Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chile Dogs

Our border crossing taxi

El Gringo surf break, Arica, Chile

Buenos Dias from Chile!  We crossed the border from Peru on Tuesday and then Wednesday caught a flight to Santiago to meet my dad and brother for a two week adventure. These two knuckleheads are a pretty fun twosome to travel with. Last fall the three of us went to Nepal for an epic trip and now they've hopped on the train for another international go. Here are some throwbacks from last fall.

Awkward family photo: Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu

Everest viewpoint

The next two weeks might look a little like this, though we'll need a third red jumpsuit for Trav:

Monday, December 26, 2011

White Christmas In The White City

Christmas traditions are a bit different here in Peru than those in the States. After Mags and I enjoyed a delicious Christmas Eve dinner, the most obvious difference was impossible to ignore. At midnight on Christmas Eve the sky was instantly filled with light and sound like we've never experienced before. We quickly made our way to the rooftop of our hostel to witness thousands of exploding fireworks in all directions, as far as we could see. It was organized chaos at its finest (more chaos than organization, but soooo fun). Even though we are currently living an endless summer, we awoke to a white Christmas here in Arequipa, Peru. There had been some light rain which left the surrounding volcanoes blanketed in snow. It was my first white Christmas in years and a first ever for Mags.

Candlelit Christmas Eve

The guy on the panflute was awesome

Midnight Lights

White Christmas in Arequipa

After breakfast and opening presents we relished in a mellow Christmas day. Arequipa is a wonderful city for walking, which we happily did. We cruised throughout the fairly empty streets and made our way to the main square, Plaza de Armas, which also houses the Basilica Cathedral. There were families hanging in the park as usual, most lining up to be photographed with the large Christmas Tree in front of the Cathedral. Looking for lunch, we were so lucky to happen upon a customary procession of elaborately dressed groups singing and dancing from church to church. We followed the reverie for a while, mesmerized by the spectacle. One of our favorite restaurants was open and offering up a delicious menu, or set lunch. With our bellies full we relaxed and chatted with our families. We are so happy we decided to spend Christmas in Arequipa. The white city not only provided us with a white Christmas, but a very, very merry Christmas as well.

Present Time!

Basilica Cathedral

Plaza de Armas

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas y'all! We sure hope you're enjoying family, food, friends, and festivities. We're missing our nearest and dearest, but mixing up a joyous holiday for ourselves here in Arequipa. In the midst of the madness, be sure to give gratitude, show love, and get cheery. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Canyon Country

Hostel with a view of Volcano Misti

From the shores of Lake Titicaca, we headed Southwest. Arriving in Arequipa (Peru's second largest city) we felt right at home, right away.  Settled at the base of three large volcanoes, the city is similarly colonial to others we've visited, but striking because it was built using pearly white volcanic rock.  We got right into the cozy holiday spirit with an outdoor Christmas choir concert, walking the festive streets, and picking up gifts.  This city is incredibly enjoyable.  Did I mention that there are vegetarian restaurants everywhere... thanks Santa!

From here, we journeyed up to Colca Canyon for a few days in the dramatic landscape of the world's deepest canyon. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, people. We stayed at an amiable hostel with a wood-fired pizza oven, made some fun new friends and took a hike to the 'Oasis', a little spot at the bottom of the canyon (complete with swimming pool).  

Clouds building over Mt. Ambato

The Oasis

Folks in Cabanaconde

Unfortunately, the woes of of travel caught up with us and we had to cut our canyon trip a bit short. The gastrointestinal monster has reared it's ugly head and we skipped back to Arequipa to recover.  We've been resting and hydrating, catching up with friends online, making Christmas cards and wrapping our little gifts.  It's beginning to look a lot like la Navidad!  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Deep, Blue Lake

Life is slow at 12,500 ft. Lake Titicaca rests at this elevation as the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. It is also the largest lake in all of South America. One would think with these accolades there would be a bustle surrounding the shores of this profound body of water. While there are a few port cities dotting the shoreline, the vast majority of existence is idle.

Life in Llachon

We found our way to the tiny village of Llachon located on Lake Titicaca's Capachica Peninsula. Llachon is made up of approximately fifteen families whom farm the fertile land growing potatoes, corn, and quinoa. Beyond the crops being harvested on shore, the local Quechua people also cultivate the totora reeds growing in the lake's shallows. The reeds are used for just about everything; roofs, beds, walls, decoration, food, insulation, and even the construction of floating, habitable islands. Cows, donkeys, pigs, sheep, and alpaca round out the rest of Llachon. 

Welcome to Llachon, Peru 

Totora Reeds Ready for Harvest

We knew we were off the beaten track when we arrived in Llachon and there was not a soul around. No taxis, no hostels, no restaurants, nobody. The only audible sounds were those of donkeys and sheep. Luckily, we ran into a woman who knew of a family that owned a hospedaje or family homestay. We were greeted by Primo who showed us to our mud brick room with a totora reed roof. After settling in we roamed around the shoreline taking in the majestic sights of the lake and surrounding, distant mountains. We basked in the highland sun exploring the lakeside village until it was time for dinner. Primo's wife, Susanna, cooked us a magnificent typical dinner of bread, vegetable barley soup, rice, vegetables, chicken (for Me) and egg tortilla (for Mags). After dinner we talked story with Primo, who spoke great Spanish even though the local language is Quechua, while sipping on freshly picked herb tea. Since it gets dark here at 6pm everyday, we called it a night around 8pm when we ran out of stories. Again, life moves slow here, very slow.

Hospedaje de Primo y Susanna

Fresh Totora Reed Harvest

The Freshest Tea Around

Our stay in Llachon was an eye opening experience into the ways of Quechua Lake Titicaca inhabitants. Their smiles are honest, their hands are dirty, their voices are subtle, and their lives are simple. It is my hope that when we return to our life in the States we do so with the modesty embodied by Primo and Susanna.   

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sense Of Place: Ecuador

While traveling throughout the States we would often post a Sense Of Place to visually illustrate our whereabouts. Upon entering South America SOP postings took a backseat to the call of adventure, even though we've been captivated by Ecuador and Peru. While out-of-sync, I'd like to catch up on the environments we've traveled during the last two months. First on the list, Ecuador........