Thursday, May 1, 2008

It has been a long time.

I know that I have been saying for a long time that I was going to post something. I really do not have any excuses, so I am just going to try and write a little about everything that has gone on.

After the cholita's wrestling (which I couldn't get any decent pictures of) I went back to Arequipa, Peru. I have been there before so there was nothing new there. After that we went to Nazca and took a plane ride over the Nazca Lines. I did not think that I was going to have any problems, but it was really hard on my stomach. I got really nauseous and it is a good thing that the ride only lasts for about 30 minutes because the pilot would not have liked me very much. I did see some of the lines really well. Some of them, not so much. That same day we went to Pisco to see the Ballestas islands and hang out with some of my friends that I met when I was in Ica the first time. I got there and the islands were really amazing. The boat ride was great and the birds were impressive too. I think that it was more of the smell than anything. A whole bunch of birds means a whole bunch of guano. But there were sea lions too, and their pups. I think that I would take one home as a pet, but there are a couple of obvious problems with that. If I could over come those problems, I would totally have a sea lion pet. So I rode around in a boat for two hours and then went back to Pisco where I thought that I would be leaving the next day.
I went to hang out with my friends that I met in Ica and it turns out that one of them has a girlfriend from the states who is working for Burners Without Borders, a non-profit group working in Pisco helping out the city after a 8.0 earthquake destroyed the city last August. I took a great picture from their plaza de armas of the cathedral that collapsed leaving only the bell towers. What is even cooler is that they still have mass here every Sunday. It is just more of an open air mass.

After I met May, the girlfriend, I went on to meet the rest of the Burners at a birthday party where they convinced me that I should stay awhile and help them out. Thinking that I could stay on for a couple of days I decided that I would show up the next morning at 8 am to help out. Turns out that I really liked it and stayed for close to two weeks. I got to work on helping build a soup kitchen at a church that was destroyed in the Earthquake. All of the walls of the church were made out of bamboo, but there was a lot of money coming into the church from Lima, so it was a nice bamboo church. I got to move a bunch of piles of dirt, sand, and gravel, moved bricks, and dirt, and I also got to help with a couple of pours of cement. I worked hard for two weeks, played hard and I met a lot of really good people. Another thing that the group does is everynight we get together with a couple of the local kids and have an intercambio. A place where we can all come together and share experiences or information (I know I sound like a commercial right now). It was really nice because this was a place where we could relax and get to know the kids better and have a place to be known with members of the community outside of work. I got to know a couple of the kids really well and I am going to miss them as much as I am going to miss the people that I worked with. It was an amazing two weeks that I am going to remember for the rest of my life. It is definitly one of the highlights of my trip.
At the house we also had a group of street dogs that would follow us to the work sites everyday. They would also escort us to the corner store at night, or in the day time. It really didn't matter. They were always there with us. I decided that the old, really dirty, khaki colored one was mine. There was a couple of days when he went missing an we thought that he was dead by a funny misunderstanding. But he is still there. They are called Sparky, Sola and Atomic (I did not name them).

I have left Pisco and I am only going to be in Peru for another day, then I will be in Ecuador. I am not sure how long I am going to be there, but I do not think that it is going to be very long because I only have 14 days from today left in South America. It is a little depressing to think about, but I am also ready to come home.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

And now I am back

So I did it finally. I took a bike and did some downhill on the world's most dangerous road in Bolivia. I went with an expensive company but I think it was worth it. We had some of the best bikes and they worked really well. And I went really fast. There is a CD that I could purchase but I don't think that I am going to. I was hard to take pictures because I did not want to get my camera broken and I think that is something that I would do.
The day started off with us just riding down a paved road so that we could get used to the bikes and the brakes. I think that I was nervous at first because I was going fast enough to pass cars and I did not know what to do about the turns. After awhile I figured it out and I did not mind going so fast. The entire ride we had two guides and a support vehicle for our group which had about 12 people. There was one Brit and another Bolivian riding with us. They were both great riders and I learned a lot from the two. They also were really good at letting us know at which points people had died on the road and what mistakes they made before they died.
After the paved road we hit the gravel one lane road. It was a little different but still a lot of fun. The sheer drop cliff at 400 meters we not that intimidating because of the fog. I couldn't see it so it didn't make me scared. We went from 4800 meters above sea level to just under 1900 meters, rode 64 kilometers with 3 kilometers change of altitude. There were a lot of other groups of bikers on the road but no one in our group got hurt. So that was really nice.
The entire trip was so amazing, riding a bike through waterfalls and seeing so much green in a huge valley. I am very happy that I did the ride, I think that it has been one of the most exciting things I have done in South America.
After the ride we ended up in a nature refuge with monkeys, snakes, an ocelot, and cats. I thought that I would like the monkeys but one of them bit me for taking a picture of it. I wasn't this one, because this one was very cute, but a little camera shy. It was one of the squirrel monkeys. Just jumped on me and bit my knuckle. They had all been vacinated, but I am still mad at the little thing. At the reserve we got to eat and then when the bus didn't come back for us (it is Bolivia) we had some beer while we waited and I ended up going over my limit. At least I wasn't driving because we took the road back up. There is a new road, but it was faster to use the older one. It was a nice drive, but I understand why it was so bad.
Today I am going to see wrestling here in La Paz and then I am going back to Peru tomorrow. It should be good because I feel like I am finally making progress again, not just hanging out in a country and spending money. I can't wait to see the wrestiling so I am going to get some really good pictures.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bolivia: Todo es posible, nada está seguro

