Archive for March, 2011

Fun in Paracas

Posted on March 31, 2011 by 7 Comments

If you like desert, the Paracas National Reserve is a big playground. The farther you get into the park, the more the ‘roads’ disappear and become merely suggestions.

We spent the day just meandering, finding our own beaches, and taking in the incredible landscape. We felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.

This is fun! Why isn’t anyone else here?

-Bode

After Bode saw the Running From Camera guy, he had to try his own 2 second timer shots.

We thought we might camp here and they even have two designated camping spots, but we got mixed messages when we asked around. It seems like every time we ask an official for permission, they tell us it’s peligrosso. When we ask normal folks, they say “no hay problema. Tranquillo”.

I’m pretty sure it would have been fine, but the wind was really blowing and we would have just spent the evening sitting in the van listening to the wind. We decided to take off for Ica and Huacachina before dark.

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Isla Ballestas

Posted on March 30, 2011 by 2 Comments

The day started with a 2-hour boat tour to Isla Ballestas. Referred to as ‘The Poor Man’s Galapagos’ we weren’t sure what to expect, except a lot of bird shit.

Literally. The anchovy-rich waters around these islands prove delicious for tens of thousands of birds. And, these birds provide so much poop that they actually collect it and export it.

First, we cruised by The Candelabra – a Nasca lines sort of carving in the hillside facing the ocean. Apparently, this is the only one of it’s kind that can be viewed from ground-level (although you have to be floating  in the ocean to see it.) It’s supposed to be over 2000 years old. Why is it here and what does it mean – we have no idea.

Then, we approached the islands and were amazed by the number of birds. You can’t appreciate it until you see it and photos don’t do it justice.  More birds than we have ever seen in one place, and possibly more birds than we’ve cumulatively seen in our lifetime. Some places on the islands were so covered in birds that it looked like the landscape was black.

We saw Humbolt penguins, Peruvian boobies, comerants, oyster catchers and gulls. Luckily, we recognized these from our Galapagos trip since we couldn’t hear a thing the guide said. We even spotted some free-divers going after sea snails. This water is COLD and I can’t imagine spending the day floating around in it looking for snails.

This bird watching is big business. We had pulled into Paracas the night before and booked a $10 USD tour within minutes. This morning, when we arrived we grabbed the last 3 seats on one of many large tour boats that all took off about the same time. Our boat was filled mostly by an extremely well-outfitted Swiss tour group. I’ve never seen so many expensive outdoor gear brands anywhere but REI.

Despite the touristy feel, it was really fun, especially for Bode. He was keen to identify the various birds and he knew most of them. When the show was over and we headed back to the mainland with a chilly ride , Bode spent the entire ride under Jason’s jacket.

We’ve heard that getting pooped on may be good luck, but we decided NOT getting pooped on this time was a better way to go. And, for some reason everything on this trip is on the left… so if you come, sit on the left side.

The day started with a 2-hour boat tour to Isla Ballentas. Referred to as ‘the poor man’s Galapagos’ we weren’t sure what to expect, except a lot of shit. 

Literally. The anchovy-rich waters around these islands prove delicious for hundreds of thousands of birds. And, these birds provide enough poop that they export it.

We weren’t prepared for the number of birds flying overhead and just kicking back on the rocky islands. More birds than we have ever seen in one place, and possibly more birds than we’ve seen in our lifetime. Some places on the islands were so covered in birds that it looked as though the landscape had changed color.

We saw Humbolt penguins, Peruvian boobies, comerants, oyster catchers and gulls. Luckily, we recognized these from our Galapagos trip since we couldn’t hear a thing the guide said.

This bird watching is big business. We had pulled into Paracas the night before and booked a tour within minutes. This morning, when we arrived we grabbed the last 3 seats on one of many large tour boats that all took off about the same time. Our boat was filled mostly by an extremely well-outfitted Swiss tour group. I’ve never seen so many expensive outdoor gear brands anywhere but REI.

Despite the touristy feel, it was really fun, especially for Bode. He was so proud of himself when he could find and identify the various birds. When the show was over and we headed back to the mainland, Bode spent the entire ride under Jason’s jacket.

We’ve heard that getting pooped on may be good, but we decided NOT getting pooped on was a better way to go.

The day started with a 2-hour boat tour to Isla Ballentas. Referred to as ‘the poor man’s Galapagos’ we weren’t sure what to expect, except a lot of shit.

 

Literally. The anchovy-rich waters around these islands prove delicious for hundreds of thousands of birds. And, these birds provide enough poop that they export it.

 

We weren’t prepared for the number of birds flying overhead and just kicking back on the rocky islands. More birds than we have ever seen in one place, and possibly more birds than we’ve seen in our lifetime. Some places on the islands were so covered in birds that it looked as though the landscape had changed color.

 

We saw Humbolt penguins, Peruvian boobies, comerants, oyster catchers and gulls. Luckily, we recognized these from our Galapagos trip since we couldn’t hear a thing the guide said.

 

This bird watching is big business. We had pulled into Paracas the night before and booked a tour within minutes. This morning, when we arrived we grabbed the last 3 seats on one of many large tour boats that all took off about the same time. Our boat was filled mostly by an extremely well-outfitted Swiss tour group. I’ve never seen so many expensive outdoor gear brands anywhere but REI.

 

Despite the touristy feel, it was really fun, especially for Bode. He was so proud of himself when he could find and identify the various birds. When the show was over and we headed back to the mainland, Bode spent the entire ride under Jason’s jacket.

 

We’ve heard that getting pooped on may be good, but we decided NOT getting pooped on was a better way to go.

 

 

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Adiós, Lima

Posted on March 29, 2011 by 4 Comments

When we were back in Huaraz, Bode said he wanted to go bowling. We told him it had to wait until we got to Lima. He remembered, so we had to deliver.

There’s a nice shopping mall right on the cliff in Miraflores that had just what we needed. It was exactly like every other bowling alley in the world – Brunswick must make a ready-made bowling alley kit.

Our new friends Kirsti and Sanj came along and we all managed to not embarrass ourselves too badly. We had fun, but all agreed that the idea of going bowling seemed more entertaining than actually going bowling.

Walking back along the cliff, we could look down on all the surfers paddling through the floating garbage and brown slime. Lima is probably not one of the top surfing destinations in the world.

In the end, we enjoyed Lima more that we thought we would – we had pretty low expectations coming in. It’s not much different than any other big city in the world – it’s got good parts and bad parts. I think we agreed that we stayed a little longer than we should have, but at least we got to take care of a few things on the list.

Before we left town, we stopped by to see El Maestro – one of the guys from the club who invited us over so he could take a look at our motor. He was pretty sure we had a carb issue and ripped into them as soon as we got there.

Sure enough, he pulled a broken piece out of our left carb choke mechanism. It’s a little shaped rod that sits on top of a diaphragm. We did some asking around and it looks like it’s another part that we just can’t buy down here. Actually, I’m not sure if we could even buy the part back in the U.S.

We should be okay without it while we’re in the desert, as I think it only effects the operation when the engine is cold. Still, if anyone happens to have an old parts-carb laying around and can spare the bits, please let us know – we may end up having a care package sent down here soon.

The Maestro also insisted we add a finned pulley wheel to our alternator to keep it cooler. Why not – can’t hurt.

 

 

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El Cave

Posted on March 28, 2011 by 2 Comments

I posted a note on the local VW club’s forum asking about locating a replacement electronic ignition in Lima. I struck out finding a quick replacement, but lucked out meeting Eric and Vaneza. Awesome folks who were extremely generous and made sure we saw some more of the local sights.  They took us out and showed us around Barranco before a stop at Tio Marios.

Uncle Mario was a street food vendor who rose to notoriety cooking up the best anticucho in Peru. Grilled beef heart shish-kabobs. He saved every sole and eventually moved from his street cart to this awesome restaurant right in the heart of Barranco.

Uncle Mario is still in the kitchen manning the grill and we can report that the beef hearts are pretty darn tasty too. Don’t forget to wash it down with some chicha morada.

Next up was a stop at the weekly Cave Peru meeting. More great folks who meet up because of their love of their escarabajos, but use their group to help out local communities. One of their major initiatives is to collect books and school supplies and deliver them to areas in need. A great way to combine a cruise with a cause… and they cruise all over the country helping out deserving schools.

 

escarabajo

 

 

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Risk

Posted on March 25, 2011 by 5 Comments

The last time I sat down and played a game of Risk was likely sometime in the 80′s. It’s been a while.

I loved playing it, of course, but I also remember it being a fairly complex multi-hour undertaking.

So, when Bode found the game board at the hostel and asked to play, I initially deferred. I assumed it would be too difficult for him and more trouble than it’s worth. He could take it out of the box and play with the pieces and we would talk about it later.

Once he saw that the pieces had guys with rifles and canons, he pleaded with me to teach him to play. He’s definitely at the stage of having that boyhood fascination with wars and weapons. He asks me for updates on the situation in Libya every day… seriously. You should hear him explain the conflict in conversation – it raises eyebrows.

In no time we were staking claims to territories (he took Peru first) and mom was even invited into battle. He took to it immediately and after an hours-long match, he and mom had banded together to wipe dad off the map.

Aside from having fun together, we also worked on learning all the continents and oceans. Lot’s of math. Reading. Alliances. Odds. Strategies for land wars in Asia.

Maybe more importantly, he knew that Parker Brothers thinks you need to be 10+ to learn the game. When some friends walked in and were impressed with his play, he was full of pride when he told them he was only 5.  It’s a good thing they didn’t ask him about Libya.

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Lima

Posted on March 23, 2011 by 8 Comments

It bears repeating that the Peruvian coast is desert. Drifting sand dune hot desert. It’s mostly barren and trash strewn, but for some reason north of Lima, people have seemingly dropped tiny pre-fab wooden houses out of the sky. I can’t imagine why.

The edge of Lima seemed to appear out of nowhere. First desert and then sprawling city. The drive from the northern edge of Lima down to Miraflores could be described as a marriage test. We passed, but just barely.

Once we arrived in the Miraflores neighborhood, things started to improve. We quickly found another hostel on the overlander trail (The Hitchhiker Hostel, recommended by Trish and Mike) where we found two more vehicles. One with California plates and the other German.

We get to park and pop the top in their tiny walled compound for just a few bucks. Not bad, considering its in the heart of Lima’s nicest neighborhood.

We hadn’t really read up on Lima, but assumed we wouldn’t like it. We don’t like driving in it, but so far the rest seems okay. Since we have been known to judge an area by proximity to sushi restaurants, Miraflores scores big. We’ve already found three just a few blocks from where we are staying.

We were a also little surprised to find out that there are ruins only a few blocks down the street. A large pyramid complex completely surrounded by modern concrete and steel apartment buildings.

So, our plan for Lima is to rest up a bit and enjoy the conveniences of a modern city.

Stock up on some supplies. Try to find a replacement electronic ignition (my old one got mysteriously fried at Diegos). Find a new deep-cycle battery for the solar panel/fridge (we’ve got a dead cell). Heck, maybe even try to score some new pants, since most of mine now have holes.

And, it doesn’t hurt that we’ve already met some really cool people. Lorna and Steve have that California-plated 1970 Land Rover and are headed south too. They started in Arcata, CA and still have another year to go – hopefully we’ll run into them again. Good people.

The German couple,  Norbert und Hannelore, have already driven all over the world and are now on their way to Alaska. If you’re in the states, keep your eye for them later in the year.

 

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Post 400

Posted on March 22, 2011 by 7 Comments

Huaraz is a fairly large town considering it’s remoteness. But, the drive up was really why we were here so this was just a pit-stop.

The town serves as a base for the mountaineering types, but we were all feeling a bit of altitude sickness. We’ve been at higher elevations many times, but for some reason it got to us this time – especially Bode. He actually admitted that he was tired and went to bed without dinner. Totally unheard of.

The next day he was still a lethargic blob, so we decided to go back to sea level. The nearest beach was Barranca, about 4 hours away on a paved road.

First, we had to climb over the pass and reached about 4,100 meters. Mt. Huascaran, Peru’s tallest mountain at 6,700 meters, and lots of glaciers provided great scenery. Amazingly, for the past three days we’ve barely felt like we were climbing.  The steep and winding parts don’t start until the way down. Driving slow, I think we dropped all 4100 meters in just over an hour.

Bode slept through most of the drive, and when he woke up he was like a whole new kid.

Barranca has the feel of a spring break destination, with every restaurant plastered with a beer logo. The sea wall has beer logos, even the bottom of the pool at our hotel had a beer logo. The weird part was that there was no one around. There were tons of closed bars and restaurants and a few hotels, but no people. Perhaps it livens up on weekends.

After communicating by email a few times, the next day we met fellow Westy drivers  Trish and Mike (and dog, Chettie)  from Colorado, making their way back to Colombia after their South American tour. We swapped stories and they recommended a few spots in Argentina. they also told us their story about being attacked a few weeks ago – scary stuff.

They’ll be shipping their bus back from Cartagena in a few months. They are the second folks we’ve met who claim we are the only other Americans they’ve seen in South America.

And our big news for our 400th blog post?  Almost 20 months and 12 countries later, we finally had our first flat tire. Done in by a shiny bolt.

We whipped out the tire repair kit and had it patched quickly. The spare tire (our airbag) still hasn’t come off the front of the bus.

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