Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Catedral de Sal

Wednesday 30 April 2008

We visited the Salt Cathedral today, one of Colombia's wonders. It is an old salt mine, abandoned over a hundred years ago, which has been converted into a giant Stations of the Cross leading to a huge underground cathedral, all of which is made completely out of salt. It was a cool, dark place, very quiet and echo-ey, all lit with blue and white, a little eerie, but very interesting. They have even performed baptisms and weddings down here! The cross seen here is the largest cross in the world carved out of the earth (as well as the largest salt cross, but I doubt there is much competition for that).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bogotá cemetery

Tuesday 29 April 2008

Ryan and I arrived in Bogotá, Colombia today. And of course, what is the first thing we do? Visit the cemetery! (We tried to go to museums today, but they're all closed on Tuesdays.) It was a really nice little graveyard, lots of flowers and dead ex-presidents. This particular grave caught my eye . . .

Monday, April 28, 2008

Quito at night

Monday 28 April 2008

Our last night in Quito. This is the view of San Fransisco plaza from our hostal. Nice location, huh?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Star orchid

Sunday 27 April 2008

We visited the Botanical Garden here in Quito today, where we spent most of our time in the two orchidariums (surprise, surprise.) They had one cooler one for high-altitude orchids, and a hotter one for low-altitude orchids, but both were amazing.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Orquestra Típica Ferdinand Fierro

Saturday 26 April 2008

We went to see this Argentine tango band last night - I know, I know, going to see a Argentine band in Ecuador? Well, Ryan had really wanted to see them before and never got the chance, so we figured we'd grab the chance now! They were very good modern tango, although the concert was a bit short. What was really neat was the theater. We saw the show in the Teatro Bolívar, which had a very very bad fire a few years back. The inside had clearly been gorgeous before the fire, although it is pretty simple and still very much in the process of restoration now. The really cool thing, though? After the fire, they didn't miss a single performance - the show had to go on! Now that's theater people.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Church in the middle of the world

Friday 25 April 2008

We visited the equator today, which was a really cool outing. There were actually three different museums, all claiming to have the "real" equator. At the main big one, they had a whole complex of souvenir shops and pavilions and a monument and whatnot, although that one is generally believed to be off by about 240 meters. It was neat, though, and we took a bunch of silly pictures. A little ways down, I found this church, right on the equator. I imagine it's popular for weddings!

At the GPS equator, they did all kinds of things like showing you which way the water flowed down a drain on each side of it, and right on the line (don't worry, I got videos) and letting you balance an egg on a nail (pretty easy!)

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Thursday 24 April 2008

Mindo is supposed to be a bird-watcher's paradise, so we decided to take a guided bird walk today. Most of the little brownish ones started to look alike to me after a while, although I did enjoy some of their names (Marble-throated Bristle-tyrant and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner were some of my favorites). This guy certainly stood out from the crowd, though!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sticky guy

Wednesday 23 April 2008

We visited a butterfly garden today, but those pictures didn't turn out so well. But they also had a bunch of tree frogs around in aquariums, and I thought this guy was awfully neat.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Itsy bitsy spider . . .

Tuesday 22 April 2008

A spider in the orchid garden.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Monday 21 April 2008

Ryan and I have escaped the city, and are currently taking a breather in the town of Mindo, which is high up in the cloud forests of Ecuador. Our hostal is in an orchid garden, which is the coolest thing. Here is the Brassia arcuigera, just one of over 200 species represented here. (There are over 3,500 species in all of Ecuador!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Sunday 20 April 2008

We had a terrible and loooong hail storm today in Quito. Luckily, Ryan and I were safe inside an internet cafe. It got worse after I took this shot, but it's the best one I have of the hail accumulating on the street. It looked like it had snowed!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

La Virgin Dolorosa

Saturday 19 April 2008

You just never know when you're going to run into a religous procession down here! Here is one for the Virgin Dolorosa, or "pained virgen," who appeared in the government buildings here in Quito over 500 years ago. It was a neat procession, everyone was singing, all the school kids were walking in their uniforms, and crazy pop music would interupt the mournful songs at regular intervals.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Friday 18 April 2008

I know I just showed some fruit a few days ago, but this fruit was so cool I just had to post a picture of it. It's called "uvilla," and tastes like a sour cherry-ish. It's just so cool how it grows inside that paper pouch, though.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Thursday 17 April 2008

We spent 15 hours on a bus today - I'm sure you're not interested in that. So, here is an old picture of a viringo, or hairless Peruvian dog. These dogs have been bred here and only here for thousands of years (pictures of them have been found on all kinds of ancient pottery.) They are naturally hairless, and have a much higher body temperature than normal. Because of this, they are often used as bed-warmers for people with arthritis and rhumatism. I petted one, and it really did feel like it had a terrible fever!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New fruit!

