Onward to Lima and off to Arequipa - “la ciudad blanca”
Geez, it seems like I can’t even write in English anymore….I see typos in my writing and I’d like to think it’s the mix of speaking Spanish and English and then forgetting everything that I’m doing…Oh well, leave it to Marleigh to find my spelling errors.
So, when I last wrote…we were in the lovely coastal town of Huanchaco. I think we left Huanchaco on March 22nd, early in the morning, catching a local taxi to Trujillo. Waited for the 8:30 am Linea bus departure from Trujillo to Lima. And off we went, for another V-E-R-Y, V-E-R-Y, V-E-R-Y long bus ride….we stopped somewhere for lunch…Everyone on the bus had these huge almuerzos…typical Peruvian meals of soups, chicken, rice, gravy, bottles of wine and beer…we had bananas, crackers and ice-cream. Got back on the bus and off we went for another upteen hours. We arrived at the edge of Lima at about 5:00 pm and thought to ourselves that we were making great time…until we realized that the stand-still traffic would mean it took us another hour to get to the Linea bus station.
Arrived at the Linea
Inka ColaOur (NOT) favorite new drink -- drink of the Peruvians (no wonder there are so many dentists in Peru!
bus station and a taxi driver with a Linea shirt came up to us and assumed we needed a taxi. He took our bags (gulp)…we asked him how much to get to where we needed to go (Hostal Roda in the Miraflores district) and well, took another leap of faith in having him take us there. We arrived at the hostal at about 7:00 pm, rang the bell and a young guy came down to greet us (Tino). He helped us lug our 275 lbs of luggage up two full flights of stairs and showed us to our room. Two sets of bunk beds and a single, with a bathroom across the hall….it’ll do. Unloaded, paid for the first night and set off in the dark to find some food, now approaching 8:00 pm. We went around the block, asked someone about finding pizza and decided that we could call for delivery (wow - what a concept!). So we returned back to the hostel, rang the bell, and asked to use the phone. But you see, nothing is easy…our phone has a SIM card and we purchased minutes in Ecuador, but it doesn’t seem to work in Peru. The guy,
Tino said that for us to use the phone, we would have to go buy a ‘tarjeta’…o.k. - where do we do that (meanwhile, hungry, tired, hungry, tired, hot…hot…hot). Finally, the hostel manager took a bit of pity on us and called the local dominoes for a cheese pizza and garlic bread delivery. Wow - you’d of thought we’d gone to heaven!
Fell asleep in the sweltering heat with the ‘blap-blap-blap’ of the fan. Awoke, had a quick shower and then the typical Peruvian breakfast of powdered coffee with condensed milk, hard (and hollow) bread, yellowed margarine and jam. It’ll do…after that, we ventured out into the Miraflores district to see what we could find and do. First, we dropped off a few kilos of laundry a few blocks up the road. Of course at every street corner was massive amounts of traffic and this particular district no traffic lights…so just getting the dirty sack of laundry to the lavandaria takes a bit of courage.
After that, we wandered to the ‘Plaza Vea’ (OMG - it’s like the Peruvian version of a Wal-mart/COSTCO combined…I am sure that sounds quite sacrilege, but to us, it was like we’d gone
to the holy land…I mean so much food of different variety at very competitive prices… where to start…what to do…what to get to eat….) and first looked at some inexpensive ‘maletines’ (soft suitcases). From there we purchased a bit of food for the day and of course our daily allotment (2L) of ‘agua sin gas’. From there we headed toward LARCOMAR which is this mall by the ocean with shops and a ‘museo de oro’. Again, at each block, in order to cross, it was a leap of faith and also watching what the locals did (or in some cases didn’t do). “Ready-set- DON’T GO!!!...” “Ready - set - GO-O-O!!! What an art form it is to navigate the insanely busy traffic.
We wandered into some shops here and there and eyed all of the wonderful restaurants (guess we’d been feeling quite a bit food deprived as we all were oogling at all the different food in the restaurants). Found a very interesting shop that specialized in a particular Peruvian design called “cuy-art.com”. For those of you who have travelled to Peru, you will probably find it quite humorous.
