Bienvenidos a Valle Frances
Friday, October 31, 2008
Bienvenidos a Valle Frances
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Dark Dolphins showing off
The fascination by our dolphin surprise was enough to make me almost forget about why we were on the boat in the first place, that was until we saw the massive Whale surface in the distance. This was the first time I had ever seen a whale that was not named Shamu at San Diego Sea World and let me tell you, Shamu pales in comparison to viewing a massive Southern Right in its natural habitat. It was as if we were paparazzi on board stalking the whales as they would surface several times before taking a deep dive and allowing us to snap the classic tale picture. Typically, a mother whale would be with the baby whale, which itself was gigantic enough to ingest a person or two. The mother would submerge and go deep to the sea floor to gather food while the baby whale would stay near the surface until the mother would come back to the surface and blow a fountain of water through its nose. We spent roughly an hour with our new whale friends before heading back inland filled with a kid-like excitement. I felt like it was my first trip to the zoo when I was 10 years old.
close up to the Southern Right Whale
The rest of our day one entailed driving around Península Valdés and seeing the many sheep and guanacos (similar to antelope or deer) roam the land until we reached Punta Cantor on the far east side of the Peninsula right on the coast. There we spotted a small colony of Magellanic Penguins and a large colony of Elephant Seals. Since the day two plan was to go see the largest concentration of Magellanic Penguins, we skipped right down to see the Elephant Seals loathe in their blubber on the beach. These animals were comical, all they do is lay their and make every kind of flatulent noise you can dream of and move around about 10 meters every 10 minutes. It appeared as if it was so difficult to move that they can only go so far at once before loathing some more and squeezing out a few more flatulent noises. The elephant seals provided the perfect ending to a perfect day. We then drove our little Fiat back down the coast to Trelew to our hotel, where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kids once stayed as a side note. Something we took note of while driving in Patagonia is how much open space and nothingness there is. The sky is absolutely incredible here and provides some jaw-dropping sunsets and sunrises.
It was an animal-filled first two days in our Patagonia experience. I now write this posting in Rio Gallegos in a 4 hour bus layover until we head west another 4 hours to El Calafate for the night before crossing into Chile tomorrow to begin the 4 day trek! We took the overnight bus to get here and were able to witness the magestic sunset in the right window last night and woke up in time to cock the head to the left to see the sunrise light the sky once again. Running off little sleep, I now remember what it feels like to be traveling again... by the way what is today anyways?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
For those who don´t know much about the short-lived Incan Empire, here´s the skinny version. They were a very powerful empire that spread from today northern Chile, parts of Bolivia and almost all of Peru. Their engineering feats are still a wonder. Perhaps the most amazing characteristic of this empire was how great of engineers they were. When you are in the presence of any Incan ruin, be it Machu Picchu or another, you can witness how much damned time they must have spent building these perfect walls made of stone. Machu Picchu was jaw dropping to see the engineering feat. Studies show that about 60% of the construction done here was done subterranean to preserve the foundation of this site, largely why all of us tourists are still able to witness it today still standing. The location of this site is on the cusp of the Peruvian Amazon, lying to the east, and the Peruvian Andes, to the southwest. Large rainfalls and lush greenery surround this setting. Machu Picchu was built in between two larger peaks, Machu Picchu mountain to the south and Wayna Picchu to the north. Wayna Picchu provides the incredible backdrop to all of the famous pictures, my brother and I also eventually climbed it to get the true overhead view of Machu Picchu river and the Urubumba river. The Urubumba river wraps around the mountain on three sides and also causes a mysterious mist to pass through during the early mornings.
bro and I in front of the main gate
hanging out with the llamas and alpacas, they still call this place home
the sepia version of Machu Picchu from the top of Wayna Picchu
The Incan empire was destroyed by the Spaniards in the 1530´s at the height of the empire, much of the death caused by the Spanish was caused by diseases brought from overseas rather than gunfire.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
The one bit of bad news that I have in this post is that I haven´t found a way to upload the mass amount of photos I´ve taken onto these internet cafe computers. It appears I will have to wait until I get back to Buenos Aires to install the CD rom onto my laptop to then down/upload these pics for your viewing. For all I can do now is to tap into every adjective to describe this atmosphere.
Our plan for the week is an all-day trip to Sacred Valley tomorrow where we will take a look at some other Incan ruins, supposedly the next best thing besides Machu Picchu. Then Tuesday we will use to explore the whole of Cusco. Wednesday we begin our journey to Machu Picchu and will stay Wednesday night in Aguas Calientes and most definitely enjoy the hot springs before our early morning ascent to Machu Picchu on Thursday. To put it bluntly, I´m fortunate and overwhelmingly excited to be here right now. Maybe its being back in altitude and the mountains that gives me that comfortable home-like feeling. As my brother said today, high altitude is good for the soul if you notice most spirtual gatherings in the world are located well above sea level, it makes sense to me. Cusco is by far much more impressive than Lima and even the Lima faithful will admit it so it is great to know we only planned two days in on the coast and four days here in the mountains. I do apologize for not having photos on these blog posts but please come back to these posts in the next week and I will have some shots on here just to give you a glimpse of how lucky we are to be here.
