Peru · 7 Days · 158 Moments · September 2016

Laura's voyage in Peru

9 September 2016

My last night in Peru. I am staying at the home of Antonio and Andrea in downtown Lima. What nice people! . It's a very nice apartment on the 14th floor. I spoke with Antonio for an hour, mostly in Spanish. I have improved so much in just one week! I have all my stuff packed, and I will leave tomorrow morning. Antonio is such a gentleman and so helpful! He does not speak English, but he made sure I checked in for my flight online and called the Uber driver to help him find the apt. This has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I'm so grateful I had this opportunity, and I feel this trip has propelled me to a new level of awareness about myself, and the world. I am a stronger, more allowing, and more eager person than before. I look forward, with great anticipation, to my next adventure!
The flight back to Lima was easy. I had a window seat and got to see that Peru, west of the mountains, is a pretty desolate desert! There is nothing! And there really is no beach, at least by Lima. But that aside, this afternoon was fantastic! I arrived at 3pm and I very much wanted to attend a chocolate workshop at this place called Chocho Museo. There are tons of them in Lima. This workshop was called Bean to Bar and it was about 2 1/2 hours covering everything from the plant all the way to making the chocolate. It started at 4pm. I wasn't sure if I'd have enough time to make it, but I grabbed a taxi for 55 soles (outrageous!) and got there just in time. It was just me and this wonderful woman from Perth, Australia named Faye, or 'Figh', as she pronounces it. It was so much fun, and rivals the Maccu Pichu experience. Seriously, I loved it! I made my own chocolate-ground the beans myself. Feeling accomplished! 🤗
Absolutely fantastic adventure! I highly recommend it! I got to take home all the chocolate I made! Chocho Museo.
Making my own chocolate! I made different ones. Some with hot peppers, quinoa, Pisco, and salt. That's right!!
Making Mayan hot chocolate tea: steeped cacao shells with pepper, honey, and paprika. So good! I also made the Euro kind with cinnamon, cloves, sugar, and milk.
My chocolate paste. Had to grind beans for about 15 minutes.
Cheers! Faye and I about to taste the chocolate tea we made!
You have to cook the cacao beans to make them soft enough to crush. Choco Museo
Heading out of Cusco. The taxi kid from last night was supposed to pick me up at Mona's house at 11:40 this morning. He never showed. Argh! I waited ten minutes then Mona told me I could walk down the "stairs" (dirt, makeshift steps headed toward town) and there would be taxis down there. I walked 10 min and found one. Luckily I packed lightly. On our way now. This was not my favorite part of the trip. The city is depressed, even the dogs seem depressed. Mona was courteous enough but not really warm or engaging. She just went through the motions. The other long term tenant I met was the same way. Ah well, I had a comfortable place to sleep and a nice meal. And I got to the airport in 6 min. I had to check my bag-too heavy-but no charge. 🤗Ending on a good note. Now...I'm outta here!
Saw this walking up the street in Cusco.
Two green lights! Cusco.
As I was heading back to Mona's, I saw a museum. I had an hour left so I went in. It was only 10 soles and well worth it! It is the Temple and Convent of La Merced. They gave me a brochure "in English", but the translation is terrible so I will look it up later. It is simply beautiful! You are not allowed to take photos in the sanctuary or any of the other rooms. I think it is mostly to protect the artwork (which is immense). The beauty of this structure is gorgeous and the craftsmanship and detail of every aspect within it is remarkable. I did get some photos. You can take some, just not inside. It is very quiet and peaceful in here even though all the paintings and statues are gloomy, dark, and morose. I am not a fan of this era in history, but I do like the architecture.
There is not much traffic here, but there is much disorganization. It flows, but I don't know how! Pedestrians do not have the right of way. It's every man (or car) for himself. There was one corner, a small four way intersection, that had street lights except they were both green and/or red at he same time! As I approached the corner my light was red, yet the cross traffic was not moving either. There were a couple of taxis at the front of that line, so I thought they had stopped for passengers. No. My light turned green and then I noticed so did theirs. Keystone cop moment! It was funny as all traffic moved and tried to out-maneuver each other through the intersection. I took a picture.
One of the beautiful paths under ornate arches at the Temple and Convent of La Merced. Cusco.
There are about 3 plazas in a row and on the other side of the third one was the public market. It was an enclosed square with a partially covered roof and tons of vendors in sections: fruits/vegetables, cheese, breads, meats, grains/spices, flowers, fabric/sewing, chachkas, and restaurants. Each vendor had a small space, and there were lots of poor Incan women on the floor with a blanket selling what they had: corn, woven goods, some veggies and or nuts. It was somewhat crazy and similar to the shuk in Israel, or the photos I've seen of the open markets in Asia. The meat was fresh, and by that I mean that there was no refrigeration, and there were whole animals piled up and they would butcher them with regular saws right there in front of you! The smell! I prefer the market in Seattle, but that's just me.
This center of town has the very familiar feel of Plazas of Latin America in general with a heavy 15th century Spanish influence like Oaxaca, Puebla, and Mexico City. Unlike Lima, the people here are much more Indian looking and there are many more truly indigenous Incan people in traditional clothing and appearance. Tiny, tiny people! I feel like a giant here! They look old and weathered, but their hair is pure black no matter how old they are! How does that happen? This part of town is clean and rustic, but that quickly fades on the outskirts, and not the far outskirts. It starts just as soon as you move away from the center. Lots of dogs, but no poop anywhere! 🤔
Cusco is a big city of 500K people and very hilly with some trees but not what I would expect for 11,500ft. I had a nice breakfast of papaya, bananas, eggs, bread and jam, and tea that Mona made for me. I have a couple of hours to explore this morning so I headed down to Plaza Armes. It was a 10 min walk down a very steep hill. The streets are narrow and the sidewalks narrower. Tight squeeze! Tall buildings lined this street and it didn't look like much, but there were very nice restaurants and shops inside the walls. I say 'walls' because it doesn't look like there are entrances inside. At the bottom of the hill is the Plaza and the gigantic Church of Cusco. Unlike in Lima, you can go into this one for free. It has the typical Catholic, gorgeous, and ornate interior with towering ceilings and original religious oil paintings (too many to count) everywhere. The plaza is a square with a park in the middle and the church and other shops surrounding it. The streets are cobble stone.
Public Market Cusco.
The dark side of the Public Market. Cusco. 😳
The good side of the Public Market. Cusco.
Tight squeeze walking down the hill to Plaza Armas in Cusco.
My room in Cusco.
View from my window in Cusco.

