A Travellerspoint blog

November 2012


A small desert town

Last Wednesday, we arrived in Paracas, a small coastal desert town of about 4,000 people south of Lima, to meet our first host from Couchsurfing, Jose. As we traversed the main boulevard through town, numerous tour guides offered us packages, tours, and accommodations. We were warned that this would happen, and just to keep heading to the hostel that Jose would meet us at. From there, we would go to his house. Jose greeted us warmly and led us to his home. As we walked towards the neighborhood that the locals live in, a little bit of fear crept in. All along our way to Paracas from Lima, we saw these sort of “shanty-looking” towns, and now we were actually walking through one to Jose’s home. It was some serious culture shock to see how the developing world lives first hand. Most of the houses were built with sticks, grasses, and some concrete. We arrived at Jose’s; his house was painted a nice light green color on the outside. It looked inviting among the others. However, we got inside, and we were still outside! A wide open space with no roof greeted us. There was no furniture or décor, just a concrete living area with one room, a kitchen and bathroom. Along with our initial shock and a little fear, we also worried how we would wash diapers (because Elijah went through a lot that day on the bus). Jose didn’t have any water. We learned it only comes for three hours a day in the mornings. We kindly told him we needed to get a hostel room for the night because we would need to wash diapers that night. He understood and showed us a good hostel to stay in, Hostal Los Frayles.

The next morning we woke up refreshed and less overwhelmed. Paracas looked a lot less frightening in the daylight. We realized we have been holding onto our American way of life and need to let go of some of our assumptions about living. Nevertheless we did decide to stay in the hostel the remainder of our time in Paracas; maybe we’ll be braver down the road as we learn the culture and language here.

Once we were more established (and had clean diapers), we were able to enjoy this small town and ended up staying 6 days in Paracas. We learned that just four years ago, there was hardly a town here at all. The government and politics"created" it in the name of tourism and actually gave locals free houses to move here (that they have to build though). Unfortunately, this is not a place where one would typically live. It lies in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places in the world, only receiving less than 1 millimeter of rain in a year; some parts have not seen rain in 500 years. So the entire local population of Paracas is dependent on imported good from other parts of Peru, leading to a lot of poverty despite growing tourism. However it’s possible that in 10-15 years from now this place could resemble Cancun, as they are continuously building nicer resorts here.

First, we did the touristy boat ride that takes you around the Ballestas Islands, also known as the “mini-Galapagos.” There we saw native penguins, sea lions, and numerous species of birds, like the blue-footed booby. Along the way to the islands you can also see the famous and mysterious "Candelabra." It's done in a similar style to the Nazca lines and no one knows who drew it or why.

There's also a small history museum in Paracas; it seems that very few people go there (sadly). The old man that runs it was very friendly, despite our limited Spanish and his limited English. He showed us these skulls that they found in Paracas that were about 5,000 years old. There were over 40 bodies and mummies found buried deep in the ground together. And each of the skulls are unique in that some are deformed, some are diseased, and some do not seem human, but rather more alien. They don't know why they were buried there because there was no remains of housing or living in the area from that time period. We were hoping to meet an American archaeologist, Brien Foerster, who has done a lot of work excavating the site and studying the bones, but he was not going to be back in Paracas until the 27th or 28th and we couldn't wait that long.

We also found an awesome little pizza bar/café that a local Peruvian, Darwin aka “Charles,” and his New Zealander girlfriend, Steff, run. They were so nice and helpful (we were also grateful to finally speak to someone in English, so we could understand a bit more about the culture here!). They took us to the market in Pisco, about 5 miles north of Paracas, so we could get some fresh Aloe and fruit. We got sun burnt pretty bad the first day or two in Paracas, as we didn’t quite realize how powerful the sun is down here. It was just about 70 degrees and cloudy, so we didn’t think about sunscreen until it was too late. Luckily just Jessica and Tracy got sun burnt; Elijah was fine!

