Saturday, March 15, 2014


   I must hurry up with the last postings about South America, since I'm already back to my ''real life'' and readjusting takes quite a lot of my time.

      So - Ecuador!
(One surprising fact I found out just before crossing there is that they have the american Dollar as official currency !!! )
      I don't know how, but in the bus from Piura to Loja, i was the only foreigner. I guess everybody goes to Mancora and then Guayaquil, which I would have loved to do myself. But I was expected in Coca (also known as Francisco de Orellana)  and from what I read, this was the shortest route.
At least I traveled first class
and we had a Stallone + Schwarzeneger movie… if I well remember. But it started with the end and then they reloaded it and we could see the first half before the end of the ride.
     In the Loja terminal , I asked around for a direct bus to Coca, but there wasn't any. So best offer was to go to Macas then take another bus. And so I did - another bus to Puyo and then another one to Coca… Good thing, I never needed to wait  more than half an hour. Altogether an about 30h ride. From Piura. I think it was the hardest segment of my journey

      In Coca I was to join a film crew that was shooting a docu-fiction and work on 2 animation scenes. I wandered about for a few hours till i finally reached the production assistant and she picked me up and took me to the Albergue where they were accommodated. The crew was pretty small : there was the director-ess, one actress/interviewer, a cameraman, a sound man, the production assistant who also was the art director-ess and the editor-ess. I found out pretty soon that almost everything I discussed with the directress in the passed months was disregarded and there was nothing prepared for shooting the animation. The production plan was also made in complete disregard of my schedule and availability. Also everybody was pretty much pissed of and disappointed with the state of things.
     So what happened was that I waited around for 4 days, trying to help with the shoot, walking around, although there was nothing much to see…

…we finaly got to shoot something - a really short stop-motion scene on the same evening I left for Quito. The team was supposed to do the rest of the footage needed for rotoscoping without me, according to the storyboards I gave them… We were to meet again in a couple of days in the capital and do the second stop-motion piece

    I arrived in Quito very early on a saturday and after spending one hour in the bus terminal waiting for daylight, one other hour in a café waiting to wake up, I made my way to the hostel where, of course I was to early for check in. So I dropped my luggage and went walking around down town, which was pretty nice, cause after that I didn't get to see it so empty

  ...And walk around up and down Quito,  was pretty much all I did for the next three days waiting for the crew to arrive from Coca. Luckily I had a 'local guide', that I found through Couchsurfing for an evening, and he took me and another girl to La Ronda and Parque de las Tripas - both very nice places that only come to live at night. I didn't have the camera with me, though...

 I also went to see the Ecuator - read: the line that some people painted on the ground where supposedly the middle of the globe is. And this is disputed by two sites : the Mitad del Mundo 

and the Intiñan Solar Museum. You can skip the first one if you are in a hurry

     So the day came when I was supposed to start working on the second animation… I was not very surprised when the directress told me that she is unsure of the use of it all (if you ask me, I think the film will never come out) So I was not sorry at all to just pack my things and be on my way again.
      I made one last stop before the Colombian border - Otavalo. A nice little town, mostly visited on weekends for it's animal market. I got there on a wednesday and there was not much going on, the artisans market was huge, but there were no tourists… I actually got scarred to walk through, like there were wild beasts inside just waiting to tear me to pieces. I'm exaggerating
      But I went on a hike to the Cascada de Peguche

    I only stayed less than 24h there, but the hostel I found was really nice - it is called Flying Donkey, it looks great - quite a remarcable care for detail and I could see the owner at work: welding and painting and repairing and cleaning :)

  Next : Colombia!

Friday, February 28, 2014


      I've been delaying this post forever, cause I'm afraid whatever I say about Peru it will not do it honor. I don´t even remember why I liked it so much...maybe because I arrived in Cuzco with a fever?...maybe because of the coca toffees?  maybe there are sacred vibes in Macchu Pichu...
       I haven't seen a lot, but I have this feeling that I need to go back one day.
       So how was it?… yes, I bought a passage from Copacabana to Cuzco that was supposed to be direct, but… yeah , as I read on other travel blogs, it turned out to be not. That's what you get for being cheap: I payed 100 bolivianos in stead of 120 what was the direct one and I had to change busses two times. We had a sort of a guide , who was with us in the van that took us to the boarders. He collected all the tickets at some point and I was thinking, he could just disappear with them … We were directed to a big golden bus that took us to Puno where 'the guide' changed the previous tickets for other on a long distance bus to Cuzco. Turned out to be a 120 BOB bus that left from Copacabana :)
      It was fine in the end

