Category: Peru

Couple Of The Week: Yours Truly

By , May 11, 2011 4:52 pm

I hope we don’t need any introductions. The couple of the week is Boris and MuiMui. While we were interviewing couples for our weekly couple section, we actually got asked to answer a few questions for Holly, who will be starting her travels in a few months. You can read the original interview on her blog.

MeAndFrenchie

Boris And MuiMui

Relationship Status: | Attached to the hip.
How long have you been together? | Over 3 years.
How long have you been traveling? | 13 months.
How long is your total planned trip? | 12 to 18 months.

What attracted you to traveling in the first place and how did it become a reality?
Boris: I grew up in France and have always been attracted to the US. I finally went there for an internship and loved it. Once I graduated, I immediately found a job in San Francisco. I loved the city so much that I was disappointed to have ended up there before seeing more of the world. One year before our world tour, I told MuiMui that I wanted to move abroad and experience life in a different country. She replied that if she had to leave everything, she wanted to see more of the world. We agreed to go on a world tour together.

MuiMui: My desire for travel grew from loving parents who worked all the time and basically from their lack of travel. In college, I snatched every chance I had to travel outside of the US. Then when I joined the corporate world, travel became my yearly escape. When I met my Boris, he would challenge me whenever I would say, “I wish I could …” so here we are, circling the globe.

How is traveling different from taking a two week holiday?
Boris: Traveling has nothing to with going on holiday. First, you always have to look at your budget to make you can make it to the end of your travel and that you don’t have a bad impact on the populations. Second, traveling is, for us, more oriented towards meeting people and learning cultures than just sightseeing. Last, I would say that when you travel you have to give yourself time to rest and reenergize.

MuiMui: The two do not have to be so different but as a typical American, my short and infrequent holidays seem to dictate how I traveled initially, so I would automatically try to maximize my experience by seeing as much as I can and within the western comforts I am use to. It was when I went to Vietnam for the first time on holiday and explored the small villages and did away with my usual comforts that made me realize how much I was missing out on.

How do you organize world travel among the both of you?
Boris: Before entering a new country we will both do 1 or 2 hours of research and then compare our results. Then with the information, we will try to make an itinerary that would allow us to see most of it within our allocated time frame. Once we arrive in a city, we will start looking together for a place to stay and I usually get tired and let MuiMui find the best deal in town.

MuiMui: A world trip is a lot to take in so with some planning, it makes things a little easier for us and more efficient. We split up the work by who wants to do what. Two things we learned not to do is over plan, leave out some of the small details to be explored together, and for each country, it is good if the both of you read up a little about it as you enjoy a place more if you know more about it.

What did you learn about each other?
Boris: She is extremely good at bargaining and finding deals. She can be very cheap and will get extremely upset if she finds out somebody else got a better deal. No matter how hard it is, if she has decided to go somewhere, she will find a way to get there (and without getting ripped off).

MuiMui: I did not necessarily learn something new about Boris, but the small details I looked passed before the trip were more apparent during the trip. For example, I know he is a nice guy, but I found at times he was being too nice and polite to a stranger in a situation that I did not feel comfortable being in.

Would you do it again? What would you change?
Boris: Yes but after a little break. I would do more research beforehand and visit fewer countries. I would also try to dedicate more time for personal activities like photography walks with locals, cooking lessons, or Spanish classes.

MuiMui: Yes! I feel like this past year was just a taste of more to come. I have more ideas for future trips such as becoming fluent in another language and staying longer in one place.

Any scary stories or low points?!
Boris: Nothing really scary as we never got robbed but if I have to choose a low point, it would be our experience in Indonesia on the road to Mount Bromo: A driver tried to rip us off and then a group of youngsters on motorbikes “saved” us, which was all an organized scam. We were in the middle on nowhere with no other tourists or public transportation around. It took us 3 hours to get out of there.

MuiMui: When we arrived in Arequipa and was looking around for a hotel, we met a female traveler who just experienced an attempted taxi kidnapping the evening before. She was still trembling and emotional and that woke me up how we always have to be careful in any country and as much as we are, shit still happens when there are bad people.

