Sunday, November 28, 2010

A final Pisco Sour

What a whirlwind of a visit to Peru.... we had time to reflect today on what our previous thoughts were to the realities we have seen in this country. Not expected was the "Americanization" or I suppose "globalization" we witnessed... MacDonalds, KFC, Domino's and even Tony Roma's has reached perhaps every corner of the planet.  Technology like cell phones has been embraced in the same way as home, and is perhaps even more accessible with cheaper service and better coverage than Canada.  While problems with political stability seem in the background, they are not far from memory... super-inflation and a civil war is in recent memory yet the people seem confident in the current system, and are building and investing in themselves and their new system.  The history of Peru is rich, and the future is, it seems, positive.
One last visit today to a pier-perched restaurant in Miraflores, where a fortune-telling monkey entertained passer-by's... don't see that everyday!  We watched the crabs scramble across the rocks and the boobies rest only a pinch away.  The waves were smaller today, so the beginning surfers were out practicing new skills as they prepare for summer (the water is brown and foamy and smells like, well, a good incentive to stay on the board).  We toasted (a Pisco sour and a cervesa, 4 Inca colas for the road) our last day in Peru... tomorrow an overnight flight to Europe via Bogota, Columbia.

Special shout out to Elizabeth, and the awesome staff at 3B Barranco, who made Lima our home base.  You are welcoming, friendly and very good at making visitors feel completely at home!  Gracias!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

LarcoMar, Miraflores Starbucks


starbucks, in lima! next best to timmys...

Same day, more adventure

Following seaside lunch, the second part of our day was even more an adrenaline rush.  A half hour south, we passed through Ica to the natural sand dune formations, towering mountains of sand of Huan.... (sp?) and a desert Oasis below.  On board our 9-person "buggy" (say " boo-gey" for true effect), we climbed up and over and around the hills and valleys at warp-speed - YAHHOOO! Great fun.  Atop the first "small" hill, we took out the sand boards, and had a go at sliding to the bottom... Katie loved it, and Derek tried it snow-board style, zip zip down the 70 degree slope to the bottom, and back up again (harder to climb sand than snow).
Back in the buggy, off and over to the next slope, this one higher and steeper than the first, everyone down again, until a slight mishap and I took my board in the head.... Jack and Jill went up the hill, Jill fell down and , well, the rest involved a quick trip back into Ica to the nearest clinic where Fabrizio, aghast at the price of stitches, shooed us back to the parking lot and with all the medical instruments and supplies in hand was able to fix me right up there in the street.... CLASSIC!  A parading funeral procession went by, with horns and cars and tuk-tuk taxis, and school kids, and yes, us in the minivan-cum-surgical unit, fixed again and heading back to the dunes to finish the second half of the ride.  Unfortunately, we were too long and lost our buggy,  so had to settle for a boat-ride in the oasis and then lunch at Katie's favorite, Rorky's, for bbq chicken and a climb in the play-place ball-pit (for her, anyway).  Only a slight headache, no concussion thankfully, and a long trip back into Lima to wash off all that sand.... honestly, what a fun day, but I think I prefer tobogganing (cold, yes, but snow melts)

Islas Ballistas, Peru's Galapagos reserve

This is a must-see on any trip to Peru.  When we first started planning our trip, the Galapagos Islands were high on our list, but the cost was very prohibitive.  Located off Equador, and only reached by air and boat, there were restrictions on age (older than Katie) for most tours, and a high price tag for a group of 6 - well over $10G for most 5 day tours.... plus the extra time.  A good alternative in the guide books was Peru's "poor man's Galapagos", which honestly was perfect for our family - a day trip south of Lima and a taste of the wildlife unique to this area.... and truly 3 hours of bird poop was lots for this crew!
After an early start again with Rosita, and our awesome guide from our first day in Lima, Fabrizio, we headed south by 6 am for a VERY eventful day.  The area of Paracas 3 hours south of Lima was hit by a major earthquake in 2007, but the tourist facilities have been rebuilt in an effort to attract visitors and support the local economy.  Our 30-man motorboat was led by a bi-lingual Naturalist guide, and cost roughly 50 soles (less than $20 each).  The waters were calm, and the trip to the islands very enjoyable on the warm, sunny day.  There we saw colonies of Sea Lions, local penguins, and nesting cormorants - like, 200,000 of them!  And yes, holy guano, Batman, the island does STINK!  The refuge is basically a giant volcanic island, with caves and arches, and reminants of past bird-poop-harvest still evident (no longer actively mined, this resource was very valuable as a fertilizer for a couple hundred of years, more valuable at the time than gold, and even led to the "guano" wars with Spain and neighboring Chile... $75/kilo... drove the Peruvian economy in the 1700-1800's...

