Sorry for not having posted for a few weeks. I just finished two weeks of intensive Spanish in preparation for doing my first interviews in the coming weeks. It certainly was a good refresher/revision of many important parts of the language like verb conjugation in different tenses but it was also exhausting. In the end I just need to keep practicing plain and simple. On top of this I did have work stuff to take care of.
PHOTOS TO COME…having a little problem with software!!
Of course after being triumphant in finally getting internet, the laptop I am using courtesy of the partner organization decides to get a virus. I of course with my math/computer background attempt to solve the problem, spending oh about 36 hours in total on this. I finally just had to let go and realize my success was shortlived – the hard- drive had to be wiped in order to reinstall windows which was corrupted. So with what little mental energy I could muster after Spanish and work stuff, it was wasted on trying to fix the laptop. As Ross says I am like a bull – super stubborn usually working in my favour but of course not always.
Oh well I hadn’t planned it intentionally but we went away the weekend after the 2nd week of Spanish and it was so awesome to just relax. Exactly what I needed – an activity requiring less brain power!! As is my usual way I had done research when I had booked the trip over a month ago so I had some ideas of what we would do to see the area but unlike me I had made no plans except for where we would stay and of course the bus to get there.
Fortunately the bus station – each private bus company of which there are many has their own although they do tend to be located within the same area of the city and often just a few blocks apart from each other or right next door to each other – was only a short bus ride away from where we live. In principal we could walk it if we had nothing much to carry. Side note: this is very common – if you are looking for x type of business you will more than likely find a whole slew of same businesses right beside each other and this can last for blocks and blocks.
Oddly enough, with this new experience of taking a bus trip in Peru for the first time, it did not result in a big surprising/weird adventure as is our usual way. Actually printing out the tickets ended up being more of the dilemma I faced – where does one go to print documents in the city? I knew of photocopying shops and of internet shops, but wasn’t sure if you could pass on to them your flash drive to access a document. My boss at work just said to print the docs at work using another colleague’s computer and I was like ok but of course this was easier said than done. Luckily that problem was solved easily by finding a cable to connect the printer to the laptop.
Back to the bus station. I only had to ask once where to go for the bus and we were promptly directed to a room which had the common letters “VIP” so we thought whaaaaattttt?!?! Again???? We saw others waiting in there and so walked in and sat down. Soon others joined us. There was a water cooler and coffee/tea freely available. After a short while we were able to board the bus.
Reserved seating – I always like this more than the free for all. I had planned it so that we had front seats so we could see out the side and front windows. Well in these buses, the driver essentially has his own compartment which can be closed off from the passengers. There were closed curtains on the glass windows separating us so we asked if we could open them and were told no – and when I asked why well it is the driver’s compartment we were told and that was that. So much for getting a good straight ahead view of the road we would be traveling. It was at times weird not knowing why we were slowing down and even coming to a stop, e.g. for a toll or perhaps a police checkpoint – yes they do have these – since we couldn’t see ahead of the bus!
Otherwise the journey was uneventful, with two stops along the way. Some other differences: we had to wear seatbelts – not a bad idea; there were videos to watch but of course dubbed not subtitled – it is amazing what you can make out of a movie without the words; we got a snack of prepacked crackers; most folks kept their curtains closed as well – with their heads stuck in their mobile devices rather than watching the scenery.
On this four hour journey we really did appreciate even more how much we are living in a desert. The landscape just went on and on from the ocean beaches to as far inland as one could see. However, like too much of this world, it had signs of human activity all along the way. In between actual settlements, communities of dust, dogs and the downtrodden (what work is around here besides small shops?), all along the coast there are makeshift fences of various kinds from the most simplest of a line of rocks demarcating a lot or plot of land to the more usual barbed wire fence to the most expensive and elaborate concrete block fencing. In addition to these signs of human activity, inside the fenced areas would be what I could only call derelict shacks made from flimsy women bamboo sheets or falling apart concrete walls. I had the opportunity to ask the driver of one of our excursions what was the purpose of these small buildings that looked abandoned. Well it appears to be that such buildings are set up so that other folks, non-owners, who the land is privately owned, kinda like the way of marking the territory. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the owners of said plots of land had bought thinking they would be building a home or vacation retreat but that hard economic times were in the wind. It is clear that the so called economic boom of the past few years is going to be shortlived. There are so many vacant apartments around us, unfinished buildings, just some of the signs of economic misfortune. But hey that’s what happens when the boom is based on debt. These plots were literally parcels of sand & rock, no vegetation to speak out.
We also saw awesome beaches with no one around – these are the times we wished we had our own means of transportation. We also saw endless chicken ‘barns’ – those for eggs and those for meat. At least they were essentially open to the outdoors – Peru’s version of factory farms, no less inhumane. I caught site of a pile of dead chickens. I will soon be posting a blog on the topic of food, something of course dear to my heart. Suffice it to say that you have got bad karma if you are born a chicken in this country. The quantity of chicken consumed is phenomenal. I just love the taste & texture of the chicken here but I am conflicted since I feel terrible about the life of these creatures.
