40 minutes from any town, and what do I see & hear when we get there? The World Cup soccer game on a big screen TV!!! I can´t get away from it anywhere here! Not only that, but their cell phones work everywhere here in the jungle! Not quite what I expected.

Anyway, at the rehab place, we saw all kind of monkeys, some different cats including a jaguar, lots of birds, and otter, and some big animal that I don´t know what it was. It was neat seeing these animals up close. We fed the monkies, too.

Day 4: We visited a local family. It was kind of strange because they do this for tourists. But it was neat to see. We did some song & dance that I don´t understand. They painted our faces with a local plant that grows there. We also got to play with this spinning top toy that I think was made of a stick & a nut & string. It was kind of neat.

We also shot a bow & arrow at some fake birds in a tree. I got it! I was the first & it was my first try! Only one other shot got it the entire time! No, I don´t have much experience with a bow & arrow & certainly not in recent times!

In the afternoon, we went fishing! We got dropped off on the shore by the boat & fished for 30-45 minutes there. My guide was funny. He had us keeping the line at one distance & just throwing it out into the water. This didn´t seem right to me. We got picked up & fished further downriver from the boat. The driver showed my guide how to use the fishing rod so you can cast it out :) It was more fun fishing that way. All I caught was some sticks. Oh well. The woman in my group caught a fish, but got away as she was lifting it out of the water.

Day 5: We got up at 4 AM to go to Parrot´s Clay Lick. We went downriver with the full moon shining, which was beautiful. The sunrise was beautiful, too. We got to this sand bar of sorts, about 100 meters from the clay lick & waited. The parrots, parakeets, and macaws came, little by little & got into the trees. After awhile, they started to go onto the clay. I guess they go there to eat to help their stomachs. I think their stomach gets upset from eating too much unripe fruit. It was cool to see hundreds of the colorful birds all in one place! Most of them had green bodies & blue heads. But I also saw some red & yellow mixed in.

I spent the rest of day in Puerto Maldonado. I met a woman who speaks English & Spanish, so she helped me the rest of the day. My watch battery needed changing, so we went to the market to get a new one. She was so helpful! Unfortunately, the watch is done for, so now I have to buy a new one. We ate meals together, too.

I am in Cuzco again today, but I get on an overnight bus to Arequipa tonight. I will be there super-early tomorrow morning.

The jungle was wonderful! It was nice to be in the same place for so long, and to understand what was going on around me. It was nice to be outdoors, and also to not worry about being asked to buy something, have to worry about my stuff being stolen, or worrying if I´ve been ripped off. The food was excellent, too. I drank all kinds of delicious juices, too.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Jungle - Part 1

The jungle was incredible!!! I still can´t believe that I was in the Amazon!!! It was so nice to be outdoors for awhile, not worrying about who was going to try to steal my stuff, ask me to to buy something, or rip me off. The jungle is much more my thing!

I´m going to write some today & some tomorrow. First off, I saw & heard so many animals! Tons of different birds: parrots, parakeets, macaw, hawks, condors, kestrels, herons, and many that I can´t remember the name of. And many of the ones I listed, I saw & heard many different kinds of. I also saw & heard lots of monkeys: spider monkey, squirrel monkey, night monkey, howler monkey, and some I don´t remember the names of. Have you ever heard a howler monkey? They make the most bizarre & cool sound I have ever heard from an animal! I had no idea what it was when I heard it. I thought a small airplane was about to fly overhead! It was so loud! And they were close-by, so I got to see them, too! Then there were lizards, turtles, caimen, lots of different kinds of ants, flowers, trees, plants, spiders, butterflies, moths, and many other things! It is so peaceful in the jungle, yet so loud!

Day 1: I got picked up & brought 40 minutes by boat down the Rio Madre de Dios (Mother of the Gods River) to my lodge. The boat was like a really big canoe with benches along the two sides and a covering over the top. The engines for the boats around here are like a regular motor boat, on the top, but then they have a long pole-looking thing that goes way down to the propellers. The driver pushes that thing side to side to steer & can pick it up out of the water.