I am in Bolivia. The whole experince has been interesting. To get to Bolivia I had to take a bus, a moto taxi, and hike across the border where I was finally able to take a bus to Copacabana which is also on Lake Titicaca. I saw another island on the lake and then Jennica and I took a bus out to La Paz.
The ride was a scenic one, but at one point people started getting off the bus and I asked where all of the gringos were going. Then the driver started yelling "apurate". Everyone had to get off of the bus because it had to cross the lake too and there was no bridge. So we took a boat across the water and the bus took a barge.
We were only in La Paz for a couple of hours when we took another bus in the morning trying to get to Uyuni in time to meet Jennica's friend David from high school. The first stop on the way to Uyuni was in Oruro where we were only about an hour late for the bus to Uyuni. But we caught the bus in La Paz at 7:30 so I don't feel too bad for not being on the bus.
Oruro was where I had my serious case of the culture shock. I really felt like the only white person on the street which is the first time in South America it has been like that. Everywhere else there were other gringos or I fit in. Here it was really obvious who I was and no one knew what I was doing there, including me. But I got to talk to Geno and vent and then I went to some really nice hot springs and I feel a lot better. It also helped that the places that I have been since Oruro have been a lot more turistic. But that is not the point; I am doing better with myself down here.

From Oruro we took one of the worst night rides on a bus that I have ever taken in my life. It was bumpy and so cold. Jennica happened to have a sleeping bag and that made it a much better ride, but when we finally got to Uyuni (at 4 in the morning) there was ice covering all of the windows. In Uyuni and some of the other places around the altitude was higher than the highest point in Utah. And it is not even winter here, but it is still really cold.

There is nothing to do in Uyuni, but there are a lot of tour companies that can take a tourist to see some of the sights around the city. The salt flats were so amazing. Jennica, David and I took a four day in a four runner. The first place we went to was a train grave yard. From there we took a ride to the salt flats. It was really impressive, but I don't think I want to go back I was there and now I am done.

The next day we went to a volcano, saw some mummies and then took a long drive to a city called San Juan. They only had electricity for about four hours at night and the rest of the electricity came from solar power. All together there were seven people on the tour and then Pedro the tour operator. I didn't think that I would like the tour with that many people in one four runner for that many days, but it turned out really well.

On the third day we drove for a long time to see some rock formations that happened due to volcanic rock and wind. Then from there we went to see different colored lagoons and I learned that the coloring on the flamingos is helped by the bacteria in one of the lagoons in Bolivia.

It was such a long day and we had to wake up at five the next morning that the seven of us went to bed early.
The next day we got up and went to see some geyser and lava that I could just not enjoy because it was so cold again. I think that it was close to zero degress fahrenheit. After that it was a ten hour drive back to the city.
The next day Jennica and I took a bus to Potosi where I am at now. Today I went to the mine and I realized a major difference between the US and Bolivia. The US would never have let a bunch of tourist into that mine. I was walking around with a rag over my mouth for air protection, there were just drops in the floor, we were walking around giving "gifts" of soda, coca leaves, and dynamite to the workers, then after I got to hold a ball of dynamite while it was lit and then watched as it blew up. I walked around an active mine and I got to talk to some of the workers. It was really depressing and just a completely different experience that I could not have had if I had not made it to Bolivia.This is a picture of a sixteen year old work on digging a hole in the rock so that he can put in a thing of dynamite. The worst part was that he had been working in the mine since he was thirteen.
From here it is back to La Paz for a couple of days and then back to Peru where I will make my way north. I am really excited that I get to spend a couple of more weeks down here because that means that I am going to be able to see colombia. I have only heard good things.
My next set of pictures should be great because La Paz is going to be exciting.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

And now for the second loop

After having to be in Puno for longer than we wanted to, Kathleen and I went to see some ruins outside of Puno called Sillustani. It was just a burial site that was pre Inca but still had some Inca structures. All of the round little things are the tombs. I really liked this tour because our guide was another person who spoke Quechua.I was really surprised when she showed that the Inca could describe Pi and the golden ration using the southern cross constellation and other images that are everywhere in their drawings and sculptures.

