Thursday, September 17, 2009


A google map of some of my spots around Cusco so far.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Arrival in Cusco

Wow! What a plane ride! As we took off from Lima and ascended through the clouds, it was as if the Andes Mountains rose with us. As we passed through the clouds I saw the tops of the mountains, many covered in snow. The ride provided magnificent views all the way to Cusco. I was warned, but still not prepared for the descent. Of course we only had to descend about half of the distance that we ascended, but since Cusco lies in a valley completely surrounded by towering mountains, the plane has to circle around the area and then very quickly swoop on down into the airport That part was scary, but also beautiful. Once I landed I was picked up by a travel company associated with the school I am going to work at. They took me directly to the school so I could look around. It is a very nice space, with the office, copy room, etc.. downstairs and upstairs the classes, a café, an internet lounge, and on the third floor, the teachers space. After a quick tour they took me over to my home-stay, a little further from the center of town. The condo is gorgeous. My hosts the Salazar’s seem to be pretty well off. The place has gorgeous views of the city out the window. I have my own room, wireless internet , and cable TV! I will be here for just five days forever and in that time I need to find my own apartment (surely won’t be as nice). Tomorrow I have orientation at 9 am. I seem to be adjusting pretty well to the altitude although it is certainly much more difficult to breath, but I am not super sick or anything. I am going to go for a walk with my host Dad now. Ciao!

Day 5 Last Day in Lima

Today I went to a smaller town just outside of Lima called Chorrillos. Chorrillos is a wonderful little town right on the ocean, which you can see from other parts of Lima because it has a huge cross that lights up at night on the water. The town was so alive! It seemed like the entire town was one big market, and at every turn, another long street full of fruits, vegetables, meats, and small restaurants. I had a drink made from sugar cane, he cut the cane right in front of me and squeezed out the juice. It was delicious, and apparently pretty healthy! I spent a few hours there and had some great Criolle food for lunch. After returning to the hostel around 4 or 5 pm, I spent most of the rest of the day at the hostel, but went out for a nice past dinner with a chocolate desert! This is the end of my time in Lima. Tomorrow morning I head to the airport for my trip to Cusco. I’ve been on these altitude pills for a couple days now, so here’s hoping I do okay once I am on the ground in Cusco!

Day 4

Today I just took it easy. I had seen most of what I wanted to see in the city so I decided to chill out at the hostel with Natalia, who by the way works at Mount Snow in Vermont during the winter. We watched some tv and she taught me a lot about Peruvian culture, like how the education system works here and how the health care system works (they just passed free universal health care this past year). In the evening I went out to Parque de Aguas, a huge fenced in park full of beautiful water fountains. As it gets dark they all light up in bright colors and there were literally thousands of people there, mostly couples and families, awaiting the huge light show that happens every night. Before hand people were having fun running through some of the fountains, kids dashing through as the water dies down, and one of the fountains is a series of arcs where the water rises and then falls on the other side of you as you walk (or run) through. Shortly the water show started and it was spectacular. I have some videos and pictures to upload. They actually project words and images on the water as the show goes on, lasers project colors on the fountains and it’s all set to music. After that I went back to Miraflores, got some dinner, and headed back to the hostel so I could watch the Video Music Award’s with the hostel staff. Green Day won 3 VMA’s (every one they were nominated for), including Best Rock Video for 21 Guns, and of course it’s nice to know there are Green Day fans here in Peru!

Day 3

Today I stayed closer to the area where my hostel is and visited two huacas or mud pyramids, that date back as far as the 4th and 5th centuries. The city of Lima was eventually built on top of them and they developed on top of most of them but preserved just a couple and now have museums there. You can see how they made the pyramids by building the mud bricks and how they divided their small communities into the centers for worship and other areas for work and production of goods and beautiful pottery and such that they only made for the purpose of breaking it all as a sacrifice, and then burying it in the mud pyramids, which is how a lot of it is preserved, since they found it during excavation. At night I went out with one of the guys who works at the hostel, Jhony, and a friend of his. We went bar hopping around Miraflores. We went to some pretty nice places and I ended up doing quite a bit of dancing at the final club (they played all the Salsa songs, and reagatton that I am familiar with)!

