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January 15, 2007

i've landed in cuzco, peru

i'm writing this post from the scenic Loki Backpackers Hostel here in Cuzco, Peru, where i've been having a delightfully hectic few days. i'm finally taking some time out to catch up on my blog, so you'll notice that i've added several posts to gone living covering the last 4 weeks.

after 10 hours of flights to Lima from Los Angeles via Atlanta, I arrived at midnight to wait for six hours (!) for my 6am flight to Cuzco. Although I did have a lot of wonderful tips from the Lima Airport page from sleepinginairports.net, I ended up staying up all night in the food court, eating cheeseburgers, sipping mate de coca (getting a head start on combating altitude sickness!) and watching Lost episodes on my iPod.

upon arrival at cuzco airport, i teamed up with a couple of Argentinan backpackers from Buenos Aires and split a cab to Loki hostel. since then, my days have been a mix of tours around Cuzco (both self-guided and with groups, depending on when i want the extra information from a guide) during the day, and the wild nightlife of Cuzco in the evenings. since the nightclubs here don't close until after dawn, a night out here can easily stretch out ridiculously long.

cuzco and peru have been fantastic. the city is beautiful (photos coming soon once i find a fast internet cafe where i can upload photos), and the people are really warm and welcoming. as with most cities i visit, the crime problems don't appear too bad... but it is a place to use common sense and not expose yourself to pickpockets etc. it's nice to see locals and tourists mixing it up in the nightclubs as well -- many countries end up having a sharp divide between "bars/clubs for foreigners" and "bars/clubs for locals". here these two things merge together. in addition, there are backpackers from around Latin America (especially Argentina) staying at the hostel in addition to the backpackers from overseas, which further adds to the mix.

my high-school spanish is absolutely terrible, but i'm making a resolute effort to improve my spanish skills with the help of the Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish phrasebook (quite probably the best possible phrasebooks for backpackers travelling overseas, covering everything from basic grammar to phrases for everything from shopping to a rather extensive "romance" section). it's great to finally get a chance to speak another language beyond my usual few words of "hello", "goodbye", and so forth.

the inca trail, which i had originally planned on trekking, is sold out for the next several days (peru limits the number of people which can trek it each day), and it's pretty rainy right now as well. so one day i'll come back with a friend and hike the trail then (and in better weather!). for the next few days, i'm touring around the Incan ruins in the area, and will take the train to macchu picchu to visit there, before heading out to visit the Nazca Lines and a few other sites in Peru before heading on to Chile.

¡Vive Peru!

January 17, 2007

weaving the trip

i just finished a second day consisting of several hours of skype phone calls to hostels and travel agents, web research, listmaking, emailing, lonely planet thorn tree searching/reading/posting, and suddenly the next 3 months of the trip (which were basically unplanned besides some vague ideas about which countries i'd visit) snapped into sharp focus.

i have to spend a few days doing this every several months. the last big overhaul like this was in vietnam, where i created a plan that connected everything from vietnam through south africa in a single, cohesive thread that i could travel with. and once that was done, i could just relax and plan the little things as i went (or leave them unplanned and see what would happen!). it's actually a lot like seat-of-your-pants internet product management -- i think my fellow net PM/entrepreneurs will know what i mean.

and so what are the results of my new plan, you ask?

i am going to carnival in rio.
i am very very likely going to antarctica and will stand on the antarctic peninsula, which will be the seventh and final continent visited on this trip.
i am going to chile, brazil, argentina, and guatemala.
and now that i've done the big planning, i don't have to stress it too much. but the stuff that needed to get planned ahead of time has gotten planned. so now i can relax and follow the plan without having to think too much (and change it at will, of course!).

ok, now it's time for dinner and carousing in the plaza de armas before spending all day tomorrow exploring the sacred valley next to cuzco.

ps. and don't worry, i've been getting in some sightseeing and leisure time as well over these last few days in addition to all the planning. after all, you gotta keep having fun if you're going to make it through an adventure this crazy!

January 19, 2007

a warning note on peruvian taxis

while riding up on the train from cuzco to macchu pichu, i met two backpackers from sweden with a horrible story to tell: they'd just arrived in town, near the end of their 3-month trip across south america, and were in the main square with their backpacks when they decided to catch a taxi to their hostel. being the careful backpackers they were, they flagged down a somewhat-official looking taxi (numbers painted on the side of the doors, but no company sign on top) in the plaza de armas.

instead of taking them to their hostel, the driver took them to an quiet part of town far away from the center. several men with guns then got into the taxi, and ordered the women to give them everything from their pockets, in addition to stealing the backpacks, and finally frisked them for anything else. the girls were then shoved out of the taxi in yet another part of town, and luckily escaped with their lives and without being physically assaulted.

i know there are some backpackers who cruise around the world with false stories like these, in order to try and sponge off of other backpackers, but these girls seemed definitely on the level. i ended up letting them use my digital camera on the mountain (since theirs was stolen), and then let them burn them to CD when we'd returned to the city, so at least they were able to get photos made of the last part of their trip.

anyways, just wanted to pass this one along. watch out (especially in cuzco) for taxis without an actual taxi company's sign on top of the taxi. losing all of your gear is pretty much the last thing you want to have happen to you when travelling.

