Wednesday, May 30, 2012


We arrived last night in Mancora with a reservation at Kokopelli. I can't believe what a cool little place this is. Nice pool right next to the bar, 300 yards from the ocean (which is nice and warm here because it's so close to the equator). They layout is very friendly and accessible with a good buffer between the music of the bar and the need of quiet in the rooms. Mancora is a very small town that seems to exist purely for tourism, but that also makes it a lively spot with lots of fun travelers. My German is getting a workout. Beyond Michael and Rolf there are several Austrians and Germans here. This is a place where I could see someone get lost on purpose for a very long time.
Viva mas amigos!

Magic Fountains

In the chaos that is travel I have neglected to share about my evening at the Magic Fountains in Lima. This is a nice little park near the soccer stadium that was apparently a gift from the US government to Peru. It features 13 fountains of various shapes and colors that create an aesthetic display of colors, water and motion. I will confess though, as I was observing these water dances that are similar to what you'd see at Bolagio in Vegas or perhaps the Disney display where fountains interact with colors and music and patrons. However, this experience peaked when we got to the final show and my largely underwhelmed mood shifted dramatically. The show used the motion, mist and water of a huge fountain display that shot water 50 meters in the air at times as the vehicle for a holographic laser show. The music ranged from Mozart and Beethoven to Paul Simon and various Peruvian artists. This was quite mind-blowing. If you've ever seen a laser show at a planetarium consider this the next level of impressive. The mist and the holograms produced seemingly magic in the sky and the choreography of the various spouts and mists and lights and holograms all dancing to the music was as an impressive of a display as I've seen. If I see aliens I will take them to that to show them the cusp of human artistic capacity. I recommend this for visitors to Lima and for those of you who may not arrive here soon, google it. It's cool!
Viva mas amigos!

