|Cabins at the Lazy Dog Inn.|
Max (upper left), Runtu wrestling with Apu or Mayu, the black Lab brothers
(upper right), Runtu requesting some attention (bottom left),
Chris walking Max and Runtu (bottom right).
Four boisterous canines greeted us as we made our way from the gate to the lodge. Only one of the four (Max) ever displayed behavior that gave credence to the name "Lazy Dog"; the others, Runtu, Apu, and Mayu, were hyperenergetic pups but we enjoyed their company nonetheless, even taking them on a few walks during our stay. We had a room in the lodge itself but there were also cabins with fireplaces a bit further down from the lodge. One of the owners, Diana, is onsite full time, while her husband works during the week in Lima. She is a very interesting person, with lots of opinions and ideas about life and living, but also a great passion for working with local people. They've contributed a lot of infrastructure to the community, including a school and a computer lounge with a library. She also employs several local people. Which is probably good for her because labor is cheap but good for them because it's a nice place to work and probably pays better than other jobs they could have.
|Sunset on a snow-covered peak of the Cordillera Blanca.|
|Mobile huts used by the indigenous people to catch a rest while guarding|
their livestock or harvests.
|View of the Cordillera Blanca on a sunny morning.|
|To the left is Quebrada Llaca, right is Quebrada Cojup. We hiked into both during our week at the LDI.|
|Beautiful views everywhere!|
|Huffing up the path to the trail-head for Quebrada Llaca, 3 km from Lazy Dog.|
|Waterfall cascading down the black cliffs to the brook that cut through the meadow.|
For a reference of scale, the tiny black specks are actually horses grazing
beside the brook.
|A few flowers of the Andes.|
|I don't think this needs a caption.|
|Dam at Laguna Llaca; view looking back on the Quebrada towards Huaraz.|
|Chris leaping over the icy brook on our way out of the Quebrada. |
It was either jump or climb up over the boulders to circumvent the water.
|"Pasteurized horses" of the quebrada.|
After one day of rest, we did a second long hike into the other quebrada behind the lodge and were joined by Leoni, a lady from Australia. This time it was 5 km to the trail head but most of the way was along a gravel road with a very gradual incline. This quebrada stretched back to Laguna Cojup but we decided against making the entire 34 km round trip jaunt... bit long for a day hike in my opinion and we were a bit underwhelmed by the other laguna we'd hiked to anyway. We hiked in about 10 km to a viewpoint where we had lunch in the crisp mountain breeze. The views weren't as spectacular as Llaca but the hike was more relaxing and it was nice to visit with Leoni.
|Our lunch spot during the Quebrada Cojup hike.|
A very awesome thing about the Lazy Dog is the dry sauna the owners have built. So nice to soothe sore muscles after a long hike! Another awesome thing is that they have horses and we got to enjoy a few hours of horsebackriding through the mountains and sprawling farmlands with Diana. Our week at the Lazy Dog was over far too quickly. We had time to get used to the idea of leaving though when our flight from Huaraz to Lima was delayed for 3 hours! Luckily the tiny Huaraz airport had free wifi so we were able to do some trip planning while we waited. They also brought us a delicious meaty empanada to temporarily sate our hunger (there are no restaurants).
Finally, our plane arrived from Lima, the usual source of air traffic delays in Peru. It was a tiny plane - a DASH 8, which is a turboprop. The flight was so empty that I moved to the window seat in front of Chris in order to get a good view as we flew out of Huaraz. I was a little nervous once the started the propellers because my seat was directly adjacent to one and all I could think about was how I'd be sliced in two if they somehow broke free. I soon forgot my fear as we took off and the incredible views captured my attention. We were able to see the tallest mountain in Peru - Huascarán Sur, it's snow-covered peak towering above the cordillera at 6,746 m. It was also neat seeing the crazy high mountain roads used to access the multitude of high altitude farmlands.