Wednesday 16 April 2008

We've been trying a ton of new fruit on this trip - so far I've counted over 15 new kinds, most of which we'd never even heard of before. These are just two: the big one is called "sapote," and tastes rather like an extra-sweet pumpkin. The texture is pumpkiny, too. I really liked that one. The little one is called "naranjilla," and is really sour. Ryan likened the taste to a more sour kiwi. I likened it to bile - I was not a fan of this one. But in general, the new fruit we've tried has been delicious.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Their royal highnesses

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Ryan and I were stuck in the town of Piura today, waiting for the next bus out. We spent the day on the internet, wandering around town, sampling local fare. We also stumbled across this rather random parada - it seemed to be celebrating some kind of culinary festival, as there were floats with people cooking in giant toy pots, and one with people roasting imaginary things over a real fire. There were also these two, although we couldn't tell exactly what they are Miss and Mister of, nor why there is a giant poster of Jesus behind them.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Monday 14 April 2008

Yes, this looks like a taxi dispatch center, but no, it is simply normal traffic stopped at a red light in Chiclayo, Peru. There are SO MANY taxies here!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Sunday 13 April 2008
We visited another neat museum today, one which allowed photos! This is a piece of jewelry really common to the Mochica and Chimu cultures, and we have seen an awful lot of them in different sizes and styles. It is a nariguera, or nose-ornament. Powerful and important people such as kings and priests would attatch it to the little piece of skin that separates your nostrils in order to hide their mouth. Why? These people were supposed to be dieties, and as such commoners were not allowed to see their expression. With these, kings could smile or frown or yawn in privacy. I've also heard it explained that dieties would not have human teeth, and so kings used them to hide the fact that their teeth were perfectly human.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

El Señor de Sipán

Saturday 12 April 2008
This is the royal tomb of the Lord of Sipán, a king of the ancient Mochica people. He lived about 1,700 years ago, and was buried with a wife (one of many), his military cheif, his standard-bearer, a boy, some decapitated llamas, a guardian (whose feet had been cut off to ensure he stayed in the tomb), a watchman, hundreds of pots full of food, and an unbelievably collection of jewelry and treasures. This picture here is the original tomb, but all the skeletons and such are replicas. Later we visited the museum where the real bodies and treasures are on display, which was one of the most amazing museums I've ever seen in my life. They had the gold and jewelry from this tomb, as well as from other, older tombs. The gold was skillfully worked and all of the jewelry impressively intricate. But the most jaw-dropping display was of delicate woven lace from 2,000 years ago!! These cultures are truly amazing.

Friday, April 11, 2008

La Marinera

Friday 11 April 2008
We visited the Asociación de Criadores y Proprietarios de Caballos Peruanos de Paso today, to learn about and ride the Peruvian Paso horses. They are good work horses, but are much better known for their unbelievably smooth gait. I really enjoyed riding - it was the smoothest ride I've ever had on a horse.
The highlight of the day, however, was when a woman came in to demonstrate the Marinera, or local dance. She danced alone for a bit, and then she danced with the horse. Yes, these horses are so amazing, they can dance. How about that?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Caballitos de totora

Thursday 10 April 2008
Finally - back at sea level!! It feels so nice to walk up stairs, pick up my backpack, wash my hair, and not get out of breath! Ryan and I are now on the north coast of Peru, in a small town called Huanchaco. These are the caballitos de totora, or little reed horses, which are the traditional boat from the region. Fishermen ride on them with one leg on each side (hence the name), and handle them with great skill in the surf.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Huaca de la Luna