My guide, Benito, took me on a private walk in the jungle behind the lodge. I saw a huge fig tree! And it was a small one! They can get to be 18 meters around & this one was only about 10 meters around...which is still huge! There is a cool palm called a walking palm that has these really long roots that are exposed. I saw all kinds of things.

I had a delicious lunch that was wrapped in some sort of huge leaf. Then they have ¨resting time.¨Which, later, I realized is because they usually get you up so early that you need a nap. Also, it´s so hot for you & the animals. So the hikes are often early & late in the day.

My group consisted on myself & a woman, Kathy, who is from Boston, but now lives in Florida. She has traveled all over & lived in many countries through working with Club Med & teaching overseas. She was a pretty cool woman. And the only other person in my group! It was so cool to only have 2 people & one guide!

That evening, we went to Monkey Island a little before dark. We took the boat, then hiked inland on this island for a short while. There was a whole monkey family there! They were so cute! For those of you who don´t know, since I was quite little, I have had a love for monkeys and chimpanzees. So it was exciting to see them! They are used to people, so the guides fed them fruit. It was cute: they would throw the fruit to the monkey & he would take off. Eventually they took it from the guide´s hand! They made cool sounds, too.

After that, we went looking for caimen on the boat. The sun went down & the full moon came up while we were on the! How amazing is that! It was so beautiful! The guide used a spotlight to catch a sight of caimen and to catch the red glow from their eyes. We saw a bunch, which was cool. They are in the alligator family, but usually smaller.

Day 2: We got up really early to hike out to Sandoval Lake, which is an ox-bow lake that has giant otters. We were up at something like 5 AM, then took the boat to the trail that brought us 5 km to this lake in the Tambopata National Reserve. We saw all kinds of wildlife along the way & heard so many cool sounds. The jungle is so beautiful! When we got to the lake, we got into a big canoe & our guide paddled us around for hours. We only got a distant glimpse of the otters before they went in for the day :( It was super-hot that day, so I don´t blame them. I got really overheated & didn´t feel great for awhile by the end. On the lake, we did see lots of different birds, caimen, tutles, and monkies.

We went back to the lodge for lunch & our afternoon break, which I slept for part of! That night, we went for a dusk/dark hike behind the lodge. Again, we saw lots of birds & animals. Lots of ants, frogs, and spiders, too.

Each night, I slept so soundly out in the jungle! It´s so peaceful. I had a whole bungalow all to myself with screened windows all around. I had mosquito-netting around me at night, which made me feel like a princess :) So did the guide paddling us around on the lake :)

Alright, that´s enough for now. I´ll finish writing about the jungle tomorrow when I return to Cuzco for the day. I love the comments...keep writing! And Jason, I hear soccer here everywhere I go...even the jungle!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Puerto Maldonado

I think I am mealting. Literally. I made it to Puerto Maldonado & it is so hot & humid here! I can´t believe that when I go into the jungle tomorrow, I have to wear all long clothing!

This is a town with not a whole lot going on. It is definiely a different feel than Cuzco, especially because of the festival there. There are a lot of motorcycles & motokars here. A motokar is a motorcycle in the front & a rickshaw in the back (which is a covered place to sit).

I went up into the obilisk & got a view of the town. That was neat to get up so high. Then I got to the Central Plaza, which doesn´t have much going on :). So I went down to the river, which was beautiful. It is a nice red color & wide here. It´s the Rio de Madres. It is a big hub for boats going back & foth ferrying cars, motorcycles, people, trucks, construction equipment, etc. The boats go constantly. The river is so strong that they have to go at a big angle up-river to make it :) I guess this will be changing in the near future. They are in the process of building the Inercoastal Highway that will connect Peru & Brazil. I´m not sure why they are doing this, but they are. Supposedly it will open this year. So in the background, you can see a very out-of-place-looking very high bridge. My guidebook said this will really change this area soon, and possibly not for the best. Time will tell.

