Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter in Peru.

Easter in Peru is totally different to Australia. The celebrations officially start a week before the 'Western' Easter, in the form of Semana Santa (Holy Week). Thursday and Friday are public holidays, and overall there is less commercial emphasis put on the holiday. There's definitely none of the BUY BUY BUY and CHOCOLATE EVERYWHERE that there is in Australia. Celebrations are a lot more religious (I assume due to the highly Catholic population) and there's no chocolate whatsoever. It's more a time to spend with your family and friends- many families head down to the south of the Lima province and camp on the beach. And when I say many, I mean about 2 million - no joke!

Probably the most interesting day of the Easter weekend for me was the Thursday before Good Friday. I went into central Lima with my dad and German uncle to have a look around, and there were people everywhere. Everyone had these little elaborately woven plam fronds and were flocking into one of the many, richly-decorated churches there. It was almost fanatic- crossing themselves, touching their hand or palm frond up against statues of Jesus carrying the cross to his death. The queues to get into the churches were ridiculously long too, and all day, not just for the masses. 

It was really quite an experience- almost like a trip back in time to see what Easter must have been like 100 years ago. None of the commercialism, just the root of what the holiday is actually about. While I did miss my overdose of chocolate, the Peruvians have no shortage of other delicious Easter treats- sweet bread in the form of ducks, chewy long sticks of toffee, round bread and hard donuts covered in icing sugar. Though, if anyone feels kind enough to send me a Lindt bunny or a Cadbury egg, I'd be quite happy to receive one!

And last but not least, I did finally get to sit on a llama!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

On the verge of something new.

Hello all! As I`m sure you all want to hear what I`ve been up to on the other side of the Pacific, I`ve decided to post something of my travels. Unfortunately, none of this will be chronological because my camera conveniently conked out on the fifth day of my trip to the north of Peru, so we`ll start there because otherwise there won`t be any photos in the posts! 
Happy reading!

As we headed north up the coast, I was surprised to see the seemingly never-ending desert hills of Lima change into a vast expanse of tropical green. We arrived in Tumbes, a little town near the border of Ecuador in the early morning, after an overnight bus ride providing us with little rest. We had little time to complain though, because soon enough we were on the coast again, the reek of fish strongly present. To my immense surprise we were in a small coastal village, a port to be more particular, with hundreds of brightly-painted boats dotting the water. There were locals everywhere, trying to sell the morning's catch or whatever other little trinkets they deemed sellable. Puerto Pizarro, as the place was called, was the initial landing place of the Spanish conquistador, where he sussed out the Incas technology as well as wealth before coming back a few years later to conquer Peru.


Much to my delight, we boarded a little green and red boat and explored the river, which was lined with mangroves and hundreds of water birds. It was a little rickety at times, especially as we wove through endless little tunnels of green, but finally we reached a quaint jetty upon which we disembarked. We had reached a crocodile reserve, home to the last few remaining crocs in Peru. They had them in every shape and size- from little babies right up until the grandparents. I got to hold a particularly fiesty little one who took much joy in slapping me in the face with his tail when I got too close. While I admired the conservation efforts, it saddened me to see at least 66 adults in an enclosure no bigger in size than a school classroom, with a pool large enough to fit three of them at a time, maximum.

From there we jumped back on the boat until we reached an island which separated the sea and the river. Everyone dipped in for a much-needed swim in the tropical heat and I acquired a sunburn that made me appear akin to a lobster. We were then treated to a lunch of ceviche (a specialty of the north, raw fish oxidised with the acid of lemon or lime, served with red onion, roasted corn kernels, fried banana and South American potato-like vegetable) and rice, chicken and chips (no surprises there). Exhausted, I then slept the afternoon away in a hammock.

Before arriving back at the hotel (named El Dorado funnily enough), we made a quick trip into town to see the Plaza de Armas. Tumbes' holds a colourful mosaic of the history of the city, from the once-flourishing jungle with big cats and deer to the conquest of the Incas by the Spaniards. For a little town, the plaza was definitely full of life, with kids running everywhere poppin bubbles to street vendors selling the Peruvian equivalent of Toys R Us off their backs.

I was pleasantly surprised with Tumbes, and to top the night off we were even treated to a tropical rain shower in which everyone danced like maniacs in the street. I guess that's what you get when you have forty exhausted exchange students who are excited to head off to Ecuador the next morning!