Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday, October 31: Colca Canyon

Liz was still feeling terrible this morning, so we knew this was going to be a long day. We woke up very early and were picked around 3:30 AM up by the van that would take us to our adventure. We met our guide, Hans, who was glad to learn that we both spoke Spanish. Once he learned that he barely spoke a lick of English with us. It was going to be a longish journey, so we were hoping to catch some sleep on the van. Such was not to be: the other guides decided to listen to Peruvian folk music on the road, and they weren't particularly kind about keeping the volume down. We were a little grumpy about this. There were others on our van, visiting from Canada but not going on the same tour as us.

Our first stop was a small town called Chivay, where we sat down to have our...breakfast! It was at a hostel, which thankfully had WiFi, and we sat down and enjoyed a good breakfast which included some tasty Peruvian bread. The town was pretty chilly in the morning and the toilets were outside. Very cold toilets!

We continued down the road. The landscape was mostly scrubland, brown and with bushes but not a whole lot of trees. There were occasional llamas and vicuñas on the way. The canyon is quite impressive, and it's very deep (deeper than the Grand Canyon, in fact). Our first stop was Cruz del Condor, a lookout for, you guessed it, condors. There were a few of them flying around, and they were mostly flying below the lookout points. We looked around for a bit and walked to a couple of the lookout spots, but Liz was really feeling terrible at this point so any walking at all was probably overdoing it. We were also starting to get to higher elevations so difficulty in breathing didn't help the matter. At least we got a good look at the condors.

Our next stop was Cabanaconde, the staging point for our hike. Originally, we were going to do a longer hike starting from a different spot, but that was just not going to happen with Liz feeling as miserable as she did. We had to break the news to Hans, who was very disappointed to hear that we wouldn't be doing the full hike. He tried to convince us to do otherwise, almost begging. We think that since we chose one of the pricier tour companies, Hans was accustomed to dealing more with the eldery and didn't often get the chance to do one of the more adventurous treks they offer. So, to Cabanaconde we went. We bought some Halls at the nearest store we could find, and got ready for our hike. We started by following a path that weaved through some farmland. That wasn't so bad, but then we started the downward descent. That didn't go so well. Liz was just feeling awful, and had to stop and rest frequently. It didn't help that she opted against bringing her hiking boots on the trip to save room in her suitcase. Bad decision. She lost her footing several times, but didn't completely fall over (Hans lent her his walking sticks, which helped). Along the way, we got passed by a mule driver, who was bringing supplies to the resort we were staying at.

The scenery itself was nice, it really is an impressive canyon (though definitely not as majestic as the Grand Canyon) It was pretty obvious what our destination was, the resort was the only patch of green visible the whole trip down. It's called Sangalle. Liz's feet could barely carry her at this point. We had lunch as soon as we got there, which was a pretty gross and tasteless meal but adventurous since it contained alpaca meat, and it took a little too long for our drinks to get to us. After lunch, we settled into our cabin. It was rustic, having a light that barely worked (and only after dark) and windows that didn't close all the way. Still, it provided privacy, a bed, and a roof over our heads, which was really all we needed. Liz hit the bed right away, and stayed asleep until dinner. I read my book and took a dip in the pool. We weren't particularly social for the rest of the day. Poor Hans wanted to play volleyball and do all sorts of fun activities with us. I chatted with Hans every now and then but otherwise kept to my own devices. Liz woke up for dinner and then went back to sleep. I followed suit before too long. We had an early day ahead of us.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thurdsay, October 30: Arequipa (Mark)

We took a taxi early in the morning to Lima's airport to catch a flight to our next destination: Arequipa! This is an old city, nearly 500 years old, and founded by Spaniards. It is also the only place on our trip that Liz hadn't been to before. Our taxi driver took us to our hotel, which is a nice place with a courtyard that also gives lessons in preparing Peruvian cuisine (we didn't have time to take the course).

We couldn't check into our room quite yet, but we met with Carlitos, the owner of the tour company for our trek that we would be taking the next day. He was very excited because he said he was having a baby. This made us wonder what he was doing with us when he was supposed to be with his partner - we later learned that she was not, in fact, in labor but they had just found out she was expecting. He gave us an overview of what we would be experiencing, pausing dramatically before mentioning a meal ("And then you will be having your...breakfast!").

We strolled to Arequipa's Plaza de Armas afterward, only a ten minute stroll away. The plaza is quite beautiful, with a square in the middle with fountains and pedestrian space, and surrounded by many old churches and other buildings. There are also hundreds of pigeons there, and even a manic street preacher to contribute to the ambiance. We didn't spend a whole lot of time admiring the plaza, however, because we were really hungry. We walked to a restaurant called Hatunpa, a restaurant that specializes in serving many varieties of potatoes. We enjoyed the meal. Liz hadn't been feeling great so far today, and she ordered a mate with her meal.

Our next stop was the Museo Santuarios Andino, where the Juanita mummy is preserved. She was a sacrifice made by the Incas hundreds of years ago, remarkably well preserved in the mountains, along with all the artifacts left with her. Some of the cloth looks like it could be brand new today. We did our tour with a group of Italian tourists, but the guide spoke in English.