After about 40-minutes of walking, dodging traffic and ambling
in and out of shops, we finally arrived at the OCEAN and at LARCOMAR. Heck, might as well have been in Los Angeles with the huge high rise hotels. Of course the girls were in heaven with all of the shops and then OMG, you won’t believe what we saw…are you ready? A STARBUCKS! Okay, big woop you way…you guys must have really lost your marbles (well, that’s another issue), but indeed it was quite refreshing to find something familiar and to find a place that has good coffee, tea and snacks…but we held steadfast and didn’t buy anything (we just inhaled).
The girls had pizza lunch and Andy and I found a veggie stir-fry combo and we began our long walk back. About ½ way back to the hostel, we found the row of artesanias and wandered throughout the neverending stalls of Peruvian crafts and clothing asking “Cuanto cuesta”? And with each response of a price “Un descuento para Uds” We were on a particular mission to find a maletin, which is a soft duffle, suitcase…First price offered up at one shop was 65 soles (a little over $23 USD), the next stand was 60 soles, the next
stand offered up large maletines at 55 soles, then we found a stall selling them for 50 soles….wandered to another Artensania ‘mall’ and began again…45 soles…then 40 soles….then a stand selling them for 35 soles (WOW!!)….we almost purchased but decided to look just a bit more…found a woman with maletines for 30 soles and she then said “un descuento para UDs…25 soles”… and SOLD for 25 soles (under $9) and handmade bag from the region of Puno.
As we were walking back from the plaza de artenasenias, Ansley kept waving her hands around and sure enough, a taxi driver cut across 4 lanes of traffic and stopped for us. YIKES!!! And then, it happened again. Geez Ansley, stopping waving your hands around and causing a traffic jam!! Returned to the hotel and decided to cook dinner, so Andy and I wandered back to Plaza Vea (but first returned to the lavandaria to pick up our clean and folded clothing (ah - one could get used to that) to purchase some groceries. Had a lovely meal of pasta with delicious fresh parmesan cheese, some fresh bread and sweet carrots. Life is good when there is food…
sticky night followed by a delightful Peruvian breakfast (this time Tino prepared eggs for us). We packed our bags - actually repacked our bags, pulling out all the un-necessary items and putting them into two other duffles (all the purchases we made in Ecuador, including the girls’ school uniforms). We wrote up an itemized list of what was in there and handed that over to Tino for secure storage (up in the 3rd floor, in his room in a cupboard…we sure hope that’s secure, I guess we’ll find out).
Took a walk to Plaza Vea to purchase some goodies for our next adventure - an airplane to Arequipa….then bumped our <200 lbs of gear down two flights of stairs and Tino helped us find a taxi to the Lima airport. Four passed us by before one stopped and agreed to take us for 40 soles - apparently the airport regulations have changed and so lots of taxi drivers aren’t going there.
The Lima airport is incredibly clean, modern, efficient and international. Checked our bags, paid a hefty airport tax (84 soles) went through security where Andy had forgotten he had stashed away a pen knife and screwdriver (adios
- a la basurera), and after a bit of waiting onto the Peruvian Airlines plane to Arequipa.
The flight was just over 1-hour long and we were served both a beverage and a snack. We purchased our tickets through Peruvian Airlines and highly recommend them (we waited until we were in Peru, but I think that it is possible to purchase them online from other areas). We arrived at the Arequipa airport, small and relatively tranquil, at about 5:00 pm and caught our first glimpse of the volcanoes surrounding Arequipa. Found a grumpy taxi driver to take us to our hostel (La Casa de Jael). He proceeded to tell us how bad and how unsafe the hostel was and the girls’ ears perked up. S-s-s-h…he grudgingly left us at the hostel, on the opposite side of the street, where we had to cross busy, busy, wall-to-wall traffic with our gear. (nice….muchas gracias)
Welcome to Arequipa, while called “La Ciudad Blanca” due to the color/type of stone used to construct the (older) buildings, it is also land of the illegal taxis, land of pickpocketing, land of incredible city growth….I suppose with the intense poverty in Peru and probably resentment
of all these gringos and extranjeros coming in with money…there’s incessant theft and so -called taxi drivers that aren’t registered. They literally take you for a ride and take all your money…so we are needing to be incredibly vigilant with where we are, when we are where we are, and what we keep on our person as we are out and about. I guess one gets used to this kind of living, but I find it stressful (already!).
