Sunday, April 10, 2011

Navigating la Navidad (Part one)

Well hello there!
It`s been awhile. I guess I am officially the worst blog-keeper ever considering it`s been over three months now.... but here I am, once again, apologizing profusely, and hoping you will forgive me and read my following posts summarizing the past few months. I know the faithyou had will probably never be able to be restored, but here it goes if you`re interested....

Sooo... after departing from the jungle of Puerto Maldonado, we were dumped back into the jungle of civilaztion-- the capital of Peru: Lima. In a city with a population of approximately 9 mil, we were waaaay over our heads. I literally had my nose squased up against the foggy cab window the whole hour drive from the airport to our hotel. The jumble of billboards, restaurants, high rises, cars, roads, and the sheer amount of people was quite a contrast from the vegetation and the animals of the jungle. Lima was completely awesome though. Between the culture, the company, and the spectacular ocean cliffs, we couldn`t go wrong.  We absorbed quite a bit about Peruvian culture in Lima because we jammed in as many churches, museums and archeological sites as we possibly could! We saw history museums, art museums, and a museum that had pots documenting everything from their lives (including a whole gallery of erotic and penis pots haha!). It`s really fascinating being in a country that has so much history and culture. They have hundreds of typical dances, songs, foods, festivals, and traditions that go back hundreds of years. I have to admit, I`m a little jealous of the unity that this brings to the country.

The greatness of Lima was amplified by the company we were with. We got to meet up with multiple friends from Taricaya (Yannick, Sheyla, and James randomly), Rodrigo Laguna and some of his family, Chelan Pauly (who is in Lima on Rotary exchange), and even my parents!! I know all teenagers think at one point that they just want to break free and never come home... but.... after boarding the plane to Peru, I definitely haven`t had such dramatic views. Oh was I ever so happy to see my parents again! I guess I wasn`t as rebelious and vegabond-y as I thought I would be because I had definitely been missing them! I was also very grateful to have my family around for the holidays.

Unfortunately, after Lima, we had to split off from my parents for a few days. They were going to go through Cusco and do the whole Machu Picchu deal while they could ( I hear it`s a can`t miss) but Vicki and I were going to be in Cusco later so it didn`t make sense for us to visit MP so early. So while my parents made their way clockwise over to Cusco and Puno, Victoria and I went counterclockwise and headed down the south coast.

Travelling down the south coast, we spent many, bumpy, uncomfortable hours in a bus. Though, I don`t regret these rides in any way. The drives were spectacular (and somewhat terrifying as we flew around corners where the road was inches from an edge of a cliff) and driving it all gave us a much better view of Peru`s landscapes. From the metropolis of Lima, the land fades into an arid desert covered in slums that sprawls for miles. The poverty level was incredible here and I still have no idea how these people can survive in the middle of these sand dunes without arable land or a close-by water source. They live in tiny little cement cubes that are just big enough to lie down in. Life is pretty dismal here-- a reality that many tourists don`t see. It`s hard to truly understand their pain without having lived it. Malnutrition, disease, dehydration, alcoholism, sexism, and uneducation are unfortunately all issues they deal with everyday. They fight so hard just to survive.

On a more positive note, it was interesting to see how diverse Peru is for such a small country. Within a few hours of driving, we saw the flourishing city of Lima, the slums, a barren desert, jagged coastlines with cliffs that dropped straight into the ocean, beautiful beaches, and then even fields, vineyards and random oasises.

After passing through Pisco, a town that is still dealing with the devestation of a large earthquake from 2007, we ended up in Paracas. Paracas is a dinky little town that consists of a plaza and then extends outwards for about three blocks with restuarants and hostels and tourist agencies. What gives this quaint town its appeal is that it is situated right on the beach. The sand literally overflows on to some of the streets. It was very casual and laid back and everyone was walking around in sandals or barefoot and enjoying the warm ocean air. After dumping our stuff off in the cheapest hostel we could find (less than 5 US dollars a night), we shedded our sweatshirts for suits and beelined it for the sandy playa. AHHH! Now this was a vacation!

