buy levitra online

Posts tagged as:


Machu Picchu’s Uncertain Future

by Elena on February 13, 2010

Peru Machu PicchuA couple weeks ago, floods and mudslides forced over 3,900 tourists to flee the area.  Most were flown out by helicopter because the flooding destroyed the trail system that people use to go to and from Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes.Peru Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu remains closed to tourists and will stay that way until the Peruvian government can rebuild the rail system.  Machu Picchu already had a weakened structure, growing more weak with each of the thousands of tourists who wander on top of its stones each year.  The flooding will undoubtedly affect the tourism economy.  Peru officials are worried about these effects, and they are already lowering prices trying to lull tourism back to the country.

The fact that people lost their homes, livelihoods, and businesses is enough to bear, but the effects will be even harder to recover from if tourism doesn’t pick up eventually.  It is a sad truth that locals who depend highly on tourism will be affected the most, at least the most directly.

One of the reasons I avoid writing about such tragic events is because my words always seem trivial compared to the events themselves.  Rick Steves does a great job with this sort of commentary such as his response to the earthquake in Haiti and his commentary on the poverty in Haiti even before the disaster struck, but not all of us have that ability.

Having been in Peru less than a year ago it is extremely sad to see the same places I visited destroyed.  Again, this is an egocentric feeling that displays how the places you visit form a personal connection with you always.  The footage of the wreckage, as well as a post from Uncornered Market, inspired me to go through my pictures of Peru.  The photography section is back up with pictures from Peru, including Machu Picchu.

Images via: The Sacramento Bee



Machu Picchu Photo Journal

by Elena on November 9, 2009

First Sight of Machu Picchu

First Sight of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Tourist

Machu Picchu Tourist

Llama at Machu Picchu

Llama and Backpacker

Ancient Structure With New Rooftop

Ancient Structure With New Rooftop

Llama Ready To Attack

Llama Ready To Attack

Waiting for the bus to Machu Picchu

Waiting for the bus to Machu Picchu




I’m Too Cute, Please Don’t Eat Me

by Elena on November 6, 2009

Cuy is a popular dish of the Andes, a dish that the indigenous people living in high mountains have been eating for a very long time.  Cuy can also be found on many restaurant menus, especially those catering to tourists.  Curious tourists want to sink their teeth into cuy, not because they may crave it, but rather because of the novelty.  Cuy is guinea pig, and as they say, when in Peru….

Guinea Pig 1

While in Peru, I unabashedly thought I’d be adventurous and follow in the footsteps of travel favorites like Anthony Bourdain and Zimmerman.  I wanted to fully immerse myself in the culture and food.  After all, food is an important part of a culture, one of the defining aspects if you ask me.  It is important not to judge the culinary practices of another culture.  There is nothing ruder than someone looking down at your plate and announcing “ew that’s gross.”  I’ve heard it before, being Spanish and all.

Guinea Pig 2

At one restaurant I avoided the cuy because of its expensive price tag, but I was determined to taste it.  However on one of our tours they decided to show us not the dish cuy, but rather the guinea pigs themselves.  Look at the picture below!  I just couldn’t do it after that.

Eek!Guinea Pig 3

Llama is another popular choice on the Peruvian menu.  From what I am told it is tougher than beef. Although I didn’t try llama in Peru I did taste some in Bolivia.  In true stereotypical American fashion, I had llama on top of my pizza.  Although it’s definitely a new topping I’ve never tried before, don’t think I’d ever put it on pizza again.

Here is a picture of an alpaca, cousin to the llama.  Alpaca’s are smaller than llamas and have ears that point backwards.


Llamas’ ears point forward and up.




People on the Lares Trail

by Elena on October 28, 2009


Before the foggy mist descended upon us and we fell asleep to the background music of Huayno, we stopped to set up camp near a house where some children were playing in the backyard.  They were shy at first, hiding behind a rock wall, and only popping over when they wanted us to play with them.  One thing you notice right away while talking to the children is the burgundy color of their cheeks caused by the harsh winds of the mountains.  Their skin is tough and bruised.  At night the temperature dip really low and remain the same in the mornings before the sun could rise above the mountains.  All the children have to walk to school, through the rocky terrain, a task that was so difficult for us, yet effortless for them, as they ran while talking and laughing.

