Huaraz

Hello everybody!

I realize that I’ve been a terrible blogger recently.  A lot of my you have probably given up on following my blog, but in the unlikely scenario that you are, here is my next post.  (EDIT: I’m starting to notice a pattern with how I begin all of my blog entries…)  About a month ago (ouch, I didn’t realize it had been quite THIS long), I traveled to northern Peru to a rather ugly city called Huaraz that lies in the heart of the Andes mountains.  It is an ugly city because about 40 years ago there was a huge earthquake that decimated the infrastructure in the city and it is still not completely rebuilt, and the parts that have been were just sort of patched together.  However, it is in a prime location for adventure tourism and the scenery is just incredible.  Here is a photo I took of the city:

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On my first day there, my travelling partner, Zach (who is also my roommate in Lima), and I spent the day deciding what we wanted to do over the next 9 days and negotiating prices. We really wanted to do as much as possible so we settled on rock climbing, trekking, mountaineering, and mountain biking.  We were in for an exhausting trip!  So the next day we went rock climbing in a spot just outside of Huaraz (I took the picture above from the same spot).  This also served as our day of acclimatization so we wouldn’t get altitude sickness or anything while we were on our trek.  Climbing in such high altitudes (approx. 3000 meters, in comparison to sea level in Lima) proved to be very challenging.  Normally I won’t get tired until after several climbs, but that day I would barely make it 10 feet before I was out of breath  my forearms felt like they were on fire!  Regardless, it was a fun day.

The next day our trek began.  We did the Santa Cruz trek, the most popular trek in the region and the 2nd most popular in Peru to the Inca Trail (which I did the last time I visited).  However, it turns out that the path was closed for reconstruction on the day we started, and the national park failed to notify the travel agencies about it.  Classic Latin America.  The guide convinced our group; consisting of 2 french people, a swiss woman, a canadian woman, an Israeli guy, and the two of us Americans; that we could do the 4 day trek in 3 days.  So, we camped out for the night in a small village and left the next day.  This sign is at the beginning of the trek:

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It turned out to be a long, hard, 9 hour day of trekking with gorgeous views the whole way. Here are some more photos I took:

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The picture of the valley below shows the effects of a mudslide that happened here 3 years ago.

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The pictures below were taken from a spot called “El mirador,” or “the viewpoint” in english.  From it, you can see Nevado Alpamayo, which is considered by many to be the most beautiful mountain in the world.

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The second day was also long and hard and it was also the day where we reached the highest point of the trek, Punto Union, which is 4750 meters in altitude.

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The third and final day was short and we finished in the morning.  A bus picked us up in a very small town at the end of the trek and took us to our next destination: a campsite at the  start of the trail up a beautiful mountain called Nevado Pisco.  We also stopped along the way for a photo amongst the mountains.

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The next day we met up with our next guide and started our ascent up to base camp with all the extra weight of our ice climbing gear.  After 3 hours or so, we made it to base camp and stayed in the refuge up there (that’s Zach in the top bunk in the picture below).  Base camp is at 4600 meters.

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Since the summit is so high and we would have to hike through snow to reach the summit (which is 5750 meters high), we had to get an early start the next day.  Very early, actually. We woke up at midnight so we could start hiking at 1 in the morning!  After about 4 hours of following our guide deep into the darkness ahead with nothing but headlamps and stars to illuminate the path, we finally reached the snow.  So, we put on our harnesses and crampons, tied into each other, and busted out our ice axes so we could continue on up!  After another grueling 4 hours of slowly making our way up the steep snow and ice, we finally made it to the top of Pisco!

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The second picture shows the massive Nevado Huascarán, the tallest mountain in Peru and all of the Earth’s Tropics, standing at 6,768 meters.  This was my first experience with mountaineering, and although it was incredibly challenging (especially up where the air gets noticeably thinner), I’m sure it won’t be my last!

After reaching the summit, we went all the way back down to base camp, spent another night there, and then returned to Huaraz the next day.  We spent the rest of that day resting at the hostal, and then the next day we went mountain biking down the Cordillera Negra, the mountain range right next to Huaraz.  It was a lot of fun, although I fell several times (unscathed, at least).  Then, that night, we took an overnight bus back to Lima so we could regretfully return to our classes that we so happily neglected the week before.  I hope this blog entry was worth the wait, and I promise it won’t be another whole month before my next post!

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Lima

Hi all!

Sorry I haven’t updated the blog in a while.  I’ve been up to a lot since I got back from Cusco, but primarily I have just been settling into my classes.

Last weekend I went to downtown Lima to see the historic part of town.  I saw the changing of the guards, which was a very interesting show put on by the Peruvian military in front of the government palace, pictured below:

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Also in the city center, there was this fountain in the middle of the plaza.  On National Pisco Sour Day, an official holiday to celebrate Peru’s national drink, this fountain is filled with Pisco and you can come fill a cup with pisco from the fountain for a small fee.  For those of you who don’t know, pisco is an alcoholic spirit distilled from grapes and it is mixed with sour mix to make the Pisco Sour.  Chileans would have you believe that they were the creators of the Pisco Sour, but my friends in Peru have been sure to inform me otherwise…

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Then, we made a trip to the San Francisco Convent, where they used to bury everyone’s remains since there were no cemeteries.  This was something I was looking forward to doing since before I even arrived in Peru.  I felt like Indiana Jones ducking my head down to go through the tunnels of the catacombs to see the thousands upon thousands of skeletons buried there (especially since I was wearing my adventure hat).  We were not allowed to take photos down there, but I still managed to sneak a few when the tour guide was not looking (ssshhhhh).  I turned the flash off so they are kind of dark and didn’t come out very well, but here’s the best one anyway.

