Sunday, October 5, 2008

Point to point! A taste of Peru

Few things that crosses my mind when someone mentions Peru: Machu Picchu, Latina beauty, Llama!

When the Exec Producer of GMA7's Pinoy Meets World presented the opportunity for me to join their trip as 'host-kuno', I can't simply find any reason not to! ;) Of course, I was a bit (just a tiny bit) worried about filing another set of non-existent 'vacation leave' (as I have consumed ALL of my VLs during my Alaska climb), but to hell with whatever consequences - sayang ung Peru noh! hehe. Un lang la nako sueldo, as no-pay leave mode na ako sa office.

'Hosting' is not really a talent, or a comfortable 'job' for me. I find it difficult to even hone my relevant skills (like improving my ipis-voice over). I'll just hope that the place or the stuff that we'll do will be interesting enough for the viewers, to hopefully cover up for whatever hosting ballooha that I may commit. haha!

Travel Basics
Before the trip, I tried to brush up my Espanyoli, to hopefully be good enough to at least flirt w/ the mujeres. Speaking the local language, even a bit, will help one enjoy the trip more, mingle w/ the locals properly, joke your way around to get discounts, and yes - even get yourself out of a possible trouble. Entonces, yo praktisado mi espanyol by reading thru popular spanish phrases and words available in the internet. Hablo y intiendo spanish pero muy poco, but enough to grope my way around. ;)
The trip plan was dictated by what GMA7 wanted to feature in the show, top of the list: Machu Picchu and Nasca lines! At least this time, I didn't need to worry about tour planning, getting accomodations or transport needs. More importantly - how to pay them hehehe.

Food Trips
As part of travelling diary, I have to sample the local delicacies. I have no problem with that - AS LONG as the food do not have milk or cheese, or not super exotic to qualify for Fear Factor. Masira pa tyan ko!
"Cuy" - this is the spanish (or Peruvian?) name for guinea pig. Yes they eat this like chicken. I tried the Cuy Catchado(?) dish, more like a lechon the leche (roasted baby pig). The taste is agreeable, but 'knowing' that you're eating some sort of a 'rat' can be a mindset challenge. I wasn't able to try the Kuneho as the resto didn't have one (thank God!). Curious on how they 'prepare' (kill) the little animal for cooking? I found out that they simply snap-pull the head and the tail (as if breaking a string). Sad, that may be my last cuy, ever. ;)

"Ceviche" is nothing very different from our own kinilaw. Good as pulutan ;)
"Adobo" in Peru is somewhat similar to a meat stew, but with a hint of curry. It's ok, but I would prefer the real stew (ex. Lamb stew) or the real pinoy Adobo.

"Pisco Sour" is a favorite local drink. It has pisco, limon, y huevo blanco (egg white). Muy bien pero mas fuerza than our regular Gin Tonic. I can drink this in parties! :) Pisco is a 'Peruvian grape'. Too bad we didn't have time to party hard and get wasted!

What's a Peru travel without the famous Incan ruin in Machu Picchu... This is a must-see archeological site. I guess bagay ako rito, as the ruins - a ghost Inca village, is atop of a mountain. It is believed to be a worship or retreat place of the ruler. I guess, very similar to how we see Baguio.
What's outstanding about the place is how it was built. This is like year 1400, with no modern tools - but the Incans were able to erect giant slobs of big rocks, mostly with non-standard size and patterns. But then again earlier civilizations were able to build the Pyramids. hehe.
The ruins of Machu Picchu is so popular that endless stream of tourists flock the area everyday. It is believed that the 'holding capacity' of the place is around 1500pax, but there are times that visitors will reach 4500 in number. Hence, this site is listed under the endangered archelogical site by the UN.

Video bloop: The first time I climbed the 'view deck' to see a post-card view of Machu Picchu, the cameraman was expecting to capture my jaw-drop reaction of awe (of the site), or at least - a fake drama-like 'wow'. Instead, I reacted on the site of 2 Llamas (my first) as they were busy munching grass to my right-hand side, a mere 3-5 meters away. Being a 'Born to be Wild' person, I got distracted and approached the llamas, calling them as if I just saw my pet. "Pucha naman inuna mo pa yang llama hindi mo man lang pinansin ung machu pichu!" HAHA!

Getting there: Fly from Lima to Cusco (1hr?), train ride to Aguas Caliente (4hr boring ride), 25min aircon bus ride to the site. Note, in Cusco, I felt the altitude and even got headache. We went to the ruins 1 day after Cusco (rode the train in and out the same tiring day), then overnight in Cusco (2nd nite) and back to Lima next day. I'll recommend a night stay in Aguas Caliente -- a small, touristy town with expensive shops and nice restaurants and bars.

Nasca lines are another spectacular archeological site to visit. These are pre-Incan geoglyphs, giant drawing sketch on the earth's surface. Many theories are suggested regarding its use - alien call, astronomical guide, diety worship, etc. For me, I think the Nascan simply made artworks with the dry desert as their canvas. Baka ngpacontest lang ung King nila noon on the best art piece of the year. hehe. The really intriguing part is - how the fuck did they 'see' (or even work on) their art when you can only view and appreciate the figures several hundred feet above the ground.

Getting there: Van ride from Lima to Nasca (6-7hrs), 70us$-plane ride. BTW, lahat kame felt dizzy, muntik na kami masuka sa plane ride. The planes are small, single-engine, 5-seater types; the pilot has to 'bank' the plane left and right (causing the hilo), in order to glimpse at the gigantic drawings. A camera crew suggested that the planes should be designed like a glass-bottomed boat hehe, wag lang kayo mg-skirt. ;)

Desert Trips
We went sand-boarding! Bitin lang ako. I did a slide-down in prone position (saraap!), and 2 stand-up sandboarding na bitin. I should have tried a steeper slide, hindi mabilis ung ride ko e.
Dune Buggying took a different meaning when we rode the steep sand hills. Parang roller coaster!! And sayaah!!

Spice of the Trip

I expected some problems along the way, but most were minor discomforts. Not until I checked in for my plane out.
a. The KLM ground staff, check my passport while I was on queue. Seeing a Philippine passport, he authoritatively asked if I am a marinero. I replied 'Yo no soy marinero' (minus the tune), "soy turista solo!" He looked at me suspiciously, questioning where i went, etc. Aba Aba!, ground staff ka lang ah! He took my passport to photocopy it, i hesitated a bit, let him anyway, and simply ask for his name; "Tu nombre?!" i asked with a hint of annoyance. He returned it after 5mins.
b. A few mins before my turn for check-in, 4 passengers ahead in the queue, I thought that I saw a menacing look from a uniformed airport personnel to my right. Did a double take and confirmed that, it is one thing to be 'looked at', and another to be 'observed'.
After my very efficient check-in (1 baggage sent in), I thanked the crew and prepared to leave when Mr. Uniform suddenly appeared like a ninja, asked for my papers (more like demanding and taking it), and brought me to another area a few meters from my check-in counter, with 2-3 airport police.

c. They ransacked the bag (owned by GMA7), checked the tripod, the battery, and the main source of doubt - the packaged gift from the missionary sisters (w/c was not even for me). They opened, checked, and even tasted the choco content, hoping that they'll find prohibited substance so they can book me in!

I got really pissed that I told them they're discriminating me 'coz of my 'Filipinas' passport. So many passengers - why pick on me? Told them their approach, and their discrimination are not good for their tourism shit! (as if those enggoloids give a gadamn care about their economy!)
I left the scene, baggage went on its converyor journey.

d. as I enter the inner security check area (before migration pa 'toh ah), 2 police intercepted me. What in the hell this time?! They're trying to be very polite, but it's just simply insulting. Anyway, they asked me for a body scan. I was being sarcastic w/ my comments at that pt, it was just a good thing that the lady police was trying to be a bit mellow with all her 'por pavors'. The machine is like an MRI, but in a standing position. Basically you'll ride a small conveyor belt, the 2 'gate-in-time' scanner checks every part of your body for drugs. Even if you swallow your pills, or shoved something up your arse (hole), that can be detected. What the F* am I, a drug mule? Assholes! After, they asked me to sign some sort of waiver written in spanish (w/c I didn't understand). Then pronounced "you're clean." Of course i'm gadam clean!! I was about to photograph the paper (and them sana), when they told me it's prohibited. Laboh men! anyway, I argued w/ them for a while, saying that I need a copy for reference(kuno), or even for souvenir. I didn't win the argument and just hope that I annoyed them at least. Fuck those assholes, again!! Grr..

Whew! Well I just tried to accept that I can't have a super perfect trip and so that last episode should spice it up a bit.

