This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Vamos A La Playa - Sort Of


In Bolivia I became quite lethargic with traveling, however, crossing the border into Peru completely rejuvenated me. I know it is just mental, but it's like the ink in the custom officer's stamp was mixed with magic fairy dust. I get back on the bus telling Mika that it feels like we are starting a new trip. It is a good thing to that I am reenergized because we are about to do some heavy duty traveling.

The first thing we have to do in Peru is backtrack. Nobody likes backtracking, but it is as good excuse as any for me to add links to my older blog posts. The first stop is Puno on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. If you remember we were there during large protests (click the link to read about Puno). The central plaza was completely occupied by campesinos and the town was a mess. This time around the place seems to be pretty normal: the plaza is empty, stores are open and bank windows are not smashed. With no sight-seeing on the agenda we go to a Chinese restaurant that we went to before and go to bed early to catch our next bus to Arequipa.
Bring back the Classics: Watching Splash dubbed in Spanish on the bus
The ride to Arequipa passes through a national park with mountain views, alpaca herds and vicuna spotting. This is the third time we have passed through here by bus. We also know Arequipa (click the link) and have no sight-seeing agenda. The only thing we plan to do is to go to the central market to eat salteñas (a stuffed pastry) for 1 Soles (US $0.36) which are the best we have found in South America. But Arequipa is a beautiful, safe town and there could be worse places to have to backtrack to. By chance we run into some friends that we know from Sucre, Bolivia and meet them for dinner. Packing up to leave the next morning I learn that my suitcase zipper is broken which means one more day in Arequipa to go suitcase shopping.
Hello again alpacas in the national park near Arequipa

Our salteña lady

The tourist info said that we can't leave Arequipa without trying ricotta relleno (stuffed pepper), and we didn't.

To the Beach and off the Trail

From Arequipa we make the very conscious decision to get off the tourist trail. While in Bolivia we never left it, and that scene can get tiring. We are commodities and a human-to-human element is lost during interactions with locals. Most tourists don't seem to care because either they have limited time with a "must-see" list, or they like guide books, hostels and restaurants that simplify backpacking to a sterile English-speaking environment, or they are Israeli.

The first place we go is Camana. During the summer this beach town is full of Arequipeños, but now is Peruvian winter and we might just be the only tourists international or local. The people at manning the tourist info desk inside the central library seem surprised to see us. To say that nothing is going on in Camana during their low season might be a grave understatement. An example: Our first night coincides with a woman from Camana being a contestant on a nationally televised game show. What's the big deal, right? Well, absolutely every single street level television in town is tuned into this program while the government is showing it on a giant screen in the central plaza to an audience of about fifty people. This is a huge event for Camana.
Camana market
We settle in town not far from the plaza and take a long walk to the beach. Beeeeeaaaaaachchchchch! Ocean, waves, wind and sand rocks. Rocks. Camana does have one sandy beach a few kilometers away that we could reach by taxi, but it is too cold to swim anyway. I accept the rocks. We made it to the Pacific coast. Mission accomplished... sort of. Without much to do we just spend our time figuring out where to eat. Camana has a small, active market with people eating ceviches and chilcano (a fish soup) in the morning and at fried rice and noodle stalls at night. People in Camana are very nice to us. Tourists are rare but not totally uncommon. We are a mild curiosity not a commodity.
Chilcano: A typical breakfast in Camana

Lapas in the market.
We eat these several times without knowing what they are. One internet dictionary says 'lipset' a type of mollusk. Another said 'barnacle.'

The Pacific Ocean
Having our morning coffee in the market

It's All About the Shrimp
Serious about their crustaceans: Camana's shrimp statue in the middle of town
Mention to any Peruvian that you went to Camana and the first thing they'll say is "shrimp." This town is famous for its flourishing shrimp populations and this is the real reason we are here because we kind of new the beach would not be ideal. After three months of eating fish from Lake Titicaca in Bolivia we are ready for some proper seafood. Camana does not disappoint.
Popcorn shrimp sold on the street

Sudado de camarones: a creamed tomato-based soup with a mountain of shrimp
Cholesterol count? Chicharron of seafood and fish

Last Stop
View of Chala and the ocean from our hotel
From Camana we take one more short bus ride to Chala. As the bus comes into town on the coastal road immediately we are thinking of why are we getting off here -- this will happen sometimes when off the tourist trail. The idea is to go see some nature outside of town, but it seems a bit difficult without our own transportation. Chala is a dirty town, every side street or alley heading down to the ocean smells like urine, and the food situation is bleak and weather sucks. We make plans for a quick exit the next day without knowing that we are about to plow head-on into the tourist trail.

View Larger Map

A) Copacabana, Bolivia   B) Puno, Peru   C) Arequipa, Peru
D) Camana, Peru   E) Chala, Peru

Could somebody please tell me why the police officer in this cardboard cutout in front of Chala's police station is holding a lightsaber?

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