Peru Post #1
Finally, I've gotten all the pictures together and attempted to write down anything of significance I can remember. It's alot of reading, please enjoy!
I hadn't flown on a plane since high school, and I definitely got my fill of planes this trip. Richmond to Atlanta, Atlanta to Miami, Miami to Panama, Panama to Lima, Lima to Cusco, and then the reverse. I love the view from an airplane window.
We ended up spending the night in Miami airport, as there was a 7 hour or so layover, not long enough to justify a hotel room. It wouldn't have been *too* bad had it not been for the intercom. The muzak, normally almost absent when you're surrounded by people, becomes distractingly loud in an empty airport. The 10-15 minute interval announcements of the time and of weird regulations didn't help either. BTW, never fly Copa Air, of the 4 flights we had with them, we were only seated together officially once. Two times we were separated by a seat or a row and managed to trade seats with someone to stay together. Considering how long in advance I paid for the tickets though, it's ridiculous that we would have been seated apart. At least the food was decent enough.
So, getting into Lima is weird, I having never been out of the US before. We get out exciting new currency and stow our passports down our pants in little baggies (pickpockets are rampant there), and are pleased to discover we have a taxi driver waiting for us, holding up a sign. This is good, as airports in Peru have approximately 1 gazillion cab drivers all harassing you about rides, the airport has signs up recommending you don't take an unsolicited cab ride, as they have a bad habit of driving you to strange locations and taking your money. Thus, we made prior arrangements. The cab driver doesn't really speak any english, but I can communicate to him vaguely using my skills of having listened to Spanish at work for the past 6 months. Incidentally, I'm really glad I did this (both the Pimsleur as well as listening to Spanish radio). The radio helped especially with numbers, as it made it so much easier to buy things having a decent grasp of numbers.
The area around the airport looks like a warzone. A little further away though, the area starts looking better, what with the "Sexy Carwash" sign we saw, as well as lots of Ferreterias. We stay in Miraflores, which is a rather nice area of Lima where it's actually safe to walk around at night. The hostel was decent enough, cable tv where we watched alot of 'Los Simpson', hot water, and an owner who was more then helpful in telling us places to go and eat and such.
So we meander around town, and head down to the beach area (pacific ocean!)
Here's a statue at 'Love Park':
Here's some pigeons that were nearby:
Oh yeah, the type of dove they have all over Lima is a little larger then the standard mourning dove in the US, and also appears to be wearing heavy blue eye makeup.
The walkway down the cliffy area to the beachy area:
Later that day we eat some of the best food we had there at Fazoli's. Mind you, none of the food resembled Fazoli's food in any way, but nonetheless they were a Fazoli's. I had ceviche and Drew had lomo saltado, both were excellent.
Next day, we fly out to Cusco. We stumble through airport security wearing clothing embedded with metal, apparently. Flight is pretty, Cusco is pretty. Here's some pictures.
This is some sort of possibly school event that was going on in the Plaza De Armas? We never got an accurate answer. There was a parade of various groups of children dressed in exciting outfits passing through.
This guy is nuts!
Pigeons about to mate that we saw in the Plaza!
A view down the street from our hostel:
A view up the street from our hostel, possibly the best looking picture taken on this trip:
Oh yeah. We discover what exactly a 'party hostel' is, by staying in one. Apparently it's a bunch of mostly european people in their late teens - mid twenties who have nothing better to do then travel to other countries and drink all night. There was an actual bar in the hostel. Kept us up some nights. We made eurotrash jokes the entire time we were there, it was great.
This hostel was a bit more bare-bones, no tv. So we entertained ourselves by playing alot of Magic.
We ate at a restaurant on a street we later discovered was referred to as 'gringo alley'. This was the only place I had guinea pig, and I did not like it. However, I'm gonna give the food the benifit of the doubt and assume it tasted bad to me because everything else we ate there was also mediocre, as a dish can't be a popular national delicacy and taste as bad as mine tasted. I documented the experience:
The Inti Raymi festival (sun festival) we attended later had people selling these things out of giant vats piled with steaming guinea pigs, it was pretty nutty.
So Cusco was a much bigger tourist town then Lima, so we got 'hassled' much more. People walked up to us and waved all sorts of products in our faces, were selling 'massages', and one guy harassed me for almost 5 minutes about how my boots really needed to be shined by him. There were many markets there selling all sorts of things, and we got ripped off to all sorts of varying degrees. Not that we could really tell too much though, as being ripped off there is still pretty cheap.
So we left on our jungle trip. It was Drew & I, a woman originally from Peru who lived in New York and was coming back to visit, the tour guide, driver, and cook. The tour guide Eric spoke vaguely passable english that deteriorated as the trip went on and his initial slight head cold got worse and worse. We didn't know what was going on 1/2 the time, due to a different sense of time and people not necessarily feeling like telling us everything that was happening. My Spanish was nowhere near good enough to determine much more then vague hints from the conversation I overheard. Still, it was a good trip. The drive there was near deathly, considering the width and condition of the roads, the drop over the edge, and the large trucks that needed to get past us from time to time. Very scenic, though.
First we drove through the highlands where there were many of the local Quechua people living (subsistance farmers).
We stopped in a local town whose name I've completely forgotten who were having a festival which involved some of the different cultural groups coming together. These kids were really stoked about us getting a picture taken with them:
We ate lunch in this town twice, the first time inside the disco bar:
And outside the disco bar, on our return trip:
Some fun graffiti on the side of the building:
Also, I don't think I've ever seen a truck this filled with people before:
All over both the inhabited highlands area and the inhabited jungle area was graffiti on residences. Apparently political messages just get scrawled by those running for office and their parties on buildings, with no concern for personal property. The messages tended to repeat themselves, here's one:
After going through the highlands, we enter the cloud forest, which is incredibly pretty. The picture does it absolutely no justice, it looks very much like the end of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon:
The we slowly descend from cloud forest into jungle.
We stop at a lodge in the lower cloud forest/upper jungle for the night, at a rather nice place by a river. Next day, we go to look at Cock of the Rocks (national birds) of which I have no good pictures as they all looked like red blobs. Then we continued down further into the jungle.
Stopped at a little restaurant for lunch in a jungle town named Pilcopata that we ended up spending the night in a few days later. There was a very hungry very small cat that made itself known, here it is with our guide:
After this, we made a brief stop at what turned out to be a cocaine farm. It should be noted that Peru uses the coca leaves to brew tea and to chew in high altitudes, it acts like tea and not really like coke at all. In fact, Peruvians seem rather proud of the fact that their government shoots down planes loaded with cocaine leaves from their own country headed to Columbia.
Drew is getting some face paint from a plant that was actually used for face paint among some tribes, as well as being used for dyes:
Here's me holding said plant, with cocaine plants in the background:
There was all sorts of cuteness on this farm. I held a guinea pig destined for eating, and everything else just sort of meandered cutely around:
Part 2 continues here!