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Ryan's First Sabbatical

a travel blog by ryanmyers


Somehow I convinced Bob to give me a year off work to travel South America, so I bought a oneway ticket to Lima, Peru. I'm spending the first two months in Huancayo, a city in Peru's Andes, and then have nothing else booked. I may meet up with some folks along the way (including my own), but I'm not going to hold my breath because I've already lost too many brain cells. My real goal is to experience our brother and sister's way of life down south, learn to speak Spanish and pick up a wife from every country I visit. If I can accomplish at least two of these I'll be happy.
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Pretirement Party

Edmonton, Canada



Todd and my sisters are picking me up in 20 min to go to the airport. It still hasn't hit me of what I'm getting into, but right now I'm a little too tired to ponder the unknown. The idea of sleeping on the plane is starting to sound pretty good. I'm mostly excited to sleep.

There's not a lot of time to say goodbyes or add all the pics I want to, but thanks to everyone who came out. Thank you Todd for holding my legs and thank you everyone who dressed up! Sinbad, you need to get those glasses in prescription. Adam, you were right, goodbye parties are way better than birthday parties. And if you anyone wants more pics from last night just ask Kyle or Jonny Mon - they're all now on John's spare computer.



permalink written by  ryanmyers on January 11, 2009 from Edmonton, Canada
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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Lesson 1

Huancayo, Peru


I spent the first night in Lima with Lydia´s family - she works for Kuyay Sonqo, the org I´m volunteering with. Her husband, Juan, introduced me to Sour Pisco. Pisco is a Peruvian alcohol which is kind of like a harsh vodka. Sour Pisco is it´s most common cocktail form. He works for the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture, so he was happy to show me his avacado tree, peach tree and grape vine in their courtyard before he played Risk on the computer. I spent most of the night chatting with the yankees about the differences between Canadians and Americans.

I woke up late this morning a quick breakfast before catching my 8 hr bus to Huancayo. The further from Lima´s centre we got the more poverty you see. The dogs in the streets are only out numbered by the garbage. And the tiny one-room houses cluttered the entire country side and up mountain slopes. As we rose in altitude the shacks were slowly replaced with red mountains that are too steep to build on.

I sat by an American on the bus from Illinois who knows where Edmonton is. He told me as much as he could about Huancayo, including to be careful. Unfortunately, that advice didn´t stop my wallet from getting stolen. Ah well. This is lesson 1, which is don´t keep your wallet in your pocket and only take your credit card or money with you if you are going to use it. ...so right now I have some mixed feelings. The money situation stinks, but I´m finally here. It´s good to be here. And I have my own room! Plus, Cecilia and her husband Gerj are incredibly nice. Gerj reminds me of Tony Lau.

Peace out,
Ryan

permalink written by  ryanmyers on January 13, 2009 from Huancayo, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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Mi Familia Peruano

Huancayo, Peru


I´m staying with Cecilia here in Huancayo. She´s the same age as my sister Meghan and just as sweet. She´s incredibly sincere and her love for her husband, Guillermo, and 9 month old son Adrian is obvious. The longer I stay here the more we arm up to each other. I´m now able to tease her like a sister - thank god cause I needed an outlet.

Guillermo is a karate teacher in town and one of his students is the national champion of his age. The incredible part is that his dad is a cab driver and can´t afford to pay for instruction, so Guillermo teaches him for free. He´s a pretty cool dude, who loves teasing everyone. I suppose I can relate.

Adrian is cute as hell. Not much to say about a baby, except that he stares at me constantly. Even more than the other gringos staying here.

Speaking of which, when we picked up Harry (from Colorado) from the airport Guillermo said he looked like an angel because of his long blonde locks. As soon as he spoke I had a different opinion. My American buddy is Spicoli from Fast Times. Holy crapoli, I´m living with Spicoli. But it´s working out good because he has a healthy sense of adventure and about as much Spanish as me, so we´ve been heading out to town together. He´s going to be here the whole time I´m here.