What was your most recurrent disagreement?
Boris: First money, second transportation.

MuiMui: We had one big recurring disagreement which was about when/how to book transportation. We both liked different styles and in the beginning, I would throw tantrums, not knowing I was, when I couldn’t get him to agree with me.

What are your top three tips for anyone thinking about traveling?
Both:
1: Go.
2: Meet as many people as you can.
3: Be open-minded and never reject something because it is different from what you are used to.
4: Always be aware of your surroundings.

Do you have any tips for traveling with your partner?
Boris: One laptop each or no laptop at all. Find some activities that you can do alone (photography, diving, etc). Even if it is easier to stay in your room, try to go out and engage with other people as much as you can; the experience you share is invaluable and not written in any guidebook.

MuiMui: Traveling to new places is both fun and stressful. Doing it with someone else can be even more challenging so work together instead of trying to be right all the time. There is no right or wrong when it comes to saving $0.50. Be more open minded while being safe and meet fellow travelers.

Any do’s and don’ts?
Both:
DO follow your instincts and change your plans.
DO NOT leave your stuff unattended even for a second. When riding on trains or buses, make sure your things are attached to you at all times. It just takes one second of snoozing for your things to be stolen.
DO learn the local language or at least use basic phrases or words.
DO NOT dress up like you would at home when visiting India. Not only will you shock the people, you may encounter constant harassment.
DO try local cuisine away from tourist areas if possible.

Is your traveling experience any different to how you imagined it would be?
Both: Traveling is more tiring than what we thought. It felt like a full time job at times. People are very different from one country to the other. Usually, the less money they have, the more giving they are and the more interested they are to meet you.

What was your favorite country you visited? Why?
Boris: Hard to say but I have 3 places that stand out:
Thailand because we had a marvelous time there. We met extremely nice people and no matter what kind of experience you are looking for (beach, history, culture, food, city, trekking, mountains, villages, etc), Thailand has it all!
Colombia because we went there with some apprehensions and no positive expectations, but the kindness of the people blew us away. Trust me, Colombia is one of the safest countries we’ve been to and you will love both the landscapes and the people.
Galapagos because it is 100% unique. Everyday we would wake up seeing something that you can only see on TV: Giant Turtles, Endemic birds, penguins, iguanas, and etc. Plus walking on islands made of fresh lava (only a few hundred years old) is quite something.

MuiMui: It’s so difficult to pick a favorite as there is something great (and bad) about each country we went to. I think the country that wins for overall ease of travel, variety of things to see and eat, pleasantness of the people and culture, something for everyone, is Thailand. But I will never forget about how wonderful the people in Colombia were, or how out of this world the animals were in the Galapagos, or the penguins hopping onto the beaches of New Zealand, or the colors and sites of India, and … the gastronomy culture and way of life in the south of France.

Finally what’s the best thing about traveling?
Both: We always think that the best thing is to see beautiful and famous places. After coming back, I don’t think that is true anymore. Learning is the best thing that happens when you travel. Meeting people from different cultures will open your eyes on the world and your own life. This is, in our opinion, an invaluable experience.

Peru: Lima

By , January 4, 2011 12:37 am
Houses Scattered On The Mountain

Houses Scattered On The Mountain

Before leaving Peru, we thought it would not be complete without a visit to the capital of Lima.

With a population of 9 million, Lima is the 5th largest city in South America. Our first impression, besides being a gigantic city, is that it is a mix between modern and old. We stayed in the historical center where most of the streets and buildings are in colorful colonial style.

Cathedral De Lima On Plaza Del Bosque

Cathedral De Lima On Plaza Del Bosque

Balconies Of The Cathedral De Lima

Balconies Of The Cathedral De Lima

Horse And Carriage

Horse And Carriage

Couple Kissing  In The Covento De La Merced

Couple Kissing In The Covento De La Merced

Old Building Front

Old Building Front

Beautiful Commercial Alley

Beautiful Commercial Alley

When we went outside of Plaza Del Bosque and crossed a small bridge, we felt like we were in a totally different city. Everything around us was very old and uncared for. Some of the buildings look like they were about to collapse any minute. Without ever leaving Plaza del Bosque, we wouldn’t believe there was an extremely large population of poverty.

