Evita’s “Permanent” Home: The Recoleta Cemetery

Argentina, tomb, Recoleta, cemetery, plaque, photo, travel, mausoleum, Buenos Aires

In my visit to Buenos Aires last year, our hotel was directly across one of BB.AA.’s most famous sites:  the Recoleta Cemetery.  Why is it famous?  Well, that crazy woman, Evita, is buried there.  Hence, tons of tourists and Evita lovers (domestic or international) flock to the cemetery to see her tomb.  I am one of those tourists.  (Admitting one has a problem is the first step to recovery…)  In any case, I first visited that cemetery as a young pup in 1991 and returned last year, not because I had to see it, but because, well, it was there… right across my hotel room window!

Buenos Aires, Recoleta, cemetery, Argentina, photo, travel, South America, church, architecture, history, Evita, Olympus

The Recoleta Cemetery with the church to the right

The Recoleta Cemetery is next to the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar and its history is tied to the church back when it had a convent associated with it.  The church dates from 1732 but the cemetery is a century younger.  Evita is not the only notable buried there but, likely, the most famous of them; others include Presidents, poets, Nobel laureates, etc.  Now, if you want to look for Evita’s tomb in the cemetery ‘guide,’ do not look under Perón (her married last name) – look for Duarte, her maiden name…

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SPOILER ALERT:  The family mausoleum where Evita’s remains rest

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I’d recommend walking around aimlessly and absorbing the different mausoleum styles.  It is artwork for sure.

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Typical scene at the Recoleta cemetery

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One thing I will say is that staying so close to it allowed me to see the area at different times and what seemed just like a cemetery with star power became a part of town with a healthy dose of local life.  Of course, I may be swayed by the Freddo‘s located a few storefronts down from my hotel but their gelato is just so good that I can’t have just one (my fellow trekkers quickly realized how crazy I was about Freddo’s gelato!).

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Freddo’s – I could not wait to take a bite…

 

Images of La Boca: A Colorful Barrio in Buenos Aires

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Buenos Aires is composed of many “barrios“, or neighborhoods.  Few are as colorful or as well-known as La Boca, on the southeast corner of the city, close to the Riachuelo which feeds the Rio de la Plata.  La Boca started very much as an Italian immigrant neighborhood, working class and fairly poor.  It remains mostly so except that its center has become not only quite colorful but also a magnet for tourism with its famous street “Caminito” and the tango dancers all around. La Boca hosts the Boca Junior football (soccer) team at a stadium whose real name does not matter much.  Its nickname is what counts:  La Bombonera!  (bonbon box).

Though it seems a little over-done these days (code words for “tourist trappish”), it nevertheless conveys a sense of part of Buenos Aires’ history and charm.  Tourist souvenir shops, cafés, street performers, colorful buildings, tango performers, and some historical markers all form part of this area of town.  Oh, and don’t miss the colorful figures that are perched on balconies, streetwalk, or windows – you may recognize Evita, Pope Francis, and Maradona (druggie, druggie!)/

Here are, as promised, the images of this barrio.  Check it out if you go to Buenos Aires!

Click on the image for full-size viewing.

Buenos Aires Re-Visited (Again)

church, Pilar, Argentina, Buenos Aires, Duarte, Recoleta, cemetery, travel, photo, Olympus

When I sat down to write this post, my first thought was:  “What can I possibly write about Buenos Aires that has not been written before?”  Good question.

My visit there was triggered by its being the location of two children’s homes we were going to help via a trek to Patagonia with Trekking for Kids.  I was not disappointed in that being the location as my prior visits to Buenos Aires, even the overnight trip one, were always good:  good city, good vibe, good food, and good wine.

I decided to go two days ahead of the official start of the group trip so that I would have some time to tool around some.  Tooling around soon turned out to include a day trip to nearby Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, across the river from Buenos Aires.

So, I turned my attention to determining where to stay.  I had already paid a good bit to be able to trek in Patagonia after the time in Buenos Aires so I was looking for a good alternative to just paying a hotel room.  Two others from the trek decided to come early too so, immediately, I decided that an apartment rental was the best option.  Using FlipKey, I found a great 2 bedroom apartment in Palermo on a high floor and with some good views.  Mercifully, it had A/C as it was summer in Buenos Aires.  (FlipKey did a great job of showing me apartments based on my criteria which included not only location and price point but availability of A/C and wifi!)

