Go 4 wheeling in the Sacred Valley

If you know Matthew and I, you know that thus far every trip we’ve made that we take a few ATVs out for a ride. So why would Peru be any different? Of course, we booked a trip to ride ATVs within a few days of arriving to Cusco. $50 per person for 4 hours of riding the mountains of the Sacred Valley isn’t so bad.  Each country we ride ATVs in offers something a little different.

  • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: nice scenic ride through a flat terrain – plenty of dirt and a little bit of water to make some fun splashes
  • Belize – a great ride through the jungle – approximately 1 hour-long – tons of mud to ride through
  • Cusco, Peru – the ride was amazing – 4 hours (the longest ride to date) – you could actually go past 4th gear – is that a town we’re riding through – look at the kids – why is that dog chasing me – look at those Incan ruins – look at the mountains – WOW – go ahead make your ATV jump in the air again.

The company that we used http://www.perumototours.com/ . Don’t be a wuss – if you go to Cusco go to Peru Moto Tours and rent an 4 wheeler. A few tips (any time you rent ATVs/4 wheelers):

  • Ask for gloves – or you’ll get a lovely blister that will turn in to a painful cut
  • Ask for or bring a bandanna to cover your mouth and nose (otherwise you’ll have fabulously brown buggers)
  • Ask for goggles  – or you won’t be able to see (bring sunglasses with a strap just in-case they don’t have any)
  • Don’t let them ride you to the location on a motorcycle (Peru Moto specifically – trust. They tried this option with us we said NO. When we took the 30 min ride up the mountain on the super tiny road we were very thankful to be in a van)
  • HAVE FUN!!!
  • Take your best friend in the whole wide world =)

Inti Raymi

Here are the pics from Inti Raymi! The second largest celebration in South America. We got to view the 2nd part of the festival from a great restaurant balcony right in Plaza de Armas. The 3rd and final part of Inti Raymi is held at Sacsaywaman (sounds somewhat like sexy woman) which is about 2km from Cusco. We took the 4o minute or so hike there with thousands of other people to watch Inti Raymi for free.  Aprox 3,800 people paid $70 – $110 to watch the ceremony up close. Of course this is now a re-enactment; however, each step, word, and dance move are done with precision and honor.

The crowd.. lol .. that was a different story. While at Sacsaywaman we found an area where everyone was seated. Lets say it was crowd control by the crowd. “Sentarse por favor” was yelled across the crowd anytime anyone stood up or did not take their seat upon the hill quick enough. If you stood up to long or your umbrella was in the way and you refused to sit down or put the umbrella down you got banana peels or even rocks thrown at you. Pretty bad but everyone stayed seated for a while until the show got really interesting. Then everyone stood to watch.

Despite the rocks. It was an amazing experience. Like being taken back in time. More info on Inti Raymi http://www.unique-southamerica-travel-experience.com/inti-raymi.html

The celebrations/ parades leading up to Inti Raymi – The Festival of the Sun

The celebrations in Cusco aren’t like anything you’ve seen before.  They have parades celebrating their Incan history, their gastronomy, and Catholicism – more so the mixture of the Incan religion and Catholicism. Everyone participates from as young as about 2 or 3 years old to 70ish.  This year was the first time in a hundred years when the holiday (that typically are on random days similar to Easter) lined up all on the same week all leading up to Inti Raymi. A few things we noticed about the parades in Cusco:

  • They all have cultural or spiritual significance
  • There are so many beautiful colors
  • Grammar schools, universities, municipalities, organizations etc… participate.
  • A lot of the groups are environmentally conscious.
  • Everyone loves candied apples and cotton candy!
  • The parades last all day long all week long
  • A random band can walk in the streets in the middle of the night having its own sort of parade.
  • Parades would happen with or without the tourist.
  • This is not a big commercial advertisement of cartoon characters, plays for you to go see, or about any movie or tv stars. This is about history.
  • Cuzqueno the local beer is sold on the street all day 2 for 5 soles.

The following are pics from the parades leading up to Inti Raymi (which was on June 24th). I will do a separate post for Inti Raymi.

