Thursday, June 26, 2008

The long and winding road...

Hola everyone!

So we are here in Lima, Peru (La capital) for a few days before we head to the Amazon River in Iquitos, Peru next week. I thought I would take this time to catch y'all up on what we've been doing the past week or so. I also wanted to give you a little bit of insight into a few things that I've learned during our South American travels.

When I last wrote we were leaving Cusco for Nazca and the Nazca Lines. Instead of taking a 16 hour bus ride there, we decided to break it up and take our time. Our first bus ride was to a place called Abancay which Eric wrote about some in his last post. As he stated the ride was very twisty and turny and I got a bit nauseous. It was not a very fun ride at all. Although only 5 hours, it felt like double that. So we stayed the night there (I finally started to feel better after a nap) and then got on another bus the next morning to a town called Puquio. This ride was not as curvy. But along the trip Eric told me that this is the road that bandits in the past have put blockades in the way of the road and robbed people of their money and valuables. "Oh great!" I thought, "So I won't get sick this time but we could get robbed!!" He just laughed at me as he sometimes does and said
"Don't worry, we'll be fine." So I just continued watching the dubbed movie on the bus and prayed that we would be fine. Along the way the bus started to slow down... uh oh! I looked out the window and saw what looked to me like a blockade. It turned out that it was just an overturned truck with posts around it. Great! An overturned truck on this road didn't make me feel that much better. "That's Peru!" as Eric so often likes to point out to me. So we finally arrived in Puquio much to my delight and started looking for a place to stay. It was already dark and as we walked we started to notice the locals staring at us quite strangely. You see nobody and I mean nobody, especially Gringos, ever stop here. Some of them even pointed at us and said "Gringos!" Like they had never seen any before in person. I believe that some of them hadn't. So we smiled and said "Si, Gringos!" and found a hostel not far down the dirt road. Sanctuary! So we stayed the night there and then hopped on the first bus, or should I say, minibus we could find leaving for Nazca.

Here we come Nazca! I was ready to get there but wasn't quite ready for what this ride had in store for us. We were in a 15 passenger minibus along with all locals and were immediately covered in dust and dirt due to it being a partially paved road. We finally got to a better road and began our 5 hour trip to Nazca. The first few hours were actually nice and we drove through some pretty countryside. The last hour plus of the ride was another story. We found ourselves going, in my opinion and most sane people's opinion, way too fast down and around the Andean Platuea along curves that I hadn't been on before (and we had been on some pretty curvy mountains). It actually felt like we were on 2 wheels at some points during that ride. What put the icing on the cake is that about halfway down my eyes suddenly tore open (I had closed them and began praying to please just get us there safely) when we almost T-Boned an oncoming large truck. Screeeeech! Not what I needed at that point. As always, Eric smiled and offered the usual look that means "That's Peru". I said to him "Never again am I doing this bus trip! I'll fly to Nazca next time."

So we arrived in Nazca and took a taxi to the hostel that we had a reservation at. Apparently once tourists arrive in Nazca, more than most other towns, there is usually a problem of other people trying to get you to go to their hostel even to the point of saying bad things about the place... "It's dirty" or "they're mean" or "it burned down", etc. So we missed out on all of that and wound up at a really nice place with a Dutch-Peruvian couple that ran it. (Their picture is attached as well.) Quite a heighth difference between the two of them. They even had a 5 month old precious baby girl that I got to play with for the 5 days we stayed there. Such fun!

We were in Nazca a bit longer than we had anticipated partially or I guess mostly due to the fact that I got sick and couldn't do much for 2 days. I was miserable and will not go into further details. But we did watch a lot of the Euro 2008 soccer games (The final is between Germany and Spain this Sunday, !Viva España!), read in hammocks on a beautiful terrace, and played chess a few times. Last Sunday (after a call home to my parents getting medical advice about my illness) I felt well enough to get in a 5 person airplane and head out or up I should say to see the famous Nazca Lines.

These lines were made anywhere between 300 BC and 700 AD by the Nasca culture (Pre-Incan). They were discovered in the 1920's when commercial airlines began flights over the Peruvian desert. Some believe that these lines are a giant astronomical calender while others think that it is a map of subterranean water canals. Some of the figures that we saw from the sky other than geometrical shapes included a monkey, pelican, hands, hummingbird and astronaut. Pictures of 1 of these is attached as well. A few of these shapes are 1,000 feet long and 100 feet wide and stretch more than 6 miles. Although seeing the lines in person was a great feeling, the feeling I got while in the plane was not. I am unfortunately susceptible to getting ill in small aircraft and even though I took an airsickness pill prior I could still feel the effects of gravity. Eric even fell nauseous and he has a solid stomach. Plus, the more than 20 plus "banks" to the right and left that the pilot did so we could get a "better view" of the figures did not help the situation. Thank you. I can see them just fine flying straight! Nothing happened I am happy to report and I was able to open my eyes long enough to get a few decent pictures. But I was happy to be back on land 30 minutes later.

We left Nazca the next day, this past Monday, made a quick overnight stop in Ica before heading into Lima where we are now. It has 8 million plus inhabitants and is huge! We've been to the Plaza Mayor, the main Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, watched a fun street performance show, and took 2 very long bus rides from Miraflores (the neighborhood we're staying in) to downtown. We hope to see one of the 10 plus museums today or tomorrow. We will stay here until Saturday or Sunday when we will fly to a city in northern Peru called Iquitos where we will get a boat and head down the Amazon river for what I'm sure will be a few adventure filled days. I'm hearing something about how we will be sleeping in hammocks...hmmm??? We'll see about that.

So for those few observations and helpful hints I mentioned earlier:

1. Toilet paper- A very necessary part of survival in Peru. Almost no places that you try to use the restroom (other than places you stay and even sometimes there you are required to bring your own) have it. Always keep a supply on you!

2. Toilet seats- A very necessary part of a toilet as far as I am concerened but not so in Peru. Apparently they are worried that you will steal it. Most places do not furnish this. Although I do have much stronger leg muscles now!

3. Electric showers- When standing under an electric shower, under no circumstances are you to ever touch anything metal. If you happen to brush up against it you are in for a nice electrifying surprise. This will ensure that you never do it again. Trust me. I know from experience. Eric got a good shock to his head in one shower in Ica... he spent the rest of the shower crouching.

4. Buses- Big, small, local, long distance... We've done them all. Just because they say they are going to leave at 10 AM doesn't mean that they are going to leave at 10 AM. They are going to leave when they want to (an hour or so late) and the staff that works will even shuffle you more than once onto various other buses hoping that one will leave soon. Which it doesn't always do. This we know from experience as well.

5. Food- I must say that I have been fairly proud of myself having ordered something on the menus and sometimes not knowing what I'll end up with. Eric can attest to this for those of you who don't believe me and know my picky eating habits. But most of the time it has turned out pretty well. Although I am fairly certain that food was the culprit of my getting sick in Nazca. But as Eric says, "Hey it's Peru!"

So that is it for now. We hope that everyone is doing well and has gotten a bit more insight into our travels through Peru. Next time we'll be writing about our adventures in Brazil! We have our visas in hand and are ready to go! Until then, Ciao!

Love,
Erika

1 comment:

Sarah D said...

hey - i've been down that road before (in Peru). Where are you staying in Miraflores? Have you eaten with the hari krishnas yet (vegetarian cafes)? sounds like you're having a blast. i could really go for ceviche & cuzcena...
cheers,
S