Friday, October 24, 2014

Road Trip Peru - Part One

Hey all,

Wow!  What an awesome trip.  Totally different than what we expected, but a trip we'll never forget.  Peru is a beautiful country in it's own way and a contrast in cultures and geography.  While not our favorite kind of scenery, it is lovely, especially if you like the dry desert look.

We had seven days to explore the south of Peru and since it is a lot bigger country than it looks, we had a lot of miles to cover.

We started out in Lima and headed south.  We planned to stay the night in Nazca, home of the famous Nazca lines, so we started out bright and early from Lima.  And the things we saw on the way were pretty amazing.

The land itself is dry and dusty.  I swear, every time I washed our clothes the water almost turned to mud.  *grin*  Seriously.  I've got pictures of the water in the tub and it's almost black, that's how dirty things are on the road.

But it is beautiful.  Sculpted dunes and mountains, flat open plains.  Barren pampas dotted with cactus and grass.  And deserts so empty, it makes your heart ache.

After growing up in the forests of the Sierra Nevadas in California, this dusty, open land was something foreign and at times, almost frightening.  We aren't used to so much open spaces and we pondered as we drove...  Would Peruvians feel claustrophobic if they wandered beneath the mighty redwoods in Northern California?

Pictures are always helpful, so let me show you what we experienced through the visual medium!
 This is what the majority of the Peruvian coast looks like as we traveled south.  Sandy, empty and so dry the goats in the hills are giving powdered milk!

Our first stop was in the legendary Huachachina Oasis.  Legend holds that the lagoon was created when a beautiful native princess was apprehended at her bath by a young hunter. She fled, leaving the pool of water she had been bathing in to become the lagoon. The folds of her mantle, streaming behind her as she ran, became the surrounding sand dunes.

And the woman herself is rumored to still live in the oasis as a mermaid.  This statue is her memorial.  During the season the surrounding dunes are filled with sand boarders, dune buggies and sand surfers.  We saw a few boarders as we sat at the oasis and had our lunch.  It was a beautiful and restful stop on our way to Nazca.

Our last stop for the day were the famous Nazca lines.  We couldn't go up in a plane (not enough time to research a reputable pilot, so we'll do that next time around), but we were in time to be able to climb the tower and see what you could from the ground.

It's only three stories high, but you can get up to see a few of the famous lines.  Not too well, but well enough!

The tree of life.  I think it's upside down.  But your guess is as good as mine.  What were the ancients / aliens thinking?

This is a little easier to see, especially if you click on it to make it bigger.  A guy with hands upraised.  Or a guy standing on his hands.  You choose.

Our next day we headed down to the tiny town of Chala, Peru.  It was a night's stop on our way to Colca Canyon to see the condors.  But we had a couple of stops to make.  First, we drove into the Andes to see the Pampas Galeras Reserve to see the shy and endangered vicuña.  But on the way we were treated to some beautiful scenery.

The sculpted mountains as we slowly headed up into the park.  Amazing.

Peruvians love their wayfarer stones.  Everywhere we looked we saw them.  A few days later we hit the mother load, but you'll see that next week.

We didn't have to go into the park to see the vicuña.  All at once, there they were.  Hundreds of them.  Apparently they were once so endangered there were less than 3500 left in the world.  Now, due to extensive conservation efforts there are more than 350,000.

And they are so cute.  Even when they are giving you the evil eye.  I wonder if they can spit like camels?

And as a bonus, we were surprised to see these guanaco.  90% of these beasties live in Patagonia, Argentina, so we counted ourselves as fortunate to see these.

At first it was hard to see the difference, but guanacos are darker in the face and have less white on the body.  Their tails are darker too.  You can see the difference if you look at the pics.

One of the best things about traveling is discovering the unexpected.  Just past Nazca is something quite amazing.  Discovered in the 1920’s, Chauchilla Cemetery is a necropolis consisting of mud-brick tombs and mummified remains belonging to the Nazca people, with interments that date between 200 and 900AD.   

After a member of the Nazca culture died, their body was mummified, clothed and painted, then placed in one of the mud-brick tombs that belonged to their family. 

Though many of the mummies are at least 1000 years old, many still have skin and hair attached. 

The incredible preservation of these bodies is due to both the carefully done mummification process and the dry (arid) environment of the Peruvian desert. 

