Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lima, not your average Peruvian city

Lima Peru, one of the largest cities in world with an even larger social gaps. We arrived in the city around 9 pm and didn't find a place to say until 11pm because difficulty in finding plus places we checked out were full. When you enter the city lines you see such a contrast the out skirts are lined with unfinished buildings and dirt poor housing. The view changes pretty fast to modern shopping malls and high rises to colonel buildings and churches.

With over 10 million plus people the city is always moving. We stayed in Miraflores the upscale part of town for us it was a great location. Lima central is pretty bicycle friendly, everyday we would ride our bikes on the paths alone the cliff side with great views and cool pacific air, we even managed to ride all the way to the old town along Arequipa avenue that has a bike path in the middle of the road. Lima is better seen on bicycle so if your ever in the city think about renting a bike to get around, see the city and get some exercise.

Lima's china town better than most N. American cities
closed off main street on Sunday's for pedestrians nice!
year of the rabbit 

cup of cold tea

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

First week in Peru spent on the beach and checking out some ruins

After a crazy 15hr day we need a break and found the perfect spot to get the lay of the land in Peru. Huanchaco and we camped at the Naylamp for $4/pp and was a great place to relax, catch up on the blog and pretty much do nothing and the weather was perfect in my books, cloudy, cool breezy and dry. Huanchaco, is slow moving fishing and surf town, quite this time of year but the hostel was busy with tour groups, lucky we had set up our tent and spent most of the time inside watching movies and reading.

local fisherman still use straw boats (totora)
bring home the catch of the day
best ceviche to date in Huanchaco at el Penon

home for a week
Trujillo, is 15 minutes down the road and when we need any supplies we went to the Aventura Plaza that had everything. Trujillo is the capital of Libertad region, the city was a nice also very clean, a nice promenade of shops and restaurants. Unfortunately we went on a Sunday, and pretty much all the museums were closed but that was also a good thing because the streets were quite and easy to walk around.

We did manage to check out Chan Chan ruins of the Chimu people. They built the largest adobe walled cities in the world, its a constant battle for the workers to keep them from eroding. The workers keep packing new mud on top to protect them and when it rains they cover them up. It only cost $2 to enter and we got a 1 hour guided tour for $10 that explained the wall carvings, the palace rooms and how the Chimu got conquered by the Incas, well worth it. Next we will head to the capital city Lima.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Goodbye Ecuador, hello Peru, another easy boarder crossing but a long 15hr day

Its that time again to cross another border and we are both sad to leave Ecuador, we didn't really expect too much from the country but it really surprised us with its 3 distinct regions and equally 3 unique cultures. We found traveling Ecuador fun, interesting, safe and also cheap "best bang for the money so far". Good bye Ecuador and Peru here we come!

We left Vilcabamba, 9:00am heading to Macara the mountain boarder crossing we arrived at 2:00 and wanted to gas up before entering Peru. What a mistake, 3 of the 4 gas stations had closed because they had sold out and the last one had a long line up so we waited and when it was finally our turn they told us you can only get $5 of gas but the owner told the attendant to give us $10 because we're foreigners, first time things worked out in our favor. Better than nothing. 2:30 at the boarder, same process stamped our passports exit and return our car permit to the officer on duty, drove across a shot bridge and parked on the right side. We filled out the forms for the visa and got 3 months walked across the street to the police office with the nude girl pictures on inside walls and got the stamp. Next door was the Aduana office, the man doing the paper worked seemed tired and not really interested in doing our papers but the guards assured us he would do it, so he took our papers back to his disk and started working. 30 minutes later we are done and that same nice guard pointed us to where we could by insurance across the street and up the stairs, cost only $14 for 2 months cheap.

thats about all we saw after crossing the boarder, desert and garbage
Now with all the easy stuff out of the way, we didn't really know where to stop off our first night so we thought of driving towards Lima until night fall and stop off at a gas station to rest, Wrong. First we arrived in Piura, it was about 8pm and got some much needed food and I mentioned to Ji, I saw a sign for Chiclayo, she said "we are going that way" so back in the Sienna and would find a gas station on the Panamerica hwy. First things first, we had to get out of Piura and that was an adventure in itself. After driving around the town at night we asked a lady how to get on the road for Chiclayo. She was so nice she got into the car and pointed us to the Panamerica heading south, she told us to let he off at the gas station and she would take a cab back into town. We felt bad just leaving her on a dark deserted road and offered to pay for the cab and waited until she got into a taxi.

