Friday, April 23, 2010

Horses, Biking, Weaving..... Oh My!

Previously on 24.....

Titikaka, shamans, and a few long bus rides to Cuzco, our story continues.

Snap! Crash! Our first hostel in Cuzco was shotty to say the least. Within 5 minutes of inhabiting our inhabitance, a bed was broken, and brain cells were being killed with wet paint still on the walls. Yet, in the morning, we were still alive and kicking.

Like every other big city, Diegito and Amandita had arranged an adrenaline pumping scavenger hunt for the group. This time however, instead of pairs or triples, we found ourselves with only our own shoulder to lean on, alone in a big city. Fear not followers, no harm came to us, only a few embarrasing stories, some sun burns, an untied shoelace, and a broken camera. Equipped with only directions for our scavenges (all in spanish) and a map, we were off to the races. Participants had to visit Qorikancha (Incan Ruins in the city), La Catedral (one of the first built in South America), a crazy art gallery called The Fractal Dragon, and The Incan Museum. The competition was fierce, often times resulting in blood shed... Just kidding, but seriously. We reconvened sweaty, tired, battered, and bloody at our final meeting point, our answers and maps held above our heads like trophies. As a reward for our efforts, we were treated to a powerful documentary titled ¨Mi Chacra¨ produced by an up and coming American filmmaker named Jason Burlage. Our next adventure took us to the smelly pastures of horses, where we were set to gallop across the lush green plains of Peru. The travels provided beautiful views of the city and of an ancient Incan temple. Semi-sore, we walked back to the city, passing a magnificent massive marble sculpture of Jesus. Our return journey took us through many markets, a couple alleys, and across several plazas, leaving us with enough energy to chow down some din din and pass out on our ridiculously comfortable beds. Seriously, they are magical.

As it turned out, we needed all the rest we could get for our scheduled bike tour, high up in the mountains the next day. The bikes were nice, as promised, they even had helmets and bathero bike gloves! Some bikes were white, some red, others black, yet all with enough gears to cover any terrain. What started off as a leisurly ride over rolling hills soon changed to a battle for the yellow jersey. A photo finish brought us to our first checkpoint, the Moray Ruins, roughly an hour outside of Cuzco. Unlike other ruins, Moray has the appearence of a stadium, with many tiers. Despite its appearence, it was actually used as a mad science lab, of sorts, for the Incans. It was said to have contained 21 micro climates, used to plant different vegetables at different altitudes to see what grew best where. They were clever. Unfortunately, what goes down, must come back up, as our thighs groaned after an intense ride. We huffed, and we puffed, and we made it out, thankfully without blowing down any ruins. Alas, it was time to get back on the bike, for our day had just begun. Out of the blue, our terrain quickly transformed from nice, paved dirt roads passing grassy fields to cliff hugging, rock filled, hair pin turning, stream jumping, steep as hell trails of death. Mind you, our tour agency had assured us that the ride was ¨comfortable,¨ not ride home in an ambulence worthy. However, like always, our group fought through valiently and soon we were snacking on delicious lunches in the shade. After what seemed like 5 minutes of rest, we found ourselves back on our bikes, skidding around dusty corners, and scraping knees. Not a moment too soon, we came to a halt at the Salineras, or the amazing salt mines of Peru. Again, time was short, however, that did not stop us from snapping some great photos and eating some salt. Our last stretch of our treacherous terrain was easily the worst, with tires narrowly dodging enormous boulders, eroded tracks, and failing brakes. Finally, we made it, tallying a 7 hour day of epic proportions. To be precise, we slept well that night.

Going from one extreme to the other, today´s activities brought us to the indoors, where we learned how to weave and spin yarn. Talk about a 180. But, the experience had tremendous value, as we all learned how impressive all of these woven works of art really are. Pacience was definitely put to the test, but left feeling accomplished with our new belts around our waists. Tomorrow, we head for our long awaited yoga retreat, and soon after to Machu Pichu.

So long, and thanks for the fish!

