Across the Andes to Huancayo, Peru

By Erin Hancock

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Huancayo is a city east of Lima in the eastern foothills of the Andes. High elevation, low tourism and lots of real-Peru living to be discovered. We made Peru home base for the better part of a year. Although Huancayo is a little-known city to tourists, 300 000 Peruvians make it their home. The city is fairly spread out and although a lot of activity happens around the main plaza downtown or the Plaza Real (the shopping center), every street has some stores and restaurants and an occasional market.

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It takes about 7 hours by car or bus to cross the mountains from Lima on the coast to arrive in Huancayo. Cruz del Sur provides a great experience. Slow and careful driving, meal included, personal video screens and reclining seats makes a long ride into a doable situation.

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The views throughout the mountain ride are definitely worth the gaze.

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There is a Tuesday market a block from our apartment in the El Tambo area of the city where one can get all of your wares and supplies. There is also an extensive Sunday market stretching across more than a dozen blocks on Huancavelica Street that offers everything from wool products to leather boots and herbs from the mountains.

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Like any place, friends make a place feel like home. We were able to connect with locals and foreign volunteers too. And we found or made our entertainment.

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Karaoke.

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Concerts.

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Discos and dancing.

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Parties.

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Even themed parties….like St. Patrick’s Day (a first for many).

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Music.

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Working out.

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Ask a local and get a cab about a half-hour outside of the city for an afternoon of paintball.

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You may not find yourself breaking bread with your friends (although bread is available….carbs are easily accessible), but Peru is known for good eats. Anticucho is a popular post-disco food (cow heart BBQ’d on skewers). Ceviche (marinated fish) is a popular dish across the country. You may remember cuy, another Peruvian favorite (guinea pig), from my Easter post.

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And take in a meal at a local restaurant for very little money. Like Chanciduende (pork sandwich shop) near the main plaza.

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Huancayo has been a liveable city and a great place to call home for a year. And to spice things up, we were able to explore beyond Huancayo too.

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More details and photos of nearby destinations:

La Merced (the jungle)

Huantapallana glacier

Waterfalls of Huancaya

Tarma in the mountains

 

And further away in Peru, and worth the trip:

Machu Picchu

Colca Canyon

Poor Man’s Galapagos and penguins

Easter with flower carpets and dancing in the street in Tarma, Peru

March 29, 2016.

By Erin Hancock

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Easter is celebrated around the world – from perfume-tossing in Hungary to egg rolling on the White House lawn in the USA, but the small mountain towns of Tarma and Acobamba in central Peru stand apart. Most distinctively, the area is known for magnificent flower carpets crafted out of millions of flower petals, buds and outlined in coffee grinds. Teams of people from children to seniors gather to adorn the streets in designs depicting the region, its animals and vegetation, and its pride of tradition.

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The process begins in the morning where teams gather to outline their design in chalk. A lengthy and calculated process of applying wet coffee grinds along the chalk blueprint follows. Then flower petals from the hills surrounding Tarma, in dozens of colours, are applied to bring the designs to life.

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Teams work diligently all day to accomplish art that would be challenging in most mediums. The neighboring town of Acobamba also engages in this tradition. See below a design from coffee grinds to finish (a nod to all of the Canadian readers of course).

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In 1999, Tarma set a world record of the longest string of flower carpets at 3, 200m long. These days Tarma boasts a full main square of colorful arrangements with some teams spilling onto surrounding streets. In 1999, most adjacent streets as far as the eye can see would have been coated in order to set the record.

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During Easter mainly tourists from other regions in Peru pay homage in this Andean town, but the odd international tourist can be spotted in the crowd as well (above: myself from Canada, Eliys from Estonia and Marius from Norway). As people ogle over the amazing configurations, a procession starts where huge structures resembling caskets are carried around the town square (“Vigil for the Lord”). As the solemn ceremony begins, newbies to the celebration suddenly realize that all of the hard work was being ceremoniously trampled after just a mere few hours of enjoying the designs. The next morning, other than the archways, no sign of the previous day’s achievements remain. This ceremony happens on Friday and then during the night on Saturday new teams create their art in the same space followed by a 6am procession on Easter Sunday.