It was dark really dark and no street lights on the hwy but stupid me I said lets go to the next gas station and rest. 11pm and still no gas station and the gas light comes on. We drove until midnight before finding another station and the van was running on vapors. After 15hrs on the road we decided to never do a stupid thing like that again, plus next morning down the road we got stopped by a police check and he warned us its "not safe to drive at night lots of robberies occur at night on this road".

Final week in Ecuador, visited colonial Cuenca and the fountain of youth at Vilcabamba

Cuenca is Ecuador most famous colonial city and right it should be. We spent 4 days in the city and found it charming. We stayed at the warm family run Hotel Europa, for $23 a night included breakfast plus parking. Simple breakfast of juice, milk and croissant. Cuenca itself seemed more modern than colonial but we did manage to take in of its charm. We visited two hat makers in the city first was the Rafeal Paredes S and sons, they had a small museum when you enter the store and at the back workers doing the final finishes to the hats nice place but the Homero Ortega factory was better. First they had a free tour (english or spanish) of the hat making process and the history behind the Panama hats. Named because early Panama workers used them but originally made in Ecuador. That was my mistake when I bought one in Panama and when I showed the hat makers in Ecuador they told me right away its an fake, could of got a real one, better quality for the same price "live and learn". After the tour they took us into their show room of hats ranging from $25 to $1500.

Another interesting place we visited was the National Bank museum and was free also, can you believe our luck. They had really interesting ethnography display of the 3 different regions the costas, sierra mountain people and the amazon jungle natives. At the lower level they had Ecuadors history of currency on displayed, its history because they have adopted the american green back as the currency of choice. 

Vilcabamb is Ecuadors fountain of youth, people here are supposed to live longer and we can see why its such a popular retirement place. It has good temperature all year round, clean and the people seem very friendly. As for some special force that keep people healthy we didn't see too many old folks but we saw tones of foreigners around, enjoying drinks, foods and hell a lot of smoking so I don't expect them to live that long. But it is a nice place to rest and kill a few days getting ready for Peru. We stayed at the hostel Le Rendez Vous run by a french couple is one of the best hostels we have seen at only $18 for both that included breakfast but had shared bath and no parking and we still liked it. We found parking down the street for $1 a night.

Vilcabamba, we didn't do much as you can see

5 hour detour to Chimborazo and altitude sickness

While we left Banos heading for a park I don't even know the name of that Ji, had read about somewhere. We got on the road heading for the PA hwy south but was greeted by a line of cars waiting on a road block, than we notice a bunch of cars jumping the line and passing on the opposite lane so we asked a person waiting "where are they going?" Riobomba, he replied! great we heading to the same way, so we overtook all the waiters and got directed to a dirt road heading for Riobomba. While on the road we got some great views not seen before. Usually we on top of the mountains looking into the valley but this road was down low, beside the river. We noticed a lot of road constructions going on and thought nothing of it. We finally got to a patch of paved road and asked a local for directions to the park and they pointed us to continue along that road. We noticed more road work and passed until the road just ended and the worker tells me you can't pass! OK, would have been nice to have sign saying "NO PASSE". Angry and frustrated we went back about 30 minutes and asked another local to a different town they pointed us to a beautiful paved road we drove on that road for about 2 hours and found the park we had been looking for but it was closed disappointed we continued on that road to the next town and long behold another road block they told us you can't pass OMG! we had to back track, would have been nice to post some signs so people know, all we got were some laughs and giggles.

military exercise we hope
scenic road but would have been nice to know it leads nowhere!

Finally we decided to stop off at Chimborazo national park and see the tallest peak in Ecuador, big big mistake. Now we just came from the coast and had not acclimatized ourselves and we went straight up the the base camp about 5000 meters up we both felt ok at first. 1 hour later we stared getting headaches pounding ones and to top it off the sun was setting and it was getting cold. The base camp allowed us to use the kitchen and we made some instant noodles and after decide to hold up for the night in the van. We couldn't sleep all night Jieun was throwing up all night. I on the other hand had a massive headache and was just freezing. I wanted to leave in the night but It was just too dark to drive down that curvy road at night. One thing we got from the peak was clear night and great views of the Chimborazo. As soon as the sun came out we head down high and straight for Cuenca.

stunning view but the picture brings back a migraine
llama of chimborazo