At this point, Liz was starting to feel really poor and had to keep toilet paper on her runny nose, so we went to our hotel room so she could rest a bit. We also had to do our laundry (by hand in the shower) - not the ideal combination of events. Liz went down to rest, so I went back to the plaza by myself. I looked through the Iglesia de la Compañía, a Jesuit church near the plaza de armas. A nice man gave me a tour of the church, as well as the cloisters in the back, and gave me lots of interesting details about it. He also pointed out the depiction of the Last Supper with cuy, or guinea pig, being served. I gave him a tip at the end of the tour.

I headed for the market next. On my way there, I took a quick tour of another church, the Iglesia Santo Domingo.

Arequipa's central market was really cool. It's like a Peruvian version of Pike Place. The produce stands were my favorite - they were built on diagonal sets of shelves, with a staircase going up through the middle. Because so much produce was packed onto the shelves, the ladies selling looked like they were standing on mountains made of fruits and vegetables.

I found a place selling sandwiches and brought them back to Liz for us to eat together. She was still feeling terrible. I last went to the Covnento de Santa Catalina, an old Spanish convent. Here, nuns in training would spend years in preparation for their lives ahead, including extended times doing vows of silence. I liked visiting at night because it was very quiet, few other tourists were there, and it gave me a sense of what it might be like to actually live here.

After this, I retreated to our hotel and called it a day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2015: Lima (Mark)

Today was our only real chance to go to the temple. Since we really couldn't realistically visit the Copenhagen temple while we were there, we wanted to make sure to visit the Lima temple. To get there, we were going to have to take two micros: One to get south to Avenida La Marina, and then a long ride along Avenida Javier Prado. As delicious as the breakfasts looked being sold on the street, we opted for a gas station breakfast of packaged food to keep our delicate American stomachs safe.

Well, traffic on Javier Prado was absolutely ridiculous. We were on the street for well over an hour, mostly in stop and go traffic. It took us over two hours to get to the temple itself. Along the route, we saw various sights, such as a the Lima Metro, Banco GNB ("Goliath National Bank!"), and a Furby billboard (they still exist!). Yeah, there really wasn't much to look at along the way.

The temple itself was nice, though. The ordinance rooms are very tiny - we were basically sitting next to each other. It felt no larger than a typical classroom in a meetinghouse. I had no trouble understanding most of the session, but I struggled a little bit for the speaking parts. Overall, it was a lovely experience.

Outside, we took a few pictures of the temple and had lunch in the adjacent cafeteria. The cafeteria was in a new building which also included housing for those traveling to the temple, a new addition since Liz was last here. The lunch was fairly typical Peruvian food, with a soup and a simple main course with lots of rice and potatoes. It wasn't the most delicious food of our trip, but it was probably the least expensive. The dessert they served was really disgusting, though. Across the street is a store that sells LDS-related goods. I got an alpaca tie, and one for dad.

The return trip took a while but wasn't quite as long as the way out. We took a break when we got back, then hopped onto a different micro to get to Miraflores.

Miraflores is probably the most posh section of Lima, with fancy high rises and nice restaurants. This was Liz's first trip to Miraflores as it was part of a different mission. Most of the tourists except us tend to stay here. We wanted to be able to rent bikes and pedal around the area, but time was not on our side for that. It was here that we met up with a former mission companion of Liz's, Nathaly, along with her boyfriend (now husband) Daniel. We first went to a restaurant where I tried the famed Peruvian dish ceviche. I thought it tasted great - Liz wasn't supposed to eat it on account of her pregnancy, but she did take a small sample.

Nathaly and Daniel then gave us the grand walking tour of Miraflores (he works at the Marriot there so is very familiar with the area). We started at Larcomar, a very large and upscale outdoor shopping mall situated at the top of a hill giving a great overlook of the Pacific ocean.

We continued to walk along the coast, passing a large athletic club and eventually arriving at Parque del Amor. This park gets its name from the large statue of an embracing couple. It's a hotspot for couples at nighttime. We took a silly picture and then continued on our way.

We then walked away from the coast to Parque Kennedy at the center of Miraflores. It is a well cared-for park next to a church with lots of food vendors (unfortunately we were too full to even consider that!). This park is a cat lover's dream. Lots of "domestic"cats live in this park. According to Daniel, the neighboring church had a rat problem so they decided to let the cats run free to take care of the rats. Some cats were sitting in people's laps; others were just observing or roaming around. It was dark and none of our photos turned out well so we just stole photos from the interwebs.

Our final stop for the evening was the Circuito Mágico del Agua, in the Parque de la Reserva. Liz had the opportunity to visit this park when she was in the CCM as a Christmas present from Presidente and Hermana Groberg. This park has crazy large and colorful lighted fountain displays, one of the largest fountain displays in the world. They are quite mesmerizing and the largest fountains are set to music. Erick had planned to join us there but unfortunately he had to work late and was unable to. Liz was happy to be able to share this little gem with me. We took a lot of photos. You can google it if you want to see more that are of a better quality, but they won't have us in them! Nathaly and Daniel helped us obtain a taxi back to Erick and Carmen's house at a reasonable rate and we called it a night.