E-mail Update - 2006-07-22

The Ugliest Dog Ever

Hey from Peru,

To pick up from the last email Nina had left & I was now on my own in Arequipa. She left Thursday July 13. The rest of the days in Arequipa were mostly uneventful with me waiting & trying to get on a one day hike to Chachani. I did not accomplish this in the end as I guess no one else wanted to do this. I was close once even having all my gear & supplies bought & ready, but the other participant backed out. Other than that I got to know some great people at my dorm, emailed the messages I sent to the group & individuals & probably most importantly planned the rest of my trip for Peru. I was also about to relax a little & catch up on some much needed sleep. Friday morning I visited the local Casa de Moral & walked around the city. I even found a nice park but for some reason it was locked up. I also went out with the people from my dorm on Friday night. They were a nice group & fun to talk to, but we didn't stay out very late.

There was one exception to the lack of events which was Saturday. On that day I got up early to go to the Petroglyphs (drawings carved into rock).
This required some effort & dedication as the bus ride there was 3 hours & then it was a 20 minute cab ride. Both of these I had to do 2 times for the trip there & back. I was lucky on the bus ride there because after a nap for the first 2 hours I woke up & started 'talking' (as much as you can when you speak different languages). He told me that I needed to get off in a few minutes & told me when we got there. Otherwise I would not have known, I though it was the last stop for the bus, which it wasn't.
As the person who had went the day before described it, at first it was like hide & seek petroglyphs! After a while though you truly do see them everywhere. After about an hour they all kinda start to look the same & the effects of the sun started to kick in, so I headed back. I had also made a deal with the driver to wait for me for an hour (costing me about $5 USD total for the wait & ride). Once back in Corire I bought a ticket for the '12:10' bus which I think left at about 1pm. The bus ride back was so great. I met this Peruvian guy who spoke absolutely no English, but who was intent on having a conversation. During the ride back I showed him every personal item I had including my family pictures, driver's license & even all my books. We used my Spanish book to have what would normally amount to about a 5 minute conversation, in the first hour of the bus ride. I learned a lot about him as well. We even taught each other how to say all the letters in the alphabet & some other words.
After 1/2 the ride back we fell asleep. I awoke a little scared as the guy next to me (who I had also talked to a lot & who had seen my personal
belongings) had a hold of my arm. It took me a few dazed seconds to realize that he was tying a small wrist band onto my arm. However, as I was leaving I realized it was not just any cloth wrist band, it was his own personal bracelet & he had a tan line from wearing it so it obviously meant something to him. It was such a nice gesture & in part started to restore my faith in the Peruvian people. Even now it is the only wrist band on my left arm, all the ones Sayoko made for me are on my right. It was something that meant a lot to me. If I had not been so out of it when I woke up (I slept really deeply for that hour), I would have given him one of my bracelets. I really regret not doing that, but I just didn't think about it because it all happened relatively quickly.

On Monday I tried for the last time to get to Chachani. After I knew that it would not happen I booked my bus ticket to Nazca. I left at 9pm at night, which was ok with the exception that I did not have my laundry. It was to have been done by 5pm, but when I went there then they said come back around 6pm. When I did the store was closed. After waiting at the store until around 6:30 I went back to my hostel to call them. They would call the LAN line (at the closed store), but no the other line. They told me to go to a local phone place to call them. When I did that I was not able to explain what I wanted properly. The people kept being helpful enough to point to the store (yeah I knew where that was already thanks).
I even got desperate enough after spending 1.5 hours on this that near 7pm I went to the police station (again they wanted to walk to the store), so I told them no thanks. My last (and best) thought was to go to the only other place for help I could think of. Once at Colca Trek (where Nina had did 2 tours & myself one, plus checking daily for Chachani) they called immediately to the owner's cell phone, told him that I had to leave at 7:30 & even chewed him out for being so late. Maybe we paid more for our Colca Canyon trek than other people did. However, not only did they call, but they stayed with me at the store 15 minutes past closing to wait for the guy who got there at 7:15 to make sure things were ok. It was so cool of them, I will not forget it, they really helped me out. I had my clothes by 7:25 & was able to get supper before I had to get the taxi to the bus terminal.