8 September 2016

I am in Cusco now. Henry, the driver who took me from Cusco to Ollantaytambo a couple of days, was supposed to meet me at the train. We arranged it yesterday as I was leaving Casa de Wow, but he didn't show up tonight, or I didn't find him. After about 30 minutes, I finally took a taxi. The kid was sweet, but he got lost. I did get here eventually. He is a nice kid and he's going to take me to the airport tomorrow now that he knows where I'm staying. I am staying with a woman named Mona who is from Sweden. When I asked her how she ended up in Cusco, she said it was a long story. It always is. So far, I've only seen Cusco at night and I am less than impressed. Really third world. In the taxi, we did pass the central area which looks nice. I will explore that tomorrow morning before I catch my plane to Lima. Mona's place has 7 rooms and it is nicer than what I saw driving up. The view from my window is beautiful.
This train ride has been fantastic! Beautiful scenery, wonderful staff, and fun clever entertainment! There is a traditional dance from a village we passed that one of the stewards performed in costume. He danced up and down the aisle. Suddenly he stopped and pulled me up to dance! Enzo took photos and will email them to me. It was funny and fun! Then the staff did a fashion show for us, modeling traditional clothing of 100% baby alpaca. This was really fun! At first we joked among ourselves that this was the Peruvian version of Fashion Week, but it was really good! Each piece was more beautiful than the last. I didn't see any of them in the open air markets. Now they are selling the pieces, duty free. There was a beautiful black coat with red collar and cuffs, that I loved. It is also reversible! Now it's a red coat with black trim. Just gorgeous! I saw a similar coat in a retail store in Lima. $600. Sigh. I asked about the price of this one for fun. $285. I bought it for myself!!!!
Traditional dance performance on train. Fun and funny!
Somewhere between Aguas Calientes and Cusco.
I made it to the train in plenty of time. In fact, the timing has been perfect this entire trip. I am on the train now traveling directly to Cusco. It is a 4 1/2 hour trip. I purposely left at 3:30pm so that I could see the Sacred Valley, which we travel through, in the day. I am sitting next to a great young man from Brazil named Enzo. It is easier for him to speak in English than Spanish. Interesting, huh? They served us tea and a nice little snack of quinoa pizza, apple sauce, these little tomato things and a traditional cookie from Cusco. I spoke with the steward in Spanish, and he told me I spoke very well. That was completely unsolicited!! I feel great about that! I didn't catch the name of the tomatoes, but the steward said they're like gooseberries. They have a tomato/crabapple flavor and the texture of the little berries I ate off a bush in NYC once. David will remember. The cookie is like a rich butter cookie. Very good.
Delicious little meal on Peru Rail Vista Dome on the way to Cusco.
From the hot springs you have to walk down a long street full of restaurants and every one of them wants you to come in. You are constantly invited in. As I walked down, there was a man in the distance and we smiled at each other. I don't know why-I didn't connect with anyone else. As I approached, he said hi and we started talking. Easy conversation and fun-like we knew each other. Alfred. I helped him get this couple from Guadalajara in. 👍🏼. I had been eating my carrot (from the market yesterday) while I was walking, so I wasn't hungry, but I went in anyway. I was going to order the small Special Alfred mentioned, but I suddenly saw that they served Papa al Huancaina (potatoes with cheese, milk, egg, and olive). The only reason I recognized this was because Victor (from the train and at Sun Gate) told me about it since I told him I don't eat meat. It is a traditional dish from Peru! Yum!! See how I was supposed to meet Victor, Alfred, and find the restaurant that served this? ☺️
Machu Picchu was as perfect as I had imagined. I spent 3 1/2 hours there. It was wondrous to be so high up, above the clouds even, in such a place. I walked along the Inca Bridge and climbed to the top of Sun Gate, as well as walked through the main village. It was challenging to say the least (so tired!), but it was deeply satisfying to complete what I had started. There were thousands of people milling about but I felt alone to enjoy the moment! There is no way to describe the feeling-you will just have to visit yourself! I went back to town and then headed to Aguas Calientes. No, not the town, the hot mineral waters IN the town! It seems like everything here is uphill. That's where the springs are, of course, but it was worth it. I spent an hour in the waters and my legs and feet thanked me! It was wonderful!!
Center square of Aguas Calientes.
I caught the bus this morning at about 7 and was up the mountain by 7:20. I got off the bus and had to stop a moment. I made it!!! It was very moving for me to be there, both because of the awesomeness of Machu Picchu and for the fact that I never thought I would ever see this place. Remember how I said life is weird? Well, how is this for weird: remember Bevita and Lana whom I had breakfast with in Ollantaytambo two mornings ago? As I got to the front of the line, they were there! Bevita saw me first and we all freaked out. That young couple from Wisconsin whose names I never got were with them also. About 40 minutes later I saw the Israeli couple from the market last night. Then about an hour later, as I was walking up the very steep path to Sun Gate, I saw Victor from the train ride yesterday! Understand that there are thousands of people there at any given time during the day. That I would see these random strangers again is mind boggling! I guess life is not so random. ☺️
Yeeeeaahhhh!! My real Peru stamp, and my souvenir stamp from Machu Picchu. It was free!
Classic view of Machu Picchu
View of Machu Picchu from Sun Gate. It was a very strenuous climb, but look how much higher it is!
Inca Bridge
Alpaca hanging out in Machu Picchu.
It is 5:30am right now. Why am I awake? Because this town and this hotel are noisy! The houses here aren't completely sealed. I think it's so that air can flow. That is nice because the air is cool and feels great while sleeping, but you hear everything. The noise from the town just below went on until about 10:30PM. People yelling, laughing, and carrying on. And then in the hotel I heard everything that went on in the whole house; kids were crying, people were talking in the hall outside my window, as if there were no windows, and the TV was blasting as if there were no doors or walls until about midnight. Eventually I did sleep, but now it's 5:30 AM. They're making breakfast because the first bus up to Machu Picchu leaves at 6 AM. Guess I'll get up and head up there. My train to Cusco leaves at 3:30 this afternoon. If I head up now, I won't have to rush.