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My room at the apartment: nice corner and a balcony!

The landlord was very friendly and flexible but was spot on on restaurant recommendations – bonus!  And when I looked out of the balcony, I recognized the small square by the building as one I had seen on HGTV’s House Hunters International a couple of years ago.

After the couple of days on our own, we moved to the hotel were the group was going to stay while we worked with the children’s homes outside of Buenos Aires in Moreno.  The hotel was located in Recoleta, another nice neighborhood in Buenos Aires.  The hotel was located across from the Recoleta cemetery where Evita is buried.  I lucked out with the room assignment and had a great view of the cemetery and could even see the ocean, er, the river.

Buenos Aires, Recoleta, cemetery, Argentina, photo, travel, South America, church, architecture, history, Evita, Olympus

The Recoleta Cemetery

Argentina, Buenos Aires, Duarte, Recoleta, cemetery, travel, photo, Olympus

Typical scene at the Recoleta cemetery

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Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Pilar right at the cemetery’s entrance

I had visited the cemetery in 1991 but still went back in to look for Evita.  Of course, there is a sign indicating where the famous’ tombs are but if you look for Evita under “P” for Perón, you will not find her.  You must look under Duarte, her maiden name.

Evita, Eva, Peron, Argentina, Buenos Aires, Duarte, Recoleta, cemetery, travel, photo, Olympus

The family mausoleum where Evita’s remains rest

Eva looms large in the Argentine psyche – and on the side of buildings too…

Evita, Eva, Peron, Argentina, Buenos Aires, building, travel, photo, Olympus

That’s Evita up there

The other plus for the hotel -and another thing that loomed large for me- is that it was a few storefronts down from my favorite ice cream place in Argentina: Freddos, first discovered by me in 1991!

Freddo, ice cream, gelato, Buenos Aires, Argentina, foodie, food, foodporn

I could not even wait to snap a photo before taking a bite (or 3)

Oh, the food in Buenos Aires…

Maybe the city should be renamed “Buena Comida”, instead of “Buenos Aires”…  In my time in Buenos Aires, I probably gained weight.  The likely contributors certainly included my almost daily Freddo’s ice cream cup but it also included the incredible beef, pastries, desserts, and wines enjoyed at places like Cabaña Las Lilas (which serves some of the highest quality of beef I have ever had as well as an incredible appetizer plate), Campo Bravo (where we enjoyed a highly diverse plate of cow components…), El Trapiche (a locals place with not only great beef but amazing pasta), and even Biking Buenos Aires (a bike tour that provided delicious pastries during our break)!

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The appetizer plate at Cabaña Las Lilas was a home run!

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The parrillada at Campo Bravo:  name that part

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Butternut squash stuffed pasta with an outstanding blue cheese sauce

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Pastries served as a snack during the bike ride

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Mate cups

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Don’t forget dessert: this beauty courtesy of Cabaña Las Lilas

A place to stroll around – and bike around!

Buenos Aires is such a walkable city.  Trees and parks everywhere and, as I shared before, PLENTY-O monuments in this South American metropolis.  Walking down Ave. Libertador, which is bordered by a park between it and the river, is a good way to stretch the legs after an overnight flight – or after a massive lunch on beef and wine…  #justsayin

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Ave. Libertador is good for walking, jogging or riding!

One thing I had not contemplated to do is in Buenos Aires is to ride bicycles.  I mean, ride a bicycle in a large metropolis in Latin America?  Nuts, right??  Well, let me tell you, it was so much fun and, actually, safe!  I did not realize it but Buenos Aires has built bike lanes in some parts of town which meant that about 80% of the bike tour I did with Biking Buenos Aires was on bike lanes.  For about 13 of us, we had the main guide who shared a lot of great information about the sights, and two additional guides who supported the group, handled crossing intersections, and were just great guys.

I had never visited La Boca (more on it later) and got to re-visit the Plaza de Mayo and ride around the Casa Rosada.  We rode around Puerto Madero were we had a snack.  And then we hung out at the bike tour office to eat delicious empanadas that we had bought.  Enjoy these final pictures of what we saw during my bike tour and don’t forget to eat and explore to your hearts’ content in incredible Buenos Aires!