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Other than that and class, I haven’t been up to too much.  I was invited to climb with the rock climbing team at the university on Monday and Wednesday nights on their rock climbing wall so I will probably go to my first session there tonight so I can keep up with an old hobby and hopefully meet some friends along the way!  I hope everything is okay back in the states, I was crushed by the news from Boston on Monday.

Cusco

Hello everyone!  I know I haven’t done a very good job keeping my blog updated, but in my defense I have been very busy.  Last week I had to register for courses for both this semester in Peru and next semester at W&L, both of which turned out great.  Then, last Thursday I flew from Lima to Cusco to begin a weekend full of adventure!

On the first day we visited a small city called Chincheros.   The altitude in Chinceros is relatively low in comparison to the city of Cusco, so the director of our program decided it would be better to stay there the first day so we could get acclimated.  We visited a small organization of women that create various products using alpaca, wool, and baby alpaca and they showed us the process they use to create these products.  Afterwards, we were given the opportunity to buy some of their products, and I bought a wonderfully soft blanket made of baby alpaca.

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We also visited some Incan ruins called Ollantaytambo.  The ruins were impressive and the views of the mountains were spectacular, but it was all merely a warm up for our trip the next day to Machu Picchu.

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The trip to Machu Picchu on Friday was the highlight of the trip.  I am lucky enough to have visited this wonder of the world once before, and the second time was just as impressive.  Pictures really do not do this place justice, but here are some of the ones I took:

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I’m particularly proud of the picture with the llama.  I think it encapsulates Machu Picchu very well.  I also got to climb Wayna Picchu, the tall mountain behind Machu Picchu, which I didn’t get to do the last time I visited.  They only allow 400 visitors a day up Wayna Picchu  in order to preserve the ruins up there.  This was my favorite part about the trip because the views were spectacular.

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Then, on Saturday, we returned to Cusco and spent the day in the city.  I got to go horseback riding on a trail with an excellent view of the Andes and eat cuy, or guinea pig, a Peruvian delicacy.  I thoroughly enjoyed them both!  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the cuy because I didn’t carry my camera around the city as there is a lot of theft.

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All in all, I had a wonderful time, but this week it’s time to get serious and start class.  I’ve enjoyed the first few classes I’ve attended so far and am looking forward to this upcoming semester.

La Amazonia

Over the weekend, I visited Iquitos, which is the largest city in the world inaccessible by road with over 400,000 inhabitants.  But really I only flew into Iquitos and passed through it on my way to a hotel in the Amazon Rainforest.  Before we got to the hotel, however, we visited a manatee reserve where they raise baby manatees until they are old enough to be released into the wild.  I got to feed a baby manatee!

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Also, I caught a piranha!

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And I climbed a palm tree.

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And I held a sloth!

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I had a ton of fun in the amazon and got to know a lot of cool people who are studying abroad here with me.  I loved hiking through the rainforest and seeing all the native wildlife that I very well may never get to see again (although I hope that I do!)  All in all, it was one of my favorite experiences in my life.

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Peru Visits Peru

This is a video that we watched during our orientation on Monday that I thought was pretty funny.  A bunch of famous Peruvians made a trip to a city called Peru in Nebraska to share their culture with the residents there.  It was actually made as part of a campaign to remind Peruvians about how special their country is and how lucky they are to be Peruvian.  If anyone is interested in learning a little bit about Peruvian culture, it’s worth a watch.

Settling In

Hola from Perú!

I have been super busy the last few days with orientation and some sight seeing around the city, but now that I’m settled in and have a little time to kill (finally), I figured I would update you all on my experience so far.  I am living in a small family compound with my 2 host parents, their 24 year old nephew who is studying to become a pilot, and another American student.  They have all been wonderful, warm, and inviting.

On my first day in Lima, we visited some ancient Pre-Incan ruins called Huaca Pucllana located right in the middle of the city!  It was bizarre seeing these tall modern buildings in the background of an ancient pyramid.

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Then, yesterday, the group of us international students went to see the Parque de las Aguas Mágicas (Park of Magical Waters), which is a neat park that has 13 unique fountains and a Guinness world record for being the largest fountain complex in the world.  At night, they had a light show in one of the larger fountains where they projected images onto the mist the fountain created and coordinated the movement of the lights and water with music  played over the loud speakers.  Here are a few pictures:

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Oh and also, as I’m sure you know, a new Pope was chosen today and he’s argentinian, so that’s kind of a big deal down here.  Practically everyone is Catholic and they are so proud to have the next Pope be from Latin America, which has never happened before!  I hope everything is going well in the states.  I register for classes tomorrow and then on Friday I travel to Iquitos to visit the Amazon.  And yes, mom, I will remember my malaria pills.  I am not expected to have internet service over the weekend, so my next post will come when I return!

 

The Last Supper

Tonight is my last night in the US until late August, so my parents took me out to dinner at The Grog in Newburyport, MA.  Here’s a photo of us from my “Last Supper.”

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I’m all packed and ready to go!  My flight leaves from Boston tomorrow at 11:10am and I’m expected to arrive in Lima at 9:05pm.  Wish me luck!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention, this picture was taken with my new Panasonic Lumix TS4.  It’s water-proof, shock-proof, dust-proof, and freeze-proof.  In other words, it’s Nate-proof (hopefully).  This is perfect for me considering I broke my old camera before I even arrived to Florianópolis in Brazil.  So, unless this one gets snatched by a piraña on the street, there’s no excuse for me not to take a bunch of pictures to share with you all!