PASEO Program Adventure—Days 43 and 44: Huaraz, Peru

Since the altitude in Huaraz is more than 3,000 meters (over 9,800 feet) above sea level, Saturday was spent taking it easy and trying to acclimate to the change in altitude. 

On Sunday morning, we stopped by the Museo Arquelógico de Ancash- Huaraz, where we saw beautiful art from a famous Peruvian painter, in addition to artifacts that are centuries old. After walking through the museum, we stopped by the city’s Plaza de Armas and strolled through the city. We returned to our hostel shortly after to get a good night’s sleep, since we had plans to tour Laguna Llanganuco first thing in the morning (as in 5:00am). 

What I failed to mention in yesterday’s post is that after arriving to Huaraz, eating dinner, and watching the concert in the Plaza de Armas Friday night, I spent the entire night learning about the effects of altitude sickness. (Now that I’m a few days ahead writing about my experiences a few days ago, I don’t have to worry about my mother and grandmother sending over a team of doctors to check up on me.) While I can’t exactly say I was grateful for the opportunity to gain such firsthand knowledge, the effects of altitude sickness are much more inexpensive than a colonoscopy or endoscopy, but probably just as effective in cleaning out one’s system. So, at least there’s that. 

Tomorrow’s hike will entail more than four miles of trekking through both flat and mountainous terrain, with the highest peak (at least that we’ll reach) being 15,000 feet above sea level. Before I scare myself out of going on this trek by writing more about the terrifying details, I’ll leave it at that and say here’s hoping for the best. 

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PASEO Program Adventure—Days 29 and 30: Lima y Huanchaco, Peru

On Saturday morning, I flew to Lima for the day to see my dad who came to visit. I landed at 9:30 in the morning, and we left on a city bus tour an hour later. Our first stop on the bus tour was the Museo Oro,  del Perú y Armas Del Mundo. 

In 1960’s, Miguel Mujica Gallo took his private collection of historic artifacts and created a foundation that manages the Museo Oro, del Perú y Armas Del Mundo. The artifacts on display were truly incredible, and it’s definitely a site worth visiting. The rest of the bus tour was spent driving by different historic landmarks and important buildings throughout the city. After a hard day’s work of sightseeing, it was only appropriate to treat ourselves to some ceviche for lunch. 

I returned to Huanchaco on Sunday morning and spent the day walking around the city by the beach with some of the other students on the trip, before officially starting the second half of our program. 

Day 2 In Bogotá Colombia Continued: Monserrate

After learning to play Tejo and enjoying a local lunch, it was time for us to continue our tour with a visit to Monserrate. Monserrate is a mountain located in the center of Bogotá, which is more than 10,000 feet above sea level. In order to get to the top of the mountain, one can walk, take a funicular train, or a cable car. We took the cable car, since it was the fastest and easiest means of transportation.
Upon arriving to the top of the mountain, we came across a type of plant called the angel trumpet bird which hummingbirds are attracted to, and which are unfortunately used by many to make date rape drugs.
At the top of Monserrate, there is a church which contains the Lady of Monserrat (Matron Saint of Monserrat), a replica of what can be found in Catalunya, near Barcelona. This replica has been around since 1630, and was fixed over in the eighteenth century. The mountain was named Monserrate due to this famous image being held here. This was supposed to be the main focal point to see (besides the view of course) here on Monserrate, but now, it is most famous for its statue of Jesus Christ being taken off the cross named “El Señor Caído,” (fallen Lord).
In 1656, the statue of Jesus, which is pictured below was brought to Monserrate. The hair on the statue is actual human hair, and if you’re wondering whose hair it is, I had the same question, but was not able to get a definitive answer.
The rest of the church was completed in 1925 and is a beautiful place of worship, not only for the incredible artifacts inside, but for the breathtaking view outside as well. As we walked around Monserrate, we spent a few minutes adjusting to the high altitude level by drinking coca tea. As a snack, hormigas culonas were passed around for us to sample, which translates to “Big ass ants.” Hormigas culonas have their name because the rear end of the ants are much larger in size. Only the queen ants are eaten, since the others are not considered edible. Often times, the wings and legs are removed, as the ants are soaked in salty water and roasted as a delicacy. I couldn’t bring myself to indulge in the ant eating, but both my brother and sister did, and watching them eat it was still quite the experience.