Cabildo, cathedral, Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo, Argentina, history, architecture, bike tour, travel, photo, Olympus

The Buenos Aires Cathedral in the back and the old Cabildo on the left

Puerto Madero, Argentina, Buenos Aires, puente de la mujer, Calatrava, Olympus, travel, bridge, architecture

The Women’s Bridge by Calatrava in Puerto Madero

 

On My Way Back to Trek in Patagonia

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Soon, I will be headed on another travel adventure.  This one will be another trekking adventure with Trekking for Kids (TFK) with whom I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the Transylvanian Alps in Romania, and “pilgrimaged” on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  I am thrilled because I get to return to a part of the world that is remote, pristine, and with which I fell in love the first time I went in 2010:  Patagonia.  No, not the store but the southern part of the continent of South America.

The trip begins in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  OK, it really begins at the Atlanta airport but that’s just a technicality.  We will spend a few days in the Argentine capital working with a local orphanage that is benefiting from our trek.  If you would like to donate to the work TFK is sponsoring, please visit my fundraising page; all donations go STRAIGHT to the orphanage, not my costs and are 100% tax-deductible in the U.S.  In any case, I have gotten to visit Buenos Aires a couple of times and it is truly a great city!

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ilivetotravel in Buenos Aires MANY moons ago!

But I decided to take advantage of having some flexibility and will arrive a couple of days early to head over to a lesser-known jewel in neighboring Uruguay:  a colonial charming town appropriately and simply named “Colonia,” mentioned in the book 1,000 Places to See before You Die.  Not planning on dying anytime soon but better safe than sorry, no? 🙂

After the orphanage work, we will fly down to the town of El Calafate on the Argentine side of Patagonia.  From there we will hike around the iconic Fitz Roy peak and its siblings,  and visit the famous and imposing Perito Moreno glacier.

Perito Moreno, glacier, Argentina, Patagonia, nature, adventure, ice, blue, water, photo, travel

Note the size of the glacier when compared to the boat in the red circle on the upper right

After visiting the glacier park, we will transfer the next day to Puerto Natales, the Chilean town that is the real gateway to the wildness and beauty of Patagonia (I like the Chilean side better!).

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At the waterfront in Puerto Natales, gateway to glacier boat tours

Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, architecture

Example of the local architecture in Puerto Natales

I stayed in Puerto Natales when I visited in 2010 and there is something about its remoteness, its simplicity that was charming to me.  From there, we will launch our trek to the impressive Torres del Paine, surrounded by lakes and glaciers.  Our route is the typical route to trek there – it is called the “W” route.  Take a look at the map (with the route in red) and you will see where the name comes from!

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The W circuit

I am thrilled at this upcoming adventure and have tons to do to prepare.  I also wonder if I am physically ready enough as I will be needing to carry about 30 lbs on my back – a first for me in any of my hikes.  Wish me luck and stay tuned for future write-ups on the experience!

 

Buenos Aires: A Monument-al City

Buenos Aires, Argentina, city, monuments, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel, National Congress

While on a three-month assignment in Chile many years ago, I visited Buenos Aires, Argentina for the first time to spend the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday there.  Besides locals, my co-workers included a fellow American colleague and folks from Buenos Aires (abbreviated in Spanish “B.B.A.A.”; leave me a comment if anyone is curious why not “B.A.”).  We all had great fun in Santiago and exploring Chile together.  So when the time came to book our tickets home for Thanksgiving, the other American and I thought to ourselves:  why not go to BB.AA. and get to know it with our friends from work?  We thought for a moment about our families and about missing the turkey, and decided (smartly) that this was our chance to see monumental BB.AA., all travel expenses paid.

Seeing some of the key sights

BB.AA. is monumental.  Period.  Not only because of its size but also because of its architecture too, reminiscent of Paris and Madrid, just rolled into one.  Of course, it is not Paris but it gets as close as I have seen any other city outside of France to look like it.

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The very-classical Cathedral of Buenos Aires.

No visit to BB.AA. at that time could skip seeing the Plaza de Mayo, where the mothers of the people who disappeared during military dictatorship had been protesting for years (and, at the time of my visit, maybe for other reasons, according to my local friends).  The plaza is in front of the Casa Rosada, the Argentine president’s residence and offices.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, city, monuments, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel, Casa Rosada, presidential palace, Evita

The “Casa Rosada” (Pink House; any similarity or apparent relationship between it, its current resident and the Pink Panther are purely coincidental).  Evita made its rear balcony famous in her Broadway musical.

