Ecuador–Quito and Otavalo

“For me the essence of travel is seeing how other people live around the world; to gain understanding and dispel fear of otherness.” Natasha von Geldern

Ecuador–Quito and Otavalo

Before I tell you about my last few days on the S. America trip, I want to speak  again of the volatile political situation in Ecuador.  I mentioned in the Cuenca post that the upper classes are furious about some of the more socialist policies of the Correa government.  In addition to the inheritance tax proposals, the institution of an income tax has generated the ire of some middle and even working class folks.  The opposition is using the same street tactics used by the working class to topple 7 presidents in the 10 years prior to Correa’s election.  The government says that the ruling class and some in the military are colluding with the U.S. to stage a coup in Ecuador.  After having lived through U.S. coups and attempted coups in so many So. American, Central American, African, Middle Eastern, Carribean (etc.) countries, I don’t doubt the claims.

Demonstration by those in opposition to the Correa government changes.

Demonstration by those in opposition to the Correa government changes in Cuenca (bigger ones in Quito and Guayaquil prior to the Pope’s arrival).

Police protecting federal building in Cuenca during demo of business leaders, doctors. and others.

Police protecting federal building in Cuenca during demo by upper classes,  business leaders, doctors. some unions, and others.

Correa remains highly popular among the poor, and easily won an unprecedented 3rd term, though his support is centered in the rural areas rather than cities.  I am very impressed that Correa has been bold enough to take on the entrenched forces of historically powerful and corrupt families, wealthy landowners, military leaders, and corporations.

Here’s a good summary of the positive changes made under Correa:

Positive Correa Changes

However, there is spreading dissatisfaction.  I myself would be protesting Correa (and leftist Morales in Bolivia) for his rampant oil extraction policies in the Amazon, despite my support his other policies.  It seems these leaders have forgotten Pacha Mama in the rush to improve living standards.

Government Spies on those Resisting Oil Extraction

Some Indigenous groups oppose Core

Cops all over Quito in force for both anti- and pro-government demonstrations.

Cops all over Quito in force for both anti- and pro-government demonstrations.

Cops gather in main plaza

Cops gather in main plaza

At pro-government rally where folks took over streets.

At pro-government rally where folks took over streets.

Our Tactic...take street and sing/dance against right wing Mayor during red lights but let cars go on green.

Our Tactic…take street and sing/dance against right wing Mayor (most cities have majority votes against Correa) during red lights but let cars go on green.

Quito is yet another architectural wonder with beautiful colonial buildings in the old town.

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The central Cathedral is amazing as well:

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But as usual, I centered on the people.  The sex workers, for example, are legal, not hassled by cops, and the going rate for tourists is $20.  Their downtown location is adjacent to the Cultural Plaza with theaters, etc.

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They have no union but were interested to know of unionized sex workers in the U.S.   One woman I had a long chat with says it would be great to organize her colleagues to better their conditions.  Then, getting back to business, she asked me how I could resist all these beautiful girls.  As in the market place where merchants commonly direct you to another seller of you don’t want their products, she urged me to check out some of her friends.

 

In a huge park high above the city, there was a grand showroom with a dog show, and people dancing/exercising together.  Ecuadorans love their humming birds!

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I went to the touristy “Middle of the World” (the equator) north of Quito one day, though the actual location of the equator is in a different spot known for thousands of years by indigenous tribes!  I enjoyed the museum, which pictured 50 different models of ecologically sane developments in various parts of the world.

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Straddling the

Straddling the “equator”

Otavalo has one of the largest, most popular markets in So. America on Saturdays.  The town and its streets were turned into one giant, colorful, indigenous market.  I had a great time chatting, bargaining, and eating in the central market.  Note the colors of the very real fruit the woman below is selling, along with her matching shoes!  Here are a few of the many pics I took, using my cell phone “stealth” technique:

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Men keep their hair long, for the most part, as is their tradition.

Men keep their hair long, for the most part, as is their tradition.

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Even the birds are full of color!

Even the birds are full of color!

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The highlight of Quito, though, was meeting my friend Oscar while listening to some guys playing guitar and singing in the main plaza (Old Town) one afternoon.

