Friday, 21 September 2012

Peru, the land of incas and great food

Crossed the border on a 28 bus ride to get to Lima, met with vanessa and ghalia and headed to cusco for our machu pichu trek. the trek was great it was 5 days through mountains valleys and rivers, getting to machu pichu on the final day. it was a really special 30th birthday up there. The site itself is very big with a number of different areas to visit, usually at altittude you dont drink but our tour guide was a nuts peruvian "freddy" that got us smashed every night of the trek, so trekking was tough especially last day to machu , we had a group of 11, great people that we enjoyed some special moments with. they even baked me a cake in the middle of the mountains on my birthday morning. after we jumped on planes and got to mancora for a cpl of weeks of binging on the beach, mancora is a crazy surf town with lots of gringos who wanna get wasted, spent some time there then went to a quite beach 20 mins away spent a cpl of days there with the gf just relaxing ,. got a kick ass room on a cliff with a private pool for $20 a night :) cant go wrong there. Peru has been really a revelation, the food is extremely insane, on the coast we ate ceviche every day, and honsetly in the past 3 weeks here i hadnt had a bad meal, not one. then they left :( and i moved on to Huaraz which is a town in the base of the biggest mountain range after the himalayas "cordillera blanca". i met a british guy there who wanted to also do the santa cruz trek on his own without a tour agency so we rented a stove, some equipment, and food for 4 days and headed in. it was beautiful, lots of green lakes on the bottom of snow capped mountains, sandy valleys, ridges, woooow, if this isnt heaven what is ? it was kind of hectic carrying your big pack and walking with a load of 12-15 kgs for 5-8 hour days. but was well worth it, got some rain and hail too and wondered what the hell was i doing but when you see those views you know why. arrived from trek and packed my stuff from hostal and jumped on another 26 hr bus to the south of peru, arequipa, where i will trek in the worlds deepest canyon in a cpl of days, for now just taking it easy. next week bolivia. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

THE Andes

First off, the white liquid they sell in the supermarket has nothing to do with real milk straight from a cow´s tit !!! its a rip off to our humanity what we are being fed in big cities. I survived the two months of solitude in the mountains, there´s been some rough lonely patches but not that many and the work experience plus the pure life was well worth the cold and remoteness. Llullu Llama is a 20 person lodge in Isinlivii in a gorgeous spot in the andes. the village is one street and has 200 ppl which you probably will never see walking around, two stores that sell rice, bit of fruit, grains and lots of ice cream. no restos no bars, no life but the hostel. we had to cross the valley infront of us everyday to buy fresh milk. So I run the place along side the lady that cooks and cleans (glady´s) that has a crazy fun family of 5 kids and a boyfriend. Loved the work and the intensity of it, working in the kitchen has been a revelation, i think i will have to put some good time in a kitchen somewhere when i finish this trip if i ever do. life up there (alttitude of 2800 mtrs) has been the cleanest most nature oriented time i have lived, no noise, just cows and horses, hundreds of trails around you to get lost in for 5-6 hrs without seeing a soul, home made : yogurt, bread, jam, and granola. you walk to any village around to see animals being auctioned or buy some freshly made honey. people are more shy in the mountain areas though so it has been a challenge breaking into their circles and making some good relationships.stars at night were obviously mesmerizing. met a million guests from all over the world and heard their stories and got some good travel tips. so glads has 5 kids between age of 14 months and 15 years, it was really fun to see how kids create games and fun activities with literaly nothing under their disposal. the quilotoa loop, which ends at the laguna quilotoa is a 2 day hike of about 5 hours each day of rough hiking, almost daily people were getting lost but end up finding the way in most cases. I did loooooots of reading but still have failed to finish "war and peace" i think tolstoy redefined the word epic there. one of the most eye opening experiences was actually looking at animals and recognizing their different features, i think i had forgotten how a real chicken looks like, we had a bunch of chickens, a pig, a horse and lots of guinea pigs around. Guinea pig is a delicacy here, usually roasted, havent tried it yet but will soon. I learnt some great recipes from Glady´s and look forward to passing them the Mr. Abou Zeid senior test !! By the way the Spaniards have a different deck of cards to the rest of the world, the suites are sticks and horses and some weird stuff, played with some guests from Madrid and was quite surprised, plus the usually play without 8 and 9. I do not believe i am good with maps and trails, i think i got lost every single time i did a trek. So i left yesterday and the mode of leaving was best ride in past 5 months in south america, the milk truck in the back with the big milk containers, the pass by every farm and take their fresh milk to sell in the next town, views on surrounding highlands, volcanoes and valleys were well worth the freezing wind slapping my face. Now i am in guayaquil, ecuador´s biggest city, spending next 4 days here with a friend, then friday hop on a 24 hours bus ride to Lima to meet the girlfriend and some friends from montreal for a fun couple of weeks in peru. its definetly time for some beach :)

