Friday, July 22, 2011

The Doctor Told Me to See a Shaman

Inferma (sick). It always happens, at the worst of times.... A.) I practically had walking pneumonia while visiting the GALAPAGOS ISLANDS.. B.) Broken in Cusco.. home of MACHU PICCHU!


Let me start from the beginning of my whirlwind travels through Peru.. which leads me to Cusco, where I am now.. broken, exhausted, almost finished. I haven't felt much like blogging, nor have I had much time.. so this will have to make up for it for now!


I left Mancora on July 2nd, and took the night bus to Trujillo. I arrived at about 8AM.. found a fabulous hostel (which I fully didn't expect from what my Lonely Planet stated) and I fell in love with the city. I didn't have very high expectation for Trujillo.. and didn't have as much time as I would have liked to play around there.. but it was great!

Day 1, I visited Chan Chan and Huanchaco. Chan Chan is the largest pre-colombian city in South America, and it was fully made from adobe. I didn't learn as much as I could have here, because I didn't hire a guide... I am honestly the last person you want to ask about Chan Chan, because all I can tell you is that it was pretty cool just wandering around the desert and imagining what the heck used to happen here! I didn't actually find out what happened there, but if you're interested:

Next for the day, I hopped on the bus to Huanchaca.. what I thought was going to be a quaint little fishing village.. the fisherman still use old school reed boats.. which are seen in advertisements for Peru all over. I arrived... and found a million gringo surf dudes... I was exhausted from the night bus so I plopped down on the trash strewn beach and took a nap.. waking up starving, I tried to find a restaurant that wasn't tourist centered and didn't really have much luck. I took my pictures of the boats (of course a million tourists in the background.. Peruvian tourists as well) and went on my way back to Trujillo.

Trujillo at night is glorious. The lighting in the city was so wonderful, the churches popped, the colors brightened, there were festivals and live music happening in the main square.. I had a lovely time.. but retired early!

Day 2, I went to find Huaca del Sol y Huaca de la Luna. These were temples built by the Moche civilization.. I know a bit more about these temples because I had a guide.. and it was actually quite interesting! They just recently discovered these temples about 20 years ago... they had always known they were there.. but the people just thought they were mounds of mud and used to climb them and play around on them. Then, one day someone found a piece of a brick that had part of a petroglyph on it.. it was shown to authorities, and the temple began to be excavated and slightly restored. The petroglyphs found inside the temple had been preserved and have not been touched up, which I found amazing.. the Moche people used to add to the temple every 100 years, covering the old with bricks, and building on top of it.. so this is what has preserved the paintings. Huaca del Sol was by far my favorite ruin in Trujillo.

Day 3, I joyfully wandered around Trujillo awaiting my night bus to Huaraz... during this time I was avoiding my new 'friend' from Trujillo that couldn't take no as an answer.. there happens to be many of those out there as I have learned... I'll save my ranting for later, but let's just say that it was about this time that I REALLY wanted to come back home!

I arrived at 6:30AM in Huaraz on July 6. This is where the bone chilling weather began and pretty much never ended for the rest of the month! I was thoroughly exhausted from not sleeping too well on the bus, and being at such a high altitude.. and dumbly signed up for a trek within 30 minutes of arriving in Huaraz (NOT recommended!)... I thougth I was signing up with the tour agency in my hostel (which is supposed to be reputable).. since the guy who brought me to the hostel, sat down at the HOSTEL'S FRONT DESK and took my money.. BUT he worked for a different agency which isn't very reputable and I basically got a bit ripped off... not seriously ripped off, because I paid the normal amount for the trek, but since it was an 'economical' agency, I should have bargained it for way less... but I didn't realize that was what it was.

ANYWAYS, this hostel.. Hotel Galexia.. was not my best life choice (not just because of the trek situation). I met a Korean there that ended up trying to sleep with me.. oh yea, did I mention that he was supposed to be on a tour I was going on AND on my trek for the next FOUR DAYS. This may be super stereotypical.. but of all people, I did not expect the Korean to be the one I would be yelling at to get the heck out of my room. I tried not to be super mean, and I tried not to make things awkward because I knew we would be spending a ton of time together for the next 5 days, so I told him that he can make it really awkward the next morning, or it can be normal.. his choice, but I would make his life hell if he tried anything again.

Long story short, he showed up to the tour.. tried to hold my hand.. I said, dude we're just friends.. he asked what we were going to see today.. I said mountains, duh.. he said 'I'm not really interested in that'.. I said, well that sucks because you're about to be living in them for 4 days.. he got off the bus and cancelled his tour. THANK GOD!