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Oscar and I hung out together visiting the city, shopping, eating, listening to music, and making our own.  Oscar spoke good English to me (he’s a very bright guy to pick it up so well without working in the tourist industry or traveling) and I spoke Spanish to him, and we could talk about anything and everything.  He has 2 kids and has been divorced for 7 years.  At one point Oscar said he knows many people in Quito, where he’s lived his whole life.  But he has “only five real friends”, and I was really moved when he said that I was one of them!

We spent a last evening in his buddy’s cafe joking, singing, and drinking a bottle of liquor.

Oscar loved playing and singing ballads from Mexico, So. America and U.S.

Oscar loves playing and singing ballads from Mexico, So. America, Cuba and U.S.

Cafe owner Ivan (top), Antonio (left) who sang Beatles songs perfectly in English, and Jaime

Cafe owner Ivan (top-former engineer), Antonio (left) who sang Beatles songs perfectly in English, and Jaime

Oscar sang me a special, sad ballad with tears in his eyes: “When a Friend Must Go” about the empty space left in one’s heart.  The last day we went to the central museum, and a concert before he took me to the bus heading to the airport.

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It doesn’t seem that Oscar has had intimate relationships since his marriage broke up, or at least he didn’t speak of it.  Before our last bus ride together, I told my lonely, shy friend that I expected that within a year he’d be in a new relationship…and suggested he be bold, confident and keep me informed.  He agreed to do so.  We got on the bus and were standing next to an attractive woman his age, and I started up a discussion.  When 2 seats opened up, he invited her to sit down with him while I stayed with my backpack.  The two had a lively chat for 20 minutes until she had to get off.  When I asked if he got her number, Oscar smiled and nodded.

Check out these wonderful pictures of Quito, it’s surrounding volcanoes, and beautiful people! Quito Photos

Thanks for following me on this trip! Look for stories of past travels due out soon–if you press “follow” on the bar above, you’ll get notification of new posts.

“Travel opens your mind as few other things do. It is its own form of hypnotism, and I am forever under its spell.” ― Libba Bray

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Ecuador–Salinas de Guaranda

Ecuador–Salinas

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

Leaving Cuenca with only a week left before returning to the U.S., I decided I needed a few days in a small village.  I found isolated Salinas de Guaranda (not to be confused with the coastal city of Salinas), in the central highlands between Cuenca and Quito in the north.  I was intrigued because an Italian priest (Father Antonio Polo) and organizer came to the town 40 years ago, and helped the locals build cooperatives to elevate their standard of living though sharing raw materials and production processes.  Father Antonio, who changed the lives of thousands in a profound and permanent way, apparently still lives in Salinas.  These coops are coordinated and work together, and have developed over the decades.  Also, the pueblo has a number of outlying, smaller pueblitos reachable by mountainous hiking within a day that are included in the cooperative model. Salinas is a perfect place to cool your heels in a unique, friendly, eco-conscious (advanced recycling system for example), laid back pueblo at 3550 meters (11,644 feet) in the beautiful Andes.  The working girl below is about 7 years old.

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The largest coops are cheese, wool products, and chocolate, but separate cooperatives include dried fruit, soccer balls, hostel, compost, mushrooms, sausages, jams, etc.  It was exciting to speak with workers in the coops and find out about what it feels like to work in their own enterprises, their wages and working conditions, and the structure of the coop administration. Carlos runs the Refugio Hostel, one of a chain of cooperatively owned ones, where I stayed (see example of the mosaics created for each of the coops), and we became friends.  He owns a ranch with cows, sheep, pigs, etc. and accompanied me on the trip to Quito, where he was buying a couple cows at the market.

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I really got into the cheese-making and chocolate process.  Here’s the main location of the chocolate factory, where the workers make $400/mo for a 40 hr week, plus OT.  Some of funds go to education, health clinic, roads, cheap public transportation, etc.  Most workers make the same wage.

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Decades ago, sheep herders simply sold sheared wool for a paltry sum.  Now, wool is processed into yarn, and artisans make beautiful products that are sold for an amount allowing a decent standard of living.

