33 days in Peru

Monday, January 9, 2012

Peru logo Last week I returned home after spending over a month in Peru. My girlfriend and I flew from Portland, Oregon to Lima, Peru on December 4, 2011. We returned on January 6, 2012 (one day later than intended due to rain in the desert town of Arequipa).

We had an amazing trip to South America, but it is so nice to be home again. A few small luxuries I missed while in Peru for 33 days: safe drinking water, reliable hot water, toilet seats, being able to flush toilet paper. Two of my new favorite fruits are granadillas (gelatinous, pulpy passion fruit) and shimbillo (sweet seed pod fruit). I kind of wish I could live in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town), which has natural thermal baths and serves as the gateway to the famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

Lima, the capital and largest city, is the hub of travel to anywhere in Peru, so we were there on four separate occasions. We spent the weirdest Christmas ever in the dirty jungle city of Pucallpa (including a breathtaking 360 degrees of fireworks at midnight on Christmas Eve). We spent New Year’s Eve in Lima (including dinner in Barranco in a 1909 train car with stained glass cathedral windows and wood paneling, and dangerous seaside fireworks in Miraflores).

I have almost 3,000 photos to sort through. My girlfriend is already posting her photos to Flickr, but it may take me forever to do the same. Back in Oregon, our cats definitely gained weight while we were in Peru. Even Tanuki looks chubby now. Emotional eating? Or sheer laziness plus unlimited food? Reminds me of this classic A Softer World comic.

Peru postcard of Machu Picchu

Below is an outline of some of the places we visited. I have a journal full of handwritten notes, and there are many stories to tell, but this trip outline is all I can manage at the moment. After a weekend of recovery, I was thrust back into my pre-vacation work life today. The profound culture shock of being back in my own country—and having to return to my desk, in an office with no windows, where I stare at a computer screen for eight hours each day—is deeply troubling.

The Inca Empire: December 4-13

The Amazon jungle: December 13-31

  • Lima
  • Pucallpa
  • Yarinacocha Lake/Puerto Callao/La Jungla
  • San Francisco de Yarinacocha (Shipibo village)
  • Pucallpa
  • Lima

The high desert: December 31-January 6

By the way, 2011 was the 100th anniversary of Machu Picchu’s “discovery.” And it was the first year of the Nazca Lines-inspired Peru’s New Brand. I love Peru’s new logo.

Sak Noel - Loca People (What The Fuck) The terrible Auto-Tuned music

As a bonus, here are 20 dance-pop songs I remember hearing endlessly and unavoidably on Peruvian radio (mainly CPN Radio 90.5 FM Lima) while traveling. We were subjected to these Auto-Tuned sounds during all hours of the day, especially in Pucallpa. Sak Noel produces music even worse than Rebecca Black songs. Some things can’t be unheard. I ended up liking a few of these songs, possibly due to Stockholm Syndrome. This is music to rot your brain. The second-to-last video is a Shipibo song from the Amazon jungle, and the last video is a modernized version of an icaro (a healing ceremonial song). Listen to all 22 tracks in this YouTube playlist: “Peru loves Auto-Tuned dance-pop music.”

Why is Pitbull, a Cuban-American rapper, sneering and barking on almost every track that gets played in Peru? Some things we can never know. If you’re really in love with this kind of music, check out the PERÚ Top 100 for more pop inspiration.

More updates and pixel art

For more regular updates, you may want to follow me on Twitter. Also, check out my recent Peru-themed 8-bit pixel art at Mascot Mashup.

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