Well, its time to spit out the coco leaves and go enjoy a beer or two with my bro, at this altitude it may only take one sip to feel the buzz... I love the high altitude attitude.
Stay tuned for more on the Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu near the end of this week, until then... Salud!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
My experience at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires was a very ideal travel experience as I almost missed my 6am flight due to the fact I had overstayed my 90-day tourist visa by three days. I knew I would be fined, a whopping $50 pesos, which didn´ t bother me so much. I found it to be a better alternative than a $200 peso trip to Uruguay just two days before going to Peru or going to Imigrations in Buenos Aires and paying $100 pesos to renew the visa. I just hadn´t prepared to wait in an hour long line to pay my fine, which nearly cause me to miss my flight. The sprint to the gate was priceless, I always feel like I´m in the Amazing race when I´m in these situations, maybe because it feels more like a competition (fun) rather than such a stressful scenario. Needless to say, I made the flight and arrived in Lima, Peru a mere 5 hours later.
Bienvenidos a Lima, Peru!
I had a day to kill here before my brother and mom were due to arrive. So I walked along the coast in the cloudy afternoon and was strangely reminded of San Diego. For this is the first time I´ve looked out over the Pacific Ocean since last year when I was a San Diegan. Lima is a large city, with over 50 districts. We are staying in the district of Miraflores which has a slight resemblance to La Jolla, though a less developed than the multimillion dollar neighborhood of La Jolla CA. However, its enough to make me feel deja vu as I walk along this boardwalk poached on a steep cliffside. I then went to a little sports bar to watch the Vice-presidential debate, which was a bit humorous to me, I elect Sarah Palin for hockey mom representative of the year, not Vice President. Anyways, my exhaustion got the best of me as I went back to the hospedaje early and fell asleep waiting for the arrival of the rest of the fam. 3:30 am is when my mom and brother arrived as they were both delerious from a long day of travel as well, they were due to arrive at 9pm but the stories of flight delays and other mishaps provided clear explanation to my not-so worried self. It was great to see them though, now begins the family journey...
Friday, we woke up and set out to go see a Pre-Incan art museum in downtown Lima, it was $45 soles to get to downtown just to find out the museum was closed for the rest of the year. Great! What else is in downtown Lima I inquired to our taxi driver. No hay nada. Ok, well that was splendid, we made the most of it by walking every square meter of the park before returning to Miraflores for a nice lunch. Then it happened. That need for adventure that my brother and I carried throughout Europe last year came creeping back in as we saw the paragliders flying over the coast. Yep, lets do it we said without hesitation after we were told the relatively cheap price. We spent a good 20 minutes paragliding over the coast of Lima, Peru which provided the adventure the day had been missing. What an incredible feeling it is indeed to be flying over the ocean and the steep cliff faces. I´ve always wondered what it would be like to fly and even capturing a slight glimpse through paragliding provided fulfillment to that lifelong curiosity. Then, we fed our dinner appetite with a Paella dish over looking the Pacific Ocean. A frequent thought that creeps into my mind is, wow I feel like I´m in a scaled down version of San Diego, this is all too much deja vu!
Saturday, our last full day in Lima, we set out South 30 km from Lima to see the ruins of Pachamac. Pachamac is a great site of ruins and was supposedly the holy place for three different Pre-Incan civilizations leading up to the Incans. Each civilization that conquered the previous built their temple up the hill from the previous civilizations´temple ending with the Incans´Temple of the Sun. Ironically enough, the sun finally came out from hiding behind the clouds as we approached the Temple of the Sun. It´s quite a relief to have some sunshine on this beautiful coastal city of Lima before we venture further inland to Cuzco tomorrow.
Some things I´ve noticed so far about Peru in general is how overwhelmingly nice the people are here. From our taxi driver Fernando, who was my escort from the airport and has become our full-time taxi I was so impressed with him, to the guys who took us paragliding to the people in our hospedaje. They have all been such amazing hosts and would make any traveler consider moving here for their welcoming smiles alone. Another interesting thing about Lima is the over abundance of horn-honking that takes place. As our driver Fernando explains, ¨its just our culture, its what we do.¨ Many of the taxis will honk at you, especially if you look foreign like I do, just to get your attention because they all think that you need a taxi. I´ve heard some interesting beep tones, you could download them as your ringtone. As you walk the streets of Miraflores all you hear is beep beep. The nose is filled with the smell of seafood and the cool breeze from the Pacific is slightly reminiscent to that of where else... San Diego, did I say it was deja vu yet? How could I not touch on the food here? Since I moved to Argentina and tried my first taste of Peruvian cuisine I´ve been a huge fan. Wow, until I arrived in Lima and got the actual fresh ceviche, pescado saltado and other rice and seafood dishes. This is the best seafood I´ve ever consumed without a doubt.
It´s been a pleasurable few days here in Lima, especially being back by the Pacific Ocean. We now head off to our next adventure, Cuzco followed by our trail to the infamous Machu Picchu. Stay tuned for more....