Monday, April 21, 2008

Tariy, Days 10 & 11: Cumpleaños Feliz y la Resaca

I apologize for the lack of blogs as I have been real busy with Karikuy as of late. I'm also trying to finish the new company video by the end of this month. I started a new advertising campaign with and that has kept me busy the last couple of days. So here is Tariy 2008, continuing where it last left off.

Wednesday March 19th

Ahh there is nothing like waking up to the sound of salsa in the morning. It's almost as if you could dance right out of bed and into the chilly shower to further awaken your senses. Surprisingly the music invades my floor in layers, salsa from the neighbor to the east, reggaeton from the neighbor to the north. Downstairs my cousin plays Grupo Nectar, a group whose tragic end brought life to their music that now lives on to awaken a people on a brand new day. It just so happens that on this day I turn 25.

I hopped out of the shower trembling as usual but with a bounce to my step. I wasn't necessarily thinking about turning a quarter of a century old as I was about what the night might hold in store. I put on some shorts and a t-shirt and climbed to the roof to check if my clothes for the night were finished drying.

Before any festivities could kick off I had reminded myself that I was to visit the cemetery and pay a visit to my grandparents. The story of me and my grandparents is a sad one, and so I try my best to pull myself together and go visit them once a year or whenever I am back in Peru. It took us a good afternoon before we arrived back at my house where I would get ready for the nights celebration.

You can probably guess that I didn't chronicle this day too heavily, it was a personal day and I was having way too much fun at my birthday party to really take pictures or videos but here are a few;

25 and still goofing off...

The party went on until the first rays of sunlight hit the dusty Lima streets. Well actually it went on way after the sun went up, I can last remember looking at a clock that read 7 am before I crashed. But that's the thing about Peru, the people here love a good party and most clubs don't close until the last patron has left.

Thursday March 20th

I remember waking up at around 3 in the afternoon and being greeted with another bottle of Cristal. Yes the party continued until about 5pm and a case of beer (12 large Cristal bottles) later I decided I was probably suffering of alcohol poisoning and retreated back to my house to crash. I slept from about 7pm until the following morning. It was probably for the best as the next day Maycol and I would be heading to Ica and Huacachina to continue our trek.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tariy, Day 9: Ceviche in Callao

Tuesday March 18th

I woke up to the sound of our bus speeding it's way through the dusty desert coast of Peru. About half our bus was awake and watching a movie, in a little while the bus steward would be passing a small snack for breakfast. We soon entered the city of Lima, the city however is huge and it would take another forty five minutes until we reached the bus terminals in the heart of the city. I didn't mind the wait, I was glad that I would be in the company of my family once again and that tomorrow we'd all be together celebrating my birthday.

My uncle Freddy was at the station when we arrived, being a taxi driver he's the one that usually drives me around when I go home and it is him and his friends that provide the transportation for Karikuy. So as we made our way back to my neighborhood in Central Lima I had very little on my mind as to what I would be doing for the day, what I knew for certain though was that I'd be in Callao eating some of the best ceviche in Peru.

My neighborhood of Planeta, the smoke is of a train that just rolled on through.

I had a couple of hours to take a nap and get in a good breakfast before we set off again at noon. Before leaving for Peru I had failed to pack much clothing for myself due to all the gifts and donations I had received. So first on my list of things to do was to head to one of the large super centers found throughout Lima and pick up some shorts and a shirt for tomorrows party.

After picking up some clothes and sipping on a delicious fruit smoothie we headed to the port city of Callao. Callao has remained the biggest port in Peru since it was founded in 1537, the city was largely destroyed and vast areas flooded when a tsunami hit after a strong earthquake in 1746. I commonly hear that 1/4 of the original Callao lies underwater, however that number fluctuates with each story and it's hard to tell, I will do more research on that when I return later in the year. Here are some pictures:

And a short video of the ride up to La Punta, notice the fortress at the end of the video, it is the largest and strongest Spanish fortress built in Latin America.

There is a little restaurant at La Punta (The Point) of Callao and I recommend it for anyone who is in the area, it is called the Neptune. I bring tourists and guests there and frequently include it in my trip itineraries. It has to be my favorite place in Peru to eat ceviche, because not only do they make one amazing dish but they also provide the best setting and scenery to wolf down a plate of this signature Peruvian dish.

Everyone dig in!

Second course of fried calamari...mmmm.

All gone :(

Finishing up a meal at Neptune's is always followed by a stroll over at the oceanfront which is about a hundred feet from the restaurant itself. Currently a lot of La Punta is under construction which is slated to be finished by next year but there are still plenty of spots where you can go and watch the waves splashing against the barrier wall. The feeling of being under the warm sun after a filling meal of ceviche can be enough impetus for anyone to return to Peru and is always one of the highlights of my trip back home, I recommend it to everyone I meet.

