Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Yorkshire Update - I'm Not Dead!
It's amazing, we've had sunny weather almost everyday since we arrived back in the UK! Spring is lovely here. Been seeing old friends, and eating far too much cheese, and going for country walks; very nice indeed. We went to Haworth to the Bronte Parsonage with my mum yesterday, which was interesting, though it was throwing it down by the end of the day. The lady in the old apothacary asked Tito if he was Mexican (to which he replied "Odelay! Odelay! Arriba! Arriba! - just joking) and said she'd been to Peru. A man further down the main street on a ladder overheard us talking about Machu Picchu and said the lady from the fair trade shop has just returned from there. Ooo, it's a small world, innit. Tito thinks Yorkshire is very scenic, and the pubs rather cozy, but thankfully says he definitely prefers to live in London. He's really keen on learning about British customs in general, though he's not overly impressed with the Tetley's ("Um, Vanessa, this is warm!" he whispered alarmedly). Everyone up here says "Oh, you can't live in London - it's much too expensive!". That London is one of the most expensive cities in the world I do not doubt, but I always think - well, all the people who live in London live in London, so why the heck can't I?
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Grim Up North
Nah... I think it'll be lovely. As my uni friend Bridge used to say: "Sophistication? Don't talk to me about sophistication. I've been to Leeds." We're off for a week, to visit my parents near Skipton in Yorkshire, and properly relax. We have been relaxing and panicking on and off in equal measures since we arrived in London, but Yorkshire will be a chance to totally unwind, because, erm... we'll have no choice. London has , frankly, been just great. We have had plenty of sunny weather, and the air round here smells green like spring. We really like the Crystal Palace area where we plan to live, and Tito was suitably impressed today by some of central London (and especially by the double-decker open-air tourist buses - Austin Powers flashback?). But we're not on holiday really - we know we really, really need to get on with things - despite the jet lag and flashes of culture shock. Small achievements feel like big ones (today we finally got our mobiles sorted and looked at a flat down the road) but we certainly have a long way to go. However, we shall for now rejoice in watching lambs gamble, glug Tetleys in little country pubs, take long bracing walks over the moors, and eat lashings of fishn'chips and good Keighley curry!
Thursday, April 21, 2005
L0NDON, BABY, YEAH
We're finally here, staying at Katie and Al's gorgeous flat in Crystal Palace. Had a nice, relaxing day yesterday, and Tito's first ever roast dinner - complete with Yorkshire Puds! It's a bit hair raising to know that we've now got find satisfying jobs and a suitable flat, but we've lots of lovely friends to help us. We just cannot wait to catch up with everyone. Tito's really impressed with what he's seen of London so far, which isn't much - only the route from Heathrow to Crystal Palace ("It's so big, I'm scared!" said he, bless 'im), and a walk round the neighbourhood here (inc. the 'prehistoric monsters' display and v.nice CP park gym) yesterday. He was less impressed with the admittance procedures at Heathrow ("Get in there for an abdominal x-ray. mate."), but we're not bitter. It's a super time of year to return to the U.K. The sun is shining and the birds are chirping, and I do believe language schools might be hiring right about now. I'm thinking reflectively and nostalgically about our time in Peru, but need to update my C.V. before I start waxing lyrical. Tito's experiences as a new immigrant should also prove interesting, especially at time like this when immigration is on everybody's mind. I have absolutely no idea who I would vote for, by the way, so perhaps it's best that I don't have a polling card. Anyhooo, our new life awaits, baby!
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Machu Picchu and Back to Reality
Wowee! Machu Picchu was by far the most amazing thing I've ever seen - the scenery is just breathtaking. We only had one day to spend there, but I have no doubts we'll return. You know the typical postcard scene of Machu Picchu with the mountain? Well, we climbed that mountain (Wayna Picchu) yesterday - so I must be feeling better. The views from the top was fantastic. I can't really say much else about Machu Picchu as words can't express! But now we're back to reality, staying the night in Lima before flying to London tomorrow...