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Beach to the Andes

It is time to pack and get on the road. Leave the beach and the flipflop lifestyle to the Andes and the hiking boots. Past couple of days have been hard, I have formed so many relationships and had great times here yet must leave and form new ones in a new environment. It's been a great place to initiate my entrance into south america, very laid back friendly village. My room in this lodge has been great, i am basicaly enveloped between trees and have a back view of a long range of lush mountains. The owners came back tonight from their two month trek around venezuela and i have been hearing all about it and filling them in on what happened here. On the south side of the village the fishing boats dock in everyday around 5 a.m and starting selling their catch, while make shift restaurants starting cooking some of the best ceviche, fish soup, and fried fish around, so fresh, in the beginning it was a bit hard to digest that stuff for breakfast but its so yummy you want more. The gang at work are really great, one of them is throwing me a despedida(farwell) tomorrow at his house, we went and bought a whole bunch of food today and drinks and gave them to his mom and wife who will cook for the party of 30 tomorrow, really nice touch of him. I am supposed to hop on a bus the next morning to go to a colonial city called cuenca to visit some good american friends that I have met here (Russ and Michelle) who are house sitting in Cuenca. Note: House sitting is a great idea to travel on the cheap for those of you planning your round the world trip. Then I will go to a city called Banos which is famous for its natural hydrothermal springs, canoeing, and lots of nature adventures. Next sunday i will head to Isinlivi which is a village of 300 people next to volcano Cotopaxi in central Ecuador high up in the Andes, where I am to spend my next two months working in a hostel named Llullu Llama :) If you do not hear from me for a while, do not fret, I will make it out of the Andes in one piece. 

Monday, 4 June 2012

Reggaeton y hamacas

If there is one thing these people know how to do, it is how to get down to the music. a club full of sweaty bodies grooving to the latest reggaeton beats is an experience not to forget, now add to that if your in a wedding or a birthday and you'll definitely live to swear by that night. Saturday was one of those nights for me, it was the 15th birthday of the cousin of one my colleagus at work and 15th birthday here for girls is a massive celebration for they kinda prepare the girl to become a woman. There's a whole church celebration, a big dinner and dance off till the early hours of the morning. there is a speech by everyone in the family giving advice to the girl preparing her for the "world" out there, and finaly by the girl herself. I'm sure 15 might seem a bit young to some but here is how it goes in ecuador; at 14-15 girls are having sex with their boyfriends and a big percentage is getting pregnant, the guys at 17-18 are already married with a kid, the guys i work with are 22-27 years of age and all have 1-3 kids.

I've been in Puerto lopez on the pacific coast of ecuador for the past 2 months now. It's crazy even in such a slow paced environment time does seem to fly. Work has been great, i work at a very well thought out hostereia called Mandala. Simple yet so special, the owners are an italian artist, and his wife a swiss lady. The artist 'Aurelio" has literally done every piece of art and interior design himself, lots of great woodwork and paintings, murals, tables, chairs, cabanas on the beach to hang your hammac and doze off. The place has a beautiful garden surrounding all the cabanas where guests sleep. The idea is to detach you from the regular life you life at home surrounded by electronic stimuli and get you back to basics, lots of books in a book exchange, lots of board games and card games, some of them built by Aurelio. No tvs in rooms, internet only in central area. I would say atleast 30% of people who came have extended their stay, it's got this very laid back feel where you just wanna hang your hammaca on the beach and think of nothing. The hosteria is a 10 minute walk out of the village so its got this private feeling, and when you get the beach you can walk to the right for about an hour until you reach the cliffs without seeing a soul. That is where i take the 5 dogs for a walk and a run everyday, must say pretty nice tranquil stretch of beach where you dive into your thoughts.