Right now there is a couple from MIT, Michael and Lisa. Michael´s dad is from Peru, so he speaks Spanish fluently . They´re also teaching at the orphanage while they´re here, which has been pretty cool to have an interpretor tell me what the kids are saying.

The amount of energy the kids at the orphanage have is insane!! We weren´t really briefed on what we need or should do, so today we walked in and they asked us to teach math to a class. They have the greatest range of ability, so it quite unruly. I do enjoy playing futbol with them though. Not only are they better than me, but my lungs don´t last more than 30 seconds of running. Thank goodness Peruvians are so short. Being a giant is the only thing I have to back up my smack talk.

Harry and I are going to try teaching them some science and history. If any of you folks have some suggestions I´ll be more than happy to read.

Once I get some money I´ll go to an internet shop and upload some pics fors you folk. And I´ll tell you about my trip to a pre-Inca site and Lesson 2 (aka first night on the town).
Peace out!

permalink written by  ryanmyers on January 19, 2009 from Huancayo, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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Lesson 2

Huancayo, Peru


It was Harry, the American couple (Michael & Lisa) and a bunch of gingitas from another orphanage and I who ventured out on my first night on the town. A metal head (the only one I´ve seen) showed us Avenida Puno, which would be more aptly named Avenida Puny, after the age and size of it´s patons. In the first club we visited we quickly learned that the drinking age is 14 and that fire laws restricting the numbers of patrons is merely suggestional - kinda like traffic laws. The entire club was packed like a mosh pit, makng it difficult to hold a drink, let alone dance. And man o´man was Harry´s goldie-locks a hit with them! Everyone wanted to be our friend. Some liked us so much that they felt it was okay to check our pockets for money and squeeze our squeezable parts. Despite the few with slippery hands, everyone was generally friendly and wanted to dance with us. I don´t blame them, I mean, who can resist my moves?

The second club we partied at was a step up. The patrons were actually our age and there was room to move my limbs to the rhythm. I wound up dancing with a couple of local chicas for a while until she asked me to go back to her place to dance. After that a random guy leaned into Harry and told him those girls were working. So yeah, I spent my first night out dancing with high schoolers and hookers.

Apparently when Michael and Lisa left the club they asked a sketched out teen for the time. He was off by 4 hours or so and then asked them to come back to his place. Again, a kind onlooker leaned in to fill in the blanks for us. He told Michael that kid was trying to kidnap them.

I always knew it was a bad idea to go home with strangers, but nothing reinforces a tenent like that than experience.

permalink written by  ryanmyers on January 24, 2009 from Huancayo, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
tagged Hookers and Kidnap

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Los Niños

Huancayo, Peru


The orphanage is a gated community for these kids - it keeps the lil troublemakers in adn the big ones out. When you first walk in to the orphanage you´ll notice a cluster of buildings (houses and classrooms) behind a paved soccer pitch and a small playground. Everything looks used because it is. Frequently. The most beautiful and probably the least appreciated asset is that their crops in the compound open up a panoramic view of the mountains surrounding Huancayo. The stoop facing the pitch is the regular place to hang out and chat with the kids and this stoop offers the breathtaking vista.

Okay, on a second cheesey thought, maybe the most beautiful and probably underappreciated asset is the kids themselves. There are about 40 of them (3-17yrs old) and for the most part they´re like any other group of kids. You have your gossip girls, cry babies, bullies, too-cool-for-school dudes, etc. Yet they differ from your average school yard crew because they do *everything* together. Their friendships are more tolerant of each other. ...haha, to a degree.

When I met Jackson (3) he had his shoes on the wrong feet. He was trying to squirt some girls with a garden hose. Since then I´ve had a soft spot for that guy. He´s always happy and always up to something.

Miguel (17) is the oldest and it shows. He´s calm, mature and can handle a soccer ball like a woman on the dance floor. Not only that, but he enjoys chatting. He has a genuine interest in what we do and to share his life with us. In a few weeks he turns 18 and is then on his own. He told me he´ll probably be a gardener. Harry and I have told him to see Guillermo to learn karate because Miguel couldn´t have a better rolemodel.