I also liked the site because it was right on a big lake. It has to do with the religion and the whole aspect of purification by water. All of it was just impressive.

After the tombs we went to visit a farm house that was on the way to Puno. It was really cool to actually see how the people lived. It was all adobe and they offered us food. There were potatoes, cheese and they actually gave us clay to eat. It did not that much of a taste, but I would suggest trying it if you are ever out that way. They also let us into their house to see how they actually lived. It was just so different how they did not need any of the things that we cannot go without. I was really impressed by the whole experience.

So Kathleen has gone home and I am now on my own again. More or less; I met up with Jennica yesterday and I am sleeping at a house of a family that has Spanish classes. I am not really sure what is going on, but I can sleep and get fed every meal for about the same price that I pay for a hostel in the center of Cusco. And I get to take the bus to the house which is about 70 centimos, which equals 40 cents more or less. And I do not get feed at any hostal in the center of town. I am on my way to Bolivia so I am not sure how the computer situation is going to be, but I doubt that the computers will be that useful. So I don't know when I will post again. But I am going to have great pictures when I get back.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Puno and Lake Titicaca

After mom and I went to the sacred valley we took another tour from Cusco to Puno, which is on Lake Titicaca. The tour took us to some more ruins with a couple stops where we could buy things. Kathleen bought quite a bit of things, but I also bought some stuff too. If you are getting anything from me on my trip, you are getting it from Peru. There are too many of you and I just don't have any space in my bag. But with all of the stops at artesenias and stores it felt more like a tv program with a couple commercials thrown in for good measure.

When I got to the lake I was really impressed by the size; I underestimated how big it was. To get from Peru to Bolivia on the other side takes about eight hours. It is much faster to go by bus, which takes six hours to go from Puno, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia.

On the lake there are floating islands that are man made out of reeds. The people that live there make a living selling things to the tourists. Everything on the tour out to the lake cost money. We took a boat ride in one of the boats made of reeds from one island to another. Five soles. Too climb a tour on the island to see a better view, two soles. There was a cute little girl that sang a different song in Quechua, Spanish, English, french, and German (we also had to tip her).

From the floating island we went to another island (this one was a real island) called Taquile. Super commie. The island was more of a community in that everyone worked for the group. There was no bartering on any of the products because all of the money went to the community and not an individual. The group that governed the island was made up of men and they served a year in rotation. Mom had a hard time at this island because we had to climb up to get to the center of the island. It left me a little breathless, but Kathleen was really eating wind. It was a mix of the climb and the altitude. Right now we are almost as high as the highest point in Utah. 11409 feet in elevation. I feel it whenever I try to overexert myself, it just feels like I can't take a big enough breath.

The next day was Easter and I thought that it was going to be a big deal here, but there was only a military procession. I am not sure why, but I stopped asking questions a long time ago, Kathleen is still suprised about this sort of stuff though. Everyday she is learning about how things work out here in the sudamerica. By the time that she goes home she will have almost everything figured out. I am also not saying that I have everything figured out, because every day I learn something new too. Like today for example; I am making mom stay here for an extra day so I can get a visa to Bolivia thinking that I would need 24 hours. Nope, all I need to do is bring everything that I have had since Saturday to the Border and I will be able to pass right on through the border. I just get my visa there.

So today we are going to go on another tour and then tomorrow we will be heading to Arequipa. I have already been there but I am excited to go back because I liked the city so much. I am going to see some of the same things again, but I will also get to see Colca Canyon which I was not able to see the first time that I was there. I think that I may take Kathleen to the mercado so she can really get a feel of how things are here in Peru. I think that if she hasn't already come to terms with the culture shock it is going to be an interesting experience. I think that I am going to enjoy her view of it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Machu Picchu

Before we went to Machu Picchu, Kathleen and I spent a day in Lima. Another big city with more ruins and churchs to see. After dark we went to a park that has the worlds largest fountain. Lights and effects with the fountain actually made it fun. We walked around taking pictures, looking like tourists; doing all the things you do when you are on vacation. The next day we took a plane at 6:45 am to Cusco. We had to be there two hours early. That means that I had to wake up at four: I didn't like it at all. They talk about altitude sickness and you do not think that it will happen to you. "I'm from Utah, Salt Lake is pretty high. How much higher can it be?" It's higher. Especially if you have been doing what I have been doing and been at the beach for the last two months. I got sick. Not as bad as others, mine was only a head ache and some nausea. And the coca leaves help as well. Just walking up a flight of stairs hurts a little more than I would like.