7 September 2016

Hotel Rusbel is right above the town square. It was a family's home that has now been turned into the hotel. It has a hotel feel and a private shower. Aguas Calientes is small, but really hopping! It is filled with tourists from all over the world and the town itself is quite nice as it caters to all the foreigners. There are many high-end restaurants, nice hotels, tons of shopping, as well as Incan Markets, hostels, and Third World dogs. And it was very noisy up until about 10:30pm. It feels and sounds like the bars and restaurants of Waikiki. I walked around the town this evening and saw everything in about an hour. They grow giant carrots in Peru that I have been eyeing since I arrived. I went to the Incan market and bought two carrots and a bag of canchas for dinner. It was perfect. Finally saw Israeli tourists. The Tevas gave them away. And the kippah and scarf head covering. They were buying fruits and vegetables in the market as well.
Incan market with beautiful fruits and vegetables. Aguas Calientes.
I arrived in Aguas Calientes and was met by Judi (guy) who had a sign with my name on it. It was a very short walk to the hotel. It is Yudi's family home, but they rent out the rooms and it looks and feels like a hotel. It's very comfortable. Much like Space Mountain, when you exit the train station you have to go through a maze of shop owners who are selling their wares. It's a fantastic site and very casual. No one is hassling you like they do in some other places I've been to. I bought my ticket for Machu Picchu tonight. I was told, and I read, that you could not purchase tickets to Machu Picchu in advance, you had to buy them on site. Apparently, not true! I was only able to get a ticket to Machu Picchu and not the other peaks which are higher. I only learned of the other peaks this week so I guess that's alright. Between the bus and the entrance ticket it cost about $75 to see Machu Picchu. This has definitely been the most expensive part of my trip.
Judi from the hotel Rusbel in Aguas Calientes picked me up at the train station. He was easy to spot.
Mt. Veronica. Giant peak in the Andes at 18,800 feet. Most important source of water to the Sacred Valley 10K feet below. I like the cactus/snow-peaked mountain contrast in this photo. Snapped it while on a moving train.
Vista Dome train on Peru Rail. There are different classes that travel at different times. There is a less expensive train with no 'vista' that is only a few $ less. This one was worth the extra few dollars.
I am now on the train to Aguas Calientes. I bought a ticket on the Vista Dome which has partially glass ceilings so you can see above. I read and I was told that you must buy your tickets in advance, so I bought online a month ago. But I found out that you can buy same day at the ticket booth in Ollantaytambo. Better safe than sorry I guess. Anyway, the Vista Dome is slightly more than the economy class. I am sitting at a table with two other women Sharon from Ireland Caroline from England, and Victor from Lima. I am in the first car, sitting backward. This train is fantastic because there is narration throughout this journey. They tell all about the villages and landscape. I finally saw mountains with snow on them. They are enormous! The ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes was an hour and a half. It went along a river and had the foliage of a creek bottom.
What's this? Mountain peaks with snow!! Saw this in the distance boarding the train to Aguas Calientes.
Saying goodbye to Wow. What a beautiful soul. What a fantastic experience!
This is Wow and Winn's guest book. It's huge and it is filled with words, doodles, and masterpieces like this one.
What a great day! I walked through the town and got a good feel for it in about 3 1/2 hours. I have adjusted to the altitude. I feel fine. I am really surprised how hot it is here at 7500 feet and in the winter. The wind is blowing so it feels great but the sun is hot! As I sit here in the sun, I feel my skin burning. I like the heat over the cold and I am glad I got to wear shorts! The archeological site I saw out my window is Tunupa y Apu Pinkulluna. It costs about $40 to go in so I passed. I'll look it up. I have to pay that much for Maccu Picchu. Ollantaytambo is a fortress the Incas built to defend against the Spaniards. I will look up that history too. I am now headed to the train for Aguas Calientes. 😎
It was hot as I set out today. I was so surprised by that because it was so cold in Lima and it was really cold last night. This morning the sun was out and I wore shorts and a T-shirt. I walked into the main square and sat down to orient myself, and an Incan woman came over to me. In broken Spanish, because she spoke Ketchewa and I speak English, she managed to sell me some bracelets and I managed to buy them. I asked her how much, and she told me it 10 Soles for one which is $2.50 per bracelet. I had to admire her chutzpah. I told her I would pay 15 Soles for 3 of them (still a huge profit for her) and she said no. So I told her I would think about it and then she said fine. She had at least 100 different kinds and when I selected the 3 I wanted, she said I couldn't have those and she put those away and gave me a bunch of ones that I could have. Clever. clever. Those were good enough for me! I then asked for a photo and she charged me 1 more Sol! Good job lady!
This is an amazing little village. It is very small and all the architecture, at least the foundations, are as they were 500 years ago. However it completely caters to tourists. There are too many hostels, hotels, and bed-and-breakfast to count. And if you aren't one of those, then you are a restaurant or a store. Wi-Fi is everywhere and everyone takes major credit cards. There is an ATM. Even the local Indians are quite savvy business people. And the streets are all lined with the original stones from 500 years ago. There is a river that is somewhere around here and the water flows to the town through little channels. At one time it was fresh, but now they don't recommend you drink it. They use it straight from the tap, but they'll run it through a filter.
Our lunch specials today are alpaca anything, guinea pig, or regular pig! I opted for another place that served vegan quinoa soup and grilled cheese/tomato/pesto sandwich. Quinoa comes from Peru!
This is called a toot-toot, at least that is what it sounds like. You can take this to the train for one sol, or you can walk about 10 minutes. It's downhill so I'm going to walk.
Even in modern times, there are those who stick to tradition.
Beautiful handwoven textiles.
Everyone has a gimmick. I stole this photo!
Local artisan named Aliz. I don't need the original. These days the photo is fine just for the memory.
Down one of the main streets. Ollantaytambo.
Original steps built by the Incas. The government does not allow destruction of the original stone streets or foundations/buildings.
What all the sidestreets look like in Ollantaytambo. The houses are built in the walls or on top of the walls.
Incan woman who sold me the bracelets. What a shark! She had never heard of Las Vegas, only California!
This is the view out my window. I don't know what it is, but I am about to find out!
Cool windows and quiet a view!
Handmade bunk bed. I slept with three heavy alpaca blankets. Best sleep yet!
My room was the one at the end of the hall.
The Robinson Caruso feel of Casa de Wow!!!
Casa de Wow!!! Five stars! Better than the Plaza.
Breakfast at Casa de Wow!!! with Luke, Hailey, Bevita, and Lana.
It feels like there's no insulation in this house. The air inside is the same as outside which is cold! I was very warm in my bed last night, though. I had three heavy alpaca blankets on me and I was so happy! I had the best sleep of my life last night. I was so warm! After exploring the house in the daylight today, the inside air actually IS the outside air because the roof is not sealed. I love it! I had breakfast this morning with a bunch of English speakers: Ceciley from Arkansas, Bevita from San Diego, Lana from Montreal, Luke and Hayley from England, and a couple that arrived this morning around 8:30 from Wisconsin. Ceciley and I were the first ones in the kitchen this morning and the rest of the house was sleeping. Suddenly, there was a knock on the front door and no one was there to answer it. So I went down and opened it and let the newcomers in. I thought, "Hi, this is not my house, but 'Welcome!', and come on in!"

