Sunday, March 1, 2015

Trip to Peru (January and February 2015)...(Part I)

In continuation of the Spanish study, Kristin and I traveled to Peru after four weeks in Ecuador.

In total, we stayed in Peru for five weeks. During this period, we experienced a lot, but the noteworthy were Studying Spanish, Lima, Nasca Lines, Cusco and Machu Picchu, Puno and Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon and Arequipa. Due to length, I am posting this travel log in two parts.

Studying Spanish
The primary purpose of the trip was to study Spanish. We learned that Peruanos speak the high class Spanish. We studied in group at Peruwayna located in Miraflores, Lima's famous tourist town. It provided us with convenient access to many attractions and restaurants, but we had to bear a lot of noise, even at night, and the crowd.

The class of the third week... Miguel, Mike from Texas, Kristin, Jeffrey, Andrew from Australia and Curt from Pennsylvania
The class of the first week... Jeffrey, Katie from Finland, Miguel, Mike from Texas, Egzi from Australia and Kristin

The school operated a little differently from Amauta in Cuenca. At Amauta, each teacher had flexibility in choosing his or her own teaching methodology and materials. Peruwayna, however, had printed books for each level of proficiency. Also, we were able to start the class without having to be tested because we were only students in our class, but at Peruwayna, we had to take a written test on line and an oral test on the first day. In Cuenca, we were able to stay with one teach for all four weeks without any other students, but in Lima, we had different students each week, except Michael who was a retiree from Texas and stayed in the class for all four weeks together with us.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the learning at Peruwayna. It provided us with excellent printed books and the teacher, Miguel, was great with clear and correct pronunciation. He was handsome, intelligent and pleasant. He married to a German lady, Ute, and they have one little boy, Gustavo. Other than Mike and a few others, we were the oldest student among 30 some students who were learning Spanish at Peruwayna. I felt that my Spanish improved significantly while I was studying in Lima. so I am grateful. Miguel taught and showed us how to continue studying Spanish using materials that are available on line. That was also very helpful.

Church of Lima at Night
Lima is the capital city of Peru. It has a population of over 10 million in a country that has a total population of only 30 million. Peru is a country of a pretty good size geographically, but more than 50% of the land is Amazon jungle. Also, it has the Andes Mountains a large part of which is not inhabitable and usable. Moreover, along the long coastal lines, most of the land is barren dessert. It is one of the reasons for the capital city Lima to have the one third of the nation's population.

World Bank projects that Peru will be the largest economy in South America by 2025. Its projection is based on various factors, such as steady growths in tourism, its strongest attraction and minerals. Many still question its viability, but we will see what happens. For this reason, Lima's cost of living was far higher than that of Cuenca, Ecuador.

Lima is proud of its culture, particularly foods. Peruanos never want to accept any food culture of mediocrity. It could be bad in a sense that they cannot experience diverse food cultures of the world. They claim the ownership to the famous Ceviche.

Lima is located at the sea shore, looking over the Pacific Ocean. Miraflores has a shopping mall developed at a section of the cliff facing the ocean, namely Larcomar. There are dozens of restaurants where you can enjoy the sea breeze and the sunset, and many stores where you can buy all kinds of brands.