The next day we went to Aguas Calientes which is at the base of Machu Picchu. Mom didn't like the city too much, but I thought that it was nice. We slept and then later in the evening we went to a hot spring that was about five minutes up the road from where we were staying.
We made it to Machu Picchu before a lot of the tourists got there and I was able to get this picture. We had to catch the first bus at five thirty in the morning, but it was all worth it. It really does not sink in how amazing this place is until you are actually there and see it. We got to walk around and hear about the site from a man whose first language is Quechua, the language of the Inkas. He was very amazing and had a very different point of view from what I am used to, so it made the tour better.

This is a picture of the sunrise in Machu Picchu. All of the mountains in this area are so amazing. They are not like anything else that I have seen. It really makes me kind of home sick for my own mountains even though I know that they are not anywhere near as tall or as impressive as the ones here. But still they are my mountains. Today we took a tour of the sacred valley outside of Cusco. I again felt like a tourist. I had fun but I think that I may be ruined out. I have seen too many things and now I am trying to process all of it. It may just take a couple of days for me to be excited to get out of a bus and take pictures. But I have to be ready because tomorrow we are going to take a tour all the way up to Puno and I have a feeling that I am going to have that same feeling again tomorrow. The sacred valley was nice. I saw some more ruins and spent some more money things. The coolest thing that I saw was a mass that was said in Quechua. Very cool.

Finally on our way back to Cusco from the sacred valley I took this picture from the moving van. I like this picture because you can make out all of the little plots of potato fams that are all over the sacred valley. All of the col pictures I had to take from the moving van because they would not stop at any of the cool places, but this is still a nice picture.

Finally another sunset; again from a moving van. This is from the sacred valley as well. I think that I amy start to collect these. I have taken enough of them.I am tired because I have been on the move since Kathleen has gotten here so hopefully she is going to let me sleep soon.

P.S. I hope that this turns out on the internet. I couldn't take this picture with flash, so if you can see it great, but it is a little morbid.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I have made it to South America

It was a swiss guy who summed it up. "I have been to Chile and Argentina and now I am in South America." Peru is exactly what I think South America should be. It is very conservative and cheap. And I also look like a tourist. In other countries I can pass for a local if I just keep my mouth closed but here everyone knows that I am not from here. So here are a couple of pictures that I have taken so far.

This is a picture of the Cathedral in Arequipa. There is so much history in that city. The only problem is that it keeps on getting destroyed by earthquakes.
There are just so many religious places to see in Arequipa. When I got here I meet a group of Kiwis and ended up going out with them that night. It is strange to go out and be at a bar or club at eleven. I am used to Buenos Aires and not even starting until one in the morning. The next day I spent on my own because the Kiwis left and the hostal was empty and it happened to be a Sunday. There is nothing to do in this country on a Sunday. The only things that were open were the resturantes. But the next day I met a girl from Germany and I spent the rest of the time going around the city with her. The first day we went to the mercado. It was very colorful and lots of interesting foods. I didn't take any pictures though because I never felt like I could take out my camera. We had fruit juice that was freshly made and ceviche and everything came to about eleven soles which is about four dollars.

The next day we went to the Santa Catalina Monastary. It was so amazing there; a city within a city. It took up a couple blocks and has it's own street names and a church amoung other things all in the heart of Arequipa. This is a picture of one of the many cloisters that are in the monastary. This is the orange cloister because there are five orange trees around the courtyard.

This is a picture from one of the kitchens. It still smelled like fire and cooking. These have not been used since the sixties. The original monastary was constructed in the 17th century and it all felt surreal.

After Arequipa I came to huachina which is just a lagoon in the middle of a couple of sand dunes outside of Ica. I got to sand board which is basically riding down huge dunes on a piece of wood that we cover in candle wax to make it go fast. I only hurt myself a little bit. The tour also included buggie rides that we had to sign a wavier saying that they were not responsible for any injury or death incurred. The buggie rides were more of a theme park ride that actual means of transportation. We knew that we were going to be going town a big dune when the driver would slow down and the hit the lip of the dune and we would just drop, bouncing our heads on the roof when we hit the bottom. I don't think that I was actually ever in real danger because we couldn't go too fast because of the size of the buggie.

The sunset at the end of the day was the best part of the whole trip. It made the trip up to the dunes perfect.

So I am still in Ica, and I will probably wait here until mom arrives in Peru. I am only six hours away from Lima so I am going to wait at the pool and eat good food.
Besos to everyone.