Day 2 In Bogotá, Colombia Continued: Museo del Oro

After passing through the Museo Botero, we walked through the city and came across an obleas cart. Obleas are thin wafers that can be filled with jam, fruits, cheese, condensed milk, dulce de leche, or arequipe. I remember buying packages of this years ago in Guatemala, so naturally I ordered one to try it out here in Colombia. I ordered this one with condensed milk and jam, and it was delicious to say the least.

After taking a quick snack break, our tour continued at the Museo del Oro, Bogotá’s Gold Museum. Upon entering the museum, we were told that it contains somewhere around 53,000-55,000 pieces including metals and artifacts, with 32,000 of the pieces being pre-historic gold artifacts. This museum is also said to be the largest in South America, or at least that’s what our tour guide told us. The way that some of the artifacts have been displayed on shadows represents the ways in which various tribes once wore the golden pieces. Additionally, pictured below, you can see large emeralds, which are known to be very valuable in Colombia. Something I found very interesting was that the room containing these emeralds was secured in a vault and guarded by security, whereas all of the other rooms in the museum did not have such strict security.

Also found below is the Muisca Raft, also called the El Dorado Raft. In a certain ritual, the Muisca chief jumped into the lake along with gold and emeralds as offerings. This golden raft with people on it is a replica of what is believed to have been the raft with the Muisca chief and others before the offering. Since the offering, countless people have tried to dive into Lake Guativita to find the golden pieces, but since the lake is so deep, no one has had such luck. The last exhibit we came across in the museum displayed 3,200 pieces that had been found upon digging up old tombs.

An interesting fact about the city of Bogotá is that the founder of Bogotá came searching for El Dorado, the city of gold, but he instead found the city of Bogotá. Ironically, the gold museum is located next to where his house originally was.

As we drove off to our next stop, we were told that Justin Bieber visited Colombia a few years ago, and decided to graffiti some of the walls here in Bogotá. Surprisingly, he had a police escort surrounding him, and was allowed to graffiti the walls. Local graffiti artists ended up complaining to the government in protest of not being allowed to graffiti the walls, and the government ended up changing the rules. Since then, local graffiti artists are now allowed to graffiti throughout the city only with permission of buildings if the graffiti consists of approved art.

Our next stop included a lesson in one of Bogotá’s local sports, Tejo, which I’ll be posting about a little later on.

Day 2 In Bogotá, Colombia

After eating breakfast in the morning, we hopped onto the tour bus and drove to La Candelaria, a historic neighborhood in downtown Bogotá. It is said that Colombia is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, with 1,887 species of birds alone in the country. Besides for its bio-diversity, our tour guide explained that Colombia is also known for four major features— coffee, emeralds, flowers, beautiful women, and cocaine. The size of Bogotá, specifically, can be compared to that of New York or London, and is the one of the three largest cities in South America.

It rains in Bogotá 250 days of the year, so rainy season is practically year-long. During the 19th century in the 1800s, the British arrived in Bogotá to build railroads and neighborhoods, so the fact that so much architecture in the city is based around red brick is due to the English influence. Something interesting about the city is that it is divided by numbers, with each number representing the class of individuals who live there—1 being the lowest socioeconomic level of status and 6 being the highest. The city’s minimum wage comes out to $280 per month, and for apartments in the level 3 district for middle class citizens, apartments cost $290 per month.

The first site that we came across was Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a beautiful church in the city that has become a staple, followed by a church from the 1600’s that survived the Civil War nearly 60 years ago. From there, we walked to Palacio de Nariño, or Nariño’s Palace—the official home and workplace of the President of Colombia. Antonio Nariño was the first person to translate human rights from French to Spanish. He had these rights printed on pamphlets and began passing them out, but was soon imprisoned for doing so. The palace sits on the same location where Nariño was born, and the President lives on third floor, while the rest of the palace contains important artifacts from the country’s history.

Outside the palace stood various military guards, and upon inquiring more information, we learned that one year of military training is mandatory for everyone upon graduating high school unless you have money to get yourself out of the requirement or unless you go directly to college.

As we continued walking, we came across balconies from hundreds of years ago that were influenced by the Arabians. The balconies were designed for the women of the house with the purpose being that the women could look outside, but no one could see inside.

We then saw the first observatory in all of South America that was built in the 1800s. It was meant to be taller than the Catholic Church but the architect was told if he followed through with his plan, he would have his head cut off.

The next sight was a cloister where firstborn girls were sent to spend the rest of the their lives. Their bodies would be painted when they died to preserve them. The second girl in the family would be married off to a wealthy lord, and the third daughter, or the youngest in the family would have to stay with their parents until they died, which some say is a different type of imprisonment as opposed to being sent to the cloister.