Sunset at Miraflores
Larcomar at Miraflores
Larcomar is part of Lima's El Malecon, a boardwalk on the cliffs which stretch a few kilometers along the coast. It attracts families, lovers, youth, as well as tourists. As you walk along the boardwalk, you can see low- and high-rise condominium buildings that are designed to maximize the ocean view for their residents. The walk to the Malecon was one of the routines for us in the late afternoon or early evening. We were able to enjoy Lima's beautiful sunsets several times. The last day, we were at Parque de Amor where you can find a statue of a lover couple. It looked romantic enough for many couples to find and affirm their love, in the backdrop of beautiful sunsets.
Statue of Kissing Couple at Parque de Amor
A couple at Parque de Amor at sunset
We took a half-day city tour and visited several places, such as Church of San Francisco and its Catacomb, Government Palace, Plaze de Armas, Huaca Pucllaha, an archaeological site for the Inca culture, a museum. We wanted to visit the so-called the largest water park complex in the world, but it was temporarily closed for renovation. Too bad.
Pre-colombian Cultures of Peru 
Lima City Hall
Government Palace
Church of San Francisco and Catacombs
We visited several places whenever we found time, such as Inka markets, street exhibition of arts, Kennedy Park where hundreds of cats interact with visitors, Mercado Surquillo. Of course, we tasted the famous Pisco Sour, an alcoholic drink made of pisco grapes. It was quite strong and we considered one trial enough. Also, we ate the famous Peruvian ceviche, basically raw fish with some seasoning and vegetables. It was okay, but was not as impressed as I have been by Aroz con mariscos which we both ate and enjoyed a lot in Peru as well as in Ecuador.
People with cats. The city takes care of these cats.
Pisco Sour
One of the Inca Market Stores
Street Exhibition of Art Paintings
Cuy Arts and Crafts
Mercado Surquillo
We also visited Barranco District, known to be Lima's Bohemian district filled with colonial style buildings and architecture. It was beautiful. We found ourselves liking colonial style over modern architecture. We attended a church started by an American missionary and another Korean church that was established 25 years ago. It was quite interesting to see so many Koreans, 150 or so, in one place, in a place like Lima. But I was thinking that people might have felt the same when they visited a Korean church in Kigali, Rwanda.

An indigenous woman carrying a baby

When you travel, you get to meet a lot of people. We met with a couple of Korean missionaries who are ministering to the people of Peru. Samuel Jaeyoung Kim was one and Missionary Choi was another. We rejoiced with each other over what God has been doing through our lives.

Next to me are Missionary Choi and Missionary Kim

It is joyous to meet new people, but the joy multiplies when you get to meet old friends. We bumped into Kristin's college friend couple from Baltimore in Lima, unexpectedly. They came to see Machu Picchu and Nasca Lines. After their trip to Machu Picchu, we found time to meet at Larcomar. It was a joyous and sweet reunion.

Nasca Lines
One of the places that I really wanted to visit was Nasca Lines. Prior to the Inca Empire, there were Nasca people who built the so-called Nasca lines. Nasca lines are more than 100 shapes and forms that exist on the high plateaus around a city called Nasca. Out of them, 70 or so take the forms of animals, such as eagle, monkey, parrot, humming bird, heron, whale etc. in various sizes. The largest one spans approximately 180 meters in width.
Art of the Nasca Lines
The most mysterious one, which still puzzles me, is an astronaut drawing on the side of an entire mountain. Astronaut in the 12th century? How did they imagine something like it... had they not actually seen one? Does that mean there are astronauts in the universe and they actually visited the earth several hundred years ago...? If so, why? How did they interact with the people on earth then? Why did they leave? Or... what? I later found out that the alien theory was one of tends of theories for why the Nasca people made such giant lines in high plateaus. Still, nothing stands out among them all. I am curious to learn more about any progress on these Nasca lines.
The way they created was by removing gravels and rocks from the ground, thus exposing the white- or ivory-colored underground dirt.

To get to Nasca, we took a Cruz del Sur, a bus liner that covers from Colombia to Brazil in South America. The price we paid for the tour included a VIP seating in the bus and it was the first class of the bus in the lower level of the double-decked bus. The leather-seats were wide and comfortable; Wi-Fi was working well; They even served a meal and a drink. Wow! I felt I could take a bus tour along the South American countries with Cruz del Sur. It was a memorable experience.

Many people travel to Nasca over two days. This two-day trip includes a visit to Paracas National Park and to an island. Also, they stop over in Ica, which is a Peruvian version of Napa Valley. But we chose to visit Nasca Lines in one day. So we took the bus to Paracas and was taken to the nearby Pisco Airport where we took the Sesna plane to fly to Nasca. The total round trip flying time was approximately 90 minutes, compared to 30 minutes if you fly out of Nasca Airport. Ironically, the two-day trip would have been cheaper without an overnight sleep.

To be continued in Part II that covers Cusco and Machu Picchu, Puno and Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon and Arequipa.

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