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I went for a beautiful hike one day up a thousand or so Kms through a canyon to a neighboring pueblo, Natahua, where a handful of homes sitting on a hilltop.  The only folks I saw in town were a couple women, a guy, and a couple kids.  They greeted me, and the man turned out to be the local cheese maker who invited me to see what he does.  I spent hours with Cesar as he taught me the process of making various cheeses (including pepper and oregano), and explained how the coop works.

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Carlos and his kids Selida and Sergio.  They have beautiful smiles, but take stoic photos.

Carlos and his kids Selida and Sergio. They have beautiful smiles, but take stoic photos.

After hours of cooking milk delivered daily by farmers, salt and other ingredients begin to solidify it.

After hours of cooking milk delivered daily by farmers, salt and other ingredients begin to solidify it.

As it thickens it is stirred, cut in pieces, and cooked for a couple more hours.

As it thickens it is stirred, cut in pieces, and cooked for a couple more hours.

The curdled wet cheese is sifted and placed in cylinders for pressing into cheese blocks.

The curdled wet cheese is sifted and placed in cylinders for pressing into cheese blocks.

Kids collect buckets of discarded cheese liquid almost as big as themselves to feed pigs at home.

Kids collect buckets of discarded cheese liquid almost as big as themselves to feed pigs at home.

Cheese is cooled and pressed by cylindrical weights.

Cheese is cooled and pressed by cylindrical weights.

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Cesar told me that their two room (warm one to cook cheese and cold room for curing and storage) is out of compliance with health inspectors.  They will need a new facility which I believe he said will cost $120,000, which is beyond their reach.  So if the Natahua cheese processing ceases, farmers will need to transport their milk to another pueblito or to Salinas.

Here are a few more pics of the murals, market day, and other images–check out the girl around 4 years old leading her working llama.  Also, saw many young women in traditional dress here…note the young mom below.

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Believe me, I could go on quite awhile about the Salinas community where I felt right at home, but for those who want to know more detail and see better pics, I suggest you go to:  Another, more detailed blog on Salinas  and More pics and details of Salinas

With only a few more days left before my flight home, I reluctantly left Salinas with Carlos for Guarando and on to Quito. Note that I am back in the U.S. now and will post my experiences in the capitol of Quito soon!

Hoping all is well with you.

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it is over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

– Mary Oliver

“Did Your Wife Die?”

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” — Peter Hoeg

“DID YOUR WIFE DIE?”

I tend to focus on what I’ve been seeing and doing, rather than day-to-day interactions.  But of course, interactions and relationships with others (especially with the locals) are key to travel for me.  One of the interesting phenomena, especially for an outgoing sociologist like myself, is to observe the reactions of women to a man traveling by himself.  I’ve recapped some of the incidents and friendships developed as my travels have progressed.  There are trips when I’ve worn a wedding ring when not married, others when I’ve not worn one when I was…on this trip I decided to sport my gold band despite the warnings against wearing jewelry.  I know that the young guys have a field day in South America, but me?  You’d think that an old guy, wearing a wedding ring, who was never that good-looking, answers questions honestly, and has been monogamous for 34 years (yes, I’m counting — you old friends who said it would never happen), might avoid predicaments.  Despite all this, some interesting questions have surfaced.

Several women have asked if I might be interested in their friend or daughter.  I sometimes joke that I’m sure I would, but polygamy is against the law in my country.  Or joke that I would give my wife a call and ask if that would be ok, if they just hold on a minute.  Today in the market, I pretended to call my wife and ask if I could bring home the three women we were chatting with in the food stall who wanted to travel to the U.S….they listened closely to my “conversation” in Spanish and cracked up when I let them know my wife would be very happy to have them.

A Chilean woman asked, over a period of a couple of days, before retreating:

Did your wife die?

Are you divorced?

Are you happily married?

Do you still live with your wife in the same house?

But the question that takes the gold medal so far was a young European woman I got to know on a multi-day tour, and become friends with…she must have been about my daughter’s age.  We talked about our lives, travel and futures, as well as her relishing the loose party atmosphere among travelers of all types and nationalities.  At one point she looked at me very determinedly and said “I know you’re married and all, but are you monogamous?!”  Well, it took me a while to recover, but I kept my record going by stuttering the following: “Why, yes I am”…and I didn’t even add the phrase “…up until this very moment.”