6 September 2016

From the time I got out of Henry's car and walked up the steps to meet Wow, I was completely out of breath and dizzy. And this is 4000 feet lower than Cusco! I documented my arrival in Wow's book which had hundreds of names of people who have stayed here before. He brought me into the kitchen and made me coca tea which is good for altitude sickness. And delicious too! The inside of the house looks like Robinson Caruso's treehouse. It is so cool! My room is very comfortable and it has lights and Wi-Fi. The shower is shared and has running water, and I absolutely love it here! Breakfast is included in the cost of the room which was only $20. I am starving right now, but I am so tired and I'm going to go to sleep. I don't feel as dizzy as I did-I've been lying down this whole time about two hours now, but I think I will go get some more tea before I head to bed. Looking forward to exploring this ancient town tomorrow!
Finally made it to Ollantaytambo! I cannot say it is Third World because I imagine it looks pretty much like it did 500 years ago except with all the modern conveniences. At least inside the buildings. I am staying at a place called Casa de Wow! Wow (who's name is Roberto), is a native of Ollantaytambo and the owner of this house which has six rooms which he rents out to tourists. Wow's family has been here for generations and this house has been in his family just as long. He's married to Winn who is from North Carolina and a graduate of Emory University. Talk about two worlds colliding! I met Wow tonight and he is very Incan looking. He speaks Ketchuwa, and Spanish is his second language. He does not speak English even though he's married to an American. He has never been to the United States either. Anyway he is an incredibly kind and gentle soul and very hospitable. I liked him immediately. He is an excellent host!
We had to drive through Cusco to get out of the city. There's only one road in and out and it is only two lanes. Cusco is Third World looking much like Belize, but the roads are much, much better. There are Third World dogs everywhere. The drive was two hours and descends about 4000 feet into what is known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The mountains here get rain only part of the year and it doesn't stay there. It flows down into the valley. There are no trees or vegetation in these mountains. So strange yet so interesting! But the Sacred Valley is green and full of water and vegetation. There is a newer and bigger town called Urubamba between Cusco and Ollantaytambo. From above, it looked much better organized than Cusco, but it's pretty Third World too. Very much like Belize, except much better lighting and roads.
What a nice guy Henry is! I just kept the window down the whole time so the smell wasn't really a problem. English is Henry's third language, Spanish is his second, and Ketchuwa is his first. Ketchuwa is the native language of the Incas. It is absolutely nothing like Spanish and actually sounds more like Japanese than anything else, although there are no similar words between Japanese and Ketchuwa. We spoke mostly in Spanish. Although I was in a car and sitting down, I soon felt the effects of the altitude here which is 11,500 feet. I had a dull headache in my forehead. It is also quite a bit chillier here than it is in Lima, but not uncomfortably cold at all.
Earlier this morning I arranged for my hosts to have their driver pick me up in Cusco. It is a 2 Hour drive from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and it normally cost about $25, but I paid $36 for the security. I arrived in Cusco just fine but there was no one waiting for me when I arrived. There were quite a few taxi people aggressively competing for my business. Mine was the last flight in and the airport was shutting down. I think it actually closes for the night. And they have no Wi-Fi. One of the taxi drivers was nice enough to make a phone call to the place where I'm staying and see how to get in contact with their driver. There was nothing in it for him, but taxi drivers in Peru are nice. Because the people of Peru are nice. He spoke English pretty well. After about 20 minutes Henry arrived and apologized for being late. Apparently, There was a lot of traffic. Oh man, BO central! How long is this drive? Two hours you say?
In the Lima airport, you don't have to remove your shoes, and you can bring water through security if flying domestically. How nice! On the flight to Cusco now. There are a lot of English speaking people. Tourists! There are a few Americans and, after 2 days among the Peruvians, I realize that I don't want Americans here. Above my seat there was an empty place for my suitcase, and as I was going to put it in, this woman swooped in and said, "that's mine!" Just like the woman Gary Goldman talked about in Trader Joe's: "" Why are you here, lady? Go away! So I put my bag in a compartment 9 rows behind me. Ok, shaking it off. The really nice flight attendant just gave me an Inca Kola and hot tea. And mixed nuts (hey, there is cancha in the mix!). I love this Inca Kola. It is kind of like cream soda, but a bit more lemony. I'm ok now. All is well.
The taxi kid got me back to Miraflores in less than 20 minutes! That was awesome! I grabbed my stuff, said goodbye to Edgar, and called Uber take me to the airport. This time Josue took me. I made it in plenty of time. I don't have a gate assigned yet, so I bought two hours of Wi-Fi (for $5) and a Lucuma chocolate bar. At the airport, as soon as everyone realizes that Spanish is not my native language they switch to English. That is nice, but I try to reply in Spanish because I want to practice. I love not feeling rushed. I like feeling free and unhindered moving through this foreign country. I made arrangements with my hosts in Ollantaytambo to send their taxi buddy, Henry, to pick me up at the airport in Cusco and drive me to Casa de Wow which is where I am staying tonight. It is about an hour and a half drive, and I arrive a little bit later than usual. Cusco, apparently, is not a 24 hour town.
My wonderful host in Miraflores, Edgar Soto. He is wearing a Slipknot shirt!