We encountered lots of other people on the trail.  Our guide cautioned us on giving the children food, in particular candies which they frequently asked for.  There are not many available dentists and many of the kids have teeth that are rotting and falling out.  Try saying no to a bunch of wide-eyed children asking for something as small as a piece of candy.  It’s not easy.  I asked the kids what their names were and they surprised me with English names like Nelly and Roy here.  Our guide explained that many of the Quechua people started to name their kids after celebrities and popular Anglo names.  Nelly Furtado maybe?DSC00413

While the Quechua people do not wear wedding rings there is a way to distinguish who is married and who is single.  Men traditionally wear a hat with multicolored pieces of fabric hanging off the sides.  If the fabric is hanging on both sides of the hat it means they are married.  Their single counterparts have the pieces tied up in the back.  In the picture below you can see the bright colored hats.  These clothes made it easy to spot another person walking along the isolated trails.  The impressing part is that the dye and make the clothes themselves, using the various plants and wildlife found around their homes.Andean Town Meeting

Image via: quinet.

[nggallery id=17]



Lares Trail

by Elena on October 27, 2009


Many people remember the experience of trekking to Machu Picchu as a mystical encounter, a way of getting in touch with yourself and taking in the energy of the mountains.  Not being completely in tune with nature myself, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  What I did know was that this trek was something I had to experience, a check off my proverbial list of things to do before I die.

We chose the Lares Trail, mainly because the more popular Inca Trail was sold out.  If you want to reserve tickets for the Inca Trail you must do so way in advance.  There are restrictions that only allow 500 trekkers per day, including guides and trekking staff, therefore it is harder to reserve a spot.  The Lares Trail on the other hand, has less people walking around on any given day.  It gives a somewhat more private feel to your tour.  It is very rare that we passed another group on our trek.  It literally felt like we were the only people trekking about.  Another draw of the Lares Trail, one that many of the tourist agencies emphasize, is the fact that this trail  takes you through the rural communities.  It is the ‘off the beaten track’ trek so to speak, that allows you to have a bit of contact with the Quechua people.IMGP5127

Day 1
Your guides will pick you up very early so make sure to get a good night’s rest.  We visited the town of Calca, a small town on the way to Lares Village.  The drive through the Sacred Valley to the village takes about 3 hours from Cusco.  The first stop was to the hot springs, which were essentially small man-made pools of hot water.  After we dried off we drove to the beginning of the trail in and had lunch.  Afterward we started the 2 1/2 hour trek to our campsite.  Here is where we met a few campesinos and the most adorable children playing around in their backyard.

Day 2
This is the longest day of the trail.  It was an approximate 7 hour hike to Cancha Cancha.  We ended up staying at a closer campsite because our group got altitude sickness and was weary from the hours of walking.  The highest point of the trek is Pachacutec Pass at 4,450 m (roughly 14,600 feet).  At this point you will see the snow capped mountains up close and personal, and will most likely feel the harshest effect of altitude sickness.

Day 3
This a welcomed day of walking downhill.  With each hour the effects of altitude sickness started to wear off almost instantly.  The walk will take around 5 hours (longer if you are suffering sickness like we were).  The trail ends at the village of Huaran where we stopped to eat lunch.  Then we took a van to Ollantaytambo, where we had to catch a train to Aguas Calientes.  We spent the night in Aguas Calientes at a hotel.  The biggest difference between the Lares Trail and the Inca is that the Lares Trail doesn’t end up directly at Machu Picchu.  The Inca Trail is the only trail that actually ends at Machu Picchu.  That is the one negative  factor about Lares.  The high of hiking and conquering the altitude is somewhat diminished after staying a night in a hotel room.

Day 4
Machu Picchu!  Wake up early.  The first bus up to Machu Picchu leaves before dawn.  We lined up at 5am to make sure that we were first online.  It may be a sacrifice to wake up at such a early hour, but it is worth it to arrive before all the crowds.  Although even at 5am there will be a line forming and much more people following after.


More helpful tips:
The high season for all trails is from June to August.  If you want to travel at these times you must book in advance.  The rainy season is from November to March.  Keep in mind that the climate in the Machu Picchu area is warm during the day and cold at night.  The rainy season is the coldest and the ground will be wet.  One good point of visiting during rainy season is that there will be less crowds and the clouds that give Machu Picchu and the surrounding area the mystic quality will be prevalent.

Altitude sickness afflicts many travelers who aren’t used to the heights.  While being physically fit may not completely protect you from the effects of altitude sickness, it is important to be certain that you are able to do what is physically required of you.  You will be hiking for many hours for a couple of days.  The Salkantay Trail is said to be one of the most difficult because of the constant ascending and descending in the mountains.