Catching up

Two days ago Michael, Rolf and I left the comforting confines of Pariwana seeking sunshine and surf. We booked bus tickets to Trujillo. The bus was quite nice with comfortable seats and they showed a movie, but the fact that I was sitting next to an attractive womant that I didn't speak a word to made getting comfortable during the trip impossible. When we arrived in Trujillo in the morning I was disheveled and exhausted but ready for the new adventure. We then took and taxi ($6) to Huanchaco. We were hoping for sun and surf. Disappointment. The surf was there, but it was still draped in a curtain of grey skies and water was too cold to be inviting. So, we sat in the restaurant of a nice villa where we were considering staying and plotted our get-away. The idea of taking a bus farther north seemed to dominate the planning. As I sat there, exhausted from travel and a $6 taxi ride from the bus station, I was not enthusiastic about this idea. In a stroke of genius I suggested to Rolf that we try and hire the taxi driver to take us to Mancora. Part of me was kidding, but what the hell? Rolf managed to negotiate a trip north for $65 each. This included a good tip if the driver wasn't a total dingus. When we made this deal we were under the impression that we would be taking the shaky taxi that brought us from Trujillo. There was zero tread on the tires and the car was kind enough to thump in the back in the event I wanted to bust out in a rap. All these factors gave me no solace in my suggestion...the bus was looking good. Too late. We were taking the taxi and we began to feel the excitement. A bit of luck, the original taxi driver had sub-contracted this job out to his brother in law who had a much nicer car (Renault I believe). When I say it was a much nicer car I'm not saying that because the car was so nice, but because the original taxi was a piece of shit and this was much nicer than a piece of shit. This was a car. We smashed ourselves into all the various crevaces of the Renault and expected to head north to Mancora. Well, first, we had to stop for gas...of course. So, off to Manocora...nope. Gotta stop and say goodbye to the driver's wife. Now we're off...nope. Tires need checked. Okay, off...nope. Here's a nice place to buy cake....Okay, off...nope, we have to take a look at the main square, which was nice. So, off...yes, we're off, but we seem to be heading in the opposite direction. Oh well, what do I know? I sit back and we begin the optimistic journey to find sun.
Once we actually get on the road and headed north, it is really evident how poor, random and dirty the outskirts of Peru are. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for why "houses" are where they are. Often they are merely a collection of dirt colored bricks (kind of cinder block shaped). There was an unusual amount of liter scatter all along the beginning portion of our trip. No worries. We're onto good times.
After an hour, we stop for lunch. This cantina would have been perfectly cast for a movie. There was a counter, some tables and one woman working. It was clean, however. We ordered and the food (per usual) was really good. I think Rolf's seafood soup took the prize. This was about a cauldron of crab, shrimp, fish, clams, scallops and vegetables. I had a steak and rice and although it wasn't anything special, it was impressive for the surroundings. Our meal was chaperoned by a group of police. They are really everywhere in this country. Normally they put me at ease. This time I was more nervous. Perhaps it was the M-16 assault riffle one of them was carrying (rather slack as well). They simply ate and left though. Okay, off...well for a bit, then we have to stop at the control. It cost about a $4 toll every couple hours of driving. This causes a heated discussion between Rolf and our taxi driver. The driver wants us to pay. Rolf explains the price was already negotiated and that all costs were included in this price. Plus, how many times could there be such a thing? I mean we're only traveling about an inch on the map. Through the control check, and Michael and I notice the driver, Walter (from Peru and spoke no English), is nodding off while he is driving. The squawking begins. We try to keep Walter awake. How long can the trip be anyway? Good thing I'm so tired because I couldn't sleep on the bus. This will allow me to sleep in the car...nope. We hit a speed bump going about a million miles an hour. Lo siento senores!! No big deal, Walter was an aggressive driver, but this bump was probably an anomaly. Nope...we kamakazied into speed bumps with all too much frequency. Rolf loses his temper and begins a very stern but eloquent tirade on Walter's driving (which included ridiculous passing in stressed out situations). Bravo Rolf! Walter begins to drive more tranquilo. But then his narcolepsy kicks back in. Ugh! How long could this trip be anyway? We've got to be getting close. Just keep Walter awake. After we've been driving for hours someone sees a sign that seems to suggest that we are only two hours away. No problem. The adrenaline and survival instinct have me wide awake. Two hours is nothing. More control checks. More discussions as to who's responsible. Michael advances Walter some money to table this discussion and Walter uses that to pay the tolls. The conversation is lively and it's very interesting having world and political perspectives from people from 3 different countries (Walter abstained from this discussion). Walter begins to fade again. WTF??? Michael volunteers that he has an international drivers license and was willing to drive. I couldn't believe this, because there is no effin' way I would get behind the wheel in this country. So Michael takes over and Walter is out like a light. Gone. Catatonic. Maybe begins to feel like some bad Peruvian version of Weekend at Bernie's. Michael drives quite impressively. Plus, we have to be almost there, right? More controls. More tolls. We ask, how far? Another two hours they tell us? What??? That's what we figured two hours ago. Oh well, Michael is now driving. We feel safer and we've settled into our grove. Walter is still dead. Rolf in his capacity as translator finally hits the wall and takes a nap. WIth Walter dead, Michael and I are the only ones awake. I feel the need to stay awake with him. It's dark now and the roads are windy and the bump thing is still a problem, but we figure out the signs. There is a sign that looks like a pregnant number 1. Somewhere after that sign (no certain distance) there will be a bump. This seems to be their way of controlling speed without speed limits. So the launching within the car chapter seems to be over, but the dark, fast switchback section wants a turn. We come to what seems to be a fairly large city. We make sure we are going the right direction and ask how much farther? About two more hours. Is this the only answer they are allowed to give? Well Michael and I stay awake and get through toll booths with stressed Spanish and a continuous hope that eventually the final two hour clock on this trip will begin to count down. We've been driving now for what seems like forever. I'm so tired I can no long speak German, English or Spanish. Another control station. We pay the toll and ask how much farther (If she says two hours I'm going kick her right in the clam). She says one hour. She can live (unlike Walter who appears to be dead in the passenger seat. How in the hell did he agree to do this when he's either narcoleptic or obviously very tired?) After a half hour Michael asks me how much farther do I think. We'd been going for a half our since we were told an hour. I say, a half hour? I think at this point that was too much to hear. He's incredulous. We see a real street sign finally that says Mancora 23K (about 15 miles). There is a sense of hope. Rolf wakes up. We tell him we're about two hours out. We begin to laugh again. Walter is still dead. We arrive in Mancora to find that my Visa card works again (fucking YES!) and after a stupidly long in-processing we get to the bar by the pool. $12 night and in paradise!
Viva mas amigos!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

