Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The end of the road…

June 30th –> July 7th, 2010 by Jason

Wow, it’s hard to imagine but this is it…years of saving and planning, random hostels, travel agencies, taxis, buses, planes and trains and of course so many new friends all around the world…and just under 11 months of travel are nearly over!

After Cusco we wanted to see at least one other town in Peru, but with a goal of keeping towards Lima as we work to catch our flight home. We boarded our bus to Arequipa just after 8.30pm Tuesday night and settled in for a nice 8 hr journey to Arequipa. We had large comfy seats and they even served a small dinner of grilled chicken with rice and potatoes (not bad either, although what’s the deal with 2 starches with dinner?!) We arrived in Arequipa about 45 minutes late, at about 5.45am. We grabbed our bags and booked a ticket to Lima for Saturday night and then hauled next door to the other bus station (that’s right, 2 different bus stations right next to one another!) and met the owners of our hostel for a free ride to their place! We checked into Arequipay Backpackers which is a little bit out of downtown but offers a nice, quiet place to hang out for a few days! A quick shower and a nice breakfast before Swiss spent the morning getting his last post to the blog posted.


We were pretty wiped out by the long bus ride so we decided to head towards the center of Cayma, the small zone we’re staying in. We grabbed some delicious roasted chicken for lunch then decided to watch The A-Team which was playing at the local cinema…that’s right the motivation to do any sightseeing is waining! Hey, at least we tried the local cola at lunch!!


We eventually found the local supermarket, which was hiding 2 floors below the movie theatre, as it turns out, and bought some food for dinner. We headed home so I could get caught up on photos online (there’s no time to do that when I get home, I’m pretty sure my mom already has a list of things for me to do!) and made a tasty dinner. I headed up to bed early to catch some sleep!

Chemically cooked fish, yum!

So Thursday we decided to head into town and do some sight-seeing. A quick walk around Plaza de Armas and it was off for some ceviche! If you haven’t had it before it’s very tasty citrus marinated fish or seafood and they do it especially well here in Peru (some claim that it was created here, but since there was no citrus here until after the Spanish invaded, it may have been done but certainly not in it’s current form.) This place was delicious, but of course we’ll have to compare it to a place in Lima before we go!!

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After lunch we headed over to the Santa Catalina Monastery, one of the larger and most famous sights in Arequipa, and the star attraction of the historic center’s UNESCO World Heritage status. We spent a good 2+ plus hours there wandering the streets and various rooms and “cells” (their word, not mine) where the nuns used to live. The place is literally a city within a city with multiple streets and used to serve as a center of education for the local poor hundreds of years ago. Enjoy some pics:

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It really is a beautiful place and well worth a visit when you’re here in Arequipa, despite it’s high admission price (S/30 or 10 USD.)  A quick stop at the grocery store to grab a few supplies for lunch tomorrow (there are some big World Cup games to be enjoyed!) and we headed home to order a pizza and watch some movies!

World Cup heats up

Well Friday was a big morning with the Holland/Brasil game kicking off at 9am here in Peru, and we had some Dutch people here to watch the game with us. I’m not going to lie, but we were pretty lazy. We cooked a little lunch and then enjoyed the extended Uruguay/Ghana match (man, that Ghana team loves going into extra time, eh?!)

That night they were firing up the BBQ at our hostel (bring whatever you want to have cooked) and considering it’s the 4th of July weekend and I doubt the Hilton in Lima will have a grill where we can cook ourselves, we decided to make some burgers! The supermarkets here sell fresh pre-made patties that are really well-spiced, beef or chicken, your choice.

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After dinner it was time to enjoy a movie in the nice room you see above!

All aboard for our final city

Yes, Saturday was another World Cup today and I won’t lie, we enjoyed the games. First up was Germany vs Argentina, followed by Spain vs Paraguay. After those matches it left 3 European teams and only 1 S. American team in the semi-finals. We cooked a little lunch, the last of our cooking on this trip and hopped in a cab around 4.30pm to get over to the Flores bus terminal. We boarded the 6pm Dorado VIP Direct bus to Lima. Lots of buses in South America claim to be “cama” which means bed…but this was our first seat that was a true lie flat bed.

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An attractive shot, eh? Well it was super comfortable. I generally can’t sleep on buses, but I managed a few hours rest on the 15 hour journey. The ride included a small but nice hot meal…and at a third of the price of Argentinean buses, I don’t know what all the fuss is over those buses down south, Peru has been pretty good! We arrived a few minutes early, just before 9am, to their small station in the La Victoria section of Lima. I spoke with our lovely attendant who told me that a taxi to Miraflores (the part of town where we’re staying) should be no more than 8 soles. Immediately off the bus the taxis wanting to rip us off (and in bed with the bus company) were offering us a ride for 15 soles and wouldn’t come down. We walked out into the street and the first taxi offered us a ride for 10 soles, which we gladly accepted. He didn’t know how exactly how to get to our hotel, but asking a few randoms on the street and he dropped us off at the Doubletree Hilton Lima. We checked into our room and relaxed and cleaned up after the long journey.


OK, we were hungry and we had one last mission to accomplish…and it was the 4th of July! So, we headed over to the McDonald’s a few blocks from our hotel…it doesn’t get more patriotic than that, eh!?


Swiss can now proudly say that a Big Mac tastes the same in every country we visited (that has at least one McDonald’s store) and there’s nothing more all-American than a burger on the 4th, right?! Well after all that grease it was time for a walk. As you can tell the weather isn’t all that great so we stayed local in Miraflores, and while quite a few things are also closed on Sundays we say a few sights, including Lima’s new bus line, only a month old from what we hear!

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Swiss seemed to catch a bit of a cold or congestion after our bus journey so it was back to the hotel to relax and rest with DirecTV!

We grabbed one of the tastiest sandwiches I’ve had in a while from a little roasted meats shop…the tasty roasted chicken with the amazing sauces were really really good!! Maybe that’s why the place was standing room only! Afterwards we hit up the hotel bar to enjoy our complimentary welcome drinks, some Pisco Sours!


The bar is on the 2nd level and opens below to a restaurant which has a nightly Peruvian cultural show/performance. We enjoyed the show and even got to meet “El Condor!” haha

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A little Lima sightseeing

OK, so we’ve come all this way, we had to see at least a sight or two before leaving Lima…but that doesn’t mean we have to go far from our neighborhood! We could head to the historic center, but they don’t make it to easy here in Lima with no real public transit system. So, after breakfast we headed a little north to check out Huaca Pucllana. An ancient site of a ceremonial structure built between 200-700 AD, it’s a beautiful complex that’s only been unearthed in the last 22 years and work continues even today. The 10 soles admission includes a free hour long tour of the site and we had an awesome guide that made it all worth it! Enjoy a few pictures:

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At the back of the site they have a small area where they show local plants grown by old Lima culture and also some unique local animals. This includes the Peruvian hairless dog, a quite ugly breed, but also very cute. Once you pet them they love the attention and won’t leave you alone, very adorable!!

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Afterwards we ordered our cab to the airport for tomorrow back at the hotel and then headed out for lunch. We had a tasty set lunch of starter, entree and drink for only 8 soles!! I had the ceviche starter then the pure con asado (mashed potatoes with grilled beef and of course rice…two starches again!!) It was delicious!


From there we headed south to see Larcomar and the Pacific Ocean. Larcomar is a mall built into the cliffs and overlooking the ocean. It’s very westernized and modern, and with better weather probably a nice place to sit out for a drink. Considering that it’s been gray, cloudy and cool our whole time here in Lima that wasn’t in the cards for today though!

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We headed back to the room to relax and watch the final Indiana Jones flick. Afterwards we headed to a restaurant near our hotel for dinner. Neither of us was terribly hungry since Swiss has a cold and I’m in between coming down with it and not, but we knew we had to eat. They had set meals with tasty kebabs of meat and veggies with potatoes on the side for S/ 10 or less! And it was delicious!


And of course a final Inca Cola…when in Rome! We headed back to the hotel bar for a drink and then called it a day!

Tuesday would mark our flight home and a World Cup semi-final match…can you guess what we did? A little bit of packing, a final local lunch at the same place we went the previous day, and of course the Holland/Uruguay game. With late check-out we were downstairs around 3pm and a taxi arrived a little after 4pm to take us out to the airport…about a 30 min. ride from our part of Lima. We arrived at 5pm and spent a few good hours waiting to check, eating dinner (McDonald’s honestly looked more appetizing than the Papa John’s there, and it allowed our bodies to prepare for the on-rush of real American food when we got home, haha!) and paying our airport departure tax (31 USD when flying internationally out of Lima airport, paid separately unless flying American and Delta, which currently have it built into their tickets!)

Our flight left a little early and we arrived in Fort Lauderdale about 20 minutes early. A tight/quick connection and before I knew it I was on a plane to Chicago, which even arrived early too! Swiss stayed behind in FLL with a late afternoon flight up to Detroit and spent the day with Mary Ellen, an old friend from his Virginia days.

So that’s it…a pleasant but (luckily) uneventful end to our journey. It’s been a lot of fun over the past year and I know we’re both very fortunate to have been able to go on this journey. Thanks to everyone who followed along for the ride! We hope you enjoyed reading along as much as we enjoyed traveling around!!


Jaimee and Asa said...

Welcome home guys! We did enjoy following your journey, well at least the part after when we met you. Sounds like you had a nice time overall in South America; we really wish we'd been able to make it there. Good luck adjusting to the US again. I'd be interested to hear how that goes for you. Take care, Asa & Jaimee

Selah said...

I can't believe you're home! That went by so fast! Can't wait to see you!

Tubing Laos said...

Vang Vieng is awesome , it's even better than the Full Moon party in Koh Phangan.

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