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

Equador–Guayaquil and Cuenca

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Andre Gid

My first stop in Equador was Guayaquil on the southern coast.  It is said that Quito is the Ecuadorian governmental center, Cuenca is the cultural center, and Guayaquil is the crime (and commerce) center.  Though I was there only a couple of days, I enjoyed my brief stay and continued to feel absolutely safe on this trip.  Note that I did not venture far from my hotel at night, however.  Came in late and grabbed a very nice hotel room, at an “”expensive” $30 per night.

Wedding party also stayed at my hotel.  Here bride is texting groom about whether to go ahead with it?

Wedding party also stayed at my hotel. Here bride is texting groom about whether to go ahead with it?

I loved the central market across the street.  Had a bowl of morning soup and a cheese/corn ball thing…both unique in my experience and good.

10 cured meat and cheese shops in a row!

10 cured meat and cheese shops in a row!

Guayaquil has undergone some determined renovation in recent years, while maintaining some of its colonial architecture.  The Malecon is their upscale, long, shore pedestrian route.   The ancient, restored frigate is partly used as a bar, the men busts are of parliamentary debate, kids float on water in big balls, the historic handshake of liberators Martin and Bolivar, and signs from large structures dedicated to the 4 elements.

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Here’s a small taste of some of the amazing colonial architecture of the city, though you may have had your fill by now:

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I enjoyed the Plaza de las Iquanas and the S. F. Cathedral.  The iguanas have taken over the plaza, though they reluctantly share with pigeons and people.  The giant lizards are great shots from the trees with their poop, rivaling monkey and baboon shenanigans I’ve also experienced first hand.  Many a tourist outfit is ready for the cleaners each day!

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Some additional pics of my wanderings through the plazas and streets of Guayaquil.

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The main event in Ecuador was visiting my friend from men’s group, Steve Sheridan, and his wonderful wife Nanci in beautiful Cuenca.  It was an amazing, heartful, and restful week with them, and we had plenty of time to get to know each other on a much deeper level than before.  They are truly loving, spiritual, satisfied and peaceful people, and I felt I could live with them forever.  They are making their new home, situated on the outskirts of town in the campo, very comfortable, rustic, and tasteful. Nanci has a show garden of amazing, gorgeous flowers.   Steve is building great furniture to complement the natural wood furnishings of their huge home, patio with stove, grill and huge baking oven, and yard of paradise.  I couldn’t believe what $400 can rent in Ecuador!  Yet another treat was meeting and hanging out with Richard and Myung, another expat couple with many years of travel experience who have settled in Cuenca.

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I also got a good taste of their wonderful, well-preserved town, and truly understand why it has become a mecca for expats.  The size is reasonable (around 500,000), altitude is not too high (around 7500 feet), the air is neither too cold nor muggy, and the amount of rain is acceptable.  Plenty of traditional and modern culture, and about anything you need to buy from traditional markets or sprawling malls.   You can even assure your child is dressed provocatively by shopping at the ¨Sweet and Sexy¨ children’s clothing store. The 4 large rivers running through town have parks and walkways all along them, with many joggers, power walkers, dancing in the park in evenings, exercise stations, yoga and other movement groups, free government bikes and helmets on Sundays, etc.

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This bridge washed out 50 years ago and was never rebuilt across.

This bridge washed out 50 years ago and was never rebuilt across.

Huge area of ruins in middle of city is preserved.

Huge area of ruins in middle of city is preserved.

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Pablo mural

I encourage you to check out these pics of Cuenca: Beautiful Cuenca

I was also shocked and pleased at the incredible strides that President Correa and his administration have made in recent years, including tremendous infrastructure improvements, providing for the common person (heavily subsidized transport, health care for all, improved public education, free symphony and other cultural events, and taxes on the wealthy to pay for it.  It was interesting to be here and experience street protests by the wealthy, business execs, physicians, and others (and many say teaming with the military and the U.S. to stage a coup) demanding the ouster of the Correa despite his widespread popularity and re-election by a wide margin.  They especially hate the inheritance and income taxes that have not been present in the past.

