Friday, April 14, 2006

Leaving Ecuador, Now in Peru, April 14

We left Ecuador a week ago, traveling the Pan American highway by bus through the Andes. Our first stop after Cuenca was a city called Loja, where I had my first brewed cup of coffee in a week. Though Ecuador is a major coffee exporter, coffee is hot water served with a bowl of Nescafe and a spoon in this country. Dinner at a business class hotel (very different from our business class) was $2.50. The Pan American Highway, the Interstate 5 of South America, was at best two paved lanes with a concrete curb, a divider line, and fog lines. That was at best. In many places it was dirt, no curb (just mountainside) and the bus made its way through a plowed lane through eight foot mudslides (a lot, it had been raining). On the way to the border, we had to get off the bus and get checked by the military, twice. Just us foreigners. This in a country where one reads in the newspaper about ordinary business people getting assassinated daily, along with their armed security guards, which are everywhere. Toms daypack was stolen by a pack of kids who boarded our bus and then jumped out the window - nothing valuable to anyone but him, eyeglasses, prescriptions, a book.
In short, life in Ecuador seems pretty chaotic. Contrast to Peru which seems a world away. A first class bus on a major highway whisked us overnight to Lima from Piura, a city in the northern desert where we watched last minute election campaigning including live music, dancing girls and taxi parades. Lima was splendid - I had been expecting another Mexico City but it was charming, both in the old centro and in the LaJolla like suburb of Miraflores where we stayed and met up with three of my rowing buddies, their husbands and friends. The election was an inspiring experience, people really seem to care and feel their vote makes a difference, that the electorate holds the key to security and prosperity or chaos like Ecuador.
We are now in Cuzco where we visited Macchu Picchu and a lot of other stunning ruins and are in countryside that is remiscent of the Washington cascades. The city itself - and our hotel - are founded on Incan ruins. It lovely except that everywhere you turn a vendor is trying to sell you something from a finger puppet to a tour to a chance to pay to take their photograph in full native costume with either a baby human or baby animal in arms.
Topping it off, Holy Week is much celebrated in this town, starting with the arrival of Jesus in the main cathedral on Monday night. Last night the citizenry rushed around town visiting every church for Holy Thursday. Today, Good Friday, things are all closed up, everyone is home with their family eating twelve different dishes, for the twelve apostles.
The Peruvians are very friendly, there is native music everywhere you turn and the food is, well, fascinating. While pizza and pasta are the tourist staples here, we have had roast guinea pig, grilled alpaca, goat, and lots of trout and quinoa soup. Some of it has been delicious, some is definitely an acquired taste. Tomorrow we take a train to Lake Titicaca.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Tom!
Our love, L & M

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