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!