Tag Archive for 'peru'

Olympus 50-200 zoom lens review

Having just taken delivery of my brand spanking 14-54mm f2.8-3.5 lens to replace the factory one that came with my E-500, I realise I’ve never said anything more about the 50-200mm I got a while ago. So here’s a few comments from an amateur…

First off, the lens feels solid in the hand. It feels like a thousand bucks, which is good since that’s about what it’s worth. I just took it though Peru for three weeks and I think it survived all the dust admirably, especially since I used it more than the normal zoom, and we went places like Cerro Blanco, which is a combination of sand dune and desert. I think photos like the one below speak volumes for what one can do with a lens like this…

Child at the llama farm

So what are the bad things? The first downside (though maybe this applies to all lenses, I don’t know) is some reflections when pointed directly at bright lights (e.g. the sun). The way around this is obvious I guess… though I do like sunsets.

sunset in NY, note massive reflection

Another thing is some vignetting at medium zooms, like around 100mm. I’ve only noticed this recently in photos with even backgrounds, such as the sky so it’s not particularly obvious. The image below is at 117mm and f/5.6.dog nasca line with fading around the edges

Aside from those two things, I love this lens, and currently use it more than the normal 17-45mm (this may change with my new purchase however). I like that it feels solid, I like the sleeve tripod mount (which I use to carry it with sometimes. I don’t own a decent tripod yet, which you need for the weight of the lens), I like that I can get close to things without having to.

I think I’m finding that this lens is consistently sharper than my 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5, which has never really wowed me. I’ve recently become somewhat disillusioned with the Olympus ISO performance and picked up a D700 with a 50mm f/1.4G, but have kept the Olympus basically because the 4/3 2x crop means the 50-200mm is a great zoom to have, and way cheaper than anything comparable I could get for a FX Nikon.

So go on, buy it! However, I’m not any more than someone who likes taking nice pictures, so if you want a proper review by someone who knows there are some out there (e.g. here here and here).

Boston-Orlando road trip

Oh yeah. Hot on the heels of my Peruvian adventure, and having Pete and Mary visit, Halvar and I drove to Orlando to have a few beers with Jose for my birthday. And by Halvar and I, I mean I drove, and he took photos out the window.Starting on Thursday morning, we headed out to Canton, home of the Autodriveaway Co’s local office. The hope was to pick up a 2002 Taurus destined for Greensboro, NC. I’d been watching the National Carlist for several months in the hope that something would come up, and a few days before we were destined to leave, up popped the Taurus. It turned out that getting approved was quite simple. The ACT DMV people were quick and helpful in supplying me with a drivers record (as they were when I renewed my licence recently), the essential thing for aproval. Talking to the driveaway guy, it turns out that overseas folks are way easier to process, since he doesn’t have potential access to the same wealth of information that exists for Americans. Lucky us.

Rhode Island, Ocean State (license plate tagline): With a potential twelve states to visit along the way, we wasted no time in getting down to Rhode Island for some breakfast/lunch. We ended up at the “Liberty diner” for some good honest cooked breakfast. The name inspired the thing we needed to do in each state, which was something to do with something patriotic. Eating at a place with liberty in the name counts. Having ticked off Rhode Is. we headed on to Connecticut.

Connecticut, Consitution State: I’m not sure how patriotic it was, but we stopped at Hammonassett Beach in Connecticut for a look (I didn’t know there was an extra ‘c’ in Connecticut!). There were lots of reasonably large, very tanned people lounging around as it they had nothing better to do, which I suspect they didn’t. Having ticked off Connecticut we headed on to New York.

New York, The Empire State: We didn’t really do anything in New York. We’ve both been there so it wasn’t in need of a ticking off. We were in Pennsylvania before we knew it.

Pennsylvania, visitPA. com (what? that’s crap!): PA got the full patriotic treatment from us, since we drove across a fair chunk of it, and stayed the night at a campground. We stopped for a stretch at a lake the first evening, where a hot air balloon flew right over us. It had an American flag on the basket, which was pretty patriotic. The lake was pretty too…

A lake in PA

We stayed the night at a nice campground, and went for a walk the next morning. It was a pretty small park, so hunters could only use bows and arrows, black powder, and shotguns. Thankfully noone tried them out on us, despite our ignoring the signs instructing us to wear bright orange. We drove on to Gettysburg. There is this whole route one can drive around that takes hours, and goes past dozens of battlefield and historic sites. We stopped at a couple, but there were too many and we had other states to visit. Having thoroughly done Pennsylvania, we moved on to Maryland.