IMGP5002Lares Trail Photo Gallery



Preparation For The Trek To Machu Picchu

by Elena on October 20, 2009

The day before we started our trek to Machu Picchu we met with our tour guide for a quick question and answer session.  Our excitement slowly turned to a subtle anxiety with each carefree joke he made about the dangers of such a hike.  He smiled as he told us he was sick, while swishing around a power drink, Peruvian Gatorade so to speak, in his left hand.  With each sway of the bottle my stomach turned, an inevitable foreshadowing of what was to come.  Still he assured us that we will be fine, leaving us awkwardly laughing and bewildered by his dark humor and self deprecating demeanor.  Is he serious?  Wait so my brain can hemorrhage if  I don’t drink enough water?  How is this funny again?

The bit of anxiety was probably for the better because before that moment I was feeling a false sense of security.  Pshh we’ll be fine.  High altitude sickness is for pansies.  It’s different when heeding the advice of an expert versus reading a guidebook.  Suddenly your inflated sense of self subsides and the reality of the situation (hiking for days at high altitude) starts to sink in.

Machu Picchu

After instilling a tiny bit of fear, our guide gave us some advice on what we need to bring for the trip.  I created a list of his suggestions, combined with some things I felt were useful for me on the trek.

Water is very important.  In order to prevent altitude sickness, you must keep hydrated, sipping water every 15 minutes or so when you are feeling sick.  On organized trips such as ours, water is provided.  Don’t worry they boil it in order to prevent sickness.  I would suggest you avoid drinking from any stream you find along the trail.  It looks tempting, however our guide told us a story about a group of his who decided to take a shower in a stream a long the way, and they all ended up stranded in the mountains, fighting off various sicknesses.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather stay dirty.

Flashlights and headlights are very useful for rummaging around at night.  A headlight may seem weird, but when you are looking for something in the middle of the night in freezing weather, you won’t care how ridiculous you look.  You can tie up a flashlight in your tent in order to make it easier for moving around.  It isn’t completely pitch black outside, however, we were able to benefit from the clear skies and light of the moon.

Toilet paper is your friend.  I do not need to emphasize that there is no bathrooms or running water along the way.  You will be 3 days in the great outdoors.  Bring that paper.

Disposable plastic bags are necessary in order to store things in them.  I didn’t think I would need them, but they ended up being useful.  Also keep in mind that you can’t just throw away your garbage on the trail.  You have to carry everything with you, or give your trash to the guides on the trip with you.  Bags make everything easier.

Sunscreen is necessary if you don’t want to get burned from walking in direct sunlight for hours.  A hat will also help.

Sleeping bags are provided for an extra cost.  Rent the bags.  Who wants to be lugging around sleeping bags.

Sleeping bag sacks or liners are great because they keep you extra warm and they also shield you from directly touching the sleeping bags you rent.  I suggest getting a silk liner because the threading is much more tight, and harder for bed bugs to get into.  Cotton is cheaper, but more things can pass through.

Snacks, especially chocolate, give you energy and prevent altitude sickness.  If you start to feel light headed you should have some sort of sugar.  Our guide gave us lemon drops whenever we started to feel sick.

You will need to carry a daypack with you.  The mules and other guides will be carrying your regular bags and backpacks (there is a weight limit) and they will speed ahead of you.  Everything you need easy access to (medicine, camera) should be in your daypack.  Don’t make it too heavy because you have to carry it.

Travel towel in order to clean your face and wash up.  There are many different kinds of towels that are made to dry quickly.

Warm clothes and jacket will probably be one of the most important things to bring.  Because of the high altitude the temperatures can drop significantly.  If you travel during the rainy season it will also be colder.  A warm hiking jacket will be the best for you.



Calca Market

by Elena on July 31, 2009

There is no secret that I love markets. I honestly don’t think there is a better, more public way of seeing a culture, all the food and customs out for display, the people gathered and slowly chatting and doing their day’s work. Of course the fact that I’m surrounded by all sorts of food doesn’t hurt either.

Before we started off our trek towards Machu Picchu, our tour guide picked us up bright and early, and was a little upset that we had him waiting 10 minutes while we lugged out our belongings sleepily and slowly to the car. It took us about an hour to get to Calca, my memory fails me with the exact specifics. Calca is a small town in the Calca province. We stopped to get some food and drinks and to orient ourselves before we began. We didn’t see much of the town besides the market, that despite the early hour was pretty busy.

Growing up in a Spanish household, as well as my frequent visits to Galicia, have made me pretty accustomed to seeing fish with the head still attached, dead chickens with some sparing feathers, pigs feet, intestines, and most others animal parts and nasty bits that are meant to be consumed. It may not have phased me, but I could tell some of my companions were not feeling as at ease. It is important to pay attention, even if it makes you uneasy, because the items found in each market reflect the customs of a culture. It is really a question of resources. You use what is available for you.
A poor family will undoubtedly make sure to use all parts of whatever animals are available. It would be extremely wasteful to throw out anything if there was a chance to keep your family well fed. The traditions have held on throughout the years, hence why many cultures continue to cook with the same ingredients people have used for hundreds of years. Of course other factors, such as religion and wealth, also have a lot of influence in everyday cuisine. A vegetarian from Gujurat will have a much different diet than a Catholic from Kerala, for example. Nevertheless if you want an overall idea make your way over to the nearest, local market and you will see.
Warning, nasty bits are below. Scroll with caution.