And guess what?! I got a replacement Korean on the tour.. a guy named DJ, who is currently in school at NYU and a super cool Korean, unlike the other.. so I was happy :)

Santa Cruz Trek
My 4 day trek was amazing.. not because of the company, but because of the people I met! There were 13 of us, we represented about 10 different countries! It was great, my tent buddies were Nicki, the New Yorker, and Matt, the Kiwi. I felt like I was back in Korea with so many people around me from different countries, hearing a New Zealand accent and having such a fun laughter filled time!

I thank God for Nicki and Matt too, it got below freezing at night and I needed their body heat BAD.. plus at different times we all didn't feel very well (guides using dirty river water to wash our cups, and not boiling the water long enough).. so we were a good support system for each other!

We saw some amazing mountains and lagoons, and climbed to a bone chilling 4,600 meters.

Nicki and I basically had the same plans for Peru, so on our fourth day we decided to skip staying in a hotel for the night and having to stay in the town of Huaraz (boo) ANOTHER DAY, while waiting for the night bus to Lima...
... this is where bad decisions began... we arrived back from the trek, and hours later hopped on a night bus to Lima, and planned on hopping on the 5 hour bus to Ica right when we get to Lima, then a taxi to Huacachina.

I would say this was about when exhaustion set in!

Where to begin with Huacachina.. we only planned on staying there for a day to see the desert... plus we had heard that Huacachina was just a strange town with a strange vibe.

We loved it, don't get me wrong... but wandering around Huacachina takes 5 minutes.. and to wander around Huacachina you basically just walk along the lagoon which the town is built around.. which is in the middle of the desert.. an oasis of sorts!

We got to Huacachina on July 13th.. arrived around noon (we had left Huaraz at 10PM the night before!!).. got a spot in a sweet hostel which had a POOL.. and reserved our Dune Buggy trip!!

The Dunes were AMAZING.. I would say it was one of the top things I've ever done... It was insane.. crazier than a roller coaster, because you realized that when you were airborne over them, there was no telling what was going to happen when you landed and kept catapulting forward down the hill of sand!

It was absolutely wicked! The driver was crazy but safe, we got to sand board (my knee was on its second day of feeling bad) but I mainly went down on my stomach (like many people did).. PLUS we all know that I do NOT have the skills to snow board, let alone sand board!

We spent the next day at the pool, becuase we had a night bus arranged to take us to Arequipa (I decided to skip the Nazca lines.. too expensive and annoying to get to).


We arrived in the city on the morning of July 14th and booked into Bothy hostel.. Nicki had booked the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu a while back, and had to be in Cusco by a certain time.. I had been planning on going to Lake Titicaca and then going to Cusco afterwards.. but after talking to people and hearing about how touristy it is and how the Bolivian side is much better, I decided to skip it.. and head to Cusco with Nicki.

It's been nice having a travel buddy, we've been traveling together for almost 3 weeks now.. which has been super nice since I've been doing it on my own for the past couple of months! I had been planning on hanging around Cusco for 2 weeks (part of that being a 4-5 day trek to Machu Picchu), and Nicki only had about 1 week total.. so we rushed Arequipa a bit to get to Cusco in time for her to tour around it.

This ended up being a good idea, because I needed a doctor (sick AND my knee.. a week later, was STILL hurting!).

In Arequipa I made a bad decision (kind of) and decided to do the Colca Canyon Trek like I had planned, even though my knee was killing me (to the point I asked for Vicodin at the pharmacist the night before the trek).. BUT I had heard that you could hire a donkey to take you out.. so I figured what the heck, might as well do it! It was only 2-days.. and what we thought would be a simple go to the Canyon and come back out... welp, of course it wasn't!

We signed up with an agency which the thougth was reputable (PLUS it was in the Lonely Planet).. and they never told us to stay on the bus (that picked us up at THREE AM!) after we went to the Condor sighting spot... WELL, there were about 15 people on the bus and 2 guides... the guides each said that they weren't our guides.. so we were like, what the heck do we do?!

One luckily was super sweet, and tried calling our agency (no answers) and later said that we could come with his group... thank God, because we had arrived to the middle of no where, with no guide, and had NO clue what to do. So long story short, we got our money back from the other company, ended up paying less going about it on our own with the help of the other guide, and we had a great time!

Colca Canyon was no Grand Canyon.. but it was pretty cool!

AND AGAIN, we had a night bus planned for the night we got back from the trek.. what the heck was I thinking?! I KNOW my immune system.. I KNOW how easily I get warn out.. ayayay, when will I ever learn?!


We arrived in Cusco around 11AM on July 17th... by now, I am sick (not a sinus infection yet thank God!) and my knee is still in pain when I walk (given, I'm freaking out a bit because I didn't do anything specifically to it.. so I have NO clue why it feel slike this.. freakin out a bit!).

