Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Back to Quito, and photos from peru

Back in Quito today, after a grueling day of travel yesterday, a three part flight from Cusco to Lima to Guayquil to Quito. My last few days in Cusco were amazing, I love that city and will have to return. The hostel I stayed at was called the Yanapay, which is run by a man named Yuri who uses his profits to support a local childrens shelter he runs, for street children. Went dancing and partying several times with various volunteers who were staying there and working. Did a ton of dancing and a dash of drinking.
One night I went with a German girl from the hostel and met a guy who took couchsurfers at the Plaza Del Armas, and we went to a British style pub and played pool, and then went to a bar and say an amazing live reggae band, and then went to a hopping dance club and danced until four am. Fun night.
It was tough to leave, I would have liked to volunteer at the Yanapay for a while (highly recommend it to people interested in volunteering in an amazing city.)
Haven't been able to post pictures for a while, so heres a couple from the last few weeks.

Monkey Reserve in Puyo, Ecuador: Let there be Monkeys!

This Guy had only one hand and would only play with me

One of the Hippies I met in Pailon Del Diablo, he made money by being a statue of Jesus in Quito

Epic Waterfall in Macas, Ecuador, where shamans take people on Ahajuasca to be ritually cleansed

Me being cleansed (not on Ahajuasca...unfortunately)

The walk to the awesome cave in Macas with a couple of Peace Corps volunteers, Leah, Darwin, Brian, left to right


The Road on the way to Aguas Calientes, Peru

More Road, more Rivers, past Cusco, Peru

Standing above an Epic view at the Entrance to Machu Picchu, Peru

Ruins reaching out through the mist, early morning in Machu Picchu

Llama chillin in the Mist in Machu Picchu

Standing by another epic view, Machu Picchu

Me and Stuart (from las Tolas, who I ran into 5000km south randomly in Machu Picchu)

Machu Picchu from Huayna or Wayna Picchu, after an insanely hard climb

Me and David smoking a cuban cigar on top of Wayna Picchu
The Trail down from Huayna Picchu (the easy part)

Machu Picchu from Wayna Picchu

The Yanapay hostel in Cuzco, amazing little place

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Machu Picchu!!!!

After a couple thousand kilometers, more then 60 hours of buses, and several screaming babies, I finally made it to Machu Picchu.
To get there, its either a hundred dollars for a train, or the cheap tough route, you´ll never guess which I took. Seven hour bus along straight cliffsides to a hydro electric power plant, and then a two hour hike along train tracks through the jungle to Machu Picchu Pueblo, or Agua Calientes, a town that exists solely to supply Machu Picchu tourists. As a result, this place is awful. Its the most overtouristed town I´ve seen. People hawk at you to enter their restaurants every three feet, offering 5 for 1, 6 for 1, 7 for 1 happy hours, all of which are like 1 and a half drinks poured into as many cups.
Woke up at 3 am with David, Alex (who I ran into for the second time three thousand kilometers south of Canoa, where we first met) and a Brit named Antony and went to wait for the 530 bus to the ruins (instead of a 2 hour straight uphill climb, up 1700 steps in the rain, but don´´t worry, I did it on the way down, in a downpour). The first four hundred people get to enter Huayna Piccu, or Wayna Piccu, a nearby mountain which overlooks the ruins.
Walked around the ruins which are gigantic, and amazing for the first few hours, and then climbed Wayna Picchu. This was the most intense staircase I´ve ever done. Apparantly about 3 people die every year on it, along with 20 or so broken legs and concussions. No surprise, I think three is rounded down from probably more like 15. Soaking wet, slippery, tiny stairs, going straight up a perpendicular slope, for hundreds of meters. Rediculously hard. Totally worth it for the unbelievable view of the mountains and of Machu Picchu from hundreds of meters up, and the snickers bar and cuban cigar which I shared with david on the highest peak were one of the highlights of my life.
The climb down was really tough, at least for the first hundred meters, without anything to hold onto, on steps 3 to 5 inches thick, uneven, and covered in slippery moss. Thats probably where the three people find their end.
Wandered for a bit, and it started pouring rain, so I walked back down with Alex, David was getting blisters so he took the bus. Walked down the 1700 steps which had turned into a rushing river or large stream, got back soaked through and through. Good thing I only brought one pair of pants.

Hit the hot baths which didn´t compare to Banos, but were relaxing afterwards, and now I´m in an internet cafe. Back to Cuzco on the 9 am tomorrow. Toodle oo!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Buses...buses...buses...Cusco!

Had a great time my last few days in Mancora. Chilled on the beach, got a little tipsy, chilled with the gang.
Left on a 2030bus to Lima with David, Jessica, and Sara. The bus was fine, no robberies, but really shitty food, and a nonstop crying baby which I swear I would have strangled if the mother had left it unatended. It sounded like a rat drowning in cough syrup, it was fricking horrible. 18 hours later got to Lima.

Lima is a dirty, dangerous city, surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of dirty, dangerous desert. The touristy area, Miraflores, has a beautiful park filled with flowers, surrounded very closely by obnoxious and overpriced tourist restaurants, surrounded by dirty, dangerous city. This place fricking sucks. We spent one day, because we were too late to get a direct bus. Hit the 1500bus afterwards to Cusco.

This bus was way better. More comfy, one baby, but way more chill. Still horrible food, and a filthy bathroom, and a slight sewage smell for a couple hours, but wide seats. 100 soles for 20 hours, about 35 US. (2.80 soles to the dollar) After getting through the vengeful and depressing Lima desert we entered beautiful highlands in the sacred valley surrounding Cusco, filled with trees and lush growth. Really pretty. Much nicer then Lima. Spending the night in a hotel called Yanapay, which gives its proceeds to local orphans, and then off to Machu Piccu tomorrow!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thanksgiving in Macas with the Peace Corps, Jungle, Census, Mancora

In an internet cafe in Mancora, Peru, so this is just the basics.