{ 1 comment }

Making Conversation in Barrio San Blas

by Elena on July 27, 2009

In order to reach the San Blas neighborhood you need to climb up the somewhat steep (or maybe it’s just the altitude) San Blas hill. After passing lots of shops and artfully avoiding the cobblestone street, while balancing on the mini sidewalk made of stone, you will eventually reach a plaza. This my friends, is the San Blas neighborhood. The neighborhood offers spectacular views of the city, as well as its signature red tiled roofs, white washed houses, and blue doors.

In the plaza there are a few art galleries featuring Peruvian artists. The artwork is incredible, as well as incredibly priced. I would suggest buying a few pieces if you are able to bring them back with you.

On your way up to the plaza there are also tons of tourists shops where you can shop for some souvenirs.

San Blas is traditionally where many artists lived and like most neighborhoods of its kind, it is quickly becoming a trendy area of Cusco, undoubtedly attracting travelers who are more interested in this bohemian enclave. Expect less crowds than in the Plaza de Armas but there are more and more restaurants and cafes popping up.

The Church of San Blas is also in the plaza. There will most likely be people sitting at the steps as well as vendors outside trying to sell you some handicrafts.

San Blas is known for having these brilliant bright blue doors and windows.

It is surprising how the conversation can flow so naturally with complete strangers, in particular while traveling, where I have had the good fortune of encountering many interesting and congenial people. While snapping pictures in the plaza, and completely engrossed in my surroundings, I didn’t notice that I had grabbed the attention of two men selling bracelets and other handicrafts along a white fence. Luis and his friend (whose name has slipped my mind at the moment) introduced themselves and in a matter of minutes it seemed like Luis had really warmed up to me. He told me about his family and his child and his love for his country but also his desire to move away. Soon the conversation led to what I missed most about home; without any hesitation I told him my dog Nico. He smirked and asked if I was talking about a boyfriend. His cacophony of laughter proved that he was making a machista joke about men liking the company of many women or something similar. Latin men never cease to amaze me and make me laugh, especially since he clearly was getting such amusement from it all. I assured him that my dog was in fact of the canine persuasion. Luis made me promise I would send him this picture (his friend was a bit camera shy). Si estas leyendo esto Luis, espero que estes bien!



Just another Monday morning in Cusco

by Elena on July 13, 2009

During the week Cusco is a completely different city than on the weekend where you will find mostly tourists roaming the streets looking for alpaca duds and pisco sours. What used to be bare streets were now packed with Peruvians following their daily routine of going to work, waiting for the bus, walking their kids to school, or snatching a part of the sidewalk where they will sell some food or handicrafts to strolling pedestrians. It was a nice change to not only be surrounded by tourists like myself, but rather a group of people who live in this city. They aren’t stopping at every corner to bask at the sites, but rather they pass by the Plaza de Armas giving a cursory glance of recognition. After all they see it everyday. By being around locals you may perhaps be given a glimpse of how people really live their lives; if you’re lucky.

Shoe shiners in Cusco

People waiting for the bus

Cusco is small and easy to manage, especially if you compare it to the capital Lima. The Plaza de Armas is the most distinctive image of Cusco city. Most travel paraphernalia plasters pictures of the plaza and the cathedral througout many of its pages. My second day in Cusco I was considerably less winded from the lack of oxygen in the air and made use of some time to myself to stroll the Plaza and sit at the steps of the Cathedral. My visit thus far had been filled with colonial influenced buildings and Catholic tradition. The Plaza de Armas was no different, however I knew that in a few days I would be looking out at a completely different marvel, one that had nothing to do with colonial influence. Machu Picchu, the lost civilization, would not have domed bell towers, ornate balconies, or elaborate Gothic paintings of the Resurrection. There would be no carved crosses or images of the Virgin Mary. Both cultures so different yet an indelible part of Peruvian culture.

Below is a map of the main sites in Cusco as well as some photos of what you should be looking for.

Map of sites in Cusco provided by Frommers.

Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus


Convento de la Merced

Iglesia de San Blas



Plaza de Armas, Cusco Photo Journal

by Elena on July 7, 2009


{ 1 comment }