A memorable excursion

Monday, September 22, 2014

This is the week some girlfriends and I hopped on a bus to go see some ruins with a tour guide who had memorized four hours worth of English but thought every question we asked was about potatoes. And because no trip is complete without it, I once again managed to separate from the group and lose track of time, only to find a bus filled with very hostile people waiting for us upon our eventual return. They chastised us in spanish, and although I didn't get all of it, I'm pretty sure one tourist from Spain said "You're making me late for being solicited to by locals selling llama keychains! I NEED MORE LLAMA KEYCHAINS!!" (Not really.) I wanted to say "No hablo espanol," but as it turns out, such options are limited in the first 30 seconds after pronouncing "Yo entiendo espanol." There was color, there were snowcapped mountains, there was that time our bus yielded to a Toyota Yaris and almost backed over a cliff doing it, and there was sodium in its most breathtaking form. There was also a hike no one was psychologically prepared for, and that really disappointing moment when I realized that a Peruvian had lied to me again---raw plantains were not delicious fruits, but horribly strange and disappointing banana-looking things. 

All in all, a memorable excursion!

They spin the yarn from wool and then dye it using natural things. 
Demonstrating how they made the natural dyes. Very cool and impressive!
From up here, those steps looked like fun, easy hops. In reality, they were leg-stretching muscle-builders.
We were determined to make it all the way to the bottom!
Salinas de Maras---Salt flats.

Week 5: Lake Titicaca

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Being busy and not having wifi for the last half of my time in Peru made it nearly impossible to share the weeks as they passed. But as always, late is better than never!

The highlight of my fifth week was a weekend visit to Lake Titicaca. It was a chilly, beautiful, exhausting, relaxing, totally touristy, and yet somehow-still-authentic experience.

But first, some cheese.
...and the last meal with my host family before I left them to spend the remainder of my stay in the school's dorms.
Ok, back to Titicaca.
We arrived to Puno just in time for an early breakfast and the sunrise over the lake.
Photo opportunities like this...are why I travel.
All in all, we spent eight hours on our little boat. The roof had the views and the breeze; the deck had the cushions and the warmth; the inside had the ability to rock you to sleep to the sound of the World Cup.
The floating island of Uros! Quite an impressive lifestyle of innovation: they floated on, made their houses with, traveled by, made toys from, and ate, reeds.
My room on Amantani, an island with not much to do but dance, hike, keep warm, and watch the sunset over the lake and the nearby snow-capped mountains of Bolivia.
From where I sat at my host's kitchen table.
I'm almost positive that I ate more rice and potatoes during my time in Peru than I did in the last 2-3 years.
Venders set up for tourists waiting to watch the sunset over the lake.
I kind of wandered away from the group and almost spent the night roaming the hills of an island with nothing but seemingly identical houses and fields on a winter's night. But wondering if I was going to later be featured on "I Shouldn't Be Alive" was totally worth the moon, silhouettes of backpackers, and last rays of sunlight that were captured in this shot.
Waiting to dance with the locals!
Week 6, comin' soon. :)

Week 4: The difference

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Well the halfway mark is here! I won't lie, one month would have been enough---but just like how getting on the plane was the difference between talking and doing, staying the extra length is the difference between being a familiar tourist and being successfully and truly immersed in the culture. Even if it wasn't rewarding, it's all going by so fast anyway.

This past week was filled with experiencing famous local traditions, my first (and overdue) tastes of nightlife, and realizing I've already bought so many things that I'm going to have to leave most of my clothes here and arrive in the States wearing a wool poncho. Most importantly, however, is that I've officially finished my Spanish courses and can move on to the service work I've been anticipating! More deets on that---and other changes---next week. 

Visited Qorikancha. Also known as Temple of the Sun, the building was dedicated to "Inti," the "Sun God," and was formerly the most important temple of the Incas. It now houses Catholic art and artifacts, as well as some relics of Incan masonry.
Street vendors have been especially abundant in this festive month of local celebrations.
Best. brownie. of my entire. life.
Thanks to my wonderful friend Regaine for this wonderful shot!
I was lucky to have gotten this frame of the star of the show during the street procession for the city's grandest celebration of the year, Inti Raymi.
I'm sad to say that children here over the age of about two seem consistently untrusting and sad. Unless, of course, they're manning shops or working as venders in the street---which some do till way past my bedtime. Not surprisingly, being accosted by an 8-year-old is not something I find easy to react to.
Our ascent to Sacsaywaman for Inti Raymi took us through parts of Cusco that I had previously only seen as itty bitty houses and streets while sipping my tea in the morning, and flickering little lights on hilltops at night. I appreciated this intimate glimpse of a different part of local life.
Cusco's Cristo Blanco
Entertaining myself by documenting a piece of the ridiculous crowd during the slow-going ceremonial reenactment of Inti Raymi, celebration of the Winter Solstice through offering sacrifices to Inti (mentioned before).
Resting our calves from all the hill-climbing and tip-toe standing we were doing during the ceremony!

Hasta la proxima vez! :)

Week 3: Where taste buds belong

Friday, June 20, 2014

Today marks the end of my third week! This week has technically been the least eventful, and yet I've enjoyed it at least as much. If it wasn't for how much I miss Roberto---or the fact that my normally-prominent veins have almost entirely disappeared from visibility due to regular and exclusive exposure to ice-cold water and ice-cold air (don't worry, a post on the things first-world countries take for granted is in the making)---I might just be able to live here. For example, I'm just getting started with my appreciation for the handmade goods and the FOOD. The quantity, the quality, the variety! As a vegan I'm restricted to about 10% or less of most restaurants and menus, and still my taste buds are having the time of their (short) lives. 

And the chocolate. The richness and ingenuity of the chocolate that's available here makes Ghirardelli taste like plastic. But more on that another week.

Loving the llamas! (This is either the perfect or most horribly inopportune time to mention that I tried my first bite of alpaca this week... it's almost indistinguishable from beef but a little more chewy.)
I could watch the artisans for hours. Actually I wish I could, because I still don't quite understand how what they do results in the beautifully intricate patterns that it does.
Aldea Yanapay, a Quechua verb for "help," is an endearing restaurant in San Blas. On top of having amazing food at affordable prices, their adorable atmosphere reminds you that the profits go to causes that help local children.

Till post #4 :)

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