I just ran into a guy I met on the plane from the US, so I have to go. Now I really don´t think I´ll have internet access for almost a week. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cuzco and Observations

It is absolutely crazy here right now! The Festival of the Sun is tomorrow, but it really ramped up today. There are thousands & thousands of people here & parades & music & people selling things everywhere. I have been having to pretty much push my way through the crowds all day. I don´t normally like this, but I dislike it even more with potential pick-pockets around. I think I have been here one day too long.

Oh well. I was able to do some interesting things & do my laundry today. That alone was a little adventure. You drop your laundry off & go back to pick it up a few hours kater. When I went back, I thought they lost my laundry! But it turned out that it was an hour late. It is back & it´s nice to have clean clothes again :)

This morning, before it got too hot, I went to Molina, which is the biggest local market. It is refered to a Peruvian department store in my guidebook. The woman who told me about it said it is a black market & you can get just about anything there. Which is true...I found all different types of clothes, undergraments, bicycles, housewares, toys, games, shoes, cameras & accessories, food, bags/purses/luggage, drugstore items, CD´s, DVD´s, etc. I got a couple CD´s for just over a dollar a piece (I recognize that they´re burned CD´s) & a shirt that will be good for the jungle. My guidebook said there are professional pick-pockets in every market, so leave your valuables behind & be careful. I went early so I could wear my jacket & put my couple belingings in one pocket & leave my hand in that pocket. The market wasn´t very crowded, which was nice. So I had no problems.

I also visited a couple museums today. Some were closed due to the festivities, though. The most interesting one was about textiles in this region. It was interesting to see what types of weaving are used for what. And 3 women were weaving as a demonstration & it looks like it takes a long time!

Okay, here are some observations:
They can drink in the streets here in Peru. I saw it in Aguas Calientes first, then here in Cuzco during the festival.

Drivers here are Crazy!!!! It´s like they think they´re in a race. If you think Mass drivers are bad, or NYC drivers, or LA drivers, then you haven´t seen anything yet! In town, they get within an inch of each other constantly. They are always honking their other drivers, at pedestrians, at the dogs walking around, or to say hi to someone they know. Out in the countryside, they drive so fast! And the roads are very windy, so it´s pretty scary. Especially when I was up front on the bus to the train to Machu Picchu. In little towns, they have speed bumps to slow them down, but they race from one to the next. And staying in your own lane...that doesn´t mean anything here! They pass each other whenever they want...which seems to be all the time. Again, it is like they are in a race. On that scary bus ride, there were 3-4 lanes of cars & buses because they were trying to avoid the holes they made for the construction & pass each other, too. There aren´t many seatbelts here, either. I find it best to watch the scenery rather than the driving. And when there is one, I wear a seatbelt.

The cars here are mostly old & a little beat up. Lots of Toyotas, but old. There are definitely others, but that one sticks out. I have also seen a fair number of old VW beetles.

There is no indoor heat here. I stand corrected in the elevation: it´s a little over 11,000 feet here. And winter. Brrr! Lots of blankets at night! And lots of clothing when I´m out & about. I think a guide said that they are starting to get it. Also, many people do not have hot water. I have stuck to hostels with hot water :)

You may know that they had some hug landslides here a few months ago. The train to Aguas Calientes is still down in parts. There is also much evidence on the roads. There are random boulders still in the road. And holes. The road is 1/2 gone in a couple places. There are piles of dirt & rocks on the sides of the roads, sometimes partially blocking the roads. You can also see where the slides were off the road. Remember, the landslides were months ago. One guide said it is because of their President. I also don´t think they have much in the way of machinery to deal woth it, either.

Which brings me to farming. They still do a lot of that in this area & still use man-powere & animal power primarily. I did see one tractor in all my travels in the countryside!