All in all, the trip was of great fun, very colorful, altho a bit tiring. I was able to skim thru the surface of Peru in such a short time. I'm sure with ample time, one can appreciate Peru in a much deeper sense given its rich treasures - archeological or historical sites, and endless option to explore its vast natural settings - be it snow-capped peaks, desert, ocean and coast, or amazon rainforest.

1. Romi in the upper slopes of Machu Picchu ruins.
2. A llama snacking in the agricultural zone of Machu. I've seen several of these fine animals roaming in the vicinity of the ruins.
3. Nasca lines. A popular gigantic humming bird figure, taken from our small plane a thousand feet above ground.
4-5. more machu pix.
6. Cusco city center. Old church erected post-Inca.
7. Romi in the observation tower (Pampa valley near Nasca), notice the giant figure behind me - an unknown figure with 2 big hands with 4 fingers. Alien? :)
8. Spider figure in Nasca territory. Notice the other straight lines, it's a wonder how the pre-Incan civilization was able to draw these lines and figures when it can only be seen from above (high above) ground.
9. A section of the pampa valley (notice the dwarfed observation tower, a small bldg near the giant-hands figure). this is where the stupid road engineer/architect/planner bisected (i.e. destroyed) several Nazca lines, including a giant lizard figure (3rd figure in the pix). Such archeological treasures should be conserved, preserved and studied.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mythology and the Ancient past - Travels in Greece Part-I

Flying to Athens via Dubai is a long and tiring flight. But a morning arrival gave me time to tackle my first day. I do not have bookings yet, and so arriving at the airport - I started making real plans, got a good city map, and headed out to ride the trains to downtown. Tour websites (my source of pre-trip info) lured me to stay in downtown area, very close to the Acropolis (4th picture here). It is supposed to offer budget rooms, but for Pinoys – 45-60euro rooms is already 3-star!

My best Grilled Lamb EVER is still in Greece – anywhere in Greece! 10-15euro per meal is expensive – but f* it, I may not go back here anyway so I might as well splurge a bit!

I also like their calamari, it’s cuttlefish quickly cooked in an open fire/griller, not like our boring and unhealthy battered and fried version. Eaten with beer is better.

If Pinoy have roasted pig cooked traditionally with a long pole, Greeks do the same – but for roasted sheep. They cook the thing for 3-4 (maybe more) hours, Mind you, they still manually rotate the griller-pole as we do in the provinces. I was not well aware the sheep have lots of fatty substance, the oil kept on flowing and dripping while the meat is rotated, amber burning beneath it.

What’s a tour without a knowledge of the country’s history and culture, or a sight of its treasures. Several museums in Athens housed a thousand treasures, and speak of a thousand stories. You’ll need several days if you want to visit all of them!
The first time that I was overwhelmed by the site of too much gold, was during my Museum visit in Cairo (re: Tutankemun’s treasure). But here in Athens, there’s sooo much more (see pic 3).

There are many around Athens, you don’t need to go far.
The most popular of course is the Acropolis. It’s nice to see at night (from down below). Hoards of tourist frequent the place, hard to click a cam w/ no people in your frame.
This is just above the downtown area, and the downtown is a good place to stay with lots of busy shops selling souvenirs, maps, paintings, you name it. Lots of very good restos, too.
Temple of Zeus is very near this area.

1. The Temple of Zeus in Athens, I merely bumped into this place, half a kilometer from my hotel. The ancient Greek engineers are credited for their skills and talent in designing and building columns, these are made of several pieces, placed a top of each other, perfectly aligned and able to stand the test of time (well at least some hehe, tumba na karamihan e). The funny part was that, several guys called my name from a far – shocking me for a little while (who the hell would know me in here?) Leche- mga Pinoy pala from Nestle haha!
2. I forgot to flip the image haha! Nice sculpture at the museum entrance. There's a lot more, lahat magaganda. Galing!
3. GOLD! The museum has loads of it. Now if I can only get some for souvenir… ;)
4. The PARTHENON inside the Acropolis complex, where the ruler used to sit. The complex is like a castle (w/ big walls), built on top of a hill, with great views of the great city. This particular building is being reconsructed, I just tried to make a little art in this photography.
5. EVEREST is in Greece? Nope, it’s just a fastfood shop, maybe the food is cold and staff, windy? Hehe jk. Why Everest, and not Olympus. Tsk tsk.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008