Friday, September 21, 2007

The Other Machu Picchu (Choquequirao)

Well we are back from our adventures out in the wild. Wow!!! What an amazing hike. Choquequirao was definitely the other Machu Picchu. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Our guide Sal was awesome and our cook Iheidio was spectacular. We started our trek on Monday and ended today (Friday) The total hike was only 64 kilometers, doesn’t sound that far for a 5 day hike BUT the conditions were unbelievable. If you remember in one of my last blogs I said I liked going up better, oh my god have I changed my mind. Jay and I have now hiked up so many Andean Mountains that we feel like one of the local people that don’t have cars and walk up mountains everyday of their life. If you have ever seen the extent of steepness to an Andean Mountain you would understand our pain. Actually today we feel really good. The first day was actually pretty relaxing we took it slow and had a nice time. We went down a lot which seemed nice and I will be cussing later on the fifth day because we had to go back up everything. We even got to shower 3 times over the course of our trek which we were not expecting to do. When I say shower I don’t mean a shower that you are thinking of. This was glacier water shower. WE were screaming and jumping during our shower time because it was so cold. Oh and the shower is a coke bottle with a hose running through it and holes punched in it to have the water flow. Oh and there are no walls you are covered by ponchos they have strung up to make somewhat of a curtain but not really. Oh and the toilet was just a hole dug in the ground. But wow camping was amazing. It was so wonderful to be out of the city. We really felt like we had gone back in time, well to tell you the truth this whole trip has been like going back in time. The second day, words can not even describe the amount of climbing that we did. And pictures don’t do it justice. I would say the entire day we were going at a 50 degree grade with 30 pound packs on our back. The total number of switchbacks to go up a mountain a crazy. Now if we weren’t in shape before we sure as hell are now. We camped at the base of Choquequirao the second night which was incredibly beautiful. We hiked up at 5am the next morning to try and catch the sunrise but there were clouds which gave it a mystic feel. We stayed there all afternoon and picnicked on the ruins until 1 pm. Jay and I supposedly made some hiking records with the rate we were hiking. The guide was very impressed with us and made us feel good that we were in such good shape. After this I am thinking about doing the Shut In Race ( a 17.6 mile race up Pisgah mountain) I will have to talk Jay into it. The 4th day was a breeze but they last day we had to go back up what we came down on the 1st day, o’well after day 2 I could do anything. Not a big deal. Oh the food we had on this camping trip was better than any of the food we have had the entire time in Cusco, not just because we were exhausted either. It was amazing what a person could cook out in the wild with a little camp stove. To give you an idea I will list a few things: Breakfast: fried bananas, Carmel pancakes, oatmeal, fresh fruit, coffee, chocolate milk, tea, omelet with cheese and ham. Lunch: Fruit, soup, Pasta, wonderful vegetables, cookies. Dinner: trout, chicken, pasta, rice, soup, pumpkin chicken, and then the last day we had cuy (guinea pig) much better than the last time. The only problem with eating it this time is we had to eat it in the same place they had a cage of guinea pigs. It was so sad, so here we are eating one and we see the others walking around making their little guinea pig noises. One thing that was annoying was the amount of mosquitos there were. We used our entire bottle of bug spare, and sometimes that didn't work. I am glad we got our yellow fever shots. I definitely recommend doing this hike, but only if you are in good shape because trust me it is hard. If you do get exhausted the porters have an extra horse that you can ride, we actually saw someone doing that. But that person didn’t deserve to see the ruins. It was an amazing trek and they say in 20 years it will be done excavated and be larger than Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is still wonderful but the effort put into seeing this made it even more spectacular. We will be back in 20 years so if you want to tag along. We get a massage and a facial tomorrow which I am very excited about. It is so cheap here like $20 for a 1 hour massage. Jay and I come home on Monday and hopefully we will have more adventures to come, in Taiwan! We will keep writing on the blog, so just because we are leaving Peru doesn’t mean there is not much to say and we will post pictures. Leave us a message on the Guestbook we love reading comments.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Highest Lake in the World!!