There is not much to tell about the rest of my day, I spent most of it back home catching up with family that would drop by to say hello as well as doing some laundry and double checking my budget for the rest of the trip.

Knowing that I would get very little sleep the following day I made a point of heading to bed early. My birthday party would not disappoint.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tariy, Day 8: The Road Back to Lima

Monday March 17th

Maycol and I woke up to a chilly Monday morning in Cajamarca. It was around six in the morning, the plaza lay eerily silent with the sound of a few roosters in the distance. Up to this point I had a beef with roosters going back to our days in Casma, there a rooster had started crowing at three in the morning just as we were about to go to bed. The rooster had only been about 20 feet away from us and it's loud calls were head splitting. This morning the crowing seemed to only add to the beauty of a sleepy Cajamarca at dawn.

We made our way to the bus station and hopped on a bus headed for Chiclayo. The bus trip to Chiclayo would turn out to be one of the more memorable bus rides of the trip. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the scenery throughout the ride was equally jaw dropping, it made the six hour ride go by in a flash. First we passed we had to climb in elevation to reach the pass that dips down into Cajamarca as well as westward towards the coast.

There are some roads in Peru that will really give you a good scare, one of them is the road from Huaraz to Huari and as I would find out later from Ayacucho to Andahuaylas. The road to Chiclayo was paved and even though it was still very steep and windy I felt relaxed and paid little attention to the absurd heights. About two hours in we had already dropped in elevation dramatically and were snaking our way through a picture perfect valley with majestic peaks all around us.

Here's a short clip of me goofing off on the bus ride. I do not recommend sticking your head out the bus windows. On one occasion I was filming outside the window for the Karikuy video when I heard a distant noise coming from my left, intuitively I put my head back in the window just as bridge supports passed less then a foot away from the windows. I bet that would've hurt pretty bad if not taken my whole head off!

I took the following video to demonstrate just how dramatically the micro climates in Peru change. The video shows the desert and as I pan to the left you can see the green farmlands and mountains climbing up into the Andes. Peru has 28 different climate types and 84 of the 104 ecological niches that have so far been identified, a fact that classifies Peru as the most ecologically diverse country in the world.

We reached Chiclayo at one in the afternoon. At the bus terminal we bought our tickets for the bus to Lima which would be leaving at six in the evening. We left our backpacks at the bus stations luggage storage and headed out for some lunch. I had some papa a la huancaina, one of my favorite Peruvian dishes while my cousin had caldo de gallina or chicken soup as we would call it. We were more then happy to come across our favorite beer Cristal as it had eluded us since Casma, provecho!

After the light lunch we headed out for the museum that houses the Lord of Sipan, Peru's version of Tutankhamen. It is said that the treasure found at the tomb of the Lord of Sipan rivals that of the tomb of King Tut, that's why Sipan is often referred to as the Tutankhamen of the Americas.As we walked towards the museum we could tell that there was something amiss, the road leading up to the site was quiet and there was no one around. We soon found out that the museum is closed on Mondays for cleaning. Disappointed we took a couple snapshots of the exterior and then headed for Chiclayo's Plaza de Armas. I took note of that fact for future reference but at the same time kicked myself for not having looked into it beforehand; experience points gained.

Webon, I think they're closed...

Although we didn't spend too much time in Chiclayo I was very drawn to it. It has a certain charm about it and the atmosphere is very laid back, perhaps that's why Chiclayo's nickname is La Cuidad de la Amistad; The City of Friendship.

When we reached the Plaza de Armas I was surprised at its size, covered by tall palms the plaza has to be the smallest I'd seen so far out of any town or city in Peru. I even think that Supe being a very small town had a much larger plaza then Chiclayo's. The Plaza de Armas did however have some impressive buildings surrounding it including a beautiful cathedral.

We hung around the Plaza de Armas until it was time to head back to the bus depot to catch our ten hour ride back to Lima, we didn't mind the long ride as it was at night and we'd sleep through most of it. We were glad to be going back home for some rest and a much needed plate of Ceviche.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tariy, Day 7: Cajamarca

Sunday March 16th

The loud bells of the cathedral next to our hotel made for an excellent alarm clock as we woke up to a cloudy morning in Cajamarca. From our balcony we watched as the townspeople gathered around their cathedral for the Palm Sunday procession.

Our plans for the day was to catch an early bus for the town of Chachapoyas where we could head out the following day to the ruins of Kuelap. First we wanted to visit the famous ransom room of Atahualpa. The ransom room is located less then a block from the Plaza de Armas, if your looking for it ask a local for "El Cuarto del Rescate". Be aware that you have to buy tickets to get in and for some reason the ticket counter is located about two blocks around the corner. This ticket includes entrance to an art museum (Museo de Etnografia) and a convent (El Complejo de Belen), both within walking distance.

