Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Elle Bell!

We would like to wish the most special birthday wishes to a most special girl.... our god baby Elle Rutherford! We wish we could be there to celebrate your big FIRST birthday, but this will have to do!





We love you Elle and miss you so much!





Tyrone & Lydia




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Huaraz

After three weeks on the noisy beach in Huanchako, we decided to head a bit farther south and inland to the picturesque town of Huaraz for some peace and quiet. We made our way from sea-level to 3,700 meters elevation in a matter of 13 hours on a night-bus, and after a bumpy and windy cab ride up the side of a mountain, we landed at around 8 am at our freezing cold, glacier-surrounded hostel. Luckily, the owners were away on vacation and the place was pretty much empty when we arrived, so we were able to strike a pretty good deal with the volunteer staff on one of the best rooms in the place!





We spent our first day sleeping off the horribly long bus ride and adjusting to the altitude, but on our second morning, we were able to venture on one of the many trails mapped out around the hostel. We followed a trail along an open aqueduct up and over towards a glacier-fed river. Below you can see the aqueduct to the right and the glacier poking up between the two mountains off in the distance.






We were absolutely surrounded by the most breath-taking sights wherever we walked!




And then on the second evening, we had a beautiful sunset.



So beautiful, this was taken with our simple little point and shoot camera by Tyrone!



This is the side of our hostel on the same night. It is surrounded by a moat-like pond that harbours trout, which are then caught and fed to hungry travellers in the restaurant. We tried it once and it was actually pretty tasty! The volunteer staff was expected to cook for guests, but according to them they ¨didn't want people to pay for rubbish¨, so they hired a local chef in to cook gourmet meals every lunch and dinner! We had some of the best soups we had ever tasted.



On our third or fourth day in Huaraz, it was pretty cold and rainy, so it was found out by the volunteer staff that I am pretty good with a mixing bowl and oven. Entonces, I ended up making not one, but TWO batches of cookies because they were so good! I spent about 4 hours baking over 100 chocolate oatmeal raisin cookies for everyone at the hostel to share.



We finally got out that afternoon for a walk before I was asked to make a third batch of cookies! It must have been stick-bug mating season up in the Peruvian mountains, because we litterally stumbled upon hundreds of them. This group of bugs were just trying to keep each other warm... I swear...



There were two different kinds of stick bugs - the little one below looking most like a stick.



There were quite a few traditional thatch-roof homes in the area... I hope there is a chimney on the other side, as it gets quite cold at night in the mountains!



Tyrone couldn't resist climbing pretty much everything... but luckily, this made a great shot!



On our second to last day in Huaraz, we decided to take the long trail up and around one of the mountains to a little glacier lake. It was a beautiful and warm day, and along the way we ran into many locals, including these two cattle herders, below.




These two little boys and their puppy were in charge of herding the baby cattle!



Including this sweet little calf who reminded us of Norman from ¨City Slickers¨!





We just barely awoke this sleepy husky as we passed by his farm. Tyrone and I are hoping to get a husky one day... and Tyrone wants to name him ¨White Fang¨...



We took another path that was somewhat simpler, but much longer, to the other side of the snow-capped mountain, below.



About 2/3 the way up to the lake, we stopped and had a snack in front of the waterfall.



After about 4 hours of climbing (including a very steep section requiring us to pull ourselves up with ropes) and 800 m added to our altitude, we finally made it to the glacier lake on the other side of the mountain!!!



We had packed a picnic lunch and ate it whilst admiring the ice-blue lake below and glaciers above.



A sign proving just how high we climbed!! It is pretty hard to breathe when hiking nearly 4500 m above sea level - the air is pretty thin up there!