At the bus terminal I decided that all the nice Peruvian people were on the buses. Colca Trek had called for a ticket for the bus for me, but was not able to send someone for it, so I had to get there at 9pm to get everything done for the 10pm bus. Once there I had a little trouble figuring out the right place to be, but another nice Peruvian man helped me out getting the ticket, getting a seat by myself & even saved me money. I learned that if you have a bus ticket you don't have to pay for the baño (toilet). He even helped me get on the 9pm bus so that I didn't have to wait & told me where I could wait in this nice lounge. The bus itself was SO NICE!! It was a 'Royal Class' bus which meant the first stop would be in Nazca & that it had a toilet. This is opposed to the normal bus which have no toilet stops, but about 200 stops along the way to pickup & drop off people. The seats also almost folded back to beds & were huge, they even had foot rests. I felt like I was some kind of rock star in comparison to the cheap buses I had taken to this point. It also saved me about $10 because I got my own ticket, that must be what the agency makes on it because it was 30 sol less than she told me it would be. The ride was great & I slept most of the way after talking to the nice Peruvian man, who had actually spent a year in Milwaukee (about 3 to 4 hours from where I live & even in the same state). He was a civil engineer & he told me what things to avoid & the nice places to go. He even made sure I got off at the right stop. Once again my faith in the Peruvian people was starting to gain in strength.

In Nazca I was basically attacked by people for hotels & flights over the lines. I had booked my hotel so I just went that way. One guy even walked with me which at 6am in the morning was kinda nice in a way. I was going to book the flight at the hotel (which was a beautiful place, although the dorms were hidden out back), but when I asked about the price it went from 40 to 50 to 60 dollars USD. That is not the type of bargaining that makes me want to buy there. So despite my best efforts I did not do business with them. I talked to several other people before eventually going with this independent tour guide guy, who said he was with a tour place in the lonely planet, but was obviously lying. One of the reasons I went with him was that he didn't require the money up front (meaning he could just walk off with my money & I would have nothing).
The other reason was that I was able to get the flights for $50 USD with the tax waived, which was the best deal I could find. I had to employ the famous technique of getting up & walking away while saying maybe I will just go tomorrow. Works every time ;)

After watching the lines video we were told it was going to be 2 hours before the flight & that we could wait or go to the cemetery. I know this is a sales ploy, but I wanted to go to the cemetery anyways so I went. It was interesting, but several things shocked me. #1 - I had never had to pay to go to a cemetery before #2 - There were bones & cloth lying many places on the ground #3 - Every tomb had been dug up at some point & robbed #4 - The tomb raids had happened about 80 years ago, by the ancestors of the very people buried there. #5 - The people giving the tour seemed to think it was no big deal. #6 - You see the actual dead people in full view, there is no glass or protections. Yes there is a rope but you could just go touch people if you wanted.

As I would visit many museums & other places I would realize that the people here have a different view of the dead & ancestors that I do. It seems that they don't really care much as long as they can make money off of it. Every museum had mummies & it seems like they were more there for the draw than the historical value.

Either way after that I went back to the airport & waited another hour before getting my flight around 1pm (I left the hotel for the flight at 8am). In Peru you wait for things, you have no choice. The flight over the lines was about what I expected. It was nothing amazing, in fact some of the lines I didn't even see. I enjoyed it, but it was not worth the money. I did attach one of the images so that you can see what they looked like from the sky, it is the hummingbird (picture attached is called Nazca). The flight itself was cool because I had never been in a plane that small & it moves so fast. We also saw a condor which was pretty cool & our pilot chased it for about a minute. The landing was also pretty sweet & even though I wasn't motion sick, I was not exactly hungry.

The next morning I got up early & got the bus to Ica. I was staying in Huaccachina, which is this oasis in the middle of sand dunes. It really is just buildings around a lake & is the nicest small city I have been in in Peru (Cuzco being the nicest big city). After using the Internet there I came back & got in on the dune buggy & sand boarding trip. I was lucky getting to sit in the front & seeing everything come towards us. Our driver was a little crazy & did some nice stunts which made it cool too.
The sand boarding here was different than I had done in New Zealand which was more like sand body boarding. Here is was more like snowboarding. I did pretty well at this, but am not going pro anytime soon :) I typically went faster than everyone else, of course I usually had more spectacular wipeouts too! After that trip I went into Ica to see the city & museum (of course seeing the mummies), but I also saw abnormally shaped heads which were quite interesting. They would use materials to form the heads to look like could only remind me of the coneheads movie people. They were not that high though. Before going into the museum I saw the ugliest dog ever (picture attached called uglydog).

