Archive for September 2008

Dia del Sol

September 29, 2008 - 11:51 pm No Comments

Sun! It came out this morning, finally, while on a tour of historic Lima. First, Plaza San Martin, and then, Plaza Mayor, both public squares in the middle of town surrounded by ornate government buildings. Our coolest stop was Convento de San Francisco, which featured underground catacombs filled with the bony remains of over 25,000 people. Inside, we weren’t allowed to take pictures, which is always extremely aggravating (that’s half the reason I go to a lot of these places), but I snuck in a couple of shots anyway.

Streets of Lima

Religious Art in Convento de San Francisco

Catacombs in Convento de San Francisco

Convento de San Francisco

Young Lovers in Parque Del Amor

"El Beso"

This afternoon, we met up with Aritza for lunch and finalized the rest of our itinerary for our stay in Peru. Aritza is very accommodating. I asked her if she’s like this with all of the tourists she works with and she just smiled and said that she was happy to help.

After returning to our hotel and watching a little NFL in Spanish, we walked down to the Miraflores beach just as it was getting dark. After snapping a few nighttime shots, we headed back. Just as we were turning to leave, a security guard approached. From his Spanish and gestures (including a hand shaped like a gun), we gathered that it was not safe to be walking back with our cameras and that we might get mugged. He escorted us across a bridge and up the hill to safety. We thanked him for his kindness and learned his name: Sergio.

Tongo de Telefonica

There is security and police all over the place in Lima. You’ll see a cop hanging out on every other street corner, and every few seconds, a police car or motorcyle will drive by. We asked our tour guide about that today, and she said that the new government has gotten really tough on crime. The police presence is also a deterrent for terrorists, mainly one group calling itself “Shining Path.”

In a few minutes, we are heading out to Barranco, one of the trendier districts, to enjoy the Lima nightlife. Looks like it might be a late night. Had a bit of downtime, so I got a chance to work on a bunch of pics.

Huaco Pucllana

September 29, 2008 - 2:43 am 2 Comments

Just got back from Huaco Pucllana, an archaeological site from the 5th to 8th centuries AD, just uncovered in 1981. Josh and I had dinner at the restaurant onsite. Really cool having dinner right next to the ruins.

Ruins at Huaco Pucllana

We started with Peru’s national drink, the Pisco Sour. Pisco tastes a lot like tequila to me, but it’s made from grapes. Pretty heavy stuff. For my meal, I had the lamb and rice. Josh had pounded steak and a rolled rice and black bean concoction that looked like a giant gorilla turd. After our meal, we took a quick nighttime tour of the ruins. A little eerie to deduce that the restaurant was most likely built on top of sacrificial human remains.

On our various excursions, I’m making an effort to communicate with the locals. Granted, most of the locals don’t speak English, so I don’t have much of a choice. But I think I know more Spanish than I thought. I never took classes, but maybe I absorbed some just living in America. I’ve been pretty effective with my limited vocabulary, simplified English, hand gestures, and a smile.

After we got home, we chatted with Cesar and Giancarlo, the concierges at our hotel, about our day. They are really fun guys, always enthusiastic and willing to use their English. They even gave us their e-mail addresses.

Cesar, Josh, Me, & Giancarlo

We are pretty excited about tomorrow, which includes a tour of the historic Lima city center. Hoping for sun.

A Day in Miraflores

September 28, 2008 - 7:21 pm 1 Comment

From the Roof of the Hotel

After quick workout at the hotel gym, Josh and I spent the morning walking around Miraflores. Lots of drab, uninspired, run-down, box houses. Storefront signs are Spanish with sprinkles of English. Taxis “peep” (higher pitched than a “honk”) at us on every corner. The people of Lima come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, no surprise for a major city. I think we’ll see the more traditional South American look when we visit smaller towns in the next few days.

A gray day today. We visited Larco Mar, Lima’s version of Coney Island. Perched up on the cliffs of Miraflores, paragliders (not parasailers because they weren’t connected to anything) rode the updrafts and circled overhead.