Day 2

Again I explored El Centro, downtown Lima. I went to the Catacombs under La Iglesia de San Francisco. They have literally thousands of bones, they say 25,000 people were buried there since it was literally the first organized cemetery space for the city of Lima. There was one skull in the large pile of skulls that looked bright and new and I was joking with the group that that was a tourist from the last tour who used his camera (since that wasn’t allowed), but it turns out they put that there just for our amusement. I walked around a few more neighborhoods of the city and just discovered as much as I could of the area by foot. At night I checked out the very interesting Bohemian neighborhood of Barranco.

Lima- Day 1

Today was a great reminder of both all of the joys and perils of travelling by foot in search of an adventure in a foreign city! I am always pretty big on the philosophy that the best way to discover places is to it by foot and to not have any specific destination in mind when you set out unless you are in a time crunch. With 8 days in Lima, I am certainly not in a time crunch. So this morning I somehow woke up at 6:45 am after a very long day almost entirely without breathing real air, moving from plane to airport to plane. Anyway, since my hostel didn’t serve breakfast until 8 am, I wandered outside to the main square, Parque Kennedy, and found a nice café that was open and had a simple breakfast. I wanted to make sure my hostel was the best one I could find in the area, so I toured a couple others, realized mine was the best place to be, and then returned. By that time breakfast was being served and I had some delicious squash pancakes. Then I gathered my things and set out for the city. My goal was to get to “El Centro”, the center of the city, from Miraflores, a pretty far trek. I wanted to do it the local way, and save money, so I spent a good 20 minutes observing locals board the buses and figuring out which ones went where. Eventually I figured out that all the collectivos (old buses that feel like they are about to die, packed with people) travelled down each of the main avenues for only 1 sole, or about 30 cents. So I figured out which one went to El Centro, and hopped on. Well, the system wasn’t smooth, and it took 3 collectivos, and about 2 miles of walking to get to where I wanted to go- the center of it all, Plaza de Armas. I finally arrived, very hungry, just in time for lunch. I had a great lunch looking out at the square (although I skipped over the drink the waiter handed me that he said was “like juice made from weed”). Then I toured a great cathedral on the square where the remains of Francisco Pizarro, the Conquistador, are “buried”- in reality they are simply scattered all over the property since the very violent earthquakes have really shaken that Cathedral and prompted many re-constructions. Luckily, they kept his head in a separate box!

Now it gets interesting. I guy approached me in the main square and introduced himself, explaining he was a teacher in a small town in Northern Peru and was selling maps and such to fundraise for his students to be able to buy medicine. After some talking I told him I was also in Peru to teach, and would be going to Cusco in a week to start. So he gave up the sales pitch and offered to show me around a bit. He goes into Lima twice a month for this purpose, so he knows the city very well, and he studied here as a kid and young adult. Anyway, over the course of the next 5 hours, he showed me probably half of the tourist attractions on the map in El Centro and Rimac. Rimac is by the river and next to what are called Pueblo Jovenes (which translates directly into young town) but really means shanty town’s. They are town, now apparently throughout Peru and other Latin American countries that are built out of very basic materials and often built outside the city rising up on the mountains. They carve out rough raods up the mountainside to get to the areas. We also walked around Plaza Muralla, where there is a wall of murals down by the river and a nice are for people to hang out and play games and such. When we came back into Central Lima he said we should try some Alpaca and Pisco Sour for dinner. So I agreed to go with him, knowing he would probably make me pay for most or all of it, but meals are generally very cheap. To make a long story short, he went over the waitress at the bar so I couldn’t hear and ordered two HUGE Pisco Sour’s and a plate of food straight from a Peruvian wedding buffet. It was gigantic. As soon as they brought it out later I told him I couldn’t pay for all of it, I only had something like $20 or 30 US dollars on me. I asked the waitress for the check. It was, after the conversion, $100 US, which is unheard of in Peru, even in fancy hotels. So I told the waitress the guy was trying to scam me and I told him I couldn’t pay before. She was in a tough spot so she told me I could pay half and go. Nonetheless, that was a bad ending to what was otherwise a good day. I salvaged the night a little bit by going out and dancing some Son (a Cuban variation of Salsa) before going back and crashing.