On on down the road we went until we stopped at a VERY tiny resort in the small village of Chala.  It was a beautiful place right on the beach.  That night we heard seals bark as they played in the surf.

We were the only ones there, EXCEPT for the wedding party that was going on that night.  Until 2am.  LOUDLY.  Did you know that Peruvian wedding singers crooning American love songs can cause copious amounts of drinking?  We do.  *smile*

We woke up the next day and headed to Colca Canyon, the home of the Andean Condors.  It was going to be a long drive, so we started bright and early after breakfast.  The sea views were interesting.

And the road.  Curvy, to say the least.

How about this for beach front property?  It's got satellite!  We saw dozens of these types of homes dotting the coastline.

As we headed into the mountains we skirted the outside of the town Arequipa, which we'll visit another day.  This is a typical neighborhood in town.  We've seen this type of construction over and over again.

On this day we traveled higher than we ever had before.  We've hiked the mountains near the Matterhorn, biked through the Colorado Rockies and spent a week in Nepal.  But as we drove through the twisting turning Andean mountains, we hit 16,023 feet.

And can get breathless even if you're only driving through.  We nibbled on Cocoa leaves and took ibuprofen every few hours to countermand the effect of high altitude sickness.  It worked and we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery we discovered.

So that was the first part of our trip.  I'll share the Colca Canyon condors, our adventures on Lake Titicaca, and discovering the beauty of the Santa Catalina Monastery next week!  So come on back and share the adventure with me.

Hugs to all!!!!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, October 17, 2014

Just In Case I Don't Get Back... Travel Makes a Wise Man Better

Hey all,

If you're reading this, I'm still not set up completely in Lima, Peru.  Jonathon and I are off on a week long road trip from Lima, down to the Nazca Lines, to Pampas Galeras (a national preserve where we can see wild vicuna), to Colca Canyon (home of the condors), to Lake Titicaca, and finally to Arequipa's UNESCO Santa Catalina Monastery.  

I'm sure it will be a really fascinating experience, and I can't wait to share it all with you next Friday. 

Until then, I'm recycling another older blog that got a lot of great response.  And just as a heads up, my usual FREE READ should be up and ready on schedule.  YAY!!!!