Flying into Lima we had a bird's eye view of the poorest barrios, closely resembling the desert shanty towns we'd seen during our bus journeys along the north coast. We'd made arrangements for an airport pickup and eagerly scanned the sea of signs held up by the dozens of chofers gathered just past the arrivals door. No "Chris & Ange" to be found even though we'd made contact with our hostal to let them know about the flight delay and they'd written back to confirm our ride would be there... We waited another 20 minutes, during which time a particularly keen taxi driver, who claimed to know every hotel in Lima, struck up an elaborate conversation with me in pretty decent English. Eventually we gave up on our prearranged ride and hired the chatty driver to take us to our hostal. It ended up being an interesting ride as he took us the long way from the airport (fares are set prior to departures so we weren't concerned that he was trying to run up the meter... in fact, most taxis don't have meters), following the coastline and pointing out various parks, restaurants, and other areas of potential interest. He also asked plenty of questions about Canada, including when was the cheapest time to visit there and where was the cheapest place to live. We think he may have aspirations to relocate in the future.
|Miraflores, overlooking the ocean, Lima.|
It was immediately apparent than we weren't at the Lazy Dog Inn anymore... the room was quite filthy and the ensuite bathroom was no exception. A heavy scent of BO and cigarettes lingered in the room even after we opened the window (that looked at the exterior of another building less than a meter away). At first I thought it was just the smell of Lima but then I made the mistake (?) of sniffing the bedding and rapidly recoiled in revulsion as the true source of the stench became clear. We were disappointed, especially considering the great reviews we'd read on Trip Advisor coupled with the recommendation in our guide book. Still, we thought we'd try to make the best of it and cope with the less than stellar conditions for the next 5 nights. I removed the comforter from the bed as it seemed to be the smelliest and swapped my pillow with the one on the single bed that was also crammed into our room. I unpacked my bag in an effort to make the room feel more homey (and to hide some of the grime under cover of my clean, personal items). Then we went out in search of dinner.
The overcast skies of mid afternoon had sunk lower, enveloping Lima in a strange hazy fog that reminded me of frosty winter mornings in Edmonton except that it wasn't cold and we were walking among palm trees and shrubs and flowers instead of snowbanks. It was nothing short of eerie. Unfortunately our trek to what was supposed to be one of the best Italian restaurants in Lima did not pay off; evidently 6pm is too early for dinner in Lima - they didn't open until 8. Luckily we were in Lima, one of the culinary capitals of the world, so it was easy to find somewhere else to eat.
Still craving Italian cuisine, we made our way to "Pizza Alley", which is exactly what it sounds like only more absurd. Approximately 2 dozen nearly identical restaurants line a pedestrian strip just off Parque Kennedy, the triangular, cat-infested central park of Miraflores (maybe 'infested' is the wrong word - the cats are actually very cute and don't seem mangy. But there are LOTS). Anyway, Pizza Alley... every restaurant features a covered patio, neon signage, LCD tvs showing futbol matches, a chalkboard advertising exactly the same specials in suspiciously similar handwriting, and an obnoxious tout standing at the entrance proffering passersby a free pisco sour and the best food or it's free. We chose La Glorietta, simply because it appeared in our guide book. Chris thinks they must've paid for the promotion since there wasn't anything unique about the place and we were quite sure the menu was no different than that of the other 23 joints. We drank our free pisco sour, ate our pizza (reasonable but not especially good) and returned to smelly Yolanda's for the night.
The next morning we were awoken quite early by other guests breakfasting in the kitchen outside our door. After braving a rinse in the soap-scum coated shower and finding that we had barely more than a trickle of water pressure we decided we weren't willing to pay the nightly rate of ~$40 for such a dive. Chris went out in search of alternate accommodations while I packed our bags. When Chris returned we semi-apologetically announced to Erwin that we were leaving. I don't know why it's so hard to be honest when you have a genuine, justified complaint about a place but for some reason it made both of us feel incredibly awkward. Maybe it was because the owner seemed so friendly and hospitable. Too bad he doesn't know how to clean!! Actually, we have a theory that the hostal used to be co-owned by him and his wife: he was responsible for speaking multiple languages and helping tourists navigate Lima while she was responsible for upkeep of the rooms and laundry. We'd noticed a mild aroma of alcohol whenever Erwin was around so we speculate that maybe his wife left because he's a drunk and he has tried to continue the business in her absence but things have gone way downhill. Plausible... clearly we have an excess of free time to ponder these relatively trivial scenarios.
We hoofed it about 15 blocks to our new accommodation: a small hostal whose name, Hospedaje "Trust Me", certainly inspired confidence. It turned out to be a decent place, CLEAN, and actually cheaper than Yolanda's. The downside was that it seemed to attract noisy guests (often of the amorous sort...) and every afternoon the cold water was shut-off for some unexplained reason until we asked for it to be turned back on.