I had a great time here. I looked on a map, and I see that I hit all the points of interest. In summary: the people here are so nice, polite, respectful, and helpful. They all speak very clearly. The neighborhoods look like TJ, (zona rio district) Tel Aviv, LA near crappier downtown, or the Bronx, but the newer shops, hotels and restaurants are very modern. They want for nothing here. The streets are so clean; no litter, no mess, no homelessness. Although there is poverty, and shanties, they seem to be on the outskirts of town. People don't sleep on the streets, but some do sleep in metal and cardboard homes. There are no beggars either. It is very refreshing! Downtown looks very much like downtown Mexico City with the Spanish architecture and a bit more of smaller more indigenous looking people mixed in with professional business people. What I love most is greeting complete strangers with a kiss on the cheek. After years of guarded boundaries in Orthodox Judaism, I love this!
Wifi is not free even in the mall, or even in the Apple Store! I had to buy a lemonade at Starbucks to get their wifi code! Btw, bathrooms aren't free either, you have to be a patron of the mall, then the store or restaurant will give you the code. I ordered an uber to pick me up at the Sheraton but there were so many taxis and traffic that I couldn't find him. I ran back to Starbucks to use the wifi(I had to sign in again) and cancel the uber. I hope I did it in time. Anyway, I am in a taxi now trying to haul ass back to Edgar's place to get my bags and then get to the airport. My driver was a young kid named Jon Miguel. He told me the president of Ecuador is here. That must have been what was going on at Plaza de Armas. The traffic is bad (always, and nothing like LA), but I am hoping I didn't leave too late from downtown. I believe I will be fine.
I am now at a mall next to the Sheraton having a really delicious tomato, avocado and mushroom sandwich. One thing about the sandwiches here, they always cut the crust off. I feel like a child. I kind a like it! I found the food court, but I wanted to eat somewhere nicer, so I asked this kid (Jon Eric) if there was a better restaurant nearby. Even though I did my best to pronounce my Spanish properly, he could tell I was foreign. He asked, and I told him I was from the United States. He excitedly asked, "Habla Ingles?" "Siiiiii...." I was amused. He wanted to speak English, but I kept him in Spanish because I want to practice! He walked me to the restaurant. That is typical here; when you ask directions, the person will stop what he is doing and take you there! This is anywhere in Lima and districts. I just finished my sandwich, and now I'm going to order an Uber and head back up to Edgar's place in Miraflores. Then it will be time to head to the airport. Cusco here I come!
Plaza de Armas was much bigger than Plaza San Martin. Also it is surrounded by government buildings and the Cathedral of Lima. The government building looks to be 15th-century Spanish architecture and is very beautiful. Suddenly I noticed all these people and kids running toward the building, flipping out, and taking pictures. There were a bunch of people on the steps of the palace (it looked like a palace) behind the gates. I asked what was going on and who those people were, and the heavily armed guard told me it was the president of Peru. Everyone was waving at him and he was waving back. It was pretty cool!
San Martin (this whole area, actually) is very patrolled by police with dogs. I asked a policewoman where Plaza de Armas was and then asked if I could take a picture of her with her dog. The dog was a giant, muzzled Rottweiler. I continued down a narrow street that was lined with stores and people. It was very similar in the way it looked to the promenade in downtown Vegas, but about a quarter of the width and much older looking.
I went to Plaza San Martin which is a monument in the middle of a Square. Not a circle this time. There are buildings surrounding the square, but I don't know what they are. I'll have to look that up. San Martin was a General who fought for independence. Something like that. I guess I looked like a tourist because a black Peruvian man asked me where I was going and walked with me to Plaza San Martin. We spoke in Spanish. He was very nice, and I thought we were done when we got to the square, but then he told me that he is having some trouble now, his mother is very sick, and he is not working. He showed me a picture of his mom and his empty wallet. Fine!! I gave him $5, not because I believed him (I kind of didn't), but because he was nice, and it was no big deal. I gave it with love. Sigh. Whatever.
Lots of shoe shine stations here. Old-school.
Do you think Justin Bieber consented to advertising for this barbershop?
El Presidente!
Plaza de Armas
Walking down the street from Plaza San Martin to Plaza de Armas. No cars.
Hey! Did you know Slipknot will be in Lima for the first time?
Policewoman and police dog. Scary looking dog!
Plaza San Martin .
I am now in Centro Civico about to see Plaza Armas, cathedral de San Francisco, and Plaza San Martin. There are a lot traffic circles in Lima and the building are in a circle rather than linearly like they are in Vegas. Because all the buildings are in a circle, there are about 13 streets that you could potentially drive into or out of the circle. That also means there is a lot of traffic coming from a lot of different directions. There are also 13 more pedestrian streets from which to choose. I managed to get here, but now what? I went into a Sheraton and asked for a map of the area-in Spanish, of course! I am about to head out to see what this is all about.
I slept so well last night and slept in until 9:15. The last two days have been so full of activity that it seems like I have been gone for a week. I leave for Cusco tonight at 5:45, so I have most of the day to explore...alone. Edgar was gone when I woke up so I couldn't ask him where to go and how to do it. Walter told me to see historical, cultural downtown Lima. I looked online to find out what was the best way to get there. I was going to take a tour, but Trip Adviser is awesome. Someone wrote in not to waste money on a tour and just take the city bus, and gave instructions how to do it. It only costs 50 cents to take the bus, but I popped for the $4.80 it cost to take Uber. So worth it!! I now had to get myself around a foreign country and communicate in a foreign language to do so. The moment I had been preparing a month for had arrived!! My uber drive Joe, spoke no English, so I talked to him for 20 min in Spanish. Nailed it!!!
Joe, my uber driver from Lima who has a brother living in NJ and another in Virgina
Edgar's place. So comfortable!
Peruvian money. They have people standing outside the bank who will change money for you. Let's say the rate is 3.3 soles per 1 US dollar. They change the money, then when the rate exchange goes up, they go into the bank and sell, and that's how they make a little bit of profit. Very smart.