Back to the landslides. At some point, someone thought it would be a good idea to use eucalyptis trees to stabilize the steep slopes (of which there are plenty here!). Apparently it worked, but they are invasive & taking over. They steal the water & nutrients, so native plants die out. So they´re trying to figure out what to do about it.

Food: I have had no problem so far with food. There are some good vegetarian restaurants that I have visited, but most places have options. Besides guinnea pig, I´m still not sure what Peruvian food is. I think I have had some stuff with their spices. I have had a lot of sandwiches with cheese, tomatoe & avacado...very good. They grow those 2 fruits here. Breakfast is included in my lodging. It consists of bread, butter, jelly, coca tea, & fruit juice. One place, in addition to this, also had some cheese & deli meats.

The hostels are very pretty. The ones I´ve had are open in the middle with an opaque roof with rooms all around, 2 floors high.

I think you are suppsed to put your used toilet paper in the trash can, not the toilet. The reason, I think, is that it will clog the plumbing. I am finally getting into the habit of doing this. I don´t know how many places I´ve messing with their plumbing :)

Which brings me to the fact that I never fully understand what is going on around me here :) There is the language barrier, but I get by with broken English & Spanish. But I do miss a lot. There is this keyboard. It is different because the Spanish language has a couple different letters & accents. And the keyboard is set up a little different. It took me a good 5 minutes to figure out how to make the ¨@¨symbol to sign into this blog the first time :) I´m figuring things out, though :) Sometimes it is nice to escape into my book or updating this blog :)

One last thing: There are a lot of rainbow flags flying around here. It is the flag of the Inca & some people are upset that the gay population took it.

Alright, that´s probably enough for now. Tomorrow morning, I fly to the town in the jungle. I have the day there, then the next morning & take a long boat ride deep onto the jungle for 5 days & 4 nights. I am super-excited! I can´t imagine that I´ll have internet access while in the jungle, but I will update this blog when I return. I still like comments & emails when I can get to them :) I hope your enjoying this blog!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Machu Picchu!!!

Oh my goodness!!! Machu Picchu is SO amazing in person! I didn´t realize how much better than the pictures it is! It is so stunningly beautiful there & surrounding it. Even though thousands of people visit a day, I still feel so lucky to have been there!

I went to Aguas Calientes the night before Machu Picchu, which was an adventure! Due to the mudslides they had a few months ago, the train no longer runs from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes. I had a guy organize my trip out there & he put me in a car to go to Ollytambo to get the train. For some unknown reason, he put me on a bus to get there. I got to sit right up front, which was nerve-wracking due to the crazy driving here (I´ll write more on that tomorrow). But it was a beautiful drive through the mountains. At the end, because of the construction in the town, we had to drove along the RR tracks. I was a little nervous when the tires slipped on the tracks & there is a sheer drop-off into the Urumba River right there! When we were about there, another bus wouldn´t back up, so the drivers got into an argument. Anyway, I got to the station in time to get the bus to where the train currently runs from. Apparently the train will run from here starting this Thursday, but not for me. We drove along the tracks, which is funny. We got to a point where I got really nervous because the bridge didn´t look wide enough! But we went around...phew! Wed dove through some towns that aren´t used to getting bus traffic & I wonder what the effect has been on them.

Eventually, after a scenic drive, we made it to the train station. I met some people from Canada & Japan on the ride there. The train ride was magnificent! The whole side of the train was a huge window, so the views were great! The train goes along the river & the mountains jut up all around, some with snow & glaciers.

Aguas Calientes is a neat little town. It is in a steep valley along 2 rivers & they just stuck buildings along the steep slopes. The town can only be so big due to this, but it´s pretty cool. I got to listen to some live music in the Central Plaza, which was cool.

The day I got to go to Machhu Picchu started at 4 AM to get there for sunrise on the solstice. I got in one line after the other, but then I was on one of the first buses up the super-windy road up from Aguas Caliente. I got there & when I first saw Machu Picchu, I was overcome with emotion, which surprised me. I have wanted to visit since I was younger & I have finally made it here! Again, I feel so lucky!