A nation united?

Maryland, ?: Our visit to Maryland was brief, but we made sure to stop at the welcome center and admire the state flag. Having not really ticked off Maryland, we managed to get a bit of West Virginia, since we’d long ago decided it was going to be a bit much of pain to go through Delaware.

West Virginia, Wild, Wonderful: We were only in West Virginia for a while, but stopped by the Shenandoah river for a bit of a walk. We also caught a covered bridge along the way. West Virginia done, we moved onto Virginia proper.

Rail tracks near the Shenandoah river in West Virginia

Virginia, ?: We arrived into Virginia later in the evening, and proceeded to find a campsite to stay at. Somewhere along the way we stopped at pub for a beer and some pub food. The girl couldn’t really understand me, and exclaimed something like “You’re accent’s different!”, as if that were a highly improbable thing. It was well dark when we arrived at the campsite, and we were tired so we set up and went to bed. The next morning we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a nice bit of road through forest on the edge of the Appalachian mountains. There weren’t any really good looking breakfast places around, so we dropped into a Food Lion for some donuts and turnovers. Virginia done, we moved on to North Carolina.

North Carolina, First in Flight: After driving down the parkway, we arrived in North Carolina, and headed to Greensboro to drop off our car. We drove all the way to the owners house, a suburban mansion somewhere in the ‘burbs. Though the house was nice, it looked just like all the others, as is so commonly the way in these places. He was kind enough to drop us out the airport, where we picked up our rental. Greensboro was about halfway, 900 miles from Boston. With our new iPod compatible rental, we cruised on down towards Charleston.

South Carolina, Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places: The first thing we caught in SC was Dizzy Gillespie’s birthplace, in the little town of Cheraw. We felt it important that we eat some southern food, so stopped for a bbq buffet. The ribs were marinated in vinegar and other things, very nice. Nearer Charleston, we hunted out a campsite, but not after driving around the national park past several map marked campsites. Eventually we happened to spot an unlit sign, and pulled off for another great nights sleep. We awoke to a misty forest in the morning, with an irresistible fenced off tower to climb for a nice view of the local forest.

View from the top of the tower

From the campsite we drove on down toward Charleston, taking a detour to see some swamp dwelling wildlife. At some pont we found a confederate flag on the side of the road (the one on the car roof of the General Lee). Going into Charleston we went over a HUGE bridge that disappeared into the fog. We stopped at the ubiquitous Huddle House for some food, just to be sure we were being patriotic, and then headed on to Savannah, Georgia, which also had a pretty large bridge leading into it.

Georgia, ?: The first thing to do in Savannah was head out to the Crab Shack for some seafood. We ordered the massive seafood platter for two, a margarita, and soaked up the atmosphere. After our feed we said hello to the alligators, but it was getting late so we headed off.

‘gators at the Crab Shack

We were hoping to drop by Okefenokee swamp for a look at some real size alligators, but a ring ahead told us that there had been a fire earlier in the year, which rendered the boardwalk and observation tower unusable. We instead headed along the coast, and stopped at a much smaller reserve. This place was still pretty impressive, we saw some baby alligators, and then a real size one hiding in the algae choked water. We were approached by a seemingly deaf and blind armadillo, which didn’t run away until it was close enough to hear my camera taking pictures of it. We also saw storks, herons, large spiders, and squillions of mosquitoes and other bitey insects.

Upon leaving the park we found another gem, the Smallest Church in America. A little non-denominational shack, we couldn’t resist a photo stop. That done, we headed on down toward Florida.

Florida, Sunshine State: Time was getting on by the time we reached Jacksonville, so we made sure we got a little confused and crossed the river five times on three separate bridges. They were rather nicely lit up in blue, with one sporting a particularly large American flag in lights. We headed on down to Canaveral to meet Jose, arriving about 11:30, just in time for the purchase of some $4 “Icehouse” beers to celebrate my birthday.