5 September 2016

After lunch, we went into a big Walmart type store called Wongs. I had a great time looking at the fruit and vegetables. I wish I could bring some home. I feel inspired to try new food and recipes. I had another fruit made into ice cream called Lucuma. So delicious. It has a pistachio-vanilla-brown sugar taste. Walter and Lucho laughed at me because I described the flavor as if describing wine. 😆 We drove along the coast and enjoyed the views. In the middle of the city are "huacas", which are pretty well preserved temples and burial grounds that were unearthed years ago when they were trying to build. Miraflores is a typical big city; houses right next to each other, but then suddenly there is a huge Adobe city/temple/burial ground right in the middle of the city. I have to admit that I had another order of picarones tonight. If you could taste them, you would understand!! Lucho and I are driving Walter to the airport right now. He leaves tonight. 😢
Picarones!! They may be my undoing. 😳
Huaca Pucllana. Giant ancient city in the middle of a modern city.
Beautiful Pacific.
Chicha morada. Purple corn only in Peru. If you plant the seeds anywhere else, it will grow white.
Granadilla. Looks disgusting, and feels disgusting on the tongue, but is quite delicious. How is wish I could bring some home and make my family try it!
There's a beautiful mall at the ocean front. It reminds me very much of Ala Moana in Waikiki. There's a statue of Paddington bear there. Did you know that Paddington bear is a native of Peru? "The darkest Peru". Just some fun trivia for you there! We continued walking to the Indian market, Indian meaning the native people of Peru. There were a lot of fun things to buy; beautiful high-quality products. I got to barter in Spanish and it was a very pleasant experience because everyone is just so nice here. Walter's brother, Luis Fernando ("Lucho"), met us for lunch. I had an amazing whitefish in butter and lemon sauce. Rico! Much like the cliffs overlooking the ocean, the ocean floor drops off very steeply, as well. The ships can come very close to shore because it's so deep, and there are a lot of fish. That is why the fish is so fresh here.
After breakfast, we walked to the ocean to explore. Along the way, there was a beautiful sports club with clay courts. Haven't seen those since the Nationals in Birmingham, AL, and those were har-tru, not real clay. We walked along the boardwalk and there was a fruit seller. Walter insisted I try a fruit called granadilla. It is a fruit that looks somewhat like an orange, but it has a hardshell that you can crack like a hard boiled egg. The inside looks like... honestly, a placenta with boogers inside of it. I have a hilarious video of me tasting it. It was quite good but the texture is so bizarre. I don't think I'll be having another one.
Paddington Bear from the darkest Peru.
This is the ground cover that the city plants to prevent erosion and landslides of the cliffs.
Miraflores overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Clay courts at Club Tennis Terrazas in Miraflores.
Cobblestone streets down to ocean.
What can I say? Cats love me.
Crazy cat lady of Miraflores.
Today we are exploring Miraflores. It is winter overcast, and honestly, it's kind of cold. I only have shorts. I am the only one walking around wearing shorts. I kind of feel like an idiot. And cold. We walked to a restaurant through a park called Kennedy Park. It is overrun with cats. It's famous for its cat population. It's weird because the park is surrounded by very busy traffic-like New York- and then there is this island of cats. They are very tame but wild. However, this city vaccinates and neuteres them, and cares for them somewhat. They are an attraction. We are eating at a restaurant called Haiti Cafe and we are sitting outside. So nice! The seats outside have "seatbelts" on them so if you put your bag on a chair it won't get stolen. Clever! The Peruvians eat sandwiches for breakfast. You can order eggs but it will be in a sandwich. I had an egg sandwich with tomatoes and avocado, and whipped pineapple juice and tea. Really good.
Cats in Kennedy Park. My view at breakfast, day 2.
Birds at breakfast, day 1. What animals will join me for breakfast each day?
Man, it was a long, jampacked day! We took a taxi back to the area where Edgar lives, and walked around a bit. There are casinos here! Small, but very Vegas-esque. There were three of them on one block. That was kind of weird. Walter and I sat down on a bench and talked for a while. There were flower baskets hanging from all the lamp posts, the air was cool and moist, and it wasn't too crowded; I guess because it's a Sunday night. As we were talking, and I was looking around, it suddenly hit me: How crazy is it that I am sitting on a bench with my friend in Peru! How did this happen? Life is weird, you know?
We danced about three hours then walked around Barranco. More than once, I mildly turned my ankle. Damn cobblestone streets! As we were walking, all the restaurant people were trying to get us to come in to eat. Now I wasn't hungry, but I was still thinking about the picarones-those vegetable donuts. We tried to resist, but finally gave in and ordered some. So damn good! We had two each, but really I could've eaten eight by myself. There is also a wonderful little drink called Inca Kola. It is a lemongrass soda. Lemongrass! I loved it! Me encantalo!
The milonga was at a restaurant called La Posada del Mirador. It was in the back of the restaurant which was overlooking the ocean. Only us tangueros were inside dancing, but there were tons of people milling about outside and they kept peeking in through the windows and doors to watch the dancers. They were videotaping and taking photos. I feel like someone will post one of their videos of the milonga, and Walter and I will end up on the Internet somehow. Watch for us! At one point, we were the only ones on the dance floor and, if I do say so myself, we danced a pretty damn good tango-waltz, or Vals. I saw that we were videotaped and photographed by the onlookers, and at the end of the dance, everyone in the restaurant applauded us. It was pretty cool.
There is a section of Barranco that is very artsy, Spanish colonial, and quite beautiful. There are a lot of little restaurants and a lot of performers and artists on the streets. There is a beautiful cobblestone street that leads down to the ocean. There's also a hostel on that street and a lot of young travelers. It's a great location for a hostel. Tons of restaurants line that street all the way down to the ocean and they are all competing to get you to come in. It is so quaint and beautiful and very romantic. The main center in front of the library reminds me very much of the area in front of Chabad of Cozumel with all of the street performers, venders, and artist. It was fantastic to walk around, especially at night.