So we arrive in Paracas easily enough, to be surrounded and hounded by people wanting to provide a taxi or a place to stay. I absolutely hate experiencing this and have to exit fast if I am not to be really rude. Aside: it is common here to use pressure tactics to get someone to eat at their restaurants for example, common in most tourist places, but it stands juxtaposed against the shy reserved nature of Peruvians. I know such tactics actually work on folks but not me, the exact opposite happens where I run to get away from such folks & places. Fortunately we quickly left the mob by just walking a block away where I then had to figure out where was the hostel I had booked. I quickly asked a bus driver in another bus and lo and behold it was just behind us.
We check in, needing a room change since our private room was right above the bar which I knew was a party place and it was reggaetón night – absolutely awful music. Time to have a wander through the community along the boardwalk and find a place to have a beer of course – well it was almost 6ish in the evening – so we had a beer at several places before we decided on where to eat.
We had 2 days to fill. Ross has wanted to learn paragliding and this was a place to do it. It wasn’t going to be cheap but then what is with these sorts of activities. In the end he decided against it since he actually wants to take a course to learn it but then without actually having the equipment to use to continue training what is the point of spending that $. Ross thinks that this would be a good method of viewing/patrolling our land since we are on a hill – I personally have my doubts about this. So we first did a 4 hour van tour which brought us to a variety of sites in Paracas National Reserve – visitor centre & museum, red sand beach, cliff formations, various birdlife. It certainly was a vast desert with undulating hills, various hues of colour, small rocks and sand – my kinda place – a place where I am in permanent awe. However it wasn’t the desert you see in pictures with endless sand dunes – that would come later.
The constant wind countered the heat making it deceptively ‘cool’. We had considered renting bicycles for the next day but we wanted to see the terrain before we committed to bicycling around a desert. Despite it being autumn we decided against bicycles since we would have needed to haul so much water as it would have been so hot. The distances didn’t seem that long but bicycling one way 20 km can seem so much longer on a bicycle when the sun is beating down on you and the wind is against you.
The last stop on the tour was I thought to be of a popular beach with no services but we ended up at another beach with lots of restaurants and people!! We were provided with very small drinks of the famous pisco sour which I downed but otherwise we got away from the hordes and walked along a nearby beach, me taking a quick partial dip in the ocean since it was warm enough.
Later that afternoon we went on a 2nd excursion. This was to a place called Adrenarena, the name of a company. This turned out to be a huge privately owned piece of desert. Ross had no idea what he was in for – as he says he just goes along trusting what I have planned. I had mixed feelings about what we were about to do but I thought hey once in a lifetime. So we went dune buggy riding and sand surfing!! Alas we weren’t doing the actual driving which in the end was fine with us.
we all tried different positions: forward, backward, on stomach, on back, as a couple
The dune buggy could take 6 people including the driver. Besides ourselves there was a Mexican young couple (or brother & sister ?– I couldn’t tell) on their spring break. Ross could sit next to the driver in the front seat which was fortunate since as we were being seated it occurred to me that Ross has a problem with roller coasters where he can get pretty ill. Oh well too late now I thought and let’s hope for the best. I sat in the back – man the machine was frigging loud and I was eating some sand. But oh it was fun. Of course the best moment being the first time we went over a huge dune as is always the case on roller coaster rides. It felt like the guy was driving like a maniac the way we would go over and alongside big and small dunes at ridiculous speeds. There was many an occasion where I thought we were going to roll. And of course this is a possibility hence the roll bars. But the driver obviously knew what he was doing having 9 years under his belt. Then we stopped atop a very large dune and got to try sand boarding. This was a lot of fun with a lot of exercise as we had to hike back up the dune presenting its own challenges as when walking through deep snow tobogganing. I do actually think I have had faster toboggan rides but it was still good fun. This definitely was the highlight for me. The place was like the desert of the photos and movies – huge pristine sand dunes (except for the dune buggy tracks which actually do disappear because of the constant wind).
The next day saw us kayak a bit along the bay with hostel river kayaks. We had hoped to find a nice beach but as is so often the case so much of the coast was built up so only private or ugly beaches with little or no sand. So far I am not impressed at all with Peru’s beaches, or at least ones that are somewhat easy to access – too many rocks, lots of garbage, strong currents. The thing to do here is to surf, something I have always wanted to learn but when I was younger and if I was on vacation. I might still decide to take a course next summer so in Nov/Dec/Jan before we leave since there are beginner courses available in Lima. In hindsight I should have done this during the summer that just ended but I just wasn’t up for it.
As our 1st excursion, it was a good 2 days away from the city. And boy is the desert huge. So why are there so many people living in this desert environment? A topic for another conversation.