Made it to Macas after Puyo via bus, and sat down to lunch with David, an American I´ve been traveling with. Called my buddies in the peace corps, and they were just sitting down to thanksgiving dinner! So we scarfed down a delicious 2 dollar almuerzos (Soup, roast chicken, rice, papas, salad) and catch a taxi out to the Cabanas de Valle where the peace corps was staying. Had an amazing thanksgiving dinner, with turkey and all the goodies, sweet potatoes carried down from the highlands and canned cranberry sauce from the usa. Even homemade pineapple wine and chicha, a local drink made from fermented, chewed up Yuca (this was actually chewed up by a peace corps volunteer). I managed to eat again, david was too full. Oh, and pie.
Partied all nights with the corps, was a great time. Heavy drinking, swimming and chickenfights in the pool during a rainforest thunderstorm, flip cup, pong, lots of dancing, even a cuban cigar to top the night off.

The next day we went whitewater rafting through the rainforest, this was amazing, no rapids too crazy, the guides said they were 3s and 4s, but they were really 2s and 3s. An amazing time nonetheless. beautiful views of tree covered cliffs along the river, and plenty of birds and a bit of swimming.

The next day (saturday) we did an epic Jungle expedition. With 3 peace corps and me and David we hiked deep into Shwar indian territory with a local guide named Darwin to an amazing waterfall deep in the jungle, where Shamans take people who are hallucinating on Ajuahuasca to stand under the water and have their souls cleansed. This was amazing. Even without crazy jungle vine cooked hallucinogens, it was an amazing experience.
Next we took a bus to another area and then hiked an hour and a half through thick jungle along a path made of cut up logs to the riverside, and then sort of bushwhacked along the river for a half hour until we reached a gaping maw in the side of a cliff. Darwin had 2 flashlights, one of which didn´t work great, for the five of us, but still we clambered down slippery mud covered rocks into this cavern, squeezed through some holes, and for at least an hour walked deep into the bowels of the earth, through trickling water that ranged from ankle to waist deep. Nocturnal birds freaked out from the lights overhead, bats passed by, and we saw crazy crabs and other stuff. It was unbelievable. At the end we swam through a pool and climbed up alongside a pitchblack underground waterfall, but then we had to turn back before dark.
We were too late, and it got dark on the way back, but we got back fine and exhausted and muddy, after more then twelve miles of hiking, we passed out.

The next day was the census, meaning its illegal to walk on the street during the day, and people can be randomly picked up and arrested, and hostels are closed. I don´t know how other travellers didn´t get screwed by this, but fortunately our peace corps buddies hooked us up, and we spent all day lounger in Lilah´s apartment in Macas, drinking lightly and cooking up delicious fajitas, and taking it easy.

That night we caught a midnight bus to Cuenca with Brian, another peace corps friend, and spent the day in the city, a beautiful colonial town, but with not a whole lot going on. Lots of Schwarma restaurants, and I had a delicious Bandeja Paisa in a Colombian restaurant (look it up if you don´t know) and smoked a little hookah.

Decided to hit Peru, still with Brian, now joined by Isabella, a Danish girl who we met in the Colombian restaurant. And hour before we left, we grabbed some Schwarma, and ran into two Canadian girls who didn´t know what they were doing. We told them they should come to Peru with us, and that they had 20 minutes to pack and 40 to get to the Bus. They debated and then rushed off, and as the bus was leaving the station and we thought they were no shows I saw them looking lost in the terminal, and we held the bus and caught them up, and so from one, to a group of five, we set off for Peru.

The night bus to Peru was no problem. Direct to Mancora, switching to a Cifa bus from a Pullman Sucre before the border. Exit Visas were slow, but Entry visas were quick. The girls I was with were really dumb and gave random guys their passports, and should have been scammed for money, but our bus driver turned out to be a good guy and came and laid down the law, and we all passed into Peru without a hitch.

Hit Mancora at 5am and passed out immidiatly in a hostel called the Guacamayo. Next day went to the beach, swam, relaxed, had delicious food, bought another bathing suit because I left my last one in Banos, and just chilled.
Annoying to have to change currencty, its about 2.80 soles to the dollar here, but everythings cheap and Mancora is an expensive town, so this trip should be reasonable.
Getting lots of sun, made a delcious meat in my hostel from fresh tuna steaks caught that morning, eggplant tomatoes onions and green peppers from the market, and rice and watermelon for dessert. Our hostel owners ate with us, really nice people who have adopted about 20 street dogs which are now really friend and play with the guests and act as security around the hostel.

Mancora´s nice, but a little dangerous at night and all the tuk-tuk drivers (no taxis, just moto tuk tuks) try to sell you cocaine, which I have no interest in and would prefer not to be hassled about. Lots of cool parties at night though and a beautiful beach with warm water, and tons of sun. It´s summer here year rond. Nice place but I couldn´t stay here for too long, theres times when I love it an other times when the vibe just wierds me out. If I had more time I might do a couple more sun drenched days in the hammock and on the beach though, c├ęst la vie.

Tonight taking an 8:30 PM bus direct to Lima, about 18 hours, should get there in the afternoon tomorrow, then I´m off to Cusco. Still with David and the Canadians, Isabella might rejoin us later in Cusco. Trying to get to Machu Pichu!