Thursday, February 25, 2010
AS we are finding out there are Low times and High times up here in the Andes, and the times don´t get much lower than when Machu Picchu is closed and it´s raining quite often. The good part is that rooms are cheaper, you can always find a nice one and you are not always feeling like you are simply part of some giant qeue of tourists bussing, flying and plodding methodically from site to site, even though that might be what you are doing. We are in Puno Peru which is a pretty nice little bustling town perched on the shores of Lake Titicaca, but even here things are what you might call ¨dead¨ as touristing goes. We are liking the relative mellowness of the tourist trade, but are finding it a bit weird being the only two people in a giant resteraunt full of tables with aproned staff looking-on as we dine on Alpaca medallions (only me non-veg)and try not to talk too loudly because the place is so quiet the squeaking of the forks on our plates sounds obnoxious. I kid you not, every place we go into is simply abandoned and while our dutiful Book-Wearhouse purchased guidebook exclaims ¨crowds of locals and tourists alike rub shoulders in this friendly and bustling room while delicious local food is served and nightly live music resounds¨ it is dissapointing to be whispering in a corner over two plates of drab food while over-dressed waiters glower at you from behind the cash desk. We have decided to simply use the guide as a way to know where the resaurants are and then find out where the crowds are eating. This has worked for us so far on this trip. I admit it was probably our fault for tying ourselves too much to the Guidebook, as helpful as it has been. It seems, just like the weather up here, tourist traffic is a changeable thing. There is also the strange element of gringoesque restaurants always having a CD changer full of some kind of early 90´s top 40 NOrth American music compilations. I can picture some restaurant manager saying to the staff, ¨Now don´t screw with this selection. This is what the tourists like. This is what they want to hear, so don´t go putting any of that Salsa or Cumbia crap on there!¨ What it ammounts to is me feeling like I will go crazy if I hear Eric Clapton singing about his Father´s Eye´s or that horrid ¨Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?¨ song again.
In this picture you will find a man who sharpens knives using a bicycle type contraption on the street. It seems he goes around to the restaurants and does their knives.
and this other picture is of me doing what a lot of people do around here almost all the time - squinting! Yes, squinting into the powerful light of the midday sun. I´ve never seen the like. You practically need to put sunblock on at night up here! If you have light complexion and do not put on sunblock and spend more than a half hour in this intense low-ozone filtered high-altitude sun, you will get a skiers sunburn that somehow gets under your chin and eyebrows like you spent the day on a glacier! It´s amazing white burning light, but it does really feel nice when it breaks through the frequent passing rainclouds. It is an excercise in extremes and it makes everyone, tourists and locals alike have this permanent Dirty Harry / Marlborough Man expression on their face, that is, unless you want to be the only one in town wearing sunglasses, which apart from military badasses, don´t seem to be that popular amongst the locals.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
We are heading up and more up to the area known as the ALTIPLANO tomorrow. It´s hard to imagine people living any higher up than this much less giant cities and lakes and islands in the lakes with towns on them! We shall see what this is all about when we get to the peruvian town of Puno near the Bolivian border.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Well, we arrived by super-fast and comfy jetliner to Cusco the other day and now that we´ve had a chance to wander around for about three days I can safely say it´s a great place. We are lucky actually in that because of the closing of Machu Picchu and the fact that this is the low season, there are not giant busloads of tourists parading throughout the town and it has a fairly mellow and relaxed feel. You only need to glance at the huge offering of four star hotels, fancy restaurants, numerous artisan markets, and throngs of touts, souvenir stalls, and sellers of woven crafts to know that the supply right now far outstrips the demand and I´m sure in high season with the star attraction open for business, this place is pretty packed. Right now you´d never know that you were in South Americas most visited town. People here seem to be taking the bad turn of events in stride though and the town (the touristy parts anyway) has little evidence of the disastrous floods we´d read about in Lima. The previous photos with us smiling over Machu Picchu are, of course, fakes. A close inspection would reveal that we posed in front of a mural while staying in Lima. Abundant tourist trade has it´s upside as well. This is one of the only places that we´ve had a choice between many vegetarian places to eat and other, more gringo, kinds of food. I actually expected more McDonalds and Planet Hollywood kind of offerings, but Cusco is surprisingly small-scale so far.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
We are leaving for Cusco Tomorrow, by plane. What that means is that we won´t have to take a 20hr long journey on the roads of danger which may be closed, but will coast over it all in the sky at fairly great expense as we discovered that while there are deals-o-plenty for Peruvians to fly to Cusco for the weekend, they are not open to foreigners. Lame. But, well, them´s the rules and we tried to get around them, but it could not be done so we paid full tourist prices for our tickets. WE are STILL in Lima and while we have not exhausted it´s charms, we are ready to move on at any rate. The sky is hot and sunny pretty much every day and the streets are full of bustle and hustle. Nothing much new to add actually. We are beginning to feel more at home here. We know what places we like. It´s nice. It suddenly seems like Vancouver has erupted into Olympic frenzy as expected, complete with protests and arrests etc... Probably no one has time to check the news on this page. Too busy dodging rubber bullets! These are just another few spare images of the return journey to Lima from Ayacucho. We desperately wanted to jump off the bus and just walk in these Elysian fields of uber-green grass and puffy clouds but we never did figure out how to get here.