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Honeymoon Proper! Part 3 - Cuzco
Cuzco is amazing. After tour of Sacsayhuaman and various other Inka ruins, the Cathedral and the city centre yesterday and a 'Sacred Valley' (Pisaq, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero) tour today I'm knackered, but happy. The city centre is historic and charming, the Inka ruins are incredibly mysterious, and the mountainous countryside is literally the most breathtaking I've ever seen. This is picture postcard Peru at it's best - llamas hanging around everywhere with their traditionally attired owners, little villages full of charmingly rustic mud-brick dwellings, icey mountain tops, winding cobbled city streets lined with white-washed houses, Inca fields stretching up the hillsides... you get it. It ain't cheap to get to, it ain't easy to get to, but you've got to get here. The food's great, the hotels are very cheap, and there's loads of nice new bars and pubs. And the shopping - I can't even talk about it, as I simply don't have any space in my suitcase for an alpaca sweater, nor a Baroque-style framed oil painting of the Cuzco school, nor striking black and white pottery pieces, nada. It's painful, but I know that we'll come back, preferably when we actually have jobs, and a place to live! Anyways, it's Machu Picchu tomorrow, very exciting!
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Honeymoon Proper! Part 2 - Puno
Took the 9am bus from Arequipa to Puno, as I was feeling fit as a butcher's dog this morning. The scenery was lovely, in fact I was surprised to find it rather reminiscent of the Yorkshire Dales in parts (only more jagged, with occasional snow-capped mountains, and alpacas/llamas instead of sheep!). In other parts it was a bit like the Lake District, though with considerably less traffic and vacationing Americans! It was a very pleasant bus journey, and when we arrived behind schedule at 2:30pm we were extremely chuffed to find that we weren't too late for a jaunt to the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca. After a quick lunch of alpaca steak and mashed potatoes (truly delicious, and no apparent danger of hospitalisation), we boarded a boat to the spongy reed Uros Islands with a bunch of assorted uncombed European tourists with 'interesting' glasses. It was really worth the trip, the islands float above 20 metres of water and the inhabitants do seem to maintain some kind of traditional lifestyle, despite the constant influx of goggling tourists. They make crafts to sell to the tourists, and live, work, and cook on the islands. The reeds the islands are made of are edible actually, so we noshed a crunchy reed and took various photos of the brown-skinned and ruddy-cheeked islanders in their colourful clothes, and us posing in foolish positions that we'll be proud to show our grandchildren. Towards the end it started to hail, and the boat ride back was freezing. Now we're back in Puno, waiting with cold feet for our bus to Cuzco... we've no time to stay the night due to our delay in Arequipa, Machu Picchu calls!
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Jumbo Shrimps, Hospitalisation, and Elephant Skin
Life is really very peculiar sometimes, isn't it? Yesterday I experienced a strange set of coincidences that again lead me to think that surely fate plays a major, even lifesaving, role in life. As I mentioned, we had jumbo shrimps for lunch. Tito was determined to have them - we took a taxi to a recommended seafood restaurant - but when we found they didn't have 'camarones' we hopped right back in a taxi to look for somewhere that did. Tito ended up with a great plate of barbecued shrimps, while I had the fried mixed seafood, and very tasty it all was too. We then proceeded to the bus station, where we expected to board the 5:30pm bus to Puno. It turned out, however, that the ticket had been for the 5:30am bus instead. Tito managed to get a full refund by being mightily peed off, and so we went and booked another ticket, this time for 8:30pm. Having three hours to kill, we checked our luggage in at the bus counter and came back into central Arequipa to use the internet. I made an entry and then went to buy a digest-aid tablet, as lunch hadn't gone down quite as well as I'd hoped. As I walked along the street looking for a chemist's, I had a very sudden feeling that I was having an asthma attack. I bought my digestion pill and took that, and then bought a brand new ventolin inhalor, as my old one didn't seem to be having any effect. As I walked back to meet Tito at 8pm to catch the bus I started coughing uncontrollably, and when he saw me approaching he knew something was wrong as my lips were dark purple. I thought that the attack would pass, but it didn't, and I couldn't get any oxygen in the thin Arequipan air. So, we took a taxi to the nearest hospital, which seemed to take forever in the evening traffic, with me gasping for air, and poor Tito virtually pulling his hair out with worry. The doctor immediately put me on gas, and then an oxygen machine. He indicated that he thought it was food poisoning, which attacked my weakest area (ie. bronchial tubes) and this was further aggravated by my reaction to the altitude. I though this was absolute madness, as I've had quite bad food poisoning before, but it was simply the usual nausea and diaorrhea. Oh no, not PERUVIAN food poisoning, baby!