Wednesday 9 April 2008
Wall paintings within the Huaca de la Luna, a temple from a pre-Incan culture, the Mochicas. These paintings are from over 1,500 years ago, and are unrestored, untouched. Isn't that incredible?
We visited a few sites from the Mochica and Chimu cultures today, and were quite impressed by what we saw. The Incas get all the credit nowadays, but in fact they built off of the cultures before them, who were around for a lot longer and did a lot more.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Andean good luck charms

Tuesday 8 April 2008
This picture was taken from a moving bus, so please excuse the distance. This is the roof of a typical house up here in the mountains, and in this region you often see little houses on top of the houses. Made from clay and usually elaborated painted, they are supposed to bring luck to the house.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Frog juice

Monday 7 April 2008
Here is Ryan, brave soul that he is, drinking "extracto de rana" - frog extract. It is a common drink in this part of the mountains (we asked the guy who made it for us - he gets 12 to 16 orders a morning, and he's just one guy in one market), and is supposed to cure bronchitis, asthma, impotence, tiredness, and anemia, as well as returning your youth.
I'll give you directions, in case you want to make it. Take one live frog, give it a knock on the head, and peel off the skin. Put it in a blender with hot water and a raw quail egg. Blend well. Strain. Add honey, carob syrup, beet and carrot juice, and maca (an Andean tuber) powder. Mix. Enjoy!
Ryan drank the whole two glasses, and said it wasn't bad. I had a few sips, but didn't care for it. It wasn't terrible, and if you didn't know what was in it probably wouldn't notice, but there was definitely a slight icky background flavor. And, Ryan ended up pretty sick that night. We can't say for sure it was the frog juice, but . . .

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Ayacucho cementery

Sunday 6 April 2008
We visited the Ayacucho cementery today, which was a fairly traditional collection of one kind of grave, the kind I call "drawers." Here, however, instead of the normal engraved plates with names and dates, most people had some kind of hand-painted front. There were some really impressive works of art as well as some obviously home-made drawings, ranging from simple outlines of clouds and crosses, through the normal gamut of Maries crying or praying, right on up to bloody, suffering Jesus. I'm not too sure why someone would choose this one, but there was more than one Jesus bleeding from the mouth.

Peruvian ice cream!

Saturday 5 April 2008
Traditional ice cream from the town of Ayacucho - cream and sugar in a pot set in a big bowl of ice, and the ladies sit and spin it all day. A thin layer freezes along the inside of the pot, so they scoop that out into a cup for you. I asked what flavor it was and she told me "milk," but it tasted like coffee and cinnamon and heavenly goodness - definitely the best ice cream I've had outside of Argentina!

Friday, April 04, 2008


Friday 4 April 2008

Ryan and I visited a neat museum full of art made by Andean children today. Since they asked you not to take pictures of the artworks, I decided to put this up instead. In the same museum, they had an incredible collection of chuspas, or purses used only for holding coca leaves, from all different ethnic groups of Peru and Bolivia. These are rarely used any more, due to the popularity of plastic baggies, so are falling into the category of historical interest. Each is unique, however, and always woven for a man by a woman important to him, such as his mother or wife, for an important event, such as his wedding or a festival.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

My Peruvian family

Thursday 3 April 2008

Ryan and I went back to my host family's house for dinner tonight. Not only could I introduce the boyfriend I had been talking so much about, but it also meant one more delicious home-cooked meal! So, here I am with the other students in the house, Nienke and Sam, Cinthia the helper-girl, Tula, Eloy, and their grandaughter Ariana.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Wednesday 2 April 2008

Today was my last day with my Peruvian host family, very sadly. (I'll have a picture of them tomorrow.) I am going to miss their warmth and friendlines, their humor and openness, practicing Spanish, and the unbelievably good traditional food for every single meal. The family also has two English Sheepdog puppies, so I had to say goodbye to them today, too.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The 12-sided rock, ooooh

Tuesday 1 April 2008
I decided to put this up today because it feels a bit like an April Fool's day trick that Cusco likes to pull on tourists. All over the place you hear about the magnificent 12-sided rock, the marvel of Incan engineering, a wonder not to be missed. To be honest, the first time I saw it, I thought "Is this it?" Yes, upon further examination is it impressive the way they've shaped the rock to fit so perfectly into the wall. It's along a street in the center so narrow that I am more impressed that 50 German tourists can fit in it at the same time, all of them snapping pictures.