Following the cloister, we came across Plaza de Bolívar, named after President Simón Bolívar. The Plaza is home to the National Capital, the Palace of Justice, and the Cathedral of Bogotá.

As we continued walking, we spotted a building where President Simón Bolívar lived. He had a close female friend who often hosted parties and purposely invited various guests—some of whom were known to like the President, and others who openly voiced their dislike towards him. After getting the guests drunk, she approached them and asked what they thought of him. It was in this way that she found out about an attempt to kill him. She told Bolívar about this plan to kill him right before it happened, and he jumped out the window (pictured below) to escape and run while the people who planned to kill him were entering his house.

Across from this building is a theater built in 1793 but completed in 1800 which is very similar to the one in France, with the only difference being that this one is a little smaller. Shortly after seeing the theater, we came across a house where the Colombian version of Dr. Seuss was born, as well as the Red Cross building in Bogotá. From here, we took a tour of Fernando Botero’s museum, but that will be discussed separately in an upcoming post.

Day Four In Antigua, Guatemala

Seeing as we had a somewhat early flight back home from Guatemala, we spent our remaining morning hours in Antigua exploring the grounds of our hotel, which included six great museums on the premises. The first museum we entered was the hotel’s Silver Museum which houses various samples of old, traditional handicrafts of the region including glazed crockery, painted ceramic, pyrography-based crafts (made from wood-burning), wrought iron, candles, carpentry and cabinets, tin ware, textiles and kites, and other such artifacts.

From there, we came across the Marco Augusto Quiroa and the Artist Halls which is a beautiful art exhibit with numerous pieces such as paintings and sculptures on display. We spent much more time in the museums than we had originally planned and only had time for one more exhibit so we chose the Archeology Museum as our grand finale. This particular museum displayed a wide array of both ceramic and stone objects including feminine figures, vases, plates, bowls, funerary urns, thuribles (used in worship services to burn incense), ceramic jugs, and other such immaculate pieces which are assumed to have been used during the Mayan culture’s Classic Period (200-900 AD).

Having reached the end of our trip, we made our way back to the hotel room to grab our belongings and head over to the airport to return home. On the way to the room though, we came across a breathtaking view alongside beautiful parrots that were quick to catch our eyes. Unfortunately, that was it for our time in Antigua, but hopefully one day we will return because there is still so much to be explored in this incredible city!

(http://www.casasantodomingo.com.gt/museums-en.html

Days 6 and 7 In Costa Rica- Last Night and Day In San José

This morning we left the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, and headed back towards San José to spend our last full day in Costa Rica. The scenery that we came across during the drive was breathtaking and we couldn’t have asked for better weather! We even managed to spot monkeys in the trees on the side of the road as well as some interesting looking birds too. We stopped at a local snack and smoothie shop, where we had the opportunity to sample some typical Costa Rican treats, but we were more interested in the smoothies since the fruit here is so fresh and delicious.

Pictured below is also a sign that says, “Pura Vida,” which is a saying you’ll hear a lot throughout the country! The exact translation in English is “pure life,” but the phrase is also used for purposes of saying, “Take it easy,” “Enjoy life,” “All good,” “Purity in life,” “Hello,” “Goodbye,” and even “This is life!” “Pura vida means that no matter what your current situation is, life for someone else can always be less fortunate than your own. So you need to consider that maybe…just maybe, your situation isn’t all that bad and that no matter how little or how much you have in life, we are all here together and life is short” which is why we should live it ‘pura vida style’ (http://www.bestcostaricantours.com).

We stopped for a quick meal in San José, but more noteworthy was our dinner at a local restaurant, which is all pictured below. The food surely didn’t disappoint, and neither did the view in the late afternoon! When we woke up the following morning, we had some free time to spend walking around the city before having to make our way over to the airport. Our first stop was at the Museos del Banco Central which has an enormous collection of over 1,600 Pre-Columbian golden artifacts, dating back to AD 500. It was definitely an interesting sight, but we didn’t stay in the museum too long because there was still more we wanted to see in the city.

We walked around the center of San José for a little while until we made our way over to the National Theater of Costa Rica. The theater was built in 1897 in an attempt to show off the economic improvements of the country, all thanks to the blooming success of coffee exportation. With Italian marble, glass and wood brought in from France, and spacious seating, who could complain?

The theater was a beautiful sight, but as our tour wrapped up, we made sure to grab one last meal before it was time for us to finally depart. And so our trip to Costa Rica had unfortunately concluded, but we had definitely hoped to return sometime in the future!