What do we do?! We plan a rafting trip for the following day... best choice of my life?! When do I make good choices.. obviously not in Peru! The water was ICE.. COLD! We expected it to be cold.. not quite that cold.. shivering cold.. even in wet suits.. we LOVED the experience, but were so happy when it was over and we could dry off. I personally couldn't get warm again, and felt absolutely horrible when we arrived back in Cusco

... so I called the doctor...

.. went to the doctor ..

... the doctor told me to call a shaman...

I'm not so sure she was kidding either, between my knee, my throat, the random hives/bites I had all over my body for an absolutely unknown reason (happened sometime between Huacachina and Arequipa)... I was bascially just broken.

She gave me meds for pharyngitis, and I went back the next day for the knee doctor who said that I was having tendon issues as far as he could tell.. dosed me up on more meds and gave me a huge knee brace, which I detested at first, but am beginning to love.

I went through a period (a day) of just saying screw Machu Picchu, I don't even care anymore... but talked myself out of that thought. I moved my flight date to a week before (I really don't need 2 weeks in Cusco, without a trek.. and I felt I needed much more time to see my family and friends than I have before Korea), I've booked a train to and from Machu Picchu, and I'm home in ONE WEEK! :) YAY

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

All of a Sudden, the Streets Turned to Sand.. Mancora, Peru

As I started walking, the taxi drivers followed me telling me about hotels (they get commission from) and asking to give me a ride.. I try to not be too rude but tell them I just want to walk around and find one… they tell me I’m walking the wrong direction. I’m thinking.. that’s fine, to get a point across that I will not be following their orders.. I keep walking, thinking I’d just take the next street and walk around the block… HA… ha HA.

Well, I found the next street.. if I were to ‘walk around the block’.. I would have started to walk on a dirt road.. so, I walked a couple of blocks straight towards the beach, thinking I’m bound to find a place.. and OH! All of these roads all around me, including the one I'm walking on, are all of a sudden dirt-sandy roads, with rows of connected houses on each side of me…

I’m thinking…
WHERE THE HECK AM I?! Isn’t Mancora a super popular, touristy, surf beach?! Am I really in Mancora? I’m so confused!

I finally found a couple of hostels, one offered a great price for a bungalow sort of thing for about $7US. ALL TO MY OWN… just what I needed, there were no bars or clubs around to keep me up at night… no roommates… my own room, I can be lazy on the beach all day and be a hermit at night (I had arrived on a Friday night to Mancora… it’s known for it’s parties… I just couldn’t be bothered… I needed relaxation!)

I suited up, and went to catch up on my beauty rest on the beach… there weren’t very many people around at all… but I noticed that down on the other part of the beach there were a ton of people, and lots of kite surfing, and even farther down were a hundred fishing boats! I was in a daze-y state the entire Friday… I walked down the beach to the boats and then walked back.. basked in the sun again on the quiet part.. and then went and found lunch and later dinner.

I made it my entire first day without entering the typical tourist area of the town.

Utterly confused about how Mancora could be mainly dirt roads, and where the heck are the ‘tourist’ hostels like HI and Loki, and [insert surf name here] hostel… I decided to go on a search… surely, I’m missing a part of this town.

Well, it was easy to find! I found the hoard of stalls at the market, walked a bit farther, and VOILA, a newly made road out of red bricks led to brand new buildings filled with restaurants, shops and hostels.. a boardwalk, resorts…

Welp, I found it.. then I left.. being thankful for my lack of a sense of direction (not a fan of a million tourists/tourist rip-offs/surfers.. ALTHOUGH I do enjoy looking at the latter)!

Trujillo here I come… night bus number 2 in 2 days.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

22 hours, 2 friends, 2 countries

I have arrived in Peru!

It was of course an interesting adventure, one I wished I had a friend to hold my hand through.. but it is me against the road again, soltera & free as a bird to do whatever I please!

I woke up on Thursday morning and decided it was time for me to leave Dana & her family and head to Peru. I couldn´t get Peru off of my mind.. there gets to be a point, where you´ve been in a country for too long.. and even though you haven´t seen everything you want to see, you just know when the time is to leave.

I found my time, told Dana & the fam.. gave huge hugs and many thanks for giving me a home in Ecuador for 2 weeks.. and left for my one hourish trip to Riobamba.

The road was... well.. let´s just say, that it needed renovation! And I needed someone to hold my hand!

Thankfully, I arrived in Riobamba! And I wished I had more time to spend there!! Everyone in the city seemed super nice, and the people there looked beautiful!! I swear, the majority of people I saw walking around were gorgeous.. and it seemed like a nice city.. not sure there is much to do there though!