We obviously weren't going to be travelling to Puno, so Tito rushed out to the bus station to collect our luggage as soon as I could breathe. As I waited, I developed an unbelievably itchy sensation on my scalp and upper thighs. The doctor gave me a cortisone injection, and I was so relieved that I wasn't going to die that I didn't think much of the itching. Tito returned (baggage-less, as the counter had closed for the day) and we returned to the hotel we'd checked out of earlier. As soon as we entered the lobby, I went to the toilet and was alarmed to see that my upper thighs were covered in enormous, swollen, red welts, which were so thick in areas that there was no normal skin in between them. Off we went to the chemist, were I was given an emergency injection, pill, and cream. We went back to hotel feeling relieved. Unfortunately, the rash had yet to really get going... It spread all over my body, exploding in sudden red welts, travelling up my back and stomach, and right down to my toes. It was HORRENDOUS! I looked like the elephant woman, and Tito even shouted at me for looking in the full-length mirror, as it made me panic. It was a night of cold wet towels and mate de coca tea, and Tito was just WONDERFUL as my nurse. Eventually I fell asleep, and when I woke at 1pm today my skin was fine. My breathing is fine, too. I now have come to believe that the same swelling effect as on my skin must have also affected my throat and bronchial tubes, closing them up. Yikes! What I can't stop thinking about, though, is the serious of coincidences... if Tito hadn't wanted shrimps so much, I'd have been fine, presumeably. Yet, if we hadn't had incorrect bus tickets, we'd have been on the bus when I had the attack. The bus wouldn't have had oxygen on board, as it was a cheap company. Furthermore, we'd have been approaching Puno, which is one of the highest points in Peru, at 3500m above sea level, which would have really complicated my breathing... It could have been very dangerous indeed. I am oddly pleased, however, that it wasn't a straightforward asthma attack, or simply the effects of the altitude, because both would mean that I couldn't travel to Puno, or perhaps even Cuzco. However, it seems it was a bizarre combination of effects that I'm sure I couldn't replicate if I tried. I feel absolutely fine now, so we're off to Puno to see Lake Titicaca in the morning tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
Arequipa Day 2
Unfortunately, I hadn't counted on the effects of the altitude (2325m above sea level, I believe) which knocked me out for the best part of the day yesterday! I managed to lose the keys to our luggage in my woozy state, too... (I think the hotel was a bit suspicious of us when we asked for some pliers to break the locks!) But I felt fine after a sleep, an anti-nausea/dizziness pill and vast quantities of mate de coca (special coca leaf tea) however 'soroche' had claimed the daylight hours. So, we had a relaxing evening and were up early today. We explored the Santa Catalina Monastery, which is actually an ancient nunnery, and is vastly intriguing. The high altitude gives the sunlight here a real luminous quality, and this enhances the beauty of Santa Catalina no end, as all the walls are built from the volcanic rock 'sillar' and painted gorgeous bright blues and terracottas and yellows. There are flowers everywhere, and multitudinous nooks and crannies to poke your nose into. It's like a little city within a city, and you can't help thinking the nuns led an eviable life - what with their private quarters, servants, special guests and secret parties. I wanted to go mad taking pictures, but we don't have a proper camera now, so I'll wait 'til the next time we visit Peru! After the nunnery we went to the museum to try to see Juanita. She is the sacrificed Inca girl stumbled across quite by accident by a mountaineer. She was frozen in perfect form, and was only unearthed due to the hot ashes falling from an active volcano next door. The mountaineer was trying to take photos of the volcano when he noticed a foot sticking out! He lugged the corpse down the mountain and presented to a university in Arequipa, who were rather pleased to say the least. Juanita's discovery led to the discovery of several other very well preserved, young female sacrifices... another of whom, Sarita, is currently on display in a rather chilly ice box. Good job, too, as Juanita is off being researched so we didn't actually get to see her. Anyhow, a Cathedral and few churches and some jumbo shrimp for lunch/supper (why isn't there a word for that? sunch? lupper?) and we're now off to Puno and Lake Titicaca...
