Kaunolu, Lana’i (2005)

#memoryMonday – Offroading in the quiet little island of Lana’i.

This place was one of King Kamehameha’s fishing spots. On this particular day, I had no luck catching a single fish. But I have yet to replicate the unique experience of being  so remote a place that not a single soul could find you without knowing you were going there. I felt a strange kind of peacefulness, walking on the slippery rocks at the side of the cliffs  and standing at what felt like the edge of the world.

May Day in Munich

You could definitely tell something was up when drinks were served. Granted, this was the first time that I’ve flown on Lufthansa. But when drinks were passed out and a large bottle  handedProcessed with VSCOcam to those who requested beer, it was more than just good German hospitality.

After arriving in Munich, we walked through the open terrace on the way to the underground. The sound of German folk music signaled that there was some sort of celebration before we saw people dressed in traditional garb! It seems that we came at the perfect time.

We arrived during May Day celebrations (1 May). What lucked to get a 7-hour layover in Munich, Germany! With that kind of time, it’s hard to miss a chance to check out a new city. To make the opportunity even more perfect, Munich Airport has a brochure complete with suggestions on where to go and what to do for people who have a long layover.IMG_7814

With all the merriment, a rainy day in Bavaria couldn’t get me down. We got a partner day ticket (unlimited for one day for 2 people) to take the S-Bahn to and from the city center for 22.30€. It took a half hour or so to get to the center, but it was fun to watch the passing countryside and small towns along the way.

One of the train stops on the way to city center

One of the train stops on the way to city center

With only a handful of hours, we explored one part of the city – Marienplatz, which seemed to be the epicenter of most tourist sights. Sure enough, it was the place to be. In the plaza, there was a crowd of folks who braved the rain, surrounding a platform where bands were performing. To the side, another booth was selling beer to passersby.

The Rathhaus in Marienplatz has a famous glockenspiel that would play a couple of times in the day. Since there was still another hour or so before the next show, there was time to visit nearby St. Peter’s Church for a bird’s-eye view of the city. The staircase to the vantage point was narrow, but well worth the leg burn.

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view of Marienplatz and Rathaus with its famous glockenspiel from the top of St. Peter’s Church

rooftops near Marienplatz

rooftops near Marienplatz

After taking tons of pictures of how gorgeous the city looked from above, it was time to watch the old glockenspiel do its thing. We headed back to the plaza, this time in the pouring rain, and bought a cup of beer to keep us warm.

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Glockenspiel at the Rathaus

The show at the was interesting, but we watched only about 5 minutes. Blame it on short attention spans. Instead, we went to the next must-see listed, the Frauenkirche. It’s a gothic cathedral that is known to have the “Devil’s footstep” inside. During World War II, the inside was destroyed, but you couldn’t tell from seeing it now. Honestly, we were more distracted by the area right in front of the cathedra. We don’t know it’s purpose, but most of our time was spent walking through and taking pictures there.

There were many other sites we discovered while wondering the area around Marienplatz.

Finally after all the walking, we were getting pretty hungry. Since this was the location of the world famous Hofbräuhaus, we tried to get some grub there first.

Hofbräuhaus

However, though the hall itself was larger than Hogwarts and boasted at least 3 floors, there was no room for 2 hungry/wet humans. At least we can say that we’ve been there. Just the experience of being in a very large room filled with loud raucous joyousness all around was memorable. Instead, we went in search of  a restaurant where one finds just the right amount of cheer to hear yourself think.

At the end, we ate at Augustiner am Dom. The restaurant’s layout was fascinating since it was several floors (5 maybe). Though, in areas where space is a hard to come by, it makes sense that even restaurants are built up instead of spread out.

With all that walking, we were very pleased to have some have some comfort food warming our stomachs. After the meal, we headed back to the airport, happy at a half-day layover well spent in this lovely German city.

Rusticating in Pisaq, Peru

I am having the absolute best time in this quaint little town. Where can I even begin?  We arrived last Sunday, driving from Cusco, over the mountain and then descended upon this place in the Sacred Valley.  Our school house is at the edge of town, at the base of one of the mountains and my room has a balcony.  Huzzah! 🙂  Classes are in the morning for my friends and I, which means we can actually go do things together.  Thi was put to good use the last couple of days when we were able to do with our time as we will after the set activity for the day.

Yesterday, we visited Salineras by Maras, which are basically salt mines on a terrace.  The salt apparently comes from the mountains and they are sold for animal feed.  It was quite the hike going up and I totally wasn´t expecting it.  I ended up being last and completely overwhelmed with the amount of energy I expended.  However, the place was a beautiful sight and it was fun just to be part of that scene.

Later, we caught a taxi to Moray, which is an archeaological site where Incas apparently used to plant things on a terrace because of various temperature.  The nice ladies by Salineras called their peeps to get us a ride and we went offroading to get to the circular terraces. We hiked down and wandered through the terraces, pondering the real use and being awed at the handiwork of the Incas.  Then we caught the taxi back to a bus stop and took a couple of them to make our way back to town.

Today was an even more amazing day.  I ended up hiking around the Pisaq ruins for about 4.5 hours.  It was a lot of up mountain, down mountain, and even going off the beaten paths with my friends.  There were points when I was basically standing on a rock and a 360 degree view of the Andes Mountains that surrounded me.  It was an amazing feeling to be so up high like that and just be surrounded by awestriking beauty.  It´s so hard to describe, but climbing up by all those different ruins on the different side of the mountain was just unbelievably wonderful.

On our way back down, my friend and I went to another ruin right  on a part of the mountain that was out of the way from the usual tourists.  It was funny cuz here were these ancient stones and then someone went by one of the walls and laid a big one… or according to my friend, someone ¨pinched a loaf¨.  Yes, disgusting.. And in one of the caves was hidden toilet paper.  I guess this is the ¨real¨side of these mysterious ancient ruins.  On our way down as well, there were 2 ladies waiting to sell us things.  We were the last ones down and I felt so bad I ended up buying a bracelet… which I lost.  Ah well.  By the time we made it down, the sun had set and we decided to stop by a little hole in the wall for some empanadas.  Overall, it was definitely one of the best days.

Tomorrow was supposed to be another activity day, but there´s a strike by people in transportation, I think regarding gas.  Therefore, it´s a nice free day.  We´re probably going to climb up the mountain by the school.

And here comes the weekend…

It has been officially 8 days since I´ve arrived in Peru.  I still trips me out when I think about where I am, but I have gotten accustomed to certain things.  It also helps that I have met a great bunch of people to share new adventures with.  =)  One of our bigger bonding sessions was during our salsa class on Friday evening.  Watching everyone learn to salsa, most especially the guys was fun.  Then the instructors handed us their cards including a club where they teach every night.   So, after eating at an Indian buffet, which made me nostalgic for my appendage and her people., we ended up at Zazu.  For a Friday night, it was pretty dead.  After seeing the empty place, we figured we´d just go in for cervezas and watch the few people dance.  However, since our instructors remembered us, we weren´t getting off easy.  We joined in for their lesson which involved dancing in a circle and switching partners every few beats or so.  Since I was still getting used to the altitude and I had some beer, I was a little winded.  At the end of the lesson, I sat down for a bit before the instuctor came back and asked me to dance.  Little did I know what I was in for.  We danced for an entire song (which was pretty long) and he put me through the paces with twists and turns.  Though I was really tired at the end, it was a lot of fun.  I felt bad thugh cuz after, another guy asked me to dance and I had to turn him down cuz I needed a rest.  Apparently I held my own very well, wich was good to know that Filipino debut dancing paid off. lol.

the trio @ Zazu for salsa

Over all, that was good times.  Unfortunately, we didn´t end upo sleeping til late and we had planned a hike the next day.  SO when Saturday morning rolled around, we were not in the mood for much movement, particularly me.  After a night of dancing and a beer, climbing steep uphills is a challenge.  But, I was with a group of cool people and luckily we found a guy who offered to take us horseback riding to the places we wanted to visit.  All we had to do was endure the long hike into their ranch by Sacsayhuaman.  🙂  As tough as the walk was, the view was gorgeous.  It was also a perfect day to ride because the sly was blue and the sun was shining brightly.

After visiting the Temple of the Sun and monkeys, we headed to see Cristo Blanco and admire the beautiful view of Cusco from above.

Then, we went back down to visit the Temple of the Sun and admired the architecture and design of the Incans, whose walls still stood at the temple.  We also got a preview of the Inti Raymi celebrations as the performers practiced on the lawn and in the Temple.

ANyway, that´s it for now.  I´m in Pisac and the internet is annoying me, so I´ll end it here.   🙂

In one of the longest days ever…

Actually, maybe this is only second to my 2004 visit to the Philippines (23 hours of travel + 4 hrs for a family reunion immediately after).  Neverthless, on June 6, I was in the air at 12:00am EST and did not return to my homestay until 11:30pm, Cuzco time.

So this is what went down: (Apologies in advance if some things don’t make sense since I am running on little sleep).

When I arrived in Lima, I went through the usual immigration procedures.  Running on 4 hours of sleep on the plane, I accidentally told the officer that I would be in Peru for 8 months (ocho meses) instead of 8 weeks (ocho semanas).  When he told me, in Spanish, that I could only stay 6 months without a visa, I was really confused.  Thankfully, he was very understanding of the blunder and simply smiled when I corrected myself.  The rest of my layover was interesting. I attempted to bring my check-in up to the gates, ended up buying agua con gas which exploded on my pants, got a whiff of some awful fish stench (Lima is by the ocean) and  met 3 girls who were also traveling alone and going to Cuzco to volunteer.  Unfortunately none of them were in my school, but it was nice to know that I wasn´t alone.

arriving at the airport in Cusco

Arriving in Cuzco was thankfully painless.  There was a porter who helped with my bags and we were able to immediately find my ride.  Unfortunately, my ride was waiting for other people and I was waiting in a car for an hour and a half with the driver who only spoke Spanish, but nevertheless entertained me with Peruvian music.  Finally, 2 more passengers from England arrived who were very nice. We chatted until we were dropped off at our home stay in different parts of town.

My host family extremely friendly and welcoming.  They speak very little English and encourage using Spanish at the house.  I met their other homestay person who is from Germany and had been in the house for 3 weeks.  My homestay mama had me drink mate de coca immediately and fed me a delicious meal of egg soup, a special Cuzquenan dish with potatos and cheese, chicken with an unknown sauce and carros, beets and platanos all doused with lime.  After that, I took a cold shower (misunderstood directions on how to get hot water) and went to sleep with wet hair (my blowdryer didn´t fit the adaptor).

I woke up to the sound of a guy, who kind of sounded like my sister´s boyfriend, which threw me off.  He was a third homestay-er and from Utah.  It was good that he was around because my homestay mama was able to send us into an unofficial taxi without fearing for my life.  Since it´s only 3 soles to get to the main plaza (a little over a dollar), we went there and trudged up the hill for a block and a half to get to school.  Let me tell you, 10,500 ft is no joking matter on your first day on an uphill hike.  But.. I managed without too much huffing and puffing and arried at the school where we met many different people from other countries (though many seemed from Holland and the U.S.).

They sent us out on a walking tour with a guide.  Why they have us walking so much on the first day in high altitude is beyond me.  Though, it was nice to see and hear more about our city and chat with the others along the way.  Cuzco is such a beautiful beautiful town. I mean, I heard this before. However, I didn´t realize just how much until I came here.  Halfway through our tour, my housemate managed to smell churros and had it in the brain for the rest of the tour.  So of course, when the tour was done, we rounded up some other classmates and went on a quest to find the churro stand.  We finally found after a very roundabout way and only had to pay .50 soles which is approx 20 cents.  It was amazing.  After, we had the others in the group lead and we ended up towards the more artsy district and had some drinks at El Nomade.  By that time, it was past 8.  We waved goodbye to the group but since my housemate hadn´t spoken to his family in ages, we decided to find an internet cafe.  We stayed for an hour or so and only spent 4 soles (just under 2 dollars)!  I´m really loving the prices in this town!

After, we decided to find food and returned to the churro stand in search of a burger.  Sadly, it closed, but there was a nearby pizzeria.  I tried Inca Kola for the first time. It was not too sweet and definitely tasted like sweet fruity chewing gums do, but it was enjoyable.  We took our pizza and sat in front of the cathedral… chatting about politics, which was happily a painless conversation.  We finally decided to leave because it was getting cold!

Overall, I think a lack of sleep is a small price to pay for fun times with good people.  Now, I am just waiting for my Spanish class to begin.  It isn’t until the afternoon.  Boo hiss.. but whatever.  I will find something to do. 🙂

Ciao.

Journey to Cuzco

I am now currently in Cuzco, Peru in one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had.

Cusco viewIt began when the pilot turned the cabin light on at an ungodly hour of about 5 in the morning.  Since I was sitting at a window seat, my first instinct was to lift the window shade and see what I could find outside.  At that time in the morning, it was still dark, but after a moment, my eyes adjusted and was greeted by a striking view; far out in the horizon was a thin glowing line where the sun would later rise.  Above it, the midnight blue sky still held some stars and the ever present light of Venus. Below was this expanse of darkness.  Land.

The sheer vastness of black had taken me by surprise.  Though I´ve flown over the States several times during the night, I usually see large clusters of orange glow or the omnipresent line of a highway.  However, during this time, below me were small, faint orange clusters.

This was the moment that it really hit me.  I was flying over South America. The realization was overwhelming… though in a heart pounding kind of exciting way.  When I was young, I would look at maps and globes, dreaming of all the places that I wanted to visit.  South America was just a distant land then that I meant to visit but knew very little about or really had no concrete plans to visit. Now here I was.  And for a two month stint!  I can´t wait to see what adventures this land holds for me.

Well, these are my initial thoughts.  I have to go back to my homestay.  But there will be more to come.