Until then, please enjoy this blast from the past!!!  A look at traveling that holds true here in South America just as it did in Europe.


~~~Meine Mama hat immer gesagt, das Leben ist wie eine Schachtel Pralinen, man weiß nie, was man kriegt~~~

Hey all,

The above quote is in German, and for those of you who don't speak the language, don't go translate it quite yet.  See if you can figure it out by the clues in this blog.  *smile*

As you all know, we moved from Zurich, Switzerland to Dusseldorf, Germany.  We rented a car for less than it cost to fly--even with the one way fee--because Jonathon had gotten to know the manager there at Europcar in Zurich, and he was able to make us a really great deal.  I'd much rather drive than fly--you see so much more of the country AND you don't have to deal with all the mess at the airports and customs.  

Plus, there is that all important aspect that you can find all kinds of amazing things on your way.  We call them distractions...things you see along the way that you 1) stop and explore immediately or 2) add to your already expansive Bucket List, to do later.   Depends on your time and inclination.  

On the way to Dusseldorf, we ran across this amazing church in the town of Limburg, Germany.  It sits above the town like a king on a throne and is the quintessential German-looking church.  Called the Cathedral of Saint George, it's distinctive yellow and brown gingerbread architecture can be seen for miles.  Absolutely gorgeous.  We couldn't stop, so it's added to our list to visit when our daughter comes for a visit.  She loves churches, too.

Finding something like this is like getting a box of chocolates for Christmas.  You open it up and you see all the yummy goodies inside, but you don't know what each one will taste like until you give it a try.

And that, my friends, in a nutshell, is what traveling is all about.

We never know what we're getting into.  It's exciting and scary and irritating, all at once.  For me, who loves to know her plans months in advance (except for writing where I NEVER know what I'm going to write until I dream it) this is quite a stretch.  I've learned not to expect much, so I'm usually happy with what we get.  Especially in a hotel room.

Will we have a big enough bed? (in China a double bed was considered HUGE)  Will we have a view or the city or a parking lot? (or the building next door--lovely *sigh*) Will there be enough room to move around or will the room be the size of a closet? (only Paris was small and it was still big enough to maneuver--carefully) Will we (please God, let it be so...) have a refrigerator and an ironing board?  

Simple things, yet important to daily living.

Then there is getting around in the city.  Will the public transportation systems be easy to navigate?  Will we be close by the city center or out in the boonies?  Near the circus tent or on the other side of town?  Will we have a grocery store nearby or will I be hoofing it or taking a tram?  Will Google map work properly or is it blocked?  (Here in Germany I can only use it for part of the public system--VERY irritating!!!)

Think of it this way.  You've moved your family to a new city.  That means you have to start from scratch, setting up your household.  You have to find schools, the best shops, how to get to work and where all the activities are.  Now multiply that times forty-three (the number of cities this show has been in since it's inception) and you'll have an idea of the challenge we go through each time we move.

Don't get me wrong.  The benefits are OUTSTANDING.  Where else can you travel on someone else's dime, see landmarks and famous sites all over the world and have a chance to do all those things on your bucket list?

And you never know exactly what the next day may have in store for you.  A scary thought for me at first, but it's just a way of life.

Who knew running away to join the circus would be so much fun?

Be back next Friday with more fun!

PS...Have you figured out the quote? *VBG*

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Pictorial Look At Our Time In Chile

Hey all,

We're on the road as I write this, so I don't have a lot of time.  But I wanted to give you some of the highlights of the fun we had during our time in Santiago, Chile as well as the road trips we took out of the city.

I hope you enjoy this look back as much as I did putting it together!!!  In no specific order, here are some of my favorite pics!!!

The best part of living in Santiago are the views of the Andes Mountains.  If it was a clear day, (and that was usually a 50-50 chance) the mountains stood tall and proud all around us.  One of the best views out of our hotel room window since we've been on tour.

For those of you who, like me, love seeing the beautiful tombs and sculptures at cemeteries.  I can now honestly say I've seen cemeteries in five continents and each one is so very different.  Santiago's General Cemetery is filled with history, beauty and sadness.

No matter where I went in Santiago, there were beautiful buildings, with artwork, sculptures and amazing colors and shapes.  The following pics are just a few of what I saw.

The Artequin Museum.  Once a showcased building in the 1889 Paris Exhibition, it was dismantled and brought back to Chile.  Now it is an interactive museum for both kids and adults to learn about world famous paintings from all over the world.

The Belles Art Museum is just a gorgeous building, both inside and out.

The Contemporary Art Museum.  Another lovely building.

And of course, there are the churches.  This first one is called Basilica de Loudres

This is the inside of the Convento San Francisco.  A lovely little church and fascinating museum.

There is so much more I could show you about Santiago, Chile, but I'm out of space.  So let's take a look at our out of town trips.  First off, a picture of Pucon, Chile.  Volcanic mountains and clear blue lakes.  So very beautiful.

This is the lake in Park Nacional Huerquehue.  Home of the Monkey Puzzle Tree!!!

Our next outing was our dive trip to Pichidangui.  Cool little town with some lovely coastline and "friendly critters".

Our last weekend out was to Valparaiso and Pomaire.  Two great towns with very different flavors.

This first set of pics were taken in Valparaiso.  The famous skyline is so colorful.
The elevators and funiculars are both fun and scary.  We rode several of these special "ascensors" as we wandered the town.

Valparaiso is famous for it's street art.  I could do a blog on it all by itself.  But these were two of my favorites.  Amazing work.

And on the way home from Valparaiso, we stopped in the tiny town of Pomaire.  Known for it's special pottery, it is a fun little place with lots of small stores, restaurants and vendors.  We had a blast.

The pottery...

Pomaire is also known for it's GIANT empanadas.  Delicious, but be careful!!!  They don't take the bones out of the chicken before they bake it.

There is so much more about Chile I wish I could share, but I just don't have the time.  I'm already a day late getting this out.  I just hope you enjoy sharing my adventures.  Chile is now one of my favorite countries, and I'd love to come back.

Now as you read this, we're on another road trip.  This time we're in Peru, heading south from Lima.  We're off to see the famous Nazca lines, take a taste of Pisco, chase down some Vicunas, dip our toes in Lake Titicaca and wander the historical town of Arequipa.  

I adore traveling!!!!
Until next week...

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams