A Travellerspoint blog

November 2010

Chile: We aren’t blue that it's overcast

November 30, 2010

snow 32 °F

This morning we found ourselves face to face with a glacier, the Brujo Glacier to be accurate, inside the Torres del Paine National Park. This was the first time that either of us has ever encountered one. The glacier had a blue hue today, which was lucky because if it was sunny outside it would look white. We then made our way through the Strait of Magellan which is considered a very difficult route to navigate because of the unpredictable winds and currents but we lucked out and made it through! Prior to Magellan it was called the Strait of All Saints but was renamed by the Spanish King in honor of Magellan a Portuguese sailor, the first European to navigate the strait in 1520. We are learning all these things from our extremely passionate and knowledgeable travel guide Chris who gives daily lectures on local wildlife and the history of the areas we are visiting.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 08:01 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Chile: I didn’t know Darwin liked Beagles?

November 29, 2010

overcast 60 °F

Another early rise for us—up at 7 am to follow in the path of Charles Darwin who cruised at what is now the Darwin Channel on the ship H.M.S. Beagle about 200 years prior. If you look at a map of Chile, you will find that the West coast looks ragged and is made up of a clustering of many islands (archipelago). This area is beautiful and we had the unique privilege of being able to cruise through this largely uninhabited and pristine landscape of Southern Chilean Fjords. We have found that it is very difficult to capture the effect on film as we cruise through. These narrow Fjords are also a great shelter from the rough Pacific Ocean which by the way was named Pacific after the word “Pacifico” which means “calm” in Spanish. . a complete misnomer as far as we are concerned! After warming up from the chilling air outside we were back to our normal at sea routine of enjoying the food and taking naps (punctuated with the occasional work out, Spanish Class or salsa dancing with friends).

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 07:59 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Chile: Once upon a time. . . in the lakes district

November 28, 2010

sunny 72 °F

The Lakes District of Chile seems to be out of some sort of fairy tale—this area leaves you speechless as you drive through pristine countryside with multiple snow-capped volcanoes looming overhead. We took a long drive on mini-buses from our port in Puerto Montt through multiple small towns and lakes which eventually led us to Petrohue Falls. At the falls we had a chance to see some of that striking blue glacial water coursing over rock faces. The main volcanoes in the pictures are Volcan Osorno and Volcan Calbuco and the lake is Lake Llanquihue. Our whole adventure cost us $20 total to do what others on the cruise spent around $185 per person to do—Ruby’s Spanish skills are being put to good use on this trip and mine are also improving.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:45 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

Chile: All the comforts of home—and then some!

November 27, 2010

semi-overcast 70 °F

This was our first day at sea and it was pure relaxation. We spent the day eating delicious food to our hearts content, sitting in the hot tub, working out at the gym (not too much!) and lounging in the plush library. The librarian on board is a sweetheart and got Ruby “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and Tony the “Life of Pi” per our special requests. Tony is practicing his Spanish with classes onboard and also winning brown scarves during a contest involving chocolate diamonds (by the way these are exclusively from Australia) and drinking champagne :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:32 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Chile: All aboard—don’t forget your meclizine!

November 26, 2010

sunny 75 °F
View Around the World #1 on Tony.Ruby's travel map.

We woke up in Valparaiso and were ever so thankful that we arrived exhausted and didn’t have a chance to take a look at our hotel room. The sheets were clean and the location was great but that’s about all we can say. After purchasing a few bottles of Chilean wine we were off to the port . . . once again Tony was the navigator and took us in the complete wrong direction. . are you beginning to notice a theme here? While being smushed in a taxi we quickly learned that in Chile they will try to put as many people into one car as possible, we probably could have gotten a fancy tourist cab but anything to save a buck :) Setting foot on the Veendam, one of Holland America's cruiseships we soon realized that this cruise is not for amateurs and the seas off the coast of Chile are not your normal smooth sailing. However, with unlimited food, seven bottles of wine and all of our clothes unpacked . . . it’s nice to relax with the retirees! Ruby had an AMAZINGLY delicious dish made of only mushrooms and potatoes, she's bringing home the recipe!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:20 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

Chile:Do you think they’ll have Turkey Ceviche?

November 25, 2010

sunny 80 °F
View Around the World #1 on Tony.Ruby's travel map.

Preface: Given the way this day turned out we had to keep reminding ourselves that we are super lucky and have tons to be thankful for including wonderful family and friends. We got up at 3 am for an early morning flight, only to arrive and find out that our flight was delayed by 12hrs?!? Sleep deprivation does not equal happiness. We ended up heading back into Lima and having another round of that delicious ceviche (crab or cangrejo this time) served with Peruvian corn and that oh-so-spicy rocoto pepper and then caught local minibuses to and from the airport saving ourselves about $40. Entering/exiting these mini buses is a lot like playing double-dutch (jump rope), they pull up going about 30 miles per hour yelling “ese ese ese”, barely stop and pull away seconds later in a cloud of dust. It took us a few attempts to commit to one but we feel like we have the hang of it now! We finally got into Santiago Chile around midnight after watching the most amazing red colored sunset on the plane. Luckily, LAN airlines paid for our 1.5 hr taxi ride out to Valparaiso on the coast of Chile where we quickly passed out in exhaustion!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:14 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

No little green men. .maybe a little green around the gills

November 24, 2010

sunny 82 °F
View Around the World #1 on Tony.Ruby's travel map.

We woke up to a stifling hot room since we forgot to put the fan on before passing out the night before—this is to be expected, after all, Nazca is in the desert of Southern Peru. We ate a delicious and hearty breakfast (big mistake) before we headed off to the tiny Nazca airport. Embarrassingly they had to weigh all of us before we could get on the small plane for our flight over the Nazca lines. Despite all the delicious food—Tony and I have both managed to lose 5 lbs each!?! It must be all the hiking we’ve been doing . . .On the plane we were not surprised to find 2 barf bags EACH. Based on the way the pilots were flying, we are convinced they must have had a bet going about how many passengers they could get to puke!! Luckily, Ruby and I both got to enjoy seeing our favorite figures the monkey, hummingbird, astronaut and condor without losing our breakfast! :) We also went to a small demonstration on how gold is mined in Southern Peru and then headed back to Lima on a Cruz Del Sur bus.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:09 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru: A Smell Worth Missing the Bus For

November 23, 2010

semi-overcast 73 °F

After a long morning on the bus we arrived at a small town called Pisco near Paracas (not to be confused with the white-grape brandy produced by this region). Unfortunately it was an extremely foggy day which made it near impossible to get out to Ballestas Island which was our plan for the morning. We made an executive decision to skip the bus we had booked and wait for one that left 8hrs later in hopes that the fog would clear—we are very glad that it eventually did! This area is also nicknamed the “poor man’s Galapagos” but we didn’t have any complaints. Along the 1.5 hr boat journey to Isla Ballestas we saw a giant three-pronged candelabra etched into the sandy hills, this is thought to be related to the Nazca lines (see our next post). We then cruised around the island’s arches and caves, Ruby was paralyzed with terror at the thought of getting pooped on (be sure to bring a hat!). It was amazing to see so much wildlife in its natural habitat. We saw Humboldt penguins, seals, and sea lions lounging on rocks and swimming in the water just a few feet away. We tried to duck as thousands of guano-producing birds including cormorants, boobies and pelicans flew over our heads. Thank god you don’t have smell-o-vision. . those rocks are white for a reason. We ended the day eating a locally fished crab and reading on a bench while discreetly drinking wine by the beach. We also tried to avoid the many sweet but stray dogs around Pisco.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 14:47 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru: Ceviche and Skateboarding—FOODIE ALERT

November 22, 2010

semi-overcast 77 °F

In our attempt to head back to Lima we have been delayed by bad weather---a common occurrence from Cusco. We purposely booked one of the earliest flights out to ensure we would have some backup flights. We hope that the weather on the trek is better than at the airport since Tim didn’t bring waterproof pants! We finally made it out around 11am and got to Hostel Porta in the neighborhood of Miraflores in Lima. It had a Santa Monica feel with great food and a skatepark on the beach. Tony has been dragging that skateboard around for the past month so it was nice to see him actually get to use it! :) We had an early dinner at Alfresco---we ordered seafood since it’s supposed to be great in Lima. Ruby had the shrimp ceviche with a pepper called rocoto (which looks like a tomato in the picture) that was spicier than anything I think we’ve ever had. It was a rare opportunity to see Ruby turn red from spicy food! We also ordered the parmesan risotto with shrimp (camarones) which I think is better than ANY we have EVER had including in Italy. It was cooked to perfection with the shrimp being very tender. We shared a bottle of local white wine and enjoyed the meal tremendously. Afterwards, we took a walk along the boardwalk to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 16:21 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Peru: Bus ride and a Burger the Size of Your Head

November 21, 2010

semi-overcast 75 °F

7 am and off to the bus station—this time Tour Peru Inca Class and the nice reclining seats on the lower part of the bus. . . and still 6 foot Tony is not comfortable. He’s turning into Goldilocks so maybe the next bus ride will be just right! Even though the trip was 7 hours it went by really fast with movies and joking around with Tim and Raffi. A chick-flick was on and Raffi decided to make fun of Ruby for crying—luckily they weren’t playing The Notebook! After returning to Cuzco we checked into Mallqui Hostal a really comfortable and quaint hotel with great center courtyard for lounging. Our only critique is that the ceiling is a little low.. (see the pic below)! That night we HAD to go back to our favorite restaurant Los Perros—thanks Christopher for the recommendation! We had a send-off dinner for Raffi and Tim since they were embarking on their 4 day Inca Trail Trek at 5am the next day! We hope the rain gods smile on them. Raffi ate a hamburger the size of his head and then proceeded to finish all of our dinners for us, where does he put it all?? We hope to meet up with them again in New York or the UK but hopefully without requiring any of their legal services ;-)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 16:15 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru: Taquile---not to be confused with Tequila

November 20, 2010

sunny 80 °F

After breakfast with our family we said our goodbyes and sincere thanks for welcoming us into their home and allowing us to have this very unique experience. We arrived at Taquile Island around 10am only to find another daunting uphill hour long hike—the carrot at the end of the stick was a delicious lunch of freshly fished trout at the high point of the island overlooking the beautiful farmland and surrounding water. On the far side of the lake you can see Bolivia—one of the countries we are not visiting on this trip. At the top of the hill was the town center where we met a few of the local men and learned about their traditional clothing—single men wear red and white hats while married men wear all red hats. The women have large or small pom-poms depending on their marital status. To burn off the calories from lunch we ended up having to walk down 535 uneven stone steps to where our boat was docked! During the long boat ride back to Puno we all caught up on some sleep while Ruby finished reading Living Dead in Dallas (her second book on this trip). That night we met up with Tim and Raffi for dinner at Inka Bar and celebrated our shared adventures over a few glasses (or bottles) of vino tinto.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 16:11 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru: Floating Islands and Fiestas in Funny Outfits

November 19, 2010

sunny 83 °F

We left the Balsa Inn en route to a boat taking us from Puno to the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca. This lake is the highest navigable lake in the world and boy could we feel the altitude! We arrived at a small floating island where approximately 20 Aymara people live. These people use tortora reeds for everything including build these islands as well as “brushing” their teeth. We received a fascinating demonstration on how these islands are built—a little complicated to explain here. Tony the superstar won a prize when he guessed the depth of the lake under Amancer Island---13 meters. We had a personal tour of one of the reed houses on this island and took a relaxing reed boat ride around to view some of the other floating islands.
After the Uros we were off to Amantani Island at a blazing 5mph! 2.5 hrs later we were introduced to our Quechua speaking family whom we would be spending the night. The island is without electricity, running water or any roads/cars so we knew we were in for an adventure. Tim and Raffi, two Oxford law students from the U.K. were our housemates and loads of fun. The four of us met our host Alejandro and followed him up a very steep hill to his house. Huffing and puffing in the altitude we made it, he didn’t seem bothered at all. The island is very secluded from the mainland so we brought some things that are hard to get on the island as gifts: fresh fruit, cooking oil, and pasta which were much appreciated. Alejandro’s wife was cooking our lunch on a wood burning clay oven when we arrived while his son made us hot tea with fresh menthol-like herbs from the garden--everything was delicious! Ruby thought it would be nice if she/we offered to do dishes. Before we could even say anything our host was off to get warm water and towels. With a little bit of teamwork we finished the dishes pretty quickly while laughing at the whole situation.
We prepared for a sunset hike by taking a quick nap and then up we went—to the top of the island around 4400 meters huffing and puffing all the way up. We watched the gorgeous sunset over Lake Titicaca, the temperature dropped quickly! We didn’t even need a flashing down the cobblestone path since we had the light of a full moon that night. We ate another home cooked delicious Amantani meal and attempted to speak some more Quechua—a very difficult language. We got ready by candlelight for the fiesta that night. A woman came from the village to help us don our new garb and although we were exhausted from all the hiking but it was priceless to see Raffi, Tim and Tony get twirled by tiny Amantani women on the dance floor! I think they particularly took a liking to Tim ;-)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:49 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru: Roadblocks can’t stop us!

November 18, 2010

sunny 82 °F

Today we started our tour with Magical Cuzco. Normally we are not fans of tours but the itinerary they had planned was just too good to pass up (as you’ll see). We left our hostel to hop on a bus with Inka Express on our way to Puno, this was the most comfortable bus ride to date. During the 10 hr ride we stopped a few times. Andahuaylillas had a beautiful church and a museum with skulls showing different ways the Incas purposefully deformed their skulls. Raqchi was the site of a giant Inca temple (now in ruins after the Spaniards). The next stop was La Raya which is the highest point on the route to Puno with an elevation of almost 4,335 meters. On the drive we encountered more flamingos but the bus was moving too fast to get a good picture! Our last stop was Pucura where we visited another museum and saw ancient Pre-Incan statues (between 3rd and 8th centuries A.D.) depicting child sacrifice (via decapitation). Also famous for “los torritos” or bull statues on their roofs for good luck—we wonder if that’s where El Torito came from in the U.S.??
At the end of this long journey our bus driver dropped us off in the middle of nowhere; he refused to enter Puno due to a strike in town where the roads were blocked off. Luckily our tour company had arranged for an alternate driver who was willing to “take the back roads” to get us into town---this turned out to be an off-road adventure through the desert and over the mountain pass into Puno. We could see clouds of dust wafting up as other trucks in front of us bounced their way over the rough terrain. At last we came to a checkpoint where the driver bribed the locals to let us into town. In the distance we could see fires and for a second we thought Puno was in flames—fortunately it turned out that the local people burn the reeds on Lake Titicaca to allow them to grow faster. Safe and sound in Puno at last--a hot shower never felt so good.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 18:58 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru: Mucho Machu

November 17, 2010

sunny 78 °F

We had anxiously been waiting this day—and barely needed our alarm clock to get up super early to get to the train station. To our pleasant surprise we were upgraded from the standard Backpacker train that we paid for to the Vista Dome train (with huge windows on the ceiling) allowing us to look up as we went through the mountains. We sat across from a Venezuelan woman named Barbara; who made the four hour trip go by super fast. Tony practiced has Spanish as we all checked out the scenery. The train dropped us off in Aguas Calientes and we quickly zigzagged through multiple souvenir vendors to find our way to the bus taking us up to Machu Picchu. The bus ride was another 30 min zig-zagged route up switchbacks from the bottom of the mountainside up to the ruins. You’ll see some pics of the train at the bottom of the mountain.
The weather gods were smiling upon us that day--- we could not have had a clearer or sunnier day. Machu Picchu itself is awe-inspiring and we must have taken a 1000 pictures! The ruins are spread over a very large area and surrounded by mountains on all sides. I cannot imagine how Hiram Bingham came upon this location in 1911 as we could hardly make it up there using a taxi, train, and bus! The true purpose of Machu Picchu is not known, regardless, the mathematics required to create this “lost city of the Incas” is unbelievable. There are actually two large mountains---Wayna Picchu and Machu Picchu at this site. Wayna Picchu is the one you see in the background of most iconic pictures, it is on the North side of the ruins. We missed the opportunity to climb Wayna Picchu and see the Temple of the Moon (only 400 people a day are allowed before 1pm) ---but that’s okay, we didn’t we test our luck as Ruby was still sick from the altitude as well as a serious cold/sinus infection. Machu Picchu is actually the larger mountain on the South side of the ruins. We spent over 4 hours meandering through the ruins and listening in to guides telling different stories about things like the Temple of the Condor, Temple of the Three Windows, etc. . The Incas also built the iconic terraces to allow for farming on the mountainside (look like rows of stones and grass on the mountainside). Three animals: The condor, puma and snake were sacred to the Incas. By the way we would suggest getting a guide at the entrance as there are no maps or guides or BATHROOMS once you enter the ruins. Also bring lots of water!! Ruby was feeling better since Machu Picchu is at a lower elevation than Cuzco and we still had a little bit of time so decided to walk down to the train—bad idea! The view was gorgeous but this walk took us about 1.5 hours with thousands of uneven steps down and Ruby was worse for the wear by the time we got on the train. This is an absolutely amazing place to visit and for next time; we would suggest staying in Aguas Calientes so that you’re very close to the ruins and can have the morning there to yourself before the train arrives. We were exhausted by the time we got home around 10pm and went to bed only after finding out that there was a strike in Puno (where we were heading the next morning). . .

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 02:25 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru: Two Guinea pigs in Cuzco---FOODIE ALERT

November 16th, 2010

sunny 75 °F

If you ever plan on flying around South America, plan on paying a lot of airport taxes! We arrived in Cuzco in the morning after a breathtaking flight over the snow capped Andes (see pic below). After checking in to our room we proceeded to get lost in this tiny town. It seems near impossible to do so but Tony was holding the map upside down . . . ! That’s why Ruby is the navigator and Tony’s the driver on most trips! On the way we ran into some llamas and alpacas--Ruby fell in love with Cusi a 9 month old Alpaca that loves popcorn. . needless to say she didn't eat any alpaca meat in Peru! The way to tell the two apart is that llamas have longer necks and different ears and tails than alpacas, plus Alpacas have really adorable eyes. For lunch we ate at a restaurant called Sumaq in the Plaza de Armas---the view was much better than the food! They were roasting Guinea pigs (a local delicacy called coy chactado) in the same clay oven they used to make our pizza . . . luckily we didn’t see that before we ate our pizza. Neither of us had the heart to look one of those Guinea pigs in the eye or eat one!!
The highlight of our evening was dinner at Los Perros—a pseudo- Asian Fusion restaurant also near the main square. There is a lot of starch in Peruvian diets (yucca, plantains, rice, 2000 varieties of potatoes for fries) so we were ready for some veggies! The vegetable Asian Stir Fry was delicious and we relished some non-starchy food :)

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 02:11 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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