roblog - Official Blog of Rob Hurvitz

27 Jun 2009 - 11:12:09 AM
Yanky Go Homee

Well, my flight back to the US is in 12 hours, and I'm hanging out here in Lima until then. Plan for the day: eat some ceviche, buy a souvenir or two, and, um, write this blog post. Busy, busy, busy.

I saw the following message spray-painted on a metal security door back in April, and thought it would a fitting final picture for the South America portion of the roblog. So, without further ado, el fin del viaje:

yanky go homee
Yanky Go Homee -- Buenos Aires, Argentina

Actually, there will be one more little picture from the trip, but it's of beer glasses and will accompany a wrap-up post of South American microbrews. Hasta luego!

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26 Jun 2009 - 3:58:19 PM
Hatun Machay

I made it out to a pretty cool sport climbing area near Huaraz for two days, an area called Hatun Machay. It's Quechua for "big cave" -- there are some caves there with old rock carvings in them. Hatun Machay is described as a rock forest; lots of steep boulders clustered in one fairly small area. There are at least 120 routes, with more being added. Shortest routes are 8-10m, longest is about 40m. Oh, and it's at over 4000m in elevation. Nothing quite like sport climbing at 13,000 ft. Oh, and there's a refugio right there that rents gear, sells beer, and, when I was there, had six puppies.

Climbed five routes each day. Six leads and 4 top-ropes. The last climb was a new 40m route (two short pitches) that had lots of loose rock. It's going to take a while before it's clean, but it was fun. Stuck with 5.9 and 10a leads, and TR'ed the 10+ stuff. Nice to know my climbing strength didn't completely disappear.

hatun machay
Approaching the rock forest -- Hatun Machay, Peru

rob on lead
Leading the route Chueco Corrupto (6a/5.10a) -- Hatun Machay, Peru

rob on rappel
Rappeling the route Chueco Corrupto -- Hatun Machay, Peru

Fun route called Picaflor (5+/5.9) that starts on the right side of the honeycomb feature -- Hatun Machay, Peru

rock carving
Rock carving of humanoid thing in the big cave -- Hatun Machay, Peru

rock carvings
More rock carvings in the big cave -- Hatun Machay, Peru

la placa verde
La Placa Verde -- Hatun Machay, Peru

I liked this rock feature, at the start of the route Viejos Tiempos (5+/5.9-10a) -- Hatun Machay, Peru

Puppy feeding time at the refugio -- Hatun Machay, Peru

So now I'm back in Lima. My flight back to the US is tomorrow night. It's hard to believe my trip is almost over.

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22 Jun 2009 - 12:00:01 PM
Santa Cruz Trek

I'm in Huaraz, and I like it here. Beautiful mountains and lakes and glaciers in the nearby Cordillera Blanca, good restaurants and cafes in town. Both the California Cafe and Cafe Andino have good mochas, the 13 Buhos bar has a tasty dark home brew, and there's even a decent Thai restaurant. What more could one want? Oh yeah, more time. My bus to Lima leaves Thursday night (my last South American bus ride!), and my flight back to the States takes off in the wee hours of Sunday.

Yesterday I returned from the four day Santa Cruz trek through the heart of the Cordillera Blanca. Started near the highest mountain in Peru, Huascaran, walking along one valley, up and over the Punta Union pass (4750m), and down another valley. I wanted to post a bazillion pics from the trek, but somehow managed to whittle it down to just 13.

View of Huascaran Norte from Lake Llanganuco -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Lake Llanganuco -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

pass mountains
The peak on the left is Mt Taulliraju (5830m), on one side of Punta Union pass, and the peak on the right I forget the name of, on the other side of the pass -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

View of Mt Quitaraju from the pass -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

View of Mt Rirjirca from the pass -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

down valley
Looking down the valley, Quebrada Santa Cruz, towards Lake Jetuncocha -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

View of Mt Artesonraju from the pass, supposedly the Paramount Pictures mountain -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Lake Taullicocha at the foot of Mt Taulliraju, with a convenient caravan of horses and donkeys -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