I looked around a little & took pictures before I hiked Waynapicchu, which is the pointy mountain in the background of most pictures of Machu Picchu. Only 400 people a day are allowed to hike it, so I´m happy I got there early. I tried to see the surise at one of those places where the sun hits the rock which throws a shadow onto a specific point only on the solstice. But, it was a little cloudy at the time :( Oh well.

Waynapicchu is so steep! It is basically a big staircase to get up it. As you go up, there are wire railings to help you out. At the top, there are a couple wooden ladders. Pretty cool! Unlike Cuzco, it is humid here, so it was a sweaty hike :) Along the way, there are ruins, so I checked them out (also to take a break from the climb). I still can´t believe they built this all the way up there! The top was amazingly beautiful! I met some people from the states...the east coast nonethless! DC & Albany, NY.

I saw more ruins on the way down. Don´t worry about pictures...I´ve already taken about 500 in a week! I even bought another memory card today :)

I was signed up for a 2 hour tour that ended up being 3 hours & very interesting. Some highlights of what I learned...Machu Pichhu means Öld Mountain¨in the native language of the Incas. Waynepicchu means ¨Young Mountain.¨There are many theories out there about Machu Pichhu, so I´ll share what my guide told us. He thinks that Machu Picchu was for people of importance like Priests, Priestesses, Nobles, doctors, etc. They think that Machu Picchu was only 70% built when they left it. Also, 25% of Machu Picchu has been renovated, mostly in roofs. They think there were some short people who lived there because there are some low windows. In the homes, there are windows & windows that look like they´ve been filled in. Those are supposed to have been closets. There are many places in Machu Picchu that use the sun´s shadow to make shapes or hit certain places. Most of the terraces were for growing food. Some are there to support the structure. There are places where they carved the shapes of the surrounding mountains. The detail there & the building with nature rather than against it is amazing to me.

After I did that, I hiked out to the Inca Bridge, which was supposed to be a drawbridge to keep people out. Again, it was very pretty there. After that, I spent some time sitting & soaking in the view & walking arounf more.

The whole place is built with stairs & I was there for 11 hours, including hiking down, so I´m pretty sore today! The hike down was very pretty. It was lush & I heard some pretty birds. This is on the edge of the jungle, so I was getting a glimpse into what the jungle will be like & I´m excited!!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cuzco - Explored the Ruins in the Sacred Valley

Yey! The internet is working much better today. I went on an all day tour of the Sacred Valley of the Inca today & it was so amazing! It is so beautiful here in the Andes! Cuzco is at around 10,000 feet & I even went up to about 12,000 feet today. I guess I have handled the altitude very well. The only side effect I have had is that I get winded easier going up hills. But all the people around me, most of whom have been here at altitude longer than me are breathing harder. I guess a lot of people feel sick, headache, lightheaded, etc. I have been trying very hard to keep hydrated. I guess I also have good genes to be at altitude :)

The Sacred Valley was a place for the Incans to go on a sort of vacation. I can´t remember if I wrote it yesterday, but they constructed the best walls. Their walls have withstood many earthquakes that were bad. In one place I visited yesterday, they built the walls in a trapezoidal shape. Inside the stones, they hollowed out a U shaped section on 2 rocks next to each other & poured hot gold into the space. Gold is flexible, so it helps when the earthquakes come. Very interesting to me! In some of the ruins today, they fit the rocks together like a puzzle. One rock has a piece that sticks out & the other goes in.

The Incans built terraces to grow crops. Sometimes the terraces are very high up on a cliff & I wonder how they got there! They grow about 320 different varieties of potatoes in this region of Peru...and about 3,000 varieties in all of Peru! And lots of varieties of tomatoes. They also grow lots and lots of corn.

There are dogs everywhere here! They have owners, but they do not go inside. They are believed to protect the house, but that´s it. They bother people, looking for food )and possibly love), but they get shooed away :( They are thin but not starving. They sometimes sleep in the road & cars go around them.