El Mercado

Today my German and Swiss friends and I ventured into the market. So vivid. I saw a bucket of snails and the snails were as big as an Idaho potato...still slow though. One man had a wagon of avocados as big as pineapples. At first I didn't believe that they were avocados. My Swiss friend needed his second breakfast. It's interesting seeing slaughtered lambs hanging on a hook next to a bucket of snails and pigeons cruising around foraging. Along the park was an incredible display of vivid (that word again) colorful paintings. They were masterful and I wanted every one of them... and they are simply the saturday market art, no gallery, no agents, just art. Now it's time for an afternoon coffee and perhaps a game of ping pong and relax. We walk a lot and the down time feels extra nice.
Viva mas!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lima Cucina

The defining aspect of spending time in Lima is that the food is ridiculous! Every meal and every variety of food is fresh, well prepared, well priced and delicious. What's interesting, though, is that there doesn't seem to be a particular food of Lima...roasted chicken perhaps. Wanting to have some of this Lima roasted chicken I went to a place last night called Chicken Chicken. Seems pretty obvious what they would specialize in. I ordered roasted de lo chicken (not pollo). So of course that was a steak. A good steak, but I'm still confounded by that. The one thing that I've eaten here that was even a slight disappointment was a tiramisu. Granted, my host mother in Germany set a high standard, but this version seem almost gelatinous and also without brandy (kind of an Olive Garden type). The fact that the food is good should be no surprise, however. Apparently Lima now identifies itself as a food mecca. In 2008 there was a concerted effort to win back the tourism from that lost by fears of militants. Well, it appears they have succeed.
Along with food being the signature of Lima you might notice they are very horny here. They honk all the time. There are so many car horns blaring at any given moment it makes you wonder, what's the point? Certainly no one can discern whether they are being honked at and combine that with the chaotic way in which everyone drives and it seems like the horn serves no particular function other than reminding me that I'm not asleep at 2 AM. I''d like to propose that cars here be sold without horns in that they are no longer a safety feature. The cacophony of the night would change dramatically.
Staying in the hostel makes it fairly easy to make friends. One English couple and I have been hanging out quite a bit. They are in a room down the hall from me. Last night a drunk Swiss guy came into their room and peed on their floor. Good times! This had quite the chilling effect on them and they are leaving for Trujillo tonight. I think I may follow them in the morning. I think it's time to shake things up a bit.
Viva mas

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Getting the Hang of Lima

So I've been in Peru for a week now and I'm starting to figure things out. I found the place where I enjoy staying (Pariwana). This is huge, because traveling alone makes staying in a hotel a social challenge. At Pariwana it is fun and social and easy to figure out travel needs etc.
Lima is an impressive city. It is large and metropolitan and due to the terrorist group in the 90s that scared away Peru's tourism they have made an obvious commitment to security. There are several (no exaggeration) cops ever block. They don't seem intimidating. There is more of a sense that they are there for my protection. Because I'm in somewhat of a posh area of Lima (although this city seems pretty put together) the prices aren't so cheap, but they are still below what I would pay at home. I know this is somewhat of a clinical account of my experiences to date, but I've had internet trouble, which I think I've least for now. The beer is pretty good (way better than in Costa Rica). So far I haven't done much here except try to explore the city, both walking and touring. Yesterday I went on a tour that was seemed sponsored by the Catholic church although it was a really good tour and took me back to my days in Germany and all of the churches that I visited. In the catacombs of the monastery was the remains of an ossuary and there were thousands of bones (mostly femurs and sculls it seemed) that remained from the days when people felt the need to be buried in the church or not go to heaven.
The Gran Hotel Boliviar (where Switters stayed) was as fancy as expected, modeled after the Waldorf Astoria with the additional attraction of a KFC in the front....nothing says class like fried chicken in a bucket. The lobby also displayed a mint condition Model T Ford. It was hard not to get inside and mess around, but no tocar!
One major disappointment is that trip will not include a beach chapter. In order to really get to where the beaches don't require a wet suit and a hard core desire to catch waves, I would have to venture to Ecuador and that's just not in the cards this trip. So I will take smaller trips to explore ancient sacrifice alters and ruins until Dylan gets here (I can't wait for Dylan to get here) I have booked a trip for him and me to to explore the south of Peru for 18 days. We will go sand surfing, nature viewing, canyon exploring, biking, hiking, hot-springing, flying over the Nazca lines, whitewater rafting, trekking that will climax in Machu Picchu. I spent hours and hours back home trying to piece together a trip like this and it seemed impossible. The magic of Pariwana made it not only possible, but for much less than I was expecting to pay. Winning.
My Spanish is improving in all ways. But there is this stress that happens right before a conversation begins. Even if it surrounds vocabulary that I am comfortable with. Part of the stress actually comes from wondering whether the conversation will be in Spanish or English. Once that's established I seem to be able to relax and allow my ability or inability to speak and understand to take over. I think relaxing and not panicking is the key to practicing the language. There are large holes in what I know, but I also know a lot, so with some creativity and patience speaking becomes possible.
I love staying at Pariwana. It is so much more friendly and helpful than the hotel where I was at first (not to mention less expensive). However, there are a handful of travelers that approach my age. The rest are around college student age. I like this because there is a lot of energy but I can't help but feel a little like the creepy old guy. That's just another reason I can't wait for Dylan to get here. He will love this scene and to some extent alleviate my sense that I'm out of that baseball coach who doesn't have a son on the team....generally not the guy you want your kid playing for.
Although the weather isn't really summer/surfing weather, it is constantly nice. It's never cold or hot. Sometimes a heavier shirt is more comfortable than a t-shirt, but shorts seem just fine. The air is nice on my skin. There is a light humidity that lubricates the air but doesn't oppress. Apparently it rains very little here. To the point where they don't have drainages in the streets or gabled houses (unless they had they're house built somewhere else, deconstructed, moved to Peru and reassembled (which happened)). I've seen virtually no sun so far. There is a constant backdrop of grey. It is not a smog, although it is clear that the exhaust standards on the cars is lower than in the US that is something you can taste but it doesn't seem to be the cause of the haze. It's interesting to have this grey backdrop in such a vivid place.
Mostly I'm beginning to feel at ease in this large city. The confusion of the beginning is to be expected, but non-the-less a challenge. Now that our trip is planned out and I know that I will be functioning primarily from Lima until Dylan's arrival, I can relax and enjoy this chapter.
Viva Mas

