Friday, August 20, 2010

Adventure Time! Part #2

Last weekend we finally decided to take a motorcycle tour. It was amazing. Before we went out Arielle took an hour long lesson to try to get more comfortable on a bike. It went well, she spent about a third of the time riding around a grassy area above the city (these are on/off-road motorcycles by the way) and the rest of the time street riding some of the country roads near Cuzco. She had a couple instances of target fixation that worried me but all in all she did really well, and I was able to get some good pictures of her too. The instructor said although she did pretty well but she needed more practice before she could take a bike out on her own. We decided to take a tour on the condition that Arielle would ride with an instructor and could spend more time practicing on the less difficult parts. So we got suited up and off we went.

The scenery here is really amazing and it was hard to concentrate on riding these mountain roads because I just wanted to look around the whole time. Grassy plains with snow peaked mountains in the distance, dirt roads over rolling plains off into the horizon. It was really beautiful, I wish we could have spent more time out there. Now that we know how to get there I think we're going to rent a motorcycle on our own so we're not pressed for time.

We first stopped in a small village, I'm not sure of the name but we got a drink of water and walked up a little path to a church that had a great view of the mountains. It had a large cross in front of it that made for a great picture. After resting there a minute we continued on to the Moray archeological site, of course more great scenery. It is an Inkan Agriculture site dug into the ground 500 feet or so with stepped concentric tiers that work their way up. We walked around and explored for an hour or so enjoying ourselves. Then back on the bikes to go see the salt mines. We rode another 30 mins or so along a dirt mountain road to where it overlooks the salt mines that are dug into the side of the mountain. Our vantage point also overlooked the city of Urubamba and the river it was named after; quite a view.

It was really windy where we were, probably 40-50 mph winds, it made it somewhat difficult to ride as the roads were mostly loose gravel. At this point the sun was setting and we had to ride about 30 miles back into town. When the sun set it instantly got cold (I think the elevation is around 12,000 feet), the jacket they gave me was warm but the mechanics gloves weren't quite up to the job and soon my hands were numb. The ride back was ok, you just have to get used to large tour buses trying to pass you along mountain roads and the completely inept headlight on my XR650L, it's not the best streetbike. I would have gone faster but I'm following our guide and I don't completely know how to get back. We get back near town and weave our way through all the Saturday night traffic entering the city. Back safely at the tour office, we thanked them for everything and head off for a nice thai dinner. Mission Accomplished. I hope to do it again soon.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Adventure Time! Part #1

Its been a couple weeks since I posted last, not because we haven't been doing anything but because we've been doing too much and felt burnt out. The first weekend Arielle and I hiked a few miles up to "Templo de la luna" (Temple of the moon) which overlooks the city. It was a good hike and the temple had lots of little nooks and crannies to explore. So we took some fun pictures, played around a bit, and tried to listen in on some of the tour guides. All in all it was just nice to get some exercise, be out of the apartment, and breath some of that fresh mountain air. The locals seem to like it up there, families were having picnics and playing futbol on the grassy clearings, and people were just sitting or climbing on the rocks, watching the city. I have to admit, it is quite peaceful up there, I should go more often.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Buying Power

Since my last post I had a birthday, I'm now officially 27 years old. I ate a delicious steak sandwich and bought myself a "Chocovanilla" cake at the local cake store. It cost me exactly 13 and one half Nuevo Soles. Which at the current exchange rate of 2.82 Nuevo Soles per USD, cost me $4.78. Not too bad for a delicious cake on one's birthday. This advantage does not solely apply to cakes but to most everything here. I'm going to post a picture of my cake and the groceries Arielle and I bought the other day so you can get a feel for how much food our USDs can really purchase; the total came to S/97.86 or $34.67. FYI, We get our cash from Scotiabank ATMs, they have a partnership with Bank of America so that we're not charged any fees for withdrawals. We pay for everything with cash so no Credit Card fees either. And thank god we can do all our banking online or at ATMs because the lines at banks here are ridiculously long. Here are some of our recent expenditures:

Apartment: $400 USD/month - (By far the most expensive) Includes all utilities (even internet)
(Below are listed in Nuevo Soles)
Groceries: S/97.86
1hr Massage: S/40.00
Cab from Grocery: S/3.00
5 Delicious Empanadas from our local bakery: S/7.00
Bottle of Rum: S/18.00
Six Pack of Beer: S/16.00
Two Brand Name Shirts: S/52.00
Three Pairs of Socks: S/16.00
Heater for our Apartment: S/120.00
Cell Phone: Free Hand-me-down phone & S/10.00 for 30mins prepaid

You get the idea. Unfortunately all the tourist activities are not discounted and come at a premium. When we actually do some of them I'll post prices, hopefully that will be this week. Ciao!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Apartment!

We've been in our new apartment exactly a week and we really love it. It's just the right size for two people (especially a couple). It's so nice to be out of the hostel, we were getting extremely claustrophobic staying in a room with 10 beds. LOKI Hostel is known as a party hostel, and yes it is a fun place to party, but not really a fun place to live for a month. The lack of personal space was really taking a toll on us and I felt really bad for Arielle because she had to work at her computer in the hostel bar (it was the only area with Wi-Fi) every weekday. We have a much more stable internet connection here at the apartment and other nice amenities such as gas stove and oven, cable tv, and comfortable bed and furniture. It is located about a quarter of a mile from the Plaza de Armas on the hill, there are a couple nice parks in the neighborhood and a few corner stores at the end of our street for when we run out of milk, bread, or beer. There is a commercial area about four blocks from our place that has a couple supermarkets, hardware and home amenities stores, and dentist offices. I'm sure there are many more relevant things in our neighborhood but we haven't really explored as much as we'd like too. We do finally feel settled and that we're making a home for ourselves here, now all we need is to get our and do more. I'm posting a video Arielle made of our apartment so everyone can get a feel for where we live, Ciao.

Sickness :(

Its been about two weeks since my last post and I apologize to those who have been waiting but I do have somewhat valid excuses. Until now I have not felt that great, first I had altitude sickness, then I had a parasite and a stomach infection for a couple weeks, then I got a cold. And FINALLY I feel good again, just in time for my birthday and Peruvian Independence Day (Read: Many days) celebrations. As for being sick, I'd rather not know exactly what type of parasite or infection I had because I'd probably just have nightmares about it. What annoys me the most is that I have no idea how I got a parasite in the first place, which makes me a bit paranoid about the food around here. This has caused me not to eat as much as normal and Arielle says I'm losing weight. But things have been getting better, I ate at a nice restaurant the other day called CHI CHA and it was incredible, 5* status for around $20USD, not bad. I'm looking forward to the festival this weekend, they always have lots of good-looking food on display by vendors lining the streets. I'll try to overcome my fear of street food for this special occasion, and I'll take pictures, promise.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some Pics from Cusco

Establishing Ourselves

The last post ended on a bit of a negative note. Fortunately I am in good spirits and have positive news to tell. Last night Arielle and I put a deposit down on an apartment that we'll be moving into on July 22nd, ( ) here is the web address of the place. Its fully furnished with all utilities included which makes our life much easier. Imagine trying to buy furniture and all other household items at a market where no-one speaks your language and you have to communicate having these items delivered to a hidden apartment.....somewhat complicated. Yes I do know it could be done and to some extent I am lazy, or unmotivated or some other negative adjective, basically in the end it would have cost us much time, effort and cash to get a cheaper apartment up to our standards, and we'd rather spend our time enjoying ourselves, selfish aren't we! So we're super excited about that, we feel pretty stir crazy at the hostel now and are itching to get out, only one more week!

On another note, I went to try to get a job teaching ESL yesterday. It went well, the academic director I met with was very nice but unfortunately there aren't any current positions available. She told me that there are expected to be some vacancies soon and she will contact me if anything opens up or if they could use me as a tutor or in some other capacity. I'll be going to some other schools in the next week or so to hopefully line up some work teaching, wish me luck.