Handsdown Steven (10?) has the best future ahead of him. It´s currently their summer vacation, so many of the others don´t want to learn. Yet everyday Steven asks for more homework. Harry started to teach him the first day and since then Steven can´t get enough. On top of that, he´s also the one who is willing to help clean after we teach or help out with chores around the compound.

Benjamin (10?) is my best student. When I see him with other kids he can be aggressive, but I´m starting to think that´s just the pecking order. He´s not as quick a learner as Steven, but Benjamin always asks to study. Lately he´s been on a big kick of thumb wrestling. I don´t wanna brag or nothing, but I can beat him with both hands at the same time.

I haven´t mentioned any girls because they are a little harder to bond with. To be frank, some of them are really needy. They want more attention then I can give (let alone want to). There is one girl who was possesive of me for a while, so I kept telling her I´m here for everyone. She got mad, but now seems to be over it.

The older girls are a little clic. Harry did a good job of busting his way into them today by singing on the playgound. I heard him from the soccer pitch singing Fat Bottem Girls, so obviously I had to join in. Queen rocks. That´s all there is to it.

[On a side note, did I mention 80´s are popular here? Well, it seems like all we here is latin music (combia, arangay, samba, reggaton (like dance hall, but with bad mixing), reggae and salsa) and 80´s. I didn´t expect that.]

Anywho, my favourate girl is probably Jennifer (pronounced Hay-nee-fer). She´s prolly 8 tops, but is just all around cool. She often just shows up and hangs out. Sometimes I catch her hanging out with the older girls to. When she wants to play she doesn´t beg like some of the other kids. I gotta admit, that´s appreciated. The whining gets annoying when there´s 20 of the anklebiters begging for an avioncito (airplane ride). I mean, they´re fun to give, but you trying giving out a few of those at 3300m above sea level and you´ll be begging for a rest.

It was Harry´s bright idea to work afternoons on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The cool part about that is that none of them will study then. It´s all play. Either soccer, basketball, hackey sack (I brought mine), monkey bars (my feet touch the ground, so I haven´t lost a race yet!!) or just chilling in the shade. I brought cards, but one abnoccious kid (the others call him chicken, but it doesn´t hold the same meaning here) took my decks. One day Michael explained the rules to capture the flag and that led to a pretty sweet game. Unfortunately Harry, the new Assie named Jimmy (23) or myself don´t have the linguistic capabilities to explain something like that.

The first week of teaching was simply chaos. The lil anklebiters distracted each other and were more interested in scoring a new pencil than writing anything down. Lesson learned. We need handouts, which by the way have worked like a charm. And tomorrow we´re bringing some candy to play math bingo. ...we gererally teach them math because it´s universal or english. I real good at it.

Cuidate por ahora!

permalink written by  ryanmyers on January 29, 2009 from Huancayo, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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Field Trips

Huancayo, Peru


CHUPACA
I remember if I already mentioned Chupaca. Guillermo´s sister Patricia took us (Harry, the Yankee couple and me) to the neighbouring town of Chupaca. On our way we didn´t notice a separation of Huancayo and Chupaca. Just randomly a plot of land was empty with livestock tied to a stake.
In Chupaca we visited a slaughter market. That was quite the cultural experience. The whole time there we were followed by a sketchy dude in a red sweater. We´d stop, he´d stop. So I wore my backpack like I was preggo. Every so often you look over in the market and see sheep twitching. Then you notice it´s head is on the table near by. Not quite the same as Superstore - although there is a new Walmart type store in Huancayo. I suppose that´s the beginning of the Western cultural invasion. For the most part though Huancayo has been able to resist a full onslaught of America.
Anywho, after the market we went to see a Pre-Inca wall. I remember typing this earlier, so I won´t say more.