The Beach of Miraflores

After failing miserably to purchase tickets for tonight’s Alianza Lima soccer game at a drug store recommended to us by our hotel concierge Cesar, we decided to poke our head into one of the local hotels, Casa Andina, to see if anyone there might be able to tell us where to get them. Bruno, the friendly doorman, called one of his “friends” to see if he could score some last-minute tickets for us. After further discussion, Bruno told us that the game was at the Matute (mah-TOO-tay) and that it might be a bit scary for tourists. He said that the crowd there is lower class and rowdy, recommending that we go without jewelry, sunglasses, and definitely without our cameras. He took another look at us and said that we were also too well-dressed. My t-shirt and jeans were too nice, and so was my hair, which he suggested messing up a little bit. Basically, you had to look feral, or there’s a pretty good chance they will kill you (or worse).

Josh and I looked at each other and decided not to go to the soccer game. Next, we asked about airport transfers in some of the other towns we’ll be visiting, and Bruno directed us to the concierge’s desk.

That’s where we met Aritza. After telling her where we were going and how long we were in each place, Aritza spent the next 45 minutes helping us to plan out the rest of our trip. An experienced traveler herself and employed by her family-owned travel agency on the side, Aritza knew what she was talking about. Eventually, Aritza presented us with a very affordable, day-by-day itinerary filled with airport transfers, public tours, and private rides for the rest of our trip. What a life-saver she was! We had tried to plan most of our trip back home but became frustrated with the lack of information on the Internet. It’s so nice knowing that someone local and experienced has helped us plan out the rest of our stay.

Aritza & Josh

Tonight, we are visiting Huaca Pucllana, site of some local Incan ruins, for a tour and dinner at a place that Aritza recommended.

At the Radisson

September 28, 2008 - 1:52 am 1 Comment

Bar on Top of the Radisson

On our layover at El Salvador International Airport (or Comalapa International), I noticed free wifi, so I was able to post my first blog entry. Four hours later, we arrived in Lima with one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever experienced (kudos to TACA!).

The cab ride to our hotel was an adventure, almost getting into three accidents. Just by looking at the cars on the roads, you can tell that they bounce off of each other quite frequently.

I’ve let Josh book all of the hotel reservations since he likes to handle those kinds of things. Here in Lima, we’re staying at the Radisson in Miraflores, a beach district that seems to be a pretty central location. The hotel itself is fantastic and very affordable (kudos to Josh!). We treated ourselves to an exquisite dinner of Peruvian chicken (of course) at the hotel restaurant and a quick drink at the hotel bar on the top floor. Despite the fact that I am freaked out about everything I put in the mouth, I really enjoyed it. Then Josh went to bed, and I went for a short walk outside.

So far, Lima is about what I expected. It’s pretty urban, but in that third world kind of way. Not a lot of huge office buildings, just lots of smaller buildings crammed close together. Broken signs in front of storefronts, older cars honking and bouncing around on the streets. Then there’s that heavy mix of urban stink and gasoline fumes that reminds me of east LA. All the good stuff in Lima will be tomorrow and the next day.

We have a full day planned for tomorrow, the highlight of which is a soccer (football) game. Josh, a huge soccer fan, is very excited about that. Then off to a museum or two, and maybe a look at some old Incan ruins in the city.

Back in the hotel room now. That bed looks mighty comfortable.

Off to Peru!

September 27, 2008 - 2:46 pm 2 Comments

I find myself in a dreaded B seat. On an Airbus 320, this means that you’re stuck in the middle between the A and C seats. Not good for those like myself who are sleep-challenged even in a more comfortable window seat.

One row in front of me and across the aisle is a kid who is screaming bloody murder for no apparent reason. He is, I believe, the only kid on the plane and definitely the only one screaming.

The sweet lady to my left has never flown before. She was startled by the regular bumps and bounces of take-off, gasping and reaching for my leg just after leaving the ground. Any excuse to touch the Jeffrey. The sweet lady to my right is a bit younger, maybe a student. One of them is not wearing deodorant.

I’m off to Peru with my work buddy Josh, a guy I work with and a seasoned world traveler. After discovering we both had a passion for travel, baseball, and photography, we took a few weekend trips out of town over the summer and quickly made plans for a more ambitious trip out of the country in the fall.