It took us a few days to figure out the local scene here. Here are some things we’ve learned so far. First, Peru has these odd-looking native dogs that are black with no hair (think naked mole rat in dog form), and dogs of all kinds run around the towns freely, even though we’re told that most are pets not strays. Secondly, roosters crow at all hours of the night and day here, and they actually only become quiet around 6 AM when the sun comes up, strange! Third, coffee here is Nescafe (ewww!) unless otherwise specified, and even then it’s not very good. We thought that in a region where coffee is produced, we’d get better coffee, but oh well! We’re learning to live with less coffee. Also, we’re learning that we can get a good (and big) meal for 20 soles or less for the both of us (that’s about $8 US); it's not always what we expect, but it's usually good. We tried ceviche here, as they are known for their seafood on the coast, and it was delicious! That’s raw fish or seafood which has been “cooked” using only lime or lemon, then mixed with other spices or herbs. Another thing at restaurants that is a little frustrating and odd are the tiny napkins they give you! And we mean tiny! We’re not sure how anyone could use just one. Oh and lastly, Peruvians love babies! We’ve had so many women and men coming up to Elijah to play with him. Many of the women will actually offer to hold Elijah while we eat, which has been so wonderful!

So for the most part, our time in Paracas has been great. We met a ton of nice people that have been so helpful and friendly to us! We met a wonderful Chinese couple from California that were also on the same route as we were from Paracas to Nazca to Arequipa and so on. We also met a nice couple from North Carolina who shared our love of gardening, living sustainably, and traveling. And we can’t forget the locals who helped us: Afriem and Manuel, who worked at the hostal, Steff and Darwin, Jose, and the countless others who made us feel welcome in their town!

Unfortunately there was also the not-so-wonderful time in Paracas. We've both now had small bouts of travelers' sickness, even though we've tried to be careful with what we eat and drink. And as we said earlier, we got sun burnt. Well, Jessica didn’t just get sun burnt, she actually woke up two days later with half of her face so swollen that she looked like Quasimodo! Aaahhh! It was the weirdest thing ever! Instantly we looked up what could have caused it and the only thing that made sense was that it was a one-time allergic reaction to the sun. Anyway, it has lasted for about three days now and I think it’s finally getting better (thanks Romaine for doing some long distance healing!). So normally Jessica would have just chalked this up to something weird and awful (and probably would have hidden inside the whole time), but since we’re on this soul searching journey, we believe everything is happening for a reason to help us along our path to find God. After waking up with half her face deformed and peeling from the sun burn, Jessica realized how attached she was to her outward appearance. She thought that she had rid herself of being concerned with how she looked (as she stopped washing/styling her hair and doing make-up about two months ago), but clearly there was more work to be done. It was really tough to deal with this realization, but that is what we want along this journey. We’ve read from both Ram Dass and Deepak Chopra that to truly know God we must give up our attachments to things of this world, and that definitely includes how we look. It was hard, but Jessica dealt with it, and literally (and figuratively) shed her old skin to be open to a new way of being and seeing herself in this world. We think that this will be one of many eye-opening and mind-expanding tests that we’ll endure along our path.

Anyway, we left Paracas and arrived in Nazca after a four hour bus ride. We learned that long bus rides plus no food equals one unhappy breastfeeding mama! We’ll be carrying snacks from now on every bus ride we go on. We’ll be in Nazca just two days, enough time to see the mysterious Nazca lines and move on towards the Andes Mountains. Stay tuned for more!!

Posted by jessp2386 07:17 Archived in Peru Tagged birds coast beach museum dogs paracas penguins babies hostal ballestas ceviche skulls sea_lions Comments (4)

Real Life....

.....Hits Us Like a Peruvian Cab Driver

So reflecting back on our last entry, we’ve realized living out of one backpack for the three of us is TOUGH! We knew it would be, and we were mentally preparing to struggle and be uncomfortable for quite awhile. But man, when you get down to just living (or surviving), higher order stuff like meditation (and snacks, we think we’ll be losing some weight, haha) seems to just fall by the wayside. It probably doesn’t help that we’re still in Lima, a city of 11 million people, and have felt like we’re the only ones who speak English here. It’s been a bit overwhelming!

However, we will endure. Humans are amazing and can withstand much more than this. We are still confident. But if you had asked Jessica that on the plane ride over here, after Elijah cried for over an hour straight because he wanted to go to sleep, but couldn’t, it might have been a different story. Anyway, here’s a recap of what we’ve seen and done so far.

Well, our plane to Lima was delayed by over an hour, so we didn’t actually arrive in Lima until about midnight, and then after going through customs and immigration it was well past that. We were bombarded by tons of cab drivers as we walked out of the airport. Jessica read ahead of that you should be able to get a cab ride for about $10 US, but negotiating a price at this hour seemed silly. We just wanted to go to our hostel and sleep; we ended up paying $30. As we zoomed out of the airport, our cab driver stayed silent as he weaved in and out of traffic, skipping stop signs and coming within inches of other vehicles. When we finally arrived at your hostel we were so glad to see a warm bed that the three of us instantly passed out.