Last night we got back from our 4 days adventure to Lake Titicaca. We finished up our last day with our TEFL course on Tuesday and we decided to celebrate be drinking Pisco of course and eating some guinea pig, which is a delicacy here. Jay and I shared one whole guinea pig and, wow, what a difficult animal to eat. There is not much meat on that little animal and really if I had to do it again I probably wouldn't order it. They bring the entire thing out whole, and it had little teeth, tears almost started forming as I was eating it. Jay on the other hand I think would order it again, it sort of just tasted like dark meat chicken but a little gamier (Jay says) Then the next morning we caught a bus to Puno which is the city right on the Lake. We decided to take the more touristic trip down there, stopping 5 different places to see some churches, pre- Inca ruins and the usual but amazing sights you can see in Peru. We arrived in Puno, which I recommend not spending too much time there if you ever have the chance. We stayed in our hostel which was very nice and had really hot water, which I miss terribly. The next morning we caught our boat at the harbor for our day on the lake. The harbor of Puno is extremely polluted but as soon as your get away from that area the view, the smell, and the surroundings change dramatically, to the picturesque view of the highest lake in the world at about 12,500 feet (higher than Cusco) The first stop were amazing little man made islands. They were completely made out of reeds (Basically thick grass that grows in the water) called the Uros Islands. People actually live on these and going there you would have thought time stood still for the past 100 years. The only kicker is they have solar panels, because of course they don’t have electricity but they also don’t have money to buy solar panels and the gov’t actually gives one or two to each little reed island. They are about $750 each; one good thing the gov’t does here. These islands can actually float away and sometimes they said when two families are fighting they will cut their part of the island away from the other and float away, which is a good way to solve conflicts I guess. Their houses were so lite that if you got 4 people together you could actually lift them up, I think so that when the reeds begin to sink they can relocate very easily. We were able to travel around in one of their man made reed boats, which was extremely sturdy, and 2 women were the ones rowing about 20 tourists around, very impressive. We actually found a telephone booth on one of these floating islands, which was very odd having one of these modern necessities on a completely ancient island. We had to leave that wonderful experience to another great adventure. We went to an island called Amantanini Island where we arrived for lunch. The tourist on our boat were divvied up to stay with our host family for the day and night. Luckily Jay , Daniel, Lindsey and I stayed with a little lady named Francesca. She was sooo wonderful and cute. She took us to her house made entirely our of mud and some tin on the roof. We each had our room which seemed to be made for midgets. The house was on prime location and anywhere else in the world would cost a million dollars just for the property. She cooked us lunch, which was wonderful and very typical, all vegetarian with soup and a small salad with cheese. We then hiked to some inca sights on top of the mountain on their island. That night was very cold. We came back to Francescas for dinner which again was wonderful. She then proceeded to dress us up in the typical attire, men wearing ponchos and Peruvian hats and the girls wearing a poofy skirt, traditional shirt and a head covering short of resembling a nun. We then walked to the main square and had a traditional dance. It was a lot of fun mingling with the locals. One interesting thing about staying in the traditional house was there was no electricity everything was by candle light and there was no running water. To flush the toilet in the outhouse (basically a whole in the ground) we had to get a bucket of water and pour it down. It may sound like a rough life, but wow what an experience that could never be replaced. The stars before we went to bed were unbelievable. The clearest sky I have ever seen, with the Milky Way lighting it up. The clearity was due to the lack of electricity. The next morning she made us breakfast which was the best I have had here yet, it came with a awesome pancake. We had to leave Francesca and hop on the boat again for our tour back to Puno, stopping on the way at another Island called Taquille Island. After getting back to the port, Daniel and Lindsey headed back to Cusco to catch their flight the next day and Jay and I stayed one more night in the hostel. We left the next evening at about 6pm when our bus was actually supposed to leave at 4pm. Latin time really gets on my nerves. We had a very comfortable ride back and arrived back at our apartment at about 1am. We are resting today because tomorrow starts the main adventure. We get picked up at 4:30 am for our hike to Choquequirao, which is considered the other Machu Picchu. It seems to be a secret among the Peruvian community. They are not done excavating it, and supposedly when they do finishit is going to be bigger than Machu Picchu. Jay and I are the only two on our tour, which consist of a English tour guide and a cook and two donkeys to carry our stuff. We will get back on Friday. We will let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Graduate