It took us a little while to figure out where we were going. We knew we had about ten days to kill, so we had to pick somewhere we could thoroughly do in ten days and somewhere neither of us had been before. We considered every country from Argentina to Zaire, finally narrowing it down to Peru and Costa Rica. After checking into flights and hotels, we decided Peru was going to be the best choice.

And an interesting choice. Neither of us speak Spanish. Josh says himself that he is not really in shape, and he also has a problem with heights from time to time. Peru is probably one of the worst countries on the planet for that combination.

And I’ve never been to a third world country before. Not sure if you classify Peru as a third world country, but parts of it definitely seem like it. I’ve learned you don’t want to drink the local water or eat the local fruit, and when asking my Peruvian friends back home for advice, one of them suggested that I bring my own sponge “because you don’t want to use the one that’s chained to the wall.” I hear that crime is widespread and that it’ll be a miracle if I don’t come back with fifteen different kinds of hepatitis. Yesterday morning, I went in and got a series of immunizations. Five shots total, and now my left shoulder feels like Mike Tyson took a swing at it.

As usual, I’ve done my best to avoid learning too much in advance about the place I’m traveling to. In fact, before planning this trip, it would have taken me a moment or two to find where Peru is on a map of South America. But it seems to have its share of highlights, and I’m sure there will be some surprises. They have llamas. And I’ve never been to South America before. As a traveler, there’s a certain amount of joy that comes with visiting a new continent.

I picture Peruvian people as short, dark-skinned, and square faced, “Incan” qualities I guess I saw in a textbook somewhere. This was verified at least in part by arriving at the airport gate and scanning the people waiting to board. One thing is for sure: they have no qualms about touching strangers. While waiting in line to board the plane, a older Peruvian woman holding her carry-on bag pushed right up against me from behind, as if I wasn’t moving fast enough. I took half a step forward to give myself the personal space I needed, but she pushed into me again. I decided to turn sideways to see if pushing into me while I was watching would be any more awkward for her. It wasn’t. Finally, she decided that I just wasn’t moving fast enough, so she stepped right around me and worked her way right back into line in front of me. If I weren’t so psyched about the trip and overtired from the night before, I would have pulled her out of line with her hair. People pushing and cutting in line is one of the things that really aggravates me.

Josh and I worked out an itinerary that included most of the Peru highlights and discussed some of the basic safety precautions, but that’s it. I believe that a lightly structured itinerary that allows for self-discovery is the only way to explore someplace new. Here’s our schedule:

9/27 – 9/30: Lima
9/30 – 10/2: Arequipa & Colca Canyon
10/2 – 10/4: Puno & Lake Titicaca
10/4 – 10/7: Cuzco & Machu Picchu

We’ll be seeing quite a bit in a short amount of time, but we think it’s doable.

When it was time to pack, I knew I wanted to travel light. It was going to be a pretty physical trip, and I was already going to have a lot of photo gear. I considered not bringing my laptop, figuring it would be a pain to carry everywhere, not to mention a security risk. But I wanted to bring it so I could dump my digital photos onto it each day, get my football pool picks in, and I figured it was finally time to join the blogging revolution.

This isn’t the first time I’ve “blogged.” On my big Australia trip in 2000, I wrote periodic e-mails to friends and family back home, eventually creating a web page for my journal and photos. Now, of course, it’s trendy to “blog.” I just never jumped on the bandwagon.

And there is a reason I haven’t. The blogs that are the most interesting are the ones that are the most personal. Now do I want my most personal thoughts and feelings to be shared with my friends and family? How about the people I am traveling with? There is definitely a fine line when it comes to what you can say when you consider the potential audience, and I’ve had a hard time figuring out where to draw it.

In the past, I’ve found that nothing helps to preserve the memory of a trip more than recording all of the little things that would normally be lost if you didn’t write them down. So I decided that I wanted my laptop. I’m not going to feel comfortable leaving it in a room or on a bus, so I’m probably going to have to take it with me everywhere, maybe even on some hikes. But I’ve done it before. It’ll workout for sure, but I could probably use the exercise.

My ambitious goal is to blog and post at least one photo a day. The motivation is there, but a lot is going to depend on when and where I can charge my computer and get wifi.

We’ll be in the air to San Salvador for just over four hours, and then for another four to Lima. The kid stopped crying, the woman next to me stopped gasping, and I need to catch up on some sleep…