Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Junín Trip - Day 3 & 4 - Tirol Waterfall in San Ramon & La Florida in Tarma

The 3rd day and the 4th day (just the morning) in Junín were spent in many places of the region doing many things. These two days were my favorite of the trip.

Top 5 reasons why they rocked:

  1. We went to las cataratas Tirol (Tirol waterfall) in the selva (rainforest). Junín includes the most western part of the jungle. Deep ravines with rich green vegetation and heat characterize this area. While we hiked to the waterfall, I ate the most delicious freezy pop of my life. It was made from fresh pineapple! When we got to the waterfall we played at the base and ran under the pouring water to stand behind the waterfall. It was so much fun.

  1. I had the best jungle lunch of my life. It was fried chicken, but in long strips (I am not sure which part of the chicken it was.) Completing the dish was rice and a whole fried banana. Fried bananas are delicious.

  1. I felt hot summer weather again complete with sunshine. Lima is in its winter time, and there is always a “London Fog” over the city. Enough said.

  1. The last two nights and the last morning were spent in Tarma, “The Pearl of the Andes,” with its eternal spring weather.

  1. We stayed at “La Florida” in Tarma, a 200+ year old hacienda converted into a ecolodge/hotel complete with cows to be milked, barn yard animals to be fed, three friendly dogs, and a secret garden. The rustic Spanish styled rooms and the beautiful German family that owns the place won my heart over. It also won my stomach over because for breakfast I had the most delicious homemade bread, honey, and jam of my life.

All of my pictures are from “La Florida”, the 200-year-old hacienda converted into an ecolodge mentioned above. The place was rustic and charming. I arose early before we left Monday morning to explore the gardens. It was as if they were straight from a Jane Austin novel; one garden was for leisure and the other grew all the fruits and vegetables used to make breakfast, lunch, and supper. The last morning at sunrise, it was just me and the three farm dogs in that enchanting place. Afterwards, I milked a cow (very cool) and fed a horse. I highly recommend “La Florida” to anyone who visits Tarma! I tried to narrow down my pictures of the beautiful place but still had many to show!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Junín Trip - Day 2 - Huataypallana

The second day of the Junín trip was spent on the mountain of Huatyapallana.

I am going to try to describe this experience with the best descriptive vocabulary the English language has to offer, because it was a very colorful experience, like a bowl of potpourri-sentiments that together make the aroma that was Huatyapallana.

We arose early, at 5am, to take a bus ride up the mountain to Huatyapallana. The ride up was very jerky because of all the rocks. Dust creeped in on all sides, so much so that I had to use my scarf to cover my mouth. When we reached the site where the buses park and the hike starts, I had to use the bathroom. It was a wooden stall, in public view with merely a hole in the ground. That was alright; I had my kleenex and anti-bacterial hand gel ready to go! ***Note to those who travel: always bring these two items everywhere. Toilet paper is often a luxury in public restrooms, as is soap and sometimes running water.***

We began the trail, which was a beautiful walk with slight rises and falls. Soon, a waterfall from one of the many glacier lakes came into view. The first part of the hike was breath taking, the kind of sights reserved for post cards. I saw at least four glacier lakes on the way up, each one more blue than the one before. I was ready for prancing Bambi’s to show up everywhere. But that was the furthest thing from what came next (if you really want to know I saw one cow the whole time, but back to the story).

The whole hike took about 6 hours for me, here is the beginning of my journal entry of that day:

“Yesterday was hilarious, and this is the story” (at the time is was far from funny, but here is the story of the last 3.5 hours of the hike)

I began to feel the strange sensation of quickening heart beats, short and shallow breaths, and lead filled legs. It only meant one thing in the rugged Andes: altitude sickness. The steep inclines that were after the glacier lakes began just as altitude sickness was taking out people in my group one by one, kind of like an Agatha Christie book. Anyways, I took my sweet time up the mountain, taking pictures and joking with my friends. I was in no hurry, especially when I could see the glacier top in front of me the whole time. It didn’t seem far, nevertheless, I began to use cookies to motivate myself and some other girls up the mountain. “If we make it to the third rock up, yes the giant one that looks like an old man, then we can all have a cookie break...” In this manner we slowly crawled up the mountain.