CONCEPCION (the town of baby making)
This time Angela tooks us (Harry, Gringo Jim - a sheep shearer from Australia - and two more Aussies) on our field trip to the neighbouring town of Concepcion. They have a giant statue of Mother Mary on top of a giant hill. Almost like the Rio de Janero. Under Mary is a the towns name in giant white letters. Just like Hollywood. We hiked up there and even climbed up Mary via the stairs inside her. She offered quite the view.
Back in Concepcion I got my picture with a 15 piece band playing infront of the local cathedral before we headed out to a trout farm. Weird, I know.
I´m not sure how or why the fish farm became a tourist attraction because it´s a 20 min drive outta town. The scenary though was beautiful. It was what I was expecting to see of Peru. Huancayo is fairly dusty and in the middle of a flat valley. It´s not the mountainous town you may expect. After the fish farm we had a meal at a near by restaurant. Oddly, Harry and I were the only ones who ordered trout. Gringo Jim and the Aussie Dave had cuy (guinne pig - a Peruvian treat that tastes like turkey with 100 times more bones). On the way back I chatted with a civil lawyer and his daughter in a jam packed bus (not really a bus, just a van). His daughter asked for a picture with us and my email address. She never emailed though. A shame cause a lawyer would be a great connection down here. Ya know, just in case.

TORRE TORRE
The first time I encountered water baloons was 3 weeks in and on our way to Torre Torre (literally Tower Tower). We (Harry, Gringo Jim, two other Aussies, Guillermo, Cecilia, a random kid who wanted to come with us and I) were walking up a street at the base of the surrounding mountains when we found what looked like an ambush. There boys and girls were grouped on top of two buildings on either side of the street. Each group was armed with butt loads of water baloons for each other. We just walked under with only a few thrown at us. Thankfully baseball isn´t the national sport here. I dunno what is, but it´s definately not baseball.
Down another street a girl eyed us while tossing water balloon up and down. It broke in her hands and spilled all over her. That was a good laugh. Its odd though, before these encounters we never saw water balloons. Now kids are tossing them from buildings everywhere. Maybe we just opened our eyes.
Anywho, Torre Torre is tucked in the corner of the surrounding mountains and is some geological phenominon. A tiny creek has cut through the mountain to create bluffs that are much better explained in pictures. After going here I caught a craving to camp out on the mountains. Maybe Guillermo will take us.

This weekend though, we´re heading into the jungle.

permalink written by  ryanmyers on February 5, 2009 from Huancayo, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
tagged Chupaca, Concepcion and TorreTorre

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Parade & Glacier

Huancayo, Peru


The last three days have been rather epic. We never really knew what we were getting into either.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20 - THE PARADE
Harry, Jimmy and the new yankee girl were told to show up at the orphanage at the usual time (9am) to prep before the local parade. We wore traditional Peruvian clothing, probably what you seen in movies and post cards of Bolivia and Peru. Us guys (gringos and a few boys) sported white shirts under panchos with dress pants and a nice bowler hat to top off the outfit. The girls wore colorful skirts that make any butt look big, white shirts, braids, a shall and no socks in their shoes.

6 kids and 6 gringos (including 2 older Canadiens from Laval) piled into the back of the orphanages pickup truck and were shipped to the parade. We waited here for roughly 2 hours before any sign of the parade getting underway, which gave us plenty of time to get a couple of pictures with locals and have hundreds taken of us. I laughed today when I heard Eminem's lyrics, "Ya'll act like ya never seen a white person before". Anywho, I never understood the tradition of putting baby powder or flour on your face for festivals. But when in Rome. So we put confetti in our hair, flour on our face and watched all the locals buy this in excess amounts. They even bought some itchy plant.

We were lucky to be situated right behind a band, so we could hear them clearly, making dancing much easier. Once they fired up we started dancing down the main drag in Huancayo not having any clue what we were getting into. One lady told us this was their version of Carnivál, but when I think of parades I resort back to Uncle Ricky driving his tractor down Rosthern and picking up peanuts off the street.

The reality of the situations hit us in the form of a water balloon. Then a bucket of water, followed by flour in the face. It didn't take us long to realise that we enlisted in a 2 hour, 10 kilometer water fight where everyone - spectators included - are fair game. Spectators would lob balloons from 4 stories up and hurl buckets of water from rooftops. Being a gringo seems to make you more of a target too, which just added to our fun. Every once in a while the paraders would swarm someone running up to soak us and smear them in flour. The itchy plant, well that was a saviour. Ususually some teen would sneak up behind us with a bucket and soak one of us only to get jumped by the group behind us wiping the itchy plant on their skin!

At the central plaza some folk were tossing purple water at us from 3 floors up, so Jimmy and I thought it was funny to dance close to the window and then casual slide out the way at the last second. Then just a half a block up one guy ran out of the crowd with bucket. I had some flour, so I challenged him. I kinda expected to get wet, but I didn't expect to get hit by 10 buckets of water, one after another! It made for a good enough photo to be in full colour on the back page of the local newspaper.

After the parade we saw this yankee living here, so went over to say hi. I had no idea, but she has her own TV show here that covers local events, so we got interviewed and will be on TV tomorrow tonight.

FRIDAY NIGHT
We went out with the yank that night and she asked if she could bring her camera crew. Harry and Jimmy are not shy. We went to a few clubs and danced the night away with a stellar rock cover band. Hands down, the best rock I've heard since I've been here.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21 - THE GLACIER (HUATAPALLANO)
We woke up hungover and went to the central plaza to meet the tour group. We lucked out big time as it was just Harry, Jimmy, the new yankee volunteer, a cab driver, our guide and me. We left civilization behind on our way to the glacier, but one of the last places anyone lives was a small hut on the side of a mountain, far beyond the tree line. We asked if we could stop and meet the family, which turned out to be a humbling experience. An old man lives the simple life there with his little girl and wife, letting his cattle graze the steep slopes. They only had three huts, including one for the dogs to sleep. No electricity, no gas, no water. He used small shrubs to burn for cooking and boiling water from the mountain stream. He really demonstrates what you NEED to live.

The hike to the glacier was a measly 5km. The hard part was that we were hiking up to 5100m above sea level (Edm is 660m, Calgary is 1100m, Mt Robson is 3500m and Canada only has a few mountains above that height). Singing and hiking don't mix to well at this altitude, especially when you're hungover. But we made it and Jimmy got to see snow for his first time in a blizzard, followed by throwing snowballs and building a snowman on a glacier. God I miss snowboarding.

To top of the beauty of it all, we were the only 5 people on this trail on this day. I couldn't believe how exhilerating hiking to a glacier could be. On the way down the blizzard cleared, so we just had clouds above and below us wandering by. Harry and I hiked down faster until we got to a tiny valley where we waited in the silence of a mountain birds and a glacier creek. It was incredibly touching as an intimate moment with nature. Sorry to sappy, but me and mother nature had a moment.

Getting back to base camp (actually just a restaurant with more character nailed to the walls than imaginable) my hangover reminded me of its presence by thumping on my temples. Not cool considering we were pulling a repeat night.

SATURDAY NIGHT
Same bar, similar crew. But we went out later though so we could nap and rehydrate. I'm happy to say that my second go at dancing with local girls did not include hookers. Nope, not this time. Woot woot, lesson 1 payed off!

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22 - I LOVE GOING OUT FOR LUNCH AFTER A NIGHT OUT
The yankee girl was sick today, so it was Harry, Jimmy and I who went for lunch with Cecilia, Guillermo, his mom and sister and Adrian. We went to a tranquil restaurant on the outskirts of town. I had my first meal that had a proper portion and god was it good. Mashed potatoes and avocado sandwiched a tuna medly. Mm-mm-mmm.

The restaurant has a stocked pond, some exotic animals, some kiddie-sized quads among other rec activities. Naturally the Harry the yank wanted to try out the power vehicles, which was kinda fun. But we spontaneously found ourselves in the middle of a soccer game after. An old man played net for the other team along with some young kids. The game lasted for what had to be at least a half hour before we said our goodbyes. That's part of what I like about it here, time isn't a concern like it is back home. No one checked their watch to see how much time they were wasting. No one was in a hurry to leave. We'll all get done what we need to.

permalink written by  ryanmyers on February 22, 2009 from Huancayo, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
tagged Glacier, Soccer, Carnival, Parade and Huatapallano

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Funeral Crashers

Huancayo, Peru


Yesterday Harry, Jimmy and I ventured out to Chupuro, a small town near Chupaca, to go hang gliding. After a half hour of contradicting instructions in Chupaca we finally found a sketchy cabby to take us to Chupuro.

In Chupuro a couple of drunk men in a small convienience store called us over, so not really knowing where to go for hang gliding we joined them for a few beers. My Spanish still blows, so understanding slurred Spanish was ridiculous. Nevertheless, we found out that hang gliding isn't for another week, so when they invited us to join them we had nothing better to do for the afternoon.

They took us to the shores of the Rio Mantaro via rickety trikes to meet about 20 of their family. After hello's I sat down with the younger folk and chatted what us young people like to chat about - swears, girls, drugs and politics. Later I found out the drunk guys brought us to a funeral gathering, which we felt pretty bad about. Wedding Crashers was a funny movie, but I never anticipated on actually crashing a funeral.

Anywho, the day passed with us witnessing local funeral customs of washing the grieving in the river and chewing coca leaves while drinking the sorrows away. Some of the older men - who happened to be the coolest dudes there - invited us to dinner with the family. We've heard not to refuse a dinner invite here, so naturally we accepted.

After a delicious courtyard meal we shared a sunset cab back to town with some older ladies. Along the way, in the neighbouring town of Breña, there was a carnival going down. While inching our way through the crowd a girl pulled us out of the cab for a quick dance before continuing our way on back home.

permalink written by  ryanmyers on March 1, 2009 from Huancayo, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
tagged Funeral and Chupuro

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Reply to Norma's Comment

Huancayo, Peru


Hey Norma,

I just read your comment and lemme tell ya, it's good to hear from you. I think you - and ol' man Robert especially - would be happy to know that I've had the chance to explain the Métis people, culture and history to not only other volunteers here, but also many locals as well. The locals tell me that the natives here have a very similar experience, especially when dealing with the government.

As for my projects, well we started out teaching english and math each day followed by recreation time. The kids just returned to school this week, so as their summer vacation slowly shrunk, the length of recreation time slowly increased. Eventually we weren't giving any lessons, but simply spending time with the kids - playing, singing and trying to talk through our poor poor Spanish.

Recently though, a few Québecois ladies came along with some money for projects. Since we stopped our formal classes with the kids, we decided to help the French ladies cement, plaster and paint a kitchen/house/guinne pig shed (we eat those lil rodents). Back at home Harry called a little junket with us volunteers to pitch his idea for the mural. The idea itself was good, but it was his flashy presentation that sold us on the idea of painting ¡VIDA! (LIFE!) on the wall, with each letter containing something life related. I'll show you when it's done.

As for the other projects, we've helped wash the compound, worked in the fields, fixed tire swings and will be painting the playground before we leave. As I type this it sounds more impressive to me than it feels. Really, any Joe can do this stuff. It just happens that Bob gave me time to do this and I am down here doing it. Amazingly simple.

Anywho, take care of yourself and the rest of our folks at the nation.
Your friend,
Ryan

permalink written by  ryanmyers on March 4, 2009 from Huancayo, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
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Escape from Huancayo

Ica, Peru


To be honest, last weekend was somewhat of a bender. It's not a Surprise that I can leave it to Paul Simon to put things into perspective for me. After this morning's shower I layed on the roof under the menacing Huancayo clouds, enjoying the sun that did make it to my pasty chest, reflecting on the weekend with Paul's wisdom echoing in my ears.

FRIDAY, MARCH 6
Harry, Jimmy, Clara the Yank, Louisa the Pom and I planned our own little getaway to Ica and Pisco for the weekend in an escape from Huancayo's reliably unreliable weather. After an overnight bus we arrived in Lima at the crack of dawn with Jimmy keen on swimming in the ocean for our first time on this trip. He only lives two hits of a 3 wood away from the ocean in Southern Australia. This has had to have be withdrawl for him.

Our taxi dropped us off at beach by a group of twenty odd morning runners stretching. We dropped our pants in the morning haze and ran for the ocean. The sand in my drawers was well worth the refreshing dip before we hopped on another bus to Ica.