BB.AA. has evolved since those days, as all places do.  For example, Puerto Madero has become a great area to visit, dine, etc.  But in this first of my three visits to Argentina, that area was nothing like it is today; it was a blighted area.

We walked tons, visiting the cemetery where the aforementioned Evita is buried, walking down the sprawling Ave. Libertador with its many lanes that behave as one, shopping in Calle Florida, and all that good stuff.  It is, like many great cities, a city one can enjoy best by roaming aimlessly.

Food.  Oh, the food.

Food, oh, food.  The Argentine capital is a veritable source of good food.  Nothing complicated.  We had Thanksgiving dinner at an Italian restaurant near Ave. Callao.  Being that Argentina has tons of Italian blood for many immigrants, the meal was top notch.  It wasn’t turkey but it was outstanding.

One of our co-workers invited us to an “asado” – BBQ Argentina-style.  It was at his parents’ place and they grilled EVERY part of the beast.  We were teased into trying a “weird” part so I opted for the kidney which seemed the “safer” thing.  Not a fan of the texture though the flavor wasn’t bad…

My favorite meal was at the Costanera.  I don’t know if it exists in the same format as it did so many years ago but, boy, the piece of steak was OUTSTANDING and it was buried under a PILE of REAL French fries.  I ordered half a steak and it covered the entire plate – a normal size plate!  A meal to remember – if you don’t drink too much wine with it.

Finally, my absolute favorite thing was Fredo‘s ice cream – really, gelato.  There were many locations and every time we ran into one, we had to go in… My favorite flavor:  wine cream.  Out of this world or, what Argentines would say with great fervor:  ¡¡¡ES-PEC-TA-CU-LAR!!!!

Monuments ‘R Us

There are many ways to describe BB.AA. but one that sticks with me is that it is just a massive collection of monuments. Wow. Every place you turn, a statue (with or without a fountain)! Incredible. Here is a series of photos showing what I am talking about…

Buenos Aires, Argentina, city, monuments, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel, Cabildo

In front of the Cabildo (or town hall).  A great place to catch some shade.

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In the Palermo area (as I pulled this photo out of the album to scan it, I realized this square and those buildings had been in an episode of House Hunters International not long ago!)

Buenos Aires, Argentina, city, monuments, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel, Urquiza, fountain Libertador

The fountain to Urquiza, an Argentine general and politician with the Ave. Libertador in the background (that speck at the top edge of the fountain is me)

Buenos Aires, Argentina, city, monuments, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel, Christopher Columbus

Buenos Aires, Argentina, city, monuments, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel

Monument to the Argentine nation

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National Congress and its own monument

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Statue and yours truly

Buenos Aires, Argentina, city, monuments, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel,

To close it up:  a double.  The Thinker (left) and Plaza de Mayo (right) with me as the common factor (with my stylishly rolled up jeans)

Do you agree that Buenos Aires is a monument-al city?? 🙂

Re-visiting Buenos Aires

So, in 1991, I met BB.AA.  Enjoyed exploring it, enjoyed the great food, and enjoyed seeing it with people who lived there.  Fast forward to 2000.  Company offers me an opportunity to go deliver a training class of 3 days.  What to do?  Had I ever taught or even attended the training class before?  No.  But, of course, if they thought I could teach it, who was I to defy corporate wisdom?

Getting there not always half the fun

Back then, there was no direct flight from Atlanta so I was to connect in Miami to a United flight to BB.AA.  Due to an earlier cancelled flight to BB.AA., United decided to bump me off the flight.  Now, I understand how these things work – most of the time – but I had paid full fare in business class so I do not understand how United made such a brilliant decision to bump off a full fare paying passenger of a large international business.  (No wonder U.S. airlines continue to fail miserably in their business model… But that should be a topic for a different blog.)  Suffice it to say that the resolution to this was both good and bad.  Good, I could still leave that night.  Bad, I had to connect now through Sao Paulo to get to BB.AA.  Good, they put me on first class on the way down and the way up.  Good, the never-ending refills of Dom Perignon.  Good, the comfort of the seats.  Bad, international first class back then did not have the fancy “seat-cabins” you see today.  Good, I could use the first class lounge in Miami on the way back which had fantastic shower rooms.  Neutral, the Canadian Airlines flight from Sao Paulo to BB.AA. got sprayed upon landing in BB.AA. as happens in flights between other countries (I assume to kill off any bad germs).  Bad, I am allergic to those sprays which meant within 24 hrs. I was bedridden in my BB.AA. hotel killing my day to prepare to deliver the training…

But the good wins

In between landing and getting bedridden, I re-connected with one of my Argentine friends with whom I had worked in Chile in 1991 (the one who got us to ride in the colectivo during my BB.AA. visit in 1991 and to whom I may owe having survived that ride).  Had dinner in a non-descript local place and then headed over their place to have some mate.   Good to see Hugo and his wife again.

