Monday, January 24, 2011

Escape to the North

I officially love to travel. I just got back from one of those trips that makes you want to be a traveling hippie for your entire life. Honestly! I am starting to learn the secrets to happy traveling and I’m ready for more. J Two friends and I escaped the constraints of Lima and host families and took off to the North for twelve days. Talk about freedommmmmmm! We spent our time based in Tumbes doing little day trips or overnight adventures to the surrounding area. We stayed with the sister of the sister-in-law of my exchange friend but it was very much our responsibility to plan everything. We bought our own food (from the little corner stores about the size of your average concession stand) and cooked all of our meals if we didn’t eat out. I must say it is quite an experience to budget, buy and feed yourself for twelve days. I feel like I seriously rediscovered the beauty of staple foods like potatoes, noodles, bread and eggs. They are cheap, filling, tasty (when mixed with a few key spices) and did I mention cheap? jaja We also planed and executed our entire itinerary and transportation. Basically there are three options. Collectivo- which is a taxi that has a certain route and stops to pick up random people along the way. Motor taxi- for shorter trips within the city this is a good option because the drivers know how to get everywhere even if you don’t. J Bus- for a longer trip to the beach or another city. But, it’s definitely the least comfortable of the three options because they are super crowded, hard seated and lack air conditioning. After getting off the bus from Ecuador my shirt was so sweaty that the nine year old daughter literally thought I had been hit by a water ballon. hahahahaha! That reminds me of an absolutely FABULOUS tradition that should definitely become part of Wenatchee life. It’s called carnivales! Basically that means that all summer long the entire city is entitled to participate in a ginormous water fight. At any given moment you can be pegged by water balloons or squirtguns and it is completely acceptable. It makes walking to the store MUCH more of an adventure… and unfortunately for us the gringos stick out as very nice targets! We had quite a few incidents with little neighbor boys, motor taxi’s full of teenagers, and even random guys standing on the corner. haha J

Here are a couple random highlights

1) Beachtime. Tumbes is right on the border with Ecuador and it is HOT HOT HOT! So what better way to spend the day than playing in the ocean? Especially when this province is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in Peru. Our favorite beach was Zorritos and we spent three afternoons tumbling around in its waves and lounging in the shade of the palm structures. It is one of those HUGE beaches that you see in postcards with white sand, blue water and crashing waves. But the best thing about it is that it isn’t overly crowded. On the contrary it was nearly private. We only had to share with about three or four other families and a lot of red crabs. Although we did have three different encounters with overly friendly men. This guys would come over and start a conversation with us while we were swimming and then they didn’t take the hints that we were DONE talking. And we were quite blunt too. hahahahaha Once we practically had to run away to convince the dude that we didn’t want a ride back to Tumbes.

2) Cerros de Amotape. This was our adventure in the wilderness. It is a national park with gorgeous hiking and lookout spots but it’s a tab bit difficult to access. First you have to get permission from the government and then you have to find a way to spend the night. We ended up camping in a borrowed tent without any type of sleeping gear or padding. jaja luckily it wasn’t cold and we found a nice little lady in the miniscule town to sell us a few bottles of water and cook us dinner. Totally worth it.

3) Hervideros. These are basically big huge medicinal mud pits. You take a motor taxi about half an hour into the middle of nowhere and then you see these huge stone walls. Inside are 5 different mudpits, the sound of hundreds of singing birds and some buckets full of yellowish water to rinse off. It is really one of the most tranquil places I have ever been and I am sure a lot of people would pay good money if they knew about it. Lucky for us we only had to pay two soles to the ancient little grandpa for filling up the rinsing buckets. Yay! We spent about 2 hours playing in the mud and smearing ourselves with various shades of black, brown and green. oooooooooooo just think back to how fun it was to wiggle your toes in the mud when you were a little kid making mud pies and then multiply it by 1000. Best feeling in the world!

4) Rainstorm. Tumbes is still costal but it has a totally different type of climate than Lima. Much more desert-y trees and brush land. AND it has a rainy season. It turns out that we picked the perfect dates for our trip because we had sun everyday but we still got to experience one night of torrential rainstorm. Ahhhhhh how wonderful is rain! We were up on the third floor in the hamak when the drops started pounding down on the tin roof. It sounded like a semi truck rumbling along and completely blocked out all noice. So instead of the suffocating, sleep-without-sheets type of weather and loud crowing of the neighborhood roosters, we got to relax in one night of paradise. I slept like a baby is the cool air and yummy smell of fresh rain. I must say I really started to appreciate the value of water during this trip! Swimming in the ocean, hearing the sound of rain or even just drinking a glass of water was heaven. We were buying our own water so I can tell you that we drank at least 65 liters between the three of us... YIKES!

5) Mancora. This is considered the most gorgeous beach in the north and is also part of an awesome little hippy town. It is two hours south of Tumbes so we took our backpacks, some food, and jumped on the bus to explore. We found a hostel on the main street for just 10 soles ($ 3.50) a night so we spent two days living the life of a beach bum. J I absolutely loved the relaxed atmosphere and random mix of Peruvians tourists from all over the world. We met people from Columbia, Ecuador, Argentina, Spain, Europe, the US and of course other parts of Peru…From the restaurant owners to the surfshop instructors to the street vendors to the other beach goers, everyone was SUPER friendly! At night we went and joined a huge bonfire on the beach too. We just sat there listening to the sound of the waves mix with the guitars, drums and voices of the Argentinean hippies and enjoyed the night. A few rather drucken firedancers performed for us and we watched the stars and it was an incredible end to the evening J

6) Puerto Pizzaro. Where the river Tumbes meets the ocean and Francisco Pizzaro first landed to claim Peru, it is a very famous tourist attraction. This was our first adventure and we got slightly ripped off as unknowing tourists. Our nine year old buddies later informed us that we had paid about 30 soles too much. Opps! But it was still a fantastic day. We went on a boat tour to see the Manglares, toured the crocodile reserve, ate ceviche and black conch on an island and explored the sandy/ muddy beaches of the island Huesos de Ballena.

7) Thief. Somebody tried to steal my friends camera! This is the second time I have been walking with a friend during an attempted pickpocket. Neither time was the kid successful but Savannah is the first female exchange student to have to fight for her stuff. And she did AWESOME! We were just three American girls walking innocently to the plaza de Armas in our summer dresses when BANG- disaster struck. Savannah had her camera inside a flowery bag but somehow the kid knew it was there. We think he probably saw us taking pictures earlier and then ran ahead to wait for us. Anyway, he was a very inexperienced thief and completely failed to steal anything. He made the grab, wrestled her for a few seconds, realized his mistake and jumped into a waiting motortaxi to get away. Savannah used her awesome basketball instincts and even sacrificed a little blood and a scraped knee to win that fight. YAY!

8) Ecuador. Yes, that’s right, I have now been to ECUADOR! It wasn’t a long trip because we just passed into the border city but it still counts. We ate icecream, walked around in the plaza de armas, and even bought something with dollars. Woooooow they use US bills, one dollar coins and a few of their own coins as well, so it’s quite an odd mix.

Wow, I got back on Friday and am leaving for another 8 day trip today (Monday). Just enough time to unpack, rest, wash clothes, write a quick blog post, and repack again…