The next day, Tuesday, after some much needed rest, we woke up to a hot breakfast at the Miraflores Inn where we were staying. Fresh squeezed orange juice, hot coffee, delicious eggs and soft rolls were like heaven to our stomachs! After airplane food, this was gourmet! Next we took a little tour of the Mireflores district of Lima. We walked down to the coastline, where they have these huge bluffs that come right up to the coast then plunge down a couple hundred feet to the beaches below. Even though Mireflores is supposedly the nicest part of Lima, everything seems to be half built; it reminded us a lot of Cancun, Mexico that way. We did notice how many public workers there are just cleaning up the streets continuously. There’s no litter in Mireflores and no homeless people. There are also many police officers and security officers everywhere just standing on the streets, ready to help you if needed.

We realized very fast that our Spanish is horrible! Luckily we did have a small phrasebook and are practicing constantly because very few people speak English here. It wasn’t until 3 PM the first day that we even came across anyone else who spoke fluent English; we met a nice man and his mother who were from Canada. It was very nice to not have to struggle to communicate for once.

For dinner, we went looking for a restaurant that wasn’t too expensive. To our surprise, Lima is expensive, and we weren’t really prepared for that. Luckily we won’t be staying long and hopefully it will be cheaper once we’re out of a big city. We wandered around for awhile until we found a pizza/pasta place to eat. We got pasta with garlic bread and wine for 19 soles (about $8 US) each. It was delicious! We also noticed that most people don’t eat dinner until about 8 PM here; we were eating at 6:30 and some places weren’t even open. But we’ve got to eat early because Elijah goes to bed at about 8 PM.

The diaper situation has been an interesting one too. We brought 12 cloth diapers, 6 ecapants (think baby training pants) and 6 prefolds (the old fashion square cloth diapers) with the intend of washing them each day; however, bathrooms here don’t have anywhere to lay a baby down to change them, so we have yet to use the prefolds at all. Luckily we can change the ecapants while holding Elijah. So we’ve only been using 6 diapers and have come close to running out of the ecapants because they don’t dry very fast. The only thing that has saved us is Elimination Communication (EC) which we’ve practiced from birth with Elijah. To those that don’t know what that is, basically it’s the assumption that babies are aware of their elimination from birth, and we look for nonverbal cues of when they need to go to the bathroom. We are fairly good at catching most of Elijah’s cues, but it’s been difficult here as we’ve been a little distracted and sometimes just don’t have access to a bathroom.

Well, that is mostly all we’ve done here in Lima. Washed diapers, walked a lot, and ate food. We are heading to Paracas today on an awesome double decker tour bus. Our tentative itinerary is this:
-First stop is Paracas to stay with some fellow couchsurfers. We’ll check out the Paracas History Museum and their huge elongated human skulls. We will also see the “mini-Galapagos” and the Ballestas Islands. (approx. Nov 21-26) We also plan to see the Nazca lines on our way out of Paracas.
-Then head inland and up to Arequipa, at 7,000 ft above sea level. We don’t have a place to stay here yet, so we might end up in a hostel. (approx. Nov 26-Dec 2)
-Next we’re off to Puno and Lake Titicaca. Here we have booked a two week tour that starts here and ends at Machu Picchu, with a stop in Cusco also. (Dec 2-18)
-Then we go back to Cusco to couchsurf for awhile. Hopefully we’ll meet up with Jessica’s cousin Luke here! (Dec 18-26)
-Then off to the Sacred Valley, outside of Cusco, to stay at an Eco Yoga Retreat to help on their organic farm. We’re really excited for this! (Dec 26-Jan 10)

-Then off to an organic family farm near Quillabamba and the rain forest. We’ll be harvest fresh mangos, coffee, and cacao. (Jan 10-25).

Of course this can all change, but that’s the plan as of now!

Sorry almost forgot to add pictures!

Posted by jessp2386 03:34 Archived in Peru Tagged beaches coast peru paracas backpacking hostal Comments (2)

T-minus 12 Hours....

Our Spiritual Journey

We’re not just leaving America for an awesome travel experience or because of our disgust with how this country is run; we also feel a calling to change how we’re living our lives. We are longing to be closer to God, to know God, and for our lives to reflect that.

(Of course when we say God, we don’t necessarily mean God as in the God described in the bible. We don’t mean to offend anyone, but we believe that no earthly religion has captured who exactly God, the Source, the Creator, Spirit, or the great “I Am” is. But to make things simple from here on out we’ll refer to our creator as God.)