This country consists of 10% coast, 30% Andes mountains, and 60% Amazonian jungle. I cannot remember the numbers, but somewhere around 3 quarters of the population lives on the 10% of coast & very few people live in the Amazon!

In Cuzco, 60 % of the people work in tourism! Everywhere you go, women & girls dressed in bright, traditional clothing are trying to sell you something. Some men, too. And many women carry a baby goat, or lead around goats, llamas, and alpacas & want you to take their picture & pay them 1 sole (about 30 cents). So strange!

I am managing well here. I haven´t even had to use spanish too much. A lot of english is spoken. It´s strange, though, because I am around all these people with accents & I feel like I have gotten an accent!

I have met people from all over the world. Today I spent time with a guy who is from Australia, but is working in the Peruzian mines as an engineer for a year & a half. Also a woman from Malaysia. And a man from Germany who just finished studying in San Francisco, CA. Yesterday I spent time with a woman from Hong Kong. Of course, both days I have spent some time with Americans. Many of them are from California!

To those of you who told me to take lots of pictures...I have definitely done so! I have taken over 200 pictures in a day and a half! I may run out of memory after all! No worries, I can buy more if I need to.

Thank you to those of you who posted comments...I love it! Emails are good, too, especially now that I have better internet access.

Tomorrow I go up to a town near Machu Picchu called Aguas Calientes. I am so excited to get up there! Well, I guess the elevation is a little lower, actually. Oh, speaking of elevation. Here they drink a lot of coco tea, which helps with altitude sickness. It is illegal to bring the leaves home with you because they are what cocaine is made of!

The Festival of the Sun is next Thursday, but has already begun. In case I didn´t write it yesterday, there are parades a couple times a day. There are people all dressed up. There is music & dancing. It is kind of fun. I won´t be here for the festival, but that is okay with me...this is enough commotion for me :) It reminds me of when I was in Brazil not too long before Carnival & lots was going on already.

Friday, June 18, 2010

In Peru at Last!

Hola Amigos! Soy en Cusco, Peru. Yes, I have made it safe & sound to Cuzco. It took 30 hours in planes & airports, but I´m here. I´m exhausted but happy right now, so this will be short. Flying to Cuzco from Lima was so beautiful! There were lots of mountains & a few were snow-covered. I saw Latin American agriculture, lakes, rivers, secluded villages, etc. Cuzco is a really nice town, too. I went on a tour today where I saw some local places that are important & some ruins. One ruin is called something that sounds like ¨Sexy Woman.¨ I guess it actually translates to ¨woman´s head¨ because it was supposed to be that in the Incan times & Cuzco was supposed to be the body. There are these really big rocks that were moved much like the Egyptians moved stone for the pyramids. There are even animal shapes made with some of the rocks.

I have met some interesting people from all over. The Festival of the Sun is next Thursday, but it has already begun. There are parades all the time in the center of town, which are interesting to watch. Lots of traditional clothing & dances. There will be 1500 kids who perform in the festivities!

Alright, I need some sleep. I´ll write more when I get faster internet.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Leaving in a Couple Hours

I was just thinking last night that my theme for this trip is, "flexibility." From my previous travels to other countries, I remember that not everyone in this world is as good about doing things in what we call "a timely manner" as we are in the US. And the pace is very different in many other cultures. This is also my theme because I chose not to have a full itinerary before I leave, so I have to be flexible about how things pan out.

That said, I have already had to practice flexibility. I got an email just a little while ago telling me that my 10 AM flight to Cuzco on Friday has been changed to noon. My friend who has traveled to Peru told me just last week that flights often don't make it into Cuzco past 10 AM due to the fog rolling in over the mountains and settling there. Luckily this same friend had told me that I can use Skype to call a phone for very cheap (like, 3 cents a minute), and I signed up. I also decided to go get a headset (this morning) to bring with me in case the internet cafes don't have them. Phew! I was able to call the airline, in Peru, for 3 cents a minute & change my flight to 8:20 AM...even better than the original flight :)! I guess they say things happen for a reason!

