The Sacred Valley

So on Tuesday evening we went off to the Pre Columbian art museum in Cusco which had some more pottery of different Peruvian cultures as well as wood and metalwork. I have to admit the pottery was the best however. The museum was run by the same people who ran the pottery museum in Lima and it was also excellent.

Then on Wednesday we went to Pisac at one end of the Sacred Valley and attempted a walk into the mountains along the river. This ended fairly quickly in failure as we only had a 1km=1cm map as that was the best available (even that cost nearly US$20) and the path itself wasn’t clear at all and we kept getting distracted by sheep tracks. Maybe a GPS would have made it more possible. Regardless we did get to see some amazing views of the valley and it was a tough walk so I shouldn’t complain too much. In the evening we went to a small restaurant with excellent food but unfortunately the worlds slowest service.

On Thursday we had some chores to complete in the morning but we also headed off to the Sacred Valley to the other end that is accessable by road to the town of Ollyatambo. This took 2 hours each way by bus and collectivo but still coat less than $2. It was pretty efficient and we didn’t stop much and it was a great way to see the locals. I wish my Spanish was up to conversation too. The only problem with the bus was the lack of legroom but I didn’t have a problem. There are definitely advantages to being short!
At Ollyatambo there was an attractive town which we looked around as well as more terraces and an Inca fort. The inca fort was very interesting and we spent over an hour looking around it. They had also partly reconstructed the fort so you could see what it used to be like. Hopefully they don’t go too far with this though. This end of the valley was also much more tropical than at Pisac which as it was only 30km away was surprising. This was clearly an important valley for the incas. Then we got ready for Machu Picchu the next day for which we had to get up at 5am for the train.

Cusco

So after a bus ride from Arequipa that at 10 hours was entirely too short, and on twisty and bumpy roads we arrived in Cusco yesterday. I say the bus journey was too short as we then didn’t get enough time for sleep on the bus and it arrived to early in the morning, though admittedly it was streets ahead of Vietnam Railways arrival into Hanoi at 4.30am last year.

Cusco is really the tourist centre of Peru and it is a beautiful city, it is an old town, with very narrow streets and it is fun watching the taxis charge at each other before one gives in an reverses out again. Really its a city for walking, even given the height of 3500m. Apon arrival first we went to the South America Explorers Club to pick up a walking map. After getting that and a cheap lunch we had a wander around the centre and visited the very beautiful cathedral. There was even a free and very good audio tour of the cathedrals (I’m something of a fan of audio tours, they tell you a lot more than just wandering round on your own)

After that we went to dinner at a place called the Bagdad Cafe and had some excellent food. However in mine, which was a local speciality that was basically pork soup there was a chili. Unfortunately even though the dish was fairly spicy I didn’t realise it was a chili and thought the spice was in the sauce itself and it was a sweet pepper. So I took a big bite and then my mouth was feeling incredibly spicy. This was to an insane extent and I downed most of a bottle of beer, had some bread, and also quite a bit of sugar, as well as a 500ml bottle of water to return the level of spice to a sane level (i.e that of a medium curry like a Chicken Tikka Masala).

Then this morning I had a bit of Diarrhea, probably due to the spice, so I’ve stayed at the hostel while my friends go up to see some Inca sites nearby. I am already feeling a lot better though, and am shortly going to get some lunch.

Lima, Lima, Lima

So after 3 weeks in Argentina I am now in Lima. My flight from Buenos Aires last night was excellent and I watched “Great Expectations” starring Gwyneth Paltrow as well as the first episode of Prison Break, which looks like a good series.

After arriving at Lima Airport I got a taxi to the centre to find a room, and spent the night in a 3* hotel in the city centre. As I was taken by a taxi driver it was expensive at US$40 (I did save some money by refusing the first offer of US$70 accommodation and going to Miraflores which is apparently expensive but where tourists generally stay), but as the bus back into BA and accommodation at a hostel would have cost about the same it was money well spent. The accommodation was also pretty nice and included breakfast.

Then this morning I got a taxi to my new accommodation where I was supposed to be staying and after sorting out a few details and picking up a SIM card for US$6. I had a wander around the area. Lima is very poor, and unlike anywhere else I’ve been people were offering mobile phones for making calls. Though to be fair in Argentina there are lots of places offering long distance calls as well as internet access.

At lunchtime I grabbed some delicous food which only cost US$2, which was a nice change on BA, where I seemed to spend US$10 on every meal. That also included the US$0.33 tip, which was rather high, though I didn’t have any smaller coins to leave, and the food was very nice.

In the afternoon I had a wander around. Some of the streets near my hostel are being rebuilt so that was fun, but it was interesting to see the good architecture. Then for dinner I wandered up to Plaza San Martin which is very posh and had a chat with a Peruvian who wanted to practice his English which was interesting. I then grabbed some dinner from a Chinese takeway, which as it was in a posher part of town was more expensive than lunch but still good.

Then I headed back to the hostel to wait for my friends flights from England and write this post.