The next morning was time to head for the airport. We could see the famous NASA space shuttle building as we drove along. In a photo Jose showed us, the doors were open halfway up, which is enough for the space shuttle to get out. Massive. Arriving at the airport we almost had a disaster, no petrol station! Thankfully my guess of going down some random road turned one up in ten minutes, thus saving us a threefold increase in the cost of gas that rental companies impose. The car had around 900 miles on it, making the trip a grand total of over 1800 miles.

We flew back to Boston, safe in the knowledge that we could claim a bunch of states, without really having done anything in any of them. The rest of the photos are here.

More visitors!

Straight on the back of my Peruvian adventure I had some visitors. My uncle Pete dropped by via San Franciso on his way back to Australia from England, the most direct route obviously…

We went to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, which is excellent. They have a collection of glass flowers that is absolutely incredible. I went in expecting them to look like glass flowers, but no. They look like what they’re supposed to, and are beautifully detailed and accurate. It took the makers something like 40 years to put the collection together, but it looks like it was worth it… The museum also has an amazing display of rocks and minerals, as well as a comprehensive set of animals. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

The next day we walked the Freedom Trail. This is the essential thing to do in Boston if you like American history.

The day after that we rented a car a cruised up into New England. We didn’t mean to at the outset, but we ended up at the top of Mt Washington on a wonderful clear day.

The view from Mt Washington on a clear day… still a bit hazy really

We got back rather late in the evening, but it was a worthwhile trip… more photos here.

Peru: Lima again

We returned to Lima for a day after Nasca. We went into the middle of town to see the San Franciso cathedral. The tour was in Spanish, but it didn’t worry us. We sat at the back of the group and looked at the things the guy wasn’t talking about. The highlight was the catacombs below, with literally more skeletons than they knew what to do with. There were thousands of femurs and skulls, placed in boxes, in rooms, in wells, and arranged into crazy patterns. I was a good boy and didn’t take any photos, which was kind of lame in hindsight… here’s one of the outside instead.

The ouside

After getting back to Miraflores, we were one meal away from flying out. We opted for another cheap meal, the good ol’ set menu for s/ $5.50. In hindsight the two cheap meals we had that day may have been a mistake, but at the time they were very tasty…

The trip over, we headed for the airport and went back to our normal lives… what an awesome trip! Thanks to all the people on it who made it so much fun, and thanks to Michelle for getting the idea in my head in the first place.

I’ll also leave links to other people’s photos here, you may or may not be able to view them:

Roger’s | Kym’s

There is also a facebook group, if you like that sort of thing…

Peru: Nasca

With several days to kill after the tour, we decided to head to Nasca. The main attraction there is the lines in the desert near the town. We stayed a night in a crazy little hotel in Lima, and liked it so much we booked another night for when we came back. The bus ride down was definitely worth the trip, as we passed through some of the areas worst affected by the recent earthquake. It was easy to see why so much damage was done, with so many houses made of mud brick they didn’t stand a chance. Most of the real brick buildings were still standing, though not all. In many towns there were many tents along the road set up as makeshift homes. Very sad to see, when these people already have so little.

Demolished houses in Ica

Arriving in Nasca was an experience in itself. A dozen pushy people turned out to try and con us out of our already booked hotel. A simple no wasn’t enough to get rid of them; they pretty much followed us until we walked in the doors of the hotel. We booked ourselves a flight for the next day and went to bed.

The flight the next morning was fun. I haven’t been in a little cessna for years, and this was definitely a small plane flight. To give us good views of the lines, our pilot tipped the plane from side to side for the entire flight. By the end I was feeling a little off, and I’m pretty good in planes most of the time.

We saw all of the lines with varying degrees of clarity, the best being the hummingbird. The best photo anyway…

Hummingbird Nasca line

We went for a walk around the town in the afternoon. Nasca comes off as a lovely little place, with many places to eat on the side of the street. The one we picked was excellent, and of course extremely cheap. There didn’t appear to be that many tourists around, perhaps they were staying away from the south because of the earthquake.

We booked in for a walk up Cerro Blanco, the worlds highest sand dune, the next morning. It was certainly quite a trek, with a break from walking to ride down the dune on sandboards in between. Sandboarding is hard, well I found it hard anyway. It is completely different to riding on snow, with increased pressure slowing one down. This means that you DON’T lean forward unless you like the taste of sand. I don’t particularly like the taste of sand, but had some anyway until I learned to lean back. Here’s one of me once I got into it a bit, complete with dodgy moustache.