Up 2-flights of stairs to a fairly spacious room with a private bathroom - ah, the simple pleasures of life. We paid 100 soles for the night (which includes Peruvian breakfast), got a map and the owner explained where was and where WAS NOT safe to go. Off we went on the pedestrian street, Mercaders, in search of food (seems like we do that a lot!). No problema! Restaurants, cafes, shops all over the place. Too much to decide! We settled on a cheap pizza place (seems like we do that a lot), then went to a nearby supermercado. Itsy bitsy aisles packed with stuff and ubber-packed with people. Back to the hotel to relax and for all you CACO folks
- back to the world of CACO school work for the girls.
Once again, for breakfast, powdery coffee, hard bread, Sunny D sort of juice and egg/omelette. Andy and I (me especially) noticed this very weird sensation in our mouths…tingling and for me sort of cold sores and also very sore/swolled lymph nodes…not sure if it is something weird in the food (like coloring, preservatives, spices in the cookies), something weird in the supposed purified water - it seems very hard with lots of minerals, or the air pollution, or some combination of all). Very odd and of course a bit disconcerting.
After breakfast, we walked to Hostal Bhelan, where the owner had an apartment for us to look at, for 50 soles/night….it was….it was…it was…interesting, but we decided it worth our while to keep looking and see what else might serve our needs. We wandered all around the Plaza de Armas, stopped into the University inquiring about Spanish lessons, then visited Traveller Not Tourist (TNT), the organization that we’ll be volunteering with. We had purchased a local paper, to see what short-term rentals might be available, but of course being extranjeros and not knowing where is ‘safe’
and where is close-in and not having a workable phone makes it just a little difficult to navigate in this city of over 1 million.
So, very kindly at TNT they helped us look, made phone calls, offered up suggestions. We decided to some back later, when Carmen (from TNT) would help us out more - and we decided to see whether the hostal might give us un descuento as well. Initially, when I asked the hostel manager, she said that she could give us the room long term, sin desayuno, for 60 soles/day (I had told her that the apartment we looked at was for 50 soles and asked if she could offer us that price). We were contemplating our next move when the owner gracious said she would do us a special favor and offered us up the room for 50 soles/night (sin desayuno). A million and one thanks and then off we went back to TNT.
Carmen (with TNT) spent the next few hours taking us around first to a homestay (which would have been fabulous but at the last minute became unavailable) and then to several different apartments. The first one was quite a
bit more money, was quite lavish, but had absolutely nothing (like no beds, no refrig, oven, cooking ware). The landlady wanted us to pay for her to purchase the beds and essentials. Uh….’no gracias’ and on to the next…which not only didn’t have anything in it, was bare concrete and up 3 floors of spiral staircase…Uh…’no gracias’. Then Carmen remembered another place that other volunteers had used, so we went to see that one…very, very nice and reasonably priced, but they wanted a full security deposit, along with the month rent. It is difficult to get money out of our account, there is a 400 soles limit ($143 USD) per transaction per card, along with a 7.5 soles fee. So, if we tried daily to get what we needed, we wouldn’t be able to buy food or other essentials, plus I think our bank might flag so much activity. So - we declined that one and have decided, at least for the time being (we are paying on a weekly basis) to stay in La Casa de Jael. We sort of have access to the kitchen and the utencils, but it is a tricky proposition at best. There is a
pot to boil water for pasta and there are a few bowls for cereal, but the kitchen is used by staff and for them to make the breakfasts for other guests…and there is no easy way to wash dishes, except in the bathroom sink…nonetheless it is all do-able.