Punta Hermosa y Playa

A day at the beach in order for this crew, so Thursday we hired our sweet Rosita (Nascar road racer extraordinaire) to command her minivan 45 minutes south of the city to the summer resort of Hermosa.  It is late Spring in Peru in November, so few locals venture to brave the chilly waters, but to these Canucks it is plenty warm for a dip in the ocean.  The sky cleared by 11 am, and under a warm Southern sky we played in the waves and sand and surf.
Lunch was seafood, freshly caught in the quiet bay we overlooked during our meal, and cold cervasa and Inca cola for the ninos, along with slow-roasted corn and fresh avocado.  Katie is getting her fill of calamari, soft and tasty.  You can't beat a seaside dinner, watching the surfers from the point restaurant - a million dollar view anywhere, here in Peru.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happily Back at Sea Level

After a trip to downtown Cusco and the Star Peru airline offices, we were able to change flights and return to the metropolis of Lima, and our ocean-view abode.  Whew.   Everyone is feeling well again, after a 15 hour-or-so night of rest (insomnia is cured) and appetites have returned.  Rick is creditting his Viking roots for his preference of the sea.  And the rest of our trek will most certainly be not far from a beach... Amen.

Today we saw another side of Peru.  Off to upscale Miraflores and the JW Marriott, the fanciest hotel in Lima, and casino, Vegas-style.  My brother Aaron and his wife Tania have a connection there for us, a family they know who have moved from Grand Cayman.  We left a message and hope to meet them before we leave.  Then we were greeted by a screaming crowd of teenage girls waiting for the rock band "Tokio" something.. (anyone heard of them? a German boy-band with MTV awards?) Apparently, they are holding a concert here tonight. Across from the hotel is an up-scale mall built into the side of the ocean-side cliff, complete with bowling alleys, chain restaurants (Tony Roma's, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts...) and a cineplex, so yes! Kids got to see Harry Potter in English with Spanish subtitles...  ex-large popcorn and pop, plus movie for 18 soles (6 bucks) each - Derek got his pop for free (!).  And the theater was empty (the 6 of us, plus 4 other people) for the matinee show.  Perfecto! 

After an American meal and a show, it was easy to forget where we were, until we emerged and were approached by 2 young moms holding infants, begging for money to feed their children.  Along the street there are old, banged up cars mixed in with Porches and BMW's, and mini-busses crammed with 60 or so people inside.  There are shiny, glass buildings next to piles of rubble and rebar.  And noise:  constant honking as impatient drivers switch from lane to lane to lane, and then up on the sidewalk!  Driving here is truly crazy, even with police whistling on every corner and pedestrians dodging between cars.  Dogs running everywhere, some on leash but most without.  And EVERYONE, young, old, rich, not-so-rich, tourist, local, even the lady in traditional Inca dress, talking and texting on a cell.  Definately:  Loco.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Titicaca a "no-no"

Well, after yesterday's return to the 11,100 ft altitude, and the return of malaise by the majority of the group, Rick and I have decided to re-route and head back to sea level - Katie also can't wait to swim.  Dad and Betty caught a bus tour at 7am to head up to Puno, which is the entry to the "world's highest navigable lake", resting on the border of Peru and Bolivia.  It has been inhabitated by various indiginous groups for over 4000 years, and is the oldest center of agicultural practice in the "New World", but alas at 12,500 feet above sea level (or more?) this younger part of the family did not want to climb any further up hill..... back to the sea, Billy! for us.  In this case, the grandparents have won!

Jaclyn's fever broke during the night, but she is still not up to snuff, and the altitude is not great for Rick.  Travis seems to have recovered fully from his flu, though headache and a general feeling of "unwell" combined by insomnia (is it the altitude, the barking dogs, the horns all night long, the upset belly, or the "what if's" keeping us awake?) plagues us all.  Katie is the only one seeming unfazed, and Derek is just hungry.... This morning with the help of very friendly Cusi Wasi staff, we were able to change our flights to go instead back to Lima, skipping out the high altitude and the jungle.  We were also able to find a restaurant that served all-day American style breakfast (pancakes and maple syrup!) which calmed everyone's stomach, including Jaclyn.  Today will be a quiet day of rest, and tomorrow we head back down to the coast, where sea breezes can replace this high mountain air.  I don't see Mount Everest in anyone's future.  Except maybe Derek...