-Abercrombie and J Crew (Patrick and Jordi)

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Bellybutton of Sweet Pacha Mama

Greetings faithful readers,

¨Jumping for Joy at The Door of Wisdom¨

On our last episode, we had just finished shreding the sandy slopes before heading up to altitude. We got into Puno around 8:01 pm, found some grub, and hit the sack. Sleeping proved a wee bit dificult for some, as Puno sits at about 11,000 ft, especially mixed with the chilly weather. What happened next, we knew not. We crawled out of bed around eight, for we had scheduled a meeting with a shaman named Raul. He stands about 5´7¨. His pony tail extends down to mid back, with a kind face. After the first greeting, he would flash his trademark smile, one worthy of postcards across the globe. An hour van/bus ride later, we arrived at the sacred, or so he said, Pink Mountains. Not too sure of the name choice, the mountains had a pinkish tinge, but nothing flamingo-like. What transpired after this can really not be described adequately with words, for the experience spoke for itself. However, we will do our best to provide a highlight reel for your curious imaginations. It began with an offering of some sweetly scented oils combined with some coca leaves as an effort to please the powers that be. We then trotted (carefully) down the spine of a giant (rock) snake, taking us to a mystical land. It was nothing Narnia-like, but it was pretty bacon (not food, but a synonym for awesomeness). Rocks soon surrounded us, jetting out of the grassy hills. We started to climb, led by our friend Raul, stopping many a time to listen to the tales of the condor, snail, worms, family, caterpillar, and more. For all these animals were personified by rocks and told a grand Incan story. Soon, our travels took us to the Door of Wisdom, where we connected to Pacha Mama on a much deeper scale. It was magical...

Thus, we digress. After a spiritual experience with Raul, the group headed to Lago Tits (a phrase coined by Zoester). Lago Titikaka, as the locals prefer to call it, is an incredible place. We visited the floating islands and then headed to Amantani, the second largest island of the lake, where we all spent the night with indigenous host families. After watching an amazing sunset on a freezing look out point, we attended Prom for Jordan and Eli. Instead of tuxes and fancy gowns men were garbed in ponchos, while the women wore traditional skirts and shawl-like apparatuses. A cold night and a short boat ride later, we found ourselves walking along the beautiful island of Taquil (something like that). We toured around the island, learned a bit about their culture, and later, some of us plunged into the freezing cold waters of the lago. So worth it. A longer boat ride took us back to Puno, where we had a free afternoon to relax and explore the city. 5:45am and it was time to get up to catch our bus to Cuzco. Slightly brutal, but you got to do what you got to do sometimes. The bus rumbled into Cuzco around 3:38, tallying 7 hours (roughly) for our tired group. It was an eventful ride including but not limited to: beautiful scenery passing by, horrible Greek Mythology movies playing on a small tv, card games, reading books, ipod sock making, great conversations with your neighbor, massages, jello eating, and an extremely urgent stop to urinate. All in all, quite the trip.

Well, we have a full week in the Sacred Valley ahead of us with no time to waste. Wish us luck!


PB and J

(Patrick Burkhardt and Jordi).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Holy Sandboarding Batman!

Hello all!
We have begun our freetravel adventures and are now officially Peruvian vagabonds. On sunday, we made our way to the bus station, leaving Arequipa behind. Unfortuanately, along with the great city, we also left Eli and Amanda behind. Sickness was the decisive element, as our group had to part ways again, if only briefly. Fourteen hours, and a terrible Morgan Freeman movie later, we made it to the town of Pisco. Learning the ways of making plans for ourselves, we had a bit of a scramble finding a place to stay as we squinted in the morning sunlight, blind like bats after the long ride. Once we finally decided on a hostel and asked the taxi cab driver to take us there, he smiled and told us that our first choice had collapsed in the major earthquake three years prior. Luck found us as a nice women, who happened to be at the bus station, heard of our troubles and told us of her hostel that we could stay at for a good price. Zombie-like, we didn´t have too much energy to do anything, so we settled on lounging at the beach in Paracas for the day. Several hours later, early in the morning the next day, Eli and Amanda returned, healthy and good to go. They told us tales of quite the hospital visit, as our sickly companion had immediately made his presence known to everyone in the hospital, rivaling that of Alejandros airport antics. Speeding through water, we made our way to the San Balletas islands, or, ¨The Poor Man´s Galapagos.¨ Dolphins, sea lions, penguins, Peruvian boobies (Patrick´s favorite), cormorans, pelicans, sea otters, and even some starfish were providing a splendid symphony to our ears and a circus for our cameras. An hour and a half later, we left, taking with us some great pictures, smiles, and guano (bird poop) all over Jordi´s life jacket. They say its good luck. An eventful rickshaw ride a day later to the bus stop, we were bound for Ica. Again, fortune found us, as we were greeted at the bus stop and swept away to another place to sleep with, as we soon found, the most comfortable beds of the trip. Ica is hot, really really hot, as our group ventured out on the town only to surrender to the powers of mother nature. The city is suprisingly big for what we thought, full of aggressive drivers, and loud horns. We found sanctuary in the Original Museum of Ica, learning the ancient history of the indigenous. Lucky for us, they specialized in preserving their dead in mummy-like caskets, as they were on full display for us to see. Interesting stuff. We managed to hold our lunch in our stomachs and returned to the hostel. Yesterday was quite the hoot. The group made its way to the Huachachina (spelling?) for some dune buggying and sandboarding, for some, the highlight of the trip thus far. We piled into the buggies and the drivers took off, like mad men with ants in their pants. A rollercoaster on sand still does not give our experience justice, but you get the idea. We came just short of doing several flips on multiple occasions. Sand boarding is quite different from our native snowboarding, but incredible nonetheless. By far, Jordan takes the gold medal with the most intense wipeout, yet still still undeterred from riding more dunes. She showed everyone up, claiming to have had no previous experience of snowboarding, but, clearly that was a blatant lie. Bumpy rides, some star gazing, a shortage of gasoline, we made it back alive and unbelievably in one piece. A twelve hour bus ride and here we are, back in Arequipa on a short layover to Puno. We have to go catch another bus. Over and out.