January 25, 2007

el tiempo arequipeño

i woke up today in my single room at the the point hostel arequipa with a hangover from last night's carousing on the town for someone's birthday, and recuperated with lots of bottled water and Resident Evil and South Park on my iPod. after stumbling downstairs at 1:30pm for two breakfasts (a delicious omelette and an order of french toast) instead of lunch, i finally was ready to begin the day.

it's going to be hard to go back to working a regular schedule after living this life for a year.

the rest of the people in this hostel are moving pretty slowly as well -- the people who aren't out on tours of arequipa's nearby colca canyon are lazing around the hostel's backyard, swinging in hammocks, getting spanish lessons, watching TV, playing pool, and idly observing the progress being made on the construction of the hostel's upcoming hottub.

i've been here several days now, and i can't pretend that i've done much more than hang out, see a few local sights, eat my first meal of cuy (guinea pig), and finish my planning to attend Carnival in Rio. i was originally planning to head on to Nazca from here and then on to the oasis of huacachina, but my plans have been rearranged since i received an invitation from a friend i met travelling to attend a peruvian wedding in lima. how could i say no to that? so, next stop, lima!

January 27, 2007

my first-class peru bus experience

after deciding to head directly from arequipa to lima, i was facing an extremely long 13-and-a-half hour bus ride.

i choose what is inarguably the best bus operator in lima, cruz del sur, and their highest class of service, the "Cruzero" (which brags of such advanced safety features as "Control and prevention of consumption of alcoholic drinks to the crew members"), and their "full cama" seats in the VIP cabin. which basically means giant seats in a small cabin on the lower level of the bus. personally, i thought the seats resembled the ones at the VIP bangkok movie theater i went to several months ago.

cruz del sur is significantly ahead of greyhound in the range of creature comforts they offer, and far lower in annoyances than many of the buses i've taken on this trip. (most annoying bus ride: the neverending bus in malayasia from the cameron highlands to kuala lumpur, where the bus driver decided to show us WWE wrestling from the united states at the highest possible volume on the TV system on the bus. all of the passengers (aside from me) were completely enthralled as far as i could tell.)

however, it's still a peruvian bus, with all the little quirks that it brings to the table. like the careful way the blankets are policed -- they are carefully distributed at the beginning of the bus ride, and VERY carefully taken back at the end in order to ensure that passengers aren't taking home any free blankets.

food was provided on the overnight bus ride, which consisted of a surprisingly sparse "nothing sandwich" (i think it was buttered white bread with the crusts cut off), a glass of Inca Kola, and some sweets for desert. the movies were played on open speakers (thank god for sound-blocking headphones), and there was even a game of bingo which i was unable to play due to my complete inability to recognize numbers in spanish being read very quickly over a PA system.

when we finally arrived in lima the next morning, we were conveniently located at the Cruzero bus terminal, which is happily NOT located in the swarm of other bus terminals in central lima, but located in a quieter neighborhood which is much faster to get a taxi out of. overall, not too bad an experience!

January 30, 2007

one early lima morning

symphony through the single-pane glass of a lima apartment:

the first notes are sounded at dawn from the birds roosting in the palm trees. then the first engines being to rev in the streets, followed by a car alarm going off just outside the window. a woman's voice shouting in spanish and her pack of dogs barking as she lets them outside into the walled-in yard to roam around and start their day. hammering and sawing as small-scale construction projects get underway.

all of this blends and grows and feeds upon itself to combine into the symphony of noises that is lima as the day finally begins. needless to say, i woke up very early today and couldn't sleep, so i figured that i'd document this instead!

postfix: after i finally decided to check my watch to see what time it was and get my day started, i realized that despite being massively out of range here in Peru from the broadcast signal of the US Atomic Clock in Ft. Collins, Colorado, it had somehow automatically picked up the signal at 2:05am this morning and synchronized itself. weird!

February 4, 2007

it's all about the oasis

after spending several days in lima for a wedding and then the resulting "ok, TOMORROW we're going to make plans and move on...", i finally made it out of lima and down to the oasis of huacachina.

i'd never heard of huacachina in my life before, but i was assured by several other backpackers that i'd met in peru that it was an excellent place to stay and burn away a few days. i was definitely not disappointed.

the main hostel in town, the "casa de arena dos", offers mediocre accommodation at not-so-great prices, but is quite social and has the best backpacker party scene. since i was travelling with a friend and we wanted something more relaxed, for only a few dollars more per night we checked into the nearby and EXCELLENT "El Huacachinero". beautiful accommodations with clean rooms and modern decor, a beautiful swimming pool, and back gates that led out directly onto the sand dunes (with sandboards sitting around for the using), several exotic parrots in residence, good food and bar, and a great mix of young, mellow independent travellers, this was one of the best places i'd found to stay on my trip.

we ended up spending a week here, taking dune buggy rides (if you're staying at El Huacachinero, book through them to get an extra discount on the room rate), swimming, exploring the somewhat-run-down town of Huacachina (its like a MUCH more benign version of the salton sea in some ways.... definitely not running at full peak, but still a pleasant place to visit in the middle of the desert). my one piece of advice would be to make all onward travel arrangements BEFORE arriving here -- you'll want to avoid the nearby town of Ica (which has no travel agents, and a few ATMs for that critical cash fix) as much as possible, as it is a real bringdown after chilling out at Huacachina.

next stop, nazca lines!

About Peru

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to gone living in the Peru category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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