The No-Tourist Zone

The No-Tourist Zone

Pedestrian Street

Pedestrian Street

While we enjoyed wandering around the city and trying new eats (yummy Ceviche), I wouldn’t say, Lima is a must-see compared to the rest of the country.

Ceviche!

Ceviche!

The next several pictures are from the 5-stars Novotel Hotel where LAN Airlines put us up in for canceling our flight. More information on this in the next post.

Our Room @ Novotel

Our Room @ Novotel

Underground Pool & Gym

Underground Pool & Gym

Traditional Dancing During Diner

Traditional Dancing During Diner

What We Paid: Peruvian
Soles
USD Euro
– Flores Bus From Arequipa To Lima
[16 hours]
50/pp 17.85 13.35
– Private Double Room At Inka Path:
private bathroom, wifi, balcony, central location, clean rooms [recommend]
60 21.20 16
– Lunch 5/pp 1.80 1.35
– Dinner at McDonald’s 10/pp 3.60 2.70
– Taxi From center to airport
[negotiated before going inside cab and hotel took down license plate number]
20 7.15 5.35

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Peru: Lake Titicaca From Puno

By , December 28, 2010 7:40 am
Welcome To The Floating Islands of Uros

Welcome To The Floating Islands of Uros

The city of Puno doesn’t look like much at first glance.  My immediate reaction was to get out of there since it was dirty and filled with mostly fast food eateries, but it grew on us the longer we stayed.  The city was buzzing with lots of teenagers practicing dance routines and working on costumes for an upcoming parade.  When we came to see the parade, we were offered front seats and free beer.  Overall, we found the locals we encountered in Puno to be very nice and chatty with us.

The City of Puno

The City of Puno

Anyone Want Peanuts Or A Baby?

Anyone Want Peanuts Or A Baby?

Yearly Parade Held By University Students

Yearly Parade Held By University Students

Early morning, we went down to the docks where the boats leave for Lake Titicaca.  We were approached by many so-called “captains” offering us their best deal.  Since we had asked a few locals before what we should be paying, we knew we could do better.  Later we approached a tour guide and negotiated on a price we were willing to pay.  We then jumped on small boat for a 2-day tour.

Our first stop was the floating islands of Uros.  It really felt like we arrived in Disneyland but it was still very cool to see.  All the locals were dressed up in traditional clothing and greeted us upon our arrival.  Underneath us and what was keeping us afloat were layers and layers of totora reeds.  While this used to be the only way of life for the Uros tribe, it serves more as a popular tourist attraction today.

Locals Waiting For Tourists

Locals Waiting For Tourists

View Of Uros

View Of Uros

Neat Seating Area

Neat Seating Area

Tiny Salespeople

Tiny Salespeople

7-Eleven Boat

7-Eleven Boat

Further into Lake Titicaca, we made our final stop for the evening on the island of Amantani. All tourists who want to stay overnight on the island have to participate in the homestay program. The program consists in pairing tourists with a participating family. This allows each family on the island to receive some money.  Esther, a 17-year old girl, came to pick us up and we followed her up the hill, through multiple farmlands, up and down piles of rocks, and finally to her home where she lived with her parents.  Once we unloaded our bags in our bedroom, we made our way downstairs to their kitchen for lunch.  Everyone was there with Julia, the mother, cooking, Esther helping her mother, and Augustin, the father, sitting and talking to us at the table.  It felt very strange to be eating only with Augustin at the table so we asked the other two to join us but they politely declined.  We had potato soup and a potato and cheese dish for lunch.  They live self-sufficient lives where they eat mostly what they grow and raise.  They make seldom visits to Puno for things like flour, rice, and sugar.  While our Spanish was limited, we were able to have basic conversations with them during meal times.