The training class was in a subject I was well acquainted topic so I followed the lead of my co-teacher and was able to add good value to the trainees’ learning experience (or so I think!).  I knew some of them from past work and had a great time in spite of not feeling well.

I did also get to see how much BB.AA. had changed.  Home Depot now had a store there.  The dollar now could be used as currency.  However, they did not accept any bill that was slightly torn or stained.  The irony was that when giving you change, they felt they could give you back torn or stained Argentine bills…  Oh, and I got to re-connect with empanadas.  Empanadas are a gift from God via Argentina [good eats].  And I got to see how the city had undertaken urban renewal, like in the area of Puerto Madero, making it even more enjoyable to visit.

This particular trip was way too short to explore more of the city but it was sure good to see it again and see how it had changed.

What would others recommend people check out these days?  It is 2009, 9 yrs since my last visit which was 9 yrs after my first visit.  I feel I am due again and wonder “what’s new, Buenos Aires!”

Visiting Buenos Aires

I have had the opportunity to visit Buenos Aires, Argentina three times: in 1991, 2000, and 2010 (I don’t like the spacing between visits…).  The first time was a weekend trip when I was living in Santiago, Chile and the second sent do co-deliver a training session for my company’s office there.  The third visit was for a short business trip when I got work -again- in Santiago, Chile (yes, I am blessed!).  I will write here about the trip in 1991.

Exploring Buenos Aires

Though we were entitled to be flown back to the U.S. from Santiago for Thanksgiving in 1991, we made a small “business case” to our manager that it would be way cheaper if they paid for us to go to BB.AA. (airfare, hotel and airport transportation).  We worked with some Argentines in Chile who flew home every weekend (abt a 2 hr flight) so they encouraged us to go and hang out with them.

We booked a hotel in Recoleta which was a nice part of town.  With our friends, we got to explore fantastic food.  The well-known area of La Costanera [good eats] did deliver a fantastic steak meal.  I remember that I wasn’t very hungry so I ordered half a steak.  The steak was as big as the large plate it was served on – of course, to see it I had to work through the pile of French fries on top of the steak.

obelisco-bbaa1BB.AA. is a great city to walk around.  The architecture (reminiscent of Paris) and the diversity of the people provide a lot of things to look at as you make your way between places to visit.  We had to make the ¨obligatory¨visit to the cemetery where Eva Perón is buried, see the Casa Rosada (the president’s house), watch the mothers still marching many years after military left power in front of the Casa Rosada, walk down Calle Florida (a great pedestrian shopping street).  Perhaps the most exciting thing we did was take a local bus to go to a colleague’s house.  The bus (or ¨colectivo¨) never really stops to let you in nor to let you out so with coaching from our local friend, my other American colleague and I managed to be successful in these 2 maneuvers…  A real adventure!

The thing we enjoyed the most though was a gelato chain called Fredo’s [good eats].  The gelato was superb and my personal favorite was the wine cream gelato.  I think we stopped at a Fredo’s whenever we saw one. 

Asado at a Friend’s

We enjoyed going around town with our friends and glad they were doing the driving.  I recall the Ave. Libertador having about 5 to 7 lanes of traffic with no lanes painted on the road surface.  I met chaos that night.  The best part of the trip was the time we were invited to one of our friend’s parents’ house for a traditional Argentine ¨asado¨ (read, BBQ) [good eats].  True Argentine hospitality!  When it came time for the main course, they brought a huge round piece of wood loaded with all the meat that had benn grilled.  All the meat meant all of the cow.  We were asked to choose a non-¨traditional¨piece of meat.  I went for the kidney as I didn’t fancy some of the other crazier parts…  Not impressed with the texture of the kidneys.