4 September 2016

For the next two nights I am staying in a room through Airbnb, and my host's name is Edgar Soto. He is in Miraflores very close to hotel Vila Santa, but about $50 a night less. What a nice guy he is. He is an architect and I got to chat with him and his friend Yasmine a little bit before Walter came to get me for tango in Barranco. There is a chiropractic office right below his apartment. I always find them-or they find me. I also find my people. We find each other. Edgar and Yasmine are both very health-conscious, into homeopathy, and enjoy alternative medicine. It was very easy and fun and comfortable talking to them even though we just met. So much fun!
Milonga. Argentine tango in Barranco, Peru.
Just after my moment of wonder of being in Peru. It was moving, and I had to take a picture to remember the power of that realization. Ahhhhh...
Walter, Inca Kola, and..the plate that held the picarones. I want more!
Tango in Barranco. Notice my hair. I did nothing but wash it and let it air dry. I didn't even brush it. Apparently, it gets worse- the humidity is crazy in Cusco. I may be Little Orphan Annie. We'll see.
The Peruvian Paso. I actually took this photo from Wikipedia because it was better than the shots I took.
After the horse show, we ate at a beautiful restaurant on site. There was a lot of food that was unfamiliar to me, but I have to say it was delicious! Here are some of my favorites: Cherimoya: A large, strange fruit with a hard outside like an artichoke but a soft sweet fruit inside. It comes from the Andes and it is fantastic! Ceviche: I have had ceviche, but not like this ceviche. It was indescribable. So good. Chicha: purple corn, native to Peru. It was the food of the Incan kings. They make drinks out of it and compote, and is used in many other ways too. Very good. Cancha: Fried regular corn that has a slightly crunchy outside and a soft inside, and was a delicious surprise when I bit into it. Pisco: A Peruvian Brandy. The first sip was delicious, but I quickly felt it thereafter. Had to take it very slowly. Picarones: A fried sweet potato and pumpkin donut. Not sweet. It is served with a sauce made from corn, fig honey, and flavored with anise. Fabulous!
We drove south along La Pan Americana Sur which is the road that you can drive from Alaska to Argentina. It is known in the United States as the Pacific Coast Highway. We saw Pachacamac which is an ancient site that was discovered recently. It was buried under the Sandy mounds of the desert and is now being excavated. We then saw a wonderful show featuring the Caballos de Paso. These are horses that are unique to Peru. They are medium sized horses with very fine features and very pretty lines and coloring. They are unique in that their gait is different than any other horse. Their front legs seem to prance while the back legs are very steady, so that there is not the bounce that you usually get when riding on a horse but rather a gliding sensation. They are used for travel and apparently are the most comfortable horse to ride. I got to ride one. Awesome.
I forgot something pretty important. Lima is below the equator and it is winter here. I did not pack so well for winter. Although it's not cold, it is very cool and there is a fine light mist called Garua which apparently is present every day in the winter in Lima. Lima is a desert, and not like the desert that I am familiar with. It is so barren and not what I expected at all. In fact the whole western coastline is trapped between the Andes mountains and the ocean and that is what produces the desert as well as the garua. The ocean is very wild and apparently very cold. The desert is very sandy and there is no vegetation that grows naturally, yet the soil is extremely fertile. If you put anything in the ground, it will grow.
Look at this beautiful restaurant where I got to sit, take in the beauty, and eat truly fantastic food! It is called Hacienda Mamacoma and it is on the property where we saw the horses. Absolutely gorgeous.
A hairless dog. It looks like one of those hounds from hell, but it was quite gentle and had very velvety skin. Still, though, think twice regarding that hairless cat, familia.
Pisco Sour: starts out like a margarita but quickly emerges as a very potent alcohol. At least for me…which isn't saying that much.
Pachacamac: found under one of those barren Sand Hills. It is being excavated right now.
This is what Lima looked like before all the buildings went up. Crazy, eh?
I slept so well last night. I woke up this morning and it's raining-how perfect! I slept with the window open, and when I got out of bed this morning, I could feel that my hair was different. Sure enough I looked in the mirror and it is all curly. Humidity! Walter came over this morning and we went up to breakfast on the 10th floor. Breakfast is included in the price of the room, which is only about $75. The little cafe was beautiful! Beautifully appointed, beautiful presentation, and beautiful attention to detail. I had a light breakfast of tomato, cheese, olives, yogurt, tea, and cookies. Everything was wonderful. They have interesting and different things to put in the yogurt like flower pollen, some sort of high protein grain called kiwicha and another called maca which is native to Peru. Different, but not bad. The whole atmosphere was so charming. It makes me want to stay here a few more days. But now, off to explore!
The lobby of Hotel Vila Santa. I was only here for a night, but I highly recommend this hotel!
Love this painting in the cafe.
Service buffet. Love it!
Centerpiece. Nice.
My breakfast this morning.
The patio overlooking the city where we had breakfast.
Cuy=guinea pig. This is the national dish of Peru. Yes, they eat these! This one is a pet...for now.
Breakfast cafe at Hotel Vila Santa in Miraflores, Peru. Fantastic!
Got through immigration pretty easily. The line to get out from baggage claim was crazy though. Walter found me right away and it was a fun reunion. I've missed him! I haven't danced tango in three weeks but we're going to go tomorrow night. It was about a 40 minute drive from the airport to Miraflores. I am staying the night at this really cute little boutique hotel. It's very small, but very charming. I love having this room to myself. And there were chocolates on my pillow. I am going to shower and go to sleep now. The window is open and the cool, fresh air is amazing. I loved today. This trip is already awesome!
Chocolates on my pillow. It's the little things that bring me joy.
Love my little room at Hotel Vila Santa!