Right. What else did we do in Lima? We took a few long walks in an effort to maintain our fitness for our upcoming Inca Trail trek. The terrestrial part of Lima's oceanfront is very beautiful in a cosmopolitan sort of way. We walked from Miraflores to the even more opulent district of Barranco and marveled at the swanky condos overlooking the sea. The sea itself was less alluring, its shimmering surface is sadly marred by frothy pollution and bits of debris. Surprisingly, there were still several die-hard surfers catching waves.
|View of Miraflores's oceanfront condos from Barranco.|
|Not-so enticing ocean...|
Two highlights of our culinary experiences in Lima were Pescado Capitales and Central Restaurant. The former, whose name translates to "Capital Fish" but is a play on words because "Pecados Capitales" is the Spanish reference for The 7 Deadly Sins. The menu gave hilarious descriptions of the sinful properties of each dish and often depicted the ingredients as possessing the characteristic sinful traits such as the carrot slivers being jealous of the avocado curls. The food itself was also amazing. We shared a ceviche mixto (raw fish cured with lime, served with corn, sweet potato, lettuce, etc.) including salmon, tuna, and a white fish that I can't remember the name of. Then we savored a causa (mashed potato layered with seafood and avocado) of grilled shrimp followed by canelones of passionfruit cheesecake. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. We just kept watching dishes go by to other tables and wishing we had bigger stomachs to order more.
|Peruvian minestrone, asian noodle salad (both at Tanta, one of Gaston Acurio's restaurants); grilled shrimp causa, canelones of passionfruit cheesecake (both at Pescado Capitales).|
|Grouper tiradito with leche de tigre and avocado jelly (left), potato trio (top), salmon vietnam (middle), veggie crisps, butters, olive oil and sweet potato done 2 ways (bottom).|
Our meal began with "sweet potato done two ways", which was crispy and whipped. Simple but tasty and interesting how different cooking methods can result in such different textures and flavors. We were also served some veggie crisps with a creamy herb dip and a tomato-based salsa with cheese and a bit of kick. Next came four mini-breads (rye, coca leaf-infused, brioche, and a bun baked with cheese and tomato) served with two types of butter (white with red rock salt from a city near Lima and a brown butter with burnt salt) and extra virgin olive oil. Each bite melted in our mouths. While we enjoyed these complimentary (we hoped...) starters, we sipped on pisco sours (Chris got his with maracuya = passionfruit) and watched the other tables fill with affluent Limenas and dolled-up turistas.
Next came our appetizers - Chris ordered had the "Salmon Vietnam", which was a very fancy salmon ceviche that the server doused in an asian-inspired sauce after placing it in front of Chris. I had the "Grouper Tiradito", which was also like a ceviche, served with a sauce made from rocoto, one of the rarest species of the capsicum (bell pepper) genus. Mine was also served with three tiny potato preparations, all of which were infused with some sort of smokey essence. Mouth in heaven!!! For our mains, Chris had the "Singha Seabass", which came with a rice dish of shrimp, mushrooms, zucchini and tomatoes. I had the lamb shoulder, which came with crunchy squash croquettes and whipped potatoes. It was tender, rich, and flavorful. Chris's was delicious too. We were too full for dessert but ordered tea and they brought us some petit fours (assorted tiny confections including chocolates, jellies, and marshmallows) that we managed to squeeze into our full tummies. It was by far the most expensive meal we've had during our travels but it was a truly unique and satisfying experience.
|Upper - breads. Bottom left - smoked potato cube with flower garnish. |
Bottom right - Salmon Vietnam appetizer.
|Lamb shoulder (left), Singha seabass (top), us enjoying our meal! (middle and bottom).|
|Petit fours, aromatic tea, chocolates made from Peruvian cocoa, marshmallow cubes infused with chicha morada (purple corn beverage) and guanabana.|
|Start of the changing of the guard ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Lima.|
|Plaza de Armas, Lima.|
On a side-note, I've been wondering whether anyone is actually reading these blogs in their entirety... especially lengthy ones like this particular entry. Officially, we have 10 followers and a few additional people consistently "Like" or comment on the link when I post it to Facebook. The other day my mom mentioned that lots of my cousins and other relatives must be reading the blog because most people knew what I was up to and why I was missing from my Gramma's memorial service. Well, when I logged in to write this post I was welcomed by the new blogger interface, which now includes very detailed webpage statistics. So, basically, I now know exactly how many page views we have, where our views originate, and even what sort of browser people are using! The reality is that we have A LOT of lurkers (people who read the blog but don't comment). I guess that's cool. I'm happy someone is reading the blog! Or at least visiting the blog page... is anyone still reading??