The next day I went to Pisco. I arrived to late to do the tours for that day bug got signed up for the next day. I used the rest of the day to walk to ocean which was a few kilometers away, walk on the jetty which was to be at least 1 km long, Internet, explore Plaza de Armas (every providential capital city has one) & read.

The next day I woken up by the ringing of a really loud bell, buses honking & dogs barking, which in Peru means it 6AM I guess. The tour I did that day was in 2 parts. The first part was by speed boat & went to the islands around Pisco. There we saw thousands of birds, islands that were white with guano (bird poo), penguins, seals & on the way back we even saw dolphins! It was quite the animal adventure. After a chance to buy some food we went on the second part of the tour which was around the reserve. It was more sign seeing intense. For one part you go to this tower where you can see the flamingos (the problem is that they are so far away they look like black dots). After that we went to the Cathedral, which is on the ocean is very beautiful (picture attached called brockcathedral). After that we were taken to a restaurant where the guide told us we should eat, but I walked around for a little while to explore the area. Then we were taken back to Pisco. I tried to go to the supermarket but was unable to because it was closed, just like the day before & I guess it had been the only one in town (or at least the only one I could find).

Today I got up, paid the bill for the hotel realizing that I at that point was out of money. Went to the ATM which gave me 100 Sol notes. Something that is very different that at home is change. A hundred Sol bill could just as well be a worth $10,000 Sol because no one will have change for it. Today at the Internet Cafe I had a 8 Sol bill & tried to pay with a 10 Sol note, they asked if I could give them the 8 Sol exactly in coin.
it is really that bad. A 50 Sol note can be used in a few places. I was able to get someone to give me change for one of the 100 Sol notes. I have no idea how I am going to get change from the other 2. Usually you have to go to like big supermarket or bank, but there are none of those where I am at.

Anyways back to today. I took a taxi to the highway, then took a bus for 1 hour, after that I took a mini bus for 10 minutes to a collectivo (think station wagon) for the last 30 kilometers. That is how you get to a city called Lunahuana. Then to get to the place I really wanted which is called Incawsi (which is old Inca ruins), I took another minibus for about 10 minutes. The cool thing is that the people were really helpful even though I speak only Pokito Enspañol (a little Spanish). They even would tell me the prices I should pay on the next one. After leaving my big bags in Lunahuana & making it to Incawasi I walked up this road that I thought would lead to the ruins. You really don't know since there are no markings. I picked the right road & although I thought I would be along at first there was a guy there who charged 5 Sol for entrance & even sold guides for 5 more Sol, which I bought :) The site itself was basically crumbled stone. Was I really enjoyed was walking up the mountain behind the site. From there I was able to get such a nice view of the site, which as 3 different areas & the surrounding area. I did not climb to the summit because as I went it turned to a slippery pea gravel. This was ok for going up, but for coming down made it very tough. The walk down was much tougher than the walk up, I was happy that I didn't go the whole way. Either way after that I came back to the small city here, found the one Internet cafe & that brings me to now!

Here is a different type of place than I have ever traveled before. I had trouble getting used to the pollution, the people's constant selling, the language, the lack of other travelers in the places I sleep & feeling that I was being constantly pushed into tours all the time. However, in the scheme of world problems these are pretty good 'problems' to be dealing with ;) Today I feel like I finally found my traveling groove & it feels good!! I am starting to understand some very very basic Spanish which is enough to get food & where I need to go. It is the worst Spanish ever spoken I am sure but it gets the job done. I have been doing individual travel at least by bus & other than yesterday's tour & Nazca where a boat & plane were required I have been independent. Sometimes I am still completely lost, but I am even starting to recognize what people are trying to tell me once in a while. I really enjoyed today, it was also nice to be around a small city it just feels so much easier. Plus I didn't have people selling me from every direction. I also think that I am a completely spoiled traveler who has been to so many amazing things while traveling 'easy', that traveling hard is something which is difficult to get accustomed with. Well that is exactly what's on my mind, maybe you understand, maybe you don't, either way its all good!

There are so many other small stories & things I left out, but I didn't want to make this one of those LONG emails that some people write, I would never do that ;)

Hope you enjoyed this message. Let me know if you have questions about any of this. If you want off the list let me know, although I have added more people who asked on that removed people in the past couple months ;)

Love & Peace