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Honeymoon Proper! Part 1 - Arequipa
Triumphant with Tito's UK visa and our two tickets to London in hand, we're off on honeymoon proper! In fact, we've started already, we arrived in Arequipa just an hour ago, after a 14 hour overnight bus journey. Arequipa looks lovely, it's an old city and many of the buildings are constructed from an attractive white stone - volcanic ash from El Misti - the impressive snow-capped mountain which overlooks the city. This feels like the 'real Peru' to me - the picture postcard ideal (which roughn'ready Chiclayo certainly is not!). In the bus station when we arrived there was a woman wearing the traditional embroidered skirts and felt hat, when we got out of taxi in central Arequipa there were two kids with a fluffy baby llama, etc, etc. We are looking forward to exploring here, then Puno (Lake Titicaca) , and then Cuzco and Machu Picchu. We're doing it budget stylee - all buses and backpacks; we like the independence. Packages are ridiculously overpriced anyway - they claim to be for three days or whatever, but your last day involves nothing but a rushed brekky and being whisked to the airport. The bus travel is really not too bad either - you can take the 'bus-cama' option (bed-bus) which is quite comfortable and eliminates the need to pay for a hotel for the night! OK, I'd better go and start exploration of the city, and we're just dying to lunch on the famous jumbo shrimp!
Friday, April 08, 2005
You're not going to believe this... on Tuesday, just after I made my blog entry, Tito came rushing into the internet cafe and announced that the Municipalidad finally had THE BOOK! Well, we ran over there and put on long faces and made forlorn noises until we were allowed to sign the thing and finally receive our marriage certificate. Then we packed up at Katuwira, said final goodbyes, and jumped on the overnight bus to Lima. Wednesday morning we arrived in Lima, showered, (Tito donned his lucky shirt), and off we went, directly to the British Embassy with papers in hand - only to be told that they have decided not to process visa applications on Wednesdays. So, this morning also found us waving papers at the Embassy at 8am - only to be told to come back in on Monday at 12pm for our interview. We sat in the Embassy staring disappointedly at the interview slip and debating whether or not to tell the staff my grandfather had died and I need to back ASAP (both true - though my grandfather passed away many years ago, bless'im). Suddenly, the Vice-Consul called me over. She'd seen our miserable chops and said she'd interview us today. Although somewhat amused and taken aback at the various complications of our multi-continental relationship, she gave us the green light. We pick up Tito's visa tomorrow!!!
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Speaking of bottom eruptions, as I unfortunately was... Tito said to me this morning "Because of the beans we ate yesterday, today I have many gases." To which I replied "No, we say 'a lot of gas', because 'gas' is uncountable". "No baby" he said, "It's countable - I've counted 17 so far this morning."
As you might guess, we are still waiting for the gringo marriage register book to come up from Lima. Apparently there is only one book, which does the rounds of the whole country - it could be in Iquitos or Arequipa or Cajamarca as we speak. We're totally stuck; they won't issue our marriage certificate until the book comes, even though we were married over two weeks ago. This level of inefficiency seems laughable - why a book? do they not have computers in this country? where is this blessed book now? It seems laughable, but it's not so funny when you are stuck in the system. And this is what normal Peruvians have to live with everyday! British nationality has never before seemed so appealing to me as now. Anyway, Tito is presently in the Municipalidad with a lawyer trying to make a ruckus... I'll let you know how it goes!
Friday, April 01, 2005
True Sign of an Adventurer
In Peru, the toilets are generally missing at least two or three, but often all of these things:
1. flushing mechanism/handle
3.running water (soap? no chance)
Sure, I know all about roughing it, thanks very much. But the almost total lack of basic facities combined with the serious exploding arse syndrome (SEAS) caused by cebiche (the national dish), and countless other foodstuffs can be bit tough to handle at times. Well... in short, it means that sometimes my hand smells like poo. I mentioned this, in passing, to my husband yesterday. He pondered for a moment, and then replied "This is the true sign of an adventurer
." We could make a proverb here, surely? Something along the lines of 'One whose hand smells of poo has many tales to tell'? Or, 'Never judge a person until you've smelled their hand'.
Man, I hope the book comes soon.