Speaking of Derek, it should come to no one's surprise that he is loving the bargaining shopping experience here.  If we need anything at all, he seems to be able to negotiate the best prices in both stores and at the markets.  His Spanish is coming along quite nicely too, as he can read the menus and talk prices, barter for lower cost and seem to come away with exactly the items he wanted.... quite the gift that boy has.  Si, gracias y por favor!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back to the Cusi Wasi

The magic that is Machu Picchu is still setting in, and we are glad we have made the journey but it is now hard not to find the next week a little anti-climatic.  We have had wonderful weather - the guidebooks all said November is spring, and the temp would range from 8 to 18 degrees, but we have had over 25 with a strong sun shining down.  The evenings cool off, but just to make sleeping comfortable.  Amazingly, no rain even at the sites where we were warned it rains most afternoons and evenings.  We have met several people who have braved the 4 day hike, and now Derek has the bug to return and complete the same feat.  With the amount of climbing involved in simply visiting the sites, let alone hiking to get to them, we are glad we are taking the "easy" path with the bus/van/train combos.  We have also met a number of people who have injured themselves (not surprising) or are suffering quite hard from high altitude, to the point of doctors and one being medi-vac'd back to is serious stuff.  Jaclyn is now ill, but most likely with a version of the bug Travis brought from home.  She has the added complication of upset stomach, but is now sleeping so we are praying it doesnt worsen.  Rest is the order of the day, rest and gatorade.
We are back at the same hotel in Cuzco, a friendly hostal with 20 or so rooms, though so far we have been the only guests.  Our 6 are going to stay until Jaclyn is well again before we continue anywhere, but Dad and Betty are going to continue up to Lake Titicaca (altitude 4300m).  We will have to see if we have time once we are all back to feeling fine... travelling with kids means alternate routes!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

AHHH Machupicchu....

Staying up at the tourist village of Aguas Calientes, the end of the train line and only access to Machupicchu, one of the New Wonders of the World.  And a wonder it is.  After a 30 minute switchback narrow road up an incredibly steep mountain side (I had to close my eyes much of the time as Peru is not really a good place for people who are afraid of heights!) we arrived to a misty city high in the clouds, build in the 1400´s and hidden until 90 or so years ago.  This archeological find made famous by a Yale professor truly unveils the unbelievable dynasty of the Inca empire.  It is awesome.

Yesterday was a difficult health day for at least half of our group of 8.  Travis has been suffering with a head and chest cold, complicated by altitude sickess from a couple of days at 12,000 feet above sea level.  Derek and JC have been eating Advil to ward off headaches, Rick has had a racing pulse (high blood pressure and high altitude are not a great combo, especially with the high test coffee they serve here.  I think I went down to a bad guacamole... anyway we rested well after the train ride down to this area, and woke this morning ready to brave the trek.  Katie is the healthiest of the bunch and she is literally running up the hills and having to wait for us all.  But once we hit the height of the city, we honestly could feel the power of that place.  I know that sounds hokey, but truly Machupicchu is mystical.

I forgot to mention that Jaclyn did her Irish jig at the top of Machu Picchu - a treble reel she made up herself, to quite a crowd and recorded by her brother,Travis.  After we rounded the terrace to descend to the main ruin area, a 20-something girl stopped her and asked if it was she dancing up above?  Being from Ireland, she herself had danced as a youngster, and wondered if Jaclyn would join her in a reel?  So then the two of them danced together at Machu Picchu, united in both the wonder of the view and the joy of the dance.... it was positively great!  U-tube to follow!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Sacred Valley

The Inca culture is really incredible, and we are all in awe of their technology especially in agriculture. Today we visited a place called Moray where they constructed what amounts to a research station, with concentric irrigated rings of terraced land on a mountain plateau (3700m high).  There they developed seed for multiple crops in multiple varieties - 3000 types of potatoes alone.  Some of the lower terraces in the Sacred Valley remain in production today, continuously farmed for over 500 years now, and high in corn, as well as wheat, oats, and vegetables like squash and yams.  We also spent time at an alpaca farm, much to the kids delight - we all fed and pet them, and they are really friendly creatures.  Later at lunch the buffet included local dishes with quinoa(sp?) soup (a rice-like grain) and of course, alpaca in gravy.  We all tried it and thought it tasty - can you tell our kids were raised on a farm? Love it.  The Sun Temple at Oliantatambo was an awesome example of astronomy - the alter lined up perfectly with the summer and winter solstice shadows between the mountain peaks.  Truly, an incredible day of learning (not to mention about 1500 steps to climb?) - we are all very tired tonight.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Up, Up to the Land of the Inca