I flew Pan Am between Santiago and BB.AA.  Flying over the high peaks of the Andes on my first ride ever on a 747 was exhilarating and unnerving.  It looked as if the mountaintops were going to scrape the underbelly of the airplane.  And yet, looking at the cabin of the airplane, I couldn’t fully comprehend how such an airplane managed to fly.  On a semi-historical note, my flight back to Santiago was the last day Pan Am flew.

BB.AA. is definitely a town made to be explored and enjoyed.  Back in 1991, the country was just enjoying economic stability after the hyperinflationary period and everyone’s mood was great.   BB.AA. has changed tons since that first visit as I discovered in later visits – it has become even more exciting and interesting – an Argentines are still a heck of a lot of fun!

The Little-Known (and I Love It So) Ancash Region of Perú

Sometimes things lead you to the unexpected.  And the unexpected turns out to be a pleasant – very pleasant – surprise.  As part of my work trip to Perú, I went to the Ancash region to do field visits to witness our work and meet the locals with whom my organization worked.  Besides the incredible insights I have gained from a work standpoint, I also gained a sense of how diverse Perú – and the world – are!

A wild and crazy bus ride

To get to Huaraz, the capital of the Ancash region, an 8 hr bus ride is needed (unless you happen upon the rare flight to the landing strip close to Huaraz).  The bus ride starts with magnificent scenery driving through an ocean-side desert north of Lima.  Beautiful yet different than any ocean-side drive I have done, except maybe going from Santiago, Chile to La Serena.
Lma Huaraz road travel Pacific adventure bus

Great road as I leave Lima along the Pacific coast of Peru

The road turns inland and the route crosses some mountain ranges that separate Huaraz from the ocean.  Crossing these mountains, of course, yields nice views and also some mildly scary moments due to the drop-offs from the road down to the abysses (and the sometimes lacking guard rails on the road).  Add to that a crazy style of driving buses at high speeds on mountain roads and the experience is most complete!   Check this very short clip of what the bus ride is like:

Huaraz, the capital of the Ancash region

Huaraz is a provincial capital not in the top cities of Perú.  I had never heard of it before.  But it sits privileged being located in the middle of Ancash.  The town is not large but it is not a village.  It has a large enough expanse and great views of the neighboring mountains, including Mt. Huascarán.

Huaraz, Peru, Ancash, mountain, vista, view

View of the town of Huaraz

Mt. Huascarán in Ancash (not far from Huaraz) one of the tallest mountains in the hemisphere

Mt. Huascarán in Ancash (not far from Huaraz) one of the tallest mountains in the hemisphere

Being an “Expert”

Unlike prior trips, in Huaraz, the focus of my work visits mercifully was not about entertaining the visitor, which can easily become how the local staff plans it, but about letting me see firsthand the work of our staff.   This was nice for a change, though I still got a lot of curious looks especially from children. I visited various government offices throughout the week I was in Huaraz. One of these was the regional president’s lieutenant’s office who was sort of excited about an American being there and sent me to the regional tourism director to share “my opinions” with her. They were very keen on hearing an outsider’s view of the possibilities here for tourism.  I found myself –again- being asked for my opinion on something I am not an expert at, but –again- I felt compelled to talk as if. I told them the truth which is that the land in the Ancash region (where Huaraz is) is quite spectacular and any traveler would enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

Diversity in the Natural Beauty of Perú

The Ancash region is different than the regions around Puno in that the latter are the “altiplano”, the high altitude plains where the lands seems to not end. Here, it is somewhat lush but not overly so; lots of mountains, canyons, rivers with lots of mini-rapids, and mountains whose sides are a vertical sheet of rock (and these are couple of thousand feet high from the altitude at which I am at). Switzerland, for example, is not as impressive in the landscape when compared to this region.

Bathing Habits for You and Me

I visited a community (called Buenos Aires) where sewage lines were being installed by the town and households were being helped to build a real bathroom not just a latrine.  The engineer, who was supporting the homeowners in deciding what to build and where, asked the man of a particular house how often they showered and he said maybe every other day.  Sounded reasonable, since they don’t have indoor showers, and since it is cold weather due to the altitude (and, hence, cold water).  Then another man piped up and said “well, maybe once a week”.  After some silence, another man owned up “well, maybe not even that frequently”.  Yes, that was indeed diversity in bathing habits from what I do…

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The main plaza of the town of Buenos Aires under threatening skies