My ‘direct’ bus to Guayaquil was supposed to take 5-6 hours.. somehow the bus that stopped every 5-minutes to let people on and off, the entire journey, made it to Guayaquil in FOUR hours. Now, I was left twittling my thumbs at the ginormous Terminal Terestre in Guayaquil.. luckily they had internet cafes, clothing shops, and McDonalds! What a better time to need comfort food than when you’re about to finish the last and most unknowing leg of your 22 hour journey?!

I was told by who knows how many people, including my guidebook that the border crossing between Peru and Ecuador was more than dangerous. THAT is, if you do it on your own and not on an international bus that takes you from one city in Ecuador into a different city IN Peru… apparently if you decide to take a bus to a border down and taxi your way to the other side (you CAN walk, but it’s super far through no man’s land and with a bunch of hastlers) you can land yourself in a whole lot of trouble.. i.e. having a taxi take you down a random dirt road and demanding a specific amount of cash from you, I even met a girl who her friend had been picked up by the police because they told her it was too dangerous, and then after they said she needed to pay them for such a service along with being all flirtatious and touching her legs… basically, nothing good comes from the Peru/Ecuador border crossing. Then when two guys tell you that they did the border crossing together and it scared the crap out of them… I hardcore opted for the international bus!

While waiting in line for the bus to come.. it was late.. a 50-year old Peruvian lady adopted me.. at least, I like to think she did! Her name was Luc, and even though my Spanish is horrible, she continued to talk to me. She told me about her family, her favorite things about Peru, and talked to me about what I’ve been doing the past few months and why on earth I would do it alone. Then, when the bus finally arrived, we had to separate because our seats were on two different parts of the bus :(.

OF COURSE, the guy that I had noticed being the ‘class clown’ of the bunch while we waited in line is sitting next to me! Geeze, what did I do wrooooong?! First, I get on the bus to find I have an aisle seat.. after asking for a window.. then he hesitates next to me while looking for his number.. and OF COURSE… he says the magical word, Permisso! GAG!

So, I soak it up.. put my big girl pants on, and know exactly where this is probably headed. We start talking, he says he doesn’t know any English.. even though every now and then when I needed a translation, he magically knew the words IN ENGLISH! Anyways, we talked about absolutely everything he wanted to talk about…his life seemed interesting as well, his father being Italian and his mother a Peruvian… then the convo of course leads to the…

In Spanish:
Byron: You’re such a nice beautiful girl, you shouldn’t be traveling by yourself, it isn’t safe.. I’d like to come with you to Mancora so you aren’t alone.

Me: HA!

No, thanks.

Byron: You don’t understand. Uummm… ummm… ::thinking how to say it in a different way:: Do you have a dictionary?

Me: Yes, hang on.

Byron: :::finds the word, undertake.. the word connected to it is attack:::

Me: :::thinking.. gotta love those direct translations, and the second word is obviously a sign from God.. although a sign wasn’t needed for me to understand the creepiness of the situation::: NO, thanks for the offer.. but I enjoy being alone.. I have been with many people traveling the past month, and Peru is for me to travel by myself.

… welp, that pretty much stops the conversation… I blow up my pillow… and take myself to sleep land.

We finally arrive to the Ecuador side of the ’24 hour’ border crossing at 1AM…as we walk to the office to find no one in there.. and people begin sitting down (they’ve obviously been a part of this circus act before).. I find Luc again, and she tells me that they probably won’t open until 3AM.. I chuckle, mainly because I’m praying I didn’t hear her correctly.

I run and find the bathroom.. immediately entering the office of the crossing I pray my nose to stop working.. the whole thing smells like a sewer… walk into the bathroom, there’s a man peeing with the door open.. obviously that’s the men’s.. open another door, nope that’s an office.. a lady points to the room I just walked into and says that’s the only bathroom… the man is done doing his business in the dark.. I walk in,, GREAT, the light doesn’t work.. strap my bookbag to the front of me, find my spare toilet paper, DROP my handsantizer on the soaking wet floor… FABULOUS… angry, I slam the door and squat in darkness, wishing I had dropped it low a few extra times on the dance floor to make my legs stronger :). I debate whether to just leave the sanitizer or not.. but decide it’s worth its weight in gold and wrap it up in toilet paper (no soap in the ‘bathroom’ of course).

Luc and I chat it up for TWO hours longer and exchange phone numbers.. I’ll definitely be calling this lady when I arrive in Lima in August.

We finish all of the border humbo-jumbo at 4:30AM, and arrive in Mancora, Peru at 6:30AM… groggily I get off the bus, yell at taxi drivers to stop talking to me while the driver looks EVERYWHERE for my bag, and start walking…..