Thursday, January 30, 2003

The Last Peruvian Leg


Thank you to all of our friends and family who have written to us, (visited us!) and shared our adventures via the internet. To everyone who is sick and tired of having Dan and Sarah fill their inboxes with obnoxious tales, please know that I am far more sick and tired of writing these emails. This is the last one!

As I type, I am sitting in the computer room in my parent's home in Los Angeles. I've had a haircut, a manicure, and I've already worn a pair of heels. Chau to being grubby!

Our last 10 days in Peru were a quick sample of some of the Northern highlights. We started the final leg of our journey with a stop in Lima. This is a city that foreigners love to hate. At least 80% of the travelers that we have met had nothing nice to say about it - "Lima's a hole!". The complaints were very thorough, covering everything from smog and population overload, to crazy driving, poverty, and thievery. Since Dan and I love cities, and have not once been disappointed by world capitals, we knew that we would love it, or at least be able to recognize its' positive points. Like any popular city, there are valid reasons why so many people choose to live there, and traveling is all about perspective. For us, the liveliness of the sidewalk dramas, the well-manicured plazas, the austere churches, and the blocks of colonial buildings were beautiful examples of Liman life. We also were well-trained from our year of traveling to know that where you stay has a lot to do with how you enjoy a place. Because of this, we opted to stay in fashionable Miraflores, which is far from downtown, and close to the Peruvian coast. The beachside barrios are very stylish with many restaurants, and small shops. Here, most of the pastel colored flats were built the 20's to the 40's, with art deco details and tropical gardens. The neighborhoods feature cliffside promenades for walking your dog or small parks where you can make out in the grass with your lover -if you watch where you are sitting. We stayed at Lex Luther's, which was a private, family-run home that rents out a few rooms, and busied ourselves with a visit to the Gold Museum (which houses a massive private exhibit of world weapons and Pre-Incan and Incan metals), and a quick tour to the city center.

With only ten days to tour the North, our stay in Lima was limited. We took off to Huaraz within 2 days, and found ourselves wedged between the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negro. The andean mountain ranges are particularly spectacular here. This fact from the Lonely Planet puts it all into perspective: "In this fairly small area, there are more than 50 peaks of 5700m or higher. In contrast, North America has only three mountains in excess of 5700m (Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, Logan in Canada and Denali in Alaska), and Europe has none." In addition, there are remote villages, hot springs, glacial lakes and ancient ruins, which make this area trekking heaven (if you visit in the summer, when the sky is a pristine, clear shade of blue, and the earth is dry). In January, trails are reduced to muddy swamps and the surrounding peaks are hidden behind puffy grey clouds. The rainy season is a real bummer, and due to our poor timing, we weren't able to get far off the beaten path. We stuck to short day hikes to surrounding ruins, and took our LAST tour to visit the brilliant turquoise glacial waters of the Llanganuco lakes. On the way to Caraz, we had a brief stop in Old Yungay. This was the site of one of the worst national disasters in all of the world. In 1970, there was a huge earthquake in Peru, which caused a wall of ice and snow, to come crashing down from one of the highest mountains (Huascaran Norte), and completely bury and obliterate the village of Yungay. It is estimated that 18,000 townspeople died instantaneously, and that an additional 50,000 were killed by the earthquake's destruction. Standing on firm soil above the remains of a town is a somber reminder of the nature's awesome power. In Caraz, our attempts to hike around were thwarted by a deluge of rain. We were huddled under the lip of a roof, when a young woman beckoned us to her gate, and invited us to rest under her sheltered patio. We were introduced to her entire family, who were seated around massive piles of multi-colored corn, shucking and flaking off kernals. They were obviously poor, but were quick to offer us a bowl of toasted maize. We shared a simple hour under the safety of their roof, appreciating our taste of village hospitality.

The last stop that Dan and I wanted to make, before returning to a U.S. winter, was some days on the warm Northern coast. Dan wanted the opportunity to surf in the waters off of Huanchaco, a mellow, fisherman/resort town, and I wanted to visit the nearby Chimu ruins (Chan-Chan), and have a wander around Trujillo, the 3rd largest city in Peru. We took our LAST night bus, and arrived to a beachtown of surfers and fishermen fighting the waves on their boards and reed (totora)boats. We had our LAST plate of ceviche, and slept in our LAST stinky room (soon to be changed for a nicer hotel with an ocean view!). Chan-Chan was fantastic. It was built around 1300AD, and is the largest Pre-Columbian mud city in the Americas, with repetitive zoomorphic detailing. We also visited the nearby Chimu temples of La Huaca Esmeralda and Arco Iris, and Dan got his long afternoon in the chilly Pacific.

On January 11th, we took our LAST bus ride back to Lima, where we enjoyed our LAST 4 hours in the city (and South America!), meeting and dining with Patty, an artist friend of Lorin's (one of our old Airtreks coworkers). By the following morning, we had arrived to Los Angeles. It is very comforting to be back, although I have to keep reminding myself to say 'Thank You', instead of 'Gracias'.

We are still on the road, albeit in the U.S.A.. If anyone has a hankering to speak live and in person to either of us (and has actually read this far), we can be reached at my parent's house.

Daniel's notes- Well after 1 year, 1 week and 2 days we were back in California. I've had a haircut, a good shave, 4 burritos and I'm enjoying seeing Sarah in heels again. The culture shock of being in our own country is beginning to ebb and reality is creeping in with each passing day and newscast. We are currently savoring these infrequent visits with family and friends and feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to share the beauty and splendor of South America with you. Un ambrazo fuerte.

much love as always,
Sarah and Dan

Final photos can be viewed at http://www.pbase.com/dgsc/pernor

{This diary series and photo journal has been brought to you by Mentisan, Pisco sours, Argentine Parilla, the beaches of Brazil, Mate, Salon Cama buses, the tango, Ceviche, many glasses of good cheap wine, The Campos/Allegro familias, Aji, Pebre, Chimichuri, Dulce de Leche, Our landlady, the colors of Bolivia, Capirinhas, The Andes, Idioma Castellana, Domino completos, cervezas, Terrere, Medialunas, The BA Herald, South American ice cream, our MP3s, Aguas calientes, Mangos and paltas, Argentine rock, Brazilian bossanova, Peruvian flutes, LP, futbol, burrito dreams, Dizapam, Sunrises over Patagonia, Sunsets in San Pedro de Atacama, new foreign friends (Lolas and gatos), our family back home and just a couple of coca leaves.}

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