Last, but not least, here is a video taken once we settled down at the top of the lake:




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Huaraz is one of the most beautiful places we have both ever been! Also, one of the mountains in the area is apparently the ¨Paramount Pictures¨ mountain that you see during the opening credits of their movies!! It was hard to leave, but we had a new friend offer us a free ride with him to Lima, so we left paradise and headed off to the largest city in Peru!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Huanchaco


What started as a 3 day beach fix turned into 3 weeks of ´chilling´ in the Peruvian town of Huanchaco (just outside of Trujillo, Peru). The beach bum life consisting of: food, yoga, chilling, more food, more chilling, surfing, sleeping, and repeating ended up being our routine in Huanchaco. This lifestyle became too difficult to give up, so we just kept staying and staying and staying!



Hostel view 1.
Part of what made it so hard to leave Huanchaco was the fact that our Hostel was located right on the beach and it provided us with amazing nightly sunsets (pictured above). As an added bonus, this hostel also had a bar, fridge, and the first bath tub in all our South American travels (not a bad way to spend $30)!


Hostel view 2.

Another reason why it was so easy for us to stay in Huanchaco was that we gained another addition to our traveling family. His name is Licky Skittles. He´s a blue dinosaur that I managed to win in an animal crane in Huanchaco. Licky decided to join us for the rest of our trip, so you might catch him in some of our photographs. This one is of Lydia and Licky enjoying the beach together.



The beaches of Huanchaco were fairly nice. There was fine white sand and continuously crashing waves that were great for viewing and surfing; however, on the downside, Huanchaco´s beaches were filled with trash from the countless unscrupulous visitors to the beach. It is such a frustrating issue, due to the fact that it could be so easily solved with an education campaign coupled with the enforcement of fines, but instead, ignorance leaves the beaches much less desirable than they should be.


Contributing to the garbage problem in Huanchaco are the beachside snack vendors, who are present in astonishing numbers. With such numbers, they fight for a competitive advantage in selling their tasty treats. Some use bubbles, some use kazoos, and some (pictured below) take a more creative approach to selling candy:



Transvestite mentos salesemen... er... saleswomen... er... salespersons can be found on the beaches of Huanchaco wearing wigs and appropriately placed balloons. It´s quite entertaining!


Huanchaco also has to be the festival capital of the universe. It seemed like every other day Huanchacans would be celebrating something! Even when there wasn´t anything to celebrate, the people would park their cars on the beach, open their doors and windows, blast their music, and dance till the break of dawn!

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A popular dance during all the Huanchacian festivals is the Marinera (not to be confused with the spaghetti sauce). The Marinera dance is common all over Peru; however, each different region has its own take on the dance. In northern Peru, it´s about quick steps, cowboy hats, and dress twirling (see below).
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At another random Huanchaco festival, the people put on a beachside play about the warring natives of the region. Unfortunately, it seemed that whichever force I cheered for ended up being vanquished :(

Amongst all the warring tribes, a woman in silver paint would romp around striking various poses.
By changing the exposure rate of my camera, we were able to make this woman look very god-like!

Hail the conquering heroes!


This festival came by our hotel window one night. I believe it was for one of their sacred virgens, as they carted a virgen statue around with them wherever they went, then put on various demonstrations of offerings for her.


Amongst the offerings was Marinera dancing of course.

Lydia liked this festival so much that she offered her soul to the virgen, with the help of this devil character;)
The honoured guest! Notice the scared dove on the left shoulder of the virgen. We think he was tied to the statue, where he had to endure hours upon hours of fireworks! Poor little guy!



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The coolest offerings given at this particular festival (asside from Lydia´s soul) were these giant firework statues. The Huanchacians started constructing these structures during the day, only to have them destroyed (most entertainingly) during the evening. I have never witnessed such an awe inspiring display of firey badassedness! Watch the video and enjoy!
One of the ways Lydia and I liked to pass the time at the beach was by making hand-pebble statues. Pictured above is Lydia´s gold medal winning seagull thinking of a clam. Great work Lydia!


Looking at the sunset from our hotel room whilst a tranny mentos salesthing pesters a nice couple.