The next day, we joined a boat tour out to the Islas Ballestas. I was instantly satisfied because as soon as we took off, our boat was surrounded by breaching dolphins. Though I`m not as obssessed with dolphins as I used to be (I no longer have my dolphin comforter, sheets, towel set, wallpaper, or collector`s items), they still make me sooo happy and giddy! They must be my spirit animal. Anyways, after a short ride, the tour took us out to the rock formations (the Islas Ballestas), or better known as, "the poor man`s Galapagos." And Oh man! It definitely lived up to it`s name. Every INCH of these giant rocks were covered in either some type of bird or seal. I`ve never seen so many birds in my life! Nor had I ever seen a penguin before!! Not only were the rocks covered with creatures, but so was the sky! I was thankful that I had not seen the movie The Birds, otherwise I think I may have been a little horrified! Though I still had to be vigilint--it was kind of like a war zone there. I felt like I had a big target on my head and I was just waiting to be ambushed from any angle. After an elderly couple got a big white dump on their shoulder, I put my baseball cap on for protection. I ended up getting a little squirt on my arm, but I hear that it`s considered good luck, so I took the situation as the glass half full (and not with poo). So the islands were truly amazing. I have no idea how all those birds can possibly live in such close proximity. It was pretty cute to look up and see these giant pelicans waddling up next to seagulls, who are squaking at some commorants, who are huddled up to some other random type of bird! Somehow, they manage to live in a sort of chaotic peace, and together their calls harmonize into a loud, exuberant chorus, welcoming you to the islands.
*If you are a bird-watcher fanatic, I would put Paracas on the top of your to-see list.

From Paracas, we went inland toward Ica/Huacachina. We passed up the city of Ica and headed straight for Huacachina-- the oasis. Concealed by miles and miles of giant sand dunes, Huacachina looks like a paradise set from a Hollywood movie. It consists of a small lagoon (no bigger than a football field) that rises out of nowhere, sourrounded by palm trees, flowers, and cacti. The lagoon is also surrounded by a row of hotels and restaurants, but it is still very calm and the buildings don`t interrupt the beauty of the place. I actually kind of felt like I had landed somewhere in the Middle East-- Saudia Arabia maybe. Where was my burqa??

The sand dunes were Ah.Mazing. It`s more sand than you could ever possibly imagine. The dunes are no mole hills- they are LEGIT mountains that take over an hour to climb up. And once you get to the top of one, you can see how expansive the dunes are. They spread as far as you can see in every direction and don`t end until they hit the Pacific (miles away). I couldn`t help thinking of the book Dune. Desert planet. Arrakis. I found myself shuffling my feet as to not disturb the giant worms!!

Walking up a dune is no easy task. It`s a calf and butt burner for sure and with every step you take up, you slide backwards halfway. I decided that when I have my own house I`m going to toss out the eliptical and the treadmill to make room for my own personal sand dune. Not only are they good for exercise, the dunes are also a blast! We would jump and sprint down them and we even got to go on a sand buggy tour. Now a buggy tour sounds equivalent to a ride on a golf cart right? Well I have to say, I underestimated the power of the buggy. This tour was a full out rollercoaster ride! I was holding on for dear life as our driver would go raging  up a dune and, without any hesitation, send us flying down the at an incredible velocity. He was a really talented driver and as we were heading for a sand cliff at over 50km an hour, he would turn in the nick of time and go speeding off in the opposite direction. What a maniac! And what an awesome adrenaline rush!
(Warning: this tour is not for those with motion sickness, fear of heights, heart problems, or my mother).

The buggy tour was even better because it was coupled with sandboarding. After taking us up and over a bunch of dunes, we would arrive at a summit with an untouched slope. We were ready to "SHRED the NAR." No one in our group actually knew how to board, so we all went down penguin style (laying on the boards on our bellies)-- I guess I should call it sandsledding. But this was totally sufficient and these dunes were way steeper than any snow hill I`ve ever experience! The sand causes a little more friction than snow does, but we were FLYING!! I was sooo happy that even though I couldn`t go skiing or sledding this winter I could get my fix in with sandsledding! Woohoo!

We went up and over, and down and around TONS of dunes, stopping at slopes increasingly steeper for sledding. Then, right before the sun  was about to dip behind the soft sand, the driver took us to our last slope. No, this was not a slope, this was practically vertical. Double Black Diamond status. But it was balls to the wall and we went blazin raisin down that hill without out pausing or looking back! Let`s just say that was probably one of the best 2 hours of my life.

I will never forget that day. Not only because of the fond memories, but also because I think will continue to find sand ingrained in awkward places until the day I die....

1 comment:

  1. Wow! A new post! Even though I have heard about all of this before, I love reading about it. Keep it up!! You'll love having this record.

    La Mama