Sunday, January 2, 2011

Galapagos Islands

We are aboard the National Geographic ship "The Endeavor".  It used to be a boat for arctic and antarctic esplorations.  Its very cool, there are 99 passengers aboard, and 70 crew members.

Unfortunately, it is very hard to update a blog from the ship, as the internet is excrutiatingly slow.  We are on a boat for Pete's sake.  So I apologize... This could be the ultimate demize of the Peruvian Adventure.

If I can, I will try to do an overall post of the whole Cruise and week in a whole. 

Friday, December 31, 2010

Quito, Ecuador

So we arrived in Quito, Ecuador around 3 or 4 o´clock in the afternoon.  We were both pretty tired but we had signed up for a tour around the great Ecuadorian city of Quito.  They actually use the American Dollar here, so we exchanged all our money to dollars prior to arriving.  We had an english speaking guide who owns a taxi here and lived in ¨The Hat of America¨ (Canada, haha hope you canadians are reading this) for 32 years. 

We drove a little bit during rush hour as he explained how every single sunday the city shuts down the main street for almost 4 miles.  Everybody just hangs out in the streets on sundays:  Riding bikes, roller-blading, drinking, playing music, and whatever floats the Ecuadorian boat.  They are very nice people here and suprisingly there are a lot of Americans here.  He even mentioned there is a town right outside Quito they call ¨Little America¨.  We walked around the main plaza, entering some pretty amazing churches. 
Seems like with each church they were trying to outdo the last.
Quito is definitely not as dangerous as the world thinks it is, at this moment in time.  It is actually the opposite.  Obviously there are poorer areas where there is crime and violence, however, since the new president has come into office, he has done great things for this country.  I think our guide said he has almost a 75% approval rating.  That´s almost as good as Dubya Bush and Bobama.

We had a short tour and went back to our hotel.  Shortly thereafter we had a reservation for dinner at an authentic Ecuadorian restaraunt called Apioche.  We shared a half glass of - what we thought when ordering at the time was bubbly - white wine to start.  I had a grilled beef with passion fruit sauce to "wet my appetite," as papa says and it was fantastic.  We then got another full bottle of wine and ordered dinner, which we both inhaled the grilled chicken with some sauces and potatoes.  In retrospect, may not have been the best idea for papa. It was a great dinner, we just stayed there for a while and listened to a guy playing an acoustic and singing some spanish songs. 

The next day....

We woke up and met our same guide (I can´t remember his name!!!) and he took us to the ¨Middle of the World¨.  Qui - stands for middle, while To - stands for world.... PUT THEM TOGETHER AND WHAT DO YOU GET? It was about a 40 minute drive outside the city.  This was a very cool place, obviously, because you are standing at Latitude 0° 0´ 0¨ . 

There are a lot of things most people won't expect about this particular spot in the world . . . And I will be your yoda.

While we stood on the line, another guide who took us through the museum, explained that 30 kilometers North & South is considered the Equator, but we were actually standing at 0 seconds.... DIRECTLY IN THE MIDDLE. 

Going into the spring equinox (not to be confused with the solstice) there are no shadows as this place, simply because the sun is directly above.

He did some very cool experiments for us.  He balanced an egg on a nail and nobody else, me included, were succesful.  I could have done it, but I just didn´t feel like it...
He had us walk on the middle line with our eyes closed, it was way harder than you think, and I have pretty good balance.  The reason for this is your body is about 2/3 water, so when your eyes are closed, your body depends on the balance of liquid within the inner ear.  If you try this anywhere but here you will most likely be able to do it, sober of course.  This is because there are natural forces acting against you, in which, your body is able to counter-act.  When standing on this line the force is pulling straight down.  Unless you have impecable balance, it is impossible to even walk 10 feet.

Another cool experiment was the water experiment.  Whoever argued with me about the water spinning opposite directions from the Northern vs. Southern Hemisphere is WRONG.  it does spin opposite directions.
Don´t worry I won´t embarass you on my blog.  He
had a  sink that he filled with water directly over the 0 line.  When he pulled the plug, the water just got sucked down the drain straight.  He moved it to the Southern Hemisphere, and the water spun clockwise.  Northern Hemisphere spun counterclockwise.  I thought this was just the coolest thing in the world, plus it reaffirmed my initial beliefs.  I officially believe none of what people tell me.