Me sandboarding with a dodgy moustache

The walk back to the road took forever, and we’d run out of water which didn’t help. The trip was still worth it, being pretty much the most arid place I’ve ever been, and that includes Canberra. In the evening we headed back to Lima and our kitcshy little hotel. Earlier I’d seen some bottles of Pisco being carried on board, which I figured were prizes for the bingo they play. Thinking I’d quite like one of these I couldn’t get my sheet fast enough when the lady came asking if we wanted to play. Twenty four spanish and english numbers later, I called bingo! and was the proud owner of a bottle of Cruz del Sur labelled bottle of finest Pisco.

The rest of the Nasca photos are here.

Peru: Jungle

The last place we visited on our tour was the Jungle. We flew to Puerto Moldonado, bussed down the road, and then went up the river for an hour or so by boat. The change in climate was huge, though not too different from a Boston summer. It was perhaps a little more humid if you can imagine that. The ride up the river was excellent, and not only for the rice dish we had that was wrapped in leaves. I had mine and half of another… mmmm

I was amazed by how lush and full of life the area was. After arriving at the amazing and beautiful lodge we went for a walk. It was dark, and our guide Elder found all sorts of wildlife along the trail. The highlight was probably seeing a sloth. Unfortunately my photo of it is rather average, so here’s one of a tarantula instead.

It was huge

Apparently if one gets bitten by one of these, a remedy is to kill the spider, and rub the mashed up abdomen on the bite. Our guide had done it once and it seemed to work… not one for the faint hearted.

We got up unbelievably early the next day to look at some parrots. They got to a clay lick each morning to eat clay. Mmmm clay. We saw several different kinds of parrots and some macaws. We headed back for some breakfast. I was befriended by the local monkey, here I’m sitting in his lap before breakfast.

Which one is the monkey?

After breakfast and a break, we went out to a farm to check out the local produce. It looked incredibly tropical, with large leaved trees everywhere.

Farm trees

To cool off after our farm visit, we had a little swim in the river. The same river we saw caiman in that evening, though I think we were noisy enough to be safe. It was probably more dangerous to pee in the water… We played soccer on the beach in the sun for a while, the perfect thing to do since we were all taking some form of Doxycycline for malaria.

On the way back we spotted a Harpy eagle, a rather rare and magnificent bird. Rather more so than my photos suggest anyway…

Harpy eagle inna tree

In the evening we headed out to a lagoon to look at some more wildlife, and a beautiful sunset.

In the jungle…

We topped off the evening by catching a few pirhana, spotting a few caiman, eating a few last exotic fruit, and sleeping soundly under our netted beds. The next day we caught the boat back down the river, flew to Lima, and the tour was over.

The rest of the jungle photos are here.

Peru: Cusco

After Machu Picchu we had another day in Cusco to look around. We went horse riding in the morning which was fun. The horses knew where to go, and were reluctant to go anywhere else. The most I could encourage mine to do was walk on the other side of the path. Exciting.

Me on a horse

On our horse ride we went past a bunch of ruins, and had some views of parts of the city too. Sometimes we could see both at once…

Ruins and aerials

After the horse riding we went to a few churches in town that we had passes for. They were fairly typical I think, with Spanish construction over top of the old Inca stonework. This is one way the Spanish insinuated Christianity into the local culture, by putting churches on the local sacred sites. I think in many cases the Inca stonework was rather better than the new Spanish stuff.

Old church. Note the saftey approved stairs at the lower left

Finally, we sat around the main square, where I took yet more photos…

Fountain and church in the main square

The rest of the photos are here.

Peru: Machu Picchu

We got up really early to go up to Machu Picchu, around 5am. There were tonnes of people at the bus stop, which had me worried we’d miss the bus and have to wait. The locals have it sorted though. At about 5:30 nearly a dozen buses turned up, and I think everyone who wanted to go up got to.

It was pretty cloudy when we got up there, but the ruins themselves were clear. After the onbigatory touristy photo we went for a wander. The ruins are pretty extensive, and vary in the quality of the stonework. Some of it is clearly living quarters rather than temple for important people.