The issue with the hike was that the guides never really guided us, and we never really knew where we were at, how far we had to go, or how strenuous the hike would become after each phase. I was in one of the last groups, and when I saw the glacier, with little specs on top (other climbers) I thought it only was a little further. The guide then told us it was another hour to even get to the glacier, much less the top. My group was very exhausted with many sick, so we took a nap on the side of the mountain. I was very down about that fact that I wasn’t physically able to make it to the top, but in retrospect, I fully enjoyed my time resting under the face of that majestic glacier peak. I wouldn’t trade my time enjoying the beautiful surroundings with great people.

The descent down was the most rugged part of the trail, something we were not warned about. It was down hill, up hill, and sideways with loose stones and dirt. As I was slowly making my way down, just waiting for SOME sight of the end, I heard a stampede coming from behind. I really thought it was a pack of animals, but nope!, it was just the Andean children on a field trip. They hiked the whole mountain in half the time and ran (I am not joking) down the whole descent like little gazelles. I figured if they could do it, I would try, against my better judgement. It went surprisingly well, you just can’t stop until you reach a landing or else you’ll die.

The happiest point was when I saw the buses (a far way away). Then, to add a cherry on top of being done with the exhausting hike, there was a pack of llamas grazing at the end of the trail. Oh, how we bonded! I just love llamas.

The ride down was silent because everyone was wiped out, sick, or angry. It was such a funny experience after it had happened, because of the lack of communication, the insane trail that we had to climb, and the intense altitude. It was like the mountain and the guides played one giant joke on us. In the end though, I really did enjoy that beautiful mountain, (I have never seen anything like it) and I took away some great pictures as well.

That night, we rode bus a long way to a different city, Tarma, which is now one of my favorite places in all of Peru. But that is for the next entry :D

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Junín Trip - Day 1 - Train Ride to Huancayo

The 3rd weekend of my time in Peru was spent on a trip to the region of Junín. It is a beautiful area in the middle of Peru. It is in the Andes but includes the western most half of Amazonía as well as the central highlands.

Very early Friday, we met in old downtown Lima to take the train to Huancayo, a notable city in the Junín province (more about that later). The train ride lasted 13 hours and traversed 69 tunnels, 58 bridges, 6 zigzags, and 6 climatic zones. It also is the highest passenger train in the world, reaching 15,881 feet at the highest point. The train stopped at the highest point so we could get out and take pictures, but because of altitude sickness, I didn’t make it past my train car without getting extremely tired, nauseous, and dizzy. To avoid passing out, I made it back to my seat to enjoy the view from there (to be honest, I just went back to sleep so I wouldn’t have to feel altitude sickness). The beginning and end of the ride were the best. The caboose is an open air viewing car where one can hang out, take pictures, and even order drinks from a bar. I enjoyed looking at the landscape and taking pictures during the day (before the high altitudes) and dancing salsa at night (more like enjoying from the sidelines watching the Latin Americans rip up the dance floor doing salsa).

We spent the night in Huancayo, which was the home of the Huancas before Pachacuti of the Incas conquered the city. The city has a strong history of resistance, not only with the Incas (whom they ferociously battled), but with the Spanish as well. The city was eventually conquered and colonized, but it has no main plaza (just a few here and there). This says something about its history, because a main plaza was the trademark of the Spanish conquistadores.

Needless to say, we were all tired when we got to the hotel. Traveling through the Andes is never for the faint in heart. After some delicious juicy Chicken a'la Brasa (kind of like rotisserie chicken) with greasy french fries and ahí (spicy sauce here that is delicious) at the sketchiest dive I have ever been too, I drink a lot of Coca de Mate and went to sleep.