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In Acobamba, a nearby town mainly comprised of indigenous people of Peru who speak Quechua (not unlike Tarma and other Andean towns), the big celebration is Saturday night. People come prepared with their own hot alcoholic drinks put into old wine bottles and carried openly in the streets – a calientito made from boiling figs, raisins, cloves and cinnamon with added rum and honey. In some cases, rum is traded for rubbing alcohol so be careful. This sweet drink can warm you up and light your spirit on fire on a chilly night of dancing in the street (Thanks Julyana, Victor and family for the authentic experience!).

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If traditional drink does not fulfill your need to consume the local culture, then turn to food. Peru is known for anticucho – roasted pig heart on a skewer available on street corners around the whole country – including Acobamba. However, this region is even better known for its cuy (guinea pig). If you’re used to these little furry creatures as pets, it might be a stretch but is available on most restaurant menus if you get the gumption (it is chewy and does not taste like chicken for the record).

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After fueling up one way or another, the streets will beckon you to move your hips and make new friends. Several bands set up in the town square among the crowds so music is constant and coming from every direction.

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The firework show goes above and beyond. The structures sitting among the crowds are lit on fire (with seemingly little planning or care for safety) and the resulting spectacle is awe-inspiring. Somehow no one gets hurt, even though many people do get hit by flying debris!

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The night is one to remember without a doubt. The sights, sounds and tastes are unique and perfectly overdone.

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Easter Sunday not only means visiting a church for most in the region but Acobamba has a tradition of a community meal. Each year a different family takes on the role of feeding 1000 people at the community center. They cook with traditional methods of wood fire and hot stones in a pit in the ground, serving up a delectable meal of pork, salad, broad beans, potatoes and a semi-sweet lump of cornmeal and raisins with condensed milk wrapped into a corn husk.

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No Peruvian celebration is complete without dancing, no matter the time of day. The six foreigners quickly stood out and became targets for all sorts of dancing….and possibly made it on the local television station.

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Although not traditional to Easter, there is a lot of natural beauty to explore in the valley and surrounding mountains. Heading just outside of Tarma to Tarmatambo means a refreshing walk and great views.

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If you’re lucky, some of the local children will find you and offer a history and culture lesson for just a few coins.

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If you want a totally unique Easter experience, Tarma and Acobamba will deliver.

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Stay tuned for more adventures around Peru and Colombia.

Dr. Chiropractor in Huancayo, Peru

By Jackson Mann

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In November, I became THE full time chiropractor at Centro De Quiropráctico Ray in Huancayo Peru.

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It’s a busy clinic. They were without a chiro for a few days when I arrived. so my first day was crazy. I treated 20 or so patients in 5 hours. Here’s how the model works: the patient comes in (no appointments) and meets me. I do a history and physical evaluation. I send them away with my general ideas and they go for therapy with a therapist we have on site here (if appropriate). We use TENS, ice, heat and traction. They return the next day for their report after I’ve had time to review and put together my diagnosis and recommendations. I get stories of how the surgeon is going to operate on them if the pain comes back.  We rely on our staff for therapy and rehab so I focus on assessments and adjustments.

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My first week on the job, I was happy my patient brought his wife and ….pet.

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Chiro is new in Peru so I’ve been on a few television shows. I’ve been told I have that “something” that TV loves. It’s great fun and I’ll be back on in a few weeks.

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This is a pic just before Christmas/Navidad with our friend Julia visiting from Canada on the left, Ruth my office manager in front of her and Erin, my wife on the right.

 

A little bit about living in Huancayo

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My apartment is provided by my boss. It is inexpensive to live here. AND I live down the street from the clinic. Only in South America would you show off a bathroom. But yeah, it’s nice to have the conveniences of a home.

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View from my apartment

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Finding a dentist was pretty easy. It was his idea to take a photo together (maybe for his promotional materials). We may have been the first foreigners to visit him.

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The gym does the trick!

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Insert some metaphor about reaching for the top….or climbing to success

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The ready-made entertainment is a little thin here, but we’re starting to make friends (and of course we’re taking visitors from Canada!… with an extra bedroom all ready for guests).