This morning we packed up and flew StarPeru to Cuzco, a city of 10,000 high in the Andes.  And I mean high enough to make all of us light-headed.  Altitude sickness is a real issue here, as we are over 10,000 feet in a mountaintop valley that has been inhabited for like, 2500 years!  The Museo Inka was fascinating today, with pottery and textiles from various cultures from this area, as well as the more kid-friendly jewerly, weapons, golden statues and of course mummified bodies. Even an example of a "midget Inka" (I think the better translation would have been "little people" but I didnt correct our guide... it was the only humerous thing he said all afternoon)  The city here is quite the tourist scene, and we were constantly approached to buy this and that, so we did buy this and that until even Katie was getting very firm in her "No GRACIAS" to make them go away. We did get some cute photos of a baby alpaca while we were eating in a restaurant.... they were also on the menu, which we did find ironic.   This is a very steep town.  The cars cruise down the hills without needing much fuel and the pedestrians scramble at the bottom to cross streets - brakes are not guaranteed, and though I think those red octogonal signs probably mean STOP here too, no one seems to pay any notice.  Between the honking and vendors and traffic and lights flashing and tourists, we are all looking forward to tomorrow, when we can leave the city behind.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A day around Barranco

Today was quieter after the excitement of new discovery and the down of the Inca Cola - way too much caffeine for Katie, must find something else for her to drink!  Dad and Betty flew in late last night, and we made arrangements to plan our itinerary for the next 12 days together.  A trip to the Banco (unfortunately long line-ups, we will never again complain of this in Canada again) then a delightful lunch in the central square of our little suburb, Barranco.  Our neighborhood is a seaside village, rather high-end with cobblestone streets and cafes and sea views from the tops of cliffs overlooking the crashing surf below.  A gorgeous day today (I sunburned my arms and nose) and a great day to dine on incredible ceviche that we had to photograph it was so pretty!  Pictures as soon as I can figure out how to load them on this page!  We had to pick up a sweet sweater with llamas for Katie, and a Peruvian touque for Derek, so they will fit right in, as tomorrow we leave bright and early for a flight high into the Andes to discover the Sacred Valley and the Lost City of Gold!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Amazing Day in Lima

Okay, I won't be writing every day, let alone twice, but today was really amazing and I wanted to write it down so I wont forget.  After a short walk up our street this am, Rick was hesitant to venture forth with a sleepy Katie in tow, so we decided instead to arrange for a driver and English speaking guide to share the highlights of Lima today.  Enter Fabrizio, a wonderful dentistry student who has spent many months in Chicago, Boston and NYC hanging with friends and learning perfectly fluent English who also has an amazing grasp of his home country's culture and history as well as what kind of things most interests teenage boys and the girls too.
We were met at our (did I mention this before?) super-clean and SAFE B&B with a van (without dents! rare indeed it seems) and navigated our way to the central square.  We witnessed the changing of the Peruvian Guard (very British-style ceremony, plus policia in riot gear), and next to the Monestary and into the depths of the catacombs - kids LOVED that part.  On to a tiny street cafe for our first taste of Cerveza and Inca Cola - pop that tastes like bubble gum.  Katie had to pee, of course, and I could go on about that, but Fabrizio summed it up:  "dont expect the Radisson".  Baahhaaaa.
Then to a Inquistor museum (think Spanish inquisition and wax museum torture chamber), where a school group of young teenage Peruvians seemed much more interested in the attraction of two Canadian boys vs the exhibits.... Jaclyn was annoyed they kept taking OUR picture.....
The architecture was influenced by Spain, yes, but also France and Italy, and was opulent, then around the block was the antithesis of shanty-style markets., really an amazing contrast.
Later for lunch, we went to a local family restaurant, complete with indoor playground and ball-pit (like Ikea used to do), that served our first pisco sours (yummm, dangerous!) and lunch for meat-a-tarians.... oooh, what is this on the bottom of the pile on this grill of steak, pork, sausage, chicken, and what? yeah, heart, bowel and some chicken "from the area where the egg comes from"  - really?  yeah.
Spanish is not coming that easily, and I find myself wishing I had a better command of the language.  After Derek and I blew the power not once but twice due to a faulty serge protector (they were gracious, it was only the whole building, not the entire block...) I wished I could apologize more fluently.
Now after another dinner of "safer" chicken nuggets and fries, we await the arrival of my parents - and tomorrow we continue our journey out of the city and on to more adventure!