The Huanchaco/Trujillo area also has some decent ruins in the area. Pictured above and below are the Chan Chan ruins. A large complex of sand structures in the desert about 15 minutes out of Huanchaco.



The evidence of one slight misshap I had during our surfing at Huanchaco is pictured above. During surf practice, I was standing in the water with my board, and all of a sudden some sea creature (I believe it was either a baracuda, shark, or kraken) decided to latch onto my big toe. In a half a second I was able to kick it off, but it scared the bejesus out of me. After this time, I didn´t spend too much time dily dallying in the ocean (good motivation to stay on the board)!

We didn´t visit the Trujillo area too much during our visit in this area, but one section of Trujillo that we did enjoy was this public garden.

A neat tree found in the Trujillo public garden.
Public garden question #1: Does anyone else think that this collection of plants looks like a bird?
Public garden question #2: Does this Cactus look happy to you?




This picture is of Licky Skittles enjoying our final sunset in Huanchaco. After our time at the beach was through, we headed straight up into the Andies and the beautiful town of Huaraz.

Chiclayo/Lambayeque

When heading south from Ecuador to Peru, a common misconception is that one needs to pass right through northern Peru and head straight for Lima and below. After a bit of reading up on the matter, we found that northern Peru actually has some interesting, lesser known sites that are a great way to break up the trip down south.


Our first stop in Peru was a city called Chiclayo (and Lambayeque which is a bordering region). The city itself isn´t too special, but it does have some nice cathedrals and a massive market, which is where we spent most of our time. Probably the best thing about Chiclayo is that its people rarely see foreigners, so one gets a lot of interesting reactions from the locals when walking down the streets. Funny enough, because the people don´t see many outsiders, they can´t really distinguish between people from other parts of the world, so they just call all `strange´ looking people ´chino` (Chinese), which couldn´t be further from the truth in our case. The reaction from the locals seemed to be amplified in our case because I (Tyrone) am about a foot and a half taller than every living soul in South America, and both Lydia and I are very blond!

Two stories come to mind on this point. First, when walking through the industrial section of the market (where there are auto parts, tools, etc. for sale), about 50 people spontaneously and simultaneously started doing the whoop whooo whistle for Lydia. It was as if a naked playmate had fallen from the sky and landed in a construction workers conference in the Bronx. Not to be out done, when we then decided to check out the shoe section of the market for Lydia (an area of the market ran by the women of Chiclayo), there, a line of about 15 girls started smiling, staring, clapping, waving, and making rather forward comments about my eyes and such. There may have even been a couple of proposals! On top of the come-ons, we also managed to scare quite a few children, due to our giant `gringo-ness` (I may have helped by making stomping gestures towards them). A trip to the Chiclayo market is definitely a good time if you are in need of attention or an ego-boost!


Another interesting thing about the Chiclayo market was that they had a section for Brujas (witches)! There you could fill your boots with various types of dried animal parts, voodoo dolls, and my favorite, the San Pedro cactus (a hallucinogenic with the ´minor´ side effects of uncontrollable diarrhea and projectile vomiting - we decided to pass). Unfortunately, we did not get any pictures of the market, as we didn´t want to chance offending a witch doctor (we´ve all seen Beetlejuice):





In the outer regions of Chiclayo, there are also a good number of museums and the first round of ancient Peruvian ruins, including the Sipan museum ruins and pictured below:


The Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan (it took all my strength to not try to run up the side of the building).

A ceremonial mask found inside the museo Bruning.

Pictured above, the Gene Simmons of the Chimu empire.

After touring the Museo Bruning, a mock-chief put on a little show for us and allowed for us to take a picture with him.


A nice pair of hooters outside of the Sipan ruins.



The Sipan ruins themselves were a little disappointing, as we were only allowed to tour a small section (and were eaten alive by mosquitoes whilst doing so).

Still, there were some beautifully crafted sand carvings in the walls of the excavated ruins.


In all, Chiclayo is a great way to break up the LOOOOOOOOOOONG drag of road from Ecuador into Peru!