It had to be done…

We went back to the entrance to meet up with the rest of our group at 8am. Thankfully they weren’t there, so we shot off to get into the Waynapicchu area. This is the large hill that looms behind me in the photo above. Apparently only 400 people per day get into that area, so we were stoked once we were on the other side of the gate. This are was where I had by far the most fun, since ruin start to look the same after a while. We first climbed up to the top, with some “photo” stops along the way.

View back down to Machu Picchu from Waynapicchu

The views are stunning, as the photo above hints at. The hill is rather steep, so the people below can look very small being almost directly below. After taking on some views and talking to a friendly bird, we walked down to the Gran Cavernas. These are more old stone constructions, built around some large overhanging rocks. At 400m below Waynapicchu it was a solid walk down, and quite a mission coming back up. We hadn’t packed as much food and water as we should have so by the time we came back up we were just about spent.

There was only one more peak to climb in the area however, so we stumbled up there for one last magnificent view. It was a day of many steps…

steps and more steps

We caught the bus back into town, and still had time for a look at the hot springs before catching the train. They were nice, but not as hot as the ones in Lares. The train back took forever. Many people who were smarter than us got off somewhere along the way to catch a bus the rest of the way. I recommend that option because the last part of the trip has lots of switchbacks for the train to negotiate in a three-point turn kind of manner.

The rest of the photos are here.

Peru: Lares Trek

After our free day in Cusco it was trekking time. The rest of the group did the famous Inca Trail, but as we’d been a little late booking we got to do the less famous (but not infamous) Lares Trek. Though hardly a trek, it was enjoyable and gave us a whole day to explore Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes at the other end.

The Lares Trek begins in Lares, about a three hour drive from Cusco. There are hot pools at the start of the trail, which combined with a substantial lunch made the first day rather slow going. Thankfully it was only about three hours up a gentle road to the small village where we stayed the first night. Along the way we saw many eucalyptus trees, which are popular in Peru as a fast growing source of timber for construction.

Our group consisted of Michelle and myself, a Lithuanian couple Jonas and Mika, and Andrio. Our accompanying party also consisted five people, with Isay our guide, two cooks, and two guys who had something to do with our horses. They were for carrying our gear, and Mika when her altitude sickness was a little too much. It was a regular travelling hotel, with a food tent and dining table. The meals were always a few courses and very good. I generally ate mine and half of Michelles which seemed to keep me going pretty well.

Michelle, Jonas, Mika, and Andrio sit down for lunch

The first night we stayed at the back of a small village. A few locals came by to sell us some water, but mostly they kept to themselves. I think they stayed at home and listened to the radio that was blasting through the air, played through an old public address horn.

The next day was the main walk, where we climbed over a pass and then down to another village. Along the way we passed many small groupings of houses, and various outposts. We were never to far from people, especially kids who would come running at the very sight of us, usually accompanied by one or two small dogs.

Girl along the trail

We reached the pass after a rather breathless climb. Nothing like 4000m to make me feel even less fit than I am already! The pass conquered, we strolled down to a nice lengthy lunch by a lake. It almost rained, just enough to make us put all our gear on, but not enough to actually get us wet. We walked on down the valley, eventually joining a road which led us to the village where we stayed the night. We camped in the front yard of a house, which was also occupied by a cute small dog. It scared the hell out of me sometime during the night when it crashed into the side of our tent. Not so cute.

The third and final day was a walk down the rest of the valley to Ollantaytambo, with a side detour to some ruins. We had them completely to ourselves which was nice. Many of the buildings in the ruins we visited appeared to have had two floors in the past, with a row of logs embedded in the stone at about the right height.

me looking amused at the ruins

We continued down the valley, had a nice lunch in Ollantaytambo, and caught the train on to Aguas Calientes. This is a tiny little town somehow placed in between massive steep hills near Machu Picchu, which I’m pretty sure is the only reason it exists. It’s cute anyway, and has hot springs as the name suggests. The next day we got to see both Machu Picchu and the hot pools. The rest of the Lares trek photos are here.

Peru: Sacred Valley

We left Puno by bus for Cusco. The six hour ride being enlightened somewhat by intermittent views of mountains and new towns, and bingo! I declined to play, and when it turned out the prize was a ticket back to Puno I wasn’t too upset I hadn’t played. Many buildings in Peru look like the one below, with reinforcing sticking out all over. It was suggested to me that this is for monetary reasons: in some places buildings aren’t taxed until they’re finished.

unfinished buildings…

Arriving in Cusco we had the rest of the day free, and went out for dinner as a group in the evening. Some of us took the opportunity to try guinea pig, which was definitely different, but not really worth having again in my opinion.

