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!