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The food is cheap and awesome. Ceviche everyday…yes please ($4 Canadian).

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And this town of Huancayo is responsible for one of Peru’s favourite sauces – Huancaina sauce. So there is one claim to fame!

 

Poor Man’s Galapagos and Paracas, Peru

By Erin Hancock

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Although the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador are known around the world for gorgeous images of penguins, seals, tortoises and the like, Peru has its own relative facsimile. It’s called the Ballestas Islands and it’s off the coast of Paracas, a small town about a 3 hour drive south of Lima. It’s a smaller, perhaps less awe-inspiring visit than the Ecuadorian experience, but definitely still worth the boat ride.

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In a 2-hour round trip boat ride, any tourist with a penchant for adorable penguinos, swarms of birds and fantastical sea life will truly enjoy themself.

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The penguins are perhaps smaller than one would imagine, and so adorable as they waddle in lines (colonies) around the island.

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Watch the water as you ride to and fro the mainland as you’ll see the not-so-lazy sea lions playing in the wake (probably fishing).

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The white colour of the island is guano. That’s right, coveted bird poop. Each year a team of very ‘fortunate’ workers head to the island and scrape off meters of the white debris to be used as agricultural fertilizer. If you like this line of discussion, click here for more guano info. The birds that produce this white gold here on these islands are predominantly Peruvian pelicans, Peruvian booby birds and Inca terns.

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On the way one can also see a large candelabra in the sand. The history is uncertain, but the locals treat it similar to Peru’s Nazca Lines….aliens, an Inca contribution to the gods, bored locals with too much time on their hands…no one can be certain.

 

Back to the mainland in the town of Paracas

The sun seems to be always out in this little piece of coastal quiet.

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Paracas is a bit of a romantic paradise by the ocean with many hostels/hotels to choose from at a fair cost, lovely restaurants with your choice of great seafood (ceviche of course) and a quaint market with super relaxed vendors.

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Take a load off. Steps from the beach you’ll find all the vendors you’ll need to stay all day on the beach. Enjoy a beer, some street food, buy a wide-brimmed hat and take in the fishy sea air.

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Happy travels or happy armchair travels!

Slave tunnels in Chincha, Peru

By Erin Hancock

So after spending a month in Lima studying Spanish, finding our local hangouts, making some new friends and making the most of our membership at Gold´s gym it was time to see more of the country.

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Gold´s Gym, Miraflores, Lima

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Peruwayna Language School, Miraflores, Lima (Gracias Melisa! Tu eres una buena profesora!)

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So Erin and Julia bid farewell to Jackson (who landed a chiropractic gig in Huancayo, northeast of Lima!) and the girls headed south.

 

Chincha Slave Tunnels

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Heading 200 kms south of Lima, you arrive in Chincha. The town is most known for a gorgeous property named Hacienda San Jose with an important history (in fact just on the outskirts of Chincha). Underground, beneath Hacienda San Jose is home to what tourists call the ‘Chincha Slave Tunnels’ — a series of nearly 20kms of tunnels accessible from the property. By this name one would hope that some amazing history exists – perhaps of slaves digging a tunnel to escape their slave masters and making a new, free life. That was what we hoped to learn when visiting the plantation (now an upscale hotel hosting some of Peru’s fanciest weddings). However, the story is a much sadder one.

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Starting on a tour through the home and adjoining church, one sees the opulent life of the plantation owners (cotton and sugar were the main crops). The hacienda has been set up to showcase how the property looked in the 18th century, at the time when the property hosted a huge cohort of African slaves.

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After heading to an entrance to the underground tunnels, you can explore a portion of the tunnels….enough to lose your tour group! The reason why they are so long – mainly to bring slaves from the shore at night (who arrived by boat) to the hacienda 17 kms from shore, thus avoiding the port authorities charging a tax on the slaves. The other reasons include providing a safe haven for the slave owners if they needed to escape danger, a safe place to store riches if needed as well as catacombs to bury the bodies of slaves (again, thus under-reporting how many slaves were actually on the property). One gets a chill when entering the dusty, dark tunnels so it’s imperative to have a reliable light. Your mind can run wild with you as you think about the history, while listening to the echoes of others in the tunnels and finding shadows at every turn.