Waking up in Lima

Before I opened my eyes, I could hear horns blaring, engines revving and the clinking of morning dishes.  We have lucked out at a gem of a bed and breakfast in the suburb of Barranco, on the Peruvian coast neighboring the more expensive Miraflores.  The hotel is new, with wooden floors so spotless you might eat off of them, sparkling showers with 24-hour hot water - apparently rare in this part of the world.  If all the hostals are like this, we have no worries at all.
Breakfast was cooked to request eggs and toast, strong coffee and fresh squeezed juice.   Yum.
Impressions when we arrived, well, they treat families here with special preference.  Katie had special meals on the plane (grilled cheeze!) and then they fast-tracked us through customs in the crew only line.  We were met by our driver at the airport - what a sight to have around 300 drivers waving placards with names, and us searching for the one with Rick on it.... Derek got a great photo.  Our van weaved through the dark streets at 1am, surprisingly busy for the middle of the night, and we got our first glimpse of South America, with low flat-roofed row houses - laundry flapping on the roof!, dogs running across the roads, and flashing reds at intersections that seem to mean "slow down slightly here".
Today we are off to explore!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Grand Adventure Begins

What a successful trip to Vancouver, for the Oirechtas mostly - Jaclyn did AMAZING!  She recalled, and then qualified for the North American Irish Dance Championsips, which will be in July.  So glad we delayed the few extra days in Canada so that she might compete in this worth it!  We will be practicing our dance every day so no steps are forgotten, the dance shoes made it into the backpack too.
And of course, after a few days of spoiling ourselves at a fancy hotel (Westin's Heavenly Beds are to die for....) we start the true journey to South America via LAX. 
We checked our bags straight through, and have carry-ons with a swimsuit and change of clothes - Katie LOVES the ladybug, Deb! - and are excited to be meeting up with my Dad and Betty in Lima on Monday.  We have pre-booked the shuttle to our first B&B in Miraflores, a seaside district of Peru's capital city that looks like a perfect place to start our journey.  Macchu Picchu is a balmy 20 degrees celcius today... perfect for a big hike!  Here we go....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

First Stop, The Edge of Canada - Vancouver

This morning, with backpacks stuffed and excitement high, we boarded our first of many airplanes and made the trip across the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean, where we will each "dunk a toe (brrr,)" for posterity sake alone.  Jaclyn is dancing in the Western Canadian Champion regional qualifier for Irish dance on Friday.  We simply couldn't miss that after all the hours and hours of practice she has already invested.  Good luck to her - we are very proud of her accomplishments to compete at this level - she amazes us both.  Pictures  to follow.

Rick and the boys continued from the airport to the ferry to cross to Vancouver Island to visit Uncle Jack and Auntie Donna at Alberni for a couple of nights.  Today was bright and sunny and warm - gotta love that for the Canadian West coast in November.... hopefully it will hold until the weekend. The girls were able to do a "polar bear swim" in the outdoor hotel pool this afternoon, yes it was really that warm!  Well, we are Canadian!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Getting Ready and Set to GO!

Well, we leave on Wednesday - YIKES!  Trying desperately to get everything arranged, packed, purchase the few things we might still need, plan the business stuff while we are away, arrange for the house and vehicles, and of course see everyone for a visit before we are gone for 5 months.

The kids' teachers were also on that list - wow, their schools have been incredible and super-accommodating with our "winter avoidance" journey.  We leave at Fall Break, and are home just after Spring Break.... as little snow as possible this year!  Their assignment for the missed classes is a little bit of math and science, and then blog away for social and English.... their links are under the blogs I'm following if you'd like another viewpoint of these adventures..... I'm sure that will be worth a laugh by itself!

So this is the story of a family of six, with plans to visit five continents in five months...or at least have a small taste of each.  This will not be a five star trip, as we have warned our tribe, but they no doubt do not understand yet.  To travel for this long, there is a strict budget involved, not only because that is what is affordable, but also so that they get a true understanding of the places we are going.  We plan to experience the culture, not just as a tourist on "any beach, any where", but meeting other families and learning about the places and history and nature of it all.  By discovering others, we will discover our selves!

So we invite you to follow along - this is my journal, for two purposes.  One is self - I want to remember each place and our impressions as they occur, so that one experience is not overshadowed by the next (and in my aging, I seem to be remembering less lately!).  The second is to share.  Family and friends, here are the tales of the Anderson"s - Lisa and Rick (40'ish) and our children, Travis (16), Derek (14), Jaclyn (12) and Katie (6), a farm family from small-town Alberta, Canada, who is taking this opportunity to share the world with our kids, before the are all grown and gone.... which indeed is happening too soon!