The following day, we were to go back to TNT for our orientation (volunteer work starts on Monday, March 29, 2010), but in the morning we visited the Museo Santuarios Andinos - UCSM. It is a museum dedicated to theartefacts and human sacrifies from the Incas, over 550 years ago. The huge draw is “Juanita”, the beautiful girl of Ampato, discovered in 1995 high up on Mt. Ambato (over 20,000 feet). During our visit, she was not there, but another sacrificied girl/woman “Sarita” was on display. The story, as told in a National Geographic documentary, and as relayed by our guide, seems so horrifically barbaric. In all, to date over 18 sacrified children (mostly girls between the ages of 12-14) have been found, well preserved, high in the regional mountains. The Incas chose the most beautiful children to sacrifice to Dios and prepared them for their afterlife. They trekked high into the mountains, without any kind of special gear (just special shoes to keep their feet warm). Then, after placing the child in the correct position and having them drink the traditional alcoholic drink of Chiche, the sacerdote (priest) delivered a blow to her head, causing her death. We call it tragic and indeed so - we would never, evr consider the possibilities of doing such a thing to our youth - yet they considered it an honor. Wow…tragedy versus honor...I don't know how to reconcile such polar opposite views of the world...maybe it's not meant to be reconciled…
After that we had some lunch, wandered in and out of artenasenia shops (there are a lot!) and then returned to TNT. Chatted about the volunteer program at the school, borrowed a book about teaching English, looked at some photos of the school where we will be volunteering (Flora Tristan), discussed the idea of up an ‘intercambio’ (English/Spanish) and also spoke with them about some different tours, then worked our way back to our hostel.
On Saturday, after breakfast (we’re on our own now), we went back to TNT, returned our book and worked on settling up a tour of the city and surroundings for the afternoon. We hired a reliable taxi driver to take us to a number of different destinations. Eduardo took us around for over 3-hours and we could see all the new development (I guess you can call I that, but it is rather chaotic) on the fringes of Arequipa.
Sunday, the traditional day of rest, brought a bit of tranquility to the city. We walked around and realized that many shops were closed and there was just a lot less activity in the streets…however, on the other hand with the upcoming Semana Santa (Holy Week) there were so many people selling ‘Jesus on the cross’ and reeds made into crosses and all sorts of other religious ornamentation. We spent the day more or less relaxing and of course visiting more artesanias located in some of the oldest buildings in the city.
Monday, March 29, 2010 - our first day of volunteering….had the morning to catch up and do school work. Trying to get more questions answered about travel to Cuzco and whether and how to get a trip to Machu Picchu….lots more details to try to sort through, but hopefully we will come up with something very soon.
We met with a volunteer coordinator and we all walked several blocks to catch the bus to the barrio where the school is located. The bus is a glorified van…about 45-minutes later we were bumping along a dusty road…got off and walked in this amazing, dusty barrio…walked to the school…Marleigh asks…where is the bathroom? Um….well you see, there is no bathroom here…oh, and water….none of that either….oh-h…at about 3:10 the children start showing up and banging on the gate (quite reminiscent of the BIB)…turns out that we are short 4 volunteers, so the girls take over the “baby room” (children ages 2-5), Andy teaches English to the adults and I take a group of children who know no English. We teach for about an hour then walk down to the playground to play ball. Andy stays back at the school to work with the adults another hour. I think that the pictures tell a very good story of what the area is like….’oh me..oh my…we’re not in Oregon…we’re not in Ecuador….where is this place we have landed? How do people live day in and day out like this? Little cinder brick structures with metal or plastic roofs…they are in the danger zone of the volcano…there is dust everywhere….there are some spigots for water scattered throughout the barrio and people come with their buckets to fill up…bathrooms? Don’t know if people have toilets or not….
As I’ve managed to fill up plenty of white space again..l’ll stop here and hope to write more about this school volunteer experience as time progresses. We now have exactly 1-month left of our amazing journey…a couple of weeks here and hopefully close to 2-weeks in the Cuzco area.
We are a family that currently resides in Central Oregon, on a small farm. Shari is 48 years young and works as a Natural Resource Specialist in the field of Solid Waste (Waste Prevention, Recycling, Composting). She enjoys music, reading, outdoor activities and sustainable living. Andy is 53 years young and works as a photographer, doing both free-lance work and as a photo-tech at COSTCO. He is also a person of many trades and skills, from car repair to cooking. He is an incredible guitar player and musician. Ansley is 14, and attends Cascades Academy of Central Oregon as a ninth grade... full info
Ancient Peru was the seat of several prominent Andean civilizations, most notably that of the Incas whose empire was captured by the Spanish conquistadors in 1533. Peruvian independence was declared in 1821, and remaining Spanish forces defeated in 1...more info