It is pretty sweet living in such a small community. I don't feel like I need more options to eat, drink, or get to know more people than the people around. So as a rule im trying to spend most of my time with locals, or latinos. I have met some great people due to the nature of my work, every 3-4 days there is no people coming into the hosteria, mostly gringos though. My buddies are the chicos i work with. I call them los chicos malos :). Ok the lay of the land is that this is a very macho society, where guys talk about women all day all night, flirt with a million of them and seem to have the upper hand when it comes to family relationships. Machisimo land. Of important note is that everyone is sleeping with everyone. All my colleagues are married and all have 2-3 kids but all have also 3-4 friends with benefits, and they are all pretty open about it, including sleeping with ppl from work too. Very sad yet interesting, so one day i ask one of the boys if he thinks his wife is sleeping around too he laughs a nervous laugh and says ya chances are she is too.

The village is pretty quiet, some tourists come along but now is low season so nothing crazy, high season starts in two weeks as tourists come in the colder months of july-sept to see the whales, 800-1000 humpback whales come to these waters every year to mate and give birth. Im going to check them out next weekend. there is one gas station, one atm machine (that runs out of money on weekends sometimes), a number of restaurants, hostels, and bamboo bars on the sand (my favorite is called monky monky and they do great passion fruit mojitos). best thing hands down is that you can walk barefoot all day, i even go out at night barefoot sometimes, i just walk on the beach till i reach the bar. lots of seafood restaurants yet not that impressive in my opinion, hailing from a seafood mecca, this is nothing special, they dont do a whole grilled fish for godsake. they do a whole fried fish but not grilled.

Being part of the community and creating lots of local friendships has enabled me to really experience a different side of ecuador than if i was a traveler. i got invited to a number of birthdays plus a loco wedding on the street.

Personalities are the highlight so far, so many interesting people from all around the world, sharing different travel stories and adventures, some have just started like me some have been on the road for the past 18 months, interestingly a lot of people are making money some way or another online to be able to keep traveling and also some are choosing to house sit in places that they wanna stay at a bit longer.

My work is basically working with the construction/maintenance team plus some gardening, so lots of physical work outside. Great learning about lots of different building techniques for rustic accommodations such as these. I also take care of the 5 dogs, that are a handful but made me realize i want a dog as soon as possible, whenever I choose a place to live after all this i guess. i have lots of free time and people i work with are just great. Currently the owners are traveling Venezuela and the stand in manager Jill has been very sweet and has taught me a lot about the managerial side of the business.

One of the highlights of the trip has been going to cut my hair one day with one of my friends; freddie, he tells me ok this is gonna be a bit weird but trust me. So we go and it's "Shareth" the best barber in town, Shareth is a transvestite him and his three brothers/sisters work the place. loud music pumping and Shareth dances as he/she cuts my hair, he asks my friend where im from and that he's never seen me before haha, best thing about the ordeal is that cutting your hair costs a whole $1.50 in ecuador. man, do we have it bad.

There is a surftown about 40 minutes south of here, it's a pretty famous party city in these quarters, it's called Montanita, so I take the bus one day and head down for the weekend. This place is just insane, as soon as i arrive i feel like im on an island cut off from the world and there is only one thing on everyone's mind, partying 24/7 and trying to squeeze a bit of surfing in there. Loud music pumpin at 10 a.m till 6 a.m , lots of tourists here, i meet some people from australia, england, and the states and party with them. It's the kinda place you go and you wanna leave after the first night of partying cause your afraid your body will breakdown soon. I watch some wikkid surfers hit the waves at 6 a.m but i decide not to join as im hammered and the waves are much more advanced than my level. So I finaly do surf, took a couple of lessons when i first got here and have been renting boards on the weekends to hit the waves, looooots of fun and intense work out.

I leave here in 12 days to head to my next job in the mountains, this will be very different due to the landscape, weather, and proximity. It is a village of 300 people on a famous hiking loop next to volcano Cotopaxi. No internet for 2 months!! I'm sure it will be fine, i have actually been reading alot, read 7 books so far. Before heading there i'll take a week off and head to Banos, which is a small town in the mountains with a lot of rafting and natural thermal springs. Euro2012 time.

Best thing about this trip so far is being able to think again, i find that the hectic city life gives you so little time to think, ponder, and evaluate. I have been doing a lot of that and have enjoyed the company of my brain greatly. Miss everyone very much and lots of moments i wish i had so many of you alongside me. I'm here for another year so save up and come down.