The next day some of us went on a tour through the Sacred Valley, a historic and beautiful valley near Cusco. First stop for the day was a Llama and Alpaca farm, where we learnt the difference between the two, and some different varieties of each. We also got to feed them, which was enjoyable for llama, alpaca, and person alike.

Alpacas lining up for food.

Further along there was a cute little kid I couldn’t resist taking a photo of. This is exactly what I got my big lens for.

Child at the llama farm

Next stop was a market, where I bought a few more bracelets (pulseras), and a little keychain thing. We went on and had some lunch, before going to the ruins at Ollantaytambo. These are the typical terraced ruins made from incredibly large pieces of stone, which are beautifully constructed into millimeter perfect walls. There were also many little aqueducts through the lower levels, all made of stone and still functioning perfectly.

Finally, we stopped at one last set of ruins as the sun set. These looked beautiful in the setting sunlight…

Ruins near Cusco

We returned to Cusco late in the evening, having had an excellent and informative day, thanks to our knowledgeable tour guide Carlos. The rest of the photos are here.

Peru: Lake Titicaca

Arriving in Puno was a little disorientating. At about 4000m I certainly felt like things weren´t quite right in my head. Some coca tea and a decent meal helped, though a killer pisco sour was probably a backward step. The next morning brought a headache, but nothing a little tylenol couldn´t fix, along with the excitement of heading out onto the world´s highest navigable body of water. We first visited the Uros Islands, floating islands made from reeds. They have the tourist thing fully set up, with a bunch of islands surrounding a central body of water. After a little info from our guide Giscard, we were given free reign of our island to buy some of the local crafts. It took about five minutes to circumnavigate the island, the highlight being a guinea pig `cage´ made from reeds. The guinea pigs are likely food rather than pets…We took a short trip to another island by a locally made boat. The locals have taken to making the cores of their boats with discarded plastic bottles, as they last much longer than the traditional ones made entirely of reeds. I imagine they float better too.

The Uros islands

After the reed islands we headed out onto the lake proper, our destination being Amantani for an overnight homestay. The locals have been doing this for years, and have a finely tuned system of tonnes of homemade food, a walk to the top, a dress up dance, and an alpaca wool hat. All of these went down very well. I saw an old guy climbing a stone fence too…

Dude climbing over a fence

Our family consisted of our `mama´ Sylvia, her two parents, and her two kids. Fathers appear to be in short supply on the island, with many either having a proper family on the mainland, or perhaps leaving families for the mainland and a `better´ life. The two children, aged 1.5 and 2.5 years, played games such as carrying a doll, and collecting fuel for the kitchen fire. Much more grown up than anything I´m used to. The kids were incredibly self sufficient for such a young age.We had a few conversations, which mainly consisted of `que es el nombre…´ and pointing, or `por quanto tiempo…´ and a sometimes understood response. I was certainly better off for the spanish podcasts I´ve listened walking to school over the last few months. In the late afternoon we walked to the top of the island and watched the sunset, and after dinner we had a fiesta, guys simply dressed in ponchos, and girls with two dresses, a blouse, and a large shawl. We danced the night away until about 10pm…

The next morning brought pancakes and a trip to the next island, Taquile. This was supposedly the more touristy island, but we managed to walk across pretty much the whole thing without being asked to buy something or give kids money. The island community is well organised and shares the profits. I think this lack of competition makes the locals much more relaxed, and the experience much more pleasant. Lunch was overlooking the lake from above, before the climb down to lake level and the ride back to Puno.

Local on Taquile Island

The next day we were to travel to Cusco, the heart of the Inca empire… The Lake Titicaca photos are here.

Peru: Lima

So begins the epic tale of my adventures in Peru… and the journey there, which began with a nice sunrise at Logan.

Sunrise at Logan airport

The trip started with an early morning flight from Logan to Miami, where I had a wonderful five hour wait. There wasn´t much to do there, aside from wander around and sleep on some of the armless chairs along the walk to Terminal E. There were plenty of impressive clouds as is probably normal in such a tropical place. Afternoon thunderstorms and showers are probably the norm, though I missed the one that particular afternoon since it happened as I was dozing.