More Spanish, MABLA and Tigre

So yesterday I actually did something a little more interesting than just resting.

Firstly I went to the police station to report the theft of my camera. This took about an hour. After that I grabbed some lunch before my Spanish lesson in the early afternoon I made some more progress and was able to figure out the menu of the Chinese restaurant I went to in the evening. I have also learnt some Spanish chat up lines including the classic Do you come here often? Which is ¿Venís siempre acá? en Español. I haven’t (yet :p) asked my teacher whether it’s also a double endentre in Spanish or whether that is only in English.

Anyhow in the afternoon after my Spanish lesson I headed to Palmero, one of the districts I had previously missed here in Buenos Aires. In palmero I went an saw a museum of modern art called MALBA which was a modern art museum that was free to students! Anyhow they had an interesting exhibit by Félix González-Torres. This was an interactive exhibit and I got to pick up various bits and pieces including free sweets from around the gallery. It was quite interesting actually. They also had some other galleries which were also worth seeing. One of the most interesting pictures was one of the centre of BA in the 1930’s it looked gorgeous, and is definitely somewhere I’d have liked to live at that time.

After that I headed back to my accommodation. On the train I was accosted by the usual people trying to beg or sell crap that I don’t want. It is incredibly irritating and I just ignore them as I learnt last year in south-east Asia. The Buenos Aires citizens aren’t as cold-hearted as me though; maybe there is no money from the government for these people, which given Argentina is the 31st (23rd by PPP) richest country in the world there really should be. I suppose there are lots of people digging through rubbish in the streets which I didn’t see in south-east Asia so there is clearly a very serious poverty issue here. There is also a lot of guilt about the problem. Begging isn’t just confined to the streets and public transport here. It is also even happens in coffee shops.

Then this morning I got up fairly early and headed to the Tigre delta outside BA as my Spanish lesson isn’t until 6pm. I went on the train which wasn’t particularly crowded and was also only a little more expensive than a Subte ride which in itself is very cheap (US$0.30). Once I got to the delta I booked myself on a boat tour of the delta and then went off to have some lunch. For lunch I had some Milanese which is beef in breadcrumbs and is a speciality of the region which was nice. I also had some (freshly squeezed – and therefore expensive at US$2.60) orange juice for my fruit portion of the day. It’s actually hard to eat enough fruit here as most of the stuff in the supermarkets seems to have lots of blemishes. So much so that you aren’t sure if its fit to eat or maybe that’s just Tesco brainwashing me.

Then i wet on the boat tour. The boat tour itself was only OK, there was no commentrary (even in Spanish) and it was pretty expensive at US$10 for a 2 hour trip. I did finally get to see some people who looked like they had money on the boat; given the poverty in the centre it was kind of uncomfortable, though certainly to an extent I was looking at a mirror back of myself. The trip itself did seem to be an expensive camera photoshoot of the delta and posed people on the boat so I guess I missed out on the full experience as I didn’t have a camera.

Then I headed back to Buenos Aires for my Spanish lesson. The journey wasn’t entirely uneventful. I had to jump the barrier at the train station as it wouldn’t accept my ticket and I had to block the door of the Subte train as I was too far back to get off (the stop for Milhouse is one after the busiest station on the Subte system) before I had my Spanish lesson at the hostel. After that I headed back to my accommodation on the edge of the city and I had dinner at the local Italian (which was very nice) before going to bed after a long day.

Buenos Aires

After arriving in Buenos Aires on Saturday I headed down on the subte to Plaza de Mayo where I had a bit of a wander the trains are still in their original 1913 form and were surprisngly quiet and comfortable though they didn’t even have automatic doors (and the stations even have wifi!) Unfortunately it seems they are going to be replaced soon but for now they are fun.

The other thing to note is the language unlike most of the world everyone here assumes you speak Spanish so for products of the English education system it makes life more challenging to say the least. Maybe I should get some lessons.

The city centre at least seems to be very European and is very beautiful; though there is a fair bit of graffiti around. There is also a lot of litter around it’s not exactly a clean city by any means. It also seems to be a pretty safe city at least in the centre. The only issue with safety is the driving, especially by taxi drivers. If your taxi driver isn’t clearing the junction when the lights change from red to red Amber he isn’t getting you to your destination quickly enough!

On Saturday evening I had a very delicious steak for only £5 at a steakhouse it was the best steak I’ve ever eaten and was delicious!

Then on Sunday afternoon after staying out very late on Saturday (Argentina’s clubs barely open by 1am!) I headed down to San Teno and the Feria de San Telmo which is an antiques Market that takes place every Sunday. After that I headed to the national history museum which wasn’t that great to be honest and took about 5 minutes to have a good look around.

This morning I had some chores to do including getting cash out. You are limited to withdrawing £100 here (even the Sheraton where I went as I was desperate, had this limit and many machines are further limited to £50) which even given it is cheap here it is annoyingly low as you pay by cash for everything. This is something I’ve never experienced before, even in Vietnam.

This afternoon I headed to buy my bus ticket to Puerto Iguazu and then went to the recoleta cementry where Evita is buried and it was very moving.

