Friday, December 24, 2010

Mamma Letter

For those of you who didn't attend or work at Camp Green Cove, there is a weekly ritual known as the "Mamma Letter." The letter is from the camper's counselor (or Counselor in Training) to the camper's parents to give a weekly update. For this blog entry, my two travel companions (both former Green Cove counselors) wrote a Mamma Letter about the past week, namely our 5-day trek to Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Pass. The letter may or may not have been written on the return train to Cusco, over cervezas bought for us by a very nice middle-aged Argentinian man. Pictures below the letter.
Hola from Peru!

Plettner and Liddell here from Middler Nowhere. This has been a very busy week. Munny was out on a 5-day. She has been enjoying hiking, climbing, and eating. She has also been seen looking at horses and llamas, which is closer to the barn than she has been in years. She even reported seeing the ever-elusive Andean Mountain Elk (also known as the common cow).

Her 5-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu was led by Ernesto, a certified DTL from SAS Travel. Though the first day consisted of light hiking, it did include a major activity (swimming) when the group encountered a surprise hail storm. The second day was more strenuous, climbing to over 15,000 feet at Salkantay Pass. Although the day was 9 hours of hiking, Munny kept a smile on her face due to the coca leaves (nature) that she chewed the entire time. On days 3 & 4 Munny and the group made their way from the snowy rocky terrain to the lush mountainous jungle along the Salkantay River. On the riverbank, she and her friends often stopped for chalk talks on how one might run the mighty Salkantay and Urubamba Rivers. After much discussion it was determined that even the legendary A.Bell wouldn't attempt such a feat. After several long days of trekking, she and her new friends relaxed in the hot springs (swimming) at the foot of Machu Picchu. The trip culminated on the fifth day with a visit to Machu Picchu. Major activities included hiking, climbing (without harnesses or ropes) up Huaynupichu Mountain, and being close to llamas (riding/barn).

Munny has done a great job of making new friends, yet keeping the old. She especially got along with two young Aussies, Dave and Kate. By the end of the trip, she and her friends even managed to charm two very tall retired Dutchman who thought they never shut up. Although we do not normally consider eating to be a major activity, the sheer quantity ingested during this trip warrants such a status. Always up for a challenge, Munny and her friends managed to eat more (and drink more tea) than seemed humanly possible. This is in special thanks to Efrain, the cook that accompanied their trip.

We are attaching some photos. Hope you enjoy them half as much as she and her friends enjoyed the trip.

Until next week,
Liddell and Plettner
Ernesto explains how to chew coca

The Green Cove 3 starting off the trek to Machu Picchu

On the hike up to Salkantay Pass

The mighty Green Cove 3 at Machu Picchu

At the ancient Inca city

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Buses, Boats, and My Two Feet

I finished spanish classes in Cusco Dec. 3rd and set off for the road - the official test of how much spanish I've been able to pick up. Considering I am now able to understand when the guy says, "To catch the return boat, you need to go to a different port than the one where we drop you off. It is on the other side of the island. Just ask for directions.", I would call my spanish classes a success.

I left Cusco at 6 am (well actually, I got on a bus at 6 am that pulled out of the parking lot at 6:30, did a lap around the main obelisk in town and promptly returned to the station for another hour before it was full enough to proceed to Arequipa). I met an old camp friend, Plettner, in Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru. From there we've been off on some fine adventures, including Colca Canyon (nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in it's deepest spot), Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, an island made entirely of reeds, Taquile Island, and then back to Cusco. We're meeting yet another camp friend here on Friday and we all start trekking (via Salkantay for those of you who know anything about trekking in Peru) to Machu Picchu on Sunday. Observations and amusing happenings below (along with pictures).

  • It is basically summer down here since it's the southern hemisphere. This also means the rainy season, but still it includes warmer temperatures. The Peruvian response to 75 degree days is the sweater vest with a wool coat on top. I would love to see what these people where during their winter season...
  • That said, it was actually cold at night in Cabanaconde, the small village perched on the edge of Colca Canyon where we stayed. Our hostel roof was literally a tarp (hey, you can't beat 12 soles/night including breakfast - $4), so we were concerned with being cold in the night. As a result we each had close to 8 wool blankets on our beds. Luckily, this was plenty sufficient, but it did feel as if we slept with a 20 pound weight on top of us.
  • Also, if you are looking for an authentic Navidad experience, might I recommend Cabanaconde. Regardless of where you sleep in town, you will certainly wake up feeling lik Mary and Joseph in a barnyard. It seems perfectly normal for people to keep herds of sheep and chickens in their courtyards, ensuring that everyone in town can hear them at 3, 4, 5, and 6 am.
  • There are multiple caminos (paths) down the 3,900 feet to the floor of the canyon (this is not it's deepest point, just the point where we were based out of). However, for each "camino" there seem to be two routes - the local and the express. Of course the "local" is for gringos and the "express" is for the locals. The local obviously has switchbacks, whereas the express seems to go straight down (and straight back up).
  • By far my favorite recent discovery about Peru is political in nature. Turns out that when a politician is running for office he or she adopts some sort of symbol. This symbol is on all their advertisements and also printed next to their name on the ballot. This is extremely helpful for people who can't read, but can recognize the symbol of their candidate. Now, often these symbols often have absolutely nothing to do with politics. For example, there is the guy whose symbol is a shovel, or the one whose symbol is a loaf of bread in front of a mountain, or three stick figures holding hands, or a llama, or a hat, or my personal favorite a chicken kicking a soccer ball. I mean, you can't really fault the guy - Peruvians do love chicken and soccer, so why not combine them for political advantage?

Market in Arequipa. Anyone else find it somewhat disturbing to have dolls perched on fruit?

Plett was delayed in getting to Arequipa so I took a day trip to Mollendo, a beach town. It was plenty warm, but full summer season hasn't started yet so the beach was nearly deserted.

Standing at the top of the canyon outside Cabanaconde. That green spot down there is the oasis we hiked to - 3,900 vertical feet down and back in one day's work.

The camino down to the oasis begins in someone's corn field.

The "oasis" at the bottom of the canyon. A great way to spend a couple of hours before schlepping back up to the top.

Vote Elmer. Chicken + soccer = gotta be a good guy.

This guy likes bread. And you should too.

A floating island on Lake Titicaca, made entirely of reeds. Please note the solar panel.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Photos from Peru

Okay, finally found a place that would let me upload these to blogger. Below are a sampling of some of my photos, for those of you who haven't seen them on facebook.

Two of the most common things in Peru - a volkswagon and a church

The main square in Andahuyalas where I slept for a few hours in transit from Lima to Cusco

Building in Andahuaylas, Peru - a small little town up in the Andes

Miranda (4) and Minerva (2) playing with blocks at mi casa

View from Christo Blanco, above Cusco

The public cemetary in Cusco

My pink room, decorated with Jesus

Government land with pre-Inca ruins that locals are allowed to cultivate. Also the home to many many black widow spiders.

Peruvians love dressing their dogs.