Why does this matter so much? Well, besides wanting to get right to Cuzco, I did not book a hostel for tomorrow night. I have read a lot about how safe & comfortable (relative of course) sleeping in the airport is & how bad the traffic is in Lima, so I decided to give it a try. With this change in flight, I was going to have to try to get a last-minute hostel. Anyway, it worked out :)

Ever since I finished packing last night, I have been super-excited & giddy. I feel like a little kid :) I leave my house in just a couple hours (the time stamp on this program does not seem to be accurate, by the way), and I'm not quite sure what to do with myself :).

A note on posting comments to my blog. Two friends have tried to post comments & told me they need to get a google account. This does not mean you have to get a google email, though. I found out that I already had an account when I signed up for this blog, which I had forgotten. If you want to post comments (which I want you to!), it's definitely worth it. I don't think it'll take long. Sorry for the inconvenience.

I'm proud of my packing...I have my backpacking backpack & there is even extra room left in it! I took many people's suggestions for packing light. It looks like laundry is easy to come by, so I shouldn't be too stinky :)

Okay, I am off & will write more once I am in Peru! I am in mild disbelief that I am going to Peru...and the Amazon! Wow! I can't believe this is actually happening! Thank you to everyone who is or has helped out in any way.

Adios Amigos!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Background information

I was looking at the local weather in the locations I will be visiting and am surprised by what I have found. The daytime temperatures range from 65 degrees to 94 degrees, with the night temperatures ranging from 34 degrees to 68 degrees! It is currently winter in Peru, but apparently the jungle is pretty hot this time of year! And the higher elevations can get really cold at night. I'm glad I looked before I pack :)

I was also looking at the time in Peru. Part of the year, Peru is in the same time zone as the eastern US. They do not participate in daylight savings time, so part of the year, they are one hour off. Right now, Peru is 1 hour behind the eastern US. Also, being closer to the equator, the days are less and 12 hours right now! It will be strange having shorter days.

If you have not done so, you should scroll down to the bottom of my blog. I recently added a couple pictures. I will likely work on the layout of this page, so be sure to check it out. Also, there is a button you can click on to "follow" me on this blog. Not sure what exactly happens, but maybe it gives you messages that I have posted a new blog? You can also post comments that I will get when I check my blog, so feel free to write. I will be checking email & facebook when I can, too (email is the priority).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Preparing to Leave

Welcome friends and family! I will be in Peru for 3 weeks, beginning in just one week, almost to the minute right now! I have officially begun my countdown & getting nervous that I won't be ready in time. But, of course, I am mostly very excited! For those of you unfamiliar with what I am doing, I will spend 3 weeks in Peru, visiting Machu Picchu, Puerto Maldonado (the jungle), Colca Canyon (the world's second-deepest canyon), and other amazing places. I will be doing some hiking, some sight-seeing, and whatever else looks fun. I will stay in hostels and join tour groups, so I am bound to meet other interesting people from around the world. If you are wondering if I'm nervous, the answer is yes. A little. But I know it will be a wonderful, fun, and educational trip.

Why have I chosen to visit Peru? Since I was little & saw a picture of Machu Picchu, I have wanted to visit. In January & February this year, I was looking online trying to think of what I wanted to do this summer. Once I came upon a picture of Machu Picchu, I remembered that I wanted to go there & decided it would happen this summer. I was originally going to join a tour group for the entire time, but quickly learned how easy it is to do it solo, joining groups as I go.

So here I am, with one week to go. I have had two wonderful friends to talk with about my trip, one of whom visited about 6 years ago, and the other who is currently living in Peru. I can't thank each of them enough for all the help they have given me already!

I will do my best to update this blog as I go, but make no promises due to not knowing how much internet access I will have & how much time I will devote to typing. Please check often & feel free to contact me!