Museo de Etnografia

El Complejo de Belen, built entirely from volcanic ash

We finally made our way to the Ransom room. In 1532 the Spanish arrived from Tumbes on the coast. With 160 men Pizarro rode into Cajamarca to meet the Inca Emperor who he had been hearing about since meeting fishermen from Tumbes a year earlier. Atahualpa fresh off his military victory against his brother Huascar was on his way to Cusco and had stopped at Cajamarca with about 60,000 of his men. In one of the most incredible turn of events in history Pizarro was able to ambush and capture the Incan Emperor. Atahualpa had decided to kill Pizarro and his men for their actions on their way to Cajamarca, actions which included poor treatment of the peasants and even murder. However, Atahualpa underestimated the Spanish and paid the ultimate price, the ransom room was where he was held captive until his execution in 1533.

The ransom room is the only Inca building left standing in Cajamarca. It is a very somber place, with large drawings depicting Atahualpa and the fall of the Inca Empire.

From the Ransom room we headed to the plaza to find out bus schedules for Chachapoyas. As we spoke to several agencies we soon found out that we would have to take a six hour bus ride to Chiclayo and then another twelve hour bus ride to Chachapoyas. That was if the weather cooperated which it hardly seemed to want to do, so it would be about a 4 day trip there and back, time we just didn't have. We decided to take a tour around Cajamarca and leave for Chiclayo the next morning, there we would check out the Lord of Sipan and take a overnight bus back to Lima in time for my birthday bash.

This was by far the biggest disappointment of the trip, I know I'll go to Kuelap eventually with Karikuy but it would have been nice to inspect the site and also check out Chachapoyas and the hotels there.

Another learning experience behind us we walked up to the hill called Santa Apolina. At the top is said to be The Throne of the Inca, a large rock that resembles a throne and was used by Atahualpa to review his troops. The view from the top reveals Cajamarca in stunning fashion, on all sides the city is surrounded by the Andes mountains.

A breathtaking journey to the top of Cerro Santa Apolina

After the climb we returned to the plaza for a small lunch before we left for our tour of the area. I was in the mood for some cold cuts and a cold glass of maracuya.

An hour later we were heading to the plantation known as Colpa. Decades ago the Cows of Colpa were famous for the amount of milk they produced. Inside Peru the sweet known as Manjar Blanco is very popular and Colpa makes the best.

Colpa is also famous for its cattle that recognize when they are being called to eat by a wrangler. On top of that they walk into a pen that has several stalls with all the cows names on top, there they obediently seek out their names and begin to feed. We were treated to a demonstration, here is a short clip, you can hear the wrangler calling out names in the background:

From Colpa we headed to some waterfalls located across the valley in Llacanora. It was an easy hike although our group found it hard to keep up with my cousin and I as we explored the area like two five year olds let loose in a zoo. It must have been our love of exploration and the fact that we were going to miss out on Kuelap that we would daringly climb boulders that had fallen into the streams as the river rushed beneath our feet. We could feel the waterfall in the distance as its roar became thunderous with our arrival. We reached the first waterfall 20 minutes into the hike, at 10 meters high we took a couple shots of the falls just as our group started to arrive.

Ten minutes down from the first waterfall we discovered the second, this one being 20 meters high, we were able to get real close and take some footage.

We drove back to Cajamarca as the sun started to set over the cloud hugged Andes. That night we would have a medium sized dinner and hang out in the Plaza de Armas, we were tired and drinking was not on our minds. Tomorrow we would have an early six hour bus ride to Chiclayo. I already missed the waterfalls of Llanacora, I love to hike and explore, I was not looking forward to sitting on a bus for six hours. I would soon have to realize that the bus rides would only get longer and that due to the little time I had left in Peru the pace of our travels would accelerate, as well as our pulses.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tariy, Days 5 & 6: Cesar Vallejo, Chan Chan and Chaufa

Friday March 14th

Trujillo is the third most populous city in Peru, of course at the time my cousin and I were not aware of this. The bus ride into the city seemed to take forever as we approached the bus depot near the heart of the provincial capital. Fortunately there is never a shortage of entertainment for Peruvians and we were relieved of the long bus ride by entertainers who would hop on board for a small tip. One of the more memorable entertainers was a comedian who would go around the bus ripping on everyone, he seemed to focus on love and relationships, his delivery was spot on!

After hopping off the bus we walked a couple of blocks with our backpacks at which at this point felt as if they were getting heavier as the trip went on. Dripping with sweat we we entered the Plaza de Armas. We were quickly impressed by the fountain sculpture at the center of the square which represents work, art and liberty.