Isla Amantani

Isla Amantani

Our Homestay

Our Homestay

Our Room

Our Room

MuiMui Enjoying The Views

MuiMui Enjoying The Views

Views From Our Homestay

Views From Our Homestay

Our Host Family

Our Host Family

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

Locals Eat Mostly What They Can Grow & Raise

Locals Eat Mostly What They Can Grow & Raise

Our Host Mother, Julia

Our Host Mother, Julia

After lunch, we met up with the rest of our group for a hike to the top of the island.  It was a good uphill walk where, in case you needed something like candy bars or a warm hat, there was always a local standing by for your business.  When we reached the top, we got a great view of the island and a dramatic sunset.

Reminds Me Of My Dog, Jojo

Reminds Me Of My Dog, Jojo

Views From The Top

Views From The Top

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Locals Standing By To Sell You Anything

Locals Standing By To Sell You Anything

Sunset

Sunset

Later in the evening after dinner, we met again with our group in a town hall for some dancing.  Our hosts convinced us to dress in their local attire and when we arrived at the hall, it seemed like everyone else was too.   After a few minutes of dancing, I was sweating from all the layers.  It was a very fun night and even though it was arranged just for us, we appreciated the warm welcome.  As we walked home, we were in arms reach of the star lit sky.  I have experienced many wonderful nights before, but this was definitely mesmerizing as there were absolutely no lights on the island or for next thousands of miles except for the millions of stars above us.

Dressed Up To Party

Dressed Up To Party

Boris & Esther

Boris & Esther

MuiMui In Layers

MuiMui In Layers

Dancing Around The Fire

Dancing Around The Fire

After a good night sleep, we had breakfast with our hosts and said our goodbyes.  Our first stop of the day was the island of Taquile, which is known for artisanry. While it was nice to walk around, there was nothing extraordinary about the place.

Isla Taquile

Isla Taquile

Local Girl Hanging On Direction Post

Local Girl Hanging On Direction Post

Back in Puno, we met up with Claire, who we befriended while on our tour.  We were joined by a few others and all headed for dinner.  I was very excited as we were going to try Cuy (guinea pig) for the first time.  It was very delicious; I liked the crispiness and saltiness of the dish.  We tried a few other dishes and as always, Alpaca was a pleaser.

Yummy Cuy Guinea Pig

Yummy Cuy Guinea Pig

MuiMui Eating Cuy ... I like It

MuiMui Eating Cuy ... I like It

Alpaca Dish

Alpaca Dish

After dinner, we went to a bar for what was suppose to be one round, turned into three rounds, of Pisco Sour.  In short, we had a great night and a great time because of the people we met in Puno.  It’s truly the people that make a place.  We are going to miss our host family and hope to come back again.

We Love Pisco Sour!!

We Love Pisco Sour!!

What We Paid: Peruvian
Soles
USD Euro
– Flores Bus From Arequipa To Puno
[5.5 hours]
13/pp 4.65 3.50
– Private Double Room At Vargas Inn:
private bathroom, basic clean rooms [no wifi]
40 14.30 10.80
– Private Double Room At El Inti Hostal:
private bathroom, wifi, great family
[recommend but not the cleanest rooms around]
30 10.70 8.10
– Lunch In Puno 3/pp 1.10 0.80
-Dinner In Puno 5/pp 1.80 1.35
– Dinner Splurge In Puno 25/pp 8.90 6.75
– Glass Of Pisco Sour In Puno 5/p 1.80 1.35
– Lake Titicaca 2-day Tour
[does not include lunch on the last day]
42.50/pp 15.20 11.45

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Peru: Trekking In The Deep Canyon of Colca

By , December 25, 2010 12:46 am
Cruz Del Condor

Cruz Del Condor

Right outside Arequipa, there is an enjoyable 3-day hike through Colca Valley. We decided to join a tour group since the package was reasonably priced and it took the headache out of finding transportation to and from the villages. While it is also easy to do the journey on your own, it is best to confirm the route with the locals when you reach each village as there are no signs and it is easy to get lost.