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Knowing this history, you might think it would be hard for someone to want to vacation on the property or give their wedding vows, but the vacancy rate is very low. The beauty of the property wins people over. At times you might even think you´re on a plantation in Georgia. Today the town/region remains a hub of Afro-Peruvian culture and history.

 

Fresh salt air in Lima

November 2015

After more than 3 weeks in Lima, 10 language classes, 19 trips to the gym, probably 40 meals out and lots of miles on our feet, we can confidently report we’re enjoying our experience here. And…we finally made it out of our neighborhood and over to both Barranco (a more artsy district) and Chorrillos (a very mixed neighborhood with some awesome mountains as well as coastal views).

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That’s right, although Rio de Janeiro is known for its Christ the Redeemer statue finished in 1931, Lima wanted to do something equally as cool. So…they did the exact same thing. It is a 37m high statue built in 2011 and named Cristo del Pacífico. Quite similar to 38m statue of very similar detail in Brazil methinks.

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Our new friend Rodrigo, whom we met at Mundolingo (a weekly international social in Miraflores), took his time to show Julia and Erin around the city. Gracias Rodrigo! He spoke English and the gringos spoke Spanish. It was messy, but great practice for all.

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Jackson had a couple of interviews this week for chiropractic gigs so we wanted to celebrate the new developments. We went to one of Lima’s coolest restaurants due to its location. And heck, the food was wonderful too.

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If you think the below pics are the same, look closely. On the left you’ll see a man in a white cape standing dangerously close to the edge. In the right photo you’ll see him in the water just right of the cliffs. The name of the restaurant, Restaurante el salto del fraile, is named “friar jump” so this is a little schtick of the restaurant to entertain the guests (oh, and the gentleman tours the crowd for tips after his jump). The tradition is quite neat – read more about the story here.

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It’s nose to the books for another week and then the girls are off to Huacachina, Arequipa, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and Bolivia. For Jackson…only time will tell.

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Hello South America: Lima

By Erin and Jackson

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After a number of months bouncing around Eastern Canada, we were ready to head out on another adventure. This time we chose Peru, the beautiful nation of great food and kind people, not to mention world treasures like Machu Picchu. We’ve been kicking around Lima (a city of 8.5 million) for nearly two weeks with our friend Julia, getting to know our neighborhood of Miraflores, studying Spanish, hitting the gym, socializing, eating great food (es muy rico) and doing lots of walking.

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What we love about Lima so far:

  1. People have been so friendly
  2. There is so much opportunity to speak practice Spanish even in the tourist districts
  3. Lunch including appetizer, main with a drink is $4 Canadian at many of the local restaurants
  4. We are taking advantage of the siesta tradition
  5. The weather is way better than in Canada right now! (although relatively mild compared to how people think about South America at 17°)

Highlights:

Parque de la Reserva (Magic Water Circuit)

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This is a stunning park full of fountains, some set to music with lights and colour to bring out the child in everyone.

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And you can play in the water too!

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Going out in Lima

Pisco sours – who wouldn’t like a drink topped with frothed egg whites? Seems healthy right.

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Yes, we found karaoke in Lima. As you can see, Julia was muy enthusiastic.

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Ceviche, ceviche, ceviche. Peru is known to have some of the best in the world. Sometimes it’s even just the starter for a $4 CAD lunch here.

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An international meetup with Mundolingo, a group that brings the world together for drinks in many languages. In fact, throughout the night, at some point we all spoke 3 languages in the same sentence. (Photo credit to Mundolingo Lima)

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Halloween celebrations

First we went out with Ode (a Canadian connection) and her friends to a Halloween party at the embassy. I was really hoping Trudeau would hear we would be there…and then hop a plane to meet us for the party. If you’re wondering, Julia went as a bulletin board and Erin went as life giving out lemons (and asking “What are you going to do with that?…to which many people still looked very confused).

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Another fiesta at the Peruwayna language school with our teacher Melisa and other students. This time can you guess what Julia and Erin went as? (hint: it’s a group costume)

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More adventures coming soon!

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Kisses to all