But many middle class people resent the many new taxes placed on common goods, which has put a dent in his image, especially in the cities. Unfortunately, with the price of oil so far down, some taxes are apparently being applied to working folks, causing some backlash in that sector as well.   I am disappointed that Correa, like Evo Morales in Bolivia, is not protecting the rainforests; oil exploration, horrid pollution even in so-called protected areas, and widespread clearing in the Amazon rainforest is rampant.  The country is quite politically polarized at this point.

After a blissful week relaxing with Steve and Nanci, I made the decision to move north toward Quito via the Andes rather than via the jungle.  I’m heading to a small, mountain village off the beaten track called Salinas de Guaranga.

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Peru–West Coast

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

– Gustave Flaubert

PERU–WEST COAST

I took a day bus from Arequipa to Paracas, rather than the many night buses, and am very glad I did.  The South Coast of Peru is beautiful, even for someone who has been spoiled by my number one favorite, Big Sur.  So on the left were many gorgeous seascapes, enormous sand dunes hundreds of feet high, and on the right the desert sands and moonscape prevailed.

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But I encourage you to look at some much better images here:  South Coast Photos The quiet harbor town of Paracus, just south of Pisco, and a couple hundred km south of Lima, is the lauch spot for the Ballestas Islands and the Paracas National Reserve.  Here as some pics of our couple hour boat ride around the Islands.  Note that I love pelicans, and they have special meaning from when Carol and I were courting, counting them when we drove the Santa Cruz coast bus route, and talking in code on the radio about numbers of pelicans heading toward the other.  You can count them by the thousands here.

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Penguin colonies abound on the Islands, as well as seals, sea lions, cormorants, and dozens of other bird species.  Note the birds using the old guano exporting dock as a nesting ground…there was once a shitty war over control of the rich guano deposits.

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Here are real photos, especially closeups of the very cute penguins: Ballestas Island Photos

Then I went to the Paracas National Reserve, where I saw 30 million year old fossils from when this was the sea bottom, natural bridges and cliffs recently collapsed from earthquakes and erosion, more pelicans strutting around like kings, and seascapes including the red sand beaches.

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Due to time constraints, I made the hard decision to totally skip Lima (I was there for over a week on my last trip here), and went up to the busy, little city of Barranca (pop. 45,000).  I hated the incessant honking that seems endemic to Peruvian drivers, who honk when anyone slows down, gets near them, or for just about any other reason.

Visited the recently uncovered, oldest civilization in So. America dating back about 5000 years!  Previously, the city of Chavin de Huantar (900 BC) near Huaraz held that title.  Generations of people in the neighboring town grew up playing on the sand covered hills without knowing what lie below until an archeologist flew over and noted the geological inconsistency of the hills.  Caral was the main seat of government of the 18 city-states in valleys there.  Six stone pyramids were found here, along with amphitheaters, ceremonial rooms, altars, circular sunken plazas, etc. covering a huge area.  Below are some map renditions of what it is supposed to have looked like, an aerial view, and a couple of images of what’s been uncovered to this point.  Also, featured below are amazing sacrificial dolls from the era, and a sample of the rocks in twine sacks used in the foundations of the buildings to allow them to rock back and forth with the earthquakes without falling.  Note that modern-day architects use this theory to build earthquake resistant buildings today.

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image image image   image image You can check out more images of Caral, if you’re interested: Caral Ruin Images

Heading from Barranca to the highland town of Huaraz we were blocked by this huge herd of goats, but were soon amongst the highest peaks in Peru.

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I went for an amazing hike toward the glaciers around Huaraz, and here are some sample views of the mountains, cascades, glaciers, and lakes I saw, as well as my favorite rock.  I don’t have the superlatives to describe the beauty of this area, and now understand how people spend weeks hiking in this wonderland.  I was limited by the 17,000 foot high trails and lack of oxygen…my heart was truly working overtime to distribute what little oxygen I could take in!  An Israeli IDF guy on the trail made it higher than I did, but collapsed and it took many hours to get him down.

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I am writing this, and you are likely reading it, to get some of the thrill of amazing sites you may not ever see.  So if you’re not going to Huaraz soon, do take a minute to do the next best thing and see these photos:  Don’t Miss These Huaraz Shots!