We believe that God is in every living thing on the planet and that God is everywhere and in everyone. And we are on a search to find God, the Source, within ourselves and those around us. To do that, we will be intentionally living through the heart and seeking to serve others along the way.

So how did we get to this point and what does it have to do with our upcoming travels??

It probably started a few years ago, along with our ever increasing knowledge of the destructive nature of our country and government, we felt like we were missing something in our lives. We had a house, a steady income, love for each other, friends, family and our plants, but there was something still lacking. We decided to try out a couple churches. We finally found a wonderful Methodist church that welcomed us from the time we walked in the doors. We finally found a place that we really felt God in.

As we continued to grow in our faith in God, we began hearing the same message over and over in the Bible. Numerous times in the New Testament, Jesus tells his followers to give up everything they have to follow Christ. Other similar messages include: Jesus saying that you can’t worship both money and God; that it’s as likely for a rich person to get into heaven as it is for a camel to get through the eye of a needle; and that you must lose yourself to truly know God. Of course, there are many interpretations of these passages and we’re not here to argue the exact meaning of these; however, the message for us was loud and clear. We both felt that in order to truly become closer to God, we needed to change how we were living in America. We needed to simplify our life and declutter our minds.

As we yearned for more from our existence here on Earth, we started practicing and reading books on meditation and living through the heart, as opposed to our head. Maybe we should be more clear, we actually devoured books on these topics. This led to new knowledge of chakras, auras, kundalini energy and our third eye. Now some of this might start to sound “new age-y” (and we suppose that’s how this society would categorize it), but we felt as if we had stumbled upon this great part of life that had been missing for so long; we realized that we, as humans, are meant for so much more. For us, everything started to make sense and fall in line. Ancient civilizations knew this, and indigenous cultures have been living this way all along! They knew the amazing potential that resides in each one of us and between all of us. What is this amazing potential, you ask? They knew that we all held amazing abilities far beyond the assumed range that today’s science would bestow upon an individual. They knew that as humans we are connected to one another, along with every other living thing on the planet, on a deeper level than just physical; there’s mental and spiritual as well. We really are all one. And now we are on a journey to learn how to reconnect to that universal consciousness that has been missing for too long.

Now, I want to add why it’s missing in the first place. We believe that the current “system” here in America purposely distracts and divides us from one another from the moment we’re born throughout our lives. The goal is to easily keep us “in line” or “controlled” so that we don’t know just how awesome we really are. In order to do that, they’ve got to keep us as far removed from nature and natural processes as possible. For example, just think about the birthing process most American women experience. The majority get pumped full of drugs in order to not fully experience childbirth, while over a third actually have their babies cut out of their bodies, severing the first possible connection between mother and child. Because of these interventions, most women end up struggling to breastfeed, switch to the formula that the hospital gave them as a “sample,” and possibly suffer postpartum depression because of this. Despite these intended divisions between mother and child, humans are so amazing that we still overcome these to form loving connections with our children. Unfortunately the system continues to try (and try and try) to divide us throughout our entire lives. (Also, this is in no way meant to make women who ended up formula-feeding or had a c-section feel bad or guilty. It was not your fault!! It was just an example of this smartly thought out system to get people disconnected from the very beginning.)

So at this point you might be thinking we’re a little crazy, maybe you’ve secretly felt this disconnection too, or maybe you’ve jumped right on board with us, but still what does this have to do with our travels?? As we said in an earlier entry, we want to find a place to live and raise our son that is in harmony with nature and community with others. We have also started following our intuition more as we try to listen for God’s voice. And Tracy just kept hearing Peru over and over (then we also heard it from a couple psychics, again see a previous entry for more on that). So that’s what we’re doing! We’re starting in Peru and following that small quiet voice within to lead us where we need to go.

We realize this isn’t the journey or calling for everyone. We are all one, yet all unique and have our own path to follow. The point is to listen to that voice and do what feels right between you and God.

Anyway, we currently have twelve short hours until we land in Peru. And there will be much more to come on our spiritual journey and our physical journeys through South America and beyond. We hope that you’ll open your mind a bit as we travel through unknown lands and possibilities!! It will definitely be interesting in the least, as we try to balance taking care of a baby, living out of a just one backpack, and finding peace and love through living simply, serving others, and searching for the Source all around us.

Posted by jessp2386 07:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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