We came back to the hotel, and off to the Galapagos to see some BOOBIES!!
Blue-footed boobies that is.

Also, I really apologize for not posting pictures.  I try almost every day and it gives me a god damn headache because the computers at these hotels shouldn't even be considered machines.  It pisses me off every time I try to do it, so I have kind of given up.  If I come across a computer with a solid picture program, I will add some pictures to the blog, otherwise you will have to suffer.

Tonight is going to be an awesome sight to see because here in Quito they have a cool tradition.  Every year they fill these big dolls with saw dust and put masks on them of people who were significant throughout the year, both good and bad.  At midnight, everybody lights their doll on fire and celebrates the New Year!
Of course the street is closed and supposedly are flooded with people partying, dancing, and being drunk.  We won´t be able to get the full experience because we leave tomorrow morning at 5 am.  That sucks, but oh well...

Off to the Galapagos Islands.
Adios
Adam ¨Chifles¨Rappin

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Caral

We woke up bright and early and met our guides who drove us in a classic Volvo to Nasca. Only today we took a different car they had, a minivan. We finally got through the busy city of Lima which was basically like driving from Evanston to the south end of Chicago with NO major highway. Of course, about an hour North of Lima, the van started to bog and we had to pull over to a gas station and wait for a New driver to come. We couldn't risk driving this van because Caral is isolated in the middle of NOWHERE.

The road into Caral was off the highway, about a 30 minute drive. Couldn't really call the road paved, but it sort of resembled a road. This "road" was transformed for the president 3 years ago, as he wanted to see these ultra-important ruins.

We finally arrived at Caral, the 3rd oldest known civilization in the world, behind Mesopotamia & Egypt. I am sure you have never heard of this place unless it was from papa or myself... I'm guilty of that too.

It was discovered in 1994 and they began excavating it 2 years later in 1996. Only 14 years of excavation and a very limited governmental budget, it Is estimated only 20-25% of this civilization has been found. This is astonishing because they just recently began digging up the 8th pyramid.

Although it is in the desert (I hate the desert) and not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as the late Inca ruins, it is just as interesting and a hell of a lot more important than Machu Picchu, or any site in the valley for that matter. These Pre-Inca civilizations are the foundations of what the Incas were built upon. If it weren't for these ancient sophisticated civilizations such as Caral, there would be no Machu Picchu, Ollataytambo, and not even Cusco.

There are so many connections with the civilization here and the Incas. What the Incas did so well was combine different aspects of the prior cultures and greatly improved them. Still, the Incas were about 3,000-4,000 years AFTER Caral. These great pyramids were buried deep under giant hills and dunes in the desert. Again, paralleling the time of the great Egyptians, Sumerians, and Babylonians. Who knows, they may find something absolutely extraordinary here very soon. I would keep note of this place.

This civilization Is extremely interesting in the way they structured their city. Few ins are know about it, however, what is know is they had 3 classes. Lower, middle, and upper/nobility class. This is shown by the geography in which the homes were located. The upper class always had homes near the pyramids, whereas, the middle and lower classes were somewhat excluded from the main part of the city. The middle class was especially interesting because it is seen they actually had additions put onto their homes in some cases as they discovered new ways of building walls.

I really enjoyed today in the desert. To think of how old this great civilization really is, is humbling to say the least. Why visit a horrible tourist attraction like Giza, or a war riddled country like Iraq to see something spectacular when you can travel down the same land mass to see Caral?! I could count the number of people that were there on 1 hand. That's how I like it. It's kind of son of a bitch to get to, but definitely worth it.

I had the time of my life in Peru and I am really sad to leave this place. We fly to Quito, Ecuador tomorrow - apparently on the list of "dangerous places in the world not to go to" - but that's the risk we are willing to take to see the Galapagos Islands. Or it's the only way to get there, haha we aren't that tough.