This weekend was our feista for our graduation, which was a blast. We went to our weekly salsa lesson from 5-7 on Saturday, which was great. We are really getting pretty good at it. We learned a dip and some more spins and all these complicating things that have Spanish names that I have forgotten. I think Antonio our instructor is fairly impressed with us gringos. Our party started at 9 pm which really means about 10 pm for the locals but of course us Americans were there about 15 minutes early, we didn't want to miss our on the free Mohitos. We played some pool and as the night got longer and we drank more then the dancing started to come out. Jay and I actually were somewhat of the center of attention, which is unusual if you are aware of my dancing skills. Jay is very good of course and made me look a lot better than I was. We had a small graduation ceremony were we got a letter saying that we will graduate, since we have not technically graduated yet. That will be tomorrow, which is our last day of class. We have a paper and lesson plans still to turn in. After the party I convinced Jay to extend the night to a club called Mythology that all of the English teachers were heading to. We tagged along and witnessed some interesting things from the teachers. Such as one of our people getting on the bar and taking off his shirt. Very interesting!! Jay and I left soon after that, although I was trying to convince him further to take his turn on the bar but for some reason he refused. Who knows?? This was definitely the latest night we have had thus far, we actually stayed up until 2am. The next day was a different story, maybe too many mohitos. It is amazing how fast this whole experience has gone by. We have less than 2 weeks left. And we are slowly making the list of all the things we want to eat when we get back. These next two weeks are jammed packed with Lake Titicacca and a 5 day hike. Nosotros lo adoramos aquí pero somos emocionados muy ver todos cuando volvemos. Y si usted puede leer esto, nosotros adoramos a personas para escribir en nuestro Guestbook, así que se sienten por favor libre.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The World of English Teaching

This is our last full week of TEFL class, we have been teaching 1 hour a day. Teaching English as a foreign language is very different than teaching regular subjects. The goal of a teacher in this situation is to talk the least amount of time and have the students talk as much as possible, of course this is because the students need to practice their English. In a regular subject class you are trying to get your students to shut up so this is much different and much more rewarding. They want to learn, but we find it difficult to elicit certain words without explaining. We have to act out a lot of vocabulary and draw pictures, our drawing skills need some improvement. Jay has made a friend with one of his student, Jesus, and last night we went to his house and had some queso empanandas and hot chocolate which was amazing. His girlfriend and him were incredibly friendly and welcoming (something you don't really find in the States, unfortunately) We have been invited for a traditional dinner sometime next week, which I am sure it is going to be amazing. I think he is making something like gallina (hen) and potatoes, rice (which is in every meal here) Tomorrow is Jay and I 2 month anniversary so we plan on going out. Saturday is our graduation party for finishing our course. The party is supposed to be legendary so we are expecting to have a great time, free food and drinks consisting of sangria, screwdrivers, mohitos, and beer. We are looking forward to the 2 weeks to come. We believe we have decided on Taiwan for our next teaching experience, hopefully it will work out.

Monday, September 3, 2007

One of the Seven Wonders of the World!!!

Well this weekend was absolutely amazing, well let me start off with that Appalachian State beat #5 Michagan, Heck YEAH!!!! ok now that I have that out of the way I will talk about another amazing thing. Jay and I went to Machu Picchu this weekend. It is now one of the new wonders of the world. Saturday we took a 7am train ride out of Cusco into Aguas Calientes, which is the town closest to Machu Picchu. It tooks about 4 hours to get there and the scenery changed dramatically. Beautiful lush green mountains, flowers, butterflys, it was amazing. The mountains are so gigantic here, you can't even compare them to the Rockies. How did the Incas do it?? They must have been amazing people. The first day on our adventure outside of the city we got some advice from our teacher of this great hike that gives a great view of Machu Picchu. This was not just any regular hike, when you are hiking in the Andes, you better know what you are getting yourself into. We hiked up a peak about 3,000 to 4,000 feet up, But straight up, not a gradual incline. It was intense. WE had to climb up ladders, one particular ladder was about 4 stories high. It was a little scary but definatley worth all the effort. The view was amazing of Machu Picchu. Hiking back down this four story ladder was a little more intense then going up. I have come to the conclusion that I would like to go up any day then down, wow I know what your thinking, but trust me, If you are ever trekking in the Andes, DOWN is harder!!!We were exhausted. The next day we woke up at 4:45 to catch one of the first busses up the hairpin turns to Machu Picchu. This is truely one of the seven wonders of the world. We took about an hour tour of the ruins and then Jay and I hiked up Wayanapicchu, which is the peak that you see in all the pictures of Machu Picchu. It only took us about 30 minutes, but we did not stop. The entire way was stairs, very, very steep stairs. But again the top was worth it. We spent all day lying on the terraces of Machu Picchu, ate a picnic lunch, then hiked around more of this incredible site. We were absolutely exhuasted by the end of this weekend. We caught our train back to Cusco at 5 pm and didn't arrive until 9:30, very long trip. This is such a worth while trip. Words cannot even describe with words, even the pictures do not do it justice.