View of Mt Taulliraju from near our 2nd campsite -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

My one picture of Mt Alpamayo, the Peruvian-claimed most beautiful mountain in the world (all the other times I was ready with my camera it was clouded over) -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Another view of Mt Artesonraju, looking a bit more like the Paramount Pictures mountain -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

iceberg with reflection
Iceberg in lake near the Alpamayo base camp, with reflection of overhead peaks -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

flowers and horse
Pretty purple flowers and pretty horse -- Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Phew! Today is a much-deserved rest day, but I'll probably head out with some folks to do a little bouldering later in the afternoon. Tomorrow I've signed up for two days of rock climbing in Hatun Machay, which is the local sport climbing mecca, complete with refugio for a more civilized camping experience. Three nights of sleeping on the hard ground during the Santa Cruz trek was enough for me.

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15 Jun 2009 - 5:50:23 PM

It's taking me a little longer than I thought it would to reach Huaraz, but assuming I wake up on time, I will arrive tomorrow, finally. I ended up in the village of La Union an hour or two longer than I wanted, which made me miss the earlier bus to Huallanca and therefore the theoretical 1:00 p.m. bus from there to Huaraz. La Union has some interesting Incan ruins nearby, but otherwise I didn't much care for it. I looked at two hotel/hospedaje places, one had a decent-sized room with no windows and the other had windows but the room felt cell-like. Didn't even bother to ask about hot water in the shared bathrooms, because I knew there wouldn't be any. I probably should've kept looking, but I went with the cell. If I'd been traveling with a girlfriend, the room would have made her cry. But every now and then I just have to revel in the cheapo flop room when traveling, for some reason. Then for dinner I found a little restaurant that served fish, and it was disgusting. Fried to almost inedibility, and the papas fritas were bad. The rice was okay, at least. Afterwards, I found a little market and bought some juice and snacks to tide me over. Then the next morning, the taxi driver to the ruins did a bait and switch -- in town we'd talked about a price for a return ride, but at the ruins, he claimed it was just for one-way. Bastard. We had a few words, and I ended up walking back to town after checking out Huanuco Pampa. Sigh.

But the upside is I'm spending a night in Huallanca, which is a much better place. When I showed up, I had some more fish for lunch (I skipped breakfast in La Union -- I just couldn't bring myself to try any other restaurants -- they all looked sketchy), and it was quite good. Then I asked the folks at the restaurant (El Fogata) about a good hospedaje, and they pointed me to Hotel El Eucalipto, which is 50% more expensive than the La Union flophouse (15 Soles v. 10 Soles!), but 1000% better. Admittedly, I at first went with the private bath, but not only was there no hot water, there was no cold water, either. A bathroom with no water isn't much of a bathroom, so I switched to a room with shared bath, which at least had cold water. But the bed is great, and it's very clean. And the place actually seems like a hotel, unlike the flophouse which was a cramped, dark hallway of hastily-partitioned cells.

Yeah, it's a great time! I don't understand why more friends of mine haven't come down to travel with me.

The Ushnu of Huanuco Pampa -- La Union, Peru

Puma rock carvings guarding an entrance to the Ushnu -- La Union, Peru

restoration stoneware
Restoration work at Huanuco Pampa -- La Union, Peru

inca bed bath and beyond
Inca bath and walls -- La Union, Peru

estados unidos!
The village of Huallanca loves the United States! -- Huallanca, Peru

huallanca view
There are some pretty mountains around Huallanca, although most are covered with power lines -- Huallanca, Peru

old house
Old house a couple doors down from my hotel -- Huallanca, Peru

Oh, I almost forgot -- one of the best things about Huallanca is it's not in the Lonely Planet! So, I'm the only gringo in town. Pretty cool. Of course, there's not really a whole lot to do here, which is probably why LP skipped over it, but there was a parade today (kids dressed up in various soccer uniforms of various countries, including the US), and that was fun to watch for a few minutes. And now it's time to get some dinner, and then off to bed early in order to wake up for the 4:45 a.m. bus to Huaraz. Yay, Huaraz! Can't wait to get there.