Anyway, until next time in Ecuador,
Adios Muchachos y Muchachas

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nasca Lines

So after the last post I spent a few more thoughtless hours on the computer before we attended dinner with the rest of the guests, which was 0. We were the only ones at dinner in a fairly large room. We felt that we had to whisper because of the emptiness in the hotel. Papa and I had a romantic pasta dinner with a bottle of wine. Ha.
Afterwards, papa went to the room as I studied the model of the maze. Apparently papa noticed me acting quite weird and confronted me when I got back. He showed me a draft on my blog which repeated "All work no play makes Adam a dull boy". I felt very offended and tried to punch him. It was then I realized he had a bat and next thing I knew, I was locked in the kitchen refrigerator.
Lucky for me, Lloyd (pronounced y-oid in Spanish) was there to set me free. I found a fire axe and began my search to kill papa.
I finally managed to find him and violently axed the door down to his hotel room and in a growling roar said "Heeeeeeeere's Adam!"
And I think you know how the story goes. And Shelley Duvall is ugly.

That's how our Night in Nasca, Peru went.

The next morning we drove to the Nasca airport, which is actually the 2nd busiest airport in Peru. This is because the Nasca lines are very popular among tourists who come to Peru, as well as, home grown Peruvians.
We boarded our dozen person propellor plane and began a hot flight over the arid Nasca desert plain. We gutted out the multiple G turns, dips, and dives (Guy Fieri style, only we didn't look like Jersey Shore Swedes with cool cars).
The pilots would turn to each side, showing us the ancient lines drawn up in the desert floor roughly 1200-1500 years ago. These lines differ from animals to shapes to figures... At least 10,000 different lines and 300 different figures span over the barren surface. The intersting part about the lines is how they have survived this long, given they are only dug about 8-10 inches into the stony ground. One of the reasons for this is because the sand briefly covers them during the day, however winds during the night brush the sand away. It is impossible to see these lines from the ground or even from towers or mountains of the surrounding areas. The most effective way is to fly, which is why this is so interesting. Were these messages to the gods? Was this a primitive sort of calendar? Maybe they were mimicking constellations they believed they saw in the stars... These are all questions that cannot be answered and possibly will never be.
The Astronaut

These lines were made by pre Inca civilizations and their purpose is a complete mystery to the modern world. Including a woman who dedicated 40 years of her life studying these lines, German mathematician Maria Reiche. She did everthying from initially exposing and cleaning the lines to carefully studying each line and figure to expose some truths to this mystery. 40 YEARS!!!! Until the DAY she died, deeming her ¨Lady of the Lines.


The Hands

After the Nasca lines, we began our 5 hour trek back to the capital coastal city of Lima. Bisecting our trip was a tour of a vineyard in which we saw more horses than we did wine!!! Although papa and I did down a few complimentary glasses of good wine to support a fine nap on the 3.5 hour drive.

It was an interesting couple days, considering we relived "The Shining" (if you didn't catch on) and got to see an ancient enigma.

Off to Caral in the morning, the oldest city in America.
Ciao

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27

Last night Papa and I went to a restaraunt that is attached to a historical site called Huaca Pucllana.  We had a good dinner.  However, the service was pretty bad... even for my standards (and my idea of a fine dining is Olive Garden... mmm I love Olive Garden).  After a Pisco Sour and a bottle of wine, we had dinner and decided to treat ourselves to Cubanos y Cognac.  I can´t remember the name of what I drank (wonder why), but it was goooood.  My first cuban was a good one!


We have mostly been traveling and resting the past few days, as the last week has been a relatively tough one.
We are now in Nasca, Peru which is in the middle of the desert.  It was about a 5 hour drive south of Lima.  Although, we took a break in Ica.  The largest sand dune in the world is towering over us.  The altitude fluctuates dependant on the winds and conditions.  Apparently 8 guys tried to climb it 2 years ago and were never seen again.


We did go to Ica today and rode around in a Dune Buggy (they call them boogies) and I got to sandboard.  The Boogie was fun and had great views while we wandered up and through the massive dunes.