Friday, May 18, 2012

Resting in Vivid Miraflores

So I finally arrived in Lima after sleeping in two airports (couldn't leave to stay in a hotel because of customs). Simply put, I was exhausted. I found a decent hotel in the posh part of Lima...this is not my normal style, but the taxi driver sold me out. Oh well, it's nice and I needed to recover from my travel fatigue. I do appreciate being right on the ocean though...well technically a block a way. I think the hotel in front of mine is 10 times more expensive, but I'm willing to suffer that block walk. In my two days here I've discovered the truth in how fine the cuisine is in Lima. Every meal has been effin gourmet and cost usually about the same as value meal at McDonalds (if you don't count the cost of the wine). Today I had lobster linguini pomadoro which I couldn't finish, not for a Herculean effort and it cost $9, but more importantly, it was perfecto. So was the ambiance and the energy that vibrates through this large city. It is clear that a city of 10 million will be impossible to know intimately, so I will allow myself the opportunity to explore largely MiraFlores and some of the traditional sites, enjoy some quality food and perhaps some night life and move north. Although there were surfers spotting the beaches today, it is clear that this is essentially winter in Lima. Although it's very comfortable and the air feels nice on my skin, it is not gringo beach weather. I'm sure I will experience swimming weather as I near the equator. Until then I will enjoy the food, the spirit and the drains swirling the other direction (yes it's true) and rest and recover. Hopefully my mind will regain a state of clever observations about my travels. Until then I am satisfied to report I am full, happy and excited.
Viva mas!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pleasant turn around

After a fairly hectic and less than ideal arrival to the airport I considered this trip off to a bad start. That was turned around quickly and completely though. After getting my flight changed to a direct flight with a $425 bonus I told myself to be patient with all subsequent events because I was way ahead. Go ahead and put me next to a crying baby or super fat guy or a super fat guy with a crying baby. I'm ready. Nope...The man sitting next to me had the curtesy to be thin and because the flight had been delayed (to my benefit) the pilot took a short cut or something and got us to SFO in like an hour. My music shuffle seemed to have tapped into my mood somehow and was playing only the songs I was in the mood for. Switters from Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates accompanied me through my brief flight and I landed somewhat daunted but amazed at what I had just experienced. Now to find my next flight....

Free flight

So I rushed to the airport in my slightly delayed Yellow Cab to discover my flight was over-booked. No worries. I got a direct flight to San Francisco instead of a lengthy layover in Phoenix....and a $425 travel voucher. Winning!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Practice blog

This is a practice post. I will be leaving f0r Peru tomorrow