Hibbetich man Cusco – Welcome to Cusco in Quechua (well that’s what the online dictionary says lol)

Our first day

Before we left for Lima I was advised not to buy our tickets to Cusco until we land. This was great advice. The tickets cost $100 less when we were in Peru than at home. While in Lima we visited a few travel agencies hunting for a good price. We met one travel agent who was also willing to give us some pretty good advice on how to handle the altitude changes. She told us to take it super SLOW to prevent altitude sickness. We’re thinking take a nap upon arrival. No, stay seated, wait to get your bags down, don’t rush, let everyone pass you, walk in slow motion, let the sky caps get your bags, don’t run and hug the person greeting you, and sleep all day. Unfortunately she wanted cash for the ticket and I just couldn’t do that – our travel insurance is through my Amex card.  We appreciated the great advice.

We broke through the clouds over Lima and saw the sun again. Within 30 minutes or so while flying above the clouds snow-capped mountains began to peak through.  Then we began seeing a patch work of various colored green mountains and valleys. Simply breath-taking. Upon our decent we could see Cusco the “Magic City”.

We got off the plane and followed the advice of the travel agent taking everything slow. Grabbed our bags and oops. Here we go again. The same bag that got lost now has a whole gashed in it about the size of a golf ball. The sky-cap took us out to meet our “mom” Edith and then walked us back over to the check-in area to talk about the bag. Edith helped a lot, but they still wouldn’t take responsibility because the bag was overweight. See that’s why I insisted on using my Amex card to pay for the ticket. (Get travel insurance people). I got the report the bag was damaged for my insurance claim and we were off to Edith’s house.

As soon as we arrived we were offered coca tea. Tea made of the leafs from the same plant that cocaine is derived from. It helps prevent altitude sickness, which can be pretty bad I understand. Edith showed us the doorbell to her room and insist we ring it at anytime if we are sick, and showed us the dry eraser board where we are to leave a message if we are not going to eat at home or will be gone for an extended amount of time.  We kept still for most of the day.That evening we ate dinner with the house family and a couple that own a home-stay near Manchu Pichu called Yellow River. At this point Mariella – a girl from Norway, Michael from NY, and Guy from California were guest. Mariella was leaving the next day to go to Yellow River so we met up with her to go salsa dancing that evening against all previous advice. We weren’t filling sick so I contacted Sonia my facebook friend, and we took the so we took the 15 min hike to Plaza de Armas. Met up with Mariella and Michael for salsa dancing, and ordered a Pisco Sour of course. Less than 10 minutes later my head felt funny and Matthew and I were too tired to sit down. So we took a cab back home for 4 soles (2.74 sol = $1.00). We’ve been here for over a week now and I’m still find myself catching my breath now and then.

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Cusco is definitely a world of old meets new. The new buildings are on top of Incan built stones, there are older woman walking around in traditional garb, there are men in business suits, the babies are swaddled in traditional natural dyed alpaca fabric, there are Shaman stores, there are discotecs,  and the curbs are made for the 6′ + Incans that used to walk these streets. We are in Cusco’s winter right now – it’s cold at night (say 30 degrees), hot in the sun (85) and cold (50/60) in the shade during the day.   I have found myself taking my poncho off and putting it back on while eating breakfast on a balcony as the sun plays hide and seek behind the clouds.  This place is full of character and culture. Museums are everywhere. There are parades everyday all day (all day because we are in the middle of a week-long celebration – see previous post with article). As you walk the streets there are tourism companies and people standing outside of them offering you there services to book a trip to Manchu Pichu or the jungle. There are hippies/backpackers everywhere with blond hair and dreadlocks. There is also a new girl ever 30 seconds or so offering “Senor/ Senorita massage, manicure, pedicure”. Following her someone will show you there restaurants menu.   But once you step away from the retail shops and restaurants you can take it all in. Just look up and there are the mountains. Some are speckled with tiny houses, and some with farmers fields. All have been traveled by the ancient Inca all have been made by God.

To be continued … (more about the celebration/parades, our tours, and the people)

Beinvenidos Lima – And we’re off

Dinner in Mexico City Airport

We left Mexcio City airport at 12:45 am on June 9th . Just before getting on the plane a few of the guards tried to bribe us for a few bucks – thank God for Matthew knowing some Spanish. We got on the plane with all our cash and all is good. Matthew and I are in the air on the plane looking at the sunrise and the ocean as the pilot says ‘we are now on our descent into Lima’. Oops, I was wrong because we can’t be descending into the water that’s actually a dark sea of clouds and that was what we thought would be the last time we would see the sun in Lima. We arrive and wait and wait for our bags in customs; however, Aero Mexico oversold the flight and left one of our bags in Mexico City. We were told it would come in at 11pm that evening at which time we would receive a phone call; and the bag would be delivered to us the next morning.

Luggage fiasco
Luggage fiasco

Andres – the driver that Carla sent for us patiently waited for us during the luggage fiasco. He dropped us off at Carla’s in the Barranco district of Lima and our journey began. Carla’s mom Rosa gave us a warm welcome as if we were her grand kids that she hadn’t seen in a year. The whole family was great too us.  There was another couple staying at the house for a few months the girl is from Australia and her boyfriend from France (they met in college in Australia). There was also a Thai guy staying there for a few months on a hiatus he actually lives in the states. So there were 4 languages in the house at the same time – Thai, French, English, and of course Spanish.  The parents only spoke Spanish.

Lima is AMAZING – Andres helped with showing us around, and getting a few essential items to set up, and getting the bags back.  Carla made multiple calls about our lost bags, pointed out the best restaurants we event went to lunch with the family to Pardo’s Chicken one day.  We spent a lot of time in Barranco a bohemian neighborhood- similar to Brooklyn, NY; and Miraflores – similar to New York City.  Its a very vibrant city with tons of stuff to do we went to the movies and saw “Que Paso Ayer” AKA Hangover Part 2.  If you go to Miraflores you’ll want to go to Parque Kennedy (PK). PK is the heart of the city; vendors are selling silver, Incan items, and more; there’s popcorn and dessert; and of course various stray cats that mind their business.  Surrounding the park are multiple restaurants, a movie theater, travel agencies, retail stores, and a department store.  You should also go to Lacomar, it’s an outdoor mall (if you’ve been to Miami it’s similar to Bayside -except people still go).

Pics are below.. going to keep this one brief so I can play catch up on this blogging.

Click on the pictures to see the titles.

A little background

I know you’re like – NOOO tell me about Peru. But just a little. We decided we should check out both the capital city Lima (Barranco and Miraflores districts) and Cusco prior to deciding where we would settle. Both cities are very different from what we’ve been told. The city of Lima – is very metropolitan, Spanish speaking, is under a constant fog/smog in the winter (which it currently is), has an international airport, and is on average 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The city of Cusco – is known as a the magic city, is very warm in the day but very cold at night, is the longest inhabited city in South America, has access to one of the 7 wonders of the world Manchu Pichu, you can only fly to Lima from there, and is a party town because of all of the tourist. Easy choice – NO. Thus we needed to visit both live and in living color. In order to actually get to know these towns as a local, we decided it would best to stay with a host family rather than at a hotel. Matthew began the research and found a family for us to stay with in Cusco on http://www.homestaybooking.com . I found us a family to stay with in Lima on http://www.airbnb.com . How did we choose a family you ask? With a small list of criteria:
• Do you have pets? (Matt’s allergic to cats)
• How large is the family? How many people will be staying there? (we don’t want to live with 20 people).
• Did they have any reviews from other people that stayed there?
• Do they have pictures of the home?

We chose Carla’s and her family’s home in Barranco – Lima. She was really helpful even prior to us getting there – answering multiple questions, finding out if they carried Cetaphil in the store, and arranging a driver to pick us up from the airport. We chose Edith’s family’s home in Cusco. Edith’s family will pick us up from the airport, actually provides breakfast and lunch included in the cost, and dinner for only an extra $3 per meal (can’t beat that).