Here is just a short video of me sucking at sand-boarding.  I only got to try 3 slopes, this was my first attempt... the guy was skeptical in letting me try it on my feet because most people go on their stomach.  I ain´t most people

video


It was super hard because there was so much friction I couldn´t find the balance.  When you snowboard you can lean forward and you can see when i did that my board (or wood plank with velcro straps) would just go straight into the sand.  Plus, if you try to make any sudden movements, your foot just rips out of the makeshift velcro bindings. 
We fly over the Nasca lines tomorrow which should definitely be postworthy!
We then drive back to Ica, Peru and see the vineyards for a few hours.  Then, back to Lima for some rest and relaxation before another 4 hour drive north to Caral.
Until next time,
Buenos Noches y Bueno Suerte

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Machu Picchu

Well, nothing I can really say about this place, because it sucked...

You didn't let me finish. Sucked the breath right out of my body.

We got up around sunrise, ate a nice breakfast of freshly picked fruit from the hotel gardens, stopped shaking after sucking down coca-tea, and met our new guide and friend Ramirez. He started off very shy, and similar to the other guides, he warmed up to us and we shared some laughs. The train to Aguas Calientes was about an hour and a half, for the fact that no roads travel to Aguas Calientes. The train slithered through the valley, and paralleled the Rio Urubamba. We arrived at Aguas Calientes and found it to be absolutely pouring.
Yeah, so what...
We didn't mind, it's f'in Machu Picchu. We threw on our rain jackets and entered the wall of water. We then walked through an abundant market place, seemingly every store had the exact same products, with few exceptions. We hopped on a bus which then scaled up the mountain in switch-backs until we arrived at the top. We unloaded the bus, and followed Ramirez. Step-by-step, on a slight incline, the ground turned from stone into grass. After recognizing we were upon a terrace, and just over the ridge ahead was the Lost City of the Incas, my anticipation grew...

And grew...

And grew...

Just a little more....


We walked our drenched bodies further until finally, I gazed upon a sanctuary. Tucked in between 2 majestic peaks and surrounded entirely by the mystical mountains of the Andes. Multiple layers of cloud formations rested amongst the mountains, some below us and some above. Rio Urubamba FAR below us on either side. As I stood there, I had a gut feeling which slowly crept up my chest and into my throat where I choked up and even felt a few tears. I can't really even explain why.

As most of you know I am not a religious man (or boy, dependent on our personal relationship), but this place has something magical about it. Extremely spiritual. Every aspect of this place is part of the Earth. Mother Earth (Pachamama).

We Misty Mountain Hopped (Zeppelin reference for all you suckers) up the agricultural tier section until ultimately resting at the top, under a highly pitched Inca roof. Now seeing an even better view from a higher altitude The roof was made of the wild grass I had mentioned, they also used to build combustion engines (hahahaha).

While we waited, Ramirez told us stories and explained many things. Including the fact, Incas separated every city into 2 sections. The farming section and the living section. He told us they chose this place because of the jungle rainforest to the east, and the mountains to the west. Fittingly naming it "The Eyebrow of the Jungle". There is a natural spring close by, meaning they must have searched this whole region until realizing the potential of this certain spot. We chatted for probably 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, the rainfall began to subside, exposing more landscape by the minute. There are no words to describe this. Again I felt choked up because now we had a clear view of the Andes, and most of you know how I love Los Montañas.

We walked down the agriculture section and through a doorway which split the city in 2 sections (farming & living). We examined the different styles of architecture: Power & Domestic. The power style include large rock structure carved into rectangles so precisely leaving no need for mortar. The domestic style includes a clay/mud substance that acts as a mortar, in which they use smaller rocks for this.

Each section was more impressive than the next. If you haven't noticed, with each Inca city lies a main plaza where civilians gather to meet, greet, play games, hold ceremonies, etc..

We then arrived at the 16 fountains that supplies fresh water to the city. The fountains are still running using the natural spring they found initially. Of course, the Incas carefully planned out the water works, using gravity and their signature aqueducts for drainage and water supply. With water comes life, so without water there is NOTHING.

