April 25, 2012

Greek Busts, Peacocks, & Semana Santa

We spent the last week of our trip in Huaraz, Peru. Our visit to the Cordillera Blanca (white mountains) coincided with Semana Santa (Holy Week). Parades marched through the streets with full brass bands in tow to set the pace. Women wafted urns of burning incense while the men took turns bearing the heavy load of the altar pieces as a demonstration of their piety. The altars were made of wood and carried by ten men who stumbled methodically down the rough streets, just as Jesus would have done when he bore the cross. The Easter morning processions which began at different points throughout town united in the Plaza de Armas for the commencement ceremony. One of the altars was a giant hand painted globe which cracked open. Jesus emerged from the center of the globe amidst the flapping of pigeons escaping confinement and a cloud of fuchsia smoke. It was at that moment that the German girl standing by my side asked me if the word kitsch exists in English. "Yes, it most certainly does."

Alas, despite our disinterest in Lima, it was inevitable that we would spend at least one day wandering its streets. Taking an overnight bus which left at 10:30 pm, arriving in Lima at 5 am. Snagging a fellow gringo who was traveling alone, we figured out how to walk to Lima's Plaza de Armas from the central district. Warding off baffled taxi drivers who understandingly did not comprehend these three heavily loaded gringos who were bound and determined to save a buck (even at pre-dawn), we set off in the prescribed direction. Our search proved to be relatively. simple and fruitful because thirty minutes later the empty plaza came into view. Relaxing on a marble bench, the three of us shared cookies and fruit, swapping stories and enjoying the sunrise.

Lima's Plaza de Armas

Grimy from our overnight bus ride, we decided to find Hotel Espana to see if they would let us store our bags, hang out in their lobby, and take showers. Our flights were leaving around 1 am so we wouldn't be spending the night. Between my friendly Spanish and a sympathetic hotel manager, we were invited to spend as much time as we needed in the hotel without paying a single dime for their hospitality! The building was quirky and packed with religious baroque paintings, antique tiled floors, gaudy chandeliers, super-sized Greek busts, and a rooftop garden complete with live tortoises and peacocks. I had a new found respect for Lima after that sleepy, but pleasant day spent reading and wandering to different cafes in the central district.

After nearly four months of traveling, we were finally headed home. We have trekked nearly 250 miles, bussed approximately 5,000 miles, flown 3,000 miles worth of intercontinental flights, and boated more than 1,500 miles. Tallying our efforts is rather arbitrary, but seeing the numbers reminds me of how we managed to see so much and go so far without feeling rushed. We always managed to slow down and appreciate where we were--especially in Chile and Argentina!

So thanks to my voracious readers who were allegedly foaming at the mouth at the thought of reading my next post. Alas, this is the last post (ah hem, I have admittedly been back in the US for two weeks now) until the next trip! Adios folks!

Final Photos...

Easter Sunday Procession, Huaraz Peru

See Will standing on the rock? This was a hike that took us to a lagoon at 14,600 feet. Ooooh, altitude made it rough--I walked especially slowly to make sure I wouldn't lose my lunch--but it was worth it. Had the hike not been at altitude, it would have been a mere hop, skip, and a jump of a day hike up the mountain.

Cultivated highlands, approximately 12,000 feet

Back in Maine just in time for Bill's birthday! June figured out how to make chocolate leaves for this elegant cake.

April 6, 2012

The Great Hot Water Myth

Even the best of us need a shower on occasion. After leaving steamy Ecuador and riding on the second floor of a non ventilated bus for 8 hours along the brutally hot desert coastline, we were keen on a well recommended hostel which advertised 24/7 hot water, wifi, and free breakfast for $7 per night. The trouble one runs into is that when asking for wifi passwords or the secret to coaxing hot water from a dribbling shower head is that the staff will either a) give you a confused look and suggest that you ask someone else...until you give up... Or b) just give you a funny look and tell you that such amenities are not provided. Nonetheless, the sheets are clean, the blankets are warm, and the roof deck where breakfast is served affords fantastic views of the dramatic snow peaks. Welcome to Huaraz, home of some of the best trekking in South America!

March 31, 2012


Salt is everywhere here. It's especially potent in the warm waves, but ever present upon our lips as beads of sweat evaporate and reform without regard to day or night. Relief from the heat arrives precisely at 6 pm when dusk cloaks the vivid blue of the sky with pale colors and then blackness for exactly 12 hours. Hostels and homes alike empty as people take to the streets for the sheer pleasure of escaping the cinder block walls from which the afternoon heat is passed. Shopkeepers sit on their steps and restaurants set up tables which spill across the sidewalk into the middle of the road to accommodate the locals and tourists who come with appetites after being able to eat little thanks to the heat. The foods I do eat during the sweltering heat are usually limited to fruit juices to try and stay hydrated, and locally made ice pops made from heavy cream and fresh fruit purée.

Puerto Ayora is a clean, charming town whose inhabitants smile at their visitors. Everybody I talk to here is kind, helpful, and curious about who I am. Locals ride scooters and bikes for their short commute around town, and leave bikes unlocked and unattended at municipal bike racks around town or propped by their pedals along the sidewalk curbs. Thievery, apparently, is nearly irrelevant. I am delighted to have a week to savor this island community, salt and all.

This afternoon brought forth the most refreshing of events. All morning, clouds had been obscuring the sun, providing shade from direct sun rays, but increasing humidity. Will and I worked through the heat by reading Catching Fire (the third Hunger Games book) in its entirety with a fan pointed directly at us. I occasionally paused from our marathon to take a tepid shower to rinse away sweat and cool my skin. Without warning, the dark clouds finally gave way to a heavy downpour which instantaneously over flowed from the large gutter. We climbed from bed and walked out our open door to stand directly in the stream of cool water that poured from the leaky gutter without regard to the clothes I was wearing. I sensed that the storm would be short lived and didn't want to waste time searching for my swimsuit. The storm abated in just a couple of minutes, but it's cooling effects lasted all day. Though that didn't stop me from craving another fruit pop.

March 28, 2012

Flightless cormorant defying the odds.

This juvenile sea lion approached me as soon as I sat down near where he was wrestling with some older (and grumpier) peers.

Night Heron (must double check this with Will!)

Cerro Negro Crater

Galapagos photos....

Fur seals.

Galapagos Penguins.

Marine iguanas soaking up the heat by facing the sun.

Rayas Doradas