      In Cuzco I stayed in Couchsurfing with a guy that left the same day I arrived, leaving me the keys to his apartment. As I felt the fever creeping up on me I went out to get some medicine and also to shop for trips to Machu Picchu and make me an ISIC card - cause I've understood that everything will be at half price in Peru with it (museums and different sites entrances). Well, I haven't had time to really take advantage of that. Anyway , there was no need to panic, that all the trips to Machu Picchu will be booked, there's a thousand agencies of all sizes that operate them: from the ones with fancy offices where the 2 days trip was 160$ to the one old guy sharing the 3/3m space with a copy shop who's offer was 100$… I actually found a cheaper version - 90$ for students with an agency that said they are specialized in this one offer and send three cars of tourists every day. Imagine my surprise when I found myself alone booked through this agency at the meeting point… But someone arrived with a car and my name was on a list :)
    I almost got sent on a 4 days trip - The Inca Trail, but I managed to avoid that.
    The ride there was quite fun. At the beginning I was sitting more in the back of the van, near the driver was seated a japanese woman who spoke no spanish and very little english. The first row behind the driver was occupied by a turkish family : a guy, his wife and his father, who kept asking questions. Now, the driver did not speak english either so he tried asking the japanese lady to translate what he was saying… tough luck!
      But I kept hearing the driver saying 'Veronica', so I asked if he meant me. No, he was talking about the mountain we were about to cross who's peak was named Veronica… 'Oooh, jeje… Gracias!' But then he asked me if I also spoke english and so I ended making the translator. Funnily, the passengers in the second row of were two germans who spoke some english, but not too well, so I sometimes had to translate to german also. Ain't I useful? :)
Cerro Veronica
I must say I was happy to do the service in exchange for the view from the front seat

 We went with the car till a place called Hidroelectrica where the road stopped. One option was to take the train, but it costs like 30$ for 8 km, so we, the young and fit chose the second option which was walking aside the train tracks

 we met again in the main square of Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Village

we were quickly accommodated, fed, briefed and sent to bed, following to wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning in order to start climbing at 4.
   Pretty strenuous, as I was functioning on paracetamol, but again, the view was worth it. 
This schedule was necessary because the people that were on the 2 days tour, me included, needed to be back in Hidroelectrica by 2PM so that meant leaving Machu Picchu at 11 the latest.

... most of us made it to the gates before opening time. Of course we had to wait for everybody in our group, then there was a bit a conundrum on how to remix the groups according to languages… I first chose the english group, but the guide's english was pretty painful to listen to, so I switched.
       there were a lot of people in the ruins already, and in a few hours there were to be a whole lot more
Of course I took the same pictures every tourist has ever taken, all over again... but some funkier too    

 Back in Cuzco and feeling better, I explored the town a bit more, I discovered the lucuma ice-cream and I had the best fruit juice in the San Pedro market place.

 btw - one juice( 5sol=1.7$) means a whole blender jar … about three glasses, so it took me a while to finish it under the patient supervision of the vendor lady.
     I left Cuzco knowing I didn't enjoy even 10% of what it, or it's surroundings have to offer. But I had to move upwards. So next was Lima, after a 26h bus ride… I wish I remembered what movie or movies we had on the bus, cause I've seen some strange s**t in this trip. Was it the X men one?

            Starting in Lima the bus terminal situation changed… and not for the better. I was usually checking for connection to my next destination upon arrival at the bus terminal. Well in Lima, I was shocked to be realize that the terminal we reached was the terminal/office of that particular bus company and that each and every one of the companies( at least the big, touristic ones) has a separate one… so I had to go to the hostel, search the internet, ask around, figure out which companies are ok and where are the headquarters of those
            Just as well Lima was divided. I went to a tourist info point and they only had the map of the district they were in. O_o …. maybe this was thought as a puzzle quest. Well, I didn't have time for that, so I managed to not get lost just by asking around.
            The hostel I stayed in had a very good vibe, mostly because of the people that were living there at the moment, some of them already since some months, some of them recently returned from traveling to meet old friends… very nice atmosphere. I got accepted immediately ( I was like the ONE Romanian they ever met in South America, just like in every place I've been… and from Transylvania upon that. A nice exotic add to the group :) And the day I arrived there was a double birthday party in the hostel.
I don't wanna see, smell or hear about PiscoSour at least for an year!
           But I didn't go to the after-party club-crawl cause I wanted to see some of Lima in the 2 days I was there...I was very excited to go to the beach and, who knows , maybe try to swim…? So the second day, after getting my ticket to Trujillo I started WALKING towards the beach. People were looking at me very confused when I asked for direction : what do you mean walk? It's very far !!! I was like : oh no it's not, I want to see some of the city on the way (… and besides I am this very trained person who walked 25 km in 5 hours in the mountains of Patagonia). 4 hours of walking in a straight line later, I was like: WHERE IS THE DAMN BEACH?!! Will the city never end?
           Some hundreds of meters later , I reached it. But… No sand! Suited just for surfing So I asked a lifeguard if there is a beach with sand and he said I should take a bus and… Me: no-no, I'll walk! A couple of hours after… i found sand. But it was : sand - stones - water! My feet were so sore.
          So I went to dip them into the water, at least. No swimming