The rest of my time in Chicago

Yesterday evening I went out to Plymouth bar in downtown Chicago; this bar had a roof terrace which was popular though it had a great view overlooking a car park and the “L” tracks. I also had burger 4 of my time in Chicago there (I had 2 on Sunday and 1 more on Monday evening) Then the next morning I headed back to Oak park and took a look around Frank Lloyd Wrights house and studio (this was very interesting) as well as unity temple which he also designed (that is a really inclusive church, which was great to see!) the building was pretty good too. After lunch I headed back to the Hemmingway museum which had a lot of interesting information on the author, maybe I should read some of his books! Afterwards I headed back into Chicago. If you’re in Chicago head to oak park it’s on the green train and is well worth a visit.

After that I headed up to Boystown and Wrigleyville, Boystown is the gay district in Chicago and they had rainbows attached to phalli along the road which was interesting. After that I had a look around Wrigleyville, as a Cubs baseball game had literally just finished I didn’t manage to take a look at the stadium itself. Then I headed back into town to pick up my laundary. I fortunately walked slowly enough that I avoided the total crush on the train and eventually got a seat (can you tell from the excessive detail that I’m writing this as it happened :p).

I think tomorrow I’m just going to see the theatre and relax before my flight to Argentina.

Museums in Chicago

Yesterday I had some chores to complete including uploading some more photos; due to Vista having problems remembering how to drag files from my camera there may be some strange immissions but there should be still a good selection.

After completing my chores for the day I headed to the museum of contemporary art as it’s free on Tuesdays. They currently have a major exhibition by Jeff Koons this was OK but it made me thing about myself differently which was interesting.

After seeing that I headed to Chinatown and had some excellent food. Unfortunately I felt a bit rough so went back home to bed afterwards.

Then today I headed to the museum of science and industry. Unfortunately it was really aimed at children rather than adults so I didn’t spend that long there.

They also had a smart/eco home there which I strongly disliked primarily due to the lack of figures given; as the environment is important I’ll be writing about that in a separate post.

After that I headed out to Oak park where Ernest Hemmingway was born and Frank Lloyd Wright grew up I was there quite late so only saw a few buildings and the tour of Hemmingway’s house before it closed.

Moma, baseball and brooklyn

After visiting the UN two days ago I headed up to the museum of modern art (MOMA). The first thing I saw was an exhibition on prototype buildings; unfortunately they were too prototype, the best one was made of cellophane and metal so you had to touch the metal regularly to discharge the static from walking on the cellophane; not exactly practical! Then I went round the main museum and there were some pretty cool works including a pretend corridor in the wall which I fell for initially and many others (these can be viewed on flickr here)

After moma I went to a baseball game with some friends from New York. We saw the mets vs the marlins who they beat 3-0, it was an interesting experience too. Afterwards we went to a bar and I had some chicken. When it arrived there was enough to feed a family for a week; even though I had the smallest portion.

Then yesterday I went to brookyln firstly. I went to Brooklyn heights to try and go to the pizza restaurant Gramaldi’s. This restaurant apparently sells New York’s best pizza (or not depending on who I believe!) though due to the massive queue at 12:25 I unfortunately didn’t get to try it; I was too hungry to wait as I’d skipped breakfast having been out the night before. Then while in Brooklyn I took a look at the new York transit museum so. I could see how old the subway trains really were. It seems some of them may date back to the 1950’s or so but it wasn’t totally clear… I then went to the Brooklyn botanical garden and had a wander around that before returning to Manhatten. Then last night I went to a club called Pasha which was quite good but the music was over DJ’d. I didn’t know it was possible but as with many things in life it follows a bell shaped curve.

I’m going to try and upload photos later today though I don’t have many of Brooklyn as I forgot my camera battery.

Arrived in New York

After waiting for an hour to clear security, I picked up my waiting bag and caught the subway to the hostel. The train arrived promptly and thanks to the fact that new York subway trains don’t call at every stop we were soon in the centre of Manhatten. One thing I noticed about the subway was that aside from a few British tourists everyone else on the train looked poor (and they were also mostly Black or Hispanic) which was strange compared to public transport everywhere else I’ve used it (admittedly that is just Europe and Singapore :p). The train was also covered in graffiti and the stations looked pretty dodgy. The tube is great in comparison!

Anyway, enough on public transport, I did get to Manhattan and to my hostel. The hostel seems very cool and friendly and seems like a nice place to start my journey. It is also close to the sites and in a neighbourhood called Chelsea which seems like an average place to stay (the only thing it has on common with Chelsea in London is the cars parked on the street but there they belong to the staff)

After I arrived I went out to get some food, I got some African food from a restuarant just up the road it was quite spicy but tasty and very filling, definitely an interesting choice. New York is definitely the most multicultural place I’ve been so it should be interesting. Tomorrow I’ll be off to time square and then to have a explore of the city.

I’ll try and get some pictures up tomorrow when I’m using a computer not my iPod to post a blog post.