Next we saw the sculpted condor, which was originally believed to be the Temple of the Condor, by Hiram Bingham (Discoverer of Machu Picchu in 1911). This is untrue because the Incas never worship animals, rather use them as symbols: The Snake, The Condor, The Zeppelin (or cat, whatever you call them).

After that, unfortunately, was the exit. I can honestly say this place melted my face more than Electric Church Red House (and some of you know about my infatuation with Hendrix). That's a big deal haha.
But honestly, this is the most spectacular place in the world and EVERYBODY must see with own eyes. I tried to do my best to describe this place including pictures, but I just can't to it justice. The scale and beauty are factors that cannot be expressed without actually being here.

Hope you enjoyed the post.
Thanks for reading, and goodnight.
Adam "Recently promoted back to The Navigator" Rappin

Day 4 - Moray & Maras

12/23/2010
Happy Birthday MOM!! I think this is your 13th time turning 39 years old! GREAT SUCCESS.  I hope you had a great birthday, given this is a little belated.
The day was a complete experience, and up there in my top 4 days so far.  We began the day early in the morning with our new tour guide, Raul. 
You can really see why the locals thought this valley to be sacred and mystical. 

For some of you who have never seen a horse, this is what they look like...

I´ll let the pictures do the talking

We climbed the mountain on the horses for about an hour until our guide thought it would be wise to take a short-cut.


He must have taken this picture 20 seconds before falling off the horse... this is the shortcut to the left.
Papa brought in the rear as we went up a fairly steep face and suddenly his saddle came loose and fell off backwards.  He got up quicker than I have seen any retiree rise from anything.  The trooper he is, they tightened up the saddle and he hopped on and we continued on up the mountain.  He could feel his back tightening up the whole day and we just hoped it would feel better for Machu Picchu.  Unfortunately, my sunscreen must have rubbed off on my jacket in the rain, or I sweat it off because my neck and face are BURNT!!!  Luckily for Raul, he already had sunblock, its natural and called SPF SKIN.  Those peruvians have some tough skin my friends.  My Horse was cool for a majority of the time, but whenever he felt like he didn´t want to follow any longer, he would just veer off and walk wherever he felt.  Eventually I got him back on track, but then he would be doing a zig-zag... He must be the stable - drunk who everyone despises and laughs at.
We followed the road through a group of Sheep, Donkeys, and Bulls and I think sheep are the funniest animals ever.  They baaaah and all of them have their own unique voice.  Some even sound human, like a little sheepito walking around going MOMMMMM, Mommmmmm. Haha! I have video on the Flip-cam.

That´s what I call horsepower
Raul is an avid rafter and told us about 3 years ago he got caught under a rock and nearly died.  He did not tell us how he got free... All we know is that he says he pays tribute to the water every single year (don´t know how he does that either, we assumed he sacrifices young female spaniards).


Moray, how incredible is that
Now that´s a Baño
We rode about 6 miles until we arrived at Moray, how amazing is that place?!  It was used strictly for agriculture and it is actually carved into this valley.  They, of course, engineered water management and studied this place before even beginning to build.  You will never see standing water at the bottom of this place, and look, everything drains to the middle!  Another interesting fact is they actually used this place as a laboratory because each terrace has a different humidity level, allowing them to grow different crops at different altitudes and experiment with varieties as well.  The Irish potato actually originated in this area, along with Maize and 2,500+ species of potato.  When the Spanish arrived, they believed it to be a theatre due to the strong acoustics in the ruins.  I was debating whether or not I should melt some faces on my flute for everyone to hear. 
We had lunch up there, got our much needed coca-tea fix, said goodbye, to horses (Mr. Drunkie needed some lovin too), and off to Maras then to the salt flats.
There is a mysterious Salt water stream which supplies this entire area with highly concentrated salt-water.  It is almost 23% salt.  If you stick your hand in the water and let it dry, it actually leaves a very grainy residue, very easy to see why they are so successful.  I put the salt-water in my mouth and immediately regretted that decision.  UGHH THIZZLE.
Well that was the day, it was a dandy.
Love
Adam "formerly know as the navigator" Rappin