Witnessing a Land of Tragedy

On my one day off, I got to visit the Laguna Llanganuco which is really two lagoons nested in a narrow canyon between the massive Mt. Huascaran and its neighbor peak. The setting between those two peaks is narrow yet magnificent. As we approached, my driver explained to me that in the 1970 earthquake (that killed half the population in Huaraz), a chunk of the mountain broke off. You can actually see this – it is a massive area; hard to gauge from below but easily 500 ft. tall. Well, that chunk would have normally fallen into a canyon towards the base of the mountain. This chunk was not only rock but part of the glacier covering the mountain at the time. It came town with such strength that it fell in the canyon and bounced OUT of the canyon wall and downhill straight into the town on Yungay. This town was obliterated and today the part where the town was is fenced in into a park called Campo Santo (Holy Ground). So many died and so complete was the destruction that the area was made into a burial ground and memorial. The town was rebuilt a couple of kilometers away. It is a very sad piece of history in the region. The mountain stands there as a reminder and the driver told me geologists say that there is a significant crack in the part of the peak that remains and that, at some point, that will come down too…

Laguna Llanganuco, Ancash region of Peru, colorful, lavender, green, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

Around the laguna. Love the colors

Huascaran, Peru, Huaraz, Ancash, Peru, mountain, Andes, travel. photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Laguna Llanganuco, next to Mt. Huascarán

Odds and ends

Here are some observations/experiences:

–      I found a tiny restaurant near the hotel and work run by a Belgian and his Peruvian wife. I ate most lunches and dinners there; he is an incredible chef and everything is fresh (he makes the pasta, sausages, pies, flavored pisco drinks, etc.).  There is a cast of regulars (to which I belonged temporarily) and it was really nice to go somewhere during this type of trip and be known and get to “catch up” with folks. The owners are very generous and friendly and I sampled most of the flavored piscos with my favorite being the “ginger vanilla” [good drinks] one.

–      I have noticed in Puno and Huaraz how much construction there is going on. You see a house that is finished with a second story going up. That is, you see the re-bar going up on the second story.  Or you see half walls on the second story. I noted to someone how impressive this construction boom is. I was informed that actually many houses are like that for a long time. Owners do bits and pieces of the expansion as the money comes in and it can take a couple of years before they get to finish.

–      I went to the corn and chirimoya (fruit) festival in Huari where I was offered the local, special occasion delicacy of the town: roasted cat. No worries, I drew my line at guinea pig!

–      I didn’t try cat but I did try at my friend’s restaurant a drink made of fermented potato. It is one of the grossest-smelling things I have decided to taste. I closed up my nose and drank. It actually was OK – as long as you didn’t breathe when the glass was within a foot of your nose. The aftertaste wasn’t particularly pleasant but the upside is that it is loaded with penicillin so it probably killed all the bacteria gathered during the day.

–      As a reminder of the geologically active zone I am in, every now and then on a road you see a sign that proudly announces “Geological Fault 100m Ahead“.  Pleasant thought as you drive on the cliffside roads around here!  Usually the road is interrupted when you cross these faults. Makes sense.

–      On our way out of town there is a guarded complex with walls that are between 2 and 3 stories to protect the complex and with guard houses at each corner of the complex. A sign in front of it prohibits parking within X meters from the main gate. The third time passing by it, I ventured asking if it was a jail or a military base. I was told no. It is a site where the local breweries store their beer. Talk about national assets and security!  I love it.

–      One of my favorites scenes and scents in the countryside are the eucalyptus trees that cover many hillsides. They add a grayish green color to very green landscapes and when you drive close enough to them the smell is just wonderful. I wonder if I can grow them in Atlanta. It can be very cold and hot here so, maybe??

–      Coffee here is served as an extract (liquid). You are then to add hot water to it. Well, no one had told me and I had written off coffee here as pretty bad until I learned… It is actually quite good.

–      The hotel is one of the few buildings in the town with an elevator. The rooftop terrace has an incredible view of Mt. Huascarán (one of the tallest mountains in the western hemisphere) and its neighbors.  I love going in the morning and at dusk to see the sights.

–      Internet connectivity is available just about everywhere except the most remote mountain communities. There are Internet cafes just about every corner (I do not exaggerate). I also have had Blackberry access even outside of the towns. Sometimes I have been surprised how far away from towns I can be and still have access.

–      I stand by the comments about how great the people are in Perú. Time and again, I get more and more evidence of this.

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