        Next day, I had time till 5PM to explore - my bus was leaving at 9, so I went to the city center. The strangest mix of ghetto and high-life. It was all together: big, new, imposing banks, colonial churches and small, crumbling, sort-of-abandoned little houses. I didn't manage to go up the San Cristobal because I didn't find the shuttle. Then I started searching for the China-town and got lost, and eventually figured out that the map they gave me from the central info-point was mirrored >:( 

        I made it to china-town and they were celebrating New-Year's !!! I was pleasantly surprised, but there was not much of a show and I had trouble getting out of the crowd. I also had trouble finding something vegetarian to eat. I asked in 5 different chinese restaurants. People just looked at me as if I was asking for a gun-powder dish (maybe that would have been easier) One lady told me: Of course we have! We have the chicken with vegetables! I tried to make it simpler and asked for: just rice and vegetables. But they don't serve simple, boiled rice. They serve 'chaufa' which is rice mixed with meat and egg. I had to let it go and just head to a supermarket for another meal of fruit and nuts. Also yucca and sweet potato chips. So delicious!

 Night bus again, and I don't know what movie, and I was in Trujillo very early next morning. Lovely little town:

         The coffee, I have to explain. So, I went in a café/breakfast place (local, not touristic; I tried to steer clear of those places) and asked for a black coffee. What I got was a cup of hot water, the sugar jar and the little pitcher. O_O what do I do with this? I asked. Turned out that in the pitcher was concentrated coffee :)
I also got to observe a peruan family having breakfast : they have soup for breakfast! usually potato soup - and a lot of it … And theeeen the fried eggs with ham and cheese… and bread and fruit juice…
        I headed then to Huanchaco, where my hostel was, which is another town, a small surf resort, half an hour away from Trujillo. I almost changed my reservation, when I realized it was another location , but I'm glad I didn't.

 I left my back pack and returned to Trujillo to go see the Moche Pyramids… no big deal, but after Machu Picchu who could be easily impressed ?

and this is a peruvian dog - also a pre-inca vestige 

 Back to Huanchaco I was hoping to be able to swim here, but the waves were very strong and the water cold so I just walked a bit and then enjoyed the sunset on the ocean

         The next day I took a bus to Piura and was hoping for a common bus terminal, because i didn't find any  hostel on the internet… some blogs mentioned some places, but no direct links to make reservations. I also read that the buses to Loja- Ecuador, where I was headed depart at about 10PM, so I had no intention of staying in Piura.  But, tough luck. We stopped at the company's terminal and nobody could tell me where to get the bus for Loja from. so I just wandered from terminal to terminal till I found the right one. But , too late - the night bus had left one hour before, so I had to wait for the morning one. So I had to find a hostel. None of them mentioned on the internet were to be found. So after a few hours of wandering around carrying my backpack, I said whatever, I'll take anything. I went into a HOSTAL - which is not the same thing. There's individual rooms, no shared bedrooms. But I was trying not to pay to much… so I got one for 10 $. That looked like this.

     I was so miserable… I went out immediately to find an internet place and a drink. I didn't find internet, but I found two friendly locals who walked me around in search of a nice bar. We settled for a pizza place and we just sat and drank and chatted a bit. It was getting late, I said I wanted to return to my hostal, so one of them accompanied me. We were talking about education and opportunities in Europe and so on… so I was very shocked when he proposed that we BOTH go to my room. He was extremely cute and he said he was 27, but I still think he was 22… and  I could never enjoy this kind of encounters, anyway.  I laughed and sent him home…