FYI We’re in Cusco now.. sipping on coca tea =)

Hasta Luego America (Part II)

We left South Carolina and continued on our journey to Miami, FL on Sunday morning. The drive wasn’t to bad; however, unlike most of people in our generation and younger we don’t have ipods. So after hitting Virginia we heard Chris Brown’s song Look at Me Now (we can now rap all of Busta Rhymes lyrics and understand Lil Wayne lol), multiple Lil Wayne songs, multiple Rick Ross songs and Ace Hoods’ (featuring Lil Wayne again and Rick Ross) Hustle Hard over and over again. Not to say that we dislike them.. but just over and over again – radio production managers please add some new stuff to your rotation.

We arrive in Ft. Lauderdale at my dad’s house and he’s making my all time favorite conch salad (not actual pic but this is what it looks like for the non-Caribbeans)! Yumm. We got to spend time with my little sister Catherine and my dad’s girlfriend Nicole. Dinner was great too – roasted chicken and sauteed veggies.

The next morning my cousin Minca came by with her adorable baby Liv and we went to IHOP for breakfast. (Don’t sleep on the Germane Crepes) So, I have to tell you about Liv, she is the most adorable and good/ chill – non crying baby I have ever met. Minca has traveled a lot for long durations so her visit also ended up being a repacking experience.  Didn’t get under the 50lbs but did get rid of some of the carry on weight =). After that we went down South (South Miami) to visit my aunt and uncle and little (younger as you see most of them are taller than us lol) cousins.


The next day we got to go to my little sister Catherine’s 5th Grade Graduation. Glad we were there for that =)

Catherine and Me!
Catherine's Graduation
Catherine, my dad (Eric), and Me
Matt Me and Catherine
Matt Me and Catherine

My other little sis (not so little as Catherine lol) and my cousin Fatimah visited us that night.. I can’t believe I forgot pics.

And we went by Carmax – love Carmax – they gave me a great offer for my SUV — miss you!

Our last day there we spent it with my mommy and grandmommy. And quick visit with my uncle Kelwyn in the Walmart parking lot lol.

Matthew, Grandmommy, Me, and Mommy
Matthew, Grandmommy, Me, and Mommy

My dad took us to the airport and we were off to Peru with a connection in Mexio City – where we had Starbucks of course. lol

Hasta Luego America (Part I)

For all of you completely non-Spanish speakers that’s so long/ see you later =)

We’ve made it! We’re in the Barranco  district of Lima, Peru!!  Matthew and I left Pennsylvania on June 1st on a road trip to visit family.  I’ll keep this part brief so I can get to the Peru stuff =).

Matthew’s Mom/ South Carolina

We had a great visit with my mother-in-law/ Matthew’s mom in Hilton Head, SC.  She is very excited about us learning to speak Spanish fluently because she actually teaches high school Spanish. Hilton Head a quiet place not much to do but eat and play golf, but it is relaxing and a great place for family time without distractions.

The first night there Matt’s mom made us her famous Cincinnati Chili, that stuff is delicious! No, this is not your regular Tex-Mex Chili, it has a different flavor and is served on spaghetti noodles.  It was great to have down home familiar food before going to a foreign country.  The second night her good friend Joyce P. took us out for dinner and drinks at WiseGuys. Joyce was very nice, we truly enjoyed dinner and it was a great send off. If you’re ever in Hilton Head its a swanky NYC style lounge that you can wear casual clothes or even shorts to because you’re in Hilton Head.  My favorite drink was the Hibiscus Margarita -YUMMMM.

Joyce, Mom, Matthew, and Erica

The next night we went to the club house for dinner and had amazing fresh pasta with an Sherry Alfredo sauce (more yumm).  This was just the three of us and our waiter Slick -lol.. Slick is an awesome character full of stories. This was a great time to just sit and talk about our plans and enjoy each others company. Oh did I mention the carved beef tenderloin.  The last night there we went to see Water for Elephants – which is an OK movie about a guy who joins the circus and has a few issues with the owner and falls in love with the owners wife.  Then mom’s friend Rebeca took us to this great Mexican restaurant (sorry can’t remember the name – too much Mango Margarita lol). Another great dinner and send off. The next morning we packed and were off.

