Friday, May 18, 2012

Peru 2012 Phase 2: Lima to Nazca

The past couple of days have been a blur at best. With our arrival in Lima on Tuesday night, Wednesday was full of experiences in Lima. We began the morning with a trip to the Larco Museum, and then had a brief lunch break and the Mirabus tour of Miraflores. After the Mirabus tour, I took the group to Petit Thouars, the souvenir street and encouraged everyone to get an idea of what they would like to look for as we travel through the country. Prices are okay on Petit Thouars, but we'll see all the same stuff everywhere else in the country for usually a lot cheaper. Of course, it's almost impossible to visit a handicraft mall without spending any money, so most everyone ended up getting something.
Wednesday night took us to the Parque Mágico de Aguas, where there are several lighted, dancing fountains. The high point of the evening is the laser light show projected on a water screen. It's definitely worth the price of admission.
Thursday morning was our scheduled trip to colonial Lima, the Plaza de San Martin, Plaza de Armas, Banco de la Reserva (another museum), and the Saint Francis cathedral and monastery and a trip into the catacombs. This excursion is always popular, as catacombs are not something we have in the US. Traffic in Lima was horrible, and we ended up losing a lot of time in transit. We closed our day with an evening excursion to Barranco to see the Puente de Suspiros and the vibrant night life there.
Today began at 5:45am with a bus ride to Nasca. We arrived in Nasca at 2:30 and checked into the hotel and went straight to the flyover. Weather has been pretty crummy in the mornings for the past several days, and rather than wait around at the airport all morning for the fog to lift, we decided to fly this evening when the weather was good. I didn't fly this time, as the Nazca Lines haven't changed in more than 1000 years, so the pictures I took last year are still good. Everyone enjoyed the flight, and nobody got sick. I think it was also helpful that we hadn't eaten lunch, so nobody had anything to upset their stomach. I hope to remember that for the next time around.
Everyone went their own way for dinner, and I enjoyed a quiet meal by myself at my favorite Nazca restaurant, La Encantada. Once again I had Palta Rellena and Lomo Saltado. I chased it with an Inka Cola, and went back to the hotel, where I am currently enjoying an early evening.
This post is quite boring, so I won't prolong the agony of anyone who may be reading. Tomorrow we have a morning tour of the cemetery and the precolumbian mummies, then an afternoon bus on to Arequipa.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Peru Study Abroad 2012

I write once again from Lima, Peru. This is my third trip to this wonderful country and the second time I have traveled with students. This year I have ten participants, six college-age students and four continuing studies students. Other than myself, there is only one male participant. The dynamic is quite different than last year's group, but it already seems to be considerably more relaxed than last year. I have an extremely full schedule planned for the next two weeks including almost everything we did last year plus Lake Titicaca, Maras, Chinchero, and other sites we missed last time. I may or may not have the time to write and update each day, but I'll do my very best to keep up this year.
So here's how day one shook out.
We met at the Huntsville Airport this morning at 4:30 to check in. Our United Airlines flight was a code share with US Airways, and the latter airline was not feeling at all friendly. I wasn't about to risk the loss of my luggage again this year, so I insisted on carrying on. I had a mild argument with the ladies at the ticket counter about the size of my bag, but in the end, I won out and made it all the way to Lima without having to check my bag through to the final destination. They tried for about one second to bill me for everyone's checked bags, but I reminded them that United policy is to allow one free checked bag on flights to South America. It is a sad indication of the state of air travel in the US to see just how much the airlines have begun to charge for, not just checked luggage (and carry-on in some airlines,) but snacks, wifi, and other luxuries. I'm afraid they'll start charging for the restroom before long.
Our flight left Huntsville for Charlotte, NC, then went on to Newark, NJ. We finally got on a United flight for the 7-hour leg to Lima. We landed at about 8:50pm, made our way through customs, and after a few minutes of trying to locate Liliana, our Lima contact, loaded up on the bus and headed to Miraflores, our center of operations for the next two and a half days. Last year, I booked our Lima hotel myself and it was overwhelmingly considered to be the low point of the trip, so this year I decided to let Karen (my Peruvian miracle worker) handle all the bookings. We're at Hotel The Place not far from Larcomar. We're not quite as centrally located as we were last year, but the accommodations are more private than last year. I will try and get up at 6 and go for a quick run to try and locate myself in the area. I'll be a lot better off if I know which way to direct everyone for their shopping and banking needs tomorrow.
Long story short: the flights were uneventful and the daytime travel allowed for more energy and will give us a full night's rest before really hitting the ground running tomorrow. 
In the meantime, it's late and I'm exhausted. Here's to another fun-filled two weeks of study abroad stress. (I must really love it or I wouldn't do this to myself each year...)