After Huaraz, the winding road down the Andes was thrilling and I saw several pueblos I could have settled into if I had more time.  But the desert road north was certainly rather boring.

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I did appreciate attempts at recycling taking place in Peru:

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My next stop was the fishing village, cum beach and surfing town, of Huanchaco outside Trujillo.  The humidity was such a contrast to the highlands (again).  Below is the image of the reed boats still in use, an amazing parade of over 1000 people in this small town celebrating the anniversary of one school (!), and my attempt to capture the large left break at sunset (you can see some surfers still out). The surf was down while I was there, and note that there is a spot on the coast where you can catch a wave and ride for over a mile! A casually dressed woman approached me on the beach, asked where I was staying and whether I’d like company while in town.  This appeared over the line of non-sex worker behavior, and I apologetically declined the offer.

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I spent the next day in the wonderful colonial town of Trujillo (one of the best preserved when it comes to architecture) before jumping on an all night bus up the coast further.  Here’s a taste of the buildings there, though I’m sure most of you have had your fill of colonial architecture:

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I decided not to stay in the surfer beach town of Mancora in the very north of Peru, but rather jumped a bus to Guayaquil, Equador.

May all your trails be crooked, winding, dangerous, leading to the most amazing views, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you.”  – Edward Abbey

Peru–Lake Titicaca and Arequipa

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Henry Miller

Lake Titicaca is shared by Peru and Bolivia, and through the millennia various cultures have also developed, many at the same time, around the huge, beautiful lake and it´s 40 plus islands.  Titicaca is at an altitude of 12,500 feet and is the largest in S. America, if you don´t count the salt bay of Maracaibo.  I decided to relax in the La Paz weekend escape town of Copacabana for a couple of days before traveling through Peru.  Since I´d been in and around the lake before, I didn´t do the tourist route in and around Titicaca.

On the way to Titicaca

Titicaca on the way to Copa

Our bus and passengers caught different ferries to reach Copacabana

Our bus and passengers caught different ferries to reach Copacabana

This shrine to Bolivia’s patron saint, Basilica of our Lady of Copacabana, built in the 16th century, is stunning.

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Check out more detailed shots of church if you have time: More pics of Basilica

Some other views of Copa:

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Old woman unable to stand beggng at bus station.

Old woman unable to stand beggng at bus station.

Chef Peter, is pictured below (doing his best not to look miserable) while recovering from a 3 day bout with Tupac Amaru’s revenge, including IV antibiotic/rehydration.  Peter gets my medal for most amazing traveler I’ve met so far.  He makes money as a taxi driver when not traveling, as well as being a Chef in Munich and on the road.  He’s lived in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and elsewhere for years at a time.  In 35 years of travel, he’s covered over 130,000 km (83,700 mi) and 95 countries.  ALL BY BICYCLE!!!  His trips include Munich (home town) to So. Africa, and Hong Kong to Istanbul.  He met only two other travelers in his many months of traversing China years ago.  He’s done over 20,000 km on this trip and will end up biking the Andes from South to North…yikes!

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I did walk to a small fishing village nearby called Saraina, and below are a few images of that outing:

Village Pres (with grandkid), VP and Secretary.  We talked about projects the village is working on.

Village Pres (with grandkid), VP and Secretary. We talked about the village and projects the village is working on.

Boys straightening and packing nets for next day's outing.

Boys straightening and packing nets for next day’s outing.

View from the village shoreline.

View from the village shoreline.

I also became friends with the microbus driver who invited me to see the house he’s building for and with his son in the north of the penninsula.  Some pics from the trip there:

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View from cliff by the new house

View from cliff by the new house

His mom and dad were preparing cement... building crew was all family.  House for his son and family.

His mom and dad, perhaps 72 years old, were preparing cement… building crew was all family.

From Copa, I took a long bus ride to the well-preserved colonial city Arequipa, Peru.  I enjoyed reading, relaxing and watching movies on the great long distance buses.  Took a walking tour of the great white city, where buildings are built of sillar, or ignimbrite, rock formed by millenia of volcanic activity and gases. Here’s a glimpse:

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Roger, Swiss, and I hung out together in Arequipa and Colca Canyon trip.