Rebeca, Matthew, Erica, and Mom

Over all it was a fabulous trip- great mom, delicious food, and amazing company =).

Farewell Pennsylvania

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We have packed up the house, finished our TEFL course, completed our observation hours, had a farewell shin-dig (see the photos), and are now off visiting family.

TEFL Certification

As previously mentioned Matthew and I have taken a class online with the TEFL Institute to become certified to teach English. We’ve turned in all of our assignments and have completed our practicum hours.  We did a combination of tutoring and observing classes at Drexel University English Language Center http://www.drexel.edu/elc/. Tobbie, an Associate Director there helped us coordinate with their teachers and pointed out which classes would be helpful. It was great to see classes in action from a teachers perspective. I’ve only been in a classroom before as a student.  It was also great to meet all the different students there. The majority of the students were from Saudi Arabia – did you know that the king has paid for University students to go to different countries around the world in order to obtain an education.  This is what the students told us – I’m searching for more information online.  There were also a lot of students from China, a few from UAE, and a few from South America, and Africa.  I have to apologize – we didn’t take any pictures with the classes. SMH This picture below is with Tobie.

Last day at Drexel

Newark Now

My last day at Newark Now was great the Taste of Financial Empowerment was my last event at Newark Now. We did it at the RAM Gallery this year which turned out to be a great space. The turn out for the event was great. LaVar (the President of Newark Now), even did a nice little going away presentation to me. I really enjoyed my work there. I am continuing to manage there Facebook and Twitter accounts – I just can’t let go – lol.  I’ve got a few Super Summer shirts in my bag =).  Hey make a donation www.newarknow.org =)

Going away Shin-Dig

We had our going away shin-dig at the house with a few good friends. It was a blast! BFFs, college friends, BBOP, Matt’s Philly friends, and family were all in the house. It was tons of fun.. I have to give a shot out to the Tyson Annitizers – just throw them on a serving platter and they look and taste great! lol

2011 Graduations  – Alex, Keisha, and Ayanna

We stayed in town a little later then planned and I was able to attend my “cousin” Alex’s under grad graduation from New School (well I missed the graduation – but I got to visit with her, my aunt Valerie, Alex’s brother Jeffrey, and my mom). We all (except Jeff) went to Max Brenner – love that restaurant. They have tons of chocolate desserts. I’m not a dessert person but I do love chocolate. Check them out the next time you’re in the city. My mom and I also went to one of my best friend’s Keisha’s post graduate diploma graduation from Fordham and then to Applebees with her mommy and friends.  Matthew and I attended Ayanna’s Med School (UMDNJ) graduation  party (our friend/and Che’s -Matt’s god son’s mommy).  Ayanna’s doing her residency at John Hopkins – how cool is that, and Keisha is beginning to work on her doctorate in psychology. Woo ton’s of graduations congrats to you all!

Packing – We thought we were going to be able to fit all of our wedding presents in the car- nope not the case.

My mom came up for Alex’s graduation in NYC and then came to PA to help us pack prior to going to DC to see my Aunt June. I had a great time with my mom. She left Saturday morning for DC. Then we still had more packing.  But packing is just not fun – its done now. The goal was to leave Wednesday early in the morning say 5 /6ish – but Tuesday evening as we began to pack the car with wedding presents to take to my mother-in-laws for storage we soon found out that the Ford Freestyle is just not big enough. So we had to make a trip back to our storage unit in Delaware (an hour each way) to unload more gifts. Of course there was traffic on the way back home so we weren’t back home until after 9pm – repacked the car by 11 pm, and we still need to clean the house.

And we’re off

We left PA yesterday morning just after 9am. Stopped in DC to hug my cousin Karen real quick and arrived with good time to Matthew’s mom’s house in South Carolina at 9:30pm.  Getting ready to go to dinner now. Will post an update soon =)