With lots of love,
Boots and Q-tip.
aka: Patricio and Jordi.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

White People in the White City

Rafting was a success. We flew down the rapids like condors flying through the Ecuadorian sky. All we can really say about it is that it was fun, incredible, and got us really wet. While in Puyo we also explored the local aquarium. We entered through a giant crocodile mouth and explored its innards that were filled with many scary peses including an empty anaconda cage. Where it went, no one knows and no one seemed too nervous about it. We left the bowels of the aquarium to view pools of water, filled with many alleged fish, none of which we could see. It began to pour so some of us decided to take a dip in the strategically located swiming pool (sin fish). We finished out our time in the Amazon by painting a school and completing a soccer field to mas o menos regulation standards. We also saw and swam at an extrmeely intensivo waterfall. Chevere (cool).
So then we vamosed a Quito, a giant, fantastic, wonderful city which was a great place for Jordi to age one year more. Happy birthday Jordi. On this wonderful day, Claire lost her dog, Alex lost all of his photos, and Eli lost his hand-made overalls. Rest in peace all three. To add to this extremely uplifting day, we went to an extremely beautiful museum, the foundacion Guayasamin. If you aren´t familiar with his art, please do look him up. He paints extremely moving and unique paintings about the tragedy that come from many of the wars and genocides in world history. That night we finally ate Cuy (guinea pig) and prepared for our journey to the center of the earth, aka the equator, aka La Mitad Del Mundo. We lounged in both the northern and southern hemispheres, contemplating how it is water changes direction when it flushes. We saw presentations put on by many schools, also known as cheerleaders - they do exist in South America and we now know where to find them. miss j. hollywood and Patricio were star-struck.
Fast forward to the next morning, 4 a.m., we all packed our bags and headed to the airport to make the journey on to the second half of the trip. Alejandro was not feeling so well and promptly upon arrival to the airport graced us and the entire terminal with the contents of his stomach. While he progressed to the bathroom, his scent remained. Despite the illness, we prevailed and continued on to our six hour layover in Lima, thank God we were not late. Finally we arrived in Arequipa, Peru, our final destination for the next two weeks.
We disembarked from the plane into the open air and with it came open hearts, a beautiful volcanic view, and more vomit. The travel day went off without a hitch.
Which brings us to the present. Arequipa is an amazing city. We are all living solo in our different homestays and taking four hours of classes outside in the open air. On Monday, our first day in Arequipa, was Alejandro´s first day of being twenty (or as the locals call it, veinte). He was still feeling a bit sick, so we held off the celebration for the next day, where we also completed the infamous scavanger hunt. Eli and Zoe won with rainbow colors. Also, congrats to Ricky Martin for realizing what we´ve known all along. We don´t have classes this Friday because it is a religious holiday, much similar to the birth of Alejandro - they both have beards and are pretty holy. To those other religions out there, Happy Passover and Happy Easter. We miss the Easter Bunny.

Peace, love, and spanglish,
your blogtastic bloggers and favorite students,
Eli and Claire

p.s. these words came from our minds and sprung forth from Alejandro´s fingers. God willing, there´s no vomit.
p.p.s. Happy April Fools.