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10 Jun 2009 - 4:47:47 PM

Damn it. I was almost done with this post when the friggin' computer turned itself off. So it'll now be very brief because I have to get dinner before my night bus to Huancayo leaves. Grr. In fact, I'll just end it right here and throw up the pics.

colonial courtyard
Courtyard of old colonial building now houses municipal government offices -- Ayacucho, Peru

collapsing balcony
Might be kind of hard to see, but this balcony was seriously drooping (I'm glad I'm not one of those people standing below it) -- Ayacucho, Peru

cool balcony
I liked this old balcony, and its supports, and the door -- Ayacucho, Peru

stone irrigation
Irrigation the hard way, carving it out of rock -- Ayacucho, Peru

wari pottery
An example of Wari pottery, a pre-Inca civilation -- Ayacucho, Peru

wari temple
Minor Wari temple, with cactus -- Ayacucho, Peru

wari wall
Wari walls, with trapezoidal doorway -- Ayacucho, Peru

wari mausoleum
Wari mausoleum -- Ayacucho, Peru

guide called this an obelisk
South American independence monument -- Quinua, Peru

Right. Time for dinner. Later.

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7 Jun 2009 - 7:02:28 PM
Market Day

I found out all the parading around yesterday was a big graduation celebration for all the local middle and high schools. When I wandered back to the Plaza de Armas I saw that they'd even built wood-frame floats of dragons covered in paper and cloth and plastic, some all wired up for fireworks (I was surpised they didn't burst into flames). Pretty fun.

So today I hit the Sunday market, which was pretty huge. Basically everything was for sale: fruits and veggies, meats, all kinds of clothes, shoes, mattresses, furniture, home cooking and hardware items, cows, sheep. It went on for blocks and blocks, on both sides of the river (livestock on one side, everything else on the other). I felt a bit self-conscious taking pictures, but I managed a few:

cattle for sale
A few cows looking to get bought -- Andahuaylas, Peru

both sides of the market
Livestock market on the left, everything else on the right, convenient river in the middle -- Andahuaylas, Peru

big green pumpkins
The pumpkins here are big and green -- Andahuaylas, Peru

purple corn
Mmm, purple corn -- Andahuaylas, Peru

Hats! -- Andahuaylas, Peru

After having my fill of the market, I wandered around and around until I found the place from where the minivans for Pacucha left. There's a pretty lake, the Laguna de Pacucha, and some nearby Chanka ruins (Sondor). Nothing amazing, but a nice way to spend the afternoon.

laguna de pacucha
View of Laguna de Pacucha -- Pacucha, Peru

laguna de pacucha
Another view of Laguna de Pacucha (I think that's fish farming going on in those nets, maybe) -- Pacucha, Peru

The ruins of Sondor, kinda reminiscent of the Shire (to me, at least) -- Pacucha, Peru

sondor steps
About to ascend the ruins of Sondor -- Pacucha, Peru

sondor view
From Sondor you can see pretty mountains and valleys -- Pacucha, Peru

So yeah, I like Andahuaylas. Very relaxing. Tomorrow I'll be doing a long bus ride to Ayacucho. Then it's just two or three more hops until Huaraz.

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6 Jun 2009 - 5:07:06 PM

Well, after a bumpy night bus I made it to Andahuaylas at 5:00 a.m. Ugh. Eventually arrived at the door of Hostal Delicias and then slept for five or six hours. By the time I was all awake and had eaten lunch, it was a bit too late to visit the nearby pretty lake, which seems like the thing to do around here. So I'll do that tomorrow, after I check out the Sunday market in town, which seems like the other thing to do around here. I walked around town for a little bit, wondering how I'd fill up the day, and stumbled upon a parade. A small band in front, lots of groups from various schools in various costumes, and a small military band in back. It was a nice welcome.

On my last day in Cusco, there was a little parade around the Plaza de Armas -- local schoolkids dressed up as animals in a pro-environment show of support. It was a nice goodbye.