Clouds at Miami airport

The flight to Lima was uneventful, with very little to see out the window since it was largely dark and over ocean. I filled out some forms that were mostly in spanish. I think the translations weren’t quite right, but my tiny lonely planet dictionary wasn’t quite up to helping me. Upon arrival, I was tired enough to get ripped off, paying American prices for a taxi to the hotel. I made it there safe however, and found I had an upgraded room for the night. It was late but I couldn´t resist using the spa bath before getting some sleep. The other feature of the upgrade room was an alarm clock, no other room for the rest of the trip had one.

I had the whole next day to myself, and used it to sleep in, and wander around the tourist center that is Miraflores. There were paragliders using the onshore breeze and coastal cliffs, and kids playing soccer on the beach below. Watching them play makes it quite clear why South American football teams are so good when the kids are as good as anyone I´ve seen. In the evening I met up with the rest of the tour group, and our leader Tito took us to dinner. After dinner, some Cusqueña, and Pisco sour, and then some more beer it was then end of my first day in a completely new continent. My travel buddy Michelle arrived late in the evening, and thankfully doesn’t mind that I was stil out having beers when she arrives.

Our group went to the center of Lima in the morning, catching a local bus. The local buses (colectivos) are simply vans, that are everywhere, with a guy shouting the destination out the open door as they pass. The taxis are almost exclusively old Corrolla wagons, Toyotas are very popular here. The other taxi vehicle is a little Daihatsu. Petrol ranges from USD$3-$6 a gallon, so only small cars are affordable for most people. Upon arrival at the center of town, we walked past San Martin square, and saw the bar where the first Pisco sour was apparently made. More walking took us past some old churches, and past some government center where the guard was changing under the watchful eye of yet more guards with big guns. Unfortunately the museum we were hoping to visit was closed for the day, but it was still a worthwhile excursion to see some of Lima outside Miraflores.

In the afternoon we went for lunch in the tourist mall by the beach. Good food and a great view of the ocean. After lunch we wandered along the beach again, and had an afternoon rest. In the evening we had some great avacado based food, and a drink at a nice corner cafe, at least 50 meters away from the most touristy bits.

The Lima coast in Miraflores

The next day was the real start of the trip, travelling to Puno. We flew to Juliaca via Cusco, and then went by bus to Puno. We arrived kind of late in the afternoon, so it was about time for dinner when we arrived. This was the point at which I realised I was without my wallet… probably lost when I took some photos of mountains we flew over.

Some mountains from the plane

We went and had dinner, and the time after that before bed was spent on the phone trying to cancel my AMEX and VISA. I was mostly successful, getting it all sorted by the next morning thanks to a helpful flatmate.

After breakfast it was time to head out onto Lake Titicaca. I´ll put that in next! The Lima photos are here.

Many things

Ok so long story short:

Peru: awesome. more to write on what I did there. over 600 photos beginning to get posted, probably 10 good ones…

Road trip: drove to Florida with Halv to visit Jose. passed sights such as America’s smallest church and Dizzy Gillespie’s birthplace. many silly photos to be posted, probably no good ones.

School: what’s that? new planet paper coming to an arXiv near you soon. devil in details as usual.

Turning 30: celebrated near Kennedy Space Center with Jose and Halv by drinking “Icehouse” beer that cost $4 for a six pack at 2am this morning after 1800 miles and twelve states in two cars from Boston. I’m not sure if I’ll celebrate by keeping or removing my terrible moustache.

Updates/stories/photos as I get back to normal, if I can remember what that is.

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Back in Boston

So I’m back from wonderful Peru safe and sound… stories to follow…

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Stop. Travel time

So I’ve just arrive back from “the Field,” a local pub that has a pool table. My taxi arrives in 2 hours to take me to Logan on my way to Peru via Miami. See y’all in a few weeks!

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Summer travel…

I’m excited! I have so much cool travel planned in the next few months it’s going to be hard to get any work done during the week while I’m here. This weekend is the Adirondacks, next weekend might finally be New York, the weekend after is Chicago, then I have a break as I welcome Nick and Michele to Boston. Then it’s the big trip to Peru! After that there might be a road trip to Florida, and I’ve been keeping my eye out for cheap flights to places such as Key West