Tomorrow we will be in Cusco so I will hopefully have more to say. One strange thing we´ve noticed about Lima is the prevalence of English 90´s top 40 hits. There is noticeably less salsa and cumbia playing in restaurants and bars than in Ecuador. It seems that 90´s pop hits from the USA and Canada are pretty En-Vogue (just to add a little 90´s nostalgia to the blog). Lot´s of really bad stuff like Nickelback, that horrid ¨where have all the cowboys gone?¨ song, and onehitwonders like Dido, who did something with Eminem to her fame, we recalled. Popular music is kind of like Whack-a-Mole I guess. You hammer it down somewhere and up it pops in some other country. Wait! I hear some Cuban Son being played outside. I guess it´s still Latin America after all!
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
It´s carnival week here in Ayacucho and that means lots of processions and bands and stuff going on in the street. Actually, there have been processions in many andean towns during the months of January and February. It´s kind of fun accept for the one yesterday that was a funeral procession which was more serious. We are awoken each morning and sometimes the middle of the night to the sound of andean flutes, horns and drums parading the streets which is why I still don´t have any photos of said processions, we are usually sleeping and not parading around. We did have a nice night in the park last night. Where we just sat for awhile and chilled out on a bench and watched the youths of Ayacucho hangout. Actually the people of this town are quite out and about. It seems every night there are throngs of people down in the square walking about with kids and socializing etc... People seeem to go for Chicken at night in Peru. Roast chicken is the typical cena meal maybe washed down with a few beers. We are trying to hang out here a bit and study some of the Spanish notes we got during our brief but intense classes. It´s a bit hard to study on the road when you´ve got to move on all the time.
Here´s a small square we walked to yesterday which was full of little artisan shops. Apparently this is the place to buy straight from the producers and there was some amazing craftsmanship on display. Many rugs with agaraian themes and meanings. Rugs that tell stories all hand woven from wool or Alpaca. There was of course a lot of other neat stuff too, but we are constantly battling the wanting of trinkets and stuff with the reality of weight. Backpack weight is a big issue when backpacking as you can imagine. We end up bantering and negotiating quite a bit about who carries what and who´s carrying more and all that. Every kilo counts when you´ve got to lug your pack around in the heat or heave the whole thing onto your lap on a chicken bus that bounces along some dusty road. Fortunately we´ve been able to travel by fancy bus and taxis when we´re not in the mood for roughing it so the question of weight hasn´t been too intense or contencious for that matter, which is good but I won´t surprised if I end up with some giant ceramic bull and a rug under my arm by the end of this crusade.
We´ve been eating quite a few of these in the mornings with jam and butter. Chaplas they are called and delicious they are! They are puffed-up like pitas and a little sweeter and a little gummier than pitas but very similar. I seem to be getting a lot of vista type pictures and many pictures of food. As usual I miss out on the picture perfect moments because I´m just not obnoxious enough to whip out the camera when there´s interesting stuff going on like five old women in the market hacking up a giant side of meat while a giant, furry hound looks on from down below anticipating scraps or drippings. There is a lot going on in this busy little place, but I haven´t yet been able to photogistically capture the total Vibe yet. It´s hard. We are also constantly vigilant here as there is a tradition during this time of year for people to throw water buckets and water balloons on passers-by and Gringos are no exception. We have been hit a couple of times already, and there have been many missed attempts. Yesterday three little girls chased us down the street loaded with balloons. They pegged us in the end. It´s quite fun, but we also don´t want to be soaked every day so there´s a bit of strategy involved. Now we know the spots and times when water thrower people are most likely to lurk. Cuenca Ecuador was a little more daunting as most attacks were drive-by style and you could not anticipate as easily. It makes the day interesting at any rate. Anyone want to play ´hit the gringo´? hehe...
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
All in all I can say that Lima is a great city to get to know. It´s pretty hectic and crazy at times and in places, but it has many faces and the food is amazing. There is street food a plenty as well.
|Just a little of the amazing scenery on the way to Ayacucho|
|Some locals near Ayacucho|
|cocoa tea and cookie|
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Well here we are back in Vancouver just looking out our window... Actually, no we are currently in Lima, Peru and it´s one of our favourite places so far. Wow! It´s quite crazy and huge and fun, hot, pretty, sad and surprising. People are relatively friendly and maybe a bit more outgoing than in other parts of Peru that we know so far anyway. It´s a giant place. It seems people have poured in here from all parts of Peru. Getting around is pretty crazy. There isn´t really any central, easy to use transit system so we´ve been mostly cabbing it around, but we´re currently staying in the trendy, wealthy Miraflores district which is really comfortable and safe and beautiful. Our hostel is merely a block from the flat expanse of the Pacific ocean.