I think the ski masks are called Pablito masks -- Andahuaylas, Peru

Colorful costumes -- Andahuaylas, Peru

many colors
Very colorful costumes -- Andahuaylas, Peru

rainbow chicas
I thought these costumes had a touch of Wild West to them -- Andahuaylas, Peru

clean up band
Military band at the end of the parade -- Andahuaylas, Peru

tony the tiger
Tony the Tiger waving hello -- Andahuaylas, Peru

There's still music and some dance performances by the various groups in the parade going on in the Plaza de Armas, but it's not all that interesting to watch. It feels like most of the town is out and about, though, which is fun.

Oh! I almost forgot. I finally broke down and bought my return ticket home. Will be flying out of Lima very early on June 28th. I better make the most of my last few weeks here...

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3 Jun 2009 - 6:11:45 PM
Machu Picchu

Or maybe I should say, Mucho People. Regardless, it's a very impressive set of ruins, even with the hordes of tourists. I took the first set of buses up from Aguas Calientes. They left at 5:30 a.m. and I arrived to stand in line around 4:55 -- the line was already half-way up the block. And it more than doubled by the time the buses rolled in. Got off and had to wade through the masses to the entrance -- hundreds of others had hiked up (starting at 4:00 a.m. or so) instead of being lazy and taking the bus. I assumed everyone was there to sign up for the limited number of spots to hike up the next door peak with ruins, Huaynapicchu, but even though there was a line at that entrance (after you go inside Machu Picchu, you walk very quickly to the other side to get to the Huaynapicchu entrance), it didn't seem like the 400 spots (200 for 7:00 and 200 for 10:00) didn't fill up. Oh well. I guess most of the people there were for the better light on Machu Picchu itself -- in the afternoon there were a lot more shadows, but the mountains visible from the ruins were better lit. Anyway, Machu Picchu is pretty dang impressive, and I'm glad I finally got to see it. After the morning rush, the tourists mostly spread out, which made the ruins feel not as crowded as I assumed they would. But we're not quite in high season, which can double the amount of people visiting per day. Crazy.

The Salkantay trek was pretty cool -- gorgeous mountains (when visible) and big valleys. The agency I ended up using promised and charged more than was delivered (if you come to Cusco, DON'T used SAS Travel). We actually managed to get a little money back from them, but it was kind of a painful process. But the trek was good, the guide was good, and rather large group was very fun. There was a Brazilian couple -- it's always a good time when there are Brazilians around.

So, pictures. I got some decent trek pics, but I've decided to skip posting those in favor of more Machu Picchu pics. Because there just aren't enough Machu Picchu pictures on the web.

Huaynapicchu view
View of Machu Picchu from the next door Huaynapicchu -- Machu Picchu, Peru

Macchu Pichu money shot
The $40 picture -- Machu Picchu, Peru

Sun Gate view
View of Machu Picchu from Intipunku, the Sun Gate (Huaynapicchu is the peak on the right) -- Machu Picchu, Peru

inca wall and stairs
Those Incas loved to build walls and stairs, and these are a good example of them -- Machu Picchu, Peru

temple intihuatana
The stepped Intihuatana Temple and the Seven Windows Temple below it -- Machu Picchu, Peru

Baja Machu Picchu
Looking from the slightly higher side across the main plaza towards the slightly lower side -- Machu Picchu, Peru

three windows
The Three Windows -- Machu Picchu, Peru

two windows
Two windows (not as famous as the Three Windows, but I liked them anyway) -- Machu Picchu, Peru

Some storages huts next to the agricultural terraces -- Machu Picchu, Peru

Aguas Calientes
The rail station town of Aguas Calientes isn't the greatest, although there is a lot of work currently going on to pretty it up, but this view from the river makes it look almost quaint -- Aguas Calientes, Peru

Ah, now I just have to figure out when I want to head to Ayacucho. And figure out my return flight. It's a hard concept to wrap my head around, returning home, even though I've been feeling like the trip's coming to a close. I guess I'm just full of contradictions. Go figure.

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