Roger (Swiss) and I hung out together in Arequipa and Colca Canyon trip.

I loved the old, beautiful St. Catherine convent, which resembles a small, walled city.  It is still in operation, though on a much smaller scale.  They discovered tunnels where the priests snuck in to bed the nuns.  There were also bones of fetuses found in some tunnels from nun abortions in this party convent of women from wealthier families (major donations needed to gain entry)…the guides do not want to discuss this.

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Here are a couple of the buildings lit up at night on the main plaza:

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There is a major struggle going on in the huge farming valley nearby (Tomba?), where the government officials have been bought off by a Mexican mining magnate who plans to mine in the area upstream from the valley.  Farmers and their families are putting up a strong resistance to the mine, inevitable pollution of the river, and destruction of their way of life.  We had a long conversation with some of those affected, who have been staging a long vigil in the central plaza of Arequipa.  We exchanged chants as well as strategies of resistance.

Blasting corrupt governor-“You bathe in the blood of the people”

Blasting corrupt governor-"You bathe in the blood of the people"

Banner with images below stressing need to use the valley for food for the people:

 

"You hit/shot my father, killed my brother, you kicked by mother...and you call me a terrorist?"

“You hit/shot my father, killed my brother, you kicked by mother…and you call me a terrorist?”

Mourning the loss of comrades--quotes from MLK, Gandhi and Oscar Romero

Mourning the loss of comrades–quotes from MLK, Gandhi and Oscar Romero

Banner defending growth of food for the people

 

See more and better pics of Arequipa and its surrounding volcanoes here:  Arequipa Photos

 

I went on a guided trek into Colca Canyon, one of the two deepest canyons in the world, which is paired with its deeper partner not far from Colca.  They are twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, though not as beautiful.  Still, the canyon was wonderful to see and traverse down to the river, with its waterfalls, oasis, and towering walls. The standout were the many condors to be seen–the condor is my animal being, I believe.

Our intrepid hikers

Our intrepid hikers from Spain, Brazil, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Holland, USA

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Don’t settle on these crappy photos, especially of the magnificent condors: Colca canyon and condors

 

 

On the way back, we passed by a couple small towns.  Volunteers were planting the central plaza with beautiful flowers and plants, others were selling, hanging out, or driving their very cute motorcycle taxi carts.

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Coming up next…the W. Coast of Peru including Billestas Islands and North Coast adventures.

Hoping all is well with you!

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

 

Ode to Aurora

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

You may remember that I spoke of an incredible painting that reflected the brilliant, visionary, spiritual, transcendent, loving sensitivity of my sister-in-law that died recently.

This painting in the museum in El Alto (the indigenous suburb of La Paz) I stumbled across blew my mind.  Freddy, the museum guide, pointed out you can smell the huge rose at all times, and feel some air and energy pass to your hands when you put them near the painting.  At first  I didn’t believe  him, but it  was absolutely true! The painting is of a beautiful woman that reminded me of my sister in law. Her name was Aurora, and she possessed a knowledge, extra sensory perception, spritual presence, and capabilities beyond which most normally have access…somehow I wasn´t surprised when Freddy told me the painting was entitled Aurora!

I found the photo and will now post it for you:

Aurora

Aurora

Aurora is the Roman goddess of dawn.  And these images of the Aurora Borealis go with a poem I wrote after her death (below), about Aurora and her everpresent light: Visions of Aurora

Aurora, may you enjoy your current travels.

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton

Aurora, You Are Light

You manifest light, we reflect light

Overcoming early life burdens

Eyes twinkling

Smiling teeth glisten

Dazzling beauty

Sensual vibrating presence

 

Emanating brilliance

Visioning peaceful soul and universe

Path divinely illuminated

Beacon for ships in peril

 

Absorption bringing forth reflection

Loving heart luminescent red

Static separation to energetic connection

Perplexing shadows to liberating insight

Rich humor uplifts

Deep despair floats toward sun

 

Stagnant ponds to gleaming waters

Bursting Iridescent bubbles

Bright hues from rainbow palette

Warmth from earth mother depths

 

My brother moved to elation

My heart broken releasing bright memories

Star blazing for eons

Glow of spirit eternal

Now lightening spirits everywhere