Trujillos colonial charm can be seen throughout the city, and its brightly colored buildings create eye candy for the passing visitor. We walked four blocks down Avenida Pizzaro to Plazuela el Recreo where we found a hostel with the same name on the eastern corner of the plaza. I immediately set to work on bargaining prices and introducing Karikuy to the hostel owner. After exchanging contact information we were led up to our room which was a double with a balcony overlooking the plazuela.

The room included a TV and private bathroom with hot showers which I quickly took advantage of. I gotta say no matter how long I stay in Peru for I still can't get used to cold showers, as strange as it is though I do feel great and more refreshed after one. I guess its the shock of cold water hitting your skin that I can't get used too, even in scorching hot weather...oh well. We freshened up a bit, I added some more sun tan lotion to my cherry red nose and then headed out for an evening snack as well as some internet time.

When we returned to our hostel we were surprised to see that a crowd had gathered outside in the plazuela and a stage erected. We asked around and found out that there would be a poetry reading and concert in honor of the birthday of Cesar Vallejo, one of the great poets to come out of Peru and also considered one of the great poetic innovators of the 20th century. We watched the concert from our balconies while we prepared to head out to the night clubs and I took the opportunity to shoot the following:

Luna Rota was the name of the club we headed to that night, perhaps we arrived a little early but we got a sense that the people of Trujillo were a bit conservative in that a really good live salsa band was playing and no one was dancing. We arrived at about 10:30pm and the party didn't really start until midnight, and this is on a Friday night! no sir not in Lima, no way. Regardless we danced and toasted the night to our time in Trujillo, the rest of the nights details remain in this city, a city known for it's revolutionary spirit.

Saturday March 15th

In the morning we woke up a bit groggy and hungover, I took a much cooler shower then I'm normally used to in order to get the blood flowing. Stopping at a little diner we grabbed a quick breakfast that to most would look like dinner, Lomo Saltado on a bun.

We then headed out to the ruins of Chan Chan. The ruins are about a 15 minute taxi ride from Trujillo's center. We were dropped off at an entrance where there were other taxis waiting to drive you even closer to the ruins. This being our first time at the site we decided to just walk, it took us about 25 minutes to get to the ruins and it was a nice walk since cities on the coast enjoy very comfortable temperatures in the morning.

My cousin also had a radio built into his cellphone allowing us to hear the latest news and music. It was here that I found out about the scandal regarding NY Governor Spitzer, the early morning show was ripping on his so bad I almost wet myself but hey thats politics..

Getting back to Chan Chan, the city is the largest adobe city in the world. The layout of the complex is huge and only a small portion of it is accessible to tourists. There were several scaffolds and signs of reconstructions being made to the complex, it seems that the changing climate and the effects of La Niña are really taking a toll on this ancient city. Here are a bunch of photos of the site:

So is Chan Chan worth visting? Yes of course but having a guide with you is key. There are many facts about this complex that would elude the traveler who decides to walk through the site by himself. For example there are rooms with pillars that project your voice through acoustic wedges, there are also halls with optical illusions to make them seem bigger on the other end.

We spent the whole morning at Chan Chan returning to Trujillo in the early afternoon. The next city on our trek was Cajamarca, about a six hour bus ride through the Andes. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side as we climbed into the Andes and as the sun started to dim so did our hopes of a panoramic drive into the legendary Peruvian city.

We arrived in Cajamarca at about nine at night, once again we set off to the main plaza commonly referred to as the Plaza de Armas in South American cities. We had made friends with a lovely German backpacker who was led us to a hotel off the Plaza de Armas, once there I introduced myself and Karikuy to the owner so we could exchange information. He quickly escorted us to a room with a balcony overlooking the Plaza. This room had three beds and was rather large, it might just take the prize as the best room we've stayed in during our whole trip.

We got dressed and cleaned up a bit, it being a Saturday night it was obvious that we would check out the local nightlife, however at this point we were starving. Theres something about high altitude towns that make me very hungry, perhaps it's all the calories I'm burning, after all your heart pumps faster as your body tries to consume more oxygen from the thin atmosphere. We really gorged ourselves, after having some Chaufa for dinner we headed to a restaurant for some Pisco Sours and an omelet.

You might be thinking how it could be possible to even think about dancing after a meal like that, well they don't call Peru the gastronomical capital of the world for nothing. It seems as if each meal complements the next and with the food being so delicious it's hard to really feel full. And so rejuvenated and ready to explore the city we headed out for another intense night of dancing, drinking and meeting new people. The next day would be a little disappointing but in the end would work out to be a lot of fun.