Views of Colca Valley

Views of Colca Valley

Early morning we were picked up from our hotel by a van along with 11 other people and drove out to our first stop, Cruz Del Condor. Joined by hundreds of other tourists, we were all eagerly waiting for the sight of our first condor. Within minutes, one flew across the canyon and eventually high above our heads. Wow, it was a huge bird and it was only a juvenile! What caught me by surprise was how fairly large its body was; it reminded me of a large owl.

Juvenile Condor

Juvenile Condor

We stopped in the village of Cabanaconde for lunch. It was a typical Peruvian lunch served with soup and a main dish with rice. We were about 3400 meters high and could already feel the hot sun. After a short break, we applied sunscreen, put on our hats, and as a group, we began our 3-day trek.

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Me & Frenchie Right Before Descending Down Into The Canyon

Me & Frenchie Right Before Descending Down Into The Canyon

The canyon was dry for the most part, but the views were still impressive. Colca Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon (in the United States), but you cannot compare the two, as they are both very different and remarkable in their own way.

Local Road Traffic

Local Road Traffic

After 3 hours of going downhill and then up for 30 minutes, we were all very happy to have arrived in the very small village of San Juan De Chuccho, which is about 2300 meters high. We were going to stay here for the night and our lodgings were basic huts. We were impressed that the village had manmade streams flowing through it so they can get water and some residences had solar panels. We all took quick 10-minute showers each so there would be enough hot water for the entire group. After dinner, we instantly passed out, as we were so tired from our full day.

Almost At The Village of  San Juan De Chuccho

Almost At The Village of San Juan De Chuccho

Helping Out With The Cooking

Helping Out With The Cooking

Early morning, we had eggs, corn tortilla, and instant coffee for breakfast. It was decent and good enough to wake us up for our 4-hour hike. Along the way, we saw some interesting plants. There was an extremely tall flower growing out of this plant (not sure if it is a type of cactus). Also, our guide pointed out the various plants the locals use for cooking, medicine, and repellant.

Enormous Flowers

Enormous Flowers

Natural Dye From Cochineal Insects

Natural Dye From Cochineal Insects

Boris With War Paint On

Boris With War Paint On

Cactus Fruit

Cactus Fruit

We continued walking through two more villages of Cosnirhua and Malata. They were both very tiny and self-sufficient. They each had their own schooling, but there was only one resident doctor to serve all these communities.

Village of Cosnirhua

Village of Cosnirhua

Local Girl In The Village of Malata

Local Girl In The Village of Malata

Shy Local Boy

Shy Local Boy

Our trek continued up and down until we reached our destination of Sangalle, which is about 2100 meters high. This place was truly an oasis whose only existence is for tourists. You know you have arrived when you step onto the lush grass and awaiting you is a swimming pool. The water was super cold but it was exactly what we needed to cool off. After a quick dip, we laid in the sun and enjoyed the views of the canyon.

Almost At Our Destination

Almost At Our Destination

Village of Sangalle

Village of Sangalle

Our Pool

Our Pool

Our Lodging

Our Lodging

Later in the afternoon, I moved to the hammock area and Boris went to play soccer with a local 6-year old boy. When Boris had enough of a beating, we all came together for volleyball. After a few rounds, we decided to do a game of locals verses tourists and sadly, we were defeated miserably.

Boris' Soccer Buddy

Boris' Soccer Buddy

Chicha, Beer Made From Corn

Chicha, Beer Made From Corn

Corn of Colca Valley

Corn of Colca Valley

The next morning, we had to wake up extra early for our ascend to the top of the valley. It was going to be only uphill from this point on. I took Boris’ advice and went at a slow steady pace. I found myself needing to stop less and reached the top within 1 hour and 45 minutes. I was the 3rd person in our group to reach the top, while Boris arrived 30 minutes after me. :) We heard the locals have a yearly marathon in which they do what we did in 3-days, in a few hours and without any fancy footwear.

Hiking Back Up On The Last Day

Hiking Back Up On The Last Day

MuiMui Made It!

MuiMui Made It!

Our Group Photographer

Our Group Photographer

No More Climbing!

No More Climbing!

Our last stop of the day was at a thermal resort. There were three pools, each at a different temperature. It was very touristy but still very nice after 3 days of trekking.