3 September 2016

My wonderful friend Walter.
Landed in Lima! It was a great flight-easy, relaxing. I got another meal (this is so weird). A little pasta. It hit the spot. My seat buddy is Roberto de Panama. He is in Lima on business. Speaks excellent English and such a nice guy. It is 62 degrees here. I feel great!
On the plane now and waiting to take off for Lima! The four hours spent in the airport was relaxing. I updated my journi, ate, watched people, and most importantly listened to Spanish. The only slightly annoying thing was that the free wifi in the airport expired after two hours, so I had to entertain myself for the other two hours. It wasn't too hard. I tried to ask for a boarding pass in Spanish and failed. I saw the women didn't understand me so I panicked and switched to English and she spoke very well. Thinking back, I could have made myself understood-said it in a different way. I gave up too quickly. It's ok, I'll try again. I have a window seat and a young, well dressed man is in the aisle seat. No one between us. It is very comfortable. Across the aisle are two young, white hippies with dirty dreadlocks who reek. One stood up to get something out of the overhead compartment and...whewww! Stinky! So far, this trip is so fun! Taking off now!!
I ordered a sandwich in Spanish. I managed just fine and felt pretty proud of myself. Thank you Elyin! I found a little eating area with outlets in the table to charge my phone, so I sat down to eat and charge my battery. A nice woman came over and told me I had to buy something from their shop in order to sit there. She said it in Spanish and I understood. Feeling confident! There are quite a few black people here and it is strange to me to hear them speak Spanish so well. It IS their native language, but it is so surprising to me. I don't recall seeing any black people in Mexico, but here in Central America, so close to the Caribbean, it makes sense. I saw two Muslim women walking through the airport. Very pretty, with flawless makeup and in very short dresses, tunics maybe, and leggings, yet their hair was covered. So interesting! I am waiting to see a Chassid. Not yet!
I have a 4 1/2 hour wait in Panama City. I am making a point to look at people, something I don't usually do. It's crazy to think that I've never seen these people before, yet we are all here in the same place at the same time. This is a major international hub, apparently, but the airport is kind of small. I walked through a bit and there are some pretty high-end stores along the way. Who buys Ferragamo stuff in an airport? The bathrooms are very small and narrow. I'm not sure where everyone here is from, but people look darker but yet a little more Euro in body type. However, the woman cleaning the bathroom was a short, tiny, little Zapotec woman. As I was walking through the airport, I looked out one of the many tall windows and saw that the clouds and humidity resulted in a cloudburst. Just like in Belize. I love these tropical surprises! Also right in the center of the airport, there was a little sanctuary, a church, and there were quite a few people praying. Fascinating.
Church in the middle of the airport in Panama City.
Looks like Belize.
White fluffy clouds upon our approach into Panama City
I am sitting in the emergency exit with two young guys who are going to Costa Rica. The seats don't recline, but lots of leg room! I have a window seat so I feel comfortable. Looks like there are movies. 6 1/2 hour flight to Panama. I am so excited!! They served two meals and free alcohol on this airline. So old school! I slept for three hours. Now I am going to watch A Good Year. It's about a man who inherits a chateau and vineyard in France from his uncle. We landed! I'll have to watch the rest of the movie later. I liked it! I am in Panama now. The landscape looks very much like Belize. There were big fluffy clouds as we were landing, and now that we're on the ground, those tropical clouds are still around. It looks like it is probably humid outside. It's very familiar, I like it!
Gheorghe, my nice, and interesting Uber driver this morning. Great start to my trip!
3:45am: My journey started with my Uber driver. His name is Gheorghe and he is originally from Romania. So fun to listen to his life story. Gymnast in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, came to America in 1986 and got a traffic ticket. The cop who gave him the ticket ending up becoming his wife. They had five children. Brought his four children from Romania over to America and his wife raised all nine of them. He's a professional gambler, and has lived in Thailand for the last three years. He's in Vegas for four months to gamble, and then will return to Thailand. Fascinating and very nice man. Wish I had a picture.