Ica is only city of a hundred thousand, yet was still busselling more than Edmonton after a playoff game. We had no idea when we planned our lil getaway, but we arrived on the first day of a two week festival celebrating the start of the grape harvesting season - which is quite a big deal here because Ica is the pisco capital of Peru, even moreso than the city of Pisco itself. I'm sad to say we never participated in the official ceremonies, which included cockfights and pisco making.

Instead, we were staying in a small tourist village/hamlet/resort called Huacachina just outside of town, so picked up presips and TP before heading to our hostel. It turns out Huacachina is an oasis. Not figuratively, but literally. In the middle of sand mountains, there is this smelly lagoon surrounded by lush trees, hostels, dunebuggies and heaps of foreign and local tourists. We quickly ditched our bags and rented some sandboards to hit the slopes. With each step up I slid a half step down making the small treck decievingly long, but well worth it. I reached the peak of the giant sand hill just as the sun set behind the Tatooine-esque horizon (that's a Star Wars reference for those of you claiming not to be nerds). Sliding down was a tease, as sandboarding is much harder to turn than snowboarding, so you're better off just going straight to catch some speed. Unfortunately that makes the climbing to boarding ratio much larger than desired, which in turn makes renting dune buggies much more appealing.

The night out turned out to be a bust for me. Jimmy got sick and I took him back home while everyone partied in Ica. So after he was naked on his bed I ventured to the hostel's bar by the pool and hammocks to chat with whoever I could find. The yankees I met bragged about how much they knew about Canada. I bragged about the new slang I learned. I said that Aussies, and now I, call them sepos. It's short for septic tanks or yanks. I'm glad they laughed. The Columbian I met made it worth staying in as she told me her favourate places to go in Columbia and invited me on a hike in April.

SATURDAY, MARCH 7
We rented a buggy, but unfortunately weren't allowed to drive it. Prolly for the best though. The dunes ran on as far as we could see to the east, with Ica and Huacachina far off in the west. The guide said we would board faster on our stomaches, which was true, but that didn't satisfy ol' Ryan. Standing up offered much more of a thrill. Unfortunately, it also offered a greater chance of catching an edge, which resulted in a full front flip and landing on smack on my back. The pain is still splitting from that one.

After washing off the sand in the lagoon and then the smelly lagoon water in the hostel pool, we headed to the town of Pisco, where we were to catch a tour of the Islas Ballestas (aka "Poor Man's Galapagos Islands") early the next morning. The hostel was family run with an incredibly hospitable son, Julio, and a daughter whose smile will make you blush. It's too bad she had a crush on one of her brother's friends. Potential wife, I tell ya! They were getting ready to party in Ica, so we shared our 2-6 of pisco with them and their pilot friends. They invited us to come along, but warned us they would only get back at 6am and we had to leave at 7am for Islas Ballestas. No problem. Turned out to be an epic night. On the way home we dropped off the pilots at the airforce base.

SUNDAY, MARCH 8
It turns out Julio is right, the perfect cure for a hangover is coffee. One cup a joe and a 2 hour boat ride is nothing! From the boat we saw shore birds, pelicans, vultures and sealions. I didn't get shit on and slept on the way back to shore. Perhaps that excursion would have impacted me more under different circumstances. ...or if I wasn't a sardine jammed in a boat of touristas.

Later that day we stopped off at the small surf town of Cerro Azul. The rest of our crew went to the beach after lunch, but I opted for a nap. Best nap of my life! Harry and Jimmy couldn't wake me by banging on the door, so they crawled the ledge between the girls room and ours. After dark Harry, Louisa and I headed to the central plaza for a BBQ dinner from a street vender. I tried cow heart. Not bad. The large moon offered plenty of light for a walk on the beach before I retired again for another incredible sleep.

We caught the bus back on the side of the highway between the dusty town of Cerro Azul and the sand mountains. All said and done, it was an exhaustingly good weekend.

permalink written by  ryanmyers on March 10, 2009 from Ica, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
tagged Sandboarding, Lima, Ica, Huacachina, Pisco, CerroAzul and IslasBallestas

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