Terrace Views

Terrace Views

We had a wonderful experience and recommend this hike if you are ever in Arequipa. If you do choose to do a tour, do know that the last lunch is not included (as with most tours in Peru). They will most likely bring you to a restaurant that charges 20 Soles, where you do not have to eat. We went next door for 3 Soles.

Our Group

Our Group

Alpaca

Alpaca

Vicuna

Vicuna

What A Bunch Of Donkeys!

What A Bunch Of Donkeys!

Sandals Made From Animals

Sandals Made From Animals

What We Paid: Peruvian
Soles
USD Euro
3-day Colca Canyon Tour 120/pp 42.85 32.60

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Peru: We LOVE Pisco Sour In Arequipa

By , December 22, 2010 5:00 am
Halloween Festivities In Arequipa

Halloween Festivities In Arequipa

The switch to a new city or country is usually thrilling, but it requires us spending some initial time finding a place to stay. With the recent run of good lodgings, it has made us a little pickier. As we roamed the city for an economical place to stay, we were finding it difficult. We felt prices were higher in Arequipa and if we were going to pay that price, why not stay at something really nice, so we started to try our luck with 4-star accommodations. Asking prices started very high but we found that they were more willing to negotiate.

MuiMui With All Her Gear

MuiMui With All Her Gear

With accommodations out of the way, it was time to roam the city for wonderful delights. We really enjoyed eating in this city, as there is a lot of variety. One of our favorite daily spots was this kebab joint called El Turko Döner because it always hits the spot. When it came to splurging, we really liked ChiCha in La Casona de Santa Catalina. A suggestion is to stick to the meat dishes.

Yumminess At Chicha Restaurant

Yumminess At Chicha Restaurant

Yummy Kebabs in Arequipa!

Yummy Kebabs in Arequipa!

We met up with one of our fellow travelers, Doro, who we had met in the Amazon. She took us out for delicious tacos, guacamole, and unbelievable Pisco sour. The Pisco Sour is described as the only drink you will ever want. It is a sweet drink so you can’t taste the alcohol but after a few crafts of it, I found it hard to stand up.

Pisco Sour Is A Must Try In Peru

Pisco Sour Is A Must Try In Peru

We found the city very easy to wander around. There are small random courtyards where you can just plop on the grass and not move for hours. We also enjoyed the tour of the monastery, but it was a pricey entrance ticket.

Lots Of Details Inside Monastery

Lots Of Details Inside Monastery

Many Open Spaces

Many Open Spaces

Kitchen Inside A Home

Kitchen Inside A Home

Inside Monastery

Inside Monastery

Just be extra cautious when taking a taxi, as the kidnapping stories are real. Unfortunately we had met a female who recently escaped an attempted kidnapping. She, along with her male friend, jumped into a taxi around 7pm. Some time later, 3 men jumped into the taxi and started beating up her friend. Luckily, she was able to jump out of the taxi (and her friend later). If the kidnappers were successful, they would have brought them to a house where they would have kept them until their ATM cards were depleted.

Ask your hotel/restaurant to call a cab for you and be cautious of your surroundings. It doesn’t matter what country you are in, lock the doors! Don’t let it ruin your time in Arequipa.

Delicious Cherimoya Fruit

Delicious Cherimoya Fruit

MuiMui

MuiMui

Me + Frenchie

Me + Frenchie

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

What We Paid: Peruvian
Soles
USD Euro
– Flores Bus From Cuzco To Arequipa [9 hours] 25/pp 8.90 6.80
– Taxi From Flores Bus Station To Center 2 0.70 0.50
– Private Double Room with private bathroom at El Posada de Ugarte [Friendly Staff/Owner, Free wifi, Highly Recommend] 50 17.80 13.60
– Entrance To Santa Catalina Monastery 35/pp 12.50 9.50
– Breakfast 7/pp 2.50 1.90
– Lunch at El Turko Doner For Kebabs 9.25